MY JOURNEY IN ROTARY
CENTENARY PRESIDENT RTN. PURNENDU ROYCHOWDHURY
My Rotary journey started some 20 years back, 191 in the year 2000 and as a Green Badger, I was given the title of Commander by the then President, Rtn. Dileep Rohatgi.
At that time, the RCC Bishnupur was formed and the school building construction had just N started. Being camera-shy and habitually staying away from the spot light, President Rohatgi noticed this and pushed me in representing the Club for a TV channel interview at RCC Bishnupur, which I completed successfully, albeit with much reluctance. Thus my connection with the Rotary Club of Calcutta was sealed forever.
The reason I joined the Rotary movement was to channelise my intent to give back to society and multiply the effect of it with the help of Rotary. My effort was to serve the under-privileged in an organised, measurable and focused manner. That happened in Rotary Club of Calcutta really well. Many projects & Global Grants have taken place in the Club, and I was always an eager learner to find ways & means of learning more about the projects as the years went by.
When I joined the Club, temperamentally I was non-conforming by nature to systems and was against working in groups together. I would prefer handling projects in the best possible manner on my terms and was seen as a Ione ranger. However, I learnt the art of democracy, collective working, consulting with peers and its advantages quickly and my seniors made me a much more cool- headed person. My assimilation was easy as all were very welcoming as well as adjusting to my offbeat take on things.
Rotary to me was never a burden, but a place that I looked forward to visiting every week, provided parking was available and meeting friends, chatting with them, watching the Club going through its pace and for me, finding opportunities as to whether I could be of any use. I have made some solid friends in this process. What I looked forward to seeing were the frequent trips for projects and over-night stays, where the team members bonded with one another and our wonderful overseas trips, which include an escape from the near death situation in Spain and in Dusseldorf to a quiet & serene river cruise in Shanghai.
An interesting anecdote comes to mind. While with my Rotarian friends who were in Ibiza, we happened to be on a nudist beach where, being the youngest in the group, I was made to run and stand at various places to be photographed and when the actual photograph came, I was out of focus and the background was in focus. Perhaps we can fairly estimate what was in focus!
Another interesting event I remember is that few of us were in a swimming pool, where glasses of Sangria were sent floating to us to savour, as we sat in the pool. After this, it became a staple drink at all my parties. You may also note that as the team left for the Bangkok Convention, I had instructed the travel agent to put a little something or a surprise in our kit bags which once I disclosed made one of our team members very nervous. He frantically searched his bag for it before he went home.
One day, out of the blue a bomb was dropped on me saying that I had been selected as the Centenary President of the Club. It was 15 years since I had been the Secretary of the Club and personally being a hands-on person, rather than having any administrative interest, I thought that a nonconforming and disorganised person like me had been given a pass and I was at peace. I had asked the Past Presidents, who met me whether there is was a second or third name in place as is the usual norm and I was told that I was the only choice and it was non-negotiable. I was very scared as Centenary year is a big thing. I was assured full support and co-operation and hence accepted the position with some reluctance.
Recently, the renowned speaker Gour Gopal Das in our district conference advised married women to let go of inhibitions and pardon their husbands every time they returned from Bangkok as women are capable of seeing the bigger picture in a relationship. I was astounded to hear that and Rtn. Sujata pyne and Rtn. Anusua Das who were with me looked at me quite unapprovingly. I am sure the learned Shri Das is unmarried. I did not dare share this knowledge with Sucharita when I went to my room in the hotel.
As your Centenary President I have been overwhelmed by the support of each & every member; and as “Rotary Connects the World” was the theme, we connected more within the club membership, than the world. Barring a couple of members, everyone did their level best and supported me in every way in the truest sense. This will be my take-home and will always be the cherished experience I had, and the events we did together which I will remember forever lovingly. I have been ably supported in my journey by Anusua and my family, as well as my office assistants, the Rotary office staff and the blessings and good wishes of the Past Presidents of the Club.
Dear members, Rotary Annes and Spouses, thank you for supporting me and allowing me to serve as your Centenary President.
