Interview with Kishu H Mansukhani
– President of HSNC Board
by Ram Jawhrani
Sindhi Sarmayo by Ram Jawhrani highlights the selfless efforts put in to promote SINDHI language, literature, culture and heritage, along with information about their personal achievements.
Mysterious are the ways of Nature – unfolding and manifesting its creativity in diversity with no individual being alike. Every human being is unique, with different personalities, mental make-up, outlook, talents and capabilities. Some, concerned with only their immediate surroundings, family and friends while others totally involved with their own personal self. There are some who scale the highest peaks and are known for their lofty achievements while there are others only focused on amassing personal wealth and in doing so spend their entire lifetime ultimately leaving everything behind. There are also a few individuals, who after achieving success on the material plane, find emptiness and realize there is more to life, and sacrificing all possessions turn towards salvation and discovery of the ultimate truth. But there are very few, who while performing their ordained duties, lead family lives, perform their “Karma” by working, earning, providing for their family while simultaneously rendering service to their community and society at large.
To-day we are fortunate to have the opportunity to interact with Kishu Mansukhani – who has given a lot to society with his unique vision and far sightedness. His family has established several educational institutions and hospitals and he himself has dedicated his life to maintaining and carrying forward this honourable tradition. Lakhs of students have had the benefit of education at these institutions, enabling them to establish themselves in life and in turn be able to serve society.
Kishu Mansukhani is currently the President of the Hyderabad (Sind) National Collegiate Board, continuing with his yeoman service to humanity, in this capacity. I believe only the likes of such individuals are capable of leaving their stamp on history, who besides serving their community and society guide, groom and nurture the youth, and lead the coming generations towards the right path –
R. Jawhrani : Let's begin with your place of birth, were you born in India or Pakistan?
K. Mansukhani : I was born in Sindh, which was then a part of India.
R. Jawhrani : In which year and where in Sindh?
K. Mansukhani : I was born on 11th December 1936 in Karachi. Karachi was then a part of India, so I always insist that I was born in India. I even had an argument with the Consul General in New York and asked him to write my birth place as India and not Pakistan.
R. Jawhrani : While generally most Sindhis lament that they had to quit their motherland at the time of Partition you still consider India as your motherland, as Sindh was then a part of India
K. Mansukhani : Absolutely!
R. Jawhrani : What was the occupation of your forefathers in Sindh?
K. Mansukhani : My father was an Assistant Commissioner, Income Tax. The 'Quit India' movement began when he was in office. Acharya Kirpalani was a close relative of my mother and at his request my father resigned. This incident took place around 1942. My father had really worked hard to come up in life and his resignation came as a shock to all the family members, who got worried about the question of survival. But thanks to the Almighty and my Grandmother Chandibai's blessings, we managed to survive. We consider our Grandmother affectionately called Ama saintly person and whatever we have today is due to her blessings.
R. Jawhrani : Do you have any memories of the Partition?
K. Mansukhani : Yes. I was ten years old at that time. As soon as partition was announced my father said that at first the children should leave. He had a couple of widowed sisters with daughters. I clearly remember that we travelled in a ship named 'Ekmar'. There were about 25 of us who landed in Mumbai. But where do we go from here? For a few days we stayed at my father's Gujarati friend's place. As I was young and all the surroundings were new to me I was quite enjoying myself as I had never seen trains without engines or double decker buses. With the help of these good Samaritans and my father's influence, we managed to get an apartment. It was about 1200 sq. ft. where all 25 of us used to stay. It had just one hall, one bedroom and one bathroom and on top of it all the apartment was on the fifth floor.
R. Jawhrani : Were all the 25 your family members or were there some other persons also.
K. Mansukhani : All were family members, uncles, aunts, cousins etc. All of them were quite young. We had come with our uncle Karamyogi Gangaram, while my parents stayed back in Sindh as they wanted to wind up everything and sell our properties etc. Alas, that too was a disaster as in January 1948 the Muhajirs who went from here went on a looting and killing spree.
I recollect clearly that we used to stay in the 'Amil Colony' on Clayton Road in Karachi. In that area there were many nice bungalows belonging to well to do Sindhis. We always had a Pooja Room in our house. My parents were sitting in the Pooja Room when these Muhajirs attacked. In the bungalow we also had a flat on the top floor which was unoccupied. But my parents used to go and hang out clothes to give the impression that the top flat was also occupied. A few days prior to the attack a Muslim person accompanied by 8 to 10 persons came to our house. Some of them had guns with them. They addressed my father as Diwan Sahib and said that they wanted to stay in the vacant flat on the top floor. My father informed them that the top floor was occupied. Thereupon the Muslim person said that he was aware of the facts and he had all information about my father. He said that he was a Judge from Uttar Pradesh, and that he and his companions would stay on the top floor, and dared my father to stop them.
