Sunday, May 31, 2015

My Memories of the time when I was Active Member of Friends Society

1976 – It was my first year in M. S. University of Baroda. I came to stay in the University hostel and one of my roommates was Jaikishan Gianchandani. Everyone called him Jaiki. From him I came to know that he was member of an organization called Friends Society – the name seemed quite odd to me – It seemed like the name of a housing society!
Jaiki used to go everyday evening to Friends Society or FS as he called it – he told me that FS was organizing a program for new students, as part of which new students will be taken around the University Campus and certain parts of Vadodara city – the intention was to familiarize the students and also facilitate to meet other new students and form friendships – It seemed a good idea, and I registered myself and went for the program. Due to that program I got the chance to meet more FS members and got to know about the history and activities of FS – I was fascinated and decided to join FS.
The events of 1969 had left a deep impression on me – I had come to stay in Ahmedabad in July 1969, and in August communal riots broke out – the city was under a month long curfew – I did venture out, during breaks in curfew – the damaged and burnt shops and buildings and the rubble strewn roads and inner lanes frightened me – those scenes and the stories I heard were quite appalling.
When I came to know the history of FS, how some students of M S University of Baroda were motivated by communal riots of 1969 to start an organization to contribute positively to the community, I was also inspired and I became a member. Two years later I was given the opportunity and responsibility of organizing the familiarization program for new students.
I do not remember much of what I did in that first year – I was new to the University and new to Vadodara – FS was a place to meet new people, mostly students of the University.
In the years I was active member I met many people but remember only some – Amina aunty, Vithal bhai Patel, Giridhar bhai, (Dr.) Sagun bhai, Rahul Sharma, (Dr.) Raju ben, Shubhda Gautam, (Dr.) Jayadev Kanani, (Dr.) Ramesh bhai Patel who was linked to blood bank, Munindra Kharod, Jagadish Rathi, Sunil Muni, Irshad Tyabji, (Dr.) Jayendra Patel, Radha Misra, Rizwana Merchant, Naimat Nizami, Neeraja Grover, Saadat Attarwala, Haider Ali who was from my school in Ahmedabad, Ashwin Dhabalia, (Dr.) Ravindra Amin, Kanchan Patel, (Dr.) Bhagawan Jhanjrukiya, Nalini Chauhan, Hema Shroff, Gita Bhatt, Nisha Jain, Kamalesh Vaishnav, Pravin Bhasin, Kiran Sheth, Amitav Nandi, Lalit Sabnani, Preeti Gami, Archana Mehrotra, Anuj Agrawal, Jaikishan Gianchandani , (Dr.) Pulok Mukherjee, Umakant Kachru, Sashidharan and his wife ( cannot remember her name ), Gowri aunty, Nishit Desai, Bharat Mehta, Perin Marawala ?, (Dr.) Kanta Patel , Ashok Shah.
I also remember some more people but not names like gardener chacha, Librarian Mr Mehta ?, the girl member who came with me to collect Asha Parekh Trophy for Blood donation , the girl member who gave me lift on her bicycle when going to attend a FS activity, the boy member who was with me and Radha Misra for the school students ( PFL ? ) program at Deolali near Nashik.
Among founder members ,other than Gridhar bhai and Sagun bhai, I remember meeting Niranjan Dave.
In my years as active member of FS, I took part in the activities of nearly all groups at one time or other, but my main involvement was with Blood Donation Group, first with Jaikishan as incharge and then Kamalesh Vaishnav as incharge and then I was incharge myself. I was also incharge of one other group ( Cheer Up ? ). I was also Secretary for some time but I now cannot remember who the Joint Secretary ( Nalini Chauhan ? ) or Treasurer ( Nisha Jain or Kamalesh Vaishnav ? ) were and also do not remember the names of the Group incharges. I would like to know but I understand there are no records.
