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Address of K C R Raja at the Life time Achievement Awards Function of the Rotary Club of Bombay West on Wednesday , 24 May at at Rotary Service Centre, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai Asha

Category : Featured

I am indeed grateful to you for conferring on me this prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award .

I recall that this award was instituted in 1966 and the first recipient was Mr Arvind Mafatlal . Since then distinguished achievers from within the Rotary and outside have received this award. The number is not very large .We have had Chaturbhujbhai, Mohanbhai, the seniormost Rotarian in this Club today , Ramesh Oza who has so singularly and nobly devoted himself to a great cause and Sukdev Puriji whose knowledge and wisdom have been as much at the service of his profession as at social causes. Little did I dream then I would one day be considered worthy of entry into this select band of awardees .

For some strange reason, my own perception of this award was that this award would go to persons who are old and have nearly completed a lifetime of achievement. I don’t know about Achievement but I am not old! Specially in the midst of Mohanbhai who calls me a bacha and Madhav Mohan who introduces me to young audiences as the youngest man around. I am only 85!

I guess, on an occasion like this, I have your permission to indulge in some pleasant , romanticised recollections. I remember the day in 1984 when my wife and I met with a near fatal accident . That was neither pleasant nor romantic! But That gave me a rebirth in two worlds- the world of Rotary and the world of education…….. I remember the day when my friend Godrej Dotiwala insisted that I should join Rotary. He then took the phone and rang up three persons- Vasu Chabria, Dinshaw Sorabjee and Vasant Kalbag. For some strange reason, all three agreed to sponsor me. A short write up about me landed in the hands of Vasant Kalbag and it was Vasant who sponsored me. I am thankful to Godrej that it was this Club that he had chosen for me and to Bombay West for accepting me. Because I have had the privilege of travelling through Rotary on the shoulders of giants, of great, great achievers. Of men like Mohanbhai , Sippy Rao, Dinshaw, Shashi Walawalakar, Anand Sachdev,Keki Hathi . There are others with whom I have spent long years- ShashiWalawalkar, Dr Bhargava, Suresh Jasani, Uday Chande, Tushar Shah, Subhashis Bhattacharya , Rajinder Ruia , Prakash Shah and Firoze Dorabshaw. I have a long list which would take much of your time and many columns in the Flying Carpet.How can I forget the long evenings I have spent with them on board meetings, on projects and memorable get togethers? I have also watched with admiration the work of a new generation of leaders right up to Shirish, Aslam and Harminder – a new cohesive, collaborative and creative leadership system that speaks of the culture of this Club!

I was indeed fortunate that my two worlds, Rotary and Career Education often converged and reinforced each other . In 1985, I moved, after 20 years in industry, to become the Director of the only institute that a university had set up- the Garware Institute -to offer design and deliver career education, to deliver employable skills at graduate and postgraduate levels.The next year, I became Director , Vocational Service in this club.

If the Garware Institute gave me professional skills in education management, Rotary gave me purpose and perspective. This was a unique experience – of training scores boys and girls who would otherwise have gone into a blind alley like thousands of conventional BAs and. B Coms. They were not MBA students: they did not even have the means to do a degree course in a good college. They were aspirants from relatively low income families- the son of a post man, of a painter or carpenter, the daughter of a taxi driver or of peon. They are today in positions of authority : running own travel agency, or working in a foreign bank, or as a journalist or TV interviewer. To them or their parents, life has never again been the same.

I must recount some precious moments .

I remember one evening when one of our alumni took me to the wedding of his friend, a past student, in Thane. On our way back he asked me whether I would drop in at his home. I did. I met his father, a retired postman who was sitting on a charpoy in a rented home. He was surprised to see me coming in unannounced. He apologised to me for no reason.The son had completed our course in Paint Application Technology two years ago and was working in the paint shop floor of a well-known company. He had been put in charge of the complete modernisation of the paint shop, including the selection, import and installation of new equipment. Only because he had given a complete project during his job training as part of our course. He was simultaneously taking on painting contracts , as he was while studying at our institute . The father thanked me because the son had earned enough to marry off his sister and buy a Maruti 800 which then cost Rs 80000.

I know of another student who passed out and was without a job; he did not wish to join his father’s business in Baroda, instead stayed on and did the painting job of a temple in Vile Parle free and as a result got enough business to start a company of his own.

We have such instances-several of them-of students spread far and wide, as far away as New Zealand, New York and Vancouver and as near as Vile Parle and Vashi.

In a sense, that institute had foreseen and fiercely advocated what is now being implemented as a new national effort to promote skills- Skills India with a National Skills Foundation, a public – private partnership, national occupational standards, competency based curriculum , assessment and certification standards, that will be nationally recognised. We had developed a model and wanted it to be replicated. We had even worked with CII who had written to the then Prime Minister who responded readily but action was painfully slow and not visible.The task is daunting 500 million jobs by 2022 but at least a beginning is in sight.

This was indeed one of the most satisfying periods of my life. Another started when one evening I had a call from Mohanbhai saying that Kalyan Banerjee wanted to meet me and before I could ask me why, he said ‘ Kalyan is on his way and will reach your house in another 15 minutes”. He did. We met for the first time to talk about a dream project of his, a Rotary Club sponsored management institute in Vapi. I had never heard of such a project sponsored by Rotary. Two days later, we went to Vapi to a few sites where the Institute could be located. Finally we landed in the evening, in what looked like a huge haunted house. Lying unused for more than ten years. It was getting dark and we had to take a quick tour. There were no lights, there were lizards, cobwebs and bats flying over our heads. In the far distance we saw a lantern being lit and a long beard, a shrivelled face, a ghostly figure that befitted the haunted house. It was the lone watchman. I could not run away but thought I should never come back.

It is that place that has been converted into a management institute by months and years of labour- we have travelled together in search of faculty, of a Director , of donors, of a good Governing Council.

It was an adventure that was both instructive and inspirational.

We were joined by some of the most brilliant minds I have met. I had with me Mr Madhav Mohan right from the start, one who never accepted anything we said without questioning and analysis and giving an alternative , we had Professor Jahar Saha , then Director , IIM Ahmedabad with whom came some IIM faculty , Professor Chakraborty of IIM Lucknow and distinguished industry leaders.
House- visiting faculty- Binota

Above all United Phosphorus and Rajjubhai Shroff to back us with generous donations. I am grateful to Kalyan for the opportunity I had to go to great institutions like Kellogg Business School, the Weather head School of Management of Case Western University , to management institutes in China and Korea to learn of their educational system, curriculum design and development, teaching methods and educational administration.. I am particularly happy that this award is being given to me by Kalyan.

Finally, if I am old enough to settle in a retirement community in Bangalore, I am still young enough to learn painting and to register for on line courses of the universities of California and Yale. I am grateful to you for your good wishes. I do hope that this brief candle will remain lighted for a few more years without having to face storm or thundershowers.

Thank you very much indeed.

Precious Moments

Category : Non Profits

I would like to share  a story I heard the other day. It is about a young man who received a brand new car as a New Year gift from his elder brother. As he brought  the car out and parked it near a municipal school, an eight year old boy came up, looked at the car and. as if under a spell, said ‘How beautiful!’. And he asked “Sir, may I touch it?’. Partly amused and certainly pleased, the owner said ‘Go ahead’. The boy then asked him what he had paid for the car. ‘Nothing, the owner said.’ ‘It is a gift from my brother.’ → Continue