For Indian-born woman Promila Gupta, food is a way to connect across various cultures and languages.
“It’s a bridge to communicate with people,” she said. “It breaks down barriers.”
Ms Gupta is preparing to appear at her fourth Riverlights Cultural Festival – an event she looks forward to every year.
Being involved in community events and initiatives is nothing new though for Ms Gupta.
She brought the skill of cooking from India to Australia in 1983, and has since been involved in many projects.
“When we came to Australia from India we had $500, now we have everything so I want to give back,” she said.
She is the president of the Indian Association of Newcastle, teaches cooking classes, has written two cooking books and been involved in numerous Country Women’s Association groups.
Ms Gupta said events like Riverlights were fantastic because being a migrant could be very isolating.
According to the 2016 Census, India was the fourth most common country of birth in Maitland – but represented just 0.5 per cent of the population.
“Us migrants, we’re all in the same boat,” she said.
“It’s very good to be able to mix with other people. Everyone is looking for friendship.”
“It helps you feel at home.”
Ms Gupta will conduct a cooking demonstration and food tasting at Riverlights this weekend with pav bhaji (curry with bread rolls) and fritas on the menu.
Ms Gupta said she enjoyed the festival because it allowed her to show her skills and introduce people to the Indian culture.
“You feel so happy when people say they love it,” she said.
India is one of 24 cultures that will be represented in 20 cultural villages at the festival.
2018 Cultural Villages:
- Afghanistan (Hazara)
- Dem. Republic of Congo
- North Sudan
- Russia Federation
- South Sudan