It was with grief and a deep sense of loss that the Rotary world in India digested the news of former Governor of Uttarakhand and Past RI Director Sudarshan Agarwal’s demise. That he will be missed could be seen from the outpouring of grief and reminiscences on the social media. But as Past RI President Rajendra Saboo notes in his obit published in this issue, it will be the girls of the Him Jyoti School, who will miss him the most. He had set up this school in Dehradun to provide world-class quality education totally free of cost to underprivileged girls from the Garhwal Himalayas and its surroundings. At the crematorium in Delhi, Saboo says, he did not see a single dry eye. But he was most struck by the 30–40 girls from Him Jyoti present there. “Each girl was sobbing as if their patriarch had gone. To them, Sudarshan Agarwal was their parent — everything.”
The gentle, soft-spoken, ever-smiling and extremely courteous Agarwal was a Trustee of the Rotary News Trust, which brings out this magazine. Had I not known his background, I would have never imaged that he was once a Governor of the Indian States of Uttarakhand and Sikkim, Secretary General of the Rajya Sabha and a member of the National Human Rights Commission, a rank and status equal to a Supreme Court Judge. He wore all this so lightly. As PRIPs Kalyan Banerjee and K R Ravindran point out in their tributes, he was extremely generous in his giving and a genial host. He called himself a “professional beggar” and had no hesitation in passing the hat around, most often to his close friends, to raise funds for a cause such as the Him Jyoti School. Visit the campus if you can, and interact with the girls from humble backgrounds who have been totally transformed after getting an education here which is much more than mere book knowledge… this school gives them grooming, excellent communication skills, self-confidence and above all, self-esteem. Yes, Agarwal will be missed by generatons of students.
So what is it that makes some people so zealous, passionate and sometimes even crazed, to work for causes that can bring transformational changes in other people’s lives? What was it that pushed immediate past president of RC Bangalore Orchards D Ravishankar to donate to the TRF ₹100 crore, which constitutes 85 per cent of his wealth? Or the great philanthropists of the world and India… the Gates, Warren Buffet, Azim Premji, Rajashree Birla, the Tatas, and the like, to divert a chunk of their wealth to do good in the world? Ravishankar readily accepts invitations from the Rotary world to speak at Rotary events so that someone or the other will be inspired by his gesture to give something substantial too. This is a thought that begs our attention and introspection…
As we bid farewell to Agarwal, I’d beg to differ with the great bard Shakespeare … Mark Antony says in his great speech “Friends, Romans, countrymen,” at Julius Caesar’s funeral: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”
The good that Agarwal did will live on in the hearts of the girls who pass through Him Jyoti and countless others he helped.