Two glittering evenings in Mumbai and Kolkata At two grand meetings held in Mumbai and Kolkata, incoming RI Directors Bharat Pandya and Kamal Sanghvi were felicitated.

RIDN Bharat Pandya and Madhavi being felicitated in the presence of (from L): PRID Shekhar Mehta, TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta, PRIP K R Ravindran, DG Prafull Sharma, RID C Basker, PRIP Rajendra K Saboo, PRIDs Ashok Mahajan, P T Prabhakar, Y P Das, PRIP Kalyan Banerjee, Binota Banerjee, PRID Manoj Desai, Sharmishtha Desai, Nayantara Mahajan, DG B M Sivarraj, RIDN Kamal Sanghvi and Sonal Sanghvi. RIDN Pandya’s daughters — Sashmi and Nidhi are also in the picture.

The relaxed tone in Mumbai for an evening of celebration and felicitations for the two incoming RI Directors — Bharat Pandya and Kamal Sanghvi — was set by Past RI President K R Ravindran who referred to the duration of his speech by saying that he belongs to the Henry VIII School of public speaking — that as Henry VIII said to each of his six wives ‘I shall not keep you long’.

“But having looked at the eminent people who have addressed you just before me I rather feel like Henry VIII’s last wife who said I know more or less of what is expected of me, but I am not sure how to do it any differently.”

As the audience burst into laughter, striking a serious note, he said “While your skills will make you winners, the advice I have for you is: “Focus on the organisation first, focus on the organisation second, and focus on the organisation third. Make it your priority.”

It is a very daunting task to be a director from this part of the world, unlike in the West. You will both discover big and little people.
PRIP K R Ravindran

Doing some plain speaking, Ravindran added that “while you will enjoy the role make no mistakes you will be tested. Operating in our part of the world, with the pulls and pushes of partisanship is a daunting task. You will discover big and little people. You will find that you will be called to make sacrifices and you will find that you will have to employ a perfectly disciplined will to tread the middle path. But you are both capable and you will discover that you lead best when you forget yourself and focus on the group.”

Both Pandya and Sanghvi had held various leadership positions, but there was a difference between becoming a leader and leading. “Leader is where others follow you not because they have to but because they want to.”

The two RIDNs would be our zones’ representatives in “one of the strongest Boards in recent times with a strong RI President to lead them… the Harvard-educated Mark Maloney. Together all of you will form a representation of our brand’s vision statement, which is that Rotary connects leaders from all continents, cultures and professions to exchange ideas and take action in communities around the world. You will be great brand ambassadors for India of the Board to the world.”

I will be flexible and open to suggestions. Flexibility does not mean compromising on one’s principles because my dad taught me the most important thing for a person is his integrity.
RIDN Bharat Pandya

Ravindran, a current TRF Trustee, further said, “I am a great supporter of the recent tough actions our Board has been taking on errant district leaders, and even past governors, for, understand that the Rotary brand does not stop at our logo. It permeates every action, interaction and decision each Rotarian makes. And when leaders misbehave or are found wanting they not only set a bad example, but they also destroy our brand promise and our brand itself. I always remember what Past RI President Bob Barth said, Rotarians are people with the highest integrity and ethical standards and they give more than they take!”

Thus, the example the leadership sets is vital because RI is a complex multi-cultural organisation. It is operating in 200 countries and geographical areas and deals in nine languages and 26 currencies.  For the year 2016–17, the total amount of funds available for investment was “about 1.1 billion US dollars. But more interestingly the value of the work that Rotary does each year across the world is conservatively estimated at another $1 billion or more.  So, in reality we are a $2–2.5 billion corporation and that gives you an idea of the responsibility of our new directors.”

RIDN Kamal Sanghvi and Sonal being felicitated in the presence of the Rotary senior leaders.
RIDN Kamal Sanghvi and Sonal being felicitated in the presence of the Rotary senior leaders.

Both in Mumbai and Kolkata, where the two leaders were felicitated, the mood was of sher and shayari (poetry), camaraderie and goodwill. In Kolkata, Past RI President Kalyan Banerjee struck a light note when he said: “To become an RI Director from Zone 4, you should know to speak Gujarati, and to become a RI President from India you need to be from Kolkata.” He was referring to both Pandya and Sanghvi and past director Manoj Desai being Gujaratis, while he and the late PRIP Nitish Laharry hailed from Kolkata. PRIP Rajendra Saboo has a Kolkata connection too.

In Mumbai, he said he often marvelled about Rotary and “the way we follow succession… all club presidents, governors and internationally a new RI President replace the old one as June 30 turns into July 1 each year. And the directors change every two years. Few other organisations have such a smooth and automatic transition as we do in Rotary.”

It was great to know that India will henceforth have two RI directors instead of one on the RI Board year after year, thanks to the new zoning structure initiated by PRID Manoj Desai a few years ago. This underlines India’s growing importance in Rotary.

