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'Developing Singapore Gujarati Society has been a challenging task'

A society is like an ocean. Waves come and go. But I have had the privilege of being part of this wave for 20 years in various capacities. It is like a long holiday I have taken and on April 24, 2022, I have come home with so many amazing experiences; stories to tell of the people I have met and how my life has changed.

Developing SGS has been a challenging task: Biren Desai
Biren Desai (right) with current SGS president Viral Patel (2nd from left) and children during SGS Utraan, a festival to fly kites. Photo courtesy: SGS

Overall, I have been involved with the Singapore Gujarati Society (SGS) for over 32 years with sporadic breaks in between. Especially so in the last 20 years, Team SGS has done amazingly well. Year after year, the positive winds of change can be seen and felt. While we all are proud of being Gujaratis individually, I have seen this sense of belonging to SGS in a very marked and tangible way. The cohesion, the integration, love and affection for one another is truly commendable. 

As a society, our objective is to maintain and promote Gujarati culture and values by way of hosting various events. Over 20 years, the events have taken a much more professional angle. The involvement from members has been overwhelming.

My kids were four years and six years old respectively and I have unabashedly expressed that I have seen them growing through SGS.
'My kids were four years and six years old respectively and I have unabashedly expressed that I have seen them growing through SGS.' Photo courtesy: SGS

Without taking away from all the other events like Utraan (where we fly in kites from Surat, along with the Firkis) and where we teach attendees to tie the “kinni” or Janmashtami, Holika, Holi, Best Varas, Nataks (where content is produced, written and directed by members), I would like to focus on Navaratri – our signature event.

SGS has been hosting Navratri since 1956 and it has evolved from an open-field celebration with 200 attendees to now having it in a ballroom where we have over 2,500 people attending per day. Every detail has been meticulously looked into. Members who have left Singapore say they have never experienced a Navratri like this ever, not even in India! In fact, many come back just for Navratri. 

As part of the Singapore Government’s initiative to promote cross-cultural exchanges and integration, SGS has been in the forefront to plan and execute related activities. We work with various government and non-government organisations across different races and ethnic backgrounds to provide a platform for integration. 

Instilling a sense of belonging, developing a society in a wholesome way and then ensuring we are able to sustain it has been a challenging task to say the least. It takes a tremendous amount of planning and observing results that are intangible so as to then meander better. Every day has been a learning curve, but the motivation has always been the smiles on the members' faces.  As I shared on my FB post – the time I have spent being involved has provided me a purpose and developed my state of being. My kids were four years and six years old respectively and I have unabashedly expressed that I have seen them growing through SGS. Many do not understand nor appreciate the value a society/community plays.  It is my personal belief that while parents and immediate family make up 70 per cent of a child’s development (across all aspects), the rest is from their interaction with extended family, friends and the community. It is too large a component to ignore. Social scientists have proven beyond a doubt the importance of a sense of belonging outside the family. It is this that drives me beyond reason. I have been a beneficiary of this and who I am is because of the people around me and a large part has been the community.   Kudos to all the teams who have made me look good. Without their support, their passion and drive, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything as a team.
Biren S Desai, former Singapore Gujarati Society president. Photo courtesy: SGS

Instilling a sense of belonging, developing a society in a wholesome way and then ensuring we are able to sustain it has been a challenging task to say the least. It takes a tremendous amount of planning and observing results that are intangible so as to then meander better. Every day has been a learning curve, but the motivation has always been the smiles on the members' faces.  As I shared on my FB post – the time I have spent being involved has provided me a purpose and developed my state of being. My kids were four years and six years old respectively and I have unabashedly expressed that I have seen them growing through SGS. Many do not understand nor appreciate the value a society/community plays.

It is my personal belief that while parents and immediate family make up 70 per cent of a child’s development (across all aspects), the rest is from their interaction with extended family, friends and the community. 

As a society, our objective is to maintain and promote Gujarati culture and values by way of hosting various events.
As a society, our objective is to maintain and promote Gujarati culture and values by way of hosting various events. Photo courtesy: SGS

It is too large a component to ignore. Social scientists have proven beyond a doubt the importance of a sense of belonging outside the family. It is this that drives me beyond reason. I have been a beneficiary of this and who I am is because of the people around me and a large part has been the community. 

Kudos to all the teams who have made me look good. Without their support, their passion and drive, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything as a team.

It is my personal belief that while parents and immediate family make up 70 per cent of a child’s development (across all aspects), the rest is from their interaction with extended family, friends and the community.
'It is my personal belief that while parents and immediate family make up 70 per cent of a child’s development (across all aspects), the rest is from their interaction with extended family, friends and the community.' Photo courtesy: SGS

 

It has been my pleasure, my honour in being able to serve, express and live out my passion. We all require a place to park our love. I am more than grateful and in deep appreciation that the community allowed me the space, trust and faith to park this love and affection.

Without a doubt, I will always carry SGS’s love in my heart and wear the smile of members on my sleeves.

(The views expressed by the author in the aricle are personal and do not reflect those of Connected to India.)

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Author
Biren Desai
Biren Desai – Contributor

Biren Desai has been involved with the Singapore Gujarati Society (SGS) for over 32 years, including multiple terms as president. He has worked tirelessly to promote community activities and expand the scale of the society.

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