The future as seen by Anusua and me: The year is 2119. India through its technological and military prowess has subdued and annexed Pakistan, and China has been broken up into multiple independent republics based on individual ethnicity; and India has come out as the sole economic power in Asia.
Rotary Club of Calcutta is still meeting physically every week at Rotary Sadan at Chowringhee Road. Most of the members are attending our physical meetings or as holograms, flying across and docking above Rotary Sadan by avoiding traffic congestion. We do not visit our projects in a Toyota Qualis anymore at Birbhum, but teleport ourselves to the exact location with our baggage and drinks to teach the Santhal children, and prepare projects at locations around the world to support developing communities. There will be no poverty but needs will change and learning systems will require advance implementation in our rural areas. Our fully integrated education outreach centres are functioning and some of our volunteer Rotarian teachers are taking classes through holograms while paid teachers are teaching locally.
Drones are mapping every corner of our district 24×7 and sending information to our tech Centre at Rotary Sadan. Rotary is helping governments in mapping the country with relation to population, climate, trends and demands of communities and is working as a go – between. Our private satellite is being used to assist in a plethora of work for social and community needs and information is free – flowing and borderless with clubs worldwide.
MY 3-SCORE & 2 YEARS IN ROTARY
PDG Rtn. Prabhat Rohatgi
I joined R.C. Calcutta, where my father was President earlier, in August 1958, inducted by the Rotary doyen Saral Deb. It was indeed an honour to be invited for membership of ‘Old Number One’ — and that too at the young age of years.
I thought maybe it would be befitting to frame the same along the mileposts which I have traversed during the last 62 years, recalling the times when Dr. B. C. Roy & Pandit Nehru addressed the Club.
Post-induction was really my absorption period, from dipstick to deep dive engaging with Rotary and with Rotarians in the different avenues of service. There were three of us — the late PP Toby Palchaudhury, PDG Somen Nandy and myself — considered by some as the 3-angry young men of the club. Along with others we called for ‘change’ – in our club’s ambience and working. In 1971, I was elected Hony Secretary for a 2-years period — 197173.
I had the privilege to serve under three Presidents — stalwarts Sookamal Ghosh, Balbir Dua, Badri Pd. Poddar. Sookamal Ghosh was an amiable easygoing taskmaster. He showed me how a teetotaller can get tipsy without drinking (as seen at Nepal King’s Kathmandu reception) by just swirling the glass of brandy and inhaling the aroma! Balbir Dua was thorough, he came to the meetings with the agenda and his speech prepared in writing. Badri Prasad-ji was always accommodating and caring but suffered indifferent health.
Some far reaching changes were made in the bye-laws. One such related to the Secretary’s tenure of office, reduced from two years to one. Two new offices were introduced, viz joint secretary and joint treasurer to ensure continuity and exposure. Why did I give this assignment priority? Because wanted a future secretary to have some hands on exposure whereas I had to rough out the two years without any preparation or exposure whatsoever! The year 1971-72 wrought havoc in India with the holocaust in East Pakistan. Millions of refugees poured into our country and particularly in
Bengal. PM Indira Gandhi set-up Sahara Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Kolkata bordering East Pakistan to house the refugees (to prevent them from proceeding to the big towns). Rotary clubs worldwide provided relief materials with R.C. Calcutta coordinating the relief work.
I had the opportunity to gain a few pearls of wisdom from Mother Teresa during one such relief expedition. I enquired “Mother how do you manage resources for all the humanitarian work you are doing in India, as also in many other parts of the world.” Nonchalantly she replied “when you do God’s work, He provides you with the resources’. Imagine my surprise — just then a gentleman walked in and quietly handed over to her a cheque for a substantial amount. I realised that Rotary in its ethos was also mirroring Mother Teresa’s exhortation — ‘Give, give—till it hurts!’ For rarely a person is able to give back to society what he receives from it.
