This reunion of the governors of 1991–92 is a gesture of appreciation and gratitude for the strength and support provided by PRIP Raja (Saboo). We look forward to this opportunity to come together because of the special values that we share with our president and we love to do it every year. Here is to the class of 1991–92,” said Louis Marciano, a 1991–92 PDG from the US and Event Chairman, raising a toast to PRIP Rajendra Saboo and spouse Usha.
The lunch was held at the Toronto Convention to celebrate the reunion of the class of governors of 1991–92 when Saboo was the RI President. The guests included PRIP K R Ravindran and Vanathy, RI President Barry Rassin and Esther, RID C Basker and Malathy, PRID Y P Das, PRID John Boag, and past governors, including from Saboo’s home district 3080. While Ravindran and Rassin were governors, Basker and Toronto Convention Chair Gordon R McInally from Scotland were club presidents, recalled Saboo. RIDE Olayinka Babalola (Nigeria), who was also present, was a Rotaract Club president then; “this shows how old we all are!”
Every year this event is held on the sidelines of the Rotary Convention. The camaraderie and warmth amongst the past governors and the senior leaders and their love and respect for Saboo were palpable at this intimate gathering.
A reunion that became a fundraiser
The reunion meet is special in more ways than one. “There is an interesting story to it,” said Ravindran. In 1998, Saboo and Usha had invited a few PDGs, including Ravindran, to their home in Chandigarh and had booked a train journey for them from Delhi. “During the journey, we were breaking our heads as to what to gift the couple. And Lou (Marciano) came up with a brilliant idea. He said, let’s pool some funds together and give it to them. Let them use the money however they want, maybe they’d want to put it in a service project.”
So the 20 of them contributed $50 each, and another guest gave $20, making it $1,020. The Saboos appreciated the gift, and recommended this idea be extended to all the 1991–92 governors world over. He suggested Marciano communicate the idea to the past governors to raise $25,000. “I was totally in a fix. I asked him, how am I supposed to do that? We have 6,000 languages in Rotary and how am I to communicate to them all?” I told Raja (Saboo), to which he just replied, ‘Don’t worry about that. You can do it.’ God bless my wife, Gloria. She said, Lou, I will help you on the job,” related Marciano.
Saboo got the letter translated in various languages and Marciano and his wife mailed the letters. “The very first cheque we got was for $20,000 and the next was for $1,000.” Ravindran sent several cheques totalling to $25,000–30,000. “Even PDG Ravi Vadlamani and his wife Raji (Rajyalakshmi)… they are not members of our class… send a cheque for $1,000 every year for the past 6–7 years,” he added. To honour this gesture, the Vadlamanis were made honorary members of the class.
Over time, the funds swelled to a considerable value, enough to sponsor four peace fellows — one each in 2002, 2009, 2014 and 2018 — at the Rotary Peace Centres. Three of them have passed out and one is soon graduating. Ravindran added, “Thanks to this train carriage fund we started then, the present gift value of this fund is $561,804 and the market value is $740,846. Beginning small, we have arrived at a considerably large figure and we should continue to grow this fund to at least a million dollars.”
Rassin, recalling how Saboo involved the governors to take Rotary effectively to every district, said, “When we have our community together we can collectively move any boulder along our way to make our world a better place.” Serving as aide to Ravindran, he added, had given him insight into what it takes to be a world president. “I wish I could be as good a president as Raja and Ravi,” he added.
He asked of all club president to make themselves more enticing to the younger generation. “This is an era for us to start ringing in a radical change. Each club needs to consider what the future is and how we are going to get there.” Each club must bring a dramatic transformation to make sure it is a vibrant, strong club that Rotarians want to go to. “I ask you, especially this class, that each one of us must look beyond ourselves and be the inspiration to others around us, to our friends and communities, so that we can make sure everybody wants to be a part of what we want.”
Saboo, in a mellow mood, thanked the delegates and said, “Until I gave my first speech in the International Assembly back in 1991, I thought: will this short man from a developing country like lndia be accepted in the hearts of Rotarians from the rest of the world? Then when I spoke about my theme, I understood that I have forged a relationship — they belong to me and I belong to them. That is when I realised that 1991–92 will be a year to be remembered for all us. I do hope that we be given the years to serve and continue to meet at the Reunions and also do our bit to renew the contact so that we draw inspiration from each other. God bless you all.”
Pictures by Jaishree