Bringing peace in our country and world will by our first and utmost priority. We will bring peace by giving food to the hungry, sight to the blind, limbs to the lame, houses to the homeless and education to the illiterate.
RIDN Kamal Sanghvi

He had always admired Dr Pandya “as a very special individual; a quiet and thinking persona and always so articulate and relevant. And I know from my experience in 2013 that he can be superbly, convincingly and cogently argumentative.”

He then went on to describe how in a few minutes flat, as a representative in the CoL, Pandya had used his eloquence and debating skills to change the opinion of the Council on Legislation comprising over 500 district representatives, the entire RI Board, all the Trustees and past RI Presidents. It ­pertained to RIBI “and he did this in a few minutes flat. So he is a miracle worker and a man ideally suited to take Indian Rotary forward. Madhavi, his wife, is such a warm and understanding person and the two of them form a great team.”

Similarly, Sanghvi was a great Rotarian with leadership skills and had a great partner in Sonal. He had won the mandate by a vote of 79 per cent, and he was confident, added Banerjee, that the two leaders would take Rotary in India to new heights.

Elaborating on the sequence of events that led to Pandya making a passionate and cogent argument on defeating a motion related to RIBI that was rather “mischievous”, Past RI President Rajendra Saboo said the proposition in question was being submitted to the CoL by a group of delegates from RIBI and “hidden in it was a deep rooted change that would completely change the constitution and relationship between RI and RIBI.”

To become an RI Director from Zone 4, you should know to speak Gujarati, and to become a RI President from India you need to be from Kolkata.
PRIP Kalyan Banerjee

Saboo’s help was sought in advance to get a voting delegate to make a ­presentation that would unveil the mischief that was being done. “It was in the interest of Rotary, and of all the delegates from India I chose Bharat (Pandya), and sat with him one evening on the manual of procedure. I was amazed at how quickly he got the essence of what we were saying, and made a presentation much better than I’d have done. The proposal was defeated handsomely and everybody wondered who was this man from India. How did he get to know about it? But he was defending what was right; this incident made me realise the mettle of this man.”

He had always admired Pandya’s eloquence and ability to quote from Shakespeare, Byron and Wordsworth as well as Indian sages. Sanghvi too had impressed him over the years with his leadership and organisational skills, but particularly at his conference in Bhubaneswar where he had invited Saboo as the chief guest. “He is an outstanding speaker, very knowledgeable, and has a sharp memory. But here I am talking more about Bharat as I am biased in his favour as he is short! Kamal, though not as tall as Ravi, is around the height of Kalyan (Banerjee), which I can stand!”

Saboo also took Sanghvi to task for calling the assembled senior Rotary leaders as his gurus. “These days the meaning or connotation of gurus is not good… such as yeh sab gurulog (scoundrels) hei.”

RIDNs Bharat Pandya and Kamal Sanghvi, Madhavi and Sonal with the DGNs.

Turning serious, he added, “Everybody here has spoken about the 18th floor (in Evanston, where the RI Board meets) but don’t make that your ­destination. Two years will pass quickly and you will be remembered for what you do en masse when your term is over. I’ve seen people at the last Board meeting shedding tears that they would become a nobody from July 1. But remember that while you will become past club presidents, DGs, directors and even past RI Presidents, you can never be a past Rotarian.”

Congratulating the two RIDNs, RI Director C Basker said he was reminded of his own felicitation event in Madurai where praise was showered upon him “and I thought this will be a cushy job. But when you start the work, you’ll understand it’s not child’s play, but a very strenuous job. But both of you have the capability and the resources to ensure that we take the activities we’ve started forward and make India at par with developed nations.”

Even though “we’ve grown exponentially in the last five years, the biggest challenge we have in India is stability at the grassroots-level and the club-level. Thirty per cent of our clubs are still very weak and 75 per cent of Rotarians don’t know what Rotary is all about. People join en masse and leave en masse.”

Don’t make the 18th floor in Evanston your destination. Two years will pass quickly and you will be remembered for what you do after your term is over.
PRIP Rajendra Saboo

He urged both the leaders to be a lighthouse to club presidents; “lay emphasis on training to improve their skills and capabilities. We are a resourceful country; we are No 3 in giving AKS members, No 2 in Endowments and No 1 in Major Gifts and membership. But what we lack is a little bit of discipline.” Basker said that following Ravindran’s advice he had started including both Sanghvi and Pandya in all his important communications. “Because Ravi has told me that one of the biggest reliefs you can have is pulling other guys inside your circle.”

Felicitating Pandya, PRID Ashok Mahajan said he was extremely proud and happy to see the man he had declared, as the then DG in 1993–94, the outstanding president of his district, elected as director. “He has the right leadership skills and sterling character and ability to uphold the values of Rotary. I’ve always admired his speeches studded with quotes from philosophers and great people, along with his humility.”

