Sometimes in this job, you feel you are in the presence of greatness. It doesn’t happen very often; most people I meet are rich and successful, though not necessarily great. They are largely entrepreneurs or CEOs of huge public companies that manage billions of dollars and create thousands of jobs.
Good stuff, but does that make them great? I ask this after our gala dinner last Tuesday to unveil the Arabian Business list of the Gulf’s 100 Most Powerful Indians.
There were no shortage of “stars” — a rare public appearance by the multi-billionaire Raghuvinder Kataria; a moving speech by Landmark Group founder Micky Jagtiani and a brilliant keynote speech by the Consul General of India, HE Sanjay Verma. Yet for all the wealth in the Madinat Jumeirah that night (I counted eight billionaires), when it came to our awards for “Most Inspiring Indians”, two people stole the show.
Neither of them is rich. Neither of them has ever run or started a business and neither has ever created mass employment. Yet somehow, every else in the room, myself included, were left in awe of them.
First, K Kumar. This man’s story started 40 years ago when he moved to Dubai from Chennai. But it was an incident in 1998 that was to change his, and subsequently, many other people’s lives. A young Indian worker had been caught up in an accidental death case, and it was our winner along with a group of friends, who first came to his rescue by pooling together their resources to raise AED75,000 ($20,418) in blood money in order to release him from prison.
But Kumar didn’t stop there. Realising there was no formal organisation in place in Dubai to help such people, he approached the Indian Consulate in Dubai with the idea of creating exactly such a thing. Two years later, under the patronage of the Indian Consulate, the Indian Community Welfare Committee was born.
The committee has since evolved to include 78 groups, all staffed by volunteers, that now cover healthcare, childcare, special needs and special needs groups. They work countless hours — again, entirely on a voluntary basis — to deal with individual cases of hardship, mostly involving labourers. A good man or a great man? The latter, by a mile.
Second, a woman called Gulshan Kavarana. Her life changed when her daughter, Zara, was diagnosed with autism. She quickly realised that having a child with special needs requires special care, and special support. Rather like the story of K Kumar she felt enough wasn’t being done, and so in 1999 founded the Special Families Support Group.
Through this group, Kavarana has helped hundreds of other families cope with their special needs children by inspiring, coaching and motivating parents.
SFS holds several public events each year, organising fashion shows, dance performances and parties designed to integrate families and individuals with special needs. Over the years, SFS has grown to include more than a hundred families from across the emirates who come together to take part in its activities. A good woman or a great woman? Again, the latter, and by a mile.
Leaving the Madinat late on Tuesday night was a strange occurrence. Parked outside was a collection of chauffeur driven Bentleys, ready to ferry their owners back to Emirates Hills.
But everyone, no matter how rich and successful, waited in line to meet two very special and unassuming people — K Kumar and Gulshan Kavarana.
As is usual, post-award ceremonies the phone is usually ringing with disgruntled people who feel they should have won something. Not this time — I think, for once, we got it just right.
Anil Bhoyrul is the Editorial Director of Arabian Business.