First Thoughts — November 2014


Rotary day at the White House!
Rotarians excel in service, thanks to their spouses
District Seminars and meetings galore
Participation soared in Chapter Four!


My dear partners in service,

November brings the smell of monsoon, feel of ­festivity, sight of lights … sound of laughter. Let’s add these to the touch of generosity that Rotary’s Foundation Month brings, and create a grand celebration of love and life!

No better examples can be cited than The Rotary Foundation (TRF) projects to define RI President Gary Huang’s theme this year — Light up Rotary.

Nearly 98 years ago the then RI President Arch Klumph had a vision. He nurtured it with passion, articulated it with conviction, matched it with action and drove it to fruition.

At the culmination of that vision lay the beginning of TRF, which today stands as a testimony to Rotary’s spirit of service and concerns and commitment to the entire world.

In his address at the 1917 convention of the International Association of Rotary Clubs, President Arch Klumph called the attention of the organisation to the possibility of a future endowment fund “for the purpose of doing good in the world, in charitable, educational or other avenues.” If Klumph were alive today he would indeed be proud of the “endowment” he inspired.

From a humble beginning of $26.50, TRF has grown into a colossus, making its presence felt in millions of lives spread across numerous geographical regions. It deserves and is in need of all the help and support it can receive from each and every Rotarian. In this connection, the profound words of Kahlil Gibran spring to mind: “Beauty is that which loves to give — that which loves to give and not to receive.”

The Rotarians of the world have made a wonderful beginning towards this end by mastering the Art of Giving! “Rivers do not drink their own water, nor do trees eat their own fruit, nor do rain clouds eat the grains reared by them. The wealth of the noble is used solely for the benefit of others!” Even after accepting that giving is good and that one must learn to give, several questions need to be answered.

“From a humble ­beginning of $26.50, TRF has grown into a ­colossus, making  its presence felt  in millions of lives spread across numerous geographical regions.  It deserves and is in need of all the help and support it can receive from each and every Rotarian.”


Question 1: When should one give?

We all know the famous incident from Mahabharat: ­Yudhistira asks a beggar seeking alms to come the next day. Hearing this, Bheem rejoices that his brother ­Yudhistira has conquered death! For, he is sure that he will be around the next day to give. Yudhistira gets the message.

One does not know really whether one will be there tomorrow to give! The time to give, therefore, is now.


Question 2: How much to give?

One recalls the famous incident from history: Rana Pratap was reeling after defeat from the Moghals. He had lost his army, his wealth, and most important, hope and the will to fight. At that time, in his darkest hour, his trusted minister Bhama Shah came seeking him and placed his entire fortune at the disposal of Rana Pratap. With this Rana Pratap raised an army and lived to fight another day.

So the answer is: “Give as much as one can!”

Question 3: What to give?

It is not only money that can be given away. It can be a flower or service with a smile. It is not ‘how much,’ but ‘how’ one gives that really matters. When you give a smile to a stranger that may be the only good thing received by him in days and weeks!

You can give anything but you must give with all your heart!

One also needs answer to this question: Whom to give?   Obvious answer for Rotarians: Give to TRF.


Question 4: How to give?

On the manner of giving, please ensure the receiver does not feel humiliated, nor the giver feels proud by giving. In giving, follow the advice ‘Let not your left hand know what your right hand gives.’ Charity without publicity and fanfare is the highest form of charity. Give quietly!

While giving, let not the recipient feel small or humiliated. After all, what we give never really belonged to us. We come to this world with nothing and will go with nothing. The thing gifted was only with us for a temporary period. Why then take pride in giving away something which really did not belong to us? Give with grace and with a feeling of gratitude.


Question 5: What should one feel after giving?

We all know the story of Eklavya. When Dronacharya asked him for his right thumb as Guru Dakshina, he unhesitatingly cut off his thumb and presented it to his guru.

There is a little known sequel to this story. Eklavya was asked, when he was dying, whether he ever regretted the act of giving away his thumb. His reply has to be believed to be true. He said, “Yes, I regretted this only once in my life. It was when Pandavas were coming to kill ­Dronacharya who was broken-hearted on the false news of the death of his son, Ashwathama, and had stopped fighting. It was then that
I regretted the loss of my thumb. If the thumb was there, no one could have dared to hurt my Guru.”

The message is clear: Give and never regret giving!


Last Question: How much should we provide for our heirs?

Ask yourself: “Are we taking away from them the gift of work — a source of happiness?”

Investment guru Warren Buffett has the best answer: “Leave your kids with enough to do anything, but not enough to do nothing!”

I would conclude by saying: Let us learn the Art of Giving. Quoting Saint Kabir: “When the wealth in the house increases, when water fills a boat, throw them out (for good causes) with both hands!” This is the wise thing to do!

The RI board has recognised TRF as “Rotary’s major instrument for charitable work in its quest for international understanding and peace.”  It has also noted that the Foundation “does not get the priority it deserves among some clubs and individual Rotarians.”

This year, let each and every club in our zones help change this perception.

Many of us consider the gift of US $1,000 — which is recognised with a PHF certificate, pin and medallion, as generous and the end of our support to the Foundation. But the Paul Harris Fellow recognition should only be considered as our first serious commitment to TRF, rather than the last; a beginning and not the end.

Each year, we must make some contribution to TRF — not necessarily at the level of a PHF contribution. Every gift helps support the splendid TRF programmes … be it only $25, 50 or 100.

An annual gift would be a wonderful ongoing expression of our continued support to TRF, which is rated as one of the best run foundations by ‘Charity Navigator,’ an organisation that rates US NGOs.

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others,” said Martin Luthur King.

The Rotary Foundation has many befitting replies to this question. Its PolioPlus programme is a perfect example of selfless service.

This potent mix of money and man-hours combined with the magnificent leadership and direction provided by TRF has proved lethal for the polio-virus.

These past few months as I travelled all over our country, meeting Rotarians, visiting projects, and presiding over functions, I’ve realised that I was only a messenger — a spokesman, an insignificant person drawing significance from the organisation and the cause it represents.

However, this significant phase in my life has made me aware of my role in the continuity of Rotary and its pursuit of service ideals. Time is fleeting and so much more remains to be done. Let us take up the challenge and act in the living present.

We are not sure of sorrow
And joy was never sure
Today will die tomorrow
Time stoops to no man’s lure.
Let’s fill our present with action
And strengthen The Rotary Foundation
Let’s make our generous thoughts
Flow into beseeching hands and hearts!


Yours in Rotary,


P.T. Prabhakar
Rotary International (2013–15)

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