One of the most satisfying projects that I have seen in my Rotary Club has been the Vocational Loan Scholarship Scheme. It has changed the lives and fortunes of many in a way that neither they nor we had visualised. The Scheme was conceived and launched in 1994 by one of the Past Presidents, Subhashis Bhattachary, soon after he became the President. During the last sixteen years it has worked very well for us and for the loan scholars.
I have had my interactions with the loan scholars. One event where they were brought together was documented by Subhashis himself. I reproduce it below, not merely because I figure in it but for the touching words of a scholar that moved many of us.
“As you all know the first get together of the Rotary Club of Bombay west Scholars was organised at Sheila Raheja hall on 17th September. The Committee under Chairman PP Girish Mathur asked our PPP K.C.R.Raja to make a presentation on Self development. Raja in his brilliant and masterly film based discussion explained to the eager young listeners in the audience why it was so necessary in life to have a vision for oneself. Present in the audience was Krishna Iyer –one of our early Scholars from the years 94-95 &95-96, a fine example of how just having a vision and pursuing it with single-minded tenacity can propel oneself to great heights of achievement.
Krishna is the only son of a typist, working in a small job typing shop, the likes of which you must have seen often near the railway stations, courts and Xerox shops. He earned a mere Rs.1700/p.m. after toiling for 12 hours a day -6 days a week. But that did not deter young Krishna to have a vision for himself and his family. He was always in the top 20% of his class and scored 80% in SSC and 70% in HSC exams. He missed a first class in B.Com by a few marks. He has always been very creative and had a flair for languages. His vision was to excel in the field of advertising. Through sheer hard work and extraordinary confidence in himself, he secured admission in the prestigious Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies for a Post Graduate Diploma in Advertising and Marketing in 1994. The tuition fee alone for the two-year course was Rs. 36,000/-.The gusty lad borrowed money from friends and classmates and paid the fees for the first semester. But there was no way his friends could help him with such a large amount required for the next 3 semesters. One of his class-mate’s mothers knew that I was in Rotary and called me up to help. By this time our Loan Scholarship Project had already started thanks to a generous donation of our PP Dr Gordhanbhai Patel. Our Club paid to NMIMS Krishna’s fees for the next three semesters. He kept his part of the bargain by graduating with a First Class and landing a job with the leading agency Clarion Advertising Services. Within two months he was back in one of our regular meetings and presented the then Pres K.C.R.Raja an entire cheque book of 20 post dated monthly cheques of Rs.1000/-. Each being his repayment in full of the Loan Scholarship. Today, he is a Supervisor Copywriter with a leading advertising agency in Mumbai, well on his way to a promising future.
During the get together of 17th Sept, PP Raja had narrated the well known story of a boy standing on a beach during the low tide, picking up star fish washed ashore and throwing them back into the water. When someone asked him what difference would it make as every day hundreds of thousands of starfish were washed ashore and died on thousands of miles of beaches around the world , the boy quietly picked up the next fish , threw it into the water and said “It made a difference to that one.” Later in the programme, PP Girish Mathur asked all the Scholars to introduce themselves. When Krishna’s turn came, after a brief account of his past, he just said “I am one of the starfish that Rotary Club of Bombay West threw back into the water.” There could be no better way than this one sentence which echoed the feelings of the scholars, who have been assisted by our Club”. This was some years ago. Krishna has moved to a senior position in an advertising agency. The Club has had more donations from members to augment the scholarship fund.. By September 2010, the Club had disbursed altogether Rs.70 lakhs to over 450 scholars. There is a revolving fund of Rs 45 lakhs worth a recovery rate of over 98% .
As Subhashis says “There are many more starfish on the beach. My dear fellow Rotarians let us all join hands to throw them back into the sea.”