A prelude to Centenary Celebrations in Kolkata

I have been to double installations before. This is the first time I am attending triple installations,” said PRIP Kalyan Banerjee who was in Kolkata after attending the installation of the DG of his home district, RID 3060, and was all set to attend his home club RC Vapi’s president installation the next day. The Rotarians in the hall burst into laughter when he said, “when I get invited by Shekhar, like everyone else, I too respond like mice to the Pied Piper” adding that, “moreover I cannot resist the invite to my ‘home town.’” Kolkata was where he grew up. The occasion was the installation of President Vinod Mahipal of RC Calcutta Mahanagar; DG Ajay Agarwal and RI Director Kamal Sanghvi. The event, anchored by PRID Shekhar Mehta, was a prelude to the Centenary Celebrations of Rotary in India and RC Calcutta, RID 3291, was the first club to be chartered in the country 100 years ago.

IPDG Mukul Sinha installs incoming DG Ajay Agarwal in the presence of (from L) Sonal Sanghvi, Rakhi Sinha, Mamta Agarwal, RID Kamal Sanghvi, DGE Sudip Mukherjee and incoming president of RC Calcutta Mahanagar Vinod Mahipal.
IPDG Mukul Sinha installs incoming DG Ajay Agarwal in the presence of (from L) Sonal Sanghvi, Rakhi Sinha, Mamta Agarwal, RID Kamal Sanghvi, DGE Sudip Mukherjee and incoming president of RC Calcutta Mahanagar Vinod Mahipal.

To Mahipal and his spouse Jothi, Banerjee said, “You are leading a club with a great history. Do what you must to make it very special.”

Recalling his leadership as Chair of The Rotary Foundation in its 100th year in 2016–17, he said, “That year we made it very special with India as the second highest country in TRF giving. This year marks Rotary India’s centenary year and we must make it memorable.” He called for all the districts, “no matter how big or how small they are, to do a centennial project this year, even as the commemoration will be flagged off in RID 3291. We can make the year more outstanding if we can raise our TRF contribution significantly.”

When Basker got up to give his seat, I realised the enormity of the tag — Rotary International Director — and went numb for a second.
– Kamal Sanghvi, RI Director

A mega celebration is being planned to honour the milestone in the presence of RI President Mark Maloney. Banerjee and PRIP Rajendra Saboo are the Advisors for the celebrations programme.

Banerjee highlighted the Johns Hopkins University’s research that said that Rotarians world over are clocking in 45 million hours of voluntary work and if a value can be set to it, it will be around $850 million. Drawing similarities to Sanghvi, he observed, “Apart from our heads that seem similar, here I am a Bengali settled in Gujarat while you are a Gujarati settled near Bengal. I speak the language of your Chief Minister and Kamal speaks the language of our Prime Minister.”

Sanghvi had served as trainer for incoming governors at the International Assembly for two consecutive years, starting from the year when he was RI President. “That’s a rare privilege. Neither Raja Saboo nor I have got a second year for training at the Assembly.”

From L: PRID Shekhar Mehta, PRIP Kalyan Banerjee, RID Kamal Sanghvi and Sonal at the Utsav event in Kolkata.
From L: PRID Shekhar Mehta, PRIP Kalyan Banerjee, RID Kamal Sanghvi and Sonal at the Utsav event in Kolkata.

Talking about stewardship issues and court cases he said, “We make RI spend more money than any other country on petty legal matters. I wish we all remember the words of our founder Paul Harris who had described Rotary as ‘one world’”.

Amidst loud cheers and applause, Banerjee continued, “I don’t see any reason why Rotary cannot have an Indian president to follow President Holger Knaack in 2021–22. Yes, we do have a right candidate available and ready and the only thing that the Nominating Committee has to do is to do its job when it meets in the third week of August. And when that happens…” after a pause he added, “notice I did not say ‘if’ — we can celebrate the centenary of Indian Rotary on a higher note.”

I don’t see any reason why Rotary cannot have an Indian president to follow President Holger Knaack in 2021–22.
– Kalyan Banerjee, Past RI President

Thanking Banerjee for his presence, Sanghvi said, “One rarely gets an opportunity to start his new assignment in the presence of the person he admires the most, the one whom he tries to emulate and on whose footsteps he wishes to walk in and that is Kalyanda.” Apart from Mehta and Rashi, his other staunch supporters were PDGs Vivek Kumar, Sanjay Khemka, DG Gopal Khemka and DGE Rajan Gandotra.

He called upon the club presidents and secretaries of RID 3291 and Indian Rotary at large to do more meaningful and sustainable projects and give more to TRF. “Let’s make this special year unique. Let’s write a new history for the next 100 years. Staying in your safety zone will not get you anything. Take a journey through uncharted territories and make our world a better place with every step you take and every hand you reach out to.”

It was clearly a surprise for the Sanghvis when Rashi Mehta brought into the auditorium, Sanghvi’s mother and brother-in-law, who then performed the traditional arti for the couple. Earlier in the day, the 34 clubs and Rotaractors of the district conducted a series of health camps at various locations to mark the beginning of the new Rotary year. Thirty-three camps examined 8,000 people, said DG Ajay Agarwal and called upon his team of club presidents and secretaries to “expand the horizon of your dreams and targets and do your best to make this centenary year very special.”

Pictures by Jaishree

Rendezvous with the Sanghvis

A lively Q&A session with Sanghvi  and Sonal was anchored by Mehta and Rashi which brought the RI director’s sense of humour to the fore and was interspersed with some words straight from the heart.

To a question on how she felt on this occasion, Sonal said, “I am proud of him and I promise to walk along with him.”

Describe your journey in Rotary, was Mehta’s poser to Sanghvi. His reply: “My journey is all about friendship and doing good in the world. It is all about pyaar, mohobbat aur ishq. Many of them have travelled from across the country today just for an hour’s programme. That’s what is Rotary. I am honoured.”

Talking about some of his special moments in Rotary, he recalled the South Asia Literacy Summit held in Hyderabad. “It gave me an opportunity to work with 200 past governors, another 100 Rotarians on the committee for nearly six months. The resolve I saw in all of them can never be forgotten.”

“Kamal, what inspires you?” asked Mehta, to which he quickly pointed to Banerjee and said, “Kalyanda is the god of Rotary.”

Talking about his maiden visit to the Board Room at Evanston, Sanghvi said, “I was overwhelmed when I had to go through some 200-odd pages of resolutions, enactments and policy decisions. That’s when it struck me that I still do not know anything about Rotary. So many reactions for the same topic from different parts of the world. The point of view of a Japanese delegate varies from that of a South African.” Outgoing Director C Basker performed a change-over ceremony for the two incoming directors — Sanghvi and Bharat Pandya — at Evanston last month. “When Basker got up to give his seat, I realised the enormity of the tag — Rotary International Director — and went numb for a second.” That was the moment he realised the great responsibility he and Pandya had on their shoulders “with this coveted assignment.”

When Mehta asked the couple to list Rotary, work and family on the basis of priority, Sanghvi said, “I believe in family-work-Rotary,” to which Sonal quickly intervened: “It is Rotary-Rotary-Rotary for him.” And Sanghvi’s banter: “It is Baroda-Baroda-Baroda for her.”

Katrina Kaif is his favourite star and Sholay his favourite movie. As Mehta went around asking Rotarians’ opinion about the new Director, here are a few one-liners from them:  Sanghvi is a good boxer and he makes friends easily.

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