Our community spotlight this month is on the Gujrati organization in the New England Area – GURJAR.
Mrs. Ramila Thakkar
“Gurjar is at its best under the Leadership of Women President” – Dr.Dinesh PatelThere have been 9 female Presidents of Gurjar.
IAGB: Tell us about Gurjar, its history and its EC structure.
Gurjar: A small group of Guajarati folks used to meetup for garba, something very essential to all of them. They rented the basement of a church and danced to their hearts content. Food used to be potluck style. The discussion to start Gurjar started in 1976 after the garba was attended by almost 150 people. That is when the need for an organization became clear, which would reach out to people staying in the suburbs. In a meeting in Dec 1976, the decision to create an organization was taken. Gurjar was officially formed as a non-profit in Apr 1977. A care taker committee took charge when it was formed. Eventually they came up with an EC structure, which is made up of President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and 10 Directors, term of whom is 2 years. The elections happen at the General Body Meeting in May. As of now, Gurjar memberships are life memberships. Membership gives discounted tickets for all events hosted by Gurjar. In addition, every member family child gets a $500 scholarship upon High School graduation. Gurjar has been doing this since 1977. In January, annual newsletter in print is sent to every member.
IAGB: How did the name Gurjar come?
Gurjar: Vinod Shah, one of the founding member and the first president of the officially formed Gurjar He came up with the name. at a time, he was Reading Gujarati novel “Saraswatichandra” This novel had profound influence on Gujarat.in this novel he came across word “Gurjar “and this how we got our name
IAGB: What is the mission of Gurjar?
Gurjar: We have 3 major goals – spread the culture, inspire education and do charity.
IAGB: Tell us about your events. Which one is your flagship event?
Gurjar: We host a multitude of events every year. In January to March timeframe, we typically bring Gujarati movies and/or Gujarati or Hindi dramas. Towards the end of March, we host events like Bollywood bash or Casino night, mainly to attract the young members. These are our fundraiser events as well. In May, we do a talent show. Sometimes we use that time to do competitions, like a few years ago we did a Super Moms Dance competition. After that is our India Heritage Day, which is an outdoor all-day event in Lowell. It was attended by almost 5000 people last year. Sept/Oct is our garba event, and it needs no description. The most popular event of Gurjar. November is our Diwali banquet, which is attended by all our old timers, and boasts of a live band/musician from India. that prior to the Diwali formal banquet, The banquet has been happening since 1993 and is a grand formal event. Before 1993 Diwali celebrations were done in church halls and school cafeterias Both garba and Diwali can be called our flagship events, because of the demand and attendance.
IAGB: Where do you see your organization in the next five years?
Gurjar: As we step into a new decade, my committee and I would like to see Gurjar growing into an organization fully supported by the youngster. Our goal is to recruit and involve the youth and give them the feel of our heritage, that would empower them to instill the same love for Indian culture in their children. Secondly stay connected with all the other regional associations of Indian origin, because unity is power
IAGB: What are some of the other initiatives of your organization?
Gurjar: We do a lot of charity. We have donated to various organizations like EKAL, ICC, Akshay Patra, WCC, Shishubharti, Desai Foundation to name a few. We also donate to causes depending on the need, like Nepal earthquake, Florida hurricane, Kutch earthquake. We had raised $350K for Kutch earthquake and there was zero administrative cost for raising this amount. Gurjar has also adopted villages in Kutch. We work mostly with local charities, but focus our efforts in India when there is a major calamity. From time to time, we approach organizations when a calamity happens to see if we can help.
IAGB: What are some of the challenges?
Gurjar: Biggest challenge is bringing the young generation to the organization and involving youth in the events. Thus, we do events like Bollywood bash, Casino night, etc. We are also working on a plan to revive the youth club, that will attract young members and involve them. We want to enable them to organize their own events and do community work together.
IAGB: Tell us about your experience as a President of Gurjar.
Gurjar: I have been in the Gurjar committee for 10 plus years, Under my leadership we have had sold out events like India Heritage Festival, Two Navratri Nights and Diwali Event
Have been very fortunate and feel blessed to have such a supporting committee and the loyalty and well wishes of Gurjar members, friends and the past committee members.
IAGB: Tell us about yourself.
Ms. Saroj Madhani: Being in love with music, dance, drama and culture, I have been involved in various cultural activities throughout my life. I grew up in Mumbai, India in a Jain Gujarati-Marwari (Savani) family. I received my business degree from University of Mumbai and Purdue University. I have participated in many garba competitions and performance on TV. I was actively involved with drama club in college. I participated in many inter-college drama competitions and won medals for my acting. Being culturally inclined, I immediately got interested in various religious and community organizations after moving to USA in 1989. I have volunteered with India circle of caring (ICC), Jain Center of Greater Boston (JCGB) and Jain Center of New England (JSNE) for community service, cooking for events and choreographing dances. Promoting the Gujarati culture has been close to my heart and I have been involved with Gujar since 2010. My professional experience is primarily in Banking industry for 24years. I love to read, travel and dance to any music. My family is my strength – my son Aashay Madhani and husband Vipin Madhani.
Ms. Ramila Thakkar: I grew up in Shillong, current capital of Meghalaya, India. I migrated to the US in 1972 with my husband, Praful. I am a core member of the finance team at Lahey Clinic in Burlington, since 1984. I have always been passionate about community service and have been involved for over 36 years, first 10 years at Shishu Bharati and then Gurjar-Gujarati Association of NE, for the last 25 years, I am currently on the advisory board of Saheli. I am an avid reader my strength lies in my communication and organizational skills. I have lived in the Boston area for over 48 years and what I value most about community services is the bonds formed and the strong camaraderie’s shared, and each and every individual in some way has contributed to my personal growth.
My personal quote: “Blessed are those, who have true friends.”
Visit https://www.gurjar.org/ to learn more about Gurjar.