In Mumbai, no dream is too big. And District 3141 proved this in its DisCon titled Pratham. When DG Gopal Mandhania sent me a video a day or two prior to the conference saying the Badshah of Bollywood Shahrukh Khan will attend, I couldn’t even be too sceptical. Because yeh toh Mumbai hei bhaiya, yaha toh kuch bhi ho sakta hei! (This is Mumbai and anything can happen here.)
And lo and behold, the Khan of DDLJ fame actually turned up for the Archana Kocchar show, wearing a dapper bandh gala designed by her. As the audience, particularly the women, went wild, and shouts of “Shahrukh, marry me” rang out, SRK took the entire frenzy in his stride, and complimented D 3141 for the great work it was doing in carrying out paediatric surgeries for underprivileged children.
The paediatric surgeries that you are doing are commendable. I’m extremely fortunate that all of you insisted that I be here, so here I am.”
— Shahrukh Khan
And then he played along: “I would speak a little more but I’ve got a few marriage proposals here tonight… this is just a joke so hope nobody will pull it out of context. Matters of the heart I believe in, so the paediatric surgeries that you are doing are commendable. I’m just extremely fortunate that all of you insisted that I be here, so here I am.”
He said he was returning to shooting after that; DG Gopal Mandhania announced that thanks to Shahrukh’s presence, the District had raised Rs 40 lakh for its Little Hearts project to do cardiac surgery on poor children. Rotarians Sanjay Jalan, Rajendra Agarwal, Arjun Munda and Ratan Podar had contributed large sums to raise this money. “And more than 100 children will be operated upon thanks to the sheer presence here of the Badshah of Bollywood,” he said. A book of poems written by Aria Fafat — Reflections — was acknowledged by Khan.
Earlier, Chairperson of the Aditya Birla Foundation Rajashree Birla unveiled a statue of Paul Harris, and honoured the families of the jawans who had recently been martyred in terrorist attacks. She was also felicitated by PRID Ashok Mahajan for her generous donations to TRF.
At the Archana Kocchar show, apart from SRK, Alia Bhatt also walked the ramp in the stunning fashion show put together by the fashion designer. The next day, in a session titled ‘Sanjay Dutt Unplugged’ the Khalnayak of Bollywood had a candid chat with Rtn Gursahani on his days in prison, and what he had learnt from it.
One thing he had practised in his life was “never give in; whatever happens, you have to stand up,” said Dutt. His life had been a roller coaster ride; his case lasted for 25 years, and for over 20 years during the case, “I was branded a terrorist which I am not. I am a patriot and I love my country, its people, I’ll die for my country. I can go to the borders and be with the jawans and fight for my country,” he said.
A day in the jail is nothing exciting, but agar kisiko weight loss karna hei to unhey Jindal farm pe jaake, paisa kharch karkey, bhaji-poori khaney ki zaroorat nahi hei. The best place is jail.
— Sanjay Dutt
But he did face the case, and “didn’t run from the law, I made a mistake and I said I’ll serve my sentence.”
Asked to describe a “day in the jail, he said, a “day in the jail is nothing exciting yaar, but agar is audience mei kisiko weight loss karna hei to unhey Jindal farm pe jaake, paisa kharch karkey, bhaji-poori khaney ki zaroorat nahi hei. (For weight loss you don’t have to go to the Jindal farm, spend money and eat greens), the best way to lose weight is the jail.” And here, you didn’t need to throw out the flies from the dhal, because they provided a valuable source of protein, he said amidst laughter.
Another interesting session moderated by ace film director Govind Nihalani was ‘Films, TV and us’. Other celebrities who spoke at the conference were Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, Suhel Seth and Kapil Sibal. But the one speaker who was clearly the darling of the conference, and who touched every heart was Paralympian Deepa Malik, who described her story of sheer grit, determination and willpower that had helped her battle over the years the creeping disability that finally landed her in a wheelchair.
But she braved every odd to finally represent India in the Rio Paralympics where she created history by becoming the first Indian woman to get a Paralymics medal. She got a silver in a shot put event in September 2016. Her story is too inspiring to be dismissed in a couple of paras and will be told in detail in a later issue of Rotary News. But the one sentence that floored the audience was the one sentence she uttered while describing how she went for a major surgery and could only talk on the phone to her husband who was in the Indian army and fighting the Kargil war, and hence couldn’t be there in Delhi. “He said it’s okay if you lose your legs; I’ll carry you in my arms for the rest of my life. But please don’t die on me!”
A judicious mix of fun, frolic and entertainment, and some serious and heart-stirring speeches, defined the D 3141 DisCon. What made it a tremendous success could be seen from the way DG Madhania kept giving credit to his team members and inviting large groups of people on the stage to acknowledge the hard work they had put into a particular session. Rotary News too got a few awards for the hard work its team has put into making it an interesting and relevant magazine!