Sunday, 7 July 2013


Ramjibhai’s life was filled with hard work. He was a very active person, but he also understood the importance of retirement. It was not in his nature to fill every moment of his life with some activity or the other. After reaching the peak of his efforts and the peak of his achievements successfully, Ramjibhai, realizing that he was getting older and was not as strong as he used to be, gradually reduced his workload.
In the later years of his life, especially after 1958, Ramjibhai used to attend his office regularly, twice a day, in the morning and evening. He never used to interfere in the daily affairs, but was totally aware of what was going on every day. He always insisted that letters sent in reply to his personal mail should be signed by him personally. No letter, whether trivial or crucial from anyone, important or unimportant, went unanswered. He firmly believed that if anybody wrote to him, then that letter had to be answered as matter of courtesy. To write these letters, Ramjibhai would call his personal secretary, Dolarkumar Bhatt and explain the main points to him.
Ramjibhai would come to his office regularly at ten o’clock in the morning and leave at twelve noon and then again at three thirty in the afternoon, after which he would leave at five o’clock. Between the time he woke up and the time he went to sleep he would see that he completed all the work he had decided upon. He had great value for time and accounted for every moment. In the morning he would bathe at a fixed time, eat a specific breakfast at the same time every day, eat lunch, and that too only selected items, at a set time and then rest for a while. He had a fixed time for going for a walk and reading the newspapers and would strictly adhere to the schedule he set for himself. Even during his later years, Ramjibhai meticulously followed this fixed agenda, and never veered from it.
In May 1965, Ramjibhai had to visit Europe. He was going to stay there for a month and return at the end of June. His wife Jadavben and daughter Sarla were to accompany him on his trip to Europe. Further, his son Chandravadan and his wife Sangeeta had also planned to join him in Europe. Ramjibhai decided to return earlier from Europe, and it seems that fate played a hand in this. During this time Poonamchand and Sumitra had gone to Kashmir. From there they were to go to Delhi in the last week of June.  Navnit and his wife Susmita had gone to Japan. On the way back from Europe, Chandravadan and Sangeeta went to Tehran. Ramjibhai and Jadavlaxmiben came back to Mumbai on 19th June, 1965. When Ramjibhai returned to Mumbai only Rasiklal and Hasmukhbhai were there. Due to his tour of Europe Ramjibhai’s health had deteriorated. Actually over the last few months he had been experiencing some weakness. He couldn’t walk as much as he used to, but even so the doctors had said that he was in good health for his seventy-seven years. Due to his disciplined and simple life and his extensive mental activity, he had been able to maintain his health. Sometimes his blood pressure did fluctuate, but by taking the proper medicines and adequate rest immediately, he did not allow his health to deteriorate. His mental faculties were as sharp as before.   
Saturday, the 26th June, 1965 dawned. As usual Ramjibhai went to his office at ten o’clock in the morning. He dictated the replies to a few of the letters that he had received. At twelve o’clock he went home as per his normal practice. He had his lunch and rested. Up to evening his health was as good as ever. There were no signs of any problems. As he normally did, he started to read the newspapers that he had not read in the morning, at nine in the night. That night, Hasmukh had to go out to attend a dinner party. As was the custom in his house, Hasmukh asked for permission to attend the dinner, which Ramjibhai gave gladly, and so Hasmukh left.
At about twelve o’clock when Hasmukhbhai returned from the party, Jadavlaxmiben called him. Ramjibhai seemed rather uneasy. He would sit in a chair for some time and then sit on the bed and then he would walk around for a while. His discomfort was clearly visible. Seeing this, Hasmukh asked his father, “If you are not feeling well should I call the doctor?” Ramjibhai replied, “Let it be, the doctor must have just slept after a tiring day. Why should we disturb him unnecessarily? I have some medicine, once I take it I will be fine, there is nothing much to worry about.” However, despite Ramjibhai’s words, Hasmukhbhai was not convinced. Even though Ramjibhai said “there is nothing to worry about,” the pain he was suffering was clearly visible on his face. So instead of calling, he (Hasmukhbhai) drove to the doctor’s house and fetched him personally. At that time there was no difference in Ramjibhai’s condition. The doctor made him lie down and examined him. The doctor did not feel anything serious was wrong, or even if he did he did not let anyone know about it. The doctor gave him a tablet which he swallowed and turned on his side. Everybody felt that Ramjibhai was feeling better and had gone to sleep.
