Today, the fears of Covid may have receded to the background, but people, specially the younger ones, students of IITs and the like, seem more bothered, more concerned about what their future is going to be, how are they going to live their lives.
I am not a medical man but perhaps the solution to this issue might be to engage more with our students in schools and colleges,” said PRIP Kalyan Banerjee.
He was addressing an event in Chennai to felicitate DGN Mahaveer Bothra who will take over as the leader of the new district 3233 in 2024–25 and DGND D Devendran the following year.
Banerjee said in the last issue of Rotary News he had read about the recent visit of RI President Gordon McInally to Chennai, and “one of the more unusual topics that the then president-
elect touched on was about mental health issues. It’s a subject which perhaps the Rotarians in our country, busy with our myriad community service projects and raising funds to carry them out, are not too much engaged in.”
But in Vapi, Gujarat, where he lives, his club, RC Vapi, had formed a Trust which ran colleges in management studies. “I tell you, doing this has brought a lot of success to our young generation and happiness to our Rotarians and satisfaction to the community as a whole.”
McInally had also spoken on Rotary’s continuing battle to eradicate polio. “Unfortunately, most of the Rotary world thinks that polio is done with, almost gone, and we need to look at other problems. But polio is not ‘all gone’ and polio anywhere, carries the threat of the germs being carried elsewhere. From time to time, over the years, we have found polio in the sewages in many places from Mumbai to Madagascar to New York. And as people travel, so do diseases.”
So the job of vaccination and precautions, and their increased support for the PolioPlus fund, till the last cases of polio have gone from Pakistan and Afghanistan, has to continue, he added.
Describing Chennai as one of his “favourite Rotary brotherhood areas in the country” Banerjee grew nostalgic as he recalled his frequent visits here from the 1990s. “Coming here is always a bit of a nostalgic event for me because in the 1990s I remember frequently interacting with Krish Chitale (from RC Madras) who was among the first Rotary leaders in India to work on eradicating measles, which then led to our subsequent battles and victory against polio. I remember the many nights I spent with the late PDG Ramkrishna Raja at his home in Poes Garden and relishing his wife Rajalaxmi’s dosas; of being present at so many district conferences over the year, including the one when director Venky served as your DG. And meeting late PDG Rekha Shetty who would happily give me her latest books and visiting past director P T Prabhakar at his home to talk about Rotary and cricket which we both enjoyed.”
Just as he was beginning to think “maybe you have had enough of me because, I talk about these things time and again, I received my friend PDG I S A K Nazar’s invite for this event and was glad to accept it before he had a chance to change his mind!”
The other reason for his eagerness to attend the event was to join in the felicitation of “two outstanding Rotary leaders”. He was happy to learn that both Bothra and Devendran were ‘Light up Presidents’ during the Light Up year in 2014–15, when Gary Huang was RI president and his theme was Light up Rotary.
Banerjee congratulated RID 3232 DG Nandakumar (2022–23) for his leadership of the district, which had over 7,400 members and was scheduled to split. This meant that after one year, each of the two new districts would commence with over 3,700 members each. “This reflects the amazing growth of Rotary in Chennai.” He remembered that over a decade back “District 3230, the original district you had started out with, got bifurcated into districts 3231 and 3232. And here we are, just about a decade and a little more, that you are almost doubling again.”
This made him wonder “what is it that makes Rotary blossom and keep doubling itself, again and again in India while it keeps shrinking and growing smaller in the countries where Rotary had started in the first place. And so, to my heroes of today, I ask, how do you hope to light up your year?”
Addressing the meet RI director A S Venkatesh had a few words of advice for the future governors Bothra and Devendran. The first was not to neglect their health; as they will need to work very hard for not only their year but the years leading up to their term as governors.
Next was what he called the SS formula, which every district governor needs to adopt. “The first part of this formula is maintain silence; don’t talk unnecessarily or else you’ll get into trouble. But despite doing that, if you still end up in trouble, smile; they’ll wonder what you are up to. Silence and smile are both required for a successful term as governor.”
Based on his own and several other governors’ experience “I can tell you it’s going to be a stressful year in terms of different demands on your time and challenges to your decision- making capacity. There will be different pulls and pressures, but the fact that the district has chosen you to lead it, means that they have confidence that you’ll deliver.”
Venkatesh advised them to use the time available till their year begins to get to know every club, its strengths and weaknesses… what kind of projects or any other task it will be able to do. “Also, use this time to know about Rotary. There is so much well- researched, well-documented, well- presented and easy to understand information out there online about Rotary. Update your knowledge and skills, so that you are better equipped to handle your responsibility. With knowledge of Rotary and intimate understanding of the clubs, nothing in the world can stop you being successful governors,” he concluded.
Congratulating both Bothra and Devendran, PRID C Basker complimented the organising committee led by Nazar for putting together the grand event. “I have been to so many felicitation functions, but here, with so many zonal RI officers from so many RI districts being present, this appears like a mini zone institute.”
They were also lucky to get the Bhishma of Rotary, PRIP Banerjee himself, to felicitate them.
He asked them to always remember that when “you become a district governor in Rotary, your role goes beyond your club and district and you become the ambassador of the community you live in.” In Rotary, people strive for a position to do something good. “But not everybody gets a chance to become a DG. It is the rarest of rare opportunities; this is my experience. Your exposure was till now only with your club and district. But as a Rotary governor, wherever you go in the globe, they look at you with respect. Always remember that as governor you are representing one of the biggest service organisations in the world. God has given you this opportunity to do good.”
Basker underlined the difference between the era when he became governor and the current situation. “When I was a DG, the situation of India was completely different; we used to go after Rotarians from other countries asking for global grants. Today, thanks to the progress of India, we are the second largest donors to TRF. The tables have turned dramatically in the last eight years.”
Asking them to chart a new course and not look back at what their predecessors did, the past director said. “Today’s Rotarians want more fun, give it to them. We want people to come in, have fun and at the same time work for the community.” Quoting Steve Jobs, he said the governors would need passion, focus and the energy and commitment to transform ordinary clubs into active and vibrant clubs. “Have exceptional imagination to do things differently; develop excellent communication skills. You will be rated by your communication skills… before the mike and also on email. That is why Rotary chooses you in advance, to improve your communication skills.”
PRIP Gary Huang congratulated his “light-up presidents” through a video message.
DG Nandakumar and PDG Nazar complimented the two incoming governors and said their district had great expectations from them, which they should strive to fulfil.
Along with Bothra and Devendran, PDG Chandramohan, who has been selected as the district’s representative to the CoL, and PDG R Srinivasan who will be in the RI Directors’ nominating committee were also honoured at the event, attended by RID 3231 DG J K N Palani, DGE N S Saravanan and DGN Vinod Saraogi, both from RID 3234, and several PDGs from other districts of Tamil Nadu.
Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat