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Saikat, as an organization, has matured into adulthood – it is now 30 years old (as of 2019). There is a tale that in early 1984, a few Bengali residents of San Diego (there were only a few at that time like Dipak and Munia Gupta, Joy and Supriya Maitra, Dev Purakayastha, Kamalendu and Pratima Ganguly) thought of having a Saraswati Puja but could not find an idol. They decided to worship the idol attached to the keychain of Joy Maitra. Kamalendu Ganguly was the priest for the puja at Dev’s house. It was thought that the idol should be immersed (“Bisharjan”) in a tea cup or in the kitchen sink so that Joy could retrieve his keychain later. This mini event marked the first inspiration of what was about to come.
Two years later a few more enthusiastic Bengalis came. Among them were Nemai and Anusuya Pyne, Sukumar Banerjee and Shankar Chatterjee. Gujarat born Shabda Roy was in San Diego but he was then more of a Gujarati than a Bengali. Eventually Shabdada was persuaded to join the Bengali crowd and, in 1986, that small crowd got together to conceive the thought of forming a Bengali organization. Among them were Partha Sarathi Majumdar, Dipak Gupta, Niladri Sarkar, Tamal Dasupta, Joy Maitra, Kamalendu Ganguly, Shankar Chatterjee and Shabda Roy. Later meetings also included Nemai Pyne and Dev Purakayastha. By the time name “Saikat” (proposed by Shankar) and the logo (initially designed by Sanjukta Dasgupta and Shankar, and later, modified by Sushil Mahata) were adopted and some legal paperwork was completed, it was 1987. Two tireless and devoted leaders of Saikat were Shabda Roy and Nemai Pyne who nurtured Saikat like their own baby. Alas, both of them have passed away and are no more with us but their spirit remain as inspiration. Saikat’s first Saraswati Puja was held in 1988 with a formal idol brought from Kolkata and, in the same year, Nemai Pyne submitted an IRS application for gaining tax-exempt status. The official IRS approval of 501(c)(3) status came in February 1989. A provisional constitution was adopted in 1990s, but an amended version was adopted in 2002 and was made effective retroactively from 2000. The constitution was further amended in 2010 and 2017.
The presidents of Saikat were (1) Shabda Roy, (2) Sukumar Banerjee, (3) Shabda Roy (he was president twice), (4) Anusuya Pyne, (5) Sushil Mahata, (6) Pijush Dewanjee, (7) Easeeta Ray Chowdhury, (8) Gautam Bandyopadhyay, (9) Saswata Talukdar, (10) Rajib Sengupta, (11) Rudranil DebRoy, (12) Shantanu Sinha, (13) Anuradha De, and the current president (14) Debopriyo Chowdhury.
Over the last 30 years Saikat as a community has swelled in numbers. Saikat now has a sound financial foundation. However, the most important thing is that in spite of the growth in numbers, Saikat remains one and unified and is committed to providing a homely atmosphere. We hope and pray to continue this tradition and grow Saikat even more.
(The above content has been kindly contributed by our very dear Gautam-da in 2019)