Sunny’s autographed bat fetches ₹45 lakh!
After Sunny Gavaskar had completed his speech, he was requested to take a few balls from Rotarians including RI director Mahesh Kotbagi, and the Little Master gently tapped them towards the audience, the ball of course being a tennis ball.
As the audience burst into raptures seeing Gavaskar wield the willow once again, on a suggestion from RI President Jennifer Jones, PRIP Shekhar Mehta stepped onto the podium and requested the cricketer to autograph the bat which would then be auctioned. The terms: each bid would be in terms of the number of surgeries to be sponsored for children with congenital heart disease; each operation costing ₹1.3 lakh. There were a few spirited bids, which began with five surgeries, but the prized bat was taken home by Pawan Agarwal, DG of RI District 3110, pledging to support 35 surgeries (₹45.5 lakh).
Gavaskar, clearly overwhelmed by the elaborate introduction, awarding of the citation, Lifetime Achievement Award and other mementoes from senior Rotary leaders, said in a lighter vein:
“I came prepared for an overnight stay with a pretty small carry-on bag, but now with all the gifts that you have given me, I feel I should have come with a bigger case. But more than the case and the gifts, I am overwhelmed by the affection and love shown to me and all these honours conferred on me. Today, you’ve really made me feel very special.”
And this included “the terrific introduction that was given, because generally when I go to an event in India, the host or the MC generally gets away saying ‘Oh, Sunil needs no introduction.’ ”
An environment-friendly institute
Convenor of Visakha Vista and RI director Mahesh Kotbagi reiterated the need to pay special attention to Rotary’s latest area of focus — conserving the environment. “While planning and executing this institute Kishore (PDG Kishore Kumar) and I, and all the teams, gave special attention to the fact that this event should not create pollution, generate plastic waste etc. So you will find there are no hoardings or (plastic) banners, or plastic flags. Even the name badges were made out of cardboard and banners of cloth. This way, the generation of waste has been kept to a minimum.”
True to the spirit of an environmentally conscious institute, the planning was so thorough that even after the Run to Read event, where nearly 1,000 people participated, the residual litter on the roads through which the runners traversed were quickly cleaned by volunteers and municipal corporation workers. Kotbagi added that no programme booklets, “which go to the trash can after the event, were printed. Everything was available digitally.”
Colourful wooden bangles, goli soda
While the Vizag conference wowed the delegates with smart use of technology and a live band providing an appropriate musical intervention at the right moment, we noticed the small touches. For instance, institute chair PDG Kishore Kumar’s wife Shobha took care to get colourful wooden bangles crafted by artisans from a nearby village Etikoppaka, and even though tucked away in a corner stall in the exhibition/sales area, these turned out to be very popular for the women delegates. I could hear more than one, including my colleague Jaishree, ask if she could buy some more. “No madam; it’s free but only one per woman,” was the firm reply!
The goli soda available through the institute, was another great touch, and this time it was convenor Kotbagi himself, who needs to be thanked. He later told Rotary News: “When we were growing up, the goli soda used to be quite popular, so when I saw it somewhere during one of my visits, I told my team we must include these!” They were a big hit alright, as one could see several delegates walking around with those colourful bottles.
RI director Drew Kessler attended the Vizag institute with his wife and two sons — Jackson and Brandon — and very soon they became the cynosure of all eyes. No delegate would have missed the two well-behaved children, who sat quietly through most of the sessions. One believes they attended more sessions of Visakha Vista than most participants! Director Kotbagi rewarded them by calling them to the stage and presenting them with a model Ferrari, easily the dream car of any young man!