Lionism in India

Though Lionism in India started in February 1956, long before that date, Lion Robert Williams, an American Army Officer visited India. He being a Scout came in contact with the Scouts of Bombay towards the end of the Second World War. His contact through Scouting was first with a Scout Troop which was run by a Scouter Late Noshir K. J. Khan (who became a Lion later) and with the then Lt. Comdr. and Scout Commissioner Kaiki B. Godrej (who became a Lion later ) whilst on that mission only Scouting and Camping was talked about, discussed and practiced, a real friendship formed between the trio, which ultimately, after another stage in scouting, brought Lionism to India eventually. Correspondence continued at that level between Lion Robert Williams of Saxton U.S.A. and Late Noshir K.J.Khan.

A scout jamboree was to be held in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Robert Williams agreed to host two scouts from India as his guests. They were Comdr. Kaiki B. Godrej and Noshir Pundole. The old friendship of Late Noshir K. J. Khan played its part. After the jamboree Robert Williams invited Comdr. Godrej and Noshir Pundole to attend a meeting of the local Lions Club at Saxton of which he was a member. This was the beginning, Scouting and Lionism coming in close contact.

Comdr. Kaiki B. Godrej and Noshir N. Pundole, then Deputy Chief Commissioner for All India Boy Scouts Association, were guests of the Lions of Saxton who entertained the Indian Scouts and it was then that whilst thanking Lion Robert Williams and presenting him an Indian scout turban, that the prophetic words uttered by Noshir Pundole: “It would be a great day for India when the Lions movement is ushered in our Country” Noshir N. Pundole and Comdr. Kaiki B. Godrej heard about movement there from the horse’s mouth and also brought some literature on Lionism to India.

Thereafter once again Noshir Khan took up the issue and corresponded with Lion Robert Williams, who, in turn, corresponded with Lions International, as a result of which in 1956  Lions International to establish Lionism in India sent Lion Shafeec A. Mansour, International Delegate Overseas. He contacted late Noshir K.J. Khan and Comdr. Kaiki Godrej. Noshir Khan had gathered 20 prospective members in Bombay, with whom the first Lions Club in India was formed in Bombay on February 3, 1956. Lion Noshir Pundole became the first President.

Similarly Comdr. Godrej had gathered 20 Prospective members in Delhi, with whom the second Lions Club in India was formed on February 4, 1956. It is a history recorded in purple and gold that the far flung Lions Club of Saxton was the sponsor of these premier Lions Clubs in India. At the time of the Charter, both these Clubs were presented Lions Banners, by the Lions Club of Saxton. The Lions Club of Delhi, organized entirely with the initiative of Comdr. Kaiki B. Godrej, was presented charter on February 11, 1956 and the Lions Club of Bombay (Host) organized entirely by Noshir Khan was presented charter on February 14, 1956.

Similarly, another nucleus was formed in the North by Lion Comdr. Kaiki B. Godrej {who was then at Naval Headquarters, Delhi}, with the help of Lions Devi Datt and M.K. Menon, who worked to form Lions Clubs in the northern part of India. After a year Lion Shafeec Mansour returned to India to organize clubs as mentioned above.

District 304 was formed for all of India. Lion Noshir Pundole became the First District Governor of the District 304 from 1956 to 1957 and 1957-58-59. Late Lion Noshir K.J. Khan as the First District Cabinet Secretary and Lion Comdr. Kaiki B. Godrej as the Second District Cabinet Secretary of District 304 comprising of India, Burma and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Lion Minoo J. D. Engineer was the District P.R.O. and Lion Jehangir Surti became the District Treasurer. During that period Lions Pundole, the Khan brothers, Minoo J.D. Engineer and Jehangir Surti, met each morning at Bombelli’s Café and planned the growth of Lionism further, of course with the help of other devoted Lions in their contact, achieved phenomenal results and between 1956 and 1959, 45 Clubs with a total of over 2,000 Lions were made into an active force amongst social service organizations in the country; active and strong to be reckoned with Lion Pundole in his capacity as Governor and late Lion Noshir Khan and Lion Kaiki Godrej as District Cabinet Secretaries and Lion Minoo J. D. Engineer roamed around different towns, certainly helped and inspired by others who had already embraced Lionism said foundations of many Clubs.

