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Manu Patolia built his $250 million empire with just 75 cents. Taravada Gurukul to New York

'From Village to the world' chronicles Manu Patolia's life journey from his humble background to the position of one of the industry leaders.

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As I grew older, I realised that God had given me two hands for a purpose—one to help myself and the other to help others. The success I had achieved in life, especially in view of where I had come from, was beyond my imagination, as I have repeatedly said. I owed this success to Taravada and always felt that there would be nothing more rewarding than giving back to this village and making a difference in the lives of the people here. The first seeds of a plan for a Gurukul in Tarawada had been sown in my mind.

Taravada was the birthplace of the Gurukul founder and my Guruji Shastriji Maharaj Shri Dharmajivandasji Swami. It happened to my birthplace too. There could be no better place on this earth for me to establish a Gurukul branch, where the founder himself was born. It was in 1989, when I happened to be in Taravada, that the thought of creating a Gurukul here first crossed my mind. If you recall, I had successfully implemented my first social initiative project in 1968, under the aegis of Sarvodaya Kevalni Mandal, utilising the land granted to us by Ratubhai Adani.111 In the mid-1970s, the school had been relocated to a much bigger location, and the land on which it earlier stood was lying unused. It would be an ideal location for the Gurukul. With this intention, I approached Naranbhai Bhanderi and Salimbhai Nagori, who were currently managing the property. They were overwhelmed at the idea, and we agreed to meet Ratubhai Adani in the town of Chotila112 in Gujarat to take this matter ahead. For reasons best known to the Almighty, the meeting did not happen and my idea remained an idea.

Though I returned to America, founding a Gurukul in Taravada was always at the back of my mind. During Shastriji Maharaj’s visits to the US, I had come in close contact with the young Krashnapriyadasji Swami. I liked him and had a very positive feeling that he would be the right person to approach for this project. Twice, in 1992 and 1996, I approached him to promote a branch of the Gurukul in Taravada, but he turned down my idea and walked away. But, like always, once a thought enters my mind and I find it fitting, I don’t give up at all. So, I kept dreaming and drawing pictures of a Gurukul building on Salimbhai Nagori’s land. I always felt that this was the ideal location for the Gurukul, but no one believed in me, including Nirmala! But the burning desire kept churning in me, and churn it did for another ten years. It is said that timing is everything. If something is meant to happen, it will, at the right time and for the right reasons. All we need to do is to continue our e orts and be patient.

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On 5 January 2001, I received a phone call from Pujyapad Hariprasad Dasji Swami inviting me to attend the Makar Sankranti Mahotsav celebration at Taravada on 14 January. (Makar Sankranti is a Hindu festival celebrated on 14 January every year, marking the social end of winter and the beginning of the new harvest season.) I had known him from my Gurukul days and supported him with small donations from time to time for renovating various Swaminarayan temples around Amreli. I remembered what Shastriji Maharaj often said, ‘Lord Swaminarayan listens to our thoughts, if our intentions are good and the thoughts pure.’ That is exactly what happened, and I believe that this phone call was from Lord Swaminarayan himself saying that time had now come to put my thoughts into action.

On reaching Taravada, I met Pujyapad Hariprasad Dasji Swami; Dharmavallabhdasji Swami and Krashnapriyadasji Swami were also present. I performed dandvat pranam, paying my respects to all of them, and sat in front of Pujyapad Hariprasad Dasji Swami. The first thing Pujyapad Hariprasad Dasji Swami asked me was whether the Gurukul should be set up in Taravada or Amreli. Without a second thought, I said it should be in Taravada, since it was not only the birthplace of Shastriji Maharaj and mine too, but also benefit all the surrounding villages. I said, ‘Swamiji, I have been dreaming about this for ten years and drawing pictures in my mind!’ The look on Swamiji’s place said it all, and he agreed. I laid a condition—that a Gurukul at Taravada would be possible provided Krashnapriyadasji Swami agreed to manage it.

Overhearing our conversation, Dharmavallabhdasji Swami said that he would take care of this. Immediately, he took Krashnapriyadasji Swami to the mandir terrace, and in ten or fifteen minutes both returned smiling, announcing that everything was in order. I turned towards Krashnapriyadasji and asked him if it was a ‘yes’ from him. He nodded in agreement. After ten years of persistent e orts and three trials, I had succeeded. Once Krashnapriyadasji Swami accepted the responsibility of running the Gurukul, things began falling in place. I then turned towards Pujyapad Hariprasaddasji Swami, who was delighted too and said ‘Karo kankuna’, giving his go-ahead. This meant a lot to me. Time was a crucial factor and we had to announce this project at the Makar Sankranti event, but we were yet to finalise the land for the Gurukul.

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The auspicious Makar Sankranti day finally dawned. More than 5,000 people had assembled at the school ground to witness the event. My heart was beating fast as we had not finalised the land for the Gurukul yet. So, as the proceedings began, I requested Bachubhai Donga, Naranbhai Bhanderi and the landowner Salimbhai Nagori to meet me behind-the-stage while the main event was going on in the front.

Time was running short, and I had to make the biggest deal in the history of Taravada, which would be in everyone’s interest. Without wasting a moment, I asked Salimbhai if he would like to sell his entire 22-bigha land for our Gurukul project, to which he instantly agreed, mentioning that he expected a total price of `66 lakh. This was an outrageous amount, at least three-to-four times higher than the current market price! All of us were dumbfounded at his expectation! I had to conclude the deal, so ordered him a best and final price of `51 lakh. I knew even this was high, but we had no choice! He accepted the price and we concluded the deal! It was another breakthrough!

This excerpt from Manu Patolia and Kailash Mota ‘From the village to the world: A long journey to success’ has been published with permission from Bloomsbury.

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