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Mere Desh keeps Indian culture alive

Friday, June 13, 2014
Rolando Geewan Balgobin accompanies himself on the harmonium.

Fourteen young singers under the age of 19 competed for a $10,000 cash prize in the Mere Desh Nationwide Junior Local Indian Classical Singing competition, which took place on Indian Arrival Day at the Chaguanas Market Car Park.


Some of the contestants were Shivanand Basdeo, Prameshwar Sugrim, Yadesh Dookie, Shivan Sukhu, Adita Sookdeo, Jeewan Balgobin, Shivani Bachan, Nirmala Ramdass Singh, Nirmal Ramdass Singh, Suraj Ramdass Singh, Sapna Seepaul and Tyra Deonarine. Of the singers, Shivanand Basdeo won the first prize of $10,000, sponsored by R Persad Quarry Ltd. Nirmal Ramdass Singh took second place and won $5,000 sponsored by Reesal Industries Ltd, and Sapna Seepaul won third place and won $3,000, sponsored by Denesh Dass. Akash Danial won the Dholak category ahead of Yadesh Dookie and Satish Udit. Rahul Sugrim placed first in the Dhantal category, followed by Vikash Seepersad and Kabir Sankar. All other junior contestants received cash and a trophy. 


“The goal of this project was to encourage the standard artistic excellence in our youths to get involved in local Indian classical singing.” said Ajeet Praimsingh, founder of the Mere Desh Committee (MDC) in a release. 


The MDC honoured the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha headed by Sat Maharaj for introducing the Baal Vikaas into its schools, the National Council of Indian Culture for staging the Coca Cola Teen Talent at its annual Divali Nagar, and the Children of Mastana, a weekly television talent competition founded by Jamal Mohammed. Awards were also presented to Sandra Maharajh for her series of publication Chhote Bachche books, published by Ashokha Publication and to Ron Gajadhar for humanitarian services. 


Patrons received free health check-ups hosted by the Chaguanas Lions Club, health clinics by Kimlyn Harrilal of the T&T Cancer Society, Reeanna Harrilal of the Voice of Lupus Foundation, Kelly Bahadur of Crohns and Colistic Foundation, Noel Joseph of the Just Because Foundation, Dr Dharmendra Rohit of Dental Excellence, Vidiah Roach of Community Mediation Center, Anderson Figgaro of The Voice of OC, T&T Diabetes Association and The Chaguanas Club. 


Praimsingh, a descendant of Indian immigrants, founded the MDC 145 years after the first batch of Indian immigrants were brought to Trinidad. The aim was to preserve the cultural identity of the indentureds. Mere Desh means “my country.” Its mission is to also promote and encourage Indian culture and heritage in T&T. This is the programme’s 24th year and incorporates, song, dance, food and community services to celebrate Indian Arrival Day. 


“Mere Desh hosts this annual project to encourage and uplift the standard of music and artistic excellence in our youths and to urge others to become involved in local Indian Classical singing,” said Praimsingh. 


“We urge everyone to become involved and help to preserve and promote our cultural legacy,” he said. His motto, he stressed, “is if not who and if not now, when?” 


Praimsingh pointed out that over the years the MDC has highlighted the multifaceted talents of the Indian community. Past competitions have included a Mike-o-Rama, Tassarama, Knock-ah-Table and Sing-ah-Song, Biraha singing, whistling competition and Indian delicacies and Food cook-off. It also hosted workshop, a three-day health seminar, mehendi application, kite paper decorations, a workshop in making stuffed toys, a five-day workshop in agriculture and much more. 


“Mere Desh’s vision is to empower our sons and daughters to be proud of our rich cultural heritage and nation builders has branded Indian Arrival Day as Recognition Day. So far the committee has honoured hundreds of unsung sons and daughters who have made valuable contributions to the country in nation building, community service and culture. Next year, for the Mere Desh’s 25th anniversary, we will have some more surprises for the Indian Arrival Day Project,” Praimsingh said.


The celebration was held in collaboration with the Chaguanas Borough Corporation under the patronage of Mayor Gopaul Boodhan. Members of MDC in attendance included President Lutchman Simboo, Secretary Suren Dookie, Savitree Praimsingh, Pundit Mukram Sirjoo, Pundit Gopiechan and Pundit Nancoo.


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