I first came into contact with the Respected Shri Ramjibhai in 1930-32, during the days of the freedom struggle (satyagraha). I had heard that he was a person who was successful in business and industry, but was interested and believed in the activities proposed by Pujya Gandhiji – khadhi, cottage industries, service to villagers, services to Harijans, supporting indigenous goods, etc., and he wholeheartedly supported the efforts to attain independence. When I saw him for the first time in his institution in Amreli, even during this first meeting I saw in him surprising humility, firm resolve, extremely practical common sense, clear thinking and foresight - his personality was fascinating and impressive. He was not interested in meaningless conversation or useless criticism; he was only expecting specific, meaningful work.
This first impression gradually became stronger. Whatever I came to see, know and hear about his life after that and whatever I have read in the pages of this book, was proved by that first experience which was truly appropriate. I have known Ramjibhai’s son, Punamchandbhai since the time he was studying in Vinay Mandir in Dakshinamurthy and enjoyed his affectionate nature and companionship for a few years. When he asked for my cooperation in publishing Ramjibhai’s biography, I joyfully agreed; to tell the truth it was also out of a sense of duty because of our friendship. When I glanced at whatever material he had gathered for this book, memories of my personal association with Ramjibhai surfaced anew, and I got a deep and unique insight into the different aspects of his personality. He had reached the pinnacle of success in the field of business and industry, and was also highly respected by others due to his humanitarian ways. Because he joyfully accepted his work as a duty it was pleasurable for him and an inspiration to others.
I have not written this biography, neither have I collected the material for it. I have not corrected or revised the drafts (of the book) but, I have been involved with it from the beginning to the end. Actually the painstaking work of collecting the material for this book, organizing it properly and writing it in the form of a biography, was done by Shri Dolarkumar Bhatt, Ramjibhai’s trusted friend, who had the good fortune of hearing about Ramjibhai’s experiences, first hand. The editing of the language and style was done by Shri Krishnavir Dixit, editor of Kalam Kitab, and an erstwhile colleague of mine. Shri Dixit is a renowned critic. As proof of his critical ability, the Gujarat Sahitya Association had appointed him to chair their annual debate on Gujarati literature in 1970. This book is the outcome of the hard work and enthusiasm of Shri Dolarkumar and Shri Dixit. My role has really been limited to that of an observer and planner and to giving some inspiration. The pictures given in this book were also located and collected by Shri Dolarkumar, who has also given the captions. The printing of the book and the arduous work of proof reading was carried out by Shri Dixit. Shri Punamchand and I did read and go through all this – so in the publication of this book it could be said that, ‘many hands made light work,’ or the work was done quickly and efficiently by many persons.
I came into contact with Shri Punamchand, who is endowed with many of his father’s virtues, and to some extent his other brothers, because of this book. Their goodness and practical intelligence made a lasting impression on me. Through this experience I also understood why they were so successful in the industrial and other fields and the secret as to why they were always progressing. I must also mention here that after they decided to do something, they knew how to see it through to the end.
After coming into close contact with Shri Ramjibhai and learning about his life and his work, I sincerely feel that he looked at life from all angles and revered it. He believed in the goodness of people with whom he came into contact and knew how to make the most of them. He was as adventurous at an older age as he was when he was younger, but what is surprising is that even at a young age he had very mature ideas, thinking and natural wisdom. He was able to foresee future circumstances, and had a natural ability to plan accordingly and reach the desired target. Another thing I could see in his life was that he could easily grasp the trend of the changing times and could naturally adapt to them; he did not need to think and reason about them. Due to this he was just as much a progeny of the Jawahar era and the scientific ages as he of the Gandhian era.
There was never any change in the simplicity of his personal life. Regular in his habits and aware and disciplined in his ways, Ramjibhai had trust in the innate goodness of mankind but also had an extraordinary capacity to judge people. He rarely made a mistake in deciding what was right or wrong, but could immediately and easily judge a person who came into contact with him. Because of this he could assign the appropriate rights and responsibilities to others. These managerial abilities came to him naturally. I feel that this ability must have played a major role in his sons’ upbringing and progress. He was adventurous and always ready to ‘seize the moment.’ It was never in his nature to ignore or run away from anything. Despite this he was never involved in any confrontation or fervour. He followed the principle of ‘one step at a time,’ or building by ‘one brick at a time.’ He became stronger in difficult circumstances. Rather than being cowed down by difficult circumstances he would see how to overcome them.
I consider it my good fortune that Shri Punamchandbhai, considering me a family member, has involved me in the work of writing and editing this book, which can be considered a tribute of the life and times of Shri Ramjibhai. This has given me an opportunity to look deeply into Ramjibhai’s life and works and truly understand their meaning. This benefit is more than compensation for any hard work I have put in, in the publishing of this work.
Dt. 11.10.’71 Mohanlal Mehta - Sopan