Take out your SUVs, travel to villages

How well this governor had prepared for his crucial year at the helm of District 3012 was amply evident at the installation ceremony of Deepak Gupta. The pomp and show, the music and dance, the glamour and glitter associated with a DG’s installation in an Indian Rotary district were all present of course.

DG Deepak Gupta (R) with RC Bangalore Orchards past president D Ravishankar and Paola, and TRF Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty. PDGs J K Gaur, Rupak Jain, Ramesh Aggarwal, Sharat Jain and Subhash Jain are also seen.
DG Deepak Gupta (R) with RC Bangalore Orchards past president D Ravishankar and Paola, and TRF Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty. PDGs J K Gaur, Rupak Jain, Ramesh Aggarwal, Sharat Jain and Subhash Jain are also seen.

But what really caught the eye was his video presentation of the preparations he has made for the last several months to decide on the kind of service projects the clubs in his district should do. “For the last one year I have been going around to assess the needs of the community, and believe me, we don’t have to go too far. Step 20 or 30 km away from the NCR (National Capital Region) and you will see the kind of problems that people face. Friends, all of us have SUVs, it’s time to take them out and visit the villages as there are so many needs there ,” Gupta said, addressing a glittering installation ceremony in Gurgaon.

The mistake many clubs were making in the district, he added, was thinking that “we can do all our work in the NCR. But I found that if we go barely 200 to 300 metres away from the highway, life changes. During this year, let us all resolve to step out of our comfort zone, assess the needs of the people and try to solve their problems.”

Importance of collaboration

Stressing the importance of collaboration and partnerships, Gupta said that he has already forged a collaboration with Ekad Learning, which works in the area of literacy and education. “We wanted to see the possibility of working together, without collaboration it is not easy to do big projects. So choose your focus areas, meet the local people. Only when you are physically present in the field, the local people will take your seriously. There is no problem we cannot solve but you have to hold discussion with the local community, assess their needs and then address them. In business, it is said without your presence on the seat, no business can be done and the same is true for social service. It can’t be done by words or remote control.”

Earlier, when we did cataract surgery camps, 80-year-old men used to touch our feet pleading with us to get their vision alright. Do we want to live in such a society where elderly people touch our feet for just a cataract operation?
– RID 3012 DG Deepak Gupta

Urging all his club presidents, secretaries and other officers to share ideas of service projects with him, and to explore the possibility of getting together with other clubs to do larger projects, the DG said, “You cannot imagine how many children, women and elderly out there are waiting for your helping hand. And we are so lucky that destiny has given us this opportunity to be of help to the less fortunate. Go to hospitals, village schools, work for poor farmers, do whatever you feel connected with but step out and do it.”

He added that no project is too small; and no project in Rotary has hit a roadblock for want of money. “If anything has remained incomplete, it is because we have stayed in our comfort zone; so let’s get out of it and act.”

 

Dream project

Gupta said his dream project, for which he had got inspiration from the Him Jyoti School for underprivileged girls built by PRID Sudarshan Agarwal in Dehradun, was a residential school for 300 poor children. Two Rotarians from RID 3012 Sanjay Arora and Sachin Gupta were helping him get the land, governments sanctions etc for this project. “It’s a project for ₹35 to 40 crore but I don’t mind becoming like Sudarshan Agarwal, who used to call himself an international, professional beggar. I will knock on every door to realise my dream to have such a school in our district.”

Gupta added that another project he wanted to do during this year was a mobile eye clinic. “When I went around to several villages to prepare for this year, I found that in many villages there wasn’t a single doctor. And these are not very far from the NCR; they are within 50 km. “When we used to go and get cataract surgery done through medical camps, 80-year-old men used to come and touch our feet pleading with us to get their vision alright. Do we want to live in such a society where elderly men have to touch our feet to get a cataract operation done. Let’s make mobile vans to give this facility to people.”

I have done much better than Shah Jahan. What purpose has the Taj Mahal served, apart from creating shaan (grandeur)? Has it done any service to anyone? In what Paola and I have done, there is both shaan and seva (service)!
– Rtn D Ravishankar

Yet another project he was enthused about was the pink taxi project, where taxis would be given to women; another was to set up a defibrillator, similar to the one he had seen at an overseas airport, inside a court in Sonipat.

 

From PHF to Major Donors

Looking at Distict Trainer and PDG Mukesh Arneja, Gupta said, “There was once upon a time in 2007–08, when we went around searching for PHF members, but today so many Rotarians from our district have come forward to become Major Donors by donating $10,000 to TRF on the first day of the new Rotary year. And that too voluntarily; I did not have to call them.” The major donors who were recognised at the meeting handed over their cheques in favour of TRF to Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty.

Presenting his own TRF contribution through a cheque for $30,000, Gupta said this would take his total contributions to the Foundation to $107,000. “I will try to complete my giving and become an AKS member by the end of this year,” the DG promised.

Expressing his happiness at the contributions to TRF that poured in at the governor’s installation ceremony, Vahanvaty said he was most happy to know that a Rotarian from RID 3012, Amita Mohindru and Mohindru had pledged to become AKS members. “Amita took the decision to do so after listening to (former) President of RC Bangalore Orchards D Ravishankar’s motivating speech at an earlier event in Delhi,” he said.

Complimenting Gupta for planning so many good projects even before his installation, he said that he had seen his “commitment and passion, whenever the DGEs were called for meetings. Gupta has so much knowledge and he was so outspoken and never hesitated to put forth his view. I would urge all DGs to continue to be vocal about what you feel inside. That is very important.”

About the education and healthcare projects Gupta had announced that evening, Vahanvaty told the gathering, “But he can’t do all this alone. Everybody assembled here must give him support. Only teamwork can turn our dreams into reality.”

He requested all DGs that “while we concentrate on endowments let us not forget the annual fund. We need to give money to all TRF funds.”

Incoming governor Deepak Gupta and his wife Reena, and IPDG Subhash Jain and his wife Babita being felicitated.
Incoming governor Deepak Gupta and his wife Reena, and IPDG Subhash Jain and his wife Babita being felicitated.

Also, talking about the need to do larger projects with large grants, the Trustee said that TRF was in the final stage of finalising the fine print on bids for large grants — whether these would be half a million or $450,000, was being decided. To be implemented from July 1, 2020, details would be disclosed much earlier.

Later at a Q and A session, when asked by Gupta that instead of creating a Taj Mahal for his wife Paola, just as Emperor Shah Jahan had done, why had Ravishankar pledged ₹100 crore to TRF, the donor said in his inimitable style: “Excuse me for saying this; I know you Delhiites love the Taj Mahal, but I believe I have done much better than Shah Jahan. What purpose has it served, apart from creating the shaan (grandeur) of a majestic building? Has it done any service to anyone? By contributing to TRF, Paola and I have together tried to build a Taj Mahal in some 230 countries, because that is where the TRF money goes. So in what we have done, there is both shaan and seva (service)!”

Next Gupta congratulated Amita on “not taking even five minutes to decide to become an AKS member” after listening to Paola and Ravishankar. Asked what is the one thing she would like to change in society, she said, “In our country we have very rich and very poor people; I think all of us should work to bridge that gap.”

Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat

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