The attacks and lootings began 5 days after their occupying the top floor. There were hundreds of them shouting slogans of 'Allah Hu Akbar'. Some of them were carrying huge tree trunks and striking the walls and doors of all the bungalows to get access to the house with the intent of looting. My father noticed that the neighboring house of M.G. Shahani, was already looted and he realized that it would now be the turn of his own house. When they came to our house, the Muslim person residing on the top floor of the bungalow told them not to touch this house as it belonged to a Muslim person. They asked him how was that possible, as the board mentioned the name of Diwan, implying that it was the house of a Hindu. He showed them the Quaran and tried to explain to them but they wouldn't listen. Finally he came down and told them, “You will have to attack me before you attack the Diwan,” and they left our house. In the evening he came down and asked my father if he was aware of what had happened that day and my father replied in the affirmative. He then also asked him if he realized what could have happened to him? Saying this, he gave him air tickets and said, “I shall escort you upto the airplane. Its upto you to decide. If you want to stay back you alone will be responsible for the consequences.” That same evening my parents left and arrived in Bombay by air. We were all surprised as we didn't have any intimation about their arrival.
R. Jawhrani : Did you witness any attacks or killings?
K. Mansukhani : I didn't witness any attacks but know of a few, but that's a different story which I will tell you later. My grandmother was a very pious lady. My parent's first borns were two sons who unfortunately didn't survive. Then they had three daughters. My grandmother was quite upset and left on a pilgrimage. When she reached Huzur Saheb, she felt that she heard Guru Gobind Singhji saying, “Go back and your daughter-in-law will soon get a son.” She came back all the way. Soon my brother was born and my parents made him a Sikh and named him Mohan Singh. Once while returning from school he was attacked as Sikhs are easily recognizable by their attire. Seeing the situation, his long hair was cut at the suggestion of Principal Kundnani. This is the only incident of an attack that I remember.
R. Jawhrani : After coming to Bombay, did you go to the Ulhasnagar refugee camps?
K. Mansukhani : No, we didn't go there.
R. Jawhrani : How were your initial days in Bombay?
K. Mansukhani : When we came here in Bombay, although we did manage to get a roof over our head we faced a lot of difficulties. The first thing that my uncle did was to get all the children admitted in school. The English Medium schools refused to give us admission and only agreed to admit us 1 or 2 standards lower than what we were actually eligible for. So my uncle got us admitted in a Gujarati School. But with the grace of God, Sindhi schools were soon established and some of us went to Sindh Model High School (which is under our Board now) while others went to Premier High School.
The problem of schooling was solved, but we had a major problem of space, with 25 persons in one house. There were about 4 to 5 beds in the house, which were called 'khatu' or 'charpai'. The elders would sleep on the bed and the children would sleep under the bed. My aunt used to wake us up, one by one, from 5:00 in the morning as there was only one bathroom, so that by 7:00 we could all be ready to leave for school. Only after we had left, would the adults get a chance to use the bathroom. Jobs weren't easy to procure. So we started our own trading shops in Bombay. From there we started progressing. But still there was a lot of load on my father, as he was not entitled to any retirement benefits, since he had resigned from his job during quit India movement.
R. Jawhrani : Did you receive any claim or compensation for the properties you left behind in Sindh?
K. Mansukhani : We did receive some claims, some place was allotted in Interior of India, but it didn't benefit us much. Out of the 5 of us only one had graduated by then as one of my sisters had become a doctor. She felt that there was lot of load on my father as my father was nearing his 60s at that time. She went to America on a scholarship in 1952. Gradually one by one all of us followed. Now all my sisters are medical professional and doctors, and even their children, including my own daughter, are doctors. So either by birth or marriage we have 17 lady doctors in our family. This is the pride of our family. All the girls in the family became doctors whereas all the boys pursued engineering. After my eldest sister went to America, my second sister followed, and then myself. At that time I was only about 16 years old. We all helped each other and by 1957 – 58 we were all graduates, by the grace of God and the blessings of my grandmother – Ama. Thus the load on our parents was greatly reduced and all the children pursued their own careers after studies.
After completing my studies in Mechanical Engineering and Business Management I returned to Mumbai and immediately joined Mahindra and Mahindra. Soon after that I was selected by Tata Engineering (Tata Motors) as a member of Founding team which established as Tata Exports and is now known as Tata International. I was in charge of Marketing Tata vehicles overseas. This gave me excellent experience in International Marketing and business practices. I have traveled extensively to Africa, Middle east, South America, South East Asia and Europe and have had the privilege of meeting many Heads of State and Governments.
In mid 80's I was appointed as CEO of trading organization under Tata Incorporation in New York and was posted there for 9 years. During my nearly 30 years with Tatas, I was fortunate to learn values of business discipline and ethics.
At present as President of HSNC Board my endeavors are to implement and improve upon systems where ever possible in our large organization of 27 Institutes educating 50,000 students with, 3500 teaching and non-teaching staff. I am proud to mention that we are one of the rare Board which have so far have managed capitation free admissions even though it is difficult to maintain this position.
