O Re Govindbhai, Kyaare Aavya? How Narendrabhai Made Me Feel Special at a Gathering of Greats


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… On 29 May 2018, President Ram Nath Kovindji came to Surat to present the ‘Santokba Humanitarian Award’ instituted by SRK Knowledge Foundation (SRKKF) to first-time Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi and former ISRO Chairman AS Kiran Kumar. Due to the participation of the President of India, the event assumed a different dimension. A crowd of security personnel sanitized the venue in the Sanjeev Kumar auditorium, which seats 1200 guests from different places of the country and abroad. Punctuality is the hallmark of SRK, accordingly the entire event was organized with due consideration to the President’s protocol. All the meticulous planning was done for the ceremony.

President Shri Ram Nath Kovind arrived with Governor Shri OP Kohli and Chief Minister Shri Vijaybhai Rupani, this I consider the highest point of Santokba Manav Ratna Award Institute. One crore rupees were presented to both the awardees along with a statuette of an award. After conferring the ‘Santokba Humanitarian Award’ to Shri Kailash Satyarthi and Shri AS Kiran Kumar, the Hon’ble President acknowledged that he had come to attend the award ceremony breaking tradition. The President of India will not attend the awards ceremony of private organizations. “When I came to know that Satyarthi and Kiran Kumar are to be honoured, I said that both of them are good men. Later, after checking the creditworthiness of the awardee, I came to know that he is also fine. So, I decided to break the tradition a bit to honor two good people.’ The President said. He put me on par with those two award winners. He said, ‘Kailash Satyarthi ji, Kiran Kumarji and Govindji are people of humility, humility, simplicity and sensitivity.’ He narrated the role of Narmad, the heroic poet of Surat during the British rule. He also said, ‘Surat is a small India, people from all over the country come for livelihood. The people of Surat convert adversity into opportunities. President Kovindji also recalled his visits to Surat in the 1970s and shared some personal anecdotes widely reported in the newspaper the next day.

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He said that on his stay in Surat, he would go to the railway station early in the morning to pick up the newspaper. President Kovind described the city of Surat as the city of opportunities. A letter received from Prime Minister Narendra Bhai Modi was read on this occasion.

Kailash Satyarthi ji donated the prize money of Rs 1 crore to the Safe Childhood Fund. We all knew that earlier Kailash Satyarthi had donated Rs 50,00,000 from Amitabh Bachchan’s famous show ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ and the entire prize money that came with his Nobel Peace Prize.

Kiran Kumarji announced that she is receiving this award not as an individual, but as a representative of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). He remembered Vikram Sarabhai, the son of Gujarat, who predicted the use of space technology in all walks of life in India. Governor Shri OP Kohli saluted the picture of Santokba and took his blessings. Chief Minister Shri Vijaybhai Rupani lauded Shahrukh for taking India’s jewels like Shri Kiran Kumar and Shri Kailash Satyarthi to the people.

After the ceremony, as the President was leaving, I hesitantly asked him if he could be photographed with our family members. He immediately agreed and within minutes it took everyone to gather in one frame, when I was telling him about my family, the President said, ‘We are also five brothers and two sisters. After my elementary schooling, I had to go to Kanpur every day to attend junior school, 8 km from my Paraukh village in Kanpur countryside, as no one in the village had a bicycle.’ I remembered that I used to go to school on a bicycle with sticks. We held a separate ceremony at the Science Center, City Light Road, just after the President’s ceremony, where the awardees could talk and interact with the audience.

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It gives me great pleasure to receive an invitation from President Ram Nath Kovindji to participate in the traditional Independence Day ‘At Home’ on 15th August 2018 at Rashtrapati Bhavan along with my wife. We were really pleased. It was indeed a dream world to meet among powerful people, leaders, diplomats and officials and 400 guests. When Prime Minister Narendrabhai saw us, he exclaimed with great joy, ‘O re Govindbhai, kyare aavya? (O Govindbhai, when did you arrive?)’ By addressing me as O Re Govindbhai, Narendrabhai made me feel special in that gathering of great people. When someone likes you, the way he talks about you is different. You feel safe and comfortable.

Excerpted with permission from Diamonds Are Forever, So Are Moral: The Autobiography of Govind Dholakia Told to Arun Tiwari and Kamlesh Yagnik, Hardback, Rs 699, Published by Penguin Enterprise

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