Cynosure of all eyes
The one person who was the cynosure of all eyes at the KL Institute was Binota Banerjee, the spouse of Past RI President Kalyan Banerjee. Having undergone some trying times after her second kidney transplant, and due to a complication, which Banerjee said was unrelated to the transplant itself, she was returning to a major Rotary event after four years. The manner in which she was literally mobbed, with Rotarians swirling around her, clicking pictures with her, taking selfies and fussing over her, it was obvious what her husband meant when he said: “But then Binota has always held her own in the Rotary world!”
Binota is alright now; she has lost some of her weight, but none of her chutzpah!
— Past RI President Kalyan Banerjee
Addressing The Rotaray Foundation seminar, a beaming Banerjee, thanking RI Director C Basker for the special welcome he had arranged the previous evening when the couple arrived, added: “She is alright now; she has lost some of her weight, but none of her chutzpah!”
Sound of drums… but not distant!
Making a subtle reference to music in our part of the world, particularly at public meetings, being louder than of an acceptable decibel level in the developed world, RI President Ian Riseley said in a lighter vein that he was “totally relaxed” about delivering his inaugural speech at the KL Institute. Referring to the VIP procession that made its way to the hall, accompanied by the heavy beat of booming drums, he said, “I loved the drums on the way in, my ears are just about recovering. But I am totally relaxed knowing that thanks to the sound we heard just now, you can’t hear me anyway, so it doesn’t matter!”
Who said anything about being fair!
One of the most memorable sessions of the KL Institute was “Frankly Speaking”, in which PRIP and TRF Trustee K R Ravindran grilled senior Rotary leaders such as RI President Ian Riseley, Trustee Chair Paul Netzel, PRIPs Rajendra Saboo and Kalyan Banerjee on some no-holds-barred issues. In his usual peppy form, as the session was nearing its end, he asked RI Director C Basker if he could take another 15 minutes, found him missing from the hall and quipped, “Basker’s run out of town, so we will take that time!”
And the next question went to Saboo, whose views against conferences such as PETS/SETS and Zone Institutes being held in faraway, exotic places, are well known. Asked Ravindran: “Raja, you have strong views on PETS etc being conducted out of town. I strongly disagree. But having this Institute in Malaysia… isn’t it a lot cheaper than having it in one of the Indian metros?”
Saboo: “Ravi, this is unfair. Sitting here in Kuala Lumpur and enjoying the Institute, you are asking ME whether this is right or not!”
Ravindran: “Who said anything about being fair?”
(Saboo’s detailed response in the article Frankly Speaking)
The two laggards
As the GETS sessions were in the concluding phase, and it was time for feedback from some of the DGEs, one of them came to the podium and said: “Everything was good at GETS… but maybe one or two presenters/trainers were on the weak side. Had those sessions been held after lunch, we could have taken a nap. Otherwise, the training sessions were wonderful.”
You are comparing Raja with the Taj Mahal… one is a cold monument, beautiful to look at, but visitors visit it to remember somebody who is dead. I am not THAT past!
— Past RI President Rajendra Saboo
To which the GETS Chairman PDG Sam Movva, who came up to the stage next, said wryly and with a straight face: “I know one of them was me that he was referring to. I wonder who was the other.”
Later, when it was time for RI Director C Basker to sum up the GETS sessions, he said, amidst much laughter, “Maybe I am the second fellow, as I was in the morning session. You have identified the two right persons.”
I am not THAT past
Just before PRIP Rajendra K Saboo delivered his address at a GETS session titled “Ignite the leader in you”, PDG Anil Agarwal, while introducing him recalled how one Rotarian had said: “We do not have two things in our RI district; the Taj Mahal and Raja Saboo.”
Beginning his address, Saboo said: “About your comparison of Raja (Saboo) with the Taj Mahal…well, one is a cold monument, and beautiful to look at… and visitors go and see that monument, which is to remember somebody who is dead.
I am not THAT past… but thank you Anil for that wonderful introduction.”
“Also, mine is supposed to be an inspirational speech. But I wonder how can the past, a long past, inspire the future? In fact, on the other hand, my interaction with you (DGEs) should leave me inspired!”
Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat