Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Beginning of the Beginning!

[Full text of the 'acceptance speech' delivered on June 23, the day of Installation as President of Rotary Club of Thane Metro]
Dear DG Sivarraj, President Thakar, District Officials, my co-Presidents, Dignitaries, Guests and Fellow Rotarians and Anns,

I welcome you to this installation ceremony. This is an important day in my life. I joined Rotary Club of Thane Metro at the behest of my mentor, PP Hemant Mondkar. He told me authoritatively, on my day of induction, “Our Club wants you to take over as President for 2017-18.” This, as they say, was the beginning of the beginning. 

A year has passed and here I am before you, Mr DG and ladies and gentlemen, taking over as the President of my club at this Installation Ceremony. I feel humbled by the trust bestowed on me, by the weight of the responsibilities and by the expectations from you Mr DG, as well as from my fellow Rotarians.  

I retired from my active corporate career eight years ago. I have travelled to many cities and towns in India as well as abroad. I was aware of the poverty and social problems of our country, yet what I saw in the last eight years shocked me. The enormity of the issues in poverty eradication, in education, in environment, in conservation, to name a few, are indeed mindboggling. As a Rotarian I am grateful to the Lord for giving me an opportunity to lead a small team to address these issues to the best of our capabilities, however infinitesimally small contribution it may be.

In my professional career as in Human Resource Management, I have often told people that there are three stages in the career. These are Learn, Earn and Return. You must learn the skills of the trade till say you cross thirty, and you must maximise earning till say you are forty five. When you cross 45, you must focus on ‘returning’ that is to say, on giving back to the institution where you are working. I believe that this returning phase continues, if you are a Rotarian, even after you retire from your corporate life, because you resolve to give back to the Society. 

On this occasion, Mr DG, ladies and gentlemen, I rededicate myself to the service to the society in the true spirit of Rotary. I would rather call this ‘installation’ as the ‘rededication ceremony’ and not installation. You install machines, or may be, the idols of gods and goddesses, not those men and women who serve the society. A social worker which is what a President is, must rededicate himself to the service of the society. And the new Directors of my Club join me in rededicating themselves. That’s the spirit of Rotary!

Mr DG, ladies and gentlemen, we have drawn up detailed plan for our work ahead. Our three pronged approach to our work is simple: The first prong, we will be deepening our relationship with the adopted school and the Angaon village. We have worked with them to identify new work areas. And second prong: we will select projects which will have high impact on local village community. All these projects will be in the vicinity of the school. The third prong: In order to deliver value, we will do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes!

Here are the details: We will build five check dams. The impact of check dams on the rural economy and lives of farmers is well known and Rotary has built more than 400 check dams I am told. We have done initial ground work to identify the sites with the help of Rtn Hemant Jagtap. We intend to drill five borewells. We have adopted a school at Angaon village and we will gift it a solar power system, e-learning kits. We intend to seek help from Global Grant project. 

We are a new club, and a small club. We have big dreams and precious little resources. At this stage, two gentlemen have extended helping hands. I will be ungrateful if I do not mention their names. They are Mr Vilas Dhavale, Managing Director of a US based company, and our past President Hemant Mondkar. Let us give them a big hand, Ladies and Gentlemen, May I request them to rise and acknowledge please?

As a part of our conscious strategy of deepening our association with institutions we work with, we have been holding RYLA or Rotary Youth Leadership Award with Vidya Prasarak Mandal’s Dr VN Bedekar Institute of Management Studies at Thane. For the last two years this program has been astoundingly impactful mainly because we ascertained the needs of the young students and addressed those in RYLA. This year we will build on our relationship further to deliver an impactful RYLA.

We have also revived the Rotaract Club with Simran Kshirsagar taking the lead. Now that the college admissions are over, we will plan the year for them. We met Simran and a small group of Rotaractors. They bring not just energy and enthusiasm but innovative ideas. With Niteen Dhuru guiding Rotaractors, our club will support these young budding leaders of tomorrow.

We have already established a senior citizens club last year. The enthusiasm of senior citizens has always surprised me. This is another group my Board will work closely with.

We also wish to continue to do medical camps and many other regular projects, I am not giving all details, the list is long. I am acutely aware that the plan is ambitious. The implementation is not going to be a cake walk. But we have a dream! We have a deep desire, an unfailing commitment to give our best in service to the Society. In these efforts I count on our enthusiastic team of Directors. And I also count on seniors like Hemant Mondkar, Dr Kanti Solanki, Ajit Apte, Mangala Karandikar and Sandeep and Pooja Nemaverkar. And my inspiration, Sulabha. And above all I count on you, Mr DG.

In all this busy agenda, we have not missed the aspect of rejuvenation. Fun and frolic is an important aspect of bonding together. Life in Rotary must not be dull prose, ladies and gentlemen, there is enough scope for poetry!

Exactly one month from now Mrs Surekha Mondkar who is a prolific writer, author of a few books and a well-known poet will organise a ‘Kavita Vachan’ event in which all including our senior citizens will participate. 

As I said, the year ahead is difficult. Our hope comes from the words of Howard Schultz who said “When you're surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.”

That passionate commitment is not just within my Club, our DG shares it too. Once again, thank you everybody for being with us today, my club and I seek your support.

Vivek S Patwardhan

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