Ramchundur Goburdhun 15 August 1911- 29 November 1992
Most know us as Project WHY only. A few know that our legal identity is the Sri Ram Goburdhun Charitable Trust. And not many know who Ram was and yet if not for he, there might not have been Project WHY.
Ram or Ramchundur Goburdhun is my father.
He wore many caps through his life each with great aplomb and in his own inimitable way. As a student in his native island where the portly man I know was the mile champion of his island and admired by many young ladies! As a law student in London where passionate speeches at Hyde Park Corner would bring the needed coins to end the month. As a lawyer and then Magistrate back home where the trodden path may have led to a political career. As a perfect gentleman who courted his wife to be at times when courting was not quite known in a just freed India. As a career diplomat where his honesty, integrity, savoir faire and endearing personality were huge assets. But it is none of these that were the seeds of Project WHY. It is Ram the father who planted that seed and carefully watered it till his last breath.
If one was to look at my growing up years, they seem out of a dream: beautiful homes, governesses, criss crossing the world and the best of everything. Ram was aware of this and was careful to place the little notes needed to build a person. He always sent me to local schools where he knew I would rub shoulders with real people and learn to respect and love them. He with the help of my mama laid some unwritten rules that were needed to teach their only child true values. Toys were only bought at Xmas. The new dress was a birthday gift. Wasting food was a no no! But the one lesson that remains engrained is the Diwali blessing. After the prayers were over, Ram would tell me to go and touch the feet of everyone in the house who was older to me. That meant everyone including the staff that worked in our home. What is remarkable is that I never questioned this or resented it and that is because of the simple answer to my first why was: because they are older and will bless you.
Ram taught be compassion but he also taught me to respect every human being irrespective of their caste, creed, social background. With mama’s help he showed me how religion is one and all religions need to be respected. Again it was a well thought lesson plan based on my questions: can I fast with my Muslim friend, go to church, share a Sabbath dinner. The answer was always ‘yes’ with a small caveat: provided it does not hurt the other.
I could write volumes but that is not the point. Today I simply want to express my profound gratitude and unconditional love to the man who made me who I am.
The Sri Ram Goburdhun Charitable Trust was set up to honour his memory and to tell him that every lesson learnt at his knee had been well learnt. And most of all the last one murmured on his deathbed: have faith in India.
I miss him every minute of my life though I see him in every Project WHY child.