As you are celebrating your 75th year, or your platinum jubilee, I request you to take up a special platinum jubilee project, which should be a big, extended project. Your club members can decide what it will be, and you need not finish it this very year. Since you are strong in both healthcare and literacy areas, you could consider a Jubilee project in either of these two areas,” Past RI President Kalyan Banerjee said, while participating in Rotary Club of Mysore’s 75th year celebrations.
He said that when the club was chartered on July 5, 1944, it became among the first 10 Rotary clubs in India (This is the senior most club of RI District 3181, earlier 3180). “You had probably not anticipated your longevity just as I had not anticipated as a 2-year-old boy in 1944 that I would be sharing your Platinum anniversary happiness at the age of 77!”
Great service projects
Complimenting the club for the great service projects it had undertaken during 75 years of its existence, and more important, sustained them and expanded on them over the decades, he said that while reading about the club’s projects before coming to Mysuru, he was struck by the many initiatives RC Mysore had taken in the field of education and health. “I remember laying the foundation stone for the Rotary Integrated School and you now have a full-fledged regular school and activity centre there for children with autism and dyslexia.”
That school was being expanded and Banerjee was happy to visit the school and lay the foundation stone for the Rotary Mysore Platinum Jubilee Block earlier that day.
PDG M Lakshmi Narayan, who is a member of RC Mysore, said this new block coming at the Rotary Mysore Integrated School, which has been working for long years to integrate children with autism and dyslexia into classes with normal children is estimated to cost about ₹60 lakh and will have 10 classrooms for children with autism and learning disabilities. Currently classrooms for these children are provided at the existing school premises.
PRIP Banerjee also inaugurated the platinum jubilee block of Rotary Mysore Artificial Limb Centre and interacted with the beneficiaries who had received limbs from this Rotary Centre. This centre was set up in 1998 to meet the needs of poor, orthopaedically-handicapped persons as there was a total absence of a facility in Mysuru that offered limbs free of cost to the needy. It has so far manufactured and donated 9,200 prosthetic limbs through 426 limb distribution camps.
After visiting these projects in the morning, Banerjee said at the felicitations event: “Truly, your work is absolutely outstanding… worthy of a club of your vintage and traditions. And I once again request you to start a good platinum jubilee project during this year.”
Ensure total literacy in your district
Banerjee said Indian Rotarians are now deeply engaged in making India totally literate by joining hands with the government. “In fact, it is the government which has asked Rotary to support it just as we had done to help it to eradicate polio from our country. ‘Rotary, you have made India polio-free. Now help us to make India fully literate,’ is what the Union HRD Minister told us. Yes, vaccines protect our children’s lives; literacy educates our children and prepares them for their future lives, in a bigger, better way.”
He said RC Mysore should ensure that “at least every child in the Mysore revenue district is literate. Go and meet parents and their children, go to village schools and ensure they have teachers, classrooms and toilets for girl students. Maybe you could provide a laptop or IT facility to every school in the district, as they are doing in Maharashtra and Gujarat. You could indeed do so much. Do these ideas excite you? If they do, then that’s the way to go in this special year.”
Step up your TRF giving
The past RI President said that he had also done his homework on the club’s history in contributing to TRF and had found that its total giving to TRF in the past 75 years stood at $298,547, and its average annual giving to TRF had been around $12,000 to 13,000 annually. The members should examine his proposal on making a “special gift to our TRF this year. What you give is up to you. Maybe ₹75,000 per member or $75 per person, to mark this year. The amount is less important than your gesture.”
The club had done one global grant project on literacy at the Rotary Mysore School worth $48,000. “The time has now come to expand on it. Look at more schools, and more children. And maybe in this special year, your club could give your district your first AKS member, just as an increasing number of Rotarians from India are doing today. And from what I have seen of your generosity, I know you can do it easily and again and again.”
