From the Times of India, "Old Secret Society Finds Future in Youth":
"Writer Dan Brown certainly created a flutter about Freemasons, but what's encouraging is that membership in India is growing while many other countries are losing members," says Balaram Biswakumar, neurologist and grand master, The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons (AF & AM) of India.
"While fiction has played a role in this, a lot of our new masons are youngsters who have access to the Internet and have read about Freemasons and their charitable activities," he says. Kumar attributes the growth in membership to the conservative approach of selection adopted by the masons. Most new entrants have a familial masonic link.
IT professional S Ramasubramanian, who was initiated into Lodge Ramprasad in the city in January 2010, says he had some idea about masonry as his paternal uncle and cousins were part of the society. "The rituals were a bit of a surprise," he adds.
"Having said that, I must confess there is nothing scary about them. Like every religion has certain symbolic rituals so does freemasonry," says Ramasubramanian, a manager with Cognizant. Lodge Ramprasad has around 188 members, 15 of whom are in their thirties.
Another 'brother',Harish Mohan, who joined freemasons at the age of 18 in 2003, has been a regular with his mother lodge, Om Vigneshwara. When he joined the freemasons 10 years ago, Om Vigneshwara's membership was 30. It has now doubled. Around 24 members of Om Vigneshwara are in the 20-40 age group. The entry age is 21, but it is relaxed to 18 for those whose fathers are members of lodges.
Mohan is associated with a project that provides solar power to villages across the country. He attributes the growth in membership to open sessions with families and the public at large by the Grand Lodge of India. "We are becoming more open. At Om Vigneshwara, we have two family meets every year," he says.
Masons get little time to learn about each other in the formal environs of the lodge, so members like Mahendra Jogani are trying to encourage social interaction through initiatives like the Freemasons Family Circle. The Freemasons Family Circle has 300 members in Chennai.
"This is an informal body, and is not affiliated to freemasonry. The whole objective is to provide a platform for family and social bonding," he says.
Thirty-nine-year-old Peeyush Sinha, also known as 'green mason', was drawn into the fold after hearing about the masons from friends abroad. The diamond trader joined the freemasons three months ago but says he has still not been exposed to all the rituals of the society.
"There were a lot of queries initially. They were clarified during the first two meetings. Discussions largely centre on societal change and it is very enriching," he says. Religion and politics are taboo subjects. Sinha belongs to Patel Fulchand Lodge, which has 30 members of whom he is the youngest.