Selflessly Yours

Selflessly Yours

Every once in a while we hear of an individual who we would all like to emulate. Meet 63-year-old Thaneite C R Upendra Rao, fondly known as "Shri Balgopal", who did the city proud when he was chosen to receive the Rajiv Gandhi Shiromani Award in New Delhi last month. The Award is conferred on select Indian citizens in recognition of their outstanding contributions and achievements in the field of industry, business, public life, administration, social, educational and cultural services. Balgopal was bestowed the award by His Excellency R L Bhatia, the governor of Kerala for his contributions in the spheres of education, social service and culture.

On his return the city, Balgopal was felicitated at a function organised by the Sri Ma Group of Institutions at its Vidyanagari premises at Patlipada, Thane in the presence of several dignitaries, including Chief Guest, V Ranganathan who is the former Chief Secretary to the Government of Maharashtra, and Guests of Honour, S K Agrawal, (Executive Director, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.) and Milind Ballal (Editor, Thane Vaibhav).

His Excellency R L Bhatia (Governor of Kerala) presenting the Rajiv Gandhi Shiromani Award (2005) to Sri Balgopal

In spite of donning several hats (he is an educator, writer, editor, social worker, Gandhian, speaker, scholar, and lots more), Balgopal remains humble, as was demonstrated in his thanksgiving speech at the felicitation ceremony, where he started thus, "I surrender this Rajiv Gandhi Shiromani award at the lotus feet of divine mother [Sri Tara Ma] and Swami Omkarananda. This award is not mine alone, but in fact is shared by many like Dilip Deherkar, R Nirmal Jyoti, Ramesh Joshi, Manju Tejwani and Rajan for taking the initiative in sending my profile and Sanjay Bhoir for designing it." After this, he went on to thank a lot of people for having helped him help others, including staff, students, parents and members of the various departments that he is associated with. He also expressed his gratitude, among others, to doctors for all the free medical camps, donors and volunteers involved in relief and rehabilitation work, relief commissioners, collectors of respective districts, local leaders and social activists. Later, while speaking about Balgopal, Swami Omkarananda praised his renunciation of material pleasures in favour of an altruistic life. "You have set an ideal for generations to follow," he concluded.

It was 35 years ago, at a ripe age of 27, that Balgopal renounced the material life and sought refuge under Sri Tara Ma, founder of the Sri Ma Trust, expressing his desire to serve the world selflessly. He started as a correspondent at the Sri Ma Bal Niketan High School housed in a small apartment in Thane, and worked his way through to become an integral part of the Sri Ma Trust, which owes its growth in large part to Balgopal’s contributions. During the last three-and-a-half-decades, Balgopal’s social service activities have provided a different dimension to the Trust’s service activities. In times of calamities, Balgopal’s urge to serve becomes even stronger. Whether it is the floods of Jambulpada and Nagothane, the Mumbai riots, the Orissa Super Cyclone, the Gujarat Earthquake, the Tsunami or the recent flooding in  Mumbai, he has galvanised the Trust’s resources for relief and rehabilitation work.

Balgopal’s contributions to society, his role in spreading the good work, indeed his entire life, has set a high precedent, inspiring many to recognise that true contentment lies in serving others. If even a few follow his footsteps, society will owe a lot to him.

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