Keep your focus on transparency and stewardship issues as the entire Rotary world is watching us.
— TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta

Describing the duo as “two wonderful people”, PRID YP Das urged them to always remember that in the RI Board they would be representing not only India but the entire Rotary world. Also, he often heard from leaders how they rose to their positions; “forget all that. Your focus should always be on how you would like to leave office after two years of your directorship. What will matter most is how you demit office when your term ends. Everybody is proud of you both and they all have expectations. My advice to you is exceed those expectations and make all of us proud.”

Congratulating the two incoming leaders, TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta said that with two directors on the RI Board, Rotary in India gets ready for a bigger role. Though today with 1.4 lakh Rotarians we are in the number 2 slot in membership as well as in TRF giving, he recalled late RIPE Sam Owori’s comment that with such a huge population India should have 1.2 million Rotarians.

Gupta cautioned both the leaders to keep their focus on “transparency and stewardship issues as the entire Rotary world is watching us.” Of the 35 global grants given by TRF to India, 34 were found to be perfect and “only in one grant we had some challenges, but this was highlighted in our last Trustee meet. Perceptions are important, and we should never forget that.”


Star-studded evening

In Kolkata, it was a high-profile meet hosted by seven districts — 3291, 3240, 3250, 3261, 3262, 3292, 3120. PRID Shekhar Mehta said, “We have amongst us 145 past governors, 14 DGs, 8 DGEs, 10 DGNs, 11 DGNDs; one PRIP and four PRIDs, as we celebrate the two stars of the evening — Kamal and Bharat. Lagta hai ke Rotary mei is part of the world se acchhe din hi nahi, bahut acchhe din aane vale hai,” he observed.

Referring to Sanghvi as his younger brother, Mehta recalled how he had worked with him for several years, helping him execute the Kolkata Zone Institute and various Literacy summits. “Kamal makes friends easily and it’s a pleasure to work with Bharat,” he added.

RID C Basker, RIDNs Bharat Pandya and Kamal Sanghvi with the DGs and DGEs.

PRID Manoj Desai, while welcoming the “second doctor from India to become a director”, shared reminiscences with both Pandya and Sanghvi, from how they worked out strategies to improve membership in India in 2010 to how during Desai’s directorial tenure they had helped in bringing out the best from his team of DGs. Referring to the observation that both the directors-nominee are Gujaratis, Desai added that including Trustee-elect Gulam Vahanvaty, there will now be three Gujaratis in the RI Board and TRF.

PRID Das recalled how India was represented by two directors (Mehta and himself) in 2011–13 for the first time, before which “we even had a director from Thailand representing our zones. We’ve come so far and I’m sure that these two young men will take our region to greater heights.”

He cautioned Pandya and Sanghvi not to fall prey to ‘gangism’. “When Shekhar and I were directors, many of them would suggest that the two of us belonged to two different ‘gangs’. But we stood steadfast and together and never fell into the trap to pull us down. So stay united, take Rotary forward and forget personal issues. You will make all of us proud.”

The biggest challenge in India is stability at the club-level. Thirty per cent of our clubs are still very weak and 75 per cent of Rotarians don’t know what Rotary is all about. People join en masse and leave en masse.
— RI Director C Basker

PRID P T Prabhakar congratulated the two leaders and said they would be representing India at the RI Board when the Rotary flag was flying high in our country. “We have been top in membership for several years, and with a contribution of $20 million to TRF last year, we were No 2 in giving. Indian Rotary is now the prime mover of global Rotary and you are fortunate to be serving on the RI Board at such a juncture.”

Felicitating Pandya, who was his batchmate as DG, PDG J B Kamdar recalled that at their GETS in Colombo, many trainers had picked “Bharat as the most promising leader in our batch. Years have passed since then but he is the same amazing and loving Rotary leader, the same Bharat with no change… soft spoken, gentle, polite, humble and without an iota of deceit.”

Felicitating his medical colleague and friend of 42 years, Rtn Dr Kuldip Singh Sandhu said even though he hailed from a privileged background being the son of the legendary Dr S S Pandya, “Bharat was always humble, generous and I’ve never seen him shouting at anybody. He has not a shred of arrogance in him and has a very focused mind, is a voracious reader. The high level of eloquence that the Rotary world know him for started in college with his reading of a wide variety of books.”

Also, he added, Dr Pandya’s was a rare place in Mumbai “where no down payment is expected from the patients.”

Thanking the “trilogy” and all his “gurus” assembled in the hall, Kamal Sanghvi promised, together with Pandya, to “work hard and passionately take up all the challenges that come our way. I assure you I will do everything within my means to pursue the goals and vision of our wonderful organisation. I pledge that bringing peace in our country and world at large will by our first and utmost priority. We will strive to bring peace by giving food to the hungry, sight to the blind, limbs to the lame, houses to the homeless and education to the illiterate.”