But this was not the case. Ramjibhai had passed into everlasting sleep. There was no cry of pain or distress from him; he just seemed to turn over naturally. At that time who could imagine that Ramjibhai was no more, but had left this world and started his journey to the next. It was 2 am, when the soul of the founder and head of Kamani Industries left his body. There was no sign of pain or agony on his face. There did not even seem to be any change in him. The same gentleness, peace and innocence that one sees on the face of a person in deep sleep, was seen on Ramjibhai’s face. Although there was no physical change visible on his face it was clear to everybody that Ramjibhai was no longer in this world. One minute Ramjibhai was alive and the next minute he was gone. Once it was known that death had eluded everybody and had taken Ramjibhai away, the household was totally disrupted. Grief stricken, Hasmukhbhai phoned Rasiklal and called him home. He made a long distance call to Delhi and told Poonamchand the shocking news.
In the morning, there was widespread sorrow throughout the city. “There was no sign of any illness, so how could this happen? How did it happen? I met Ramjibhai only yesterday. In the evening he spoke with me so warmly.” With such sorrowful words, an atmosphere of grief spread throughout the city. By ten o’clock, loved ones, friends, relatives, well wishers, office staff and workers had all arrived (at Ramjibhai’s house). Deep sorrow was apparent on everybody’s faces. Everybody wanted to say something, but nobody seemed able to utter a word. With dejected faces and downcast eyes, they paid their last respects to Ramjibhai, who had gone to a better place.
Poonamchand arranged to come by plane, but the plane was delayed and arrived in Mumbai late. Without Poonamchand nothing was possible.
Poonamchand was the eldest among all (of Ramjibhai’s children). For the last so many years he had been handling all the work. This dauntless man had faced and overcome innumerable problems and even financial difficulties with a strong heart. But on stepping into the house Poonamchand broke down like a child. It was a scene that would melt anybody’s heart and everybody’s eyes were filled with tears.
At one o’clock in the afternoon in the burning heat, Ramjibhai started his last journey. His body was decorated with flowers. His funeral cortege was accompanied by his entire family, relatives, friends, companions and all his staff and workers.
Amongst them were industrialists from Mumbai, representatives of foreign governments, Morarjibhai Desai, Dhabarbhai, prominent businessmen and many Congress leaders - all were present during this last journey. At the cremation grounds, Morarjibhai and Dhabarbhai paid heartfelt tributes to Ramjibhai.
On the 10th July, 1965 a condolence meeting for Ramjibhai was held in Patkar Hall. Shri S. K. Patil, who was the Minister of Railways in the Central Government at that time, presided over the meeting. A large photograph of the late Ramjibhai was placed on the left side of the dias. It was decorated with a sandalwood garland. On a small table next to it, incense sticks were lit, from which perfumed smoke arose in intricate patterns, spread fragrance in the atmosphere and dispersed. Due to the monsoon, it was pouring with rain on that day. But the hall was completely packed. All those present paid heartfelt tributes to Ramjibhai – S.K. Patil, the Mayor Madhavan, Dr. N.N. Kailash, who was the Deputy Minister of Education of Maharashtra at that time, the ex-govenor of Madhya Pradesh Mangaldas Pakvasa, the Head of the Khadhi Commission, Dhabarbhai, the Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time Balwantrai Mehta, the former Minister for Food in Maharashtra, Homi Talyarkhan, the well known solicitor and social worker, Shri Chimanlal Chakubhai Shah, an old friend of Ramjibhai, Prataprai Girdharlal Mehta, the well known economic advisor, Chunilal Bhaidas Mehta and the Secretary of the Mumbai Congress Committee, Shri Adam Adil and many others paid their respects. Many representatives from trade associations and industrial institutions, prominent citizens, members of the Kamani family and directors and workers from the Kamani Group of Industries were present at this meeting.
In his tribute to the late Ramjibhai, Shri Madhavan said, “Ramjibhai’s name will be etched in golden letters in the nation’s industrial progress.” Shri S.K. Patil said, “Ramjibai was a humble man of a generation that unfortunately does not exist today. This generation had taken a leading part in the nation’s fight for independence. I firmly believe that not only  Ramjibhai’s family but thousands of others in this country loved Ramjibhai. I would say to Poonamchand and his other brothers that you are lucky to have had such a father.”
Shri Dhabarbhai said, “Ramjibhai had no contempt for even the most insignificant problems. He saw the small predicaments of ordinary people to be as significant as the big problems of important people. Ramjibhai believed that however much one gave it was not enough. With his death our country has lost a noble soul.”
Shri Balwantrai Mehta, referring to the organizational abilities, patience and perseverance of the late Ramjibhai said, “Whether it was his work related to industry or social service, to the cottage industry or promotion of khadhi, or working with Harijans, he showed the same enthusiasm for everything. Until today, I have not seen such a generous person. His mind was always active and open to new ideas. His mental capacity was amazing. He was the kind of person that people were always drawn to for sympathy, counsel, advice, guidance and help.”         