The next milestone in my Rotary career came about in 1990-91 when my fellow members elected me as President of this prestigious club. The Brazilian RI Pres. Paula V.C.Costa gave a Rotary theme much to my mind — “Honour Rotary with Faith and Enthusiasm. After all what is the purpose Of joining Rotary, if one is not committed to its ideals? Costa gave a new direction to Rotary — which time alone in due course would prove significant —”Preserve Planet Earth’.
our club’s 3-H Project — Begumpur Rural Development — an integrated, sustainable village development programme at Begumpur, a township a few hours distance away from the city, proved how along with an active Rotary Village Corps our club created the infrastructure to meet essential needs of the rural community and upgraded the existing village industries, agro based occupations with educational facilities.
The urban slum uplift project at Garcha Bustee where the club had set up a Health Centre and an adult literacy project was awarded the “Significant Service Project’ by RI. Much attention was given to the New Generation by way of increasing the utilisation of the NCL Childrens’ Library and its premises. A separate committee — Rotary Bhavan Development Committee — was formed to work with Rotary Children’s Welfare Trust to consider extension of the building premises and other facilities and provide more facilities for children.
The District Conference in my year as President organized by our own Rtn Subimal Ghosh was a landmark event. At the conclusion of the presidentship year, I was honoured by Rotary International with Certificate of Meritorious Service. My concluding summation for the year was as a wise man had said “Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men’s blood. Make big plans, aim high and hope that it works”.
The latest milestone in my Rotary career was when I was elected District Governor for the Rotary year 1998-99 at the tumultuous 1997 Kathmandu district conference. We had a most amiable, children-loving and literacyminded President James L. Lacy at the helm of Rotary International. He is the man who taught me how — ‘To follow Your Rotary Dream’. He had visualised how neglected children were, the New Generation — the future of the world. To meet their needs he sought a US $ 20 million ‘Children’s Opportunity Grant’ from R.I. He urged the clubs to undertake projects for the care, welfare and education. Among the many projects submitted there was one which granted the District to improve teaching facilities at more than 50 schools of Calcutta Corporation. A long term project, somehow it was not taken to its logical end.
As I progressed as an entrepreneur I was more and more exposed to the trials and tribulations of the working classes. Rotary gave me the opportunity to understand that only holistic solutions to eradicate illiteracy, malnutrition, disease, vocational inadequacy and social discrimination would work for their upliftment to dignity and economic well being.
While concluding, I should like to say that ‘Service above Self’ is the key engine that can drive holistic initiatives. There are such great resources in terms of experience, talents, and knowledge in Rotary’s membership that can be leveraged for achieving much greater societal impact than presently. To this objective, members must commit themselves wholeheartedly.
Simply out, I realise that today I have spent 314th of my life with Rotary. Truly, I have enjoyed the fellowship of a worldwide circle of volunteers engaged in ‘Service above Self’. Significantly, the Motto and the ‘4-Way’ Touchstone Test’ have defined my being, and the way I have interacted with fellow men, including my family. My gratefulness to Rotary is unbounded.
PDG Udaya Mani Pradhan, R.I. Dist. 3240 writes:
Dear Members of the Centenary Club,
When President Purnendu requested me to send a write up on the experience of my interaction with the Rotary Club of Calcutta and our subsequent visit to Calcutta for your Club’s 100th Foundation Day celebration, I readily agreed. Little did I realise that I had actually accepted an invitation to take a journey down memory lane.
My tryst with the Rotary Club of Calcutta began as a StUdent at St. Xavier’s College, way back in 1972 when I was inducted as a member of the Rotaract Club of Calcutta. Thus began my journey into the fascinating world of Rotary. But before I move ahead of the script, let me pause to recollect the fantastic moments I spent as a Rotaractor of your esteemed club. I can still vividly recall our regular meetings held at the premises of St. Paul’s Cathedral with Rotarian Satish Kapur mentoring and guiding us through our meetings and projects.
