FROM THE DESK OF THE CENTENARY PRESIDENT
RTN. PURNENDU ROYCHOWDHURY
Rotary year 2019-2020 will be remembered as the Centenary year. All events and projects were done befittingly with the full support of the members. The centenary would not have been complete if all members had not come forward and joined in wholeheartedly.
When the year began, I had announced that it would comprise celebrations and focused projects only. Through the toil and vision of our Past Presidents and members we have reached the enviable and coveted target of 100 years celebration.
The Centenary Committee was initially formed by PP Ritwik Gupta under the leadership of PP Vinay Nevatia. PP Nevatia had put forward an agenda and direction that started the ball rolling. We have made many changes in the process depending on the situation but that was the dynamics of the whole process. We may not have ended doing everything but what we did each of us will appreciate. Later PP Saumen Ray took over as Chairman of Centenary Committee. He toiled for years for this signature year.
PP Ray gave a fresh direction to the Centenary Committee and planned out every detail. He performed like a man possessed. Relentless, untiring, unwavering, and always after a goal. He made my life as a convenor to the committee and as a Centenary President a breeze. When Mark Maloney was in Kolkata he immediately recognized PP Saumen Ray and addressed him by his first name. The constant pestering he has done, the amount of emails he has written internationally is commendable. I have not read all of them as yet, it is impossible to me to keep up with his energy. Even while travelling to Hamburg he was at the airport lounge with his laptop open and shooting mails. He has been aptly chosen as the “Outstanding Rotarian of the Centenary” by a jury.
Rtn. Hirak Ray, Chair to Attendance Committee was the only one who held meetings at regular intervals and worked diligently. I remember a meeting was once called by him with members of the committee, PDGs, future and past leaders wherein important issues were brought up and per our byelaws and I with the help of members present was able to impress upon him that modifications had already taken place at the beginning of the year and we needed to be flexible within limitations to accommodate the current times and needs. I was impressed by his study and learnt a lot from him.
Rtn. Saurabh Khemani was a wonder. Today we have a colour roster for the first time in our history and it is only because of him, not much was spent from the club finances except a few thousand rupees. He donated freely for Paul Harris Fellow and became a Major Donor this year while kick starting the effort of PP Sushil Bagla and Rtn. Rajeev Paralikar to collect a sum above US$52,OOO for TRF.
The dynamic Debasish Biswas; I am still trying to find out what work he doesn’t do or know. He has hands in so many things professionally. He is connected to Rotary in a way many of us haven’t yet experienced. He has gone that extra mile every time for Rotary. Can you imagine in one year we have been able to open one Rotaract, one Interact and one Rotary Club where 80% of the Club’s membership is proposed by Rtn. Debasish Biswas and rest by me as well as Ashok Basu 4. Rtn. Biswas is also responsible for the Entrepreneurship Development Cell in the club implemented through the Rotaractors.
He made Zoom easy for us. For Zoom, the attendance of the Club has gone up in all the meetings and events. He is a star and has got us some star speakers. With full competence he has anchored the meetings which gave time to the President to sit back and enjoy each event.
PP Haladhar Dey, the all-time Community Service champion; he might have held various posts but still at 80+ I am unable to match his energy. Till the last day he was communicating with Shampa, Heena, PP Sushil Bagla and doing the job no matter what. He is truly an inspiration.
PP Abhijitda was always there when we faced any problem or a crisis. With a cool head and smile he always had a solution to our problems. Believe me, I did not have to put my mind to any of the affairs that he was looking after; he simply ordered and I complied blindly.
The next person I have known for years as a Membership Committee Chair is Rtn. Subimal Bose, he works diligently with focus and gets angry when the Board takes a little more time to process his applications. But this year we saw him in a different avatar; he collected money for our WASH projects, he arranged sponsors for our golf tournament. He organised an exclusive Golf Tournament for our Centenary Celebration at Tollygunge Club and made sure of various sponsorships. He did magic! PP Saumen Ray, when he came up with the unbelievable proposition of Golf Tournament, Tollygunge Club free, food covered, sponsors in line, it was hard to believe but it happened. All credit goes to Rtn. Subimal Bose. He has been wisely selected for the “BK Rohatgi Award of Rotarian par Excellence” by a jury of 5 past presidents.
