Narpani marks 40 years with special carnival at the zoo, rolls out new sports group for youth

SINGAPORE - SMRT bus service 927 was more crowded than usual on Sunday (July 2).

Bus loads of commuters packed buses on the service to the Singapore Zoo in Mandai for a special event - the annual carnival organised by the People's Association Indian Activity Executive Committees (IAEC) Council, or Narpani Pearavai.

This year, there was special reason to celebrate. It is the council's 40th anniversary, and its youth committee marked the occasion by launching a youth sports interest group, called the Sports Interest Group for Amateurs (Singams), to promote youth participation in sports.

Singams, which focuses on sports like badminton, captain's ball, and futsal, is the first of about 60 sports interest groups the IAECs hope to set up over the next two years, with the aim of reaching about 1,500 youth.

Narpani Pearavai Youth chairman Niranjana Kumararaj, 33, said sports is only one of many areas his group is exploring as a way of engaging youth.

Art, music, dance and even board games are among the other areas it plans to explore, he added.

"We want to bring back the kampung spirit where we don't differentiate between culture, race, religion and age," he said.

Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, who launched Singams today (July 2) to the sound of blazing cymbals and the swirling colours of a performance by the multi-ethnic Kuo Chuan Lion Dance Troupe, said the projects undertaken by the council are important for society, and they should continue.

"It's about reaching out to the Indian community but through the Indian community, also reaching out to the broader community in Singapore, in order to build strong community bonds."

He added that such efforts should embrace everyone, including senior citizens, disadvantaged families and youth.

Meanwhile, the 4,500 participants at today's (July 2) carnival enjoyed song and dance performances, an exhibition featuring the IAEC's projects over the decades, as well as animal displays. Some people had their faces painted in ornate and colourful Indian patterns and had their photos taken at booths set up in the zoo's Palm Park.

Among those enjoying the sunshine and festive atmosphere was Madam Tan Kim Hong, 60. She is one of 50 elderly residents at Sunlove Home, a charitable home in Buangkok.

The home's residents were guests at the carnival under an outreach programme called Project Care that was started by the IAECs this year, to reach out to the less privileged.

"It's a good chance to stroll around and get some exercise," said Madam Tan. "Many of us have no companions and don't move about much...the interaction with people lifts our spirits," she said.