Lion Rohit C. Mehta was appointed Second District Governor for two years 1959-60 & 1960-61 for District 304. At this time Lion Minoo J.D. engineer brought but the first publication of District 304 called The Indian Lion which in its first year won an international award at the International Convention held at Chicago. It was known as the Leo Award, given to the District and/or Multiple District that brought out the best publication, judged from entries around the world.

It must also be recorded here that all this was done when District 304 was not divided into four Sub District North, South, East and West. It may also be recorded that during this whole period Jehangir D. Surti was the Cabinet Treasurer.

Lion Noshir Pundole was asked to become the Asian Secretary and started working from a small office at Flora Foundation. Later this office was shifted to India House, Kemp’s Corner. Later Lion Minoo J. D. Engineer, who retired from a very successful business career, was requested by Lions International to become a part-time representative of the Association. Later he was joined by Lion Rusi B.Gimi who worked in the eastern part of India.

Lion Noshir Pundole resigned his post as Asian Secretary to become the International Director and Lion Minoo J.D. Engineer was requested by Lions International to become the Asian Secretary. Some time later, Lion Rusi B. Gimi retired.

Lion Minoo J.D. Engineer expanded the working of the Secretariat and, for the first time, items bearing the Lions emblem were locally manufactured and made available for sale to Indian Lion members; similarly, New Member Kits and other required material were locally manufactured and Lion Minoo J.D. Engineer made the Secretariat into a distribution center for almost half the world.

Lion Minoo J. D. Engineer worked tirelessly night and day for the growth of Lionism. His services were well appreciated by Lions International and he became the highest decorated Lion with 16 International Presidents Awards and 12 International President Gold Extensions Awards. In 1972 the Association presented him the highest award given to any Lion, namely the Ambassador of Goodwill Award. He was the first Lion from India to receive this award. Lion Minoo J. D. Engineer was also the first Lion from India to  become a Melvin Jones Fellow.

Lion Rohit C, Mehta became the second International Director from India for the period 1970 to 1972. He was the third Lion from India to receive the Ambassador of Goodwill Award. Lion Sohrab K. Kahn was the second Lion from India to receive the Ambassador of Goodwill Award at the 1973 Convention in Miami.

Around 1961 District 304 was divided into four Sub-District and four District Governors with four Cabinets and Secretaries and Treasurers came into being; old pioneers giving place to new leaders, who have done so well that today we are proud of being reckoned amongst the foremost in the Lionistic World and the biggest active Social service organization in the country.

In 1963 a fifth District was formed as “Central” in addition to four existing District then. North, South, East and West. The “Central” was later dropped and merged with other District in 1966.

It was in about 1966-67 that the 5 (five) sub-district of Multiple District 304 were again bifurcated into 11 (eleven) sub-district, with eleven District Governors in place of five District Governors. Originally there was one District in 1956-57.

Groomed by Late Minoo J. D. Engineer his son Lion Vispy Engineer took over as South Asian Secretary in the 20th Year of Lionism in India, followed by Lion Neville Mehta after his death till date. Today in 2012 we have 62 Districts and 7 Multiple Districts in India where we had one District in 1956 comprising of India, Burma & Ceylon (Sri Lanka), now separated, and later Nepal was added.

Lions of India can just be proud today, not only for its number , but also for the most humanitarian services rendered, reckoned in rupees which would come to several crores not only in the total period, but year after year not considering the human sacrifice of men, money and material on the part of Lions themselves. One has not only to bear the International Lion Dignitaries speak laudably about this, but should one be fortunate to attend an International Convention where the appreciation is showered on Indian Lions by the Lions of the World so freely and generously that it will make us shout “ It’s great to be a Lion” humbly but sincerely.

What started in two Clubs, with about fifty Lions in 1956 February, as the 68th Country to embrace the Lionism, is today has a strength of 6070 Clubs with 216188 Lions with India as the second country in the world of Lionism with U.S.A first and pushing Japan to third. Place. Anyone would be proud of this progress and achievements and pay homage to past Leaders and continue and carry on the progress in the future. The acorn has grown into an oak- it is for us Indian Lions to keep it growing perpetually to serve humanity and bring peace to this world.

Indeed Lionism in India is a great superstructure built on the foundation so well and truly in 1956.In India we have so far 23 elected Past International Directors, two International Presidents MJF Lion Dr. Ashok Mehta (2005-06) and MJF Lion Rohit C. Mehta(1992-93)

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