The joint projects with our parent club such as the Annual Children’s Day celebration at the National Library lawns with over 500 students, the Annual Youth Awards function held at the Great Eastern Hotel (in 1974 young promising cricketer Pranab Roy and the bubbly swimming sensation Nafisa Ali were the recipients), the International Film Festival at Shri Shikshayatan College, to name a few, are still etched in my memory.
This paved the way in forming the Rotaract Club of Darjeeling on returning to my hometown after completing my studies at Calcutta. A few years later 1 was invited to join the Rotary Club of Darjeeling, a club sponsored by the Rotary Club of Calcutta in 1957. The unflinching efforts and commitment of Rotarians of RC Calcutta, especially Dr. U. P. Ganguly, N. C. Ghose, John Gregory, K. G. Dossani, G. V. Swaika, M. K. Mookerji and Saral Deb in starting a new club in Darjeeling from a distance of over 600 kms can never be forgotten.
However, somewhere along the way, except for raising a toast to our sponsoring club during our installation ceremonies, we had lost contact totally. As we were preparing to celebrate our 3000 Regular Meeting coinciding with our 63rd Charter Day, we decided to reach out to our parent club on their 100th year of existence. Fortunately, I managed to connect with President Elect Purnendu and as they say, the rest is history. Not only did he oblige us with a message for our special Souvenir but expressed his desire to embark upon a joint project at Darjeeling District. We were delighted to have at our Installation meeting Rtn. Kirit Patel, a member of our parent club, who invited us to your Centenary Celebrations.
Past President Rtn. Saumen Ray’s subsequent visit to our club to draw up plans for the Global Grant project at Baramangwa and for also jointly hosting an ambitious RYLA at Darjeeling paved the way for an exciting year ahead.
On 24th September 2019, President of RC Darjeeling Rtn. Lakpa and I headed for Kolkata to be part of your historical event. We were literally pampered by our parent club and even today, I cannot believe that President Purnendu and Centenary Chairman Saumen tore themselves away from other distinguished guests as well as from their humungous responsibility’ on the eve of the programme, to spend a memorable evening exclusively with the two of us.
Our stay at Kolkata was laced with a visit to some of your flagship projects and interacting with Rotarians from the 28 odd clubs sponsored by your club• Meeting old friends in the form of RIPN Shekhar, RID Kamal, PRID Kalyanda’ PDGs Dr. S. C. Nandy and Prabhat, my own batchmate Ravi Sehgal, my very dear friend, PP & PDRR Tamal Mukherjee amongst others, and making new friends, is something that I shall cherish for a very long time. The Club’S 100th Foundation Day programme was dignified and meaningful and worth every minute of our trip to Kolkata.
MY INITIATION INTO THE ROTARY WORLD
PP Rtn. Nilima Joshi
Nilima Joshi President, Rotary Club of Calcutta, 2016-17
PP Rtn. SK Sharma writes:
I joined Rotary in the year 1991 and since then it has been wonderful experience being a member of Rotary Club Calcutta. With time my son Dr. Jeetendra Sharma and in-law Mr. Anand Sharma joined my club which I am proud of. My family participates in all the club functions is part of the Rotary family.
I took over as President in the year 2005-06 and instrumental in forming a new Rotary Club by the name of Rotary Club Calcutta Renaissance and constructed a 4-storeyed building for a school the challenged children in Golf Green.
The cleft lip and palate operation for children was initiated during this which was very special to me. As the year progressed my journey through Rotary Club of Calcutta was very involving and as a Long term Chair initiated our Club’s projects at Birbhum, a tribal belt.
2019-2020 was an excellent year as I reminisce over the past years
Rotary, and it has been my proud privilege to be a member of a 100 year Club; to have served in an advisory role to the Centenary Committee as as to the Centenary Board and I was thrilled that the Club chose
Purnendu Roychowdhury to be at the helm of affairs as a Centenary President who incidentally happens to have served the Club as the Hony. Secretary when I was the President.
What a wonderful and memorable year the Centenary Year has been. A very good balance of targeted projects and celebrations in a befitting manner taken place.
Many first time events have happened during the year which will be etched our memory and our history. Excellent synergy amongst our members and good participation by the members was noticed.
