It is with a heavy heart that we at Rotary News are bringing out this issue of the magazine, which has on the cover the picture of a remarkable Rotarian, and an even more remarkable human being — past RI director Sushil Gupta, who is no longer with us. The man who did reach the pinnacle of Rotary International by getting nominated as the RI President for 2020–21, but had to step down because of ill-health, was a multifaceted and fascinating personality. Observing his humility, and simplicity, you could never imagine that he was one of the biggest hoteliers of India, and had such powerful political and industry connections, that for getting nods and permissions from the government to do community service projects that involved, say a railway station, a government hospital or any other government entity, where our babus, seated on high perches, would act all high and mighty, Gupta would skillfully nudge open a door.
Playing golf, at the Delhi Golf Club, was his passion. In one of his interviews to me, he had chuckled that many of his golf buddies were drawn from government ranks and when Rotary’s intent of doing good to the community was properly explained, they would quickly “open doors for us”. A gentleman to the core, and a gallant one at that, his sense of humour was another endearing quality. His laughter was hearty and his genial and generous hospitality, as he hosted you a meal at his hotel or home, was legendary. As his chefs danced attention on you at his hotel, you felt like a queen!
My colleague Jaishree knows how elephantine was his memory and meticulous his follow-up. A passionate Wash in Schools warrior, his penchant for water conservation and augmentation was well-known throughout the Rotary world, and hence he was chosen as the first global chair of WinS when the programme was introduced. After she had covered a Rotary WinS project in a rural Karnataka school, where a bright-eyed school girl had emerged as a champion of every home in the village building a toilet, as the Rotarians were leaving, she requested them to provide a laptop for the school. A promise was made, and was reported in Rotary News. Gupta read it, stored it in his memory and would periodically call Jaishree and the club officers to find out if the laptop had indeed been gifted to the school as promised. His calls never stopped, till the laptop had been given!
That was the kind of sincerity and attention to detail that Gupta brought into his Rotary service. No project was too small for the man, who always thought out-of-the-box, dreamt big and accomplished big. More important, he believed that when a promise is made, even though it might be only to an inconsequential, unknown schoolgirl in a village, it has to be honoured. Tells you so much about the man.
Sushilji, you will be missed by the entire Rotary world; you were a true dyed-in-the-wool Rotarian, and did much more than just mouthing Rotary’s core values.