By Promod Puri
Back in the late ‘70s when we escaped from the harsh and frigid climate of Winnipeg and ran away from its annual mosquito invasion in summer, to eternally green and comfortably mild Vancouver, India Club was perhaps the only organization to meet the social needs of the Indo-Canadian community in this coastal part of Canada.
With amiable membership, the club provided the necessary welcome meeting group for socializing, partying and pleasure with some nostalgic cultural activities to give us a feel of belonging to the community sharing common heritage.
Everybody knew everybody, and over the years these acquaintances turned into personal friendships. The club expanded on its own pace, taking along new members, who beside participating, enjoying and sharing contributed toward many of its functions.
The whole organization, over the years, became like a close-knit extended family. However, along with being a social outlet for members, the India Club also ventured into supporting some worthy causes by raising significant funds over the years.
The vision the leadership provided in the early years certainly raised the profile and prestige of the club as a caring and contributing organization in the overall Canadian society.
In this regard one of the visionaries of the India Club was respectable philanthropist businessman, community activist and scholar late Mr. Natwarlal Thakore. He was the guiding and inspiring force to initiate on an annual basis the celebration of Mahatama Gandhi’s birthday, and to establish the Gandhi peace award at the Simon Fraser University.
In collaboration with the SFU, the peace award honors a deserving and meritorious Canadian, irrespective of his or her religious, political or cultural background for his or her significant contribution for better society in line with the Gandhian principles. The award ceremony and the Gandhi birthday celebration have become noble and distinguished traditions of the India Club in partnership with the SFU.
Another praiseworthy event, which the club holds, is the annual recreational, charitable and inspiring walkathon.
And over the years it has introduced many more interesting happenings, some still continue off and on; others are shelved altogether, perhaps due to lack of interest.
One of my favorite events, in which the members enthusiastically participated some years ago, but was cancelled after its first and only run in the following year, was the Grouse Grind climb. And I still compliment the then president, Dr. Bakul Dalal, and his executive team, who undertook this uphill task very successfully.
To organize and hold events is certainly not an easy volunteer job for a president or his or her executive team. Lack of enthusiasm and apathy are contributing to the stalled or perhaps down membership in the club. A joking comment, which we hear very often among the members who take it in its stride, is that the club has more ex presidents than the members.
One major and certainly sometimes frustrating job, a president and executive of the club face is to seek respectable attendance for most of its functions. Repeated e-mails, phone calls, personal pleas and pathetic canvasses are always employed requesting the members to attend upcoming functions. Still there are excuses and some reasonings not to participate. Members often complain the club is not any more what it used to be.
But why there is this apathy, why this lack of interest or enthusiasm not to take part in its various activities or even renewing membership; and why this feel that the club is now a “bore”.
No doubt India Club over the years has been the most uncontroversial, financially well-managed and smooth running Indo-Canadian organization. But more than that it definitely needs a new mandate about its role and functions to become an inspired, vibrant and interesting organization, and to expand itself beyond the current membership to involve all the segments of the diverse Indo-Canadian community.
In this regard, I should frankly point out that the India Club from the very beginning, perhaps for support and membership, aligned itself with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of B.C. Some or more of its presidents and even executive members at one time or the other, were the presidents or active members of the VHP or vice versa. This has created a narrow-down image of the club representing only one segment of the community. The club has not been or almost unknown to vast majority of ever increasing Indo-Canadian population in the Lower Mainland of B.C.
Beside the celebration of 40 years of its existence, there is an urgent request to its leadership to seek an extensive, drastic and radical review of its aims and objectives, and the activities involved in achieving those goals. This extensive reexamination and critical look should invite ideas, suggestions and even criticism from the membership-at-large including past presidents and directors.
The shakeup process and the follow-up action will certainly make the India Club a better, lively and benevolent social organization whereby one can feel proud in belonging to it and actively participating in its various functions.