I was member of Lions club of India and when I settled in New York City, I along with the other friends, found Asian American chapter of Lions Club in Manhattan, New York City. After a few years, I was elected President and subsequently Zonal Chairman of New York west and Bermuda Island chapter. I was also presented Lions Governors award for promoting Sight for Sightless people.
R. Jawhrani : Tell me something about your grandmother Chandibai about whom I have heard so much.
K. Mansukhani : My grandmother Chandibai, a great lady, was not only pious but also very foresighted. I am not speaking of times in early 20th century, but of the period even prior to that. She hailed from a very renowned Bhojwani family and was the niece of Seth Naomal Hotchand of Karachi.
R. Jawhrani : I think there is a book published about him.
K. Mansukhani : Yes, the Book is named 'A forgotten Chapter of Indian History-Memoirs of Seth Naomal Hotchand, C.S.I of Karachi,1804 -1878.This book was printed in U.K. by Commissioner in Sind, 1891-1899, Sir H.Evan M.James, K.CI.E, C.S.I .During this period Mirs were ruling Sindh and torturing Sindhi Hindhus. Seth Naomul helped British to enter Sindh and relieve the Sindhi Hindhus being victimized by Mirs. My grandmother Chandibai Lekhraj Bhojwani married to my grandfather Himathmal Metharam Mansukhani who was an officer in the railways, in Hyderabad, Sindh. She revolutionized our family. I don't think she was educated beyond high school, but she was a well read woman who had read many books and was highly knowledgeable. She used to read Granth Sahib in gurmukhi and used to congregate the womenfolk of the neighboring families and recite vanis to them. She used to tell them that education is the only revolution which will make them independent and not dependent on men folk. So the generation before me consisted mostly of well educated lady teachers.
R. Jawhrani : So it can be said that due to your grandmother most of your family members were in the field of education.
K. Mansukhani : My grandmother had a dream of establishing a girls college where girls could pursue medicine and engineering. When my cousin Jotu was 6 days old her mother, my grandmothers eldest daughter passed away. My grandmother Ama brought her in our house and placed her in my mother's arms and told her to take care of her and she grew up as our elder sister.
When Jotu was of marriageable age, my grandmother said that she wanted a well educated boy for Jotu. She rejected 4 offers till Principal Kundnani's proposal was received. Even Kundnani was interviewed before being approved. My grandmother had such foresight that she chose the right man for Jotu, and as you know Principal Kundnani went on to establish one institution after another and proved himself as real Vidyasagar.
R. Jawhrani : That's true. Principal Kundnani's contribution is truly historical in the field of education.
K. Mansukhani : All had deserted Hyderabad (Sind) and it was only Prin. Kundnani who tried to gather whatever he could and bring basic laboratory and other equipments/instruments to India. Had he been caught with all that he carried God alone knows what would have happened to him. But somehow he managed to reach Bombay. Even Jotu and he stayed for a while with 25 of us in the same house. He would be the first amongst all of us to leave the house. He used to carry his tiffin and leave in search of a suitable plot for establishing a college.
R. Jawhrani : Who were the persons who helped Mr. Kundnani establish the colleges?
K. Mansukhani : One was of course Barrister Hotchand Advani. But he came into the picture later. In the beginning Kundnani was all alone and he made his association with T. M. Advani, the founder of Jai Hind College. But that association didn't last. So he began searching for a plot of land all by himself. He found a plot in Bandra, but didn't have the adequate funds to purchase it. Jotu gave him the jewellery she had received from the family which he mortgaged and even sold some of it. That became the seed money to buy the plot. Then others came on board. And then later of course with the help of Barrister Hotchand they were able to achieve a lot.
R. Jawhrani : So National College in Bandra is the first college that was set up by the board?
K. Mansukhani : Yes. The plot was bought with Kundnani's funds on a 999 years lease and still half of the plot stands in the name of Prin. Khushiram Kundnani and Jotu Kundnani Trust. Later with help of Barrister Hotchand Advani, National College was built. Then through his contacts Watumulls and other prominent sindhis joined in and rendered financial help.
Kundnani had this dream of establishing one college in Churchgate. So with the help of the then Chief Minister Mr. Morarji Desai and others, they managed to get the plot for K. C. College and thereafter another plot for K. C. Law College where today H.R. College is also housed. After that there was no looking back.
R. Jawhrani : At present how many colleges are run by the Hyderabad Sind National Collegiate Board, (HSNCB)?
K. Mansukhani : There are 17 colleges and 10 schools managed by our Board.
R. Jawhrani : Where are the schools located?
K. Mansukhani : Some in South Mumbai and some in Ulhasnagar.
R. Jawhrani : All these colleges and schools have been accorded “minority status.” So do you have 50%, Sindhi students?
K. Mansukhani : No. we don't. Although we have minority quota in all our colleges including technical colleges but often it doesn't get filled up, and we have to admit more than 50% non-Sindhis.
