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An Extraordinary Example of Application of Trusteeship Principles
By Rajnikumar Pandya*
Virtual Gandhi in South Africa
A unique way of donation
A young man residing in America happened to read Narayan Desai's Gujarati volumes on Gandhiji's life titled 'Maaru Jeevan ej Maari Vaani'. (My Life is My Message). After reading this book he wept all night. Gandhij's mantra "You are not the owner of your wealth but just a trustee of that wealth and what is for the good of the whole society is good for me" touched his heart in such a way that it changed his whole life. He realised that you experience far greater and lasting pleasure in spending money for the needy compared to the momentary pleasure and happiness you feel after spending more than required for your needs. To spread this message of Gandhiji and publicise these books, he gave 75 lakh rupees to the Navjeevan Trust. He, in addition, regularly provides lakhs of rupees to other institutions undertaking constructive work, all this anonymously without expecting any publicity in return.

While I am not allowed to mention the name, I cannot resist talking about this anecdote. About a couple of years ago, an American reader of Janmanbhoomi, who probably would not even remember meeting me, sent two cheques of twenty-five thousand dollars each. These two cheques were meant for organisations about which Janmabhoomi had written about.
After a few months this gentleman sent two more cheques again for 25,000 dollars each of which one was meant for Malavai Education Trust in Kukeri, 15 kms from Chikhli, in South Gujarat. This trust provides free education from primary level to computer education and residential facilities to more than 300 tribal children, either orphaned or of single parent. The second cheque was for Navjivan Trust with a request to send the four-volume Gujarati book on Gandhiji, “Maru Jeevan ej Maari Vaani” (My Life is My Message) authored by Narayan Desai to secondary schools in Gujarat.
The book comprising four volumes, “sadhanakhand”, “satyagraha”, “satyapath”, “sarva-arpan” runs into 2,202 pages with five print editions. The full book in four volumes cost Rs. 1,500/- . From the amount received from this gentleman, Navjivan Trust supplies this book at concessional rates and bears the postal charges too.
This gentleman says that after reading these four volumes, he had wept. The message in this book that you are not the owner of your own wealth, but only a trustee of this wealth had become a part of his existence and he ardently wished to spread this message among as many educational institutions and thinkers as possible. And that is what these cheques were for.
A list of schools was obtained from Rasikbhai Varsani, the President of the Secondary Board in Gandhinagar, out of which 1,100 schools were selected and the list sent to Navjivan Trust for supplying the book. The list included schools located in small hamlets in the far flung corners of the state.
After some more time we received an email informing us that for the third time he is sending two cheques of 25,000 dollars each; one for Shantaba Vidyalaya (Malvi Education Trust) in Chikhli and the second again for the Navjivan Trust to send the volumes to the schools that were left out in the previous round.
After 15 -20 days, on being informed that the cheques had not arrived in India, and we suspected pilferage during delivery, he phoned to say that he was instructing the bank to ‘stop payment’ on the lost cheques and he was couriering two new cheques for the same amount. Surprisingly the supposedly lost cheques arrived and on being informed about this, the gentleman said he was withdrawing his ‘stop payment’ instruction to the bank and that both sets of cheques were to be given to the trust and if there is any balance left after distributing the books to all the schools, that should be used to distribute the books to other thinkers. That meant two cheques of 50 thousand dollars!
The story does not end here. This unique philanthropist had visited Ahmedabad a few months earlier and put up at a very ordinary hotel justifying his action by saying it was just a matter of couple of days stay so why spend money on an expensive hotel.
The ninety year Kumar magazine has the tradition of giving a medal made from an alloy of five metals (panch dhatu) to the best article. In the year 2003, Kumar had made this medal in gold from the donation received from a Mumbai based bibliophile. But the price of gold had shot up five fold. So the magazine publishers were in a dilemma. Now they could not revert to making the medal in alloy, nor was there any possibility of their affording making the medal in gold. This question was troubling the publishers. In the meantime this gentleman (age 44) arrived from America and his meeting was arranged with Dhirubhai Parikh, the editor of Kumar. Dhirubhai narrated the management’s problem with a lot of modesty. The gentleman put his hands into his bush shirt pocket, pulled out a cheque leaf, borrowed a pen from the editor and wrote out a cheque for four lakh rupees! Kumar’s difficulty was over.
Then the two left to go to Mitalben Patel of Vicharta Samarthan Manch (an NGO working for nomadic community) to present a cheque of four lakh to them. He then left for his hometown in South Gujarat. After two days, poet Madhav Ramanuj, who is closely attached to this organisation called to say that “for some technical reason we cannot accept this cheque. I am returning the cheque with a request to do the needful to provide another cheque; we do not have the contact details of the donor.”
In the meantime, when this gentleman had donated money to the Chikli Institute few months ago, he was asked about the name of the donor to be put on the class rooms that were constructed from his donation. But he said he was not interested in putting any name on the plaque in the classroom, saying that he had not given money to a make a name for himself. He was however, persuaded when explained that it would be an inspiration for others. Now, coincidentally, this gentleman who normally resides in America happened to be visiting India and was at his home town only 30 kilometres away from the institute which had received the cheque and the inauguration of the class rooms were to be done during the time of his stay in India. The head of the institute went to him to request him to attend a function to uncover the plaque on which his father’s name was inscribed. He said it was embarrassing for him to do that; he had not given the money for publicising his name. The head to the institute tried to persuade him saying that he had given 50 lakh for this purpose so why should he be shy, in fact, he should proudly sit on the dais and the unfurling should also be done by him. He refused to budge and told the head that on his behalf the head of the institute to complete the formality and pull the string to uncover the plaque.
After the inaugural function, this writer while returning went to meet this donor at his hometown to return the cheque of Mitalben mentioned above and requested him to write out a new cheque for four lakh in a way that would not face any technical difficulty. He hunted out a cheque book from one of the drawers and wrote out a cheque for 10 lakh! And said in his Parsi Gujarati accent, “Now there will be no problem; you can present the cheque to the bank”.
This is the end of the story till the end of this day. But I don’t think that this is the final end. Tomorrow is another day. Time is endless, infinite. Water is abundant, but in this ocean full of water how many such jewels would you find which sparkle with Gandhian thoughts, a lover of literature, devoted to the service of mankind, but yet shy and humble?
Source: The article is reproduced from Janmabhoomi Pravasi, dt. 31.08.2014
Translated from Gujarati by Hina Manerikar

Rajnikumar Pandya is a well known name in the field of Gujarati literature and pen portraits. Email: