ANNUAL COUNCIL MEETING Held on October 29, 2017

Dear friends,

In a couple of months from now, as the year 2018 dawns, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan will be stepping into the 80th year of its existence.
For a huge voluntary organization like Bhavan simultaneously working on several fronts, to have survived and thrived for eight decades is no mean achievement. It just cannot happen without the grace of God and blessings of the Divine Mother.
In fact, we have always considered ourselves as an instrument of the Lord, who, in his larger scheme of things, has given us certain responsibilities to discharge. That itself is a great honour and blessings.
That God chose Munshiji and inspired him to take upon himself this enormous responsibility was his master-stroke. Munshiji had the vision and the ability to translate it into concrete reality.
Munshiji unfolded his vision of a cultural movement before Mahatma Gandhi, who at once realized its importance and bestowed his blessings. Giants like Nehru, Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Rajaji, Dr. Radhakrishnan and Dr. Zakir Hussain offered their full support.
Munshiji created a team of dedicated persons like Sir Harsiddhbhai Divatia, Smt. Lilavati Munshi, Shri Girdharilal Mehta, Shri Dharamsey Khatau, Mahamahopadhyaya Prof. J.H. Dave, Acharya Jina Vijay Muniji and others. Together, they started Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan which played a big role in decolonizing India in the fields of culture and education.
I have been in Bhavan for over half a century. I have been a witness to the dedication hard work and commitment to basic human values of dozens and dozens of honoraries and staff members. This continuity is amazing. Times change. Man's priorities of life change. Even the concept of what constitutes values changes. But this continuity goes on.
But of late, I have been worrying about this continuity. We are finding it difficult to identify right persons at both the honorary and staff levels. Not that good people have disappeared. At all times and in all places, good people do exist. It is only that it has become difficulty to identify them. That is precisely why I have been appealing to all of you to help us identify such people.
But unfortunately, so far, my appeal has not drawn any concrete response from any one of you. May I, therefore, renew my appeal hoping you will accede to my request ?
The Bhavan's Family is so vast that every year we have the misfortune of seeing some of our dear colleagues leave this world for their heavenly abode. Their names have been given in the notes on agenda. However, it is my agonizing duty to mention a few:
* The Bhavan's Honorary Member, Gaanasaraswati Smt. Kishori Amonkar passed away suddenly on April 3. One of the all-time "Greats" of the Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet, Kishoritai took deep interest in Bhavan's cultural activities and was always ready to extend her support to Bhavan.
* The Founder Patron of the Bhavan's London Centre, Shri Maneck Dalal, passed away on March 6. He was 98. As the Chairman of the London Centre for over four decades, Shri Dalal was largely responsible for the growth of the Centre making it a forum of excellence in promoting arts and culture of India as also communal harmony.
* The Chairman of the Bhavan's Kodaikanal Kendra, renowned industrialist and Chairman of the RAMCO Group, Shri Ramasubramaneya Rajha, passed away on May 11, 2017. He was 81. He was a large-hearted generous person who had donated considerable sums of money to our Kodaikanal, Chennai and Thrissur Kendras.
* The renowned Sitar Maestro, Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan passed away on the 4th of last January. He was a great friend of Bhavan for over four decades.
* The Principal of the Bhavan's Bharatiya Sangeet and Nartan Shikshapeeth, Pandit Dhruba Gosh suddenly passed away on the 10th of July at the young age of 59. A humble creative genius, Dhurba Babu took several imaginative initiatives to expand the Shikshapeeth's reach. An internationally acclaimed Sarangi Maestro and a Grammy award winner, Pt. Ghosh's sudden departure is deeply mourned by all of us.
During the year, several students and other members of the Bhavan's family brought honour to Bhavan by their achievements. The details are given in the notes on agenda, but I would like to mention a few.
* Our Vice President Shri Banwarilal Purohit is now the Governor of Tamil Nadu. Earlier he successfully functioned as the Governor of Assam and Meghalaya. I congratulate Banwarilalji and wish him great success in his new vital assignment.
* Shri Purushottam Upadhyaya who was associated with Bhavan's Kala Kendra in its formative years, has been conferred with Padmashri award for his outstanding service to Sugam Sangeet.
* Kumari Akshara Agarwal, a class VIII student of our Chennai School has overnight become a star in the literary world when her novel "Lost - The Capture" was released by the Australian Consul General in Chennai.