Also, he suggested, the club should take advantage of its presence in a tech-savvy city like Mysuru, and help to bring e-learning to students in schools that did not have computer education. Also, as they celebrated their 75th year, “all of Rotary is celebrating Rotary’s 100th year in India. Rotary first came to Kolkata in 1919. And our joy will overflow if next month, India gets its fourth RI President chosen by the Nominating Committee. Won’t that be something to pray for as two well-known Rotarians from India have put in their names for selection? Unfortunately, we have missed out on PRID Sushil Gupta from Delhi who had been chosen president but had to step down for health reasons. So we are all hoping we will get another president from India.”
Greeting all the past governors from the city and the district — such as Vasudeva Murthy, “who is now 94, but as fit as always, B M Chengappa, H S Shivanna, G K Balakrishnan, Ravi Appaji who is doing a fantastic job in building homes for flood victims, R Guru, who is an institution by himself in this district, Lakshmi Narayan, who came all the way to Bombay for inviting me even though I told him there was no need for it, and Rohinath,” Banerjee urged the club members to invite him when they celebrate the club’s 100th birthday. “Call me and I’ll come because I will only be 102 years old then!”
RC Mysore’s history
Welcoming the participants at the grand event, PDG Lakshmi Narayan gave an overview of the club’s 75 years. Rotary Club of Bangalore had sponsored this club in 1944. “A V Anantharaman, who was a member of RC Bangalore, invited the elite of Mysore in those days to form a Rotary club and this was done on March 7, 1944. But we got charter on July 5, that’s why we are celebrating in July.”
This club, he said, had been serving the needs of the community right from Day 1, with one of its first projects being setting up a children’s library. “Our library was the second to be set up in 1955, after RC Calcutta, the first Rotary club in India, had set up a library in that city.”
But the club’s most ambitious project in those days, said PDG Narayan, was to set up a Rotary school — the Ideal Jawa Rotary School. “A couple, PDG Farrokh Irani, who was, I should say, a Rotarian by birth, and Sheila Irani, who were both passionately interested in educating children, joined hands with the Rotary Charitable Trust and started this wonderful Rotary school in Mysuru, which till today has educated 50,000-plus children.” Many of them were today occupying important positions across the world. Recently the school had celebrated its golden jubilee.
In 1997, thanks to the initiative taken up by PDG R Guru, the Rotary Mysore Artificial Limbs Centre was started and it has done yeoman service to the community. Next came a blood bank and then a second school, the Rotary Integrated School, “which is not like just any other school. We thought we should pick up children who are autistic and train them and once they were ready, they were integrated into regular schools. We have both the training centre for special children as well as a regular school.”
While the new block would accommodate 10 to 12 of these special children, “we also have a plan to train teachers who can identify such children, because in many schools when children make slow progress the teachers don’t understand that these children have a learning disability. So training teachers to identify such children will serve a crucial need. PRIP Banerjee said that for this centre he will donate ₹1 lakh.”
District 3181 DG Joseph Mathew congratulated RC Mysore for the “wonderful and exemplary work” it had done over the decades. “Yours is not just a club; it’s an institution from which other clubs can learn many things, whether it is protocol, conducting meetings in an orderly way or doing service projects.”
He was happy to announce that till now he had managed to get 19 Major Donors from the District; “I spoke to one of your club members, Amir Vagh to become the 20th one and he readily agreed.” Vagh is a Level – 2 Major Donor, having already contributed $10,000 to TRF.
PDG P Rohinath also congratulated the club for its exemplary service projects, particularly the Rotary school which had been in existence for 50 years and the artificial limbs centre.
Club President Chetan Viswanath pledged to uphold the best of traditions in community service and fellowship set by the successive past presidents of RC Mysore over the decades and urged the members to work hard to continue serving the community.
Genesis of the Integrated School
Giving a history of the Integrated School and the need for it, PDG Guru explained that though Mysuru has a population close to a million, it lacks a dedicated facility for education of children with challenges such as autism and other learning disabilities, though there are assessment and counselling centres in the city. This was what spurred Rotary Mysore to ideate a school catering to children with such disabilities. “We wanted to create conditions to properly train and support such children so that they can be integrated with children in a regular school.”
The place chosen was Dattagalli, a new extension of Mysuru that is on the outskirts and surrounded by villages. Rotary Mysore through its Charitable Trust spent ₹1.72 crore collected through donations from institutions and members of the club.