R. Jawhrani : According to you what is the status of the Sindhi language today?
K. Mansukhani : It is on the decline and this upsets me a lot. But then what can be done about it? Our elders are not ready to accept Sindhi in the Devnagri script.
R. Jawhrani : Are you in favour of Devnagri script?
K. Mansukhani : Yes. The students who learn Hindi and Marathi in schools can easily follow the Devnagri script.
R. Jawhrani : Well, even the Gujaratis are trying to use the Devnagri script as they too face a similar problem. What are you doing on behalf of the HSNCB for the survival of the Sindhi language?
K. Mansukhani : We ask the students who apply under the Sindhi Quota, to learn Sindhi. Some students do so while others don't. Students at National College are demanding that the script be Devnagri while those at Chandibai College in Ulhasnagar are in favour of the Arabic script. Our Board's committee has decided to design a special course for teaching Sindhi. It will be for duration of about 2 – 3 months and at the end of the course a certificate would be awarded to the students. It will not be considered in their routine curriculum but we shall make it mandatory to pass that course.
R. Jawhrani : Has this been implemented?
K. Mansukhani : Yes, in National and K.C. college at the moment. Other colleges will start from June 2012. We are also planning to invite sindhi parents to join Sindhi classes. We have received another suggestion. I am not sure whether you should put this on record, but many students prefer to take up French as the second language only because the exam paper is quite easy and simple which allows them to score high marks. In a similar fashion we are contemplating the setting of easy Sindhi exam papers so that Sindhi students are attracted to opt for Sindhi as the second language.
In the University of Mumbai the students have a choice between Sindhi and IT (Information Technology) and everybody prefers IT. So this is one change we are planning to implement. We are working on it presently but from next year we are planning to take a declaration from the Sindhi students that they will learn Sindhi.
R. Jawhrani : Do you have any Sindhi students' circles or groups, holding Sindhi cultural programmes?
K. Mansukhani : Yes, we do have these Sindhi student circles. Infact it is quite an active one in Ulhasnagar and K.C.College. They hold meetings, functions, get togethers etc.
R. Jawhrani : Does HSNCB conduct Sindhi cultural programmes in the modern auditoriums of K.C. college and National College?
K. Mansukhani : Yes, we do organize Sindhi cultural programmes through the individual colleges and we encourage these programmes and offer various concessions and prizes.
R. Jawhrani : So directly or indirectly you are making some effort to promote and preserve the Sindhi language.
K. Mansukhani : Yes. Infact I would like some of the literary masterpieces of Sindhi published in the Devnagri script. We can support that effort and these books can be kept in our libraries.
I may add here that our Board donated a substantial amount to the University of Mumbai to establish a Sindhu Bhasha Bhavan at the Kalina campus of the University.
R. Jawhrani : Do you have Sindhi books in Arabic or Devnagri script in your libraries at present?
K. Mansukhani : Yes, we do have many Sindhi books in our libraries.
R. Jawhrani : At present the relations between India and Pakistan are not so cordial. Do you procure Sindhi literature and books for your libraries published in Pakistan?
K. Mansukhani : We have obtained a few of them like 'Shah jo Rasalo'. We would like to get more but I'm afraid, we will have only few readers as those books are in the Arabic script. Therefore, as I mentioned earlier, if the books get transcripted into Devnagri it will prove to be more beneficial.
R. Jawhrani : Your board has all the requisite tools as well as the funds. Are you in favour of hosting conferences inviting Sindhi litterateurs and scholars from Pakistan to enable meetings and exchange of views and ideas etc.?
K. Mansuakhani : Yes, we are in favour of such events. Recently we had organized a Sindhi Sammelan at Chandibai College in Ulhasnagar where Sindhi Pakistani dignitaries from Dubai, London, Pakistan etc. participated. The MLA of Ulhasnagar, Mr. Kumar Ailani stated that it was on the 10th of April that Sindhi was listed in the Indian Constitution and hence we have decided to hold a Sindhi function on the 10th of April every year at Chandibai College.
I would also like to add here that Like Jews and western countries and Parsis in India particularly in Mumbai, have created Institutes like Hospitals, Colleges, Roads which are directly associated to their community names. Both these communities are microscopic, so are we Sindhis. We have established educational institutes, hospitals and a few roads named after our community people. I have been passionately working to establish Roads and Chowks in the name of our founding fathers.BMC has already named the chowk outside K.C.College as Vidyasagar Principal K.M.Kundnani chowk and soon we will be inaugurating road in Ulhasnagar in Ama's name, 'Chandibai Himathmal Mansukhani' Hopefully we will have roads in memory of many great personalities from the community. These symbols will always remind majority of the community about the contribution made by minority community.
R. Jawhrani : The present era has been the worst as far as corruption is concerned. Every day we read about corruption at all levels and in all fields in the newspapers. Has corruption entered the field of education also?