Thanking you with best wishes,
Dr. Surendra Kumar Sharma
“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied. -Herophilus. “
Rtn. Rajkumar Agrawal writes:
This has been a watershed year for Rotary Club of Calcutta in more ways than one. This year we completed 100 years of existence which is a remarkable milestone for any institution, as it demonstrates its adaptability to the changing times and what can be a better example of the same than the events this year when we were faced with a worldwide pandemic throwing life out of gear and driving people indoors.
We were in a celebratory mood throughout the year with many events involving Rotary world leaders and delegates from various countries. In the later part of the year, in spite of the pandemic we adapted ourselves marvelously and had many meetings and webinars online to keep us engaged.
For me personally it has been a fulfilling journey in Rotary since I joined 19 years back, serving in various capacities and making lots of friends on the way. This year I was nominated to serve as President of this illustrious Club for the year 2022-23. Furthermore, this year I joined Paul Harris Society, with a commitment to contribute to TRF every year. We are only two to join PHS from our club so far. So, all in all a very satisfying year.
Rtn. Rajeev Swaika writes:
My association with Rotary Club of Calcutta spans 3 generations. My grandfather, the Late Rai Bahadur GV Swaika, was the first Rotarian from our family; thereafter my father Late BK Swaika and now me, a Rotarian after having been an active Rotaractor with the Rotaract Club of Calcutta where I first met Rtn. RN Dey and whose association and affection I still cherish. I also recall attending several meetings at the Grand Hotel as my father’s guest— in those days lunch at the Oberoi Grand was a big draw.
However, my fondest recollection is that of serving food to the children at the Annual Children’s Treat some 55 years back or so. This event used to be held at Rabindra Sarobar in those days. My grandparents were very actively involved — some trucks from our factory were used to ferry the children but the more important part was the food arrangement which was headed / handled by my grandmother. She was a fabulous cook and culinary innovator and was responsible on behalf of the Club for organizing the food for the children on that day.
Another memory is about my joining Rotary. When I decided to join Rotary, I managed to upset two members of the same family. The Pal Choudhurys have been family friends for a very long time; in fact, respected PP Toby Pal Choudhury was my official mentor in our club.
On hearing that I was finally joining the Rotary movement, Tobyda’s daughter Nayantara (also PDG) wanted me to join her Rotary club and her uncle Rtn Sourajit (a close friend from school days and a fellow Rotaractor) wanted me to join his… Tobyda, of course, warned me not to even think otherwise! Age before beauty; Nayantara lost out to her father and I joined our RC Calcutta and upset two family friends for a while. Of course, Tobyda Pulled rank and set things right (I think both of them have forgiven me by now)!
MY MISSION AS A ROTARIAN
Rtn Suksham Singh
While there are many ROTARIANS who work hard — are involved in many projects – my focus has been to bring in new members to join our Rotary.
As we approached our 100th year – it was a dream that we should have a strength of a 100 women member!!!!! So I got down earnestly to making out a list of potential candidates whom I would have to approach and woo to join our Rotary Club.
With lots of enthusiasm I got on the job. Soon I realised that I alone would not be allowed to propose so many candidates!!!! So then I tried motivating our lady members to recommend 1 or 2 ladies from their circles of friends. Promptly Shashi Bhargav – a green badger herself – introduced 2 candidates for membership.
That was so wonderful. It made my resolve even stronger. WE CAN DO IT. The Women Empowerment Committee was established and is doing a great job!!!!!! We were nearly 50 women on board as members already. Each lady had to bring in just 1 proposal – for us to make my dream a reality.
Things were not as easy as I thought they would be!!!! But my determination to fulfill my dream project has only become stronger. I was delighted that in the last meeting of the Centenary year I was able to bring in for induction Mukti Gupta – a young lady I admire greatly — who is already on a mission to educate underprivileged children!!!!!!!
Padmashri Rtn. Prof. Dr. Indira Chakravarty writes:
I am a 2nd generation member of the Rotary Club of Calcutta.