* Shri Ashok Pradhan, Director of Bhavan's Delhi Kendra, has been conferred the prestigious Paul H. Appleby Award by the Indian Institute of Public Administration.
* For the second year in succession, the Bhavan's S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research has won the Prestigious AACSB Award - 2017. 118 business schools spanning 33 countries competed for the Award.
* Bhavan's R. A College of Arts, Science and Commerce in Ahmedabad has entered the India -Today list of top 50 Science colleges in India.
I would like to convey to members a good news.
In the year 2000, Bhavan was allotted a plot of land of little over two acres at Copernicus Lane in Delhi adjoining Delhi Bhavan's complex. Bhavan had then deposited Rs.2 crores with the Central Government. However, in 2004, the Government cancelled all such 29 allotments. We made repeated representations, but to no avail. Even when offered, we refused to take back the deposit.
We made a fresh representation to the present Government, which appointed a Committee to review all cancellations. At the level of personal hearings, at the behest of the Kendra Chairman Shri Gharekhan, Delhi Bhavan's Director Shri Ashok Pradhan and his colleagues convincingly presented our case. The Committee recommended restoration of land to Bhavan. So the Government has revoked its earlier cancellation order.
I am also glad to inform the members that on the 70th Anniversary celebrations of India's independence, the Hindustan Times compiled a list of 70 most influential books published in India after Independence. Three books of Bhavan feature in the list: 1) "Mahabharata" 2) "Ramayana" (both written by C. Rajagopalachari) and 3) Eleven-volume "History and Culture of the Indian People" edited by 70 historians under the leadership of Dr. R.C. Majumdar.
Mahatma Gandhi's 150th Birth Anniversary will be celebrated in the year 2018-19. The Bhavan has decided to celebrate this great occasion by publishing a set of volumes on writings on Gandhiji with a fresh and novel perspective.
Presently, vast collection of literature on Gandhiji is mostly produced in English. We believe that the true essence of Gandhiji's life and teachings is to be found in Indian languages. We are planning to bring out an anthology of these writings in ten volumes in English and if possible in Hindi authored by giants like Tagore, Nirala, Ananthamurthy, Umashankar Joshi, etc. and by lesser known but great writers on Gandhi and Gandhism.
It will be a monumental project of historic value which will be the Bhavan's humble contribution to the 150th Birth Anniversary of Bapu.
The work on this project has begun under the editorship of the internationally acclaimed Gandhian scholar, historian and active worker Shri Ganesh Devy. Our colleague, Shri Ramesh Oza is the co-ordinator of the project. In fact, it is Shri Oza who, with the help of Shri Dastur, has conceived this idea. You may be surprised to learn that the languages this project is covering include even the almost forgotten languages like Maithili, Bodo and Santhali.
Bhavan's administration runs on federal principles. Kendras enjoy considerable freedom but within the frame-work of our Constitution, Rules and of course the Bombay Public Trust Act, under which all the ultimate responsibilities rest in the President, Executive Committee, Board of Trustees and the Executive Secretary.
Sometimes this freedom is stretched beyond the line of limits requiring the Head Office to carry out a course correction, which sometimes becomes unpalatable to a Kendra. In rare cases it results in resentment, which is unfortunate and betrays lack of understanding of the constraints and tremendous responsibilities of the Head Office.
I, therefore, earnestly appeal to a few of the Kendra honoraries to please appreciate the high level of accountability that the Head Office carries with it. Let me tell them that they would never come across a more humble, self-effacing and responsive administration than the present one. Actually, Shri Dastur sees himself more as a co-ordinator than the CEO of Bhavan. But he is duty-bound to act swiftly and decisively when the Lakshman Rekha is crossed.
A more humble a man is, more fearless he is bound to be. Please understand that in an institution like Bhavan neither ego nor personal agenda has any place whatsoever. Otherwise, would Bhavan, during the past decade, have achieved such success beyond our dreams? Commitment to the Bhavan's mission is the commitment to the moral and ethical values, to the truth and honesty and selflessness.
It is a difficult task to bind an entire institution in one single, healthy unit when it is working from different geographical locations with each unit looking after its own affairs. That we have been able to maintain this balance remarkably well all these years is due to the excellent co-operation and rapport between the Kendras and the Head Office.
What we have to comprehend is that Bhavan is, and will remain, a single dynamic movement, determined to strive hard to fulfill the mission's aims and objectives.
