by LAUREN CODLING
A TRADITIONAL Christmas carol service sung in the Marathi language took place in one of London’s busiest train stations last Sunday (1).
Organised by Prashant and Madhuri Kulkarni, from Reading, Carols for Christmas saw singers from across the country gather to sing for passengers at Paddington, central London. The couple’s two young children also joined in with the singing group, who call themselves
Marathi Christi Mandal UK. All songs were sung by the group in their native language.
Madhuri, 42, said the inspiration behind the event came from seeing the Salvation Army band perform at Paddington during the run-up to Christmas. The couple said they loved to watch the musicians and singers and it became a highlight during the festive season.
“Since then, it was always in the back of our minds that it would be nice to do something like that for our community,” she explained.
Both work for Great Western Railway, which, along with Network Rail, gave the go-ahead for the event to take place after the Kulkarnis approached them with the idea. The companies even offered the singers train tickets to Paddington as well as refreshments at the station.
Carols for Christmas was an opportunity to showcase the traditional way Christmas is celebrating in India, the couple said. Both of them were born and brought up in Mumbai, which has one of the largest Christian communities in the country.
Having moved to the UK more than 10 years ago, the couple said they rarely visit their family in India, and they both admitted they miss celebrating the holiday in their native country. They especially miss the carol singing events in their local area.
“It isn’t always possible to go home for Christmas, so we wanted to reflect our culture in the UK with our own carol singing event,” Prashant, 49, said.
Despite being far away from home, they both feel lucky enough to have created close friendships in the UK. The couple host a Christmas event every year, where they have a roast turkey dinner, pray and sing carols.
“We get our non-Christian friends together, from the Hindu and Muslim faith, and they all really look forward to our event at our house,” Prashant explained.
In putting the carolling group together, the couple got in touch with some of their friends who had prior singing experience. Through them, they connected with people from their community who showed interest in participating in the event. More than 50 singers and musicians agreed to get involved, from a range of ages and backgrounds. Volunteers from across the country, including Manchester, Wolverhampton, Bristol and Birmingham, contributed to the organisation, with some even offering to donate funds to the cause.
“Everyone who has been involved across the country has been great, very engaged,” Madhuri revealed. “When we sent out the invitation, people were so excited and asked if we needed any contributions for the event. They have all been so helpful.”
The pair, who have been married for 13 years, hope the occasion will become an annual fixture. They are keen to keep uniting communities and showcase Indian traditions and culture. They aspire to hold the carolling event outside Paddington too. “If we get a chance, we would love to do it in different stations,” Madhuri confirmed. “We hope to do this every year.”