I was active member till 1982 – that was 30 years ago and I have forgotten a lot about what I did as active member of FS, but I will give below the details of whatever I remember:
1) Every year I took part in the annual fund rising program of FS – we used to sell Raffle tickets, ask companies to sponsor prizes, go to collect prize items from sponsors – I remember going to some office along with Kamlesh Vaishnav ? and collecting a Kodak camera. I do remember selling lots of tickets – were they Rs. 2 Each? We used to have a stall in the M S University of Baroda Fun Fair in the University Ground – we used to make and sell sandwiches and fruit salad from the stall – we did the Raffle Draw at the stall.
2) A group of school students were taken to Deolali for a program as part of PFL( ?) – Radha Misra and another boy member went as tour managers – Somehow it was decided to send a few more students to attend the program – I took them – It was a very nice program organized by Leslie Sawhny Centre, Deolali, District Nashik, Maharashtra. I have good memories – nice place to stay, good food, morning tea brought to room etc. The most exciting thing I remember is going up in air in a glider – that was arranged at the Deolali Military Cantonment. There was the pilot and I was there with one student sitting in my lap – The glider was attached to a Jeep and pulled and the glider rose into air, when the glider was vertically on top of the jeep the cable was disconnected – we glided for some time and then came down and landed – that was my first flight!
3) As Incharge of Blood Donation Group, I had the opportunity to go to Ahmedabad, to attend a program felicitating blood donors and organization involved in Voluntary blood donation – FS was awarded Asha Parekh Trophy which was given for collecting the highest number of blood units through voluntary blood donation, in a given calendar year. There was another girl member who accompanied me, but I do not remember her name, though.
4) I was sent by FS to New Delhi, to attend a workshop on screen printing – it was quite interesting, doing the printing hands on – it was meant for organizations to do printing of newsletters and leaflets etc. in-house – whatever skills I learnt at the workshop were never utilized by FS, but I do not remember why. The one thing which I remember was that I saw the woman who conducted the workshop smoking – I only had seen women smoking in Hollywood movies or by bad women of Indian movies or women from low socioeconomic groups – It was a shock for me to see an educated Indian woman smoke.
5) I went along as volunteer with members of the Sunday School on a trip to Delhi, Agra, Mathura – It was December and winter time, and it was very cold, and I was not prepared – I was a student and did not have money to buy proper winter clothes and what clothes I had taken were totally inadequate – when we went to Agra & Mathura, we left by bus at 4 AM in the morning and it was biting cold – the bus was not air-conditioned. In my struggles with the cold weather I could not give my best as a volunteer, which was quite depressing – I still feel bad about it. One thing which I realized was that people with physical handicaps were also human beings like me.
6) FS had a program where orphan children were taken on a Sunday, to the homes of volunteer families, to spend a day with them – I do not remember what the programme was called – was it “ Adopt a Child “ ? Once in a while I also took children to homes of volunteer families in the morning and went to collect them in the evening – we used to go and return by auto rickshaw and FS paid for the expense. I developed a good relation with one volunteer family, who had an engineering contracts business – after I completed my Engineering, I worked for their company for free for some days to get some experience.
7) I donated blood for the first time when I was in first year of engineering – FS organized Blood donation camp in our college – Faculty of Tech. & Eng. – that was first time that I saw anyone donate blood – it seemed to be quite an easy thing to do and it turned out to be an easy thing to do – I have donated more than 65 times – while I was student, I used to donate 4 times a year, which was the maximum allowed.
I had once attended a blood donation camp at the Medical College – All was going well – A medical student came to donate, saw people donating and fainted – we thought it was odd that a medical student should faint – did he faint at the sight of blood? May be there was some other reason.
The blood bank wanted help with tidying up their records. FS volunteers would go in the night to do the work – I remember spending some nights at the blood bank and also sleeping there!
FS used to help blood bank in emergency cases – one night we collected some students from University hostels, which had a certain blood group, requested them and took them to donate blood – it was quite a mission. After some days we came to know that the blood collected was for a hospital nurse, but she did not survive.
