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Dev Nadkarni

Harshad K. Patel, one of the Kiwi-Indian community’s most dedicated volunteer-workers has been conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award for his nearly four decades-long services to the community.

Harshadbhai, as he is fondly addressed by the community, was presented with a plaque and a framed certificate at India’s 76th Independence Day celebrations at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre on 21 August, in the presence of prominent political and community leaders, diplomats and a capacity crowd that had gathered for the celebrations.

Dhansukh Lal and Narendra Bhana, the Presidents of the Auckland Indian Association and New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA) restively; Honorary Consul of India Bhav Dhillon and Bhartiya Samaj’s Jeet Suchdev jointly presented the award to Harshadbhai on stage. In his short acceptance speech, an emotional Harshadbhai thanked the community for its love and for the opportunity to work for Kiwi-Indians.

Since moving to New Zealand from his native Gujarat state in western India in 1974, Harshadbhai has tirelessly worked for over four of the nearly five decades living in New Zealand as a volunteer in many capacities to serve the community. He has strived hard to bring the community together through events, activities and initiatives.

Associated with the century-old Auckland Indian Association for more than 30 years, he has served as its President from 1999 to 2002 and again from 2008-2012.  He also served as Vice President for five years, chairman of the entertainment committee for over two decades. He was leader of the team fundraising for the Mahatma Gandhi Centre and the Radha Krishna Temple. He has organised the Navrati Festival for more than 30 years, and has been a member of Access Community Radio. He is also a past-president of the New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA).

Harshadbhai started his professional career in NZ as an officer in bulk tonnage with NZ Railways then moving to work with NZ Famers Fertilizer as Research and Development technician, as he had a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from India.

The Kiwi-Indian community was much smaller than it is today when Harshadbhai and his wife migrated to NZ and he felt the need to rally the community together to celebrate the regional, cultural, religious and national festivals collectively. He worked to bring the small yet diverse community together for Diwali, Navratri and national days like Independence Day. Being a musician himself, he was able to play and present the event along with the help of other volunteers.

A self-taught musician, Harshadbhai plays several Indian musical instruments like keyboards, piano, accordion, flute and banjo,

and has been deeply involved in musical and cultural initiatives over the years. He coordinated and participated in the Indian folk dance at the opening ceremony of The Commonwealth Games in 1990 held in Auckland.

He was production manager and music director of the Golden Jubilee Concert of the Auckland Indian Sports Club at The Auckland town hall in November 1986. He has been organising the cultural programme for India’s national days (January 26 and August 15) with other volunteers for several years.

He was instrumental in bringing Access Radio permanently for the ethnic community, serving on its radio committee for many years besides the TV committee for five years.

“Harshadbhai is a true inspiration to young leaders,” NZICA President Narendra Bhana said, speaking to Indian Weekender. “He was one of the main community leaders responsible to raise a significant amount of funding for the development of Mahatma Gandhi Centre in early 90s.”

Current President of the Auckland Indian Association Inc. Dhansukh Lal said, “He was instrumental in bringing me into the AIAI when I served as Assistant Secretary in 2009 under his leadership. He had personally guided me all through and under his guidance and support I am today the President of this Association.”

Harshadbhai has been the recipient of the Kiwi Indian Community Service Excellence award 2019, which he received at the hands of then Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand Muktesh Pardeshi at the Kiwi Indian Hall of Fame awards.

Earlier in 2016, he was conferred the Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) for his services to the community from former Governor General of NZ, Sir Anand Satyanand.

First appeared in the August 26, 2022 issue of the Indian Weekender.