Joining the Rotary World
Whatever Rotary may mean to us,
to the world it will be known by the results it achieves.
-Paul P Harris, Founder of Rotary (1868–1947)
My colleague at Indian Telephone Industries Limited (ITI), Subrahmaniam (Subbu), visited me some time during February 1988. He was looking to purchase a flat and had seen an advertisement put out by one Ramanand. As he knew that I had a classmate by name Ramanand during my post-graduation, he requested me to check whether it was the same person, and if it was, he wanted me to accompany him for the purpose of introduction. It happened to be my classmate and we visited him that weekend. Unfortunately the price quoted by Ramanand did not fit Subbu’s budget and sale did not go through.
It had been nine years since I met Ramanand and naturally, there was some shop talk. I told him briefly about me resigning from ITI, establishing a couple of enterprises, travelling a few times abroad on work, and becoming member of a few industry associations. Ramanand said that being a Human Resources executive at Indian Tobacco Company (ITC), he also was member of several professional bodies and industry associations. He further said that he had recently become a member of Rotary Club of Bangalore Koramangala, which was chartered in 1986. He said that Rotary was a great forum to interact with professionals and businessmen, and strongly recommended me to join Rotary, now that I was into business. He invited me to attend a few meetings at Hotel West End, where the club was meeting every Friday, to know more and experience Rotary. As the hotel was situated on the way back home from my workplace, I started attending a few meetings during March-May 1988. Given my nature of work, I would have never imagined that Rotary one day shall become an integral part of my life!
While attending the Rotary meetings, apart from Ramanand, I started interacting with Muralidhar, an entrepreneur making abrasives; Bharath Shah, another entrepreneur dealing in silver and owner of the famous Barton Court on M G Road (whose father had initially funded Mr. T.P.G.Nambiar for establishing BPL); Dr. Rao, an economist and former bureaucrat of Indian Revenue Services, who had subsequently retired as Consultant to Asian Development Bank; the chivalrous Sushil Daru, retired as management consultant to ITC; and a few more Rotarians. Even some of these Rotarians suggested that I should formally get inducted as a member, perhaps at the beginning of new Rotary year, which happens to be from first of July. I formally joined Rotary Club of Bangalore Koramangala during early July 1988, mainly with a view to have a break from my daily hectic work-life schedules and interact with people from different walks of life.
Rotary clubs which are the real drivers of Rotary movement are managed by a Board and operate through five avenues of service – Club service, Youth service, Vocational service, Community service, and International service. Each avenue of service has an assigned director. Apart from the five directors, the board consists of President, who leads the club from the front, President-elect, one who shall take over mantle of leadership the next Rotary year to ensure continuity, Vice-president, Secretary, Joint secretary, Treasurer, Editor (to publish the Club’s newsletters on a periodic basis), and Sergeant-at-arms whose job is to manage attendance and maintain the decorum of the meeting.
Though every year the President-Elects used to check with me whether I can take up some responsibility, I consciously avoided taking up any position in the board because of my commitments. Being the commercial director of the companies that I co-founded, I frequently travelled both within India and abroad. Apart from that I was also active in the Electronics Industries Association.
Rotary International initiated in 1905, has over 36,000 clubs spread over 200+ countries and as a Rotarian one can visit any club with a prior intimation to the President or Secretary of the club that one plans to visit. Because of my travel, though I was not particularly active in my home club, I was visiting clubs in Europe, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and USA during my frequent travels. Over a period of time, I became familiar with the functioning of Rotary and continued to remain just a member till Deepak Ramnane, who was to take over as President of the club during the Rotary year 1997–98 called me up one morning during early July 1997.
After exchanging pleasantries, Deepak asked me whether I could take up the responsibility of being the director of Community Service Avenue, as Dr. Michael who had initially agreed had to back out since he was sent for a long-term training program to the UK and Canada by his hospital. Being a member for nine years and knowing very well that Service above Self is the motto of Rotary, I said yes. He requested me to attend the installation function that was being held on 11th July to get formally inducted into the Board. I informed him that I would be unable to attend the installation because on the same day we had fixed the upanayanam1 of our second son Ram. I recalled even during July 1988 when I was supposed to be formally inducted as a member at the installation function during which the baton of leadership is formally transferred, I happened to be travelling abroad and hence was later inducted at a club meeting by the then President.
As Director of Community service, I had organised a couple of blood donation camps in colleges and community and dental camps for school children. In those days, the club met at Hotel Kennsington Terrace, which was pretty close to my home, and in addition I was a Director, so I was more regular to the weekly meetings. Because of my increased involvement in the club activities, I could observe that focus was more on weekly meetings, fellowship, collecting the subscriptions, family nights (when the attendance was high), and participation in the district programs. The emphasis was less on service projects.
Every year before end of December, the team for the next year is firmed up. Ashis Dutta, who was a Director of a software company, was the President-Elect that year and was in the process of finalising his team. One day during early December he visited my office with a request – Can you be the Secretary of the club when I take over as the President next year? Instead of giving an immediate answer, I requested him to give me copy of the Clubs’ By-laws to understand role and responsibilities of the secretary. He promptly sent it with a request to confirm my acceptance to him in the following two or three days. Typically, the job of the Secretary is to play second fiddle to the President. He sends weekly meeting letters, makes announcement of birthdays and anniversaries at the weekly meetings and prepares minutes of the board meetings and club assemblies. I agreed to become Secretary of the club during the Rotary year 1998–99 without knowing what was in store for me.
1.Upanayanam is a ceremony in which a person is declared as about to lead. To lead one must learn or train to do sacrifices involving niyamas (procedures) and karmas (duties) of personal, family and society. A sacred thread is presented to the person to indicate that he has started learning the sacrifices.
January 01, 2020 | Ravi 30