My father Dr PK Sen was also a member of the club.
I remember that my first visit to one of the club meetings was possibly in the 60s’, when I had accompanied my father to the Grand Hotel, as a guest. The speaker was one of my professors from Presidency College.
Little did I know that one day I would also become a member of this revered club.
Initially when I joined, introduced by Mr Rohatgi, the meetings used to be at the Grand itself. Subsequently they moved to our very own building, the Rotary Sadan.
To be honest, I, personally, at that time preferred the Grand, but the majority of the members wanted meetings to move to our own building.
Looking back, now I agree that it was the right decision.
I have cherished being a member of this club. I have made wonderful friends, some of whom are as young as my children; learnt a lot about social services; realised what fellowship means.
A most memorable journey so far.
Rtn Kamal Nandy writes:
Rtn. Kamal Nandy joined Rotary Club of Calcutta in early 1989, being introduced by his cousin whose family members were in the Rotary movement. Hearing of the various projects which this Club had been doing created boundless interest in his mind.
Besides getting to know the senior Rotarians, who were leaders in their professions, this gave him an opportunity under their able guidance and helped immensely to mould his thoughts.
They taught that Rotary cannot be enjoyed from a distance; one has to be involved, leading to going out on projects and the fellowship that nurtured family relations and friendship.
Visits to various remote areas of Adivaasis, who initially, one can recall closed their doors and hid themselves. Thereafter, installation of solar lights, tube wells & sanitary toilets, gradually created their confidence.
Today the Rotarians who visit these rural outlets are offered water & tea and welcomed in their traditional way. Besides this, schools in smaller towns have been supported by books and computers to enhance the students’ abilities.
In the initial stage of joining he was groomed by PP. Rtns. B.N.Bhattacharjee, V.K.Nevatia and Dilip Rohatgi to take charge of the top table and stage for all the major functions, and thereafter the Installation Meetings. This responsibility was executed for nearly three decades.
Over the years, those who supported the endeavour were namely PP. Rtn. Haladhar Dey & Rtn. Ritwik Gupta along with a team of able Rotarians and RAnnes who were ever willing to help.
The Installation Meeting is an auspicious occasion for the Incoming Presidents and the Club. The details of the meeting with the minute-tominute programme is minutely planned and adhered to. The invitation list of Consular Corps, Dignitaries, Government Officials and neighbouring clubs are prepared and sent. Receiving the guests, their registrations and sitting arrangements are carried out by a team of Rotarians & R-Annes.
The mementoes, gifts and recognitions are all chalked out. The beverages, dinner and the entertainment programme are all meticulously planned and executed by the team. One very valid object to be studied in Rotary is contribution with finances or time. This helps to keep the Rotary Wheel moving and keeps the Club’s reputation intact.
Rtn. B. K. Dalmia writes:
I was privileged in joining Rotary Club of Calcutta in 1996. Prior to that, I was in Lions Club of Calcutta City Where ultimately I became President. After several years, I lost interest in it and resigned. I joined Rotary Club of Calcutta and started enjoying it. We had regular meetings and lunch at the Oberoi Grand with fellowship and it continued for several years. Ultimately meetings shifted to Rotary Sadan.
For a few months it was not so enjoyable at the Rotary Sadan, but later on we got accustomed and started enjoying it and continued to have great fellowships. Later on every year a new President came in with an individual banner to fulfill the dreams of District; and our Club continued to achieve great heights.
All the Presidents had their individual stands. It was history also and always we had a great time in the Rotary of Calcutta. Lots of projects were undertaken and we were privileged to visit some of the villages like Duttapukur, Bishnupur, etc. I vividly remember all these years of my Rotary association.
The hallmark was when we started celebrating our Club’s Centenary Year, wherein we had a wonderful meeting in January which the who’s who of Rotary International of India attended. It was a whole day programme with excellent speeches and presentations. That was the greatest event, where Rotary International President visited our Rotary Sadan and spent a few hours with good interaction. The hallmark was when he agreed to become our Honorary Member. This was a memorable moment in my life. We continued to have great speakers who enthralled the audience. All these events will remain in my memory in my lifetime.
