A 58 year old organization where service comes before self, a close knit sisterhood of Indian ladies in the Kingdom of Bahrain is the Indian Ladies Association better known as ILA. Under the vision of Mrs Leela Jashanmal, ILA was born with few enterprising Indian ladies who came toge5her putting in their efforts for the cause of charity. Today it has grown to a large group with more than 200 members each giving their best to their home away from home – Bahrain.
Mrs Nivedita Dutta, the current President of ILA shared with Bahrain This Week about her life as the President of the organization and the contribution of this unique group of Indian women to the Kingdom.
Nivedita who was born and bought up in the state of Assam in India has been here in Bahrain for last 24 years. “It was right after my marriage, a journey straight from my parents’ home to here”, said Nivedita remembering her initial days in the Kingdom. 24 hours is not enough for this busy lady, with her job at BAPCO, the role as President of ILA and the most responsible of them all, being House Wife. When we asked her the secret of juggling between her responsibilities, Nivedita nodded in the magic word. “Time Management. Through all these years I have learnt to manage the most unmanageable thing in life: Time.”She continues with a beam, “I believe in being positive all the time. It helps in getting lot of work done easily.”
Surprisingly, Nivedita’s entry into the world of ILA was not until 1999. “I’m a very committed person and passionate about everything I do. I always like to give my 100% to my responsibilities. So I joined ILA bit late when I was sure that my 2 daughters could manage things themselves. Since being part of ILA, it’s been a journey where I get to learn new every day. And it’s been the same till date.” She adds in with a proud smile.
Indian Ladies Association – the first of its kind in the whole of GCC, was formally registered with the Ministry of Social Development in 1984 and since then it has had a remarkable journey making its mark in the life of many in the Kingdom through its altruistic service.
ILA has a very active speak easy group, that has been teaching the less privileged expatriate workers speak English for the last 15 years. Over the years more than thousands of workers have been benefitted with the efforts taken by the group. “It’s such a pleasure when some of them recognizes us in the public and acknowledges the positive change we could bring into their life”. Says Nivedita.
Community Service Group of ILA is a remarkably active group that concentrates on providing philanthropic service to the Bahrain Society. “We visit old age homes, support other charity organizations and do all the services that are needed with in this society we live in. We conduct events like Dandiya Beats where the money collected is given to charity.” Surprisingly the first Dandiya Nite in Bahrain was organized by ILA and they have been successfully doing so for the last 15 years.
SNEHA is the most important part of ILA. Formed in 1987, SNEHA has been supporting children with special needs till date. With 20 students and 25 volunteers, the group has been extending its support to kids from all nationalities including from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines and Bahrain as well. “We even had students coming from Saudi.” Nivedita continued. “It very difficult for parents to manage kids with special needs alone at home especially in a different country. It is not easy to get them join the government schools and the ones in the private sector is not affordable for everyone. And we provide our service free of cost including medical support like getting special therapist at times.”
The kids at SNEHA are taught to face the challenges posed by the outside world and by the age of 18, they leave the group and become part of the society where nothing can stop their motivated spirits. There was a tear of joy and pride in Nivedita’s eyes when she said, “These kids; they are special. God had made them special to teach us perceive the luck with which we all are born”.
It is the annual fund raiser that forms one of the major resources for SNEHA. “The corporate sector of Bahrain has always been extremely kind towards our activities and we thank them for all the support they have been rendering us.”“We would also like to thank the Ministry of Social Development and the Embassy of India in Bahrain for being there with us and understanding our activities. ”
The biggest challenge SNEHA now faces is the unavailability of proper space. “We are currently looking for a bigger place like an independent house where the students get enough space to play and learn.” The expense that comes with larger space in not within the current budget that runs purely on charity and as Nivedita says “We have our fingers crossed. We hope to have a better place for our kids some time soon.”
The worker’s welfare committee of ILA provides home cooked food once every month for selected labor camps in the Kingdom and also organizes an annual fun evening for the workers providing them with cultural events followed by dinner. The subcommittee including good homes, fun and games & health and beauty functions exclusively for the ever dedicated members of ILA. “It is easy to be a member of ILA, all you have to be is a selfless Indian lady.”
When we asked Nivedita the secret behind the unity among ladies from different cultures and practices, she shared, “All our members come from different parts of India. But we culturally bind together and share our things. This is the greatest advantage for ILA that we get together extremely well within our differences. And this makes us more colorful and vibrant.”