K. Mansukhani : It is very sad to note that nowadays corruption has become a part of life. We hear about corruption everywhere, and sometimes it is hard to believe. But I am proud to say that our founding fathers Barrister Hotchand Advani and Vidyasagar Principal K M Kundnani taught us to abstain from demanding any capitation fees. We don't accept any kind of donations for admissions. Infact we have donated so much of our own funds and time to these institutions. No one has fixed seats individually. I can say this that so far we are corruption free. But unfortunately sometimes we have to oblige politicians and other officials as well
R. Jawhrani : The Trustees and Members of your board are philanthropists, so there is no question of doubting their integrity, I was only asking a general question whether today education has become a business?
K. Mansukhani : Yes, it is true that education has become a big business. In Maharashtra many of the Politicians have their own schools and colleges. And recently you must have read in the news that large percentage of MBA colleges have now been de-linked from the University since they did not meet the required basic norms of affiliation.
R. Jawhrani : Can you give any suggestions to curb this?
K. Mansukhani : I suggest that there should be strict rules, regulations and laws. Before granting permission, credentials should be thoroughly scrutinized. A committee should be set up to review the whole education system. Our former Education Minister Mr. Kapil Sibal had started something on these lines but I think even he had some limitations.
R. Jawhrani : Changing track - after partition have you ever been to Sindh?
K. Mansukhani : Yes, I had been to Sindh when Mr. Bhutto was elected. My father had built a large hall in our bungalow where he had etched the names of 7 previous generations of our family. I remember all the 7 names – Mansukhdas, who started our Mansukhani family, then Harisingh, Lokumal, Nariandas, Metharam, Himathmal and my father Hashmatrai.
Since I was born in that bungalow, I had a great desire and curiosity to go and visit it. In 1973, when I was working with Tatas. I led an automobile engineering delegation to Karachi, Pakistan. After completing our official work for about 3 days, I got a Sindhi Muslim escort to show me around. I knew that our bungalow was close to the jail. I remember clearly it was a Thursday night when I requested him to help me locate our bungalow. We went around the area thrice but couldn't find it. From my childhood memories I recalled that our bungalow was about one or two miles away from jail whereas in fact it was much less than mile away from the jail.
In those days the boundary wall used to be about 4 feet high, but now they had increased it to 6 – 8 feet, so it became difficult to get a view of the bungalow and I had to make a real effort to get a glimpse. I looked at the door, which seemed to be the same. Suddenly someone caught hold of my neck from behind and the escort who was with me ran away. The person asked me who I was and what was I doing there. I told him I lived in this house before partition and wanted to look at the house, and from our conversation he realized that I was an Indian. Next day being Friday, a holiday, he arranged a car for me to pick me from the Hotel.
Well, the house had changed completely. They had decorated and beautified it. I went to the hall to see the slab with our names, but it wasn't there. Then we started talking and I recollected that on one side of the compound wall, next to Pesumal's house, there used be a Sitafal (Custard apple) tree. I used to climb up that tree and pluck the grapes from across. I asked them whether that tree still existed. They could not understand as they refer to Sitafal (Custard apple) as 'sharifa'. They finally understood and told me that they had cut down that tree.
A little while later they asked me a question. “There is grill work all around the house with a repetitive design which doesn't appear to have Hindu significance or symbol, what is it?” Obviously as it was quite a high quality grill work they didn't want to remove it. During childhood I hadn't paid much attention to the grill work and it was completely out of my memory. But when I saw it I realized it was a repetition of the alphabet 'M'. This was because the house was in the name of my brother Mohan Mansukhani. I then asked them for some chalk. When I coloured the 'M' section of the grill, they immediately said that this was 'M'. I then told them 'M' stood for Mohammed and they were very happy to hear this and said that they would never remove the grill.
Later when they came to see me off outside I noticed my father's name on the wall, which was covered with some black material. I requested them to remove that marble plaque with my father's name and give it to me as I wanted to carry it back with me, to install it outside my bungalow whenever I build the same. So now it is placed prominently on the wall of the bungalow in Pune.
R. Jawhrani : How did you get involved with the Sadhu Vaswani Mission? Was it after seeing their activities or was it a divine call from within?
K. Mansukhani : During my childhood in Karachi my father used to take us to Swami Vivekanand a Math and to Sadhu Vaswani, who used to come and stay just behind our house. So I knew about Sadhu Vaswani. However when I went abroad for my studies I completed lost touch with Sadhu Vaswani Mission. Around 1968, when I was sales manager in the export division of Tatas, Shri. Gangaram Sajandas Malani, who was then Chairman of Sadhu Vaswani Mission, called me and requested for my assistance. He wanted three school buses at concessional rates. During those days there used to be a quota system and vehicles were not easily available therefore he seeked my help.
