RIPE Shekhar Mehta celebrates every moment of his life. No, this is not a hyperbole… “Being in Rotary is an occasion for celebration. We relive the moments we brought smiles back on the faces of villagers by bringing them water, by serving people through various service projects, and we rejoice in their happiness,” he said.
He was speaking at the online launch of a specially-crafted souvenir by RC Madras Pallava, RID 3232, to commemorate 100 years of Rotary in India. Rotary is a celebration of giving ‘life’ to others, Mehta said and recalled the joy of an old woman in Nepal who had her vision restored after surgery in both her eyes. “She saw her grandchild for the first time and her joy was overflowing from her face. That was a moment of happiness for me.” The pandemic had thrown up challenges but also given the new opportunities and possibilities, he said, referring to so many virtual meetings done by Rotarians.
On the common question he had been asked about being “excited” at being nominated RI president, Mehta said while it was a “great privilege to have the top post”, what made him most happy was doing things. The secret of his energy: “I am always happy.”
Underlining the need to aim big and keep doing big projects, Mehta said fundraisers can be done online, now that “more Rotarians can attend online club meetings. My club (RC Calcutta Mahanagar) is now able to attract 2,400 participants at its virtual regular meetings.” Rotary India hosted one of its largest fundraisers, Chhoti si Asha on June 26, a huge PR exercise, in which over a million took part, for three hours including Bollywood celebs and businessmen. “This was made possible only because of the lockdown.”
When RC Delhi South West invited him to inaugurate a drawing contest for children, “I was a bit hesitant, but found 12,000 kids from 22 countries had joined, instead of the usual 6,000 participants from Delhi. Just look at the positive side of the lockdown.”
From October, around 25 crore students from Class 1–12 are joining e-learning programmes, developed by Rotary, through the government-owned Swayam Prabha channel. “We have made 1,400 videos for the TV channel to broadcast the curriculum for students across India. The content is now available in Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and Assamese. It will be translated into other languages too.” He thanked RIDE A S Venkatesh for valuable inputs and ‘being a sounding board’ in the creation of the e-learning curriculum. “There is nothing that cannot be done.”
He said that a team under the guidance of PDG J B Kamdar is working on a coffeetable book which will feature some of the milestone projects of Rotary India. RIDE Ventakesh noted this club is known for thinking out-of-the-box and doing mega projects over the years. “The souvenir will bring a sense of joy, enable newcomers to know more about Rotary and old-timers to rededicate themselves to the organisation.” All the 128 clubs in RID 3232 can make this a common district souvenir an occasion to refresh their knowledge about Rotary and its great lineage, he said.
DG S Muthupalaniappan said the spotlight would be on India after Shekhar Mehta takes over as RI president in 2021–22. Project Orange, an eye care initiative with vision centres, will soon get seven global grants worth $1.7 million and it will be implemented by 30 clubs. The project envisages 2.5 lakh eye surgeries and distribution of over one million spectacles.
PDG Kamdar noted the strong foundation laid by charter president A L Chidambaram had motivated the club members to do flagship projects like Happy Village and Schools into Smiles which were later adopted as district projects. “The past presidents continue to be active in RC Madras Pallava in designing and mentoring mega projects,” he said.
In his speech, Chidambaram said 90 per cent of the club members were Paul Harris Fellows, three were major donors, two had made endowment gifts and one was an AKS member. The club is ranked eighth in TRF giving in the district. Started in 1992 with 30 members, it now has 45 Rotarians drawn from various professions. DGE J Sridhar, PDGs A Subramaniam, Babu Peram, ISAK Nazar, A P Kanna, G Olivannan, V Rajkumar and other district leaders took part in the meet.
IPDG G Chandramohan wanted to mark the celebration of 100 years of Rotary in India with something unique, during his tenure. “Our secretary D Ravi suggested we should do a specially carved souvenir which can be sold to many Rotarians and money raised for projects,” said M V Robert, president, RC Madras Pallava. The club hopes to sell 3,000 of these souvenirs — a beautifully sculpted peacock Rotary and two wheels — at ₹750 each.
While 10 per cent of the funds will go to TRF, the rest will be used to reclaim a lake in Thirumullaivoyal on the suburbs of Chennai.
Meanwhile, 50 per cent of the work on creating giant murals has also been done and “we will be installing them at busy locations in Chennai as a PR exercise,” added Robert.