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20th Anniversary of the Trust

By George Piggott

Twenty years have slipped away almost unnoticed since the initial discussion and final establishment of the Phiroz Mehta Trust. The Trust was founded in 1988, arising from the wishes of a group of students associated with his work.

Subsequently, a committee meeting, chaired by the founder, the late Phiroz Mehta, our guide, took place at Phiroz’s house, ‘Dilkusha’, on the 23rd January 1988. Those present were Rosemary Monk, Michael Piggott and George Piggott. Robert Mehta and Stephen Marshall were unable to attend, but it was a foregone conclusion that they would be included as future Trustees when charitable status was finally secured.

A name for the Trust was sought, but after submissions and consideration it was decided the final name of the Trust would be agreed at a later date. Draft aims and objectives were agreed, including that the Trust should have an odd number of Trustees.

An important moment during the meeting was the offer by Rosemary Monk to house the tape recordings of the group talks, to hold future meetings there on a regular basis, plus a possibility to house some of the collection of valuable books.

The writer would like to reflect at this stage, to emphasise the fact, that without that commitment by Rosemary Monk, this article and the events relevant to the past 20 years may not have been possible.

Stephen Marshall, a partner in a firm of solicitors, and a selected Trustee, submitted the final stages of the Trust draft to the Charity Commission in November 1988. This was accepted by the Commission and the Trust was duly registered in late January 1989.

Once again we were fortunate to have the professional expertise of Stephen, and his time in negotiating this trickily worded legal documentation to a successful conclusion. The fact that there was no charge was another blessing.

Since that formation in a moment of time, the Trustees have always pursued a united policy, within the bounds of the original mandate. The aims and purpose of the Trust, as our deeply respected founder envisaged, have been strictly adhered to. This is paramount, encompassing all decisions.

Solutions, decisions, and final conclusions have not always been straightforward. Individual Trustees reserve the right to express their views according to their particular understanding at that moment in time. This has flowered into quiet, but sometimes lively debates and discussions, with the writer, as would be expected, ‘putting his foot in it’ on various occasions. But that was a foregone conclusion anyway – on being selected!

Over the years all meetings have been interlaced with spontaneous humour and laughter, a good balance to the serious nature of our projected purpose. Right attitude, tolerance, and a continuous harmonious atmosphere have never wavered. Perhaps this ‘spirit’ of Phiroz Mehta was there without our awareness.

Time and space do not allow the complete history of the Trust to be detailed. Suffice to say, we have had our ‘ups and downs’, like all similar organisations, in trying to promote the work of Phiroz Mehta to the general public.

Fortunately, in the latter years, advancing global technology in the computer world gave us the golden opportunity to fulfil our original obligations. Yet again, the Trust was in a unique position to take advantage of this phenomenon, by having Michael Piggott with his own computer company, Computer & Software Services Limited (CASS), situated in Sidcup, Kent. One of the main assets of his team was a young computer specialist, Tim Surtell, who was then working part-time whilst studying at the University of Greenwich. When opportunity allowed, they installed a system to store and reproduce the complete catalogue of Phiroz Mehta’s talks onto CDs, an enormous advance on audio tapes.

When the decision was taken to set up a Phiroz Mehta Trust website, Tim was able to express his flair and natural ability in this specialised field. He pursued this with great skill and enthusiasm to accomplish what is today our main attraction. Now, several years later having successfully gained his university degree, he has become a full-time website developer.

Since the closure of CASS, the Trust has engaged Tim Surtell to produce the Trust Newsletter and manage the website on a permanent basis, and it has undergone various improvements recently, not least in giving visitors the ability to listen to all of Phiroz’s talks online.

We, the Trustees, feel he does an excellent job and carries out these tasks with the best interests of the Trust at heart, and we appreciate his skill and dedication.

The Trust is fortunate in that each appointed Trustee is an asset in their own right, bringing their particular experience and skill to add potential to the team, with Robert Mehta, now Treasurer, keeping a keen eye on finances, and Bill Grice always on cue to provide the humour and help support the publishing of the Trust Newsletter.

Geoffrey Pullen has travelled widely especially in Asia and provides invaluable information when required. He has many contacts, which proved very useful when the Trust considered the need to expand in this ever-changing world, and to liaison with other organisations with similar interests, which may benefit all concerned, but at the same time, retain their individual independence.

During the latter part of 2008, letters were exchanged, preliminary meetings were arranged, and formal discussions took place to explore the possibilities of this new venture. At the time of writing, no plan has been specifically decided, and it will require further reflection and discussion and careful consideration by all members before any definite move in this direction is contemplated.

The object of the exercise of course is to broaden our horizon, and as caretakers, to offer to as many people as wish the opportunity to listen to or read the work of Phiroz, but to retain our place, be versatile, perhaps united in a common cause of compassion, with a collective vision in understanding the needs of humanity, of those drowning in a sea of suffering and chaos.

The alternative would be to remain small, independent, isolated, relying on the Internet to provide the bulk means of contact, other than the weekend meetings and summer schools, held annually.

Finally, the writer admits, the future of the Phiroz Mehta Trust is impossible to visualise or predict. The chapters completing this story will unfold only in the fullness of time.

On a personal note, accepting the request to write an article on the anniversary of the Phiroz Mehta Trust became a challenge, but it was a privilege to be asked. Whether it does justice to our late founder, a man respected by all who came into contact with him, whose scholarly attributes and wisdom seemed boundless, is a question beyond contemplation. But fingers are crossed!

The same applies to my fellow Trustees, whom one admires for their impartial but steadfast commitment to the original mandate. Their responsible attitude and integrity are beyond question, and as such it is not only a pleasure to be one of the team, but a blessing!

As pointed out already, an odd number was required to conform to the submitted draft. One hopes this demanding position was executed by the writer, by being present at all meetings, not getting in the way of the business in hand, or causing a disturbance!

To conclude, may we travel together, without assumptions, expectations, or inflated ideals, mindful, in quiet acceptance of As-Is, the reality free of illusion, with every intake of breath being in the presence of ‘NOW’.

Thank you for your time.

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