By Ria Deshpande
Pushpa Joshi, a resident of Hopkinton MA, has been involved with ISW for over 50 years. Throughout the years, she has experienced ISW blossoming from a small, dedicated group of people to the awesome community center it is today. Now as a member of Humrahee, she retells her fascinating experiences during the early days of ISW and the wisdom she has to share with the next generation. Read about it below!
When did you come to the United States?
I came in 1964. My husband got a job here, so I moved here with him.
How did you first get involved with ISW?
When I came to the U.S., ISW was very informal. We Indian people used to meet at different people’s houses and plan programs on a very small scale. For example, for Diwali, everyone would gather at someone’s house and we would have an aarti. I remember we also used to have Indian movie nights once in a while — the Indian Ambassador from New York used to send us films!
Do you have any favorite memories from the early days of ISW?
I have so many pleasant memories with ISW! I used to teach at Worcester Public Schools, and to celebrate Diwali, they used to let us use the kitchen and hall free of charge for around five years. After that, they would not let us use their space due to insurance reasons. So we used a big hall on Southbridge Street, provided by the City of Worcester, to do monthly bhajans. These events were always so much fun. One of the most notable events I remember was back in 1982/1983 when we applied for official recognition for being a community group and then became officially registered in Boston. It was a very proud moment for us. And of course, it was such an important event when we first got permission from Shrewsbury to build a community center in 1991.
What about ISW has changed over the years?
A lot has changed. I would say that the biggest difference is that ISW is now much more widespread. As far as I know, we are not only the largest Indian organization in New England, but we are also the only Indian community group that owns their own property. I think this is very creditable for us. ISW is also involved in many more aspects of the community. In the early days, we primarily met up for monthly bhajans and Diwali events. Now we have expanded to being a language school, and a center for both youth and seniors. A lot more people and groups have now joined us over the years, from young couples becoming a part of ISW for language school for their children, to those children becoming a part of IYG, and so on.
Do you have any message to give to the new up and coming generation, like IYG members or new volunteers?
I want to say that I am very proud of ISW and all the new people who are taking interest in ISW. I love seeing young people getting involved with community events. I hope that 50 years from now, the same kids who are attending ISW school or are members of IYG will be watching over their children and grandchildren involved with the same but everchanging ISW.