At a simple, yet spectacular function held to celebrate the beginning of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Vidyamandir Trust, Palanpur, Actor and Humanitarian Padmabhushan Aamir Khan won the hearts of the audience with his deep, but easy-to-grasp insights into education and life. At the same time, the exceptional work done by the Trust over the last seven decades won applause from the him and other dignitaries including Padmabhushan Deepak Parekh (Chairman, HDFC Group) and Haribhai Chaudhary, distinguished alumni and Union Minister of State for Coal & Mines, among others, gathered in the city for this special occasion.
Addressing an audience of well-wishers, staff and students of various educational institutions run by the Trust in the city, Aamir in discussion with Trust Chairman Russell Mehta and responding to questions raised by the students, said that while formal education may come to an end, “gaining knowledge and learning is a continuous and ongoing process”. Congratulating the institution on its philosophy and approach, he particularly appreciated how it was encouraging children to question and thirst for knowledge, to grow by studying and on the sports field and to learn not only from books, but through doing.
Advising those gathered not to view success only as “earning a name or lots of money”, but also by the ability to “bring a smile to someone’s face” and to “understand someone’s sorrows and help them”, he said, success often comes “when you are passionate and enjoy what you are doing and put in your best effort to do it well”.
He suggested that teachers and parents should not encourage unhealthy competition merely for marks, but also assess individuals by what they have done for others, adding that the world will be a better place when “we also have IQ tests to judge caring and sharing”.
Congratulating the founders and the current trustees, Aamir said he not only appreciates the excellent work being done, but has gained tremendously from his visit around the campus. “The work being done here in transforming lives and training children has achieved a lot because it emanates from, and is sustained by, love and commitment,” he concluded.
Presiding over the function, Deepak Parekh thanked the trustees for inviting him, saying that it was a Sunday well spent as he had a chance to see the “amazing work” being carried out by Vidyamandir with the support of the community. He described it as “one of the finest examples of commitment” and said that education was one of the most important tools for progress of the community and the nation. He said that though government should be the main provider of education and healthcare, in the context of India, the private sector too would have to take on some responsibility in these fields.
Congratulating those who “earn and return”, particularly the “quiet, understated donors” who contributed to the upliftment of the underprivileged and bringing development to what were formerly backward areas, Parekh said they had helped Palanpur emerge as an important educational centre and the “medical capital of North Gujarat”. He concluded, “India needs many more centres of excellence modeled on Vidyamandir”.
Guest of Honour Haribhai Choudhary said his years in Vidyamandir, particularly the values and qualities instilled in him had provided the foundation for him to reach where he has. He congratulated all those who had contributed in terms of time, effort and money, saying that though the Palanpuri Jain community is now spread all over the world, “the city has never been far from your hearts”.
Earlier, Russell Mehta, Chairman, in his welcome address emphasized that the attachment to their original hometown has continued to inspire the 2nd, 3rd and even 4th generations to give back to the city, even though their forefathers had moved out from there in pursuit of trade and business many decades ago. He said that the community has a shared sense of involvement and commitment, and that for many, “Palanpur is as much a sentiment as it is a place… an embodiment of a spirit… a shared sense of working for the common good”.
Tracing the history and growth of Vidyamandir over the past seven decades, Managing Trustee Ashish Mehta particularly recalled the sterling role played by two visionaries – late Kantilal “Kanubhai” Chhotalal and late Surykantbhai Parikh. He also remembered the three initial donors, Late Mrs. Kesarben Amrutlal Raichand Jhaveri, Late Mrs. Leelaben Gaffurchand Mehta, and Late Mrs. Leelaben Surajmal Mehta, as well as the donation of a 56 acre plot of land by Capt A.D. Lohani whose generosity had made this possible. He said that Vidyamandir has strived to give a liberal, secular and gender-neutral education to its students, always emphasising the importance of extra-curricular activities and sports at all times. The latest thrust is to move towards integrating the tools of the Digital Age into teaching and to develop Skill Education centres where students are equipped for the careers and jobs of the future.
In between the speeches and presentations, students from the various institutions on the Vidyamandir Campus put up some scintillating cultural performances that were highly appreciated by all those present.