A club leader in his thirties and with a strong interest in sports, enough to run marathons and ultimately win the Ironman title, is not someone we come across everyday. He lends significance to Rotary’s newest programme — Project Positive Health — that urges physical fitness in people to keep NCDs at bay.
Niket Doshi (33) is a third-generation Rotarian and charter president of RC Kolhapur Evolve, RID 3170, a club that is just a year old. His father Rajendra (Raju) Doshi was district governor in 1999–2000, and grand-father Motibhai Doshi led the district in 1977–78.
Niket won the Ironman 70.3 title in Oct 2019 at the country’s first Ironman Triathlon held in Goa. “I had to compete with 1,000 participants and it involved 1.9 km swimming, 90 km cycling and 21.1 km running — all done sequentially within eight hours,” he says. Being a long distance runner and having done a dozen half-marathons, he prepared for the event for over a year. “Pushing the limits beyond my capacity is what really inspired me to participate. And the combination of swimming, bike and run was something lethal and exciting,” he says, adding that the endurance challenge calls for strict discipline of the body and mind, a healthy diet and regular exercise — “a perfect rigmarole for positive health, especially among youngsters”.
He recalls meeting PRIPs Rajendra Saboo and Kalyan Banerjee at his home as his grandfather used to regularly host national and international Rotary leaders. Nitin has accompanied his father for district conferences and installations. “Rotary has been part of my upbringing.” He was a Rotaractor of RAC Kolhapur Yougenics when “every week we would enthusiastically go around cleaning or painting the walls in some slum locality and distribute new clothes and stationeries to children.”
His wife Priyanka is also member of RC Kolhapur Evolve which is a couples club with 75 members, the average age being 32. “The members have so much fun and enjoy the same wavelength as we share similar interests and goals. The fellowship is also much more fun because it is not like only the husband or the wife is going for Rotary events. It has become a good social circle for the members,” says Niket.
It does not come as a surprise when he shares his goals and focus for his club which is primarily promoting sports and physical activity for the members and the community. “I want to get the youth out of their comfort zone and be physically active. Today life seems more work-centric. We want youngsters to move out, dump their mobile phones and concentrate on their health. We plan to include programmes to address mental health. Many youngsters today are on a short fuse and require counselling to beat mental stress.”
The club had organised an international paraplegic cyclothon from Kolhapur to Mumbai, about 600 km, in six days, in partnership with a German NGO, to promote awareness for paraplegic sports. “We also did a large number of recue activities and relief work and fundraising during the floods last year, built shelters and did a car rally fundraiser for polio,” he says.
Now the club is partnering with 30 Rotary clubs in the town for a global grant project worth $70,000 to provide medical infrastructure to a government hospital for treatment of Covid patients. “We have distributed 1.5 lakh meals to migrant workers and plan to continue distributing ready-to-cook food along with the NGO Rise against hunger.”
We have to keep the spirit alive. It is easy to lose steam now. Our weekly meetings on Zoom are equally interesting. We have excellent speakers and all our members promptly log on to online meets.
He recalls the words of RI Director Bharat Pandya who, at the charter presentation had said, “social work will happen. But building a strong foundation with healthy fellowship is most important for a club. If you succeed in accomplishing this in three years, your club will certainly flourish. Only when you all start enjoying Rotary from within and members start networking among themselves, you will be able to move ahead.’ “All our members enjoyed his inspirational speech,” he smiles.
So don’t the club members miss the fun of physical meetings, I ask, and his reply: “We have to keep the spirit alive. Because it is easy to lose steam now. Our weekly meetings on Zoom are equally interesting. We had some excellent multi-dimensional speakers and all our members promptly log on to it. We had a nutritionist, motivational speakers and a vocational speaker is scheduled for next week.”
Niket feels that “in Rotary we fail to tap the power of the youth. We found an opportunity in our town. A lot of clubs do not have the right age-mix. Basically it would have been very easy for me to join any of the existing clubs.” But then he and his friends — the present Club Secretary Neelabh Goenka, Treasurer Karen Parekh and President-elect Niladh Kedia — came together, along with their wives, to form this club. It was a conscious move to form a club of youngsters “so that we are flooded with fresh ideas and can work with renewed zeal every day to make a sustainable and impactful transformation in the community,” he says.