My ambition, after graduation, was to earn money and become rich. During those initial years as a Rotarian, I was aloof and non-committal,” said RI Director C Basker, speaking at Anantham, the two-day district conference of RID 3000. He added that, much against his wishes, he was inducted into Rotary in 1988 by his father V N Chockalingam, an industrialist known for doing charitable work. “He said, only in good company, you can develop trusted friendship which will enable you to hone wholesome habits and culture that will lay the foundation for success in your life.” His words came true as “Rotary has made me what I am today and now I advise my friends and business partners to join the organisation.”
But, he cautioned, it is not enough to be a Rotarian, “you have to take part in club meetings, give your ideas and participate in community projects.”
James Bond of philanthropy
He referred to the Irish American businessman Chuck Feeney who donated over $8 billion to various charities. When asked the reason behind such vast donations, almost writing off his entire property, Feeney said, “People are born naked and finally die alone. No one can carry the wealth and reputation that he himself has been striving for a lifetime.”
“We have such parallels in Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and our very own Rtn Ravishankar,” said Basker. Leading a frugal life, Feeney lives with his wife in a modest rented apartment in San Francisco. He is also nicknamed James Bond of philanthropy.
It is not enough to be a Rotarian. You have to take part in club meetings, give your ideas and participate in community projects.
— RI Director C Basker
The RI Director noted that in the last five years, RID 3000, his home district, has scaled great heights in TRF giving and membership in Zone-5.
PDG R Theenachandran and spouse Vasanthi donated ₹1.25 crore to TRF. They are the district’s second AKS couple, the first being PDG M Muruganandham and Sumathi. He was inspired to do so after reading the RID’s message in Rotary News on how one can convert one’s money into punya and continue to be wealthy even after death.
PDG Pramod Kumar, RID 3120, the RI President’s Representative at the conference, urged the delegates to “look for inspiration within your society and even in your homes. There are many inspiring role models in Tamil Nadu.”
Guest speaker Justice R Mahadevan of the Madras High Court lauded Rotary’s steady growth over the years. He noted Rotary’s prime role in the formation of the UNESCO in 1942, and how, after the World War-II, Rotary expanded far and wide with its Rotaract, Interact and the Polio-Plus campaign.
DG RVN Kannan pledged to set new records in all growth parameters in the remaining six months. He revised the district’s TRF contribution goal for the year from $1.65 million to $2 million, inspired by a panel discussion among PDGs P Gopalakrishnan, M Muruganandham and himself. He presented a cheque of ₹7 lakh for the Polio Fund.
Speaking on the ‘Power of networking’, IPDG Manzoor R Massey, RID 5330, from California, US, cited a global grant project implemented by RID 3000, where 15 tailoring centres have been established, in partnership with RC San Bernardino Crossroads, his home club, under Project WEEP (Women Education and Employment Programme).
Gopalakrishnan said that “out of all India CSR funds of $900,000 last year, our district has secured $340,000, more than one-third of the national figure. With corporates like Karur Vysya Bank, TVS Sri Chakra, JVS Exports and Cauvery Medicals setting up dialysis centres, medical facilities and adopting villages, we had a promising start.”
If you keep money that is more than your need, it turns into poison.
— D Ravishankar, President, RC Bangalore Orchards, RID 3190
Instead of giving Term Gifts and Endowment Funds, Rotarians can invest in the Annual Programme Fund (APF), suggested Muruganandhan. “After three years, while half the amount will be returned, with our global partner, we can access TRF funds which will help to expand our projects,” he added, and contributed ₹10 lakh to the Foundation, taking his total donation to ₹2 crore.
While RC Theni Metro gave a Term Gift of $32,000, all the clubs in Theni jointly contributed $100,000 to TRF. RC Tiruchi Diamond City auctioned eight colourful, framed paintings and the proceeds went to the Foundation.
RI Director Datto Siva Ananthan from RID 3300, Kuala Lumpur, also participated. Four Brazilian students, being hosted by Rotarian families under the Rotary Youth Exchange, performed a Samba dance.
DGE Zameer Pasha introduced his Team Royal at the event which had over 2,500 registrations.
Pictures by V Muthukumaran
While you are having Madurai idlis…
In an interactive session, RC Bangalore Orchards President D Ravishankar, who pledged ₹100 crore to TRF, shared some hilarious moments with his co-panellists,
DG Kannan and past district secretary Raja Govindaswamy. Some excerpts from the session:
Why did you choose TRF?
Can you suggest a better option?
Why did you join Rotary?
It is an escape from the torture of success. In those days, I was frequently pestered with questions and riddled with anxieties when real estate business was at its peak. I wanted to touch humanity through Rotary.
To whom do you owe your success?
The failure of the Government’s Control Raj policy is the main reason for my success. If you don’t find a right partner for life, simply don’t marry. Likewise, if you don’t find a right business partner, then be a single entrepreneur.
You have given 70 per cent of your wealth to TRF…
It is a cautious move as I don’t want to spoil my two daughters. If you keep money that is more than your need, it turns into poison.
But then why TRF? What made you to trust the Foundation so much?
If you drop cash or valuables in the Tirupati hundi, or contribute a huge sum in Mecca or the Vatican, you don’t have control over your offering.
If you give to the PM’s Relief Fund, orphanages, charitable institutes, or NGOs, you can’t be sure if the money reaches its goal. More than 50 per cent of NGOs in India are bogus.
If you deposit money in banks, then rest assured that Nirav Modis and Vijay Mallyas will siphon it off to foreign lands while, oblivious of it all, you will be having your favourite Madurai idlis in gay abandon.
Contrary to the perception in Rotary, I have written off around 85 per cent of my assets to charity in the will, and not 70 per cent as everybody thinks.
Why did you think of auctioning your Benz car?
Donating the auction proceeds of the car (worth ₹76 lakh) to TRF will help in many ways to educate the poor. Like the AIDS control and prevention school I had set up in Manipur-Myanmar border which has enrolled 500 children.
How has Rotary moulded you?
Rotary energises you and Rotarians have a pure heart. I advise them to take one step forward and donate generously. It has given direction and purpose to my life. I feel what I have done is quite normal, just giving back to society a bit of what it has given me in my life so far.