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Sankara Nethralaya rings true! Exults the Mahatma’s grandson at the centenary celebration of a Gandhian

Shri Kamalnayan Bajaj

The imposing edifice housing the Kamalnayan Bajaj Institute for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology came alive to a steady flow of visitors right from the early evening of Friday the 23rd of January 2015. The Sankara Nethralaya family was paying its homage to the memory of the great man after whose name its research facility was named and expressing its gratitude to the members of his family whose generosity made it a reality and pledging its commitment to focused research to find solutions to prevailing and emerging eye ailments and its resolve to banishing blindness from the face of the earth on the momentous occasion. The ‘Photo Exhibition’ at the foyer of the 7th floor of the venue, very thoughtfully compiled and prepared by the multi-media department of Sankara Nethralaya gave visitors a rare glimpse into the eventful life of Shri Kamalnayan Bajaj and the dedication of the research facility in his name and honour by the Bajaj family and Sankara Nethralaya.

The function got off to an auspicious start with the mellifluous rendering of the invocation song ‘Kamalanayana….’by sisters Shruthi and Sahana, final year students of the MOP Vaishnav College for women, Chennai. Shri Sivashankar, Senior Research Fellow extended a warm welcome to the esteemed chief guest and all those assembled for the August occasion.

Introducing the Chief guest Dr S.S.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus started off with his sincere thanks to Shri Rahul Bajaj and Shri Neeraj Bajaj for choosing to celebrate the centenary of Shri Kamalnayan Bajaj at the place named in his honour. He thanked the Bajaj family for their generous support which had enabled the setting up of an exclusive ophthalmic research facility in the country. Warmly recalling his long association with Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi he thanked Shrimathi MS Amma the great well wisher of Sankara Nethralaya for having been the bridge between him and Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi, he recalled his meeting with the great man when he was the Governor of West Bengal and receiving a copy of ‘A Frank Friendship’ the book authored by him.

Dr Ronnie George, Senior Glaucoma Consultant and Director- Research, Kamalnayan Bajaj Institute for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology gave a highly absorbing account of the genesis of the Vision Research Foundation, its goals, its transition as the Kamlnayan Bajaj Institute for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, a most spacious, well equipped and State of the Art research facility with the generous support of the Bajaj family. He traced the remarkable work being carried out and achievements of each research department at the institution, underlying the qualitative and quantitative jump in the same after the assistance by the Bajaj family and renaming of the facility as Kamalnayan Bajaj Institute for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

The most distinguished chief guest and speaker of the day Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi a man with such high credentials as former governor of West Bengal, senior IAS officer and a man who served with distinction as India’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, South Africa, Norway and Iceland, a man with a proud lineage of being the grandson of the Mahathma and the man whom he described as his ‘conscience keeper’ took the audience on a enchanting trip to a bygone era, a glorious era, where men could differ on issues, question their leaders and yet remain united for a common cause. An era marked by political integrity and non-opportunistic philanthropy. Expressing his appreciation for the huge funding towards research by the Bajaj family the eminent speaker observed that the Bajaj family had a history of what he termed as “Intelligent philanthropy”. Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi highlighted that as the Bajaj family well understood where to make their charity and philanthropy for the greatest benefit of society, quoting an idiom from old world English “It rings true’ which was derived from the practice of striking a coin with one’s finger and ensuring its authenticity by the ringing sound it created, he remarked that ‘Sankara Nethralaya rings true’. He underlined the support of Sankara Nethralaya’s research initiatives for the common good by the Bajaj family as a shining example of ‘Purity of intention” and complete confidence and trust in the sagacious leadership of Dr SS.Badrinath whom he described as a phenomenal visionary of our times.

This was followed by a highly charged Vote of Thanks by Shri Rahul Bajaj, Head of the Bajaj group and illustrious son of Shri Kamalnayan Bajaj which was played on the screen. It was a rich commentary on his illustrious father and grandfather, the times they lived in, the values they cherished, the business ethics which they held paramount, the same values which continue to govern the Bajaj group to this day. The well- known captain of industry closed his speech with an appeal to the government to provide a level playing field to all businessmen.

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