The Art of Building Bonds
When people join Maharashtra Mandal Singapore, they are not only plugging into an organisation that celebrates Maharashtrian arts and culture, they are also joining a larger community that embraces Singapore wholeheartedly as their home.
Maharashtra Mandal Singapore (MMS) was formed in 1994 to create bonding through the Arts. While MMS attracts people who originally hail from Maharashtra, one of the largest and most industrialised states in the western region of India, it is open to anyone interested in learning more about Maharashtrian culture. The 750-member strong community regularly organises language appreciation, literature, music, drama and festivals at various venues located throughout Singapore. As a Singapore-based organisation, they strive to contribute towards local events that promote harmony and foster greater understanding among cultures.
Unity in Diversity
“Singapore is a multi-cultural society that thrives on diversity. Sharing our rich cultural heritage with Singaporeans is one way in which we can bond with the local community. For instance, MMS holds a five-day festival, Ganeshotsav, to celebrate Lord Ganesh, an important Hindu God. This is a very important festival for us and we encourage locals to come and participate in the many activities we organise during this period,” said Asmita Tadwalkar, President of MMS.
The organisation makes it a point to celebrate festivals with local groups and for the last few years, they had joined forces with four local Indian associations, including the Sindhi and Gujarati associations, to celebrate Holi. Organised at a field in Tanjong Rhu with the Katong Community Centre this year, the festivities attracted a massive crowd of about 3,000 people, who bonded over a time of fun. “Not only Indians, but all races and nationalities were throwing coloured powder at each other!” said the bubbly Ms Tadwalkar, laughing.
Ms Tadwalkar strongly believes that MMS has a lot to offer in enriching Singapore’s position as a cultural and artistic hub. The organisation provides a two-way platform for locals to learn about Maharashtrian Arts and vice versa. For instance, MMS works closely with the 61 year-old Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society (SIFAS) to put up joint performances such as an Indian semi-classical music showcase. “Through joint collaborations, we are able to give back to Singapore,” said Ms Tadwalkar. “At the same time, we get to learn about some of the unique aspects of the Indian fine arts scene here.”
A Platform for Integration
More than just a platform for arts appreciation, MMS is a first port-of-call for newcomers to Singapore. “When you are a new arrival in Singapore, there is an immediate tendency to look for things that are familiar to you as a starting point,” said Santosh Ambike, one of the founding members of MMS who has lived in Singapore for 25 years. MMS has a broad spectrum of members, from those who have only just arrived in Singapore this year, to members like Mr Ambike who have made Singapore home and are either citizens or permanent residents.
The older members provide guidance to the newer arrivals to the ins and outs of living in Singapore, from financial advice like setting up an account to recommending schools for their children. “Now I regularly provide advice about National Service to members, as my son is currently undergoing NS!” said Mr Ambike.
Many strong friendships are forged at MMS. Sameer Inamdar, who only arrived in Singapore seven months ago, agrees that joining MMS helped greatly in helping him settle down quickly. “Everybody was very kind and welcoming. I got excellent advice on how to go about renting a place here, and members provided insights on gelling with the different cultures. I was also introduced to Chinatown as an interesting place to visit and it’s now one of my favourite destinations,” said Mr Inamdar.
Giving Back to the Community
As MMS continues to thrive and grow, the organisation is making arrangements to engage in more community projects to give back to Singapore. Apart from food donation programmes, plans in the pipeline include adopting a children’s charity and even participating in the Chingay Parade in the future.
“Many of us have had such a positive experience in Singapore that we can’t imagine living anywhere else,” said Ms Tadwalkar, a permanent resident herself who has been residing in Singapore for the last 13 years.
Mr Ambike added: “We would like to give back to Singapore for being so welcoming, and these are just some of our efforts to begin with. We see much more room for MMS to contribute to the local arts and culture scene, and you will probably be seeing a lot of more of our activities in the future.”