A smaller event than usual, locals still managed to celebrate the independence of India from Britain—marking 74 years this year
Very much like the previous event held in Park Extension the day before celebrating Pakistan’s independence, India’s Independence from British Rule came the following day … and apparently at midnight of that day, thus India garnering its independence just a mere few hours after Pakistan. And just as we covered the Pakistani Independence Day, we were there for the festivities for India’s special day as well … and not at just one event but at two.
I went first to one event and then rushed off to make it to another, and overall, the everlasting feeling that washed over me was one of admiration … admiration for their patriotism, dedication and of course triumph … triumph over the constraints of Covid-19 and of course triumph over history.
And in this case as well, the Canadian national anthem was sung, proud and loud.
This organization or rather association was established back in the 1960s. The current president is CB Singh. The paper was cordially invited to this event by the director of said association, Jatinder Singh Bhandari. The event was held in Ghandi Park, a little ways away from Park Extension of course, but Jatinder, a man whose patriotism for India and Canada oozes from him in his regard and his speech, is from Park Extension and has been there since immigrating to Canada, and is proud to be a resident of the community and says he will be for quite some time.
The event was certainly quaint, as are so many events in this current state of Pandemic. Food was offered to those that attended and a small ceremony was conducted. Those that turned out for the event respected the mask rules set in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and honored India and what the holiday represents by hoisting the flag and throwing flower petals at the flag, which is a sign of respect, allegiance and adoration for what the day represents. I too threw a handful of flowers and was honored to be allowed to do so.
“Long live India … and long live Canada,” Jatinder said. The washing of hands in this crazy time and the wearing of masks is a sign of respect for Jatinder and it means a lot to him … essentially protecting the community at large. He was wary that others at other events were not as careful, and he hopes that this will change.
“Park-Ex has become my adoptive land,” he says.
A past president of the association, Krishna Gupta, was also there to pay homage. He was president in 1982.
“We’ve learned that humanity is not the master of nature,” said the High Commissioner at Saturday afternoon’s event.
And perhaps it’s one of the better ways to start the description of the second event of the day meant to celebrate the independence of India that I attended that day. He of course was speaking of Covid-19 and perhaps the most valuable lesson learned by each and every single one of us during this pandemic, and if there are still those that question this or have any doubts, all they must do is realize how difficult it has been for all society to move away from its terrible clutching talons, as we are essentially hopeless but to conform and treat each other with respect, following the rules set in place, as our leaders have suggested, and allow this terrible moment in history to pass.
This event was a tad more grandiose in scope: a live band was present, dancers, singers, musicians and it seemed a who’s who of members of the governing body in the area and even across the city and even as far as Ottawa were present.
Some present were: Mayor of St-Laurent Allan De Sousa, City councilor Mary Deros, Mayor Giuliana Famagalli, Josué Corvil, Dimitrios Jim Beis, Mayor of Pierrefonds /Roxboro, former borough Mayor Anie Samson and so many others were on hand.
What our community leaders had to say
Mayor Fumagalli stated: “The pandemic was very hard on all of us, but this event shows the unity, the strength of the Indian community. The74th Independence Day event is nowhere close to what I have seen the community organizing but what it shows is resilience. And this is what is the most important message.”
City councilor Mary Deros stated in her speech: “Park Extension has been host to the Indian /Canada unity parade from the start … and since then we have been maintaining and celebrating this most auspicious day in the history of India. The community has been coming here from all over Montréal and sometimes from Ottawa … and we are a proud community together celebrating year after year.”
Triumph over a pandemic
But the pandemic did not stop either of these organizations from celebrating something as important and as special as this national holiday for India and even us in Park Extension… and really the pandemic did nothing to stop the patriotism and the gathering of men women, children, politicians and press … and to be a witness to both events was a true glimpse at their resolve and the event was a testament to learning about the unity of this community and their ability to rise over any obstacle in their way.