A “daily wage worker” & AKS member!
On the day he was inducted into RC Panaji Midtown in 1999, the club had got a $15,000 TRF grant for operating on children with disabilities such as polio. “I was very impressed that TRF is doing this kind of work; it had then come out with this $26.5 AKS pin, and I got one on the spot!”
That was Vinay Raikar’s first contribution to TRF, and he hasn’t looked back since then. “As a gynaecologist, I am a daily wages person, and these three days (the Lakshya meet in Hyderabad where we chatted), I won’t get any wages.” His late wife, a gynaecologist, “had no problem with my giving money to TRF,” he says.
It is interesting to know how he became major donor; he gave $500 the first year and kept doing so every year, not knowing that he had to donate $10,000 to become a major donor. The third year, his club president was felicitated as a major donor and since he wasn’t present at the meeting to collect his rose, Raikar stepped in. “Jagdish Khanna from Mumbai was there and he asked me when are you becoming one; I said I will do it.”
He came home and shared his donation plans for the TRF with his wife, and “already having a loan of Rs 18 lakh to repay for the hospital I had built, I wondered where the money would come from and she said: ‘Don’t worry, everything will be done’.”
Exactly after 6 days, an LIC agent told him an insurance policy he had taken as a resident doctor was maturing and he’d get Rs 3.5 lakh. “At that time the US dollar was Rs 36, and without any hesitation I wrote out a cheque for the entire amount to TRF. My contention was I have outlived the policy which was meant for my children, and I had already taken 80G exemptions for the year, so why not give it to TRF?”
When he became the President of his club another of his LIC policies was maturing for around $15,000, which he again donated to TRF. “As I told you, I am only a daily wage worker and not very rich, and in my medical practice I’ve never turned away anybody for want of money,” he says.
Raiker, a former Rotaractor, has decided to become an AKS member this year; he has already donated $60,000 and needs to give an additional $190,000. “Every morning I tell god give me enough money to achieve this dream, and there is always money!”
This time around, the money will come from some stocks in Bharat Forge that his father had purchased in 1960, and which he has inherited along with his two brothers. “The money has grown and grown and the shares are worth Rs 1.7 crore. This is money that I did not earn and don’t need, so I will give it to the AKS in the name of my parents, creating three or four endowment funds in the names of my wife, uncle etc.”
The amount from the sale of his shares will be more than sufficient to make up the remaining $190,000 required to become an AKS member. “I am not going to use that money; it is like having diamonds in your house that you don’t use; they are just like stones!”
His priorities as Governor this year will be to ensure that his District contributions to TRF, which has never crossed $500,000, gets doubled. “I want to collect $1 million this year.” He is planning to bring out a few souvenirs to raise the bar. “We might even go up to $2.5 million; my teacher always said: ‘Aim for the sky, and you may fall on the trees!’”
Membership will be another thrust area in his district with 125 clubs and over 5,300 Rotarians, as also projects. He has already tied up with the Federation of the Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Societies of India, of which he is the Vice President for his region, for rendering service.
Serving the Public Health Centres in rural areas, spreading awareness about rabies and taking up the vaccination of dogs will be his other priorities.
Rotary runs in my veins
If you draw blood from my body, each drop will resonate with Rotary,” says this Interactor-turned-Rotaractor-turned-Rotarian with 35 years of Rotary experience. “Now I am 48,” he grins. I ask Sanjay Gupta why this huge attraction for Rotary and he gives a long list: Rotary has showed him life, how to conduct business, maintain relationships, make friends and more. His role model is PRIP Rajendra Saboo and is inspired by the dedication of RID Manoj Desai, too.
Gupta is passionate about girls education and runs a girls school founded by his father in 1969. Last year the district had constructed 170 toilet blocks in various schools, “all designed beautifully that I feel proud to visit these schools today,” says this father of one girl and two boys. This year too he wants to construct as many toilets.
For the TRF Centennial, he aims to raise $1 lakh, “although it is quite an uphill task as most of our District comprises rural regions of Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab.”
The district has 2,134 members and he is confident of bringing in 500 new Rotarians and increase Rotaract clubs to 50 from the present 32.
Service through Rotary has multiplying effect
When I comment about the number of doctors in the group of 2016-17 DGs, he smiles and says, “Oh yes, too many of us here!”
Kolvekar joined Rotary in 1988 after he was invited by a classmate. “I had just started my medical practice and he said this is a good service organisation and you must join.” Within two months he was made the project chair for a medical camp, and he never looked back. He became the club president in 1992 and participated in many cataract surgeries. “After the Bhuj earthquake, I joined a camp as a single anaesthesiologist and we did 88 surgeries in three days and though challenging, I handled all of them singlehandedly.”