Equally commendable is green badger Arindam Roychowdhury whom I insisted on inducting into the club on the 100th Installation day on 2ndJuly 2019. Arindam is an asset and a good find. Requesting all members to be with him and help him in the project ‘Sushma’ where he has started making toilets and tubewells in villages. Another Saumen Ray in the making probably. Currently he is working on a COVID19 Global Grant project which is yet to be approved.
Rtn. Renuka Shah, a bubbling bundle of energy, overactive and a one woman army is a fantastic asset of our club. There is no work that she cannot do. The way she works, all Presidents should start thinking of putting her into the Board with multiple responsibilities. She is definitely President Material. All the wonderful speakers you saw were brought by her.
Rtn. Shampa Ghose worked out a new format of fellowship and it worked very well. My personal thanks to all the members for supporting the Fellowship Committee. The handsome and ever young Rtn. Pritpal Singh Chauhan is a joyful person, a party man, always supportive. Dr.Asok Ghoshal was very keen and participated in all programmes where he was aptly supported by Rtn. Amit Ghosh. Rtn. Veena Rohatgi tried to do an international programme. It did not happen, as visas were not made available but she was a constant support.
Anand Sharma was the head of RAW committee in Rotary, also the Treasurer, with his quiet smile he has been working tirelessly for years together. He delivered not only as Treasurer but from day one as the Installation Committee Chair. He wore various hats and worked in every sphere. We used his experience in every event. He was always available with his usual charm and a wonderful smile. I wonder if he ever gets angry.
Shraddha Agarwal dazzled us with the speakers she got. I hope she continues this good work in future years too.
PP Ritwik Gupta is a multi-tasker. Together with PDG P.K. Rohatgi he is making the bylaws, together with PDG S.C. Nandy he is making the history book. He also published Rotary 100 Bulletin /magazine that I wanted this year. He is looking after Rotary Sadan as a Committee Chair. He was present with his wife Anne Anuradha in HHI and Oberoi controlling and monitoring each of the sessions and awards that was given. Past Presidents who always get their hands dirty and volunteer on their own are Ritwik Gupta, Nilima Joshi and Abhijit Kolay.
Rtn. Sujata Pyne was my backbone and gave me wonderful ideas. She managed her committee well and was always full of new ideas and thoughts. She was the one behind several new ideas that I had put forward.
Rtn. Sonal Worah was an immense help and a task master. She used her charm freely to make people come together and work as one. A hard worker, she painstakingly called everyone up individually. Her father was very unwell yet she gave her best in each of the Members’ Nites. She did THREE Members’ Nites in one year because entertainment was our theme and she lived up to it. She was ably supported by spouses such as Roshni Ganguly, Ranjana Ray and others. This year the events wouldn’t have been possible if all spouses had not come forward and volunteered. That includes Rtn. Bodhibrata Das who was sometimes a spouse and sometimes a member. He was the creative and technical support in most parts of it. I sometimes wonder if Bodhi was born for the finer arts as his creativity is reaching newer heights and he is raising the bar each time. My advice to all the future presidents is to involve the spouses in every committee, it helps. They brought the glamour to the year. They help us to focus more.
Rtn. Amrita Banerjee was very worried and initially very hesitant. Later she picked up well and excelled in the work she did. She has done a plethora of projects. 2 story telling events done in collaboration with a newspaper were very interesting. She remapped the library and increased natural lighting.
A silent soldier working for the Club and going beyond a set position in the Club is Rtn. Ashok Basu 4 whom I lovingly call AB4. His wife Meena is an able President of Inner Wheel Club of Calcutta and was instrumental in increasing the connect with our Rotary. Please keep your focus on AB4 and he will amaze you. AB4 addresses me as CYP and after Foundation Day he calls me CYPDD. This Rotary year I have been given many pet names by members and Rotarians abroad. AB4 came to the rescue when I gave up on the HSP school project. He is a project trouble-shooter as well as a conceiver and implementer.
AB4 and Ayesha Mazumder are Joint Editors of this Year Book. Ayesha is an experienced 3rd generation Rotarian and a gem of a find. We are family friends for 2 generations. I am very happy to have her in our club and I am honoured to have been able to tap into her acumen and keen eye. Ayesha strikes a fine balance amongst her personal, professional and social responsibilities.