8) FS organized Leadership Development Camp every year in the first term, for the Executive Committee members. These were 2 day programs. We had some camps at Bharuch – the buildings were located in a forest like area – whenever we held the camps, we had the site facilities all for ourselves, which was very good. Giridharbhai and Sagunbhai used to conduct most sessions, and it was a time to learn, to get to know each other better.
One day at the camp, we broke for lunch – we were asked to have lunch and come back by a certain time, so that the afternoon sessions may start on time. After lunch the members got into a relaxed mood and were having fun – I was also having fun, but after sometime I realized that Giridharbhai and Sagunbhai were not to be seen – then it struck me – We were already late for the afternoon sessions – I went to the hall where we were to have the sessions – sure enough Giridharbhai and Sagunbhai were there discussing something, and some senior members were also there – I sat down and waited – slowly others trickled in – when everyone was in we started the session – the first session was unplanned – we were given a lecture on being punctual, time conscious and being focused !
In that camp we were provided with peanut butter for breakfast – that was the first time I heard about peanut butter and tasted it. That was also the time when I came to know that bananas were a favorite of Giridharbhai.
9) Giridharbhai used to treat us to tea many times, when we had meetings and even otherwise – I forget the name of the hotel which used to supply tea – we used to drink tea in small glasses. Others also used to send for tea – most days we used to have tea.
10) In those days I used to talk mostly in Hindi and a little of English – I did not know Gujarati. Although I came from Kendriya Vidyalaya, my English was pretty average. My involvement with INVOLVE was minimal – in all those years, I remember only a few occasions when I contributed matter to the publication. I remember once that I interviewed Radha Misra for an article to be published. INVOLVE was regularly published – We always carried copies of INVOLVE with us when we went fundraising or when organizing an event like a blood donation camp – INVOLVE was always very useful for giving a quick introduction about FS and FS activities, to people who did not know.
11) I remember going to Amina aunty’s house a few times – sometimes we had delicious kheer.
12) We used to celebrate festivals, particularly Holi – we used start at FS and go to houses of some members and it used to be great fun!
13) We used to have an Annual Day celebration at FS Campus in the evening – that was a time to relax and enjoy – we used to have “ Fish Pond “ – where people were asked to write something funny about any member and put the piece of paper in a box – these were read out , much to the amusement of all present !
There are a couple I remember:
a) “ I was going by walk, and came across Giridharbhai going in his car – Giridharbhai in his usual friendly style offered to give me lift – I declined the offer saying that I was in a hurry as I needed to be on time for an appointment, so I would prefer to walk “ – This was a dig about the old antiquated car of Giridharbhai !
b) “ He is a miracle worker – it is a miracle if he did any work “
c) “ He is a outstanding and friendly worker – he is always standing outside FS campus and talking with friends “
This was a dig at some members, who considered FS only as a place for socializing.
There were many in Guajarati also – can’t remember how many of those I understood, but other members provided translation services.
14) We celebrated Independence Day, 15th August, every year, at FS Campus. We also celebrated Raksha Bandhan and Navratri at Pensionpura Institutions, which was organized by Cheer Up group.
15) During my time of active membership, a few new groups were formed, like Sunday School, Mother & Child Health group etc.
16) 1984 – I became Life member – paid Rs. 250.00 for the membership – In those days it was a decent amount – I could afford because by that time I was employed – glad I did become life member though– by September that year I got another job and left Vadodara. I probably visited FS a few times only after that, and I hope to visit again.
NOTE  - I spoke to Sagunbhai on phone at the time of the Year 2013 FS Members Reunion – he has said that my understanding on how FS came into existence is wrong – it was not a reaction to the 1969 communal riots, but a proactive development based on what Thrityben said or did.
Thrityben is wife of Girdharbhai – they were classmates in Faculty of Social Work, when doing MSW Degree.

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