A man worthy of the Nobel peace prize

I had just entered my teens when my father sent me to attend a Shibir in Palanpur. A Shibir is an Indian version of a camp and was organized by Kumarpal V Shah on spirituality. That was the first time I met the grand philanthropist. At that time I had very little knowledge of who he was, or what he did. My father knew him and supported his activities by sending able bodied men, when Jain Ascetics needed to be lifted and carried, from place to place, in case they were infirm. 
I remember meeting him in Mumbai and he took me to visit his elder brother who was a diamond merchant. That is where I had the opportunity to experience a lift and a TV screen for the first time in my life. You can imagine the impact it had on me, as I still cherish this memory 5 decades later. For rest of the duration of the Shibir I was lucky to be put up with him in the same room. For all the 15 days I enjoyed the privileges which come along with staying with the organizer. After the first interaction I never met him for the next 40 years.
When I constructed a Bhavan in Adoni, in the name of my father I very much wanted Kumarpal bhai to inaugurate it. I even had the foundation stone engraved with his name on it, however due to prior commitments he was unable to make it.
In 2019, I fixed an appointment and specifically went to meet him, while he was in Dholka. That is when he invited me to attend the annual meeting of the Vyach Khata. The Vyach Khata is a charitable organization focused on fulfilling the needs of Jain Ascetics.

There are four different branches under this initiative the first is the Vyach Khata which addresses the needs of Ascetics. 

Ayambil Khata to ensure Jains across locations are facilitated to fulfill the Ayambil Oli Tap. Garam Pani Khata to make hot, filtered water available for drinking, a must for Jains to minimize killing microscopic beings. Last but not the least Gyan Khata to provide education to Jain Ascetics.

The Vyach Khata has 7 committee members and 90 – 100 special invitees. I was fortunate to be invited to attend the annual review at the beginning of every year. Having been in business for over 4 decades, the presentation of the balance sheets is something I have not seen even with Fortune 500 companies. In the first week of January every year, the balance sheet for the previous calendar year is submitted, based on a provisional one for December, along with the balance sheets for the last five years. It’s is unimaginable how this is done in a couple of days after the year has ended and it is accounted down to the last Rupee. At the end of the presentation, the floor is thrown open to everyone for queries or clarifications they have. Each and every question is addressed to the tiniest detail. The accountability, clarity and transparency is something for all businesses to emulate.

It is legendary that there is so much transparency and precision in the work Kumarpal bhai does that collection of funds for any charitable endeavor is never a constraint. Funds just pours in as soon as people know his name is associated with the appeal.

He is an extraordinary man and his life is totally dedicated to Seva. It covers a wide canvas from temple building, restoration of ancient temples, Jeevadaya, flood and earthquake relief, reaching assistance to the underprivileged during economic crisis, Sadharmik Bhakti, improving the lot of tribals and in general a pillar of strength for the Jain community. 

He walks the talk of philanthropy yet Kumarpal bhai is humble, never seen taking credit for anything, maintains a low profile, avoid titles, never boosts himself or names drops.  He is a silent worker who gets things done and is lovingly known as the 25th living Thirthankar. Wherever there is a drought or natural calamity in Gujarat, Kumarpal bhai and his associates will be there helping people in need. 

A most laudable endeavor in the service of the under privileged has been the relentlessly activity, sustained week after week, since the last 7 months, in towns and villages across Gujarat, to alleviate the suffering of the downtrodden affected economically, due to adverse circumstances caused by the Corona Pandemic. The effort led by Kumarpal bhai and his colleagues, overlooking personal risk have provided relief to deprived families in multiple locations, where no help has reached.

The Honorable Prime Minister Modiji said, when he was the CM of Gujarat, the first five people he would reach out for help to, in times of need, one of them was Kumarpal bhai. That kind of appreciation coming from the premier of our nation is worth is weight in gold. This then is nothing short of a living institution, who is an inspiration to me.

Opinions in this piece belong to the author: Ramesh Kumar Shah

Ramesh Kumar Shah is the founder of the RK Group, founder of RK Trust (rktrust.in) and co-founder of Harvard Business School Angels of India. Apart from being a businessman, he is keenly involved in making as much of a difference in people’s lives as he can, most recently through the Let’s Mask India initiative, that provides a free mask to all the residents of Bangalore. 

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