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The Story of “Namaste India” – Hamir Kapadia
My wife and I moved with my daughter from Canada to US – Newport NJ in 2007. In the summer, we started going for walks in the neighborhood, and noticed many other Indian parents /visiting parents loitering on the streets. On multiple occasions when we crossed other Indians, we would overhear them excitedly tell their spouse “Apne wale the!,” but they would not greet us or others walking in the neighborhood. This observation made me think, “if we all Indians meet and interact, we would all enjoy our vacations a lot more!”” .Meanwhile, my daughter Mansi performed dances at a community in Newport to commemorate eve for 9/11 victims. This strengthened my thought about community service in the neighborhood. The dream of creating a forum/platform for Indians, I have shaped up as “Namaste India” which today keeps me fully occupied!
Initially, I formed a group for men to go for walks. The next step was to create a forum for women. Lastly, I named the group an identity, as “Namaste India” in March, 2009. A group for Indians either at present, or of Indian origin after independent India ! Men & Women to meet on a weekly basis, inside Gazebo of Children’s Park, next to Duane Reade, Opp Newport Gym.
These meets were initially just for entertainment - jokes, shayaris, games, songs etc. Later, when change was needed, bringing food for lunch etc. commenced, with average gathering of 25 - 30 people. Over a span of more than 5 years of this platform of networking, we meet with average head count of 75- 80 ppl every week in summer. Perhaps the largest gathering in Jersey City on weekly basis! In winters when the attendance slows, we meet in the homes of all, by rotation. Initially, this group was not named, later known as “Visiting Parents” . When young girls &/or women started joining, the name “Namaste-India” was given by me, effect from March 2009.
Strong community network of Indians, visitors coming from India to see their children, or of those staying local. Total strength is of more than 1088 families until last year with addition of 94 new members this year as of date..
Make healthy, safe & vibrant environment of Indians coming from all parts of India, to Jersey City, NJ, bring them together on single platform. Unity in diversity... Home away from home in true sense!
Change in community attitude:
Men when were coming earlier were not happy…now when they have to leave for back to India, they are not happy!! They claim to have made true friends in life which they could not in India until now! The reason is simple according to me, they get enough time to do so & are relatively hassle free in day to day life! Women also have formed very thick network, with some groups for Bhajans, slokas/chanting like Hanuman Chalisa etc
1. Regular Meet ups, collecting details of families, children with their work details. All get the detailed list once upon enrollment,. Also periodic meaningful mails are sent by me to all.
2. Prayers, Devotional songs, Movie Songs, Classical songs from different parts of India
3. Selling/ buying furniture, domestic goods by/for the children of these parents
4. Helping search rental /buy units
5. Network of children to create strong base for help in economic crisis/recession, & support in rough emotional moods
6. Helping advice children, inviting legal attorney for visas etc if children loose jobs
7. Outings every month, first & last being to temples in Flushing by path/subways etc
8. Outings to other places like Central Park, Coney Island, Bronx Zoo, Manhattan by night, Staten Island, Governor’s Island, Cruise on Hudson, Brooklyn Bridge & Mamoun’s Falafal, Kati Roll etc . Even day trips to Philadelphia, Vraj also have taken place.
9. Celebrating festivals like 4th July, Diwali, Independence Day, 26th Jan etc..
10. This season, have started Debates on issues of today like:
a. Love marriages
b. Insurance for visitors
c. Whether children should stay here or go back to India
g. Domiciliary treatments/”Dadima ke nuskhe”
h. Are we ready for second innings? If yes, what have we done, if no, what should we do?
i.. Buying properties & tax implications for NRI children
j. Is money everything in life?
k. Tolerance in children & parents’ role in the married lives of children
l…How to maintain health
n..Changes in Indian political leadership & expectations of ppl from new Govt
11. Matrimonial Rounds: Parents with potential brides/groom stay back after the meet & exchange info with parents of suitable candidates
12. Men meet daily in mornings between 11 am & 130 pm in Town Square & in evenings, men as well women meet in sitting area outside “Morton Williams”.
Discussions: Politics, History, our scriptures, National & International issues, besides going for long walks, (up to Journal Sq)
13. Members meet up in India too. While in India, I organized meet in Mumbai on Feb 25th,2014 at Juhu Vile Parle Gymkhana Club where 117 people from various places in Mumbai as well different cities in India showed up. In the year 2011/12, could meet up 135 ppl in diff cities. So strong network base this has been, that even after children having moved from Newport area to other areas/cities in US, parents do not want to leave this Group & continue to stay connected & meet periodical.
14. Help in Domestic violence, matrimonial disputes, divorces.
15. Help get medicines if required from India.
16. Medical assistance here locally
17. Assistance in Funeral, death of a family member/parent & emotional support
18. Assistance in local vandalism, assault on Indians on board-walks etc
Next Steps: If goes well, there is a thought of starting such groups in every bldg. in the neighborhood Also, intend forming different groups for debates/discussions on intellectual topics, classic singing etc
Hence “Namaste-India” is my creation & I have never charged any one so far for the membership or otherwise, except for their own expenses. There has been valuable contribution to the Group by few, namely Shri Madan, Shri Kochar, Shri Rajadhyaksha, Shri Subhash Jain & Shri B.K. Sharma
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