From the financial year 2017-18, we are required to finalise our Balance-sheet by the first week of September. I appeal to the functionaries of all the Bhavan's Kendras, institutes and units to kindly see that their respective balance-sheets are finalized by the 30th of June. So that the Head office gets enough time for course-correction and consolidation.
Bhavan runs over 360 institutes, units and departments. 194 balance-sheets are to be consolidated. As things stand today, Shri Khandwalaji and his team's precious time gets lost in making innumerable phone calls to a handful of Kendras and units which do not finish their part of the work in time pleading with them to hurry up. A few Kendras require continuous guidance from the Head office year after year.
I appeal to one and all to please give top priority to this work. They may kindly begin this task right away so that delay can be avoided.
For instance, this year the finalization of the balance-sheet was delayed by one full month due to one Kendra withholding the work at the last moment due to a local problem, which existed for a long time but which seems to have came to the notice of the Kendra Committee at the last moment of the finalization of the balance sheet.
Had it been brought to our knowledge earlier, we would have taken appropriate measures to solve it.
Now that it has been brought to our notice, I have asked our statutory auditors to carry out an independent audit. I hope that from now on such hiccups are avoided and we finalise and submit the balance-sheet well before time.
Bhavan's strength is the fact that no one owns it. It belongs to the Nation. Those who serve it do so in the selfless spirit of devotion. So much accolade has been showered on Bhavan that some time I wonder whether we would be able to sustain the momentum.
During our Platinum Jubilee celebrations, the then Rashtrapati, Shri Pranab Mukherjee describing Bhavan as "a massive cultural and educational movement", said: "Bhavan also is a moral movement that steers people towards a life guarded by ethics. The Bhavan today is rendering yeomen service to the people of our Nation and through them the entire humankind".
From these words of Pranab Babu, you can imagine what tremendous responsibilities we all carry on our shoulders. Of course, our faith in the Lord and commitment to the Bhavan's Mission will, I am confident, see us through.
Let us pray that in the years to come, Bhavan, humble as it is, becomes humbler still as it moves forward to reach more people.
Let us strive to bring in our people greater understanding about the validity and relevance of the values of our cultural and spiritual heritage. That can bring about a positive change in the quality of their lives.
More and more people will then realize that God had not created mankind to wallow in misery, ignorance, disease, hatred, cruelty and violence. If we follow the divine path, God himself will illumine our minds with wisdom and show us the way to live a life with minds illumined with wisdom and filled with bliss, happiness, tranquility and boundless love and compassion for all living beings.
In the end, I would like to express my feelings of gratitude to all of you for your affection, trust and encouragement. Our Vice-President, Shri Banwarilalji Purohit has been a tower of strength to the Central Bhavan's administration.
I thank all the members of the Executive Committee, Trustees, Council Members, Kendra Chairmen and other office bearers for the sustained labours and their support and guidance.
I particularly thank our Honorary Treasurer and Trustee, Shri Nanubhai Khandwala for sparing his valuable time for the Bhavan's work. He has been a great source of strength to us. I wish him a long happy life in excellent health.
Our staff has always been our greatest asset. I admire their sense of service, dedication and hard work. What I appreciate the most is the family-feelings among them. I give you an example. Recently a peon committed suicide for personal reasons. Then a young, strong Chowkidar suddenly died of heart-attack. The way our staff rose to the occasion and extended help to their families warmed my heart.
I thank and congratulate Shri Dastur for providing an inspirational leadership which has taken Bhavan to new and previously unimaginable height within a span of 10 to 12 years. I am a witness to the personal sacrifices that Shri Dastur has made for the sake of Bhavan. He has been expressing his desire to retire for quite some time but I have been stalling the issue. Age is not a factor. Health is. And we all pray that God bestows the blessings of robust health on our Dastur for many more years.
I would like to end with a quotation of Munshiji: I had quoted it before, but I would like to repeat it once more. Said Munshiji:
"The real strength of the Bhavan would lie not so much in the number of its buildings or institutions it conducts nor in the volume of its assets and budget, nor even in the growing publications, cultural and educational activities. It would lie in the character, humility, selflessness and dedicated work of its devoted workers both honorary and stipendiary. They alone can release the regenerative influences, bringing into play the invisible pressure which alone can transform human nature."

Thank you.
Yours in-the service of Bhavan
Mumbai Surendralal G. Mehta
October 29, 2017.
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