Responding to the felicitations with “mixed feelings… excitement at having reached a milestone, relief that at last the election phase is behind me, but above all, a feeling of awe and great responsibility which now vests on my shoulders,” Pandya recalled the famous quote: ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’

“These lines bring home to me that now I have a great responsibility but also an opportunity and I won’t stop following the path of integrity and working for a better Rotary till I am satisfied I have done my best.”

As this “opportunity to do good on a much larger scale than ever before” stood before him, he recalled the values of “integrity and selfless service” that his late father had taught him.

Pandya added that his priority would always be the Rotary clubs and promised all the senior leaders and Rotarians that “my integrity in thought, deed and action will remain as always. I will be flexible and open to change, suggestions, different and differing viewpoints. Flexibility does not mean compromising on one’s principles because my dad taught me the most important thing for a person is his integrity.”

Striking a somber note, he added, “The only thing that walks back from the tomb along with the mourners and refuses to be buried is the character of a man. It outlives him and can never be buried.”

Thanking both the host Districts 3141 and 3142, “for I am a product of the undivided D 3140”, and their DGs Prafull Sharma and B M Sivarraj, members of RC Borivli, PDG Raju Subramanian, “Madhavi, my well-wisher, guide and often my critic, mentor and best friend and wife” and his two daughters, he promised he’d never allow the 18th floor at the One Rotary Center go to his head.

In Mumbai, DGs Prafull Sharma and Sivarraj led the committee of hosts; PDG Rahul Timbadia, Viren Jethwa, President of RC Borivli, Pandya’s home club, past president Vinay Vyas, DGEs Shashi Sharma and Ashes Ganguly felicitated the RIDNs.

In Kolkata, DGs Vivek Kumar (3250), Ajay Agarwal (3262), Ranjeet Singh (3120) and Sanjay Giri (3292) felicitated the two leaders.

Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat & Jaishree

“Indian Mafia”

PRID Ashok Mahajan greets RIDN Bharat Pandya in the presence of PRIP Kalyan Banerjee (left) and PDG (3292) Basu Dev Golyan in Kolkata.
PRID Ashok Mahajan greets RIDN Bharat Pandya in the presence of PRIP Kalyan Banerjee (left) and PDG (3292) Basu Dev Golyan in Kolkata.

Talking about his presidential year in 2011–12, when two Indian directors (Shekhar Mehta and Y P Das) were on the Board, Past RI President Kalyan Banerjee recollected that whenever he won an argument at any Board decision, the others would grumble and refer to them as the ‘Indian Mafia’. “Before any Board meeting, the three of us would brainstorm and work out a proper strategy. Because we wanted to give the impression that India is one and we are united. I suggest you two, too, should have a strategy in place.”

Banerjee observed that Indian Rotarians are being punished since “we drag RI to court for all petty internal disputes. We are not being given any RI ­assignments, despite our significant achievements in membership growth and TRF contributions. We are being punished. Let us try to resolve our differences among ourselves rather than escalating to an international level. We are a good Rotary country, but we can become a great Rotary country when we sort out all pending court cases with out-of-court settlements. We must realise that Rotary is not an organisation to show off our ego or prestige. It is an organisation that helps us make friends around the world and serve humanity in a united manner. When we do that we will be the Numero Uno of the Rotary world. And Bharat and Kamal, that’s going to be your task. Good luck and God bless you.”

Informal round 

A ‘Rapid fire’ round was moderated at the Kolkata meet by PRID Shekhar Mehta. When he asked Sonal Sanghvi how she felt about her husband being elected Director, she said she was overwhelmed but worried as now she will have “to get used to being called ‘directory’,” for, earlier as governor’s wife, she was referred to as ‘governess’! Madhavi Pandya and their daughters who were away in Melbourne conveyed their wishes through an AV. “All the best Papa. I’ll try to harass you a little less so that you concentrate more on your new assignment,” promised Sashvi, Pandya’s younger daughter. “Don’t I get some benefits as a director’s son,” was a cheeky question to Kamal Sanghvi from his son on an AV.

On the message both wanted to convey to Rotarians, Sanghvi said: “We have so many Peace Centres across the world; but no peace among ourselves. So we will promote programmes to encourage peace among our clubs and members.”

Pandya’s answer: “Leadership position is wonderful, but we must learn to step down gracefully from the ladder of leadership.”

Their role models: It is “Binotaji” for Sanghvi and “Kalyanda” for Pandya.

Prompted by Mehta for a piece of advice to the two RIDNs, ­Banerjee quipped, “Our personal conflicts are ruining the reputation of our region. So I would like you to deal with issues more patiently and with wisdom,” he said.

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