I requested Mr. Moolgaokar, chairman and Managing Director, Tata Engineering (Now Tata Motors), about Sadhu Vaswani Mission's need of school buses. He informed me that he knew about Sadhu Vaswani Mission and asked me how I was connected with them. I told him that my uncle was the follower of the Mission, though we don't visit the Mission very often. He asked me for the name of my uncle and I replied, Gangaram Himathmal Mansukhani, whereupon he asked me if he was the same person who has a retail business at Prathna Samaj. I replied in the affirmative. He said that he knew him and he had great regards for him as he was aware of Shri Gangaram's regular visits to the refugee camps and the charitable help he rendered to the refugees and victims of the partition. My uncle used to assist in the matrimonial alliances of poor girls and as he believed 'Kanyadaan' to be the greatest form of charity, in fact many times he performed the 'Kanyadaan' himself. With the help of Mr. Moolgaokar I was able to procure three buses for the mission on concessional rates. This was the starting point of my contact with Sadhu Vaswani Mission and our saint philosopher Dada J.P.Vaswani.
In 1992 Principal Kundnani passed away and my sister Jotu (Kundnani's wife) asked me for advice on utilization of the savings she had inherited. Her preference was eye clinic since she was treated many years back by a doctor free of cost and she had promised that she would do the same in many folds. I asked her to form a trust which she did. We tried a lot to set up an eye clinic or hospital but in vain. There was a problem of as to who would look after it or manage it as we were all pre-occupied with our own businesses and professions. One day I spoke about this to Shri.Gangaram Malani of Sadhu Vaswani Mission who said that this was indeed a noble cause and that he would start an eye care section at Inlaks Hospital, which exists till date.
Later we decided to open an eye hospital and I volunteered to donate an X amount of money from the trust which was established by Jotu Kundnani prior to her death. Mr. Kirpalani from South America also approached the Mission and donated larger amount than our Trust. He was a very generous and kind hearted person and did not want his name to be mentioned anywhere. But Dada Vaswani insisted that his name should be jointly mentioned. Therefore the hospital was named Kirpalani - Kundnani Eye Institute and was inaugurated by Shri. L.K.Advani, the then Dy. Prime Minister of India. The operation theatre has been named Jyot Joy (Jotu and Khushi). After that we have donated 2 buses, built one library for Doctors and many special equipments to Kirpalani – Kundnani Eye Institute. Recently one of my cousins, Wadhwani gave a donation of Rs. 50 lakhs to start an Outdoor Patient Department (OPD) for Cancer Research, since their daughter was victim of cancer at a very young age. Every year, on my sister Jotu's birthday and Kundnani's birthday we conduct about 100 operations free of cost.
R. Jawhrani : Now since the topic of medicine and hospitals has come up, I remember that even HSNCB was planning to establish a medical college. Has any progress been made towards that end?
K. Mansukhani : No, unfortunately not. Just 5 minutes before he breathed his last Principal Kundnani expressed his desire to establish a Medical College. He was in fact on the verge of starting a Medical College the following week, but unfortunately died a week earlier. He had proclaimed that he would start a Medical college and even some necessary instruments had arrived. The invitation cards for inauguration had also been printed. But since he passed away, the plan was abandoned.
To establish a Medical College, a hospital is a pre-requisite. We are looking for a donor who can donate a generous amount. But I know it won't be so easy to do it now as the realty rates have skyrocketed. So that dream of establishing a Medical College remains unfulfilled till date.
R. Jawhrani : I believe, seeing your contribution and services, HSNCB has named a few of its institutions in the name of your forefathers. Which are these?
K. Mansukhani : Our Mansukhani family has been closely associated with Hyderabad (Sind) National Collegiate Board from its inception in Mumbai. 'Chandibai Himathmal Mansukhani (CHM) College of Arts, Science and Commerce', is the largest college under University of Mumbai with 12,000 students. Before that they had also named the campus as CHM Campus.
My uncle Gangaram Mansukhani was a very good friend of Kundnani's brother. During childhood they had taken an oath that they would not marry till India attained independence. After freedom, my uncle felt that this wasn't independence in the true sense, infact it was a disaster. He again took a vow that he won't get married, but would start his business and donate major part of the earning to serve sindhi brothers. Initially he used to stay with us, but as we got married he started living separately, just two buildings away from our house. He visited Ulhasnagar frequently, where he observed that students, specially girls, travelled from Ulhasnagar all the way to Bombay for studying. He felt very sorry for them as they had to spend daily about 2 hours commuting each way. He requested Kundnani to start a college in Ulhasnagar and volunteered to donate handsome amount to start the college and purchase the land. So CHM Campus was created and Chandibai Himathmal Mansukhani College was built in loving memory of his mother Ama. Prin.Kundnani was also great admirer of Ama and during his younger days he was considerably influenced by her ideals.