Rtn. Renuka Shah writes:
My two consecutive years at Rotary Club of Calcutta as Programme Chair has been dedicated to maximising the community impact of Rotary as an organisation and raising awareness on the quality philanthropic work that the organisation relentlessly continues for the society.
It has been my proud privilege to coordinate over 63 illustrious events in the current year, presenting stalwart speakers from various fields of medicine, business, art and culture, health and nutrition, journalism, etc. and coordinating the most prestigious Rotary Club of Calcutta Centennial Foundation Day celebrations on 26th September, 2019 , the Rotary
Centenary celebrations on 31st December, 2019, the Rotary International President, Mark Maloney’ s visit to Rotary Club of Calcutta and the Governor of West Bengal, Shri Dhankar’s participation in the Rotary Oration 2020 celebrations.
Personally, it has been a most trailblazing journey in highlighting the organisation as the first choice for people interested in giving back to their community and making a difference in the lives of the less fortunate and in society in general. With the support of Centennial President Rtn.PurnendU Roychowdhury, Secretary Rtn Anusua Das and the team of enthusiastic committee members it has been an efficacious year of learning and growth, evaluation and contribution in my Rotarian career, turning a new leaf into future.
Rotary Club of Calcutta: A silver lining in the dark clouds
Bengal famine of 1943 & its relevance TODAY - Dr. Abhrajit Ray
The catastrophic famine of 1943 in British ruled Bengal province proved to be one of the biggest challenges to Rotarians in Rotary Club of Calcutta in 1943.
The famine killed at least 3 million people in Eastern India.
The food supply in Bengal dwindled in the early 1940’s due to natural disasters; outbreak of infection in crops & probably policy failure of the war time cabinet led by MR Winston Churchill in London.
Huge supplies of rice were stored by the Govt along with confiscation of thousands of boats so as to deny the Japanese any war time resources.
Along with this came war time inflation, speculative buying & panic hoarding which increased the price of food beyond the reach of the common man.
calcutta not only had its own indigent & hungry thousands to feed but also tens of thousands of needy poor who flocked to the city from the neighbouring Provinces. The newcomers had no homes but sidewalks & doorways, no food supply but the garbage cans, no friends to look after them. All day long a steady procession of dead bodies was moved towards the burning ghats & sometimes funeral pyres of ten or fifteen wasted bodies were stacked like wood & burned.
The er$while President of Rotary Club of Calcutta Mr William J. Savage along with Vice President MR N.C. Laharry swung into action along with their dedicated team of Rotarians.
A charity fund of Rupees 75000 was raised [Equivalent to 60 lakhs of Indian Rupees at present]. The local relief association furnished dishes, utensils & Indian helpers. Boys Scout helped to distribute food. Various women helped to serve food & distribute clothing to the needy.
From the first day 750 people were served a bountiful hot meal once a day & this number rose to 1500 per day. A special gruel made of cooked vegetables/ rice lentils & gur was provided. This provided 108025 free meals. 29000 free portions of milk for mothers & children were provided. 1700 free garments in the form of dhotis for men & sarees for women were donated.
Providing post war assistance in training women in weaving, making doormats & baskets & other handicrafts were thought of.
All communal & caste prejudices were overcome during that time. Muslims, Hindus & various castes & creeds distributed food in UNITY on one side & eating together on the other.
At present West Bengal has been ravaged by AMPHAN, a super cyclone along with the rising tide of CORONA patients in tune with the Global Pandemic.
This will require all our fellow Rotarians with their great organisational skills & deep commitment to the Rotary cause to help face this challenge similarly.
Dr. Abhrajit Ray
15th July 2020
PP Rtn. Ashoke Kumar Basu writes:
When I joined Rotary club of Calcutta in April 1999, the RWMs, Installations and yearly meetings used to take place at the Grand Hotel, Kolkata. The Club not only provided me with a platform to serve the poor and needy, but also gave me the opportunity to work alongside many eminent medical and non-medical persons. Working at such close quarters developed a sense of camaraderie. It is this friendship that I cherish even today.
