In 1982, when I was the director of Rotary International, my wife Usha and I were picked up from our hotel in Evanston (US) by an elderly Rotarian couple — Bill and Miriam Cable — to drive us to a district conference in Indiana.
As we drove, Miriam pulled out a torn stocking from a bag and started mending it. All through the four-hour journey, she kept mending countless torn stockings. Crazy woman!
Later, I learned that both never joined others for meals at various conferences or conventions. They brought their own fruits and sandwiches. Also, they never stayed in any expensive hotel. Instead, they stayed in their own caravan. Big misers, we thought.
In 1991, when I was the Rotary International president, Bill and Miriam came to my office to present a gift to The Rotary Foundation. To my utter disbelief, they had willed their entire estate worth $1.6 million to the foundation. I asked Bill whether he has the approval of his sons. He did not answer and I did not pursue the matter. However, soon they came again – this time, with three cheques signed by his sons totalling the amount in question. Miriam and Bill, whom I thought were misers, turned out to be an epitome of generosity and a great example of simple living and big giving.
Usha and I resolved to dedicate ourselves, our time, our hearts and our money for the good of others.
After my tenure as the president of Rotary International and the chairperson of the Foundation of Rotary International, ‘Service beyond borders’ opened the doors to unlimited service opportunities.
Thus, our first medical mission was to Uganda in 1998. As we arrived at the airport, I was asked by a reporter about the cost of our project. In turn, I asked him: can the time, expertise and sacrifice of our most accomplished surgeons and doctors SPS Grewal, Uma Pradhan, Madhav Borate, Rajendra Gosavi, Shrirang Deshpande, B Shivshankar, Vilas Jog and Rajiv Pradhan and the transformation in the lives of countless patients be ever calculated in terms of money? He was speechless. Usha and I were serving as volunteers. We had registered many kids with deformed legs for polio corrective surgery. While getting the children ready for surgery, Usha remarked: ‘It is August 11 today. Happy birthday, dear.’ What a beautiful coincidence and a unique way to celebrate my birthday by serving humanity!
During the 48 medical missions from 1998 to 2022 in Africa and India, all our surgeons and doctors have forgone their earnings while serving men, women and children in dire need of treatment. We, the volunteers, serve the patients by lifting them, preparing them for surgery, pushing their wheelchairs and consoling them when in pain. These stories inspire us immensely, touching our hearts and lifting our spirits.
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