Most years at the district awards we miss a prize for The Chaka and it doesn’t matter to me personally whether we get the prize for it or not; I have seen the quality of the Chaka. Subhajit after a hectic year running the Club agreed to be our Editor this year. He has done magic with The Chaka. It was subhajit and Anusua who worked really hard on it. I am probably one of the few presidents who never bothered about the bulletin as it was in the hands of a competent young man.
PP Nilima Joshi is a silent worker, organiser, singer, artist and much more. She is the Chair of the Past President Council and a representative of past presidents in the Centenary Board. A constant support and a voice of the PPS. Whatever comes, she is always there for me. All our Trust related issues have been quietly solved by her for years together. How we should do our Installation and Centenary year, is the brain child of Nilima Joshi.
Dr. S.K Sharma is an advisor and a mentor and he was always there for us. As a president he had guided me with innovative ideas and taught me to think out of the box. He had taught me the importance of service projects and entertainment. He taught me to enjoy Rotary. Our International Zoom meeting with Dhaka MahaNagar ended at 10:00 p.m, he was there till the end. I thought Zoom would not be used by our senior members but not only are they using it they are loving it. His experience and constant guidance will always be needed by us. He participated in every event and was a pillar of strength and an umbrella for me.
Chairman of the Foundation PP Sushil Bagla, always smiling; seeing his smile I wrote up a cheque to the Foundation. With his guidance RAdm Rajeev Paralikar and I have made all the achievements during the year for the Foundation.
Rtn. Amit Ghosh, give him any job he will do it. Why only make him the Club Correspondent? Future Presidents should make him the Chairman of 2-3 committees. He will excel in everything. Due to the amount of pestering he did over the years to the Rotarians and Rotary News Trust, we were well reported and covered for 5 months continuously. A record of sorts for the first time in our history to be covered in Rotary News. Amitda made sure that the correspondent flew in from Chennai for all our important events. He was even after the GML Chair for putting our reports for district clubs to see.
Rtn. Atindranath Sen, pillar of RCC was constantly after me for something or the other. Whenever he called it was always work and more work. I think he has a nuclear cell developed inside his body which powers him. He went out of his way to support the RCC projects. If he focuses on the other RCCs in the ensuing year, as they look up to us for help, it will be all inclusive then.
Bodhi Brata Das, like Anusua, works independently in his own way. Bodhi works silently, is cool headed, smiles a lot. He is a super asset and Debashis Mitra has made the right choice in choosing him as the Secretary for next year. He is ever ready for any project or work. An active, creative mind, he runs in the morning and works in his car as he has a hectic work schedule.
Rtn. Subrata Basu – all the contracts and agreements were reviewed and finalised by him. Rtn. Subrata Basu, though being a sitting President of Calcutta Club spent hours with me discussing and advising me in every sphere where legal help or counselling was required.
Rtn. Debjani Ghosh was Sergeant-at-Arms,as well as Chair of the Legal Aid Cell for women which was recently started. A quiet worker with a smile. She would go and stand in front of the talkative Rotarians and smile; they would feel embarrassed and come into the meeting room without Debjani uttering a word. It used to give me great happiness to see her well-dressed father on our special occasions which he enjoyed immensely.
Rtn. Samiran Sen was ever ready for all events as he was the Co-ordinator for the Centenary year. Rtn. Samiran Sen and PP Haladhar Dey were always working silently in the background. whilst Saumen Ray, Anusua and I were in the forefront.
PP Nandita Sen, never said no to me throughout the year. She even complained that she has promised me Rs. 1 Iac for GG but it was not taken by me. I assured her that it would be utilised in the next Rotary year.
PP Partha Sadhan Bose opened all stops to make the Vintage Car Show a memorable one. With his failing health he stood there and commanded the entire event. He helped me and the club in many ways that was only expected from him. He is a saver.
Subrata De – another silent worker. Thanks to him all the utilisation certifications were done as a priority for all our Global Grants. He does this every year.