So what did that experience teach him?
“That each member, each Rotarian can do a lot of good, if he/she just wishes to do it. It is a choice, which is in your hands.”
When asked what he enjoys the most about Rotary, Kolvekar says that a very good part of being a Rotarian is meeting so many different people who you would have otherwise not met at all. “But for me, the best part is that if you do service through Rotary, your efforts multiply. If you do service on your own, as an individual, you can touch 10 people. But if you do it through Rotary you can touch 100,000 people. That is the power and magic of Rotary. And as a doctor, this is a perfect fit for me.”
His favourite hobby is to “work out, and remain physically fit. Thanks to attending too many Rotary meetings, my tummy has come out. But seriously, I like to write, and have written many Rotary books.”
His priority this year in the District, a new one with 70 clubs and around 2,800 members, will be to reach the maximum number of people and “change the mindset of many people who see Rotary only as a lunch and dinner club. I want to show them through direct exposure what thousands of beneficiaries have received from Rotary. That, I believe, is much better than our telling them what Rotary does for people.”
Also, underlining the importance of documentation, he adds, “I have told all my presidents that when you do projects, take pictures of the beneficiaries when the work starts and go back and take pictures again after six months, to show how their lives have changed.”
Healthcare is his priority
He owes his leadership skills to 30 years of his Rotary membership. “Rotary has strengthened me and made me more vibrant,” says Vijayakumar, whose District theme is ‘Vibrant Rotary.’ He has served as president of IMA and vice president of the Commonwealth Medical Association.
His plans for the year include mega cancer detection camps, marathon for health awareness and a cardiac wellness camp for the Rotarians. “We do not take care of our health. Just last year four of our members died of cardiac arrest,” says the doctor.
He wants to start Rotary clubs in areas where it is not present and bring back past Rotarians. As his District is a coastal region, there is very little awareness about Rotary and he is keen on enhancing its public image.
On the TRF front, he aims to double last year’s contribution.
“Every moment is unforgettable,” says Vijayakumar, when asked to recount a memorable Rotary moment.
He wants to attract Rotaractors
I simply loved my Rotaract days; I received several awards and made a lot of friends,” says this Governor whose connect with Rotary began as Rotaractor in 1986 and Rotarian since 1994. His most unforgettable moment was a bike ride from Ahmednagar to Nepal as a Rotaractor. “It showed me the greatness of Rotary and was an opportunity to grow, and meet wonderful people,” he says.
His being a water-starved region, he is urging clubs to take up water conservation projects on a large scale. He wants to improve the literacy rate by installing 100 libraries and 150 e-learning centres. He has proposed to organise RYLA programmes and mega medical camps in various parts of his District in March.
Parikh is excited about the mobile app that updates the district website with the total number of projects, beneficiaries, expenses incurred and gives credits to the best performing clubs. He is happy that the app, ideated by him, won appreciations from RIDE C Basker.
For the Centennial, he hopes to contribute $3 lakh to TRF. “We collected $40,000 during my installation when PRID Shekhar Mehta was the chief guest,” he says. A sealed donation box has been given to each Rotarian which is to be returned to the District on June 15 next year. The money collected will be sent to the Foundation in the individual Rotarians’ name.
He plans to increase the number of Rotaract clubs to 60 from the present 28, with every club sponsoring 1 Rotaract and 2 Interact clubs. He has inducted 250 new members so far and chartered 2 new clubs. “I don’t want to spell out the final figure, but you can expect a miracle,” he confides.
Rotary has taught me patience
In the 1990s, he used to do a lot of polio corrective surgery, and his chartered accountant, a Rotarian, suggested that he join Rotary.
“When I asked why, he said anyway you are doing polio corrective surgery and in Rotary you’ll get a much bigger platform for your work.”
Ravi Mehra joined Rotary in 1994 and very soon got hooked; “and now it has become my passion. Rotary has transformed me totally. I used to be so angry, but Rotary changed my behaviour and has taught me patience. Not only patience, Rotary also teaches you how to listen to others, and when, and when not, to answer them.” His wife, Kanwal Mehra, also holds a leadership position in Inner Wheel.
Mehra’s district has 109 clubs and his priorities this year will be to strengthen the clubs. “This is a big need of my district and of course this being the Foundation’s Centennial, I will concentrate on giving and also in enhancing Rotary’s public image.”
Coming to projects, the DG says his District has “suffered a lot due to deforestation, as it has attracted many natural calamities. So I have talked to many corporates and we are going to plant tens of thousands of trees. I will co-opt not only all the Rotarians in my district in the afforestation drive, but also school children.”