Addressing a gathering of India's Jamati institutional leaders last month, Princess Zahra spoke of the immense opportunities available in India, while noting that such windows of opportunity tend to close.
“Moments of rapid change and rapid growth tend to slow,” said Princess Zahra. She urged the Jamat to work together and take “the best advantage as quickly and as intelligently as possible, of this particular moment in India's history, in order to help us build, as a network, as a community, for our neighbours, institutions and programmes that will have a lasting impact.”
Princess Zahra, who was in Mumbai to review the ongoing expansion of the Prince Aly Khan Hospital in her capacity as Chair of the steering committee for its redevelopment, remarked that Mawlana Hazar Imam had given “guidance to build systems and programmes that will impact the entire Jamat and the wider community.”
She was welcomed to the dinner by a pair of young Ismaili achievers. Acclaimed music director duo Salim and Sulaiman performed a number of songs in her presence drawing applause from the crowd and a special mention in the Princess's speech.
In his remarks, Aitmadi Gulam Rahimtoola, President of the Ismaili Council for India, acknowledged Princess Zahra's leadership of the AKDN service company institutions – the Aga Khan Education Service and Aga Khan Health Service, as well as the Aga Khan Planning and Building Service. He described the impact and scale of these services in India, noting that the Education Service operates a network of schools, day care centres and a hostel, while the Health Service runs a 162-bed acute care hospital. These are complemented by services such as career counselling, health care insurance and health screening. The Aga Khan Planning and Building Service builds and directly manages hundreds of housing units and provides technical advisory and facilitation services that have benefited thousands. Together, the President noted, these institutions are making high quality, affordable education, health care and housing available to the Indian Jamat and the communities amongst whom they live.
“Princess Zahra has a keen insight into the issues of the constituency she has graciously taken responsibility for – be it women, youth or seniors,” said President Rahimtoola. “Her deeply perceptive outlook has resulted in projects as unique as the Learning Resource Centre, which is a hub for senior citizens and seeks to address boredom, lack of health care and loneliness and to foster self reliance.”
In redevelopment, whether of the hospital or of schools, Princess Zahra pointed out that “we should look in this phase of opportunity, at how this can percolate throughout the country, throughout our communities – urban or rural, rich or poor.”
Consideration should be given to “how we can build structures that will be resilient in time and will take advantage of this moment to springboard, to impact many generations to come,” she said.