Rtm Anusua Das : I have known her for many years. We had a pact that we would work together someday without a day or year being fixed, As luck would have it, we got to work together in the Centenary year of the club. Where I failed, she was always there to make good and stand in for me. She is a lady with a smile but nerves of steel. She demonstrated time and again that she is more capable than many men and is a stubborn go getter. She teamed up with the right people to get the work done. I had some idea of her and her capabilities as I can read people but she delivered much more than expected. A serious and focused worker who did not believe in shortcuts. She would trudge along at her own personal cost of family time and work to do things for Rotary. A perfectionist and fiercely independent person without ego but with enough self-esteem to show anyone who tries to take advantage of her humility their place. She exactly knew when I needed her to do what and when. I am simply in awe of her and a bond has been created between us for life. It was a great experience working and enjoying every moment of the Centenary year and both she as well as Bodhi will remain a permanent connect in my life and will be part of my family. I am indebted to Almighty to have both of them in my life. What I have realised is that if one has good intent then all the best people come forward and surround you.
The staff members were of immense help and I couldn’t have done what we intended to do without them. Anjan, Krishna, Sambhu and Prabir were my 4 pillars. During the lockdown I missed Prabir the most as before meetings he was ever ready with the agenda which made me not miss any of the points as with my busy schedule I tended to do so. Prabir was always prodding me as well as Anusua. In my office I was aptly supported by Nikhat. All the necessary follow ups and updates were done by her. I would have failed as a President if she was not handling the back office. Probably she is missing Rotary but is already neck deep in many responsibilities at work.
Sucharita always jumped in and worked in each and every event. PP Saumen Ray pulled her in and gave her responsibilities. She is a reclusive person but suddenly was all action. On seeing this Rotary Club of Avyana which is an all ladies club is eager to make her a member. I myself was awed by seeing her execute all that she was entrusted with by our Chairman. She was a strong support for me and without her, my mother and my children constantly encouraging me, I wouldn’t have been able to put in as much effort as I did.
As the years go by I will not remember the awards or accolades but will remember the experiences I have had and the solid friends I made within the club, in the district, in the sponsored clubs and internationally. Sucharita and I will always remember the 3rd Members’ Nite as it coincided with our anniversary and we see it as a treat to us by my Rotary friends unknowingly. How those 4 hours passed, we never noticed. Today I have a few more solid friends to be proud of. This cannot be replaced by any recognition or accolades. I will probably not be remembering in the future how long a RI President stayed at Rotary Sadan, or how much we contributed to TRF, how many awards the club received in the current year as they are not important to me. I list some of the highlights of the year as under where some of them are first time and memorable events:
- Formation of Rotary Club of Calcutta Centenary.
- Formation of 1 Rotaract Club.
- Formation of 2 Interact Clubs.
- Finishing and starting of 4 school projects — Focus-Literacy.
- Centenary Postage Stamp.
- Centenary Bell.
- Celebrating 100th Foundation Day on 26th September 2019.
- A seven day celebration of our Charter Day.
- A Vintage Car Show.
- A Golf Tournament exclusively for the club held at Tollygunge Club with national and international Rotarian players.
- The sitting RI President Mark Daniel Maloney accepting honorary membership.
- Recognising and bonding for the first time with our sponsored clubs.
- Forming and taking a lead role in the Circle of Centennial Rotary Clubs with Manila and Shanghai whilst inking the MOA in front of 4000 Rotarians from 30 countries and having RI President Mark Maloney as well as RIPN Sekhar Mehta sign as witnesses.
- The Finance Minister of West Bengal recognising the President of the club on stage at RICS 2020 in front of 4000 domestic and international Rotarians.
- Signing a sister club agreement with Rotary Club of Batramulla, Sri Lanka.
- Reaching a target of 700 heart operations of adults and children.
- Immunising 100,000 children.
- Building close to 1000 toilets in rural India.
- Completing a major project at Mercy Hospital where we gave equipment for two OTS and critical care unit.
- Our teams visited Shanghai, Bangkok, Colombo and Dhaka to promote the theme Rotary Connects the World.
- Installing the bronze bust of PRIP Nitish Chandra Laharry on 1st January 2020.
- RI President’s Citation with Platinum distinction.
Lastly, I would like to mention one of the things I learnt in my years in the club, i.e., to have a democratic approach to everything and let every member be heard. Hence importance to the RAW and Members Communication Committees was given. The Google group formed gave a democratic voice to each member. I am indebted to all members for their unstinted support during the year as without them, the Centenary year would have been incomplete. My sincere apologies if I have left out any names as it was unintentional.
Thank you so much and look forward to working as well as having fun with you henceforth as new leadership takes over every year.
Yours in Rotary,