Mon, 25 January 2021
BTM caught up with P.V.Radhakrishna Pillai, the President of the famed Bahrain KeraleeyaSamajam (BKS).
Who founded the BKS and why?
The BKS was founded in 1947 by early expatriates, at the time when oil was struck here. Keralites have a mindset of taking their culture with them wherever they go. The association was formed to enact a popular play of that time, and since then BKS has been the only club that stages at least 15-20 plays a year. It is our main cultural activity. As a society, we are culturally vibrant and today, we have 2000 members.
Could you outline your association with BKS?
I came to Bahrain in 1992 as an engineer with the Electricity and Water Authority. I have always been very socially and culturally active. In 2000, I took over as General Secretary of the BKS. We had a small space in Gudaibiya, which was a challenge. We wished to have a suitable space of our own, but we had many hurdles to cross, including not having a single penny in our coiffeurs. I was the chairman of the Indian School Bahrain at the time, and along with the help of my friends, travelled to meet Indian businessmen across the Gulf to gather funds for this new premises for the BKS. Finally, we could lease this land and build the structure in 2008. This is how a community can come together to create something from nothing.
What are the facilities at the BKS premises?
Our auditorium seats 2000 people, in addition to the five smaller halls. We also have six wooden sports courts.
Which of your philanthropic projects are you most proud of?
We have started a community project; building houses for the needy in Kerala and have handed over 26 homes so far. We are the only club with an annual budget set aside for charity work.
How has the organisation helped in times of Covid-19?
When a member passes away, we give the family BD 5000. In addition, we have paved the way to arrange for 29 flights for repatriation and given away 400 free tickets. BKS has also distributed 10,000 kgs of food rations to the needy. All this is made possible by voluntary member contributions and the support of our dedicated volunteers, which truly reflects the spirit of the Malayalee community. Small things make a big difference.
Why do you think it is important for an association like the BKS to exist, from a cultural and social point of view?
1600 children come here to learn Malayalam twice a week and 300 members play badminton, amongst other social activities. It helps to instill pride in their history and heritage. We celebrate Onam for 10 days, and cook food for 5000 people, while Christmas and Eid are marked with cultural programmes. Also, we are secular club, Keralites of all religions are welcome.
We are extremely grateful to be able to feel free to observe and celebrate our culture and traditions.
What are the most notable moments for you: personally and for the club?
Our association is recognised by the Government of India. I have been awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award in 2012, purely for the services rendered to the community; the construction of this building being one of them.
I have learnt that when you help someone in need, his gratitude is boundless.