A little before the Jaipur Institute was being wrapped up, RI President K R Ravindran sprang a surprise. Briskly walking up to the podium, he made an announcement about the two senior Indian Rotary leaders he admired — Past RI Presidents Rajendra K Saboo and Kalyan Banerjee, “who have been striding this land and these zones really like lions.”
On behalf of RI and the RI President’s office, he presented them with crystals “we normally reserve for heads of States. I think these people are higher than any heads of States.”
Coming down from the stage to decorate them, he said, “Raja Saboo in my view is the tallest Rotarian; don’t go by his 5ft something height.” If at all he had a fault, it was preventing Ravindran from being “a billionaire. He pulled me out of my business to do all this Rotary stuff, otherwise I would have been a very rich man.” But he added, he was “richer in heart now.” Saboo was not only a principled man who walked his talk, even 25 years after his presidency, he continued to be active “when I am hoping to retire in June 2016. Imagine the kind of conviction he has for the work he does. Of course he is nothing without the good lady beside him, who I refer to as the Mother Teresa of Rotary — Usha Saboo.”
Ravindran revealed that a few years ago, when he was dining with both of them and Usha Saboo, his putting in his name for the RI presidency was discussed and they advised him to wait for a year. “She listened to them, and said: ‘Ravi, put your name in now, this year.’ And both these gentlemen kept quiet.” And of course, he won!
Man of vision
Kalyan Banerjee, said Ravindran, is a man of great vision. “He doesn’t speak much; I sit on the Board with him. When he leans forward, people listen. He has got a vision and an ability to empower people who want to work for him; he has done it in his company (United Phosphorous), and he has done in Rotary. (PRID) Shekhar Mehta works the way he does (in literacy) only because of Kalyan’s vision.”
An overwhelmed Saboo, cleared the lump in his throat and was able to say little beyond, “Thank you Ravi, this gift of friendship is truly a gift to the world. God bless you.”
Equally emotional, Banerjee added, “Well, Ravi said that I was a man of few words; today I have lost even those few words.” But this “amazing” honour made him even more proud at that moment to be a Rotarian from India and Asia, “as I stand with two of the giants of Rotary in our part of the world, and you are our strength.”