How was our Samaj born?

On a fortuitous day In October 1977, a chance meeting of Anavils occurred at a common acquaintance’s wedding reception. The conversation that ensued gave birth to the idea that all Anavils in Toronto would be well served to seek each other out. This would not only allow them to get to know one another but would also give the community the opportunity to keep Anavil traditions alive in Canada.

Amrut Naik, our current President and Surendra Desai, one of our founding Trustees took it upon themselves to begin the process of seeking everyone out. They called every Anavil that they knew of and sought out others through common contacts. They were able to reach all 17 families. In the month of June, in 1978, the very first Anavil picnic was arranged and all of the 17 families participated. The venue was an outlet provincial park near Picton, Ontario, about 200 km from Toronto. It was a great success as every child and adult thoroughly enjoyed the event.

It was in fact so successful that the decision was made to arrange for more events including more picnics. Interest was so high that the picnics were held every Sunday during that summer and in subsequent summers. Eventually, many of the children grew and started attending high schools and in some cases, universities. In light of this, picnics were held occasionally during the summers, providing everyone with the opportunity to attend.

Going back to 1978, the summer ended (as did the picnics) so Toronto’s Anavils were looking for other reasons to get together (as they all had become good friends). What better occasion than the festival of Diwali for all Anavils to celebrate together? At the time, most Anavils were still settling down in Canada and not every one had an automobile. For this reason, it was decided that all the Anavils living in the east end of Toronto, particularly in Scarborough, would get together and go to the west end, Mississauga, to greet the Anavils living there. The next day, the west end Anavils took their turn and came to greet the Anavils living in the east end. Thus started our Diwali celebration.

As Diwali was not celebrated among mainstream Canadians, there was no statutory holiday given for Diwali. Thus it was not possible for every one to visit each other. Consequently, it was decided that a place and a weekend (falling near Diwali) should be designated every year for everyone to celebrate together.

Starting in 1979, generous people from the Anavil community like Arvindbhai Naik and Haribhai Desai offered their homes as places for Diwali celebrations to occur. Time passed and the community grew and basements were not big enough so we moved the celebrations to public places like school cafeterias, churches etc.

As the number of Anavil families in the Toronto area began to swell, it became difficult for just one or two individuals to organize the event. Instead, a committee of six families was formed each year to organize the Diwali celebration. This worked very well and each year, families came forward and did an excellent job in organizing this event. Everyone worked very hard and everyone deserves a heart felt THANKS from the Anavil community.

We started publishing our own directory in 1996 and we continue to do so every other year. We included Anavils from other parts of Canada in this directory. This is one of the tools we use to provide information about all the Anavil families in Canada. We also started providing frequent updates of phone numbers and email addresses to accommodate new Anavils and those who move their residence within the two years of new directory issue.

During 1998 and particularly in 1999, our community grew at a very fast rate and in spite of the hard work of everyone, it became too much of a burden to manage our affairs in the accustomed manner. Also with the expansion of the Anavil community, other needs arose as the population of children and senor citizens increased. It was felt that we needed more than just a Diwali celebration. So the Diwali Committee for the year 2000 (Hemant Desai, Hitendra Desai, Vipul Desai, Viren Desai, Amrut Naik and Gautam Vashee) felt that it was about time that we Anavils united to form a Samaj with a constitution, accountabilities, proper documentation and recognition from governmental authorities. This idea was explored with Anavils living in the Greater Toronto and Mississauga areas and it was supported with enthusiasm. The above-mentioned committee was asked to spearhead this project.

During the Diwali celebration of 2000, the committee suggested (with support from the community) that some members of the community be appointed to begin the drafting of a constitution. This constitution committee consisted of Mukesh Desai, Pradip Desai, Surendra Desai, Vipul Desai, Amrut Naik and Harish Naik. The committee studied the constitutions of other Gujarati associations in Canada and the US, in the hopes of putting together something that would assure that all the needs of Anavil Samaj of Canada would be met.

The first ever General body meeting of the Anavil Samaj of Canada was called on the 22nd of April 2001 at Gujarat Bhavan (58 Clarke Avenue in Thornhill, Ontario). The constitution committee presented the constitution Article-by-Article and by-law-by-by-law. There was a very healthy dialogue during which the members offered excellent suggestions for amendments. These amendments were included in the constitution and those members who were present at this historical meeting unanimously accepted it.

The very first Executive Committee was elected (selected since there was no contest) and The Anavil Samaj of Canada was officially established on April 22, 2001.

Further amendments were made to some by-laws in the following year and we continue to follow the constitution to this day.

Anavils in Canada have come a long way and continue to prosper. It is your support, dedication, enthusiasm and participation that make our Samaj so successful. Feeling and experiencing the interest, enthusiasm, dedication, hard work and participation of our youth, we have absolutely no doubt that the Samaj will continue to prosper for generations to come.

By Surendra (S. K.) Desai and Amrut Naik.

October 12, 2003.