UTPAL Chatterjee

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TO BE A GOOD, CONSCIENTIOUS ROTARIAN AND HUMAN! That is easier said than done. But I proudly claim to be one for well over two decades although, technically, my journey with Rotary began in my final years at school when I became the Inter-Act President in 1964.Those were the days! One vividly remembers then Past District Governor (PDG), the late Hemen Ganguly and S.N.”Popul”Bhattacharya, coming over to the school and, along with our Principal, virtually handpicking me to be the “crusader” for the new responsibility. We were all in the RI District 325 which comprised Bengal, Bihar,Orissa,Nepal,Andaman and Nicobar,Assam and   part of Uttar Pradesh…if my memory serves me right. The very charismatic Hemen Ganguly spoke to us boys who were all attention. What struck me was the Rotary motto: “Service above Self”.The school authorities wanted us to make InterAct effective and successful. One of our dream projects at that point of time was the “Illiteracy removement Programme”. We were able to bring other InterAct clubs on Board and venture out to make this effective with vengeance. Interestingly, after helping the world virtually rid itself of polio, Rotary has now embarked on the Literacy Programme. But how, after all these years of studying and being so busy a journalist, did I become a Rotarian? True, wherever and whenever I went as a Guest Speaker, they wanted me to join as a member of their Rotary Club ( RC).That included even the first RC in Asia.But professional and occupational constraints came in the way. Much later, I remembered what a Jesuit Father had told us during our school days. “The person who says he has no time has all the time in the world.” He went on to tell us of time management. All that struck a chord.Finally,I became a Rotarian and from Day One I became very active because all my life, whatever I have applied my mind to, I have been very conscientious.True,I did have plenty of goodwill and “connections” and I did my best to put all that to the good use of Rotary and also to ensure that our RC made the news for the right reasons. After all, we were into community service and a priority was to make Rotary stronger and more effective.So, when I became President, the membership strength shot up to well over 75,we got the best speakers for our Rotary Weekly Meetings ( RWMs) and fully adopted a neglected and poor village on way to the Sundarbans Rotary Club of Kent in England became partners. At the end of the year they chose only three outstanding Presidents and Yours Truly led the rest.That recognition spurred me on to be even more active.The RI District 3290,which later became 3291, gave me greater responsibilities year in and year out.So,apart from being District Co-ordinator thrice, I have been Assistant Governor ( AG) four times, Special Aide to the District Governor twice and the Rotary Ambassador five times.In 2006,one led the Group Study Exchange team to Munster, Germany.I am now a proud member of RC Metropolitan,known to be the best and most effective especially when it comes to executing large projects and small that leave a huge impact. Rotary International, this amazing  “NGO” worldwide was founded as a dream organization structured to stand on the pillars of service and fellowship. While the club I am member of epitomises this, the general trend may not necessarily be the same. But that is all right.Since the very beginning of my stint as a Rotarian, I have learnt that the total strength of Rotary worldwide is 1.2 million.What I have also discovered is that politics and ego hassles have often taken precedence over other relevant matters. That is one reason, even after good advice from seasoned veterans in Rotary, I never put my hat in to be a District Governor ( DG).But the good always prevails. What the founders of this great organization, who, research informs us, were greatly inspired by Swami Vivekananda after his North American trip and especially his landmark speech at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, had not taken into consideration was that sense and sensibility would yield to pride and prejudice. Be active, smile and act conscientiously. There are,thank God, so many good souls in Rotary who are doing so much good and are striving to do even more. But goodness must spring from within. I realised this when, thanks to our then DG, I visited Gujarat as Rotary Ambassador. The DG there was pleasantly surprised with the amazing positive outcome after I spoke to Rotarians who had come from far and wide in spite of the inclement weather.So many became PHF,MPHF and Major Donors after listening to me.The newspapers and TV channels were full of the “event”. I was fortunate and happy to meet the then RI President, John Germ,not too long ago.I have met some of his predecessors earlier.All very good people.Earlier, relatively recently ,RI President (N),Rtn.Shekhar Mehta, who has done us all so proud and here’s hoping his tenure turns out to be memorable for all the right reasons. Shekhar happened to interview me in a “talk show” before a packed house at the HHI. What was meant to go on for 45 minutes went on for an hour and 15 minutes. The audience loved every minute of it.There was so much bon homie and camaderie.That is what Rotary needs.Indeed,bonhomie, camaraderie and conscientiousness are what we need not just in Rotary but in every field of human endeavour.Utpal Chatterjee*


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