I was Secretary of the Club in 2009-2010 and was President in 2015-2016. My spouse, Rtm Ann. Prof. Jyotsna Basu and I were privileged to be a part of the Rotary International Medical Mission to Nigeria in the year 2012 where, together we performed over 50 Pediatric Surgeries including Neurosurgeries on children.
For the last seven years all the Presidents and Secretaries of the Club have worked untiringly towards a grand and opulent Centenary Year. I take this opportunity to personally thank each of them for their contributions.
It has been a pleasure working on behalf of The Grand Old Club for all these years and I pledge to serve the Club to the best of my abilities as long as the Club needs me.
Rtm Rachna Nahata writes:
Live one day at a time………
“We cannot change the past;
We just need to keep the good memories and forget about the anguish, that makes us aghast,
We need to acquire wisdom, from the mistakes we’ve made.
No one can predict the future;
We just need to hope and pray… for the best and what is right and believe that’s how it will be
We can live a day at a time enjoying the present and always seeking to become a more loving and better person.
As you take each day one @ a time
Remember that … I am there if you need me beside!!
‘Yesterday’ was a history,
‘Tomorrow’ is a mystery ‘Today’ will be a gift
and that’s why it’s called the ‘Present’
With love —
Rtn. Debasish Biswas writes:
It took me some time to assimilate the bits of amazing scattered memories which are embedded in my heart for the year 2019-20 with Rotary Club of Calcutta. Frankly, this is my first immersive experience with any centenary celebration of a heritage and prestigious organisation like RC Calcutta, and the experience was truly mesmerising. I have only been privy to some historic glimpses of the club when it was formed in 1919, and after 100 years, the gargantuan dimension of celebrations the club went into was truly remarkable, with memories which will remain etched in my mind for a lifetime.
While being conferred the responsibility of being at the helm of affairs with the New Generation Development Committee, I had the privilege of being in close association with the infectiously vibrant and enthusiastic Rotaractors and Interactors throughout the year. And I relived my time with the members of RC Calcutta in a manner which took me back to my days when I had just joined the club more than a decade ago.
The fun times we had in 2019-20 would be cherished by me forever – starting with some top-notch speakers featured during our regular weekly meetings; the brilliantly organised evening fellowship dinners with lip-smacking cuisine; the star-studded members’ nites (both real – time event at Rotary Sadan, and on a virtual platform later in the year), the amazing relationships we developed and showcased with Rotary Clubs across the globe; the leadership conferences and seminars by Rotaractors at colleges and universities; the heartfelt social development projects conducted by our Interact Clubs for the underprivileged community; extending a genuine helping hand to Covid and Amphan affected families by Rotaractors, the list goes on
And I felt privileged and honoured for having played an important role in the formation of the Rotary Club of Calcutta Centenary, during our club’s 100th year celebrations – as well as launching a few new Interact and Rotaract clubs.
The 4 days of celebrations starting 2019 year-end and moving into the first week of January were distinct highlights of the centenary celebrations, and I will cherish the memories forever. Having RI President Mark Maloney in our midst was icing on the cake. The leadership team of the centenary year, ably led by Rtn. Purnendu Roychowdhury (Centenary President) and Rtn. Anusua Das (Centenary Hony. Secretary) deserves a standing ovation for the stupendous work done during the year.
A wide grin (not hahaha, but hehehe types) crosses my face every time I remember the fun moments we had during the centenary year, and I hope the next centenary celebration in 2119 can live up to the standards set by our dear old Rotary Club of Calcutta. On a personal front – I lost some pounds of weight dancing at the 31st December celebration party and other occasions, got my vocal cords tuned while belting out some chartbusters during Members’ Nite, quenched my thirst during fellowship evenings with pure unadulterated water (yes, you heard it right) and built some fond relationships with select Rotarians which would last a lifetime!