A patient listener, Jayajit Biswas has a simple philosophy in spearheading Dalhousie Institute (DI) — respect towards members. An alumnus of La Martiniere for Boys and St Xavier’s College, Calcutta, the friendly, spirited, and ever-smiling president of the Jhowtala Road club talks to t2 about his stint.
How has the presidentship of the club been so far?
It is a great feeling! To be leading an institution which is more than 155 years old is, by itself, a huge honour. I am truly blessed to have the unstinted support of my colleagues in the council in this continuous endeavour. The members have been a pillar of strength for me and their love and support have been overwhelming. I am deeply touched by the suggestions and advice I receive from senior members, past presidents, especially Derek O’Brien, who despite his busy schedule never fails to inspire and motivate us with sound advice.
When did you become the president and what has been your focus so far?
I became the president in 2016 and together we have strived to focus on several key areas during my tenure. These areas include strengthening community engagement as one of our primary objectives has been to foster a strong sense of community within our club; enhancing club facilities and services, where we have placed a strong emphasis on improving our club’s infrastructure vis a vis self service; promoting cultural and educational programmes by organising various cultural events like quiz, book reading, play reading, Bengali drama, workshops and more. We also focussed on supporting philanthropic initiatives as giving back to society is an integral part of our club’s mission. Lastly, I strongly believe in strengthening partnerships and hence I have actively sought to establish partnerships with other clubs, both within and outside Calcutta and these collaborations have allowed us to expand our network, exchange ideas, and create opportunities for our members.
The milieu of this club is very different from the other clubs in the city with Anglo-Indians being an integral part of it. How did you ensure that the original ethos of the club remains?
We understand the significance of preserving our heritage and acknowledging the club’s historical roots as an Anglo-Indian and Bengali bastion. First, we have actively encouraged and fostered a sense of inclusivity and diversity within our membership. Secondly, we have upheld the club’s rich heritage by organising events and activities that pay tribute to its history with special events like ‘Pagal Pani’, ‘Ingo Bongo’, ‘Scratch’ and many other cultural programmes. Furthermore, we have made efforts to preserve and showcase historical artifacts, minutes of previous councils, photographs, and documents that reflect the club’s past. This not only adds to the ambience but also serves as a reminder of the club’s heritage. Lastly, we have actively engaged with our long-standing members who have been associated with the club for generations. Their wisdom, stories, and experiences have been invaluable in understanding and preserving the original ethos.
How do you make sure the new generation also accepts the club as their second home?
We recognise the importance of attracting and retaining young members, and we have implemented various platforms, such as youth sub-committees where they can contribute ideas, to make sure they feel welcomed and suggest improvements. Furthermore, we have invested in upgrading our facilities like modernising our sports facilities, incorporating technology-driven features, and creating spaces that foster a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere.
For how long have you been part of the club?
I have been coming to DI since my teens, ever since my late father Biman Biswas was a member since 1970. I was a hosteller and whenever I used to get a break, especially during the summer holidays, I would come here for a swim! Although my school had a swimming pool, but then going for a swim in a club in those days was a different feeling altogether. I remember digging into Fish Fries soon after a round of swimming! Since then DI has been my love and passion.
What are your future plans for the club?
We have several exciting plans both short-term and long-term goals. We plan to have rainwater harvesting, and introduce solar power and waste management. We are excited about the road ahead and the opportunities to create a vibrant and fulfilling future for our esteemed members.