Mahatma Gandhi Celebrations
In the beginning of the year 1969, some thoughtful Indo-Canadians met together and thought that they should have a club where families would come together and act as if they belong to one big family. Their efforts resulted in the formation of India Club on the 21st May, 1969, when India Club received its registration and seal. The year 1969 was marked by United Nations for organizing activities to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. It was decided quite naturally, that India Club should have its first project associated with the commemorative activities of this great soul.
The brightest idea that captured the attention of these founding fathers of this great club, was to get a statue from India of Mahatma Gandhi, and get it installed at one of the public places namely, Stanley Park, U.B.C endowment lands, Queen Elizabeth Park or any other good location which deserved to be the right place where the spirit of the great saint could be seated and adored. On further inquiry into the cost of commissioning and getting the statue and its appropriate installation at a desirable location, it was soon discovered that, financially the project seemed to be beyond the means of the resources available to the newly formed club. Discretion prevailed, and it was decided that it would be prudent for the club to include the participation of the entire Indo-Canadian community (then known as the East Indian community of B.C.).
The members of India Club worked hard and collected sufficient funds to place an order for the purchase of a bronze cast bust with the famous Wagh and Company of Bombay, India. The enthusiastic members of India Club were delighted when they came to know that the bust had been shipped from Bombay, and was well on its way to Vancouver, B.C.
The members soon approached various municipalities and their parks and recreation boards to have an appropriate site to install the bust. Members were greatly disappointed when denials were received from most of the municipalities, public place management committees, colleges and schools. The leadership was quite concerned at the prospect of having no place available for the installation of the bust. Weeks passed by; the solution to this problem was nowhere nearer. At this critical moment, on behalf of the East India community of B.C., Mr. Thakore approached Dr. Suart, who then was the Vice President of Simon Fraser University, and also Mrs. Baird, who was at that time the head of the Department of Arts and Communications, to explore the possibility for the appropriate space for the installation of the bust. Second of October 1969 was fast approaching but still the problem had not been resolved. Members of India Club did not lose heart, and extended the date of celebrations to 30th of January, 1970, the date they believed that the problem of space for the bust would be resolved. The task of obtaining the permission to install the bust at S.F.U. was further complicated by the complexity of consultations with various other departments at S.F.U., including the Senate and the Board of Governors. The situation became more frustrating when someone raised the following question: Why should the statue of Mahatma Gandhi be installed at the University; why not the statue of the famous explorer Simon Fraser, after whom the University has been named? It is difficult to describe the day to day developments as they unfolded, during this frustrating period. However, it would suffice to believe that the spirit of the great soul of Mahatma prevailed, and finally the bust was accepted by the University Administration, and permission was granted for its installation at an appropriate location on the campus.
January 30th 1970 was the big day for all of us. The theatre of S.F.U., and the Peace square of the science complex became the sacred places for this occasion. Essence of all these activities was the blooming of a special relationship between the people of the Indo-Canadian Community and the Institution of Simon Fraser University.
The great day arrived. It was January 30th 1970. Every member of India Club, and also members of the Gujarati Society and various other associations were eager for this day. On that historic day at 3 pm the Gandhi bust was unveiled, garlanded and given over to Dr. Strand, the President of S.F.U. by Late Mr. J.K. Pavri. The sky was cloudy, and the rain graced the occasion with a happy downpour, as if it was there to purify the atmosphere. Then all people present proceeded to the theatre and were entertained under the capable master of ceremonies Dr. Inderjit Desai. This programme consisted of a pantomime by the famous poetess Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, sitar recitational, exquisite dances, speeches about Mahatma Gandhi, short film show and an Indian orchestra. More than 40 participants had offered their talents to produce an excellent program, which was well received by the entire community and the news media. The program was concluded by Mr. T. Raj Kapahi, thanking the audience and the participants. This was followed by refreshments and tea.
The seed was planted, and it was soon to grow into a big benevolent banyan tree giving immense benefit to both the community of Simon Fraser University, and India Club. Hats off to the benevolent spirit of the members of India Club who showed excellent spirit of generosity.
The great association of people at large and the University has developed into a regular annual birthday celebration on October 2nd of each year. For the last 25 years there has not been a single lapse of annual celebrations of Gandhi’s birthday. The president, vice president, chancellor, members of board of governors, faculty members, members of more than a dozen public associations, the representatives from most of the municipalities of the lower mainland, Consul General of India with his staff members and public at large, meet together on this occasion, and under the benevolent arm of the great father invoke the spirit of oneness of mankind and universal brotherhood.
May Peace Prevail.