By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – In 1989, Rajiv Dayal and his wife , Priti, left their homeland of New Delhi, India, and took residence in Westborough. Everything was unfamiliar. They wondered how their young children would ever know about their culture. Someone told Priti about the India Society of Worcester (ISW), and soon their daughter and son were enrolled in cultural school there. Rajiv has been actively involved on the executive committee there for 10 years, and was recently elected as the society's president. He proudly takes on this post as the society embarks on its 50th year anniversary celebration.
The Shrewsbury-based ISW is a nonprofit organization that was established to provide an avenue for people of Indian descent or people otherwise interested in India to come together to retain the cultural heritage of India. ISW also works to share its celebration of the cultural diversity of the region with the local community. The society offers educational programming via language and cultural classes, as well as a program for young adults that promotes youth involvement in community service.
Other facets of the society include activities for senior citizens and a free medical clinic that is open to all.? A crisis committee provides help to victims of domestic violence and others in need. Also, Monthly Satsangs and meditation sessions are held, as well as numerous festivals and other events.
Rajiv and his family moved from Westborough to Shrewsbury in 1997, where they have since resided. Both his son, Akshay, and his daughter, Priyanka, are graduates of Shrewsbury High School. Priyanka became a teacher at ISW while she was in high school. Rajiv is thankful his children had the opportunity to participate in ISW activities while growing up.
“My daughter was 3 when we came here; my son was 1.? It [ISW] gave both of them the feel of the Indian culture, which otherwise would have been difficult, if not impossible,” Rajiv said.
Rajiv said India, itself, is very multicultural, with people speaking dozens of dialects and languages and foods in the various regions being different. ISW holds classes in many of the languages, giving people who live here the chance to know languages from their roots. Rajiv is pleased his kids were exposed to that.
“In spite of them having grown up here, they still have the cultural knowledge of India, and I think the society did that for us,” he said. “That's why,” he added, “I thought at this point, it's time to give back and make it possible for other people in the community.”
Rajiv has set goals for what he hopes to accomplish during his presidency and the 50th anniversary year. He wants to try to help the society expand its outreach and continue to welcome all members of the community.
According to Rajiv, the 50th celebration will incorporate three phases: Celebrating the past, strengthening the society's existing programs, and planning for the future. He said the celebration will include an expansion of programs such as “India Day” and “Showcase India,” that the society does every year. Parts of the celebration are still being planned, but he said there will definitely be something special taking place that has not been done before.
With his family having benefited from ISW, he is hoping others will too.
“We hope people will enjoy this celebration for the 50th year,” he said.