The name Nani Palkhivala conjures a variety of images like few other personalities do, the sheer versatility of the man leaves anyone thoroughly amazed and awed. A man who was the nation’s foremost constitutional lawyers, civil rights champion, economist whose interpretation of the union budget was more awaited than the budget itself, a seasoned diplomat whose stint as India’s Ambassador to the USA marked a new height in Indo-US relations, the list is endless, but what made the man different was the ‘Connect’ he had with the common man, he was not the esoteric genius who lived in an ivory tower whose philosophy and beliefs were understood only by the intelligentsia, but a man who was sensitized by happenings around him and sensitized the common man on the same. A man who brought terms like human rights, diplomacy, impact of the budget etc within the understanding and concern of the common man. His observation of Sankara Nethralaya as a place which replenishes his faith in the goodness of mankind, is a classic example of his deep understanding of an institution and its functioning seemingly far out of his purview.
The 20th of July 2018 marked a very special and emotional day for Sankara Nethralaya as it was hosting the launch of the biography of a man who was one of its greatest well wishers, supporters and champions of its cause. The VD Swami auditorium at the Sankara Nethralaya main campus where the launch of the book aptly titled ‘Nani Palkhivala – God’s gift to India’ by Shri Dharmendra Bhandari was happening, presented a picture of an intimate audience, to quote the words of Chief Guest Shri Gopal Krishna Gandhi who was releasing the book. Speaking on the occasion senior members of Sankara Nethralaya, Chairman Emeritus and Founder Dr SS.Badrinath and Dr Girish Rao, Director Medical Affairs recalled how a single visit to the institution left a deep impact on Shri Nani Palkhivala and became a most important chapter in the institution’s history. Srimathi Akila Ganesan, Director -Administration took the audience on an interesting journey of the institution and its service to mankind since inception as perceived by late Nani Palkhivala
The distinguished audience on the dais reflected the values for which the man whose biography was being released. Chief Guest of the evening Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi the highly principled and public spirited civil servant who served both as a diplomat and the governor of West Bengal with distinction, Retired Judge of the Madras High Court Justice Prabha Sridevan an upright legal luminary, artist, author, human rights/women’s rights activist and member of the Intellectual property rights commission, Shri Dharmendra Bhandari the author, a highly principled auditor and litterateur and Mr S.Mahalingam a master of the art of communication who was known in corporate circles as a man who knows what, when and how to communicate, a simple man under whose chairmanship TCS scaled great heights and a dedicated member of the Nani Palkhivala Foundation.
The book launch marked an intellectually invigorating evening with highly captivating recollections of the genius, his values, his intellect, sense of justice and fair play, charity, humour and humility. Shri Dharmendra Bhandari recalled him as a rare combination of a corporate czar who worked like a super computer to lead TCS to the status of a world class company, a legal luminary who was appointed into the Law commission by India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru twice, a man who served as the attorney general for a single day and a man whose eloquence at the UN assembly decided a large tract of disputed land in the Rann of Kutch in favour of India. Guest of Honour Justice Prabha Sridevan observed with vehemence that if Nani Palkhivala was alive today he would have taught people the true meaning of freedom, emphasised the need for judicial recusal to judges, raised the prestige of the judiciary and demystified GST and demonetisation. Sharing his concern that we are living in a period of greed and gloom, when status has replaced stature, position has replaced prestige, sensation has replaced sacrifice, rhetoric has replaced reason, manipulation has replaced value system, Chief Guest Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi hastened to add that not all is lost and the nation’s judiciary stood as a shining example of high ethical standards, values and independence. He observed that the recent judgements by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul of the Madras High court on the case pertaining to right to privacy and the Supreme court’s pronouncement on the right of the elected government vis-a-vis the Lt Governor were indeed great verdicts which would have rejoiced Nani Palkhivala, if he was alive today.
Delivering the Vote of Thanks Shri S.Mahalingam recalled that he had the privilege of working under the legend and recalled that late Nani Palkhivala held Dr SS.Badrinath and Sankara Nethralaya his institution in the highest esteem, adding that the only occasion his eloquence exceeded his budget speeches was the occasion when he spoke at the Sankara Nethralaya campus during one of his visits.
The author and publisher of the biography offered the great work at a special price of 50% of the actual cost on the day of launch and committed the entire sale proceeds to Sankara Nethralaya, as a tribute to the man who held the institution in the highest esteem and close to his heart, the same would be utilized to provide cost free eye care to the poor and needy who cannot afford to pay for their treatment.