Where the IT college stands at present, there used to be a hostel. Earlier that hostel was named after my father Hashmatrai. My first year's earning, which were not much, were also donated towards building that hostel. As Prin. Kundnani felt it would be difficult to manage a hostel, he shut the hostel and started the IT college. That college is now named after my mother Smt. Sounpibai H Mansukhani Institute of Technology (MIT). There is another college named after my father and uncle– Hashmatrai and Gangaram Himathmal Institute of Management (MIM). These 3 colleges are named after my elders. The library in the Management College is named after my uncle Gangaram and the hall is named after my father Hashmatrai. The Library in K. C. College is named after my sister Jotu. The multi-purpose hall in K. C. College is also named after my parents. The computer lab in K. C. College is named after my uncle. We also continue to give donations and scholarships. K.C.College has also started Vidyasagar Principal K.M.Kundnani Lecture series, which is being excellently managed by Principal of K.C.College Ms.Manju Nichani. We also have two schools which are named after my bua and her husband for their generous donations, one at Grant Road, Masrer Sitaldas Punwani Tutorial High School and the other at Ulhasnagar, Smt. Kishnibai Sitaldas Punwani Jai Hind Academy and Jr.College.
R. Jawhrani : All this is under the aegis of HSNCB. Are there any Trusts in the name of your parents or family members?
K. Mansukhani : We have a few Trusts. I have started a Trust in the name of my parents through which we give scholarships and donations to needy students. I can proudly say that we have helped 2 girls to become doctors, 3 to become engineers and 2 more are studying engineering at the moment.
R. Jawhrani : Do you give scholarships only to Sindhis or to non-Sindhis as well?
K. Mansukhani : Well, till now I have given scholarships only to Sindhis but I also helped Non-Sindhis in many other ways.
R. Jawhrani : Some Trusts grant scholarships or sponsorships on the condition that the amount be returned when the beneficiary begins to earn after finishing studies. Do you also give scholarships on similar conditions or you just give them away as donations?
K. Mansukhani : We give them as donations. But I ask them to promise me, that they would sponsor at least one student in their lifetime, be it their friend, family member, distant relative or anyone just as I sponsored them. My uncle gave scholarship to innumerable persons, and many scaled great heights in their careers. They used to often ask my uncle how they could repay him. He would reply, “If you want to repay me, then sponsor a student in any field, just as I have sponsored you.” So even I follow the same rule. Out of the 5 persons fully sponsored by me, one has already fulfilled his promise. I have told them that they can fulfill their promise whenever they are in a comfortable position in their lives.
R. Jawhrani : It is said that all the rivers ultimately go and meet the ocean, but still the thirst is not quenched. God has given you everything, do you too have an unfulfilled dream or wish?
K. Mansukhani : I have the ambition of doing something more, actually there are about 3 – 4 items on my wish-list. One, as my grandmother always used to say that dreams should be pursued to become reality, which she herself did throughout her life and now I am following that advice. I have this ambition of building a medical college, under HSNC Board Banner, though it seems beyond our reach at present.
I foresee strong possibilities of India becoming education centre of the world just like our Bharat was in the days of Nalanda. We have inherited great legancy from our founding fathers. They have left behind great centres of learning. I would like to pursue HSNC Board to become deemed university as per latest guidelines of University Grants Commission (UGC)
We already have a huge plot at Ulhasnagar CHM Campus with 6 existing colleges educating nearly 15,000 students per year which could become centre of HSNC Board's Deemed University by adding 1 or 2 colleges to be affiliated with some of the well known foreign Universities. Board has also proposed to acquire additional sizable plot in New Bombay vicinity for future expansion
The next is the desire that my children and grand children, like my earlier generations and us, contribute their might for charitable and social work. In my wife Anjula's words, “be God worthy and have compassion in their hearts for needy and poor” and to continue Mansukhani family tradition of serving the downtrodden, particularly in the field of education. On a regular basis whatever we can save we keep adding to our Trust which is managed by capable hands of my wife, Mrs.Anjula Mansukhani. The Trust is engaged in lots of charitable work. With the blessings of my grandmother, even those who are not directly involved with our Trust like my cousins and second cousins have started charitable activities. I had just mentioned to you about Wadhwani, my cousin giving a donation of 50 lakhs. Mr.Punwani is another cousin who is now giving 50 lakhs as donation for building Auditorium in his elder brother's name in our Watumull Institute. There is a third one who wants to give donation for a library and mind you some of them are not direct descendents of my grandmother.
R. Jawhrani : Now I would like to ask you a different question. In today's political scenario there is a lot of turmoil. Our leaders mislead and misdirect. Will they be able to take India forward or will the conditions go from bad to worse?
K. Mansukhani : Well I am optimistic, I won't say that the conditions will worsen. But some kind of revolution is needed. Mr. Anna Hazare has started something in this cause. I don't fully agree with him in entirety as you can't bypass Parliament, you can't use threats. But I think something should be done. Maybe L. K. Advani or BJP can suggest or offer a solution. Corruption has become quite deep rooted, it won't be easy to eradicate it. However if corruption is not eliminated, our country's enemies will pounce on us from all sides. There is China and Pakistan. In such a difficult scenario, it's high time we wake up. We lack behind in infrastructure and even today after more than 60 years after Independence thousand of villages are without water and electricity. Of course the main reason is our politician.