Shri Talyarkhan, speaking about Ramjibhai’s extremely fortunate life said, “Ramjibhai’s death, like his life, was trouble free and peaceful. His diligence, his philanthropy, his saintly benevolence, his good character, all show what kind of a person he was. And because of this, he made a good impression on anybody who came into contact with him. There is no need to pray that his soul rests in peace, because God took him away very peacefully.
Dr. Kailash said, “In 1950, when Shri Mohanlal Sukhadia, who was then the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, introduced me to him I could understand his generous nature and profound wisdom. The fact that he established industries not only in Maharashtra but in also Rajasthan and other places goes to show that he had pride in his country. A memorial should be constructed in remembrance of him so that his life’s aims are not forgotten and future generations will be inspired.”
Shri Chimanlal Chakubhai Shah talked from his own experience, saying, “Ramjibhai left a deep impression on anybody who came into contact with him. He believed in winning over people’s hearts, even if their ideas were different from his own. Ramjibhai always gave more than people asked for or expected.
Shri Prataprai Mehta, remembering the twenty or so years he had worked with Ramjibhai, said, “He had very lofty aims. About three quarters of the plans he had made could not be fulfilled by him, but now the Government of India has taken them up. To produce soda ash from the sludge in the Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan; manufacture lignite; to purify the copper from Khetdi and Ramana, to extract the metal from the zinc and lead mines of Jawar – Ramjibhai had thought of all these matters in 1944-45. Twenty years have passed since then, and now the Indian government has taken up some of these schemes. This goes to show that he was a pioneer in industry.”
Secretary of the Mumbai Congress Committee, Shri Adam Adil, who had established a workers’ union in Kamani’s factories, spoke on how he had experienced Ramjibhai’s generosity at that time, saying, ”Kamani’s officers were not giving in to us. So we decided to enter into a discussion only with Ramjibhai. We realized his great large heartedness in the first meeting. He said, ‘You are the leader of the union. I deem you as the judge of your demands. If you can prove to us that all your demands are justified them I am willing to accept all of them.’ And in fact we cut our demands by fifty percent. From this it can be seen that Ramjibhai posed us an ethical challenge. He had faith in us and that faith inspired us to make only really justifiable and acceptable demands. It was if he was truly a guardian of the workers. His friend, the late Jamnalal Bajaj, comes to my mind as also Robert Owen, who started a movement to improve the social conditions in nineteenth century England. That is why I say that although Ramjibhai had wealth, he was not a capitalist. Exploitation, which is the first sign of a capitalist, could not be found in Ramjibhai or his factories even if one searched for it…….Due to his close contact with Gandhiji, he made all efforts to see that people maintained good relationships with each other as a result of which they could live better and more fulfilled lives and sustain friendships and cordial relations with others. To his mind, humanity had a far greater value than money.”             
Prabhakar Mehta, the son of the late Balwantrai Mehta, said in a tribute to Ramjibhai, “Ramjibhai was a truly compassionate person. He enriched the life of anybody who came into contact with him. He was also from Saurashtra, which gave us great men like Mahatma Gandhi and Seth Jagdusha.”
Many others also paid such heartfelt tributes to Ramjibhai.
Those who could not be physically present at the condolence meeting, or lived in other cities or countries, sent written tributes and expressed their commiserations to Poonamchand and his brothers. Innumerable letters and telegrams were received from friends and people who knew Ramjibhai and had been struck by his personality, residing in Europe, America, Japan, Austrailia, New Zealand, Africa, Canada and other countries. Heads and deputy heads of the Indian and foreign governments, officials, engineers, businessmen, various religious and educational institutions, trade bodies and many other institutions, societies and unions, poets, writers, editors of newspapers all gave glowing obituaries.
In remembrance of Ramjibhai, the Kamani Group brought out a special issue of their magazine, the ‘Kamani News Letter.’(called 'Kamani Currents'). A donation of Rs. 1,00,000 to various religious institutions in Saurashtra, Mumbai, Rajasthan, Calcutta and other places, was declared by his family. In addition, to ensure that he would always be remembered the ‘Ramjibhai Smruti Trust,’ was established with a endowment of Rs. 7,50,000.

The large hearted, gentle, brilliant Ramjibhai Harchand Kamani, with his remarkable personality, had now become a memory. 
     Mangal Mandir Kholo.’  

Leaders and citizens at the condolence meeting.

At the condolence meeting.

The workers’ heartfelt farewell.

Preparation for the final journey.


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