On the morning of March 28, the Rotary world rose shocked to hear that one of its shining stars PDG Rekha Shetty was no more. Unbelievable was the news but unfortunately it was true. The social media was overflowing with messages about Rekha, the ever-smiling, gracious, caring and thinking Rotarian. It was a big loss to Rotary in general and Rotary in India.
Rashi and I were heartbroken when we heard of Rekha’s passing. We knew Rekha and her husband Jai for the last 25 years when both of us were governors-elect in the same year. I vividly remember our first meeting in Calcutta when she had come to attend the GETS and the Rotary Institute in my own city and district. We became good friends and the bond strengthened over the years.
She was one of the stars of the “Two ow ow ow” crew of Capt Carlo Ravizza, the then RI President. She was brimming with ideas on how to make a difference in the world. She seemed to be a born leader taking up leadership positions very easily and doing full justice to them. It was very evident in the India batch of governors of 1999–2000 that Rekha was destined to travel far in the journey of service in Rotary.
Post her governorship, Rekha spread her wings in Rotary not just in the region but around the world, taking part in fellowships, Rotary Action Groups, regional leadership positions and membership on international committees. She was an extremely popular Rotarian nationally and internationally.
My own experience of working with her on the Asha Kiran programme of the Rotary India Literacy Mission was outstanding. As chairman, it was a programme very close to her heart and she left no stone unturned to ensure that thousands of children went back to school under the Asha Kiran programme. She went on to create the mascots for the Asha Kiran programme and launched them at the Chennai summit. Her leadership helped motivate Rotarians across India to ensure that more than 50,000 children have been sent back to school under this programme.
Similarly she was instrumental in implementing various projects that impacted the lives of many people in the community. Her efforts towards eradicating polio and promoting literacy were commendable.
Personally, Rashi and I had a great relationship with Rekha and Jai and found Rekha to be a very caring person. She was always coming up with great ideas on how to help people. She always wanted to do more. We had the pleasure of hosting her at our home during one of her visits and we were surprised to see how friendly she became with my mother who instantly took a liking for her. Rekha truly was a charmer. The tributes pouring in social media are a proof of the love Rotarians have for her.
In addition to her contributions to Rotary, Rekha was also an accomplished author. She wrote several books on leadership, management and personal effectiveness. Her books, including The Ultimate Competitive Advantage and The Happiness Quotient, were well-received by readers and helped many people lead a more fulfilling life.
Rekha was a dedicated Rotarian who embodied the ideals of Rotary in her personal and professional life. She leaves behind a legacy of service that will continue to inspire future generations. Her kindness, wisdom, and passion for making a difference will never be forgotten.
She will be dearly missed by her family, friends, colleagues, and the entire Rotary community. We extend our deepest condolences to her loved ones during this difficult time. May her soul rest in peace.
The writer is a past president of Rotary International