Dhru & Gul Bhagwanani Indian Senior Center A New Path for Pittsburgh’s Indian Community

By P. J. Gursahaney, Wexford, PA

Editor’s Note: P.J.Gursahaney, a retired executive at Electrolux International, has been active in the Indian community. He and twelve other families were actively involved in 1980 to open the first Sunday school in Pittsburgh to teach our kids Hindi and expose them to the Indian culture.

On Friday, November 15 last year the Bhagwanani Indian Senior Center was inaugurated in Monroeville, providing a new beginning for Pittsburgh’s Indian senior citizens. The center is located at 3946 on Business Rt 22 in Monroeville, right behind the Sheetz Gas Station. The center has an inspiring beginning.

The Bhagwanani India Center is housed in this building.

Dhrupadi and Gul Bhagwanani, residents of O’Hara Township, were low-key and well-known to many in the Indian Diaspora. They participated in many social, cultural and religious events organized here. People would have have seen them in the Hindu-Jain Temple, the Gurudwara, the S.V. Temple, and in the Ramakrishna and Chinmaya Missions’ lectures.
Both Dhrupadi and Gul were “children of Partition.” They reached India in 1947 with their parents, as refugees from Pakistan, during the violent and badly managed Partition of India by the British. Partition uprooted the lives of millions and forced them to re-start from scratch. (Read Juginder Luthra’s story on Mataji’s Kitchen in this issue). Growing up in India, Dhrupadi went to medical school and Gul earned his accountant degree in India. They arrived in Pittsburgh in the ‘70s via Canada — Dhrupadi as a radiologist at West Penn and Gul aa a CPA.

The Bhagwananis passed away in 2012 — he in February, and she in April, just two months apart. They had no children. In their later years they felt lonely and experienced the need for a senior center where seniors can meet and socially interact with each other. Before their deaths, in early 2012, they formed a tax-exempt entity, naming it “Dhru Gul Bhagwanani Pittsburgh Indian Senior Center,” approved by the government under section 501(C)-3 of the Internal Revenue code effective Feb 3, 2012, with a tax Id # 45-4528943.

Subsequent to their deaths, the Orphans Court of Allegheny County took control of their significant estate to distribute their assets according to their will, with Jamnadas (Jay) Thakkar as the Executor. The court decided on the Dhru Gul Bhagwanani Pittsburgh Senior Center in June 2014, appointing Thakkar as the Executor or Trustee, stating that Thakkar “shall receive no compensation for this service,” which he was happy to do for his friends, the Bhagwananis.

In 2016, upon the recommendation of Thakkar, the court gave approal for a two-member committee to form the board of trustees (to be selected from among the Indian organizations) for independently running the Bhagwanani Indian Senior Center. The groups identified for forming the board were members in the Hindu Jain Temple, the SV Temple, the Gurudwara, the Gujarati Samaj, the Jain Community, the Sindhi Community, the Punjabi community, North & South Indian communities, and the Indian Cultural Association of Pittsburgh.

The court in 2017 approved the bylaws for the organization and appointed the board members: Dr Radheshyam Agrawal as its president; and the assets to be managed by the treasurer Mr. P.J.Gursahaney. Other board members are Mr. Kishor Mehta (Secretary), Mr. Satish Jindal (Board Member). Other additional Advisory Board members: Mr. Rahul Joshi, Dr. Mohan Chabra, Mr. Prabhanand Yedla, Dr. Praful Desai, Dr. Datar Singh, Mr. Mahendra Shah & Mrs. Mira Shah.

The court order also stated that a) The Board is expected to develop appropriate programs for the use of incomes generated from the Bhagwanani estate funds & its investments, and b) The Senior Center shall also “file an annual report of its finance and activities with the office of Attorney General and shall make copies of the annual reports from financial institutions available for the office of the Attorney General.”
During the dedication ceremony on November 15, 2019, Dr. Radheshyam Agrawal acknowledged the Bhagwananis for their generosity, foresight and vision for having a senior center, even though they themselves did not see their dream fulfilled. He also acknowledge Jay Thakkar for getting this job done patiently and relentlessly working on this for several years. The center is geared to provide activities that result in better physical and emotiional/mental health.

Dr Mohan Chabra, while addressing the audience, said the mission of the Center is to add quality to our ageing years by providing recreational, educational, spiritual and wellness activities. There will be yoga and exercise activities and educational seminars on different topics, including health matters, taxes, and nutrition, Dr. Chabra said.

Currently, the center is open on Saturdays and Sundays between 11:30 am and 3:30 pm with access to cardiac exercise machines, with provisions for indoor games, karaoke, and movies. Also available are a lecture hall with a podium and chairs for PowerPoint/video presentations, a kitchenette facility, and an open room for yoga classes.

Anybody over 60 can attend the events for free at the center. As per the wishes of the Bhagwananis, the facility will be operated alcohol-free, smoke-free, and only vegetarian food will be served within the premises. Current phone number at the center is 412.837.4055. For additional details contact pittsburghisc@gmail.com or visit the website www.iscpittsburgh.org.

Pandit Suresh Chandra Joshi led the brief religious ceremony dedicating the place to the public.

For the present, the facility is on the first floor of the building. But when the leases end with the the current occupants of the ground floor, the Senior Center will be moved to the ground floor. END 


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