On Opportunity and the difference a Goat made


28th February 2024

Dear Friends

I would like to speak to you about what difference a 'chance' can make.

Last week I was walking around the construction site of the new building 'Sanskriti' which is being built across 'The Somaiya School.'  I came across the brick-layer and was asking him about the bricklaying that he was doing.  His wife was there as well with their 2 children.  I did ask her whether their children went to school.  She said that they were from Gujarat and they were in school there, but they had to come to Mumbai for work, and so the kids had been taken out of school for now.

I did ask her whether the children would like to attend school.  She looked at me quizzically, wondering about the question and what I really meant.  I mentioned to her that there was a Gujarati medium school on our campus, and her children could easily get admitted and their education would not suffer.  MInaxi madam from the Somaiya Vinay Mandir (primary) came over and convinced the mother that this 'offer' was for real and the children started attending school the next day.

The idea here is not to speak about a chance meeting, but about opportunity.  Many times we see - but in reality do not see.  And even if we do observe, and if we can act, we may be blind to our own ability to make a difference.

Dr. Sendurai Mani was on campus delivering the Somaiya Public Lecture earlier this month. 
also he gave a TedX talk

His work on cancer metastasis is known worldwide and his paper was cited about 10,000 times.  How does Dr. Mani fit into this story?

Dr. Mani was a young student in rural Tamil Nadu and studying in the village school there.  On finishing the 6th standard - he needed Rs. 200 to be able to study further in the 7th standard (he had to go to another village).  His parents did not have the Rs. 200 to enable him to study further.  His grandmother owned 4 or 5 goats.  So she gave him one goat and asked him to sell it and use the money for his studies.  He sold the goat, got Rs. 200 Rs and that opportunity enabled him to study further and he is today at Brown University in the USA and he is doing seminal work in the study of Cancer metastasis and his research is making major strides in the treatment of cancer worldwide.

What a big difference his grandmother made.  So little for many, but so much for her, and still greater impact for him.

Similarly, my grandfather Shri K. J. Somaiya was given an opportunity to trade sugar when he was really struggling trying to make ends meet.  And when he was given an opportunity to partner with these Marwadi brothers, he made a great success of the same, built his company and then built Somaiya Vidyavihar.

Opportunity and Chance.  Amazing.  I am still thinking about Mani's Grandmother the opportunity she provided him.

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