A recap of the ISW Gala 2022 - Jalsa with Sudesh Bhosle
By ISW eSandesh Youth Reporter, Tharegha Manoharan
10 years ago. The same, breathtaking place. The same, encouraging crowd. The India Society of Worcester (ISW) proudly celebrated their success in fulfilling their vow for a bigger, better center for the community this past Saturday, September 17th. A decade ago, ISW took their first steps towards a new center at a similar gala during their 50th year celebration. Today , ISW successfully achieved their dream of expanding their center in Shrewsbury doubling from 4000 to 10,000 square feet!
To honor this accomplishment, which was achieved flawlessly despite a worldwide pandemic, an impressive gathering of over 250 patrons met at Worcester’s historic Mechanics Hall celebrating this outstanding feat and displaying their support accompanied by the one and only Shri. Sudesh Bhosle, the inimitable voice of Amitabh Bachhan.
The event started with a red carpet welcome and complimentary valet service for guests, enthusiastically greeted by ISW volunteers. Upon entering, a commemorative photo portrait was taken as a way to remember this exciting evening on the magnificent staircase. Many guests stopped by the Silent Auction room, a first for ISW, and the Youth Room, which was a welcome respite for younger kids. As guests arrived in the main hall for the cocktail reception, it was a sight to see – friends catching up with one another, meeting new people, enjoying the bright atmosphere, especially at an event this grand after so many years.
Speaking to the many donors who supported the society, it was apparent how the society played an important role in maintaining community connections. For many, the India Society of Worcester became one of the first places to connect with others. Now decades later the growth of ISW is a dream come true mainly due to the hard work of all its volunteers over these past years, who have transformed this mere “community center” into a special place for the ISW family. From its humble beginnings when dance and singing lessons had to be held in someone’s garage to the bustling, large ISW Center today fills their chests with pride.
Talking to the various people contributing to an event like this, it made me realize how much appreciation we had for one another. Long time ISW member, Mr. Barin Bando, emphasized how much effort had to be put in to plan such a gala. He also mentioned how everyone attending the gala was always there to lend a hand, whether it be in the past or the present. Gala Chair, Shiamin Melville, said that it was a fabulous evening that was made possible with the dedication and effort of the numerous ISW volunteers.
This gala not only celebrated the success of ISW’s expansion, but also the accomplishment of most of their ISW Vision 2020 goals by creating a a home away from home. As Mr. Puneet Kohli, president of ISW, said, “The ride just keeps getting better and better.” He attests to this by comparing ISW’s accomplishments today with where it was when he first joined 18 years ago. Mr. Balki Chanrakasan, ISW Secretary, takes great pride in declaring how ISW has reached a whole other level to truly connect to the entire community, breaking all social barriers, as proved by events such as this gala.
The social hour was followed by a delicious dinner consisting of a variety of mouthwatering selections catered by Bawarchi and was followed by a video by Sandeep Shah that summed up the efforts and achievements of ISW. With the new ISW Center, the video highlighted how ISW truly was the place where its members could learn, play, celebrate, grow, help others in the community.
Mr. Puneet Kohli took the stage reminiscing about the promises made at the 2013 gala to grow ISW, the first step in that direction with the bhoomi puja, and the challenges of construction during the covid pandemic. Through it all, friends and ISW members called to encourage the team to continue the important work. With their support and encouragement, ISW was able to successfully open the doors of the newly expanded center in 2021 fulfilling their commitment to the community: to families, to kids, the youth, and their senior supporters. Since its opening, ISW has already held over a hundred events at the new center! Beyond celebrating cultural events, Free Health Stop and returning to in person ISW School's language classes, the new center allows ISW to bring the community together with a range of activities from ISW Symphony in music, art and creative projects; ISW University with a range of offerings from 3D printing to tutoring; ISW Professional and Entrepreneurial Network with topical panels and discussions; ISW Sports offering activities from pickleball to chess; and ISW Women Empowering Women bringing together women to share experiences and encourage each other’s endeavors. Not to forget the Humrahee meetings returned with new activities for the young at heart.
Mr. Sanjay Shah, the chair for the fundraising committee for ISW, thanked the supporters and donors, many who were in the room, for their support. This was shown by the fact over half the initial project estimate was raised in 2018 the year the project was launched. He acknowledged that ISW has been built on the shoulders of volunteers, many present at the gala, along with community members who have contributed to the growth of ISW.
This led to the main event of night, the long-awaited performance of the one and only Mr. Sudesh Bhosle, a playback singer for countless Bollywood films, and especially known for his enthusiastic rendering of favorite songs. He was joined by his son, Mr. Siddhanth, and accompanied by Mrs. Sunita Kapur, her daughters and a team of musicians that came from New Jersey. A special addition to this talented group, was ISW’s own Mrs. Sarita Deshpande. The performers enchanted the audiences’ heart, and drew them towards the stage, where they broke into dance to the popular, energetic songs. After a short break to replenish their energy with desserts and tea, the fun-filled event carried on till 11pm.
The most heart-warming moment for me was my conversation with Mr. Shyam Sharma, one of the founders of the India Society of Worcester back in 1962 when there were a mere 13 Indians in the area. Beginning as the Indian Association and growing into ISW, the number of people involved has grown from 13 to over 10,000 today. Mr. Sharma describes himself as part of the history of ISW, watching the physical growth of the community, supporting each other through different needs, and celebrating with each other. It doesn’t matter how you first connected to ISW, it always provides opportunities to create more connections.