R. Jawhrani : It is said that a weakness is after all weaknesses. A tiny hole can sink a ship. What according to you is the weakness or drawback of the Sindhi community?
K. Mansukhani : One of the main drawbacks of the Sindhi community is that there is not sufficient unity. We don't speak in one voice. We Sindhis need to be united in thoughts and commitments. I am a founding member and past President of International Sindhu Chamber of Commerce. We often discuss the need for a Sindhi leader acceptable to all. Many names come up. I proposed the name of Dada Jashan Vaswani. They spoke to him, but he refused to be drawn into politics. If we propose say one name XYZ, a renowned doctor, or industrialist or billionaire the other Sindhis won't accept him as a leader. This is it. We don't have one voice and this is our major drawback.
R. Jawhrani : Nowadays, we know that a country is run by the Parliament. But now the media has become quite powerful. Our youngsters are hardly present in both these spheres. Do you agree?
K. Mansukhani : Yes I agree with you. Why don't you start something in the field of media?
R. Jawhrani : Well, presently I am quite far from the media. I wanted the world to become aware about the success stories of our community and therefore I had the book 'Global Sindhis' published. The process is on for the second part. Other than this book, I am not into media.
Can you suggest how we can encourage our children to enter the media sector - print or electronic. I don't want to take names, but there is a community whose 60% members are into media. If any incident, however small or insignificant occurs, they immediately use the power of their pen to highlight and publish it. So their news reach rest of the country. In Ulhasnagar, where majority of Sindhis reside, many incidents keep occurring. For example do you know that approximately 50,000 Sindhis have converted to Christianity? But till date no voice has been raised on this issue. Do you have any plans or courses for students to enable and encourage them to enter the media sector?
K. Mansukhani : We already have degree courses in Mass media and Journalism in many of our colleges. We should definitely try to formulate some course or something in this regard. We should have more interesting Sindhi programmes. Recently in Chandibai College in Ulhasnagar they conducted the programme “Kaun Banega Crorepati”. I couldn't attend that mock programme in Sindhi but I heard it was quite interesting and well appreciated by one and all. So encouragement like this should be given.
R. Jawhrani : Regarding Sindhi media we have been demanding a Sindhi Channel and this is still under consideration. But what I am trying to say is that our Sindhi children should enter as reporters, editors, sub-editors into the channels which already exist today. This can only be possible if they receive education in the above fields. What do you feel should be done towards this?
K. Mansukhani : To have more alike courses in the colleges.
R. Jawhrani : Since our youngsters are not into media, our incidents, concerns and demands are never highlighted. Our community being a business community our children are more inclined towards business and are seldom interested in the media field.
K. Mansukhani : You are right. Maybe if some big Sindhi industrialists backs this idea and he controls any one form of media, then things may start improving.
R. Jawhrani : The other field in which I feel, Sindhis are lagging behind is 'sports'. Now we have Pankaj Advani in Billiards. Earlier there was Narendra Hirwani in Cricket. Other communities like the South Indians, Bengalis or the Marwaris etc., adopt promising and capable sportsmen from their communities. We Sindhis are not doing so, why? We do a lot of charity, no doubt, but isn't it also our duty to encourage youngsters in the field of sports by way of sponsorships?
K. Mansukhani : Yes, we should definitely encourage them. Besides nowadays there is lot of money in sports also. In the days gone by they would say there is not much income in the sports field. In almost every sport, be it Tennis or Cricket there is lot of money, so we should encourage our children to participate in sports. I know many parents who are today encouraging their children to be professional sports person and I am sure next decade or so you will see many sindhis in sports.
R. Jawhrani : Today if you take for example Sunil Gavaskar – he had a permanent job with a good company, so he could fully concentrate on playing as his regular income from the job was assured. But we don't have such thing in our community. You can see that cricketer Hirwani is no longer to be seen on the cricket scene, he is lost. Anyhow it was nice talking to you and we had some good discussions on various topics. Finally would you like to convey any message to our community?
K. Mansukhani : Yes, I would like to say – “Be United, Make money and contribute to worthy causes.” I know that Sindhis are more philanthropic than any other community. Encourage each other, encourage Sindhiyat. I shall approach big industrialists to hire as many Sindhis as possible and give scholarships. I would still say that there are many poor Sindhis. If you go in the interior of India, you see a lot of poverty amongst Sindhis. I was of the opinion that Sindhis weren't poor, but after going into the interiors, to places like Ajmer and Katch, I have realized that there are Sindhis in substantial numbers who are quite poor.
R. Jawhrani : Thank you very much for your time.
K. Mansukhani : Thank you also for coming and meeting me. I have heard a lot about you and this is the first time we have met face to face. May God bless you and grant you more strength and energy to render greater service to the Sindhi community and country at large.