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English fortnightly, devoted to life, literature and culture.

Vol: 30  No: 01


01 August 1983

G. D. Birla Master Sculptor

D. P. Mandelia

Birlaji never left for the morrow anything that could be done today. This was the key to his success. Shri G. D. Birla was a visionary. He always thought of the future. He remained always a great student of our culture and philosophy. Although he was a Hindu by birth, he revered every other religion as he thought that the basic tenets of all religions were the same. He was a man of character.
His wife died when he was only in his thirties , but he decided to lead the life of a celibate till his last breath.
In 1942 when the Quit India Resolution was passed, Mahatma Gandhi with all his associates was staying with Birlaji in Bombay. He and his elder brother, Rameshwardasji were the hosts. One fine morning Gandhiji decided that nothing would help the freedom movement than the “Quit India” Resolution. As he was staying with a big industrialist having great stakes under the British rule, Gandhiji did not want to embarrass his hosts. He, therefore, decided to shift to the Congress Office in Bombay.
When Rameshwardasji and Ghanshyamdasji heard of this, they were shocked, and felt insulted. They approached Gandhiji humbly and told him that he would be doing injustice to them if, for fear of their bearing the anger of the British Empire, he shifted to the Congress Office and passed the resolution there. “God willing, we will be able to weather the storm, if at all it comes, and we would request you to stay on here and pass the resolution,” they said.
The resolution was ultimately passed in the Birla House and it was from there that the British police took Gandhiji and his associates at midnight to the Yeravada Jail in Pune. That shows the principle to which Birlaji attached the greatest value and to which he adhered till the very last moment of his life.

In his “Neeti Shatakam,” Bhartruhari describes the characteristics of a wise man in the following lines:
Whether people well versed in the art of Neeti blame them or praise them; whether Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth goes to them or deserts them; whether death overtakes them instantly or after a Yuga, wisemen never forsake the path of Neeti.

Four Rules
I came across a poem written by Henry Vandyke giving four rules for a successful life;
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellowmen sincerely,
To act with very honest motives purely and
To trust in God and Heaven securely.
I feel Birlaji followed all these four rules throughout his life. I would compare Birlaji to a superb master sculptor. Birlaji did not sculpt inanimate objects but animate subjects - young men.

Whenever he chose persons to take charge of his industries, charitable institutions, educational institutes or any other projects that he thought worthwhile undertaking, he would not care to go in for an experienced man, as ordinary men do; he would go and look for a novice, a young man. But not any young man - not any novice just picked up from the street. No, he would first look to his heredity.
I am afraid this qualification, heredity, has lost ground except in case of weddings or when we are backing horses. But when we select people to take charge of our projects, to take charge of the country, we do not look at their heredity. That all men are equal may be true in a biological sense but not in the behavioural sense.
Birlaji never left for the morrow anything that could be done today. This was the key to his success.
Birlaji wanted India to become independent and strong and for that purpose started industries. Not only conventional industries, basic industries, new industries, but he wanted to improve the agricultural produce quantity-wise and quality-wise. He introduced new vegetables, new fruits. He started an Agricultural Farm and a Dairy at Pilani.
He brought bulls from Europe, cows from Europe, brought vegetable seeds and fruit seeds from Europe. He was a revolutionary at heart. He wanted to change the society.
In his teens he assisted financially the Revolutionary Party of Bengal, whose members were getting arms and ammunitions from the British ordnance depots and for that a warrant of arrest was issued against him by the Commissioner, Mr. Tegart. Birlaji had to remain underground for several months. Afterwards on knowing the sterling qualities of Birlaji, Mr. Tegart became a fast friend of Birlaji and when he retired, he became the first President of Birla’s company in London.
Birlaji knew that he was nearing his end and after the heart-attack he had suffered five years back, he had instructed his sons and daughters-in-law and myself that the next time he fell sick, no medical treatment should be given to him, no medicine should be given to him.
He said, ‘All the medicine that I want is Ganga Jal, and Lord Hari be my vaidya, my doctor. I do not want any medicine or treatment.’ He also told us that when he died, his body, his remains, should not be carted from one place to another.
The last rites must be performed wherever he died, and that was why the cremation was done in London where he died after he had gone for his normal walk, which he undertook everyday - 5 to 6 miles everyday even at that age.
He had requested Swami Akandanandji to bless him that he may not die in bed - that he may die with all his faculties intact and in harness. Birlaji had the kind of death he wanted.

Bhavan's Journal

01 August 1983


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