A season of heartbreaks and generosity

It’s been a season of heartbreaks, but also generosity and triumph of the human spirit. Let’s take the heartbreaks first from the FIFA World Cup or Russia 2018 to the iconic Wimbledon, where the king of tennis, Roger Federer was sensationally knocked out of the tournament, surrendering a two-sets lead and a match point to lose to the lanky South African Kevin Anderson. Till today Federer has never lost at Wimbledon having held a match point, but then the power of belief at the opponent’s end triumphed. Anderson said later, “I kept fighting and telling myself to keep believing. I said today is going to be my day.”

Whether Federer lost because he was playing “safe, stiff tennis, or his form had gone or his confidence or back,” as someone commented on Twitter, we will never know. Because while triumph is celebrated in public, failure is always reflected upon in private.

In Russia, so many stories unfolded… of triumph and heartbreaks. Football legends like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi let down their teams badly when their skill and expertise were needed the most. Both missed crucial penalty shots and the formidable Messi scored only one goal in the whole tournament. And the mighty Argentina as well as Brazil, Portugal and even Spain were knocked out at early stages. Messi is said to be considering retirement after his dismal performance.

But then greatness is made of a different mettle. Take Federer for instance. On May 3, 2016, a column titled “Why Roger Federer will never win another grand slam” in the UK daily The Telegraph made convincing arguments — age, knee and back injuries, more physical endurance levels from younger tennis players, etc — and concluded: “The most likely outcome before Federer retires is that he will end his career with 17 slams.” And yet, come January 2018, and we had a beaming Federer collecting his 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, where another Tennis legend Rod Laver shot a picture of him crying!

It is the absence of arrogance that makes Federer so endearing, and which abounds in Rotary too. Recently I interacted with a Rotarian who describes himself “a nobody and of less than average intelligence”. And that is D Ravishankar, President of the Rotary Club of Bangalore Orchards, who stunned the Rotary world by announcing a donation of ₹100 crore (about $14.7 million) for TRF. While DG Suresh Hari’s batchmates joke with him that forget his own District goal, this generosity has covered more than half of India’s TRF goal for this year, Ravishankar remains unfazed. Dismissing words such as philanthropy as “big words” and insisting that what he did is a “simply giving away my money to society which I consider my father who I had lost when I was in Class 4”, he describes the harsh conditions under which he grew up. And the myriad ways in which different people helped him — ranging from giving food to a starving kid to government clearances without bribes. Read his story in this issue and prepare yourself to be blown away by the humility of this man… who can, with just a snap of his finger, give away
₹100 crore to fulfil his dreams… to build schools, provide hygiene and health care for deprived children, not only in India but also an odd school in rural Pakistan “because we were all one people before the Partition divided us”.

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Rasheeda Bhagat

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