22 February 2007
"I deem it a great personal honour to have the privilege of releasing the biography of Shri. Basant Kumar Birla and Smt. Sarala Devi Birla 'One Day At A Time' in the presence of this august gathering and I would like to thank Smt. Rajashree Birla for inviting me to do the honour. At the outset, on behalf of all of you, I convey our belated greetings to Shri. B. K. Birla on his 86th birthday. Let me tell you Mr. Birla, you do not look day older than 76!
"Only yesterday, Shri. Kumar Mangalam Birla acquired the North American firm, Novelis Inc., which is the world's largest aluminium rolled products company for $6 billion. To acquire, a world leader requires tremendous courage, foresight and determination to succeed. Shri. Kumar Mangalam Birla has shown these qualities in abundant measure. I congratulate Shri. Kumar Mangalam Birla for doing the nation proud with his achievement which has been taken note of by the entire business world. This business deal has provided grand settings for today's function to release the biography of his grandparents.
"The name 'Birla' does not merely represent a corporate house. It represents a family name that has been closely associated with India's freedom movement, has put into practice Mahatma Gandhi's concept or trusteeship and engaged itself in innumerable philanthropic activities. Shri. G. D. Birla, the illustrious father of Shri. B. K. Birla, was a close confidante of Mahatma Gandhi as well as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Few people in India today know that both Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel had spent the last moments of their life in the Birla Houses in Delhi and Mumbai respectively. That was the closeness of relations between these stalwarts and members of the Birla family.
"It is a well-known fact that the Birlas were pioneers in business and enterprise in India. What is little known or seldom acknowledged is that they were also pioneers in introducing the element of ethics, morality and even spirituality into business and other activities. The Birlas have represented 'Corporate Social Responsibility' since the time the concept itself was unheard of. People of lndia therefore have very high esteem, admiration and respect for the Birla family. However, till now they knew very little about the family, the values it held so ardently and perhaps the secrets, if any, of its uninterrupted success for close to two centuries. 'One Day At A Time' has not only bridged this major gap, but has also, importantly, opened a window for the people to know the Birla legacy and get inspired from the pure, clean and resplendent lives of Basant Kumarji, Sarala Devi and other members of the family
"Shri. Birla has done a great favour to the people by allowing Mrs. Ingrid Albuquerque to present a joined biography of his life and that of Smt. Sarala Devi. Shri. Birla is quoted as having said in the prologue to the book, and I quote him, "Usually a biography is written after a person dies. And the person himself does not get a chance to read it. I would like to read what some one has to say about me, to enjoy feedback and also appreciate the criticism. That way, I will be able to improve myself before I die."
"The words bear testimony to his humility, equanimity to take success and failures in his stride and willingness to change himself if required even at this stage of life.
"Ms. Ingrid Albuquerque has put her heart in producing this wonderful book and deserves our wholehearted compliments for a job well done. The efforts she has made and the years she has spent on this project were indeed worthwhile and I am sure the general public and also the students of industrial history of India will remain ever so grateful to her.
"Strictly speaking, 'One Day At A Time' is not just a biography of the illustrious Birla couple. In a way it is a biography of the entire Birla family beginning with Raja Baldeo Das Birla, Ghanshyam Das Birla and right up to Shri. Kumar Mangalam Birla. It is a heartwarming account of a family deeply rooted in the eternal Indian values, like respect for the elders, care and concern for the underprivileged and love for the motherland. This book is also a pursuit of truth by the author herself. Although the book is not spiritual, at times it reads like a beautiful dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism.
"The author has interspersed her book with beautiful inspirational lessons called 'Devotionals' based on the life experiences of Mr. and Mrs. Birla through which she pinpoints the divine qualities in them. She has tested the actions of the Birlas on the touchstone of God's own word as revealed in the holy Bible.
"At one place, the author correctly sums up what we have all along felt about the Birlas but had no occasion to express our sentiments in as many words or did not know how to convey our sentiments. Says Ms. Ingrid Albaquerque: "Holiness has always been a way of life for the Birlas, which has come down to generations. They are persons who cannot be swayed from the path of rectitude by private interest; they master their passions and deal impartially and decently with every one they meet. They have a fountainhead relationship with God, which in turn nourishes their attitude toward self and others. Caring for the underprivileged, living life with dignity and discipline and the cleanliness of tongue has been ingrained in the Birlas". Can there be a more appropriate description of the Birlas than that?
"I have personally seen this caring attitude towards people, transparency and simplicity in Smt. Rajashree Birla and her illustrious son Kumar Mangalam Birla also. About a month ago, I had received a proposal from the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Trust, an NGO working to put into practice the cherished ideals and principles of Mahatma Gandhi through community service. The organisation wanted to purchase a well-equipped mobile van that could move from village to village and provide medical aid to the poor and the needy living in villages. However, the Trust was finding it hard to raise funds required to buy the mobile van. The members of the Trust approached me for help. As soon as I saw the proposal, the first person who came to my mind was Smt. Rajashree Birla. I sent the request to Smt. Birla hoping to receive a couple of lakhs for the mobile van. Within eight days flat, I got a reply from Mrs. Rajashreeji sanctioning the entire amount to purchase the mobile van. This is the Birla legacy and I am proud to mention that it has percolated to the young generation of the Birlas also.
"Smt. SaraIa Devi comes from the well-known family of Congress leader from Vidarbha, Shri. Brijlal Biyani. The biography throws light on her innate qualities such as brilliance in studies, spirit of social service that she has inherited from her father, kindness towards the suffering, loving attitude towards daughters and daughter-in-law, constant companionship of her husband and of course devotion to God.
"Along with the Tatas, the Birlas were responsible for building lndia's economic infrastructure. The biography also throws light on the so far unknown aspect of the relationship between the Tatas and the Birlas, the first two corporate families in India. According to Basant Kumarji, the Tatas and the Birlas were never competitors. On the other hand, they had and continue to have mutual respect and admiration for each other. Such healthy respect for business competitors is becoming a rarity in today's world of cut-throat competition when personal relations become secondary to business interests.
"Both Mr. B. K. Birla and Mrs. Sarala Birla are associated with innumerable service organisations and educational institutions and are today proudly watching the new generation of Birlas to carry forward the flag of the great Birla legacy.
"The biography has indeed transformational power and the potential to impact the life of the reader. It is not some fiction to be finished in a few sittings. It needs to be ruminated to appreciate its worth. The author has herself given some valuable tips as to how this book should be read. 'Read it early in the morning, when you are unlikely to be interrupted by every day disturbances.,' is one of the tips. 'One Day At A Time' is going to be my early morning book for the next few months!
"I congratulate Ms. Ingrid Albuquerque once again for producing this superb biography for the Birlas. I convey our warm felicitations to Mr. and Mrs. Birla for their services to the nation and for leading an exemplary life. We wish them a long life and best of health to continue to serve society for many more years to come."
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