BALLARAT has lost one of its most important multicultural ambassadors with the death of Khushi Maharaj.
'Khushi' was a long-time Ballarat resident and founding member of the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Association. He passed away quietly on May 26.
He is being remembered for his love for the whole community that endeared him to everyone who knew him.
Ballarat Indian Association president Elangovan Shanmugam said he first met Mr Khushi in 2005 and he had been a friendly face in a difficult time when he had first moved to a new country.
"Mr Khushi helped so many people, he was always there to give advice and to help out wherever he could," Mr Shanmugam said.
"I met him in 2005, he was there for me. It can very difficult when you move to a new country, with no friends, no relatives and yet he arranged for people to be involved within the community in Ballarat.
"He helped to find people places to live and was always there to give some advice whenever you needed."
Chairman of Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council Chez Dichiera described Khushi as "nature's gentleman".
"He was very gentle in style, very supportive, particularly with the Indian association which he established in Ballarat but his support and friendship went beyond that," Mr Dichiera said.
"He was so supportive of young people, students from all over the world would come to Ballarat and he was a mentor. He looked for student housing, he provided then with accommodation and food.
"He was a multicultural ambassador who donated food to needy people. Nothing was a problem to him, he was always very positive."
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Immediate past commissioner with Victorian Multicultural Commission, Sundram Sivamalai, was a long-time friend.
He said he hoped once restrictions were scaled back a tribute evening could be organised.
Dr Sivamalai and Khushi were instrumental in the setting up of the Ballarat Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre.
"He was a good friend, a person who you could rely upon, he loved to help people," Dr Sivamalai said.
"He knew things A-Z and he would give you advice. Where he could, he would help you.
"He would roll-up his sleeves and do the carpentry work. He loved making things for people and helping people.
"Sometimes I would tell him, 'Khushi take it easy', but you can bet your bottom dollar he would be out in the shed making something.
"It's particularly sad we can't get a full farewell, but hopefully we can have a big evening all about him once all the restrictions are lifted."
Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council chief executive Ann Foley said Khushi was a driving force for this city.
"Khushi was always available, always encouraging and always active in the time I've been with BRC," she said.
"He was a delightful person to work with and inspiring in his commitment to community which never flagged.
"I started working for BRC in 2012 and I first met Khushi then. He was consistently involved. When his wife died, it was a very sad time as they were famous for their beautiful catering.
"I noticed what an interest he took in young people when we had some very young refugees in town from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"He saw himself as part of the whole community and recognised when there was a special need.
"Even recently he had become actively involved organising a youth walk for young people in Ballarat."
Khushi Maharaj leaves behind son Krishneel Maharaj and daughter-in-law Shivani Maharaj.
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