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‘Dr Stya Paul wanted for us to be the grandest vision of ourselves’, says Chairperson, Apeejay Education and Co-Promoter and President, Apeejay Stya and Svran Group

Apeejay Education celebrates 103rd Birth Anniversary of Dr Stya Paul who believed that it is not a disgrace if dreams remain unfulfilled, but it is a disgrace if we have no dreams at all

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The Apeejay Stya family on December 20, 2022, celebrated the 103rd Birth Anniversary to commemorate Dr Stya Paul – an eminent educationist, industrialist, philanthropist, freedom fighter, and the inspiration behind the diversified Apeejay Stya and Svran Group. A leader par excellence and a legend, Dr Stya Paul was one of the principle architects of India’s emergence as a self-reliant industrial nation founded on the strength of Indian capability enterprise.

Born on October 4, 1919, he surged ahead and faced all the challenges with determination. A brilliant scholar, Dr Stya Paul was a university gold medalist in Mathematics in undivided Punjab. During India’s freedom struggle he became quite involved as a freedom fighter. As a result of his active participation, he was jailed by the British during Quit India Movement. Having lost his mother at a very young age, he took up the responsibility of taking care of his entire family and running the family business. Under his inspirational leadership, the Apeejay Stya and Svran Group has become one of the most reputed corporate houses in the country.

Throughout his long and illustrious life, Dr Stya Paul held responsible positions reflecting his versatility and leadership. Numerous awards and honours were bestowed on him, though he never desired any laurels for himself. Dr Stya Paul’s simplicity and humility impressed one and all. His happiest moments were when he was interacting with children. He made us believe that it is not a disgrace if dreams remain unfulfilled, but it is a disgrace if we have no dreams at all.

To celebrate his birth anniversary, present on the occasion were Dr Stya Paul’s family: Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia, Co-Promoter and President of Apeejay Stya and Svran Group, Chairperson, Apeejay Education, and Chancellor Apeejay Stya University, Mr Vijay Berlia, Chairman Svran Group, Mr Nishant Berlia, Co-Promoter Apeejay Stya and Svran Group and Co-Founder and Pro-Chancellor of Apeejay Stya University, Mr Aditya Berlia, Co-Promoter Apeejay Stya and Svran Group and Co-Founder and Pro-Chancellor of Apeejay Stya University, and Dr Neha Berlia, Co-Promoter of Apeejay Stya and Svran Group. Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia was also accompanied by her daughter-in-laws, son-in-law, and grandchildren.

The programme commenced with Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia being given the guard of honour. Accompanied by Dr VS Garg, Educational Advisor at Apeejay Education, she then paid homage to Dr Stya Paul’s flower-bedecked photograph and lit the lamp. She even planted a tree at the school premises accompanied by her grandchildren who helped her.

Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia and Mr Vijay Berlia were presented with green saplings. The family then lit the ceremonial lamp while the students of the school sang Lord Ganesh vandana – Vakratunda Mahakaya. Mrs Sushma, daughter and only child of Dr Stya Paul accompanied by her grandchildren – Rivan, Himav, Vivika and Viana then paid tribute to Dr Stya Paul’s portrait and lit the lamp.  

Present on the occasion were directors of Apeejay Education, school principals, and other key dignitaries.

Dr Stya Paul’s life has been exemplary and illuminated all those who came in contact with him. His life is a glorious example of a true ‘karmayogi’. Carrying forward the legacy of Dr Stya Paul, is his only daughter Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia. A multi-dimensional personality, Mrs Berlia is a leading entrepreneur, industrialist, and educationist who has devoted her life to nation-building with global footprints.

Thanking everyone gathered to celebrate the soul that was Dr Stya Paul, Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia began with a famous Kabir doha and: Guru Govind Dou Khade, Kake Lagu Paye, Balihaari Guru Aapne, Govind Diyo Bataye. My God and guru are standing together. Whose feet should I touch? I commence with touching my guru’s feet, my father Dr Stya Paul, because he not only taught me how to live life but also my spiritual life.

“I can’t tell you how deep a joy I have, and I know everyone present here has felt, together with my family, to see you all today after a very long time. All of us have been through tough times, the COVID-19 years, have not been easy on anyone. We have lost family; we have lost friends and each one of us has gone through trials and tribulations – be it work or personal life. Many of us may still be suffering from long COVID. But what is wonderful is that out of it all, I can see the smile and joy on everyone’s face,” Mrs Berlia said.

“This is a testimony to the resilience that we all have within, this has brought us this far. Two things came up, she said during those times. One was the quality of resilience, “When we were in New York in an apartment, which was the epicenter of all the chaos that was taking place, we could hear sirens of ambulances, fire brigade, and police; everyone had been pressed into service. Nobody knew anything about COVID-19 back then and what would happen. But one common experience came up: The quality of resilience,” Mrs Berlia said.

The second thing, she said was, about being with ourselves. “When we look within, many of us, don’t have the time to make friends with ourselves. We are all the time interacting with the external world but forget to be closest to the person who is always with us – ourselves. Any one of us who has had a moment of being alone – standing by the sea and watching the waves or pausing to look at the flower and inhale its fragrance or taking a little time to watch the birds flying back home in the evening, it is a beautiful moment. That is the moment when we are introduced to ourselves. This is the most valuable lesson that we need. We spend so much time gaining knowledge about people from the outside world and acquisition of material things, which is also fine; but how much do we spend getting to know ourselves better? It is the self who is going to be with us at all times,” Mrs Berlia said.

Thinking of resilience, Mrs Berlia said, makes her think of former late Chairman Dr Stya Paul, her father, and that is why she thought of sharing this experience with the gathering. “Most people ask me why I always start my address with this particular doha of Kabir; What does it mean that he (Dr Stya Paul) was my guru? We all have our perception of who a guru is. In the broader sense is a person from whom you have learnt something. But in this case, when I say that Dr Stya Paul was my guru, what I truly mean is that he was a person who set me free. He didn’t try to give directions or give his view of life or how life should be lived, his notions, his beliefs – nothing was imposed on me. He introduced me to different books, some he read to me, some we read together, and some he gave for me to read over a period of time. We read the Ramayana, the Mahabharat, the Autobiography of a Yogi, The Gita, The Upanishads particularly the Katho Upanishad, the Autobiography of Swami Vivekanand, Tagore, Khalil Gibran to name a few. I am sharing this with you so that you can understand the depth and the versatility of all that he was absorbing and sharing at that time. A few of these books, he read while in prison,” Mrs Berlia recounted.

Back during his prison days, Dr Stya Paul was to be sent to The Cellular Jail, also known as Kala Pani, a British colonial prison in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands because he declined to name all the persons who were responsible for seditious material. The British police went to Dr Stya Paul’s father and told him he will be sent away to Andamans… without his crutches. But he never gave up on the names.

“He was fortunate and due to General Amnesty, he was set free after 51 days of being in jail. I asked him how he could be so fearless and withstand that situation. He said that the worst that could happen to him was death. We all have to die, he said, the question is of when; so why die every moment? Be fearless and face life with the confidence and courage of a king and smile of a conqueror,” Mrs Berlia recalled.

He also wanted to give back to society and this is how the first school and college started. “He felt that there weren’t institutions, and there were only a handful of convent schools and few Arya Samaj schools in North India at that time, that could give the kind of education where the full potential of the child could bloom in all dimensions – emotional, spiritual, physical — and yet be grounded in human values, Indian culture global envision and scientific temperament. He realised he had to set up the first one himself which he gave to Arya Samaj to run. But he soon realised that if wanted to have the kind of institution that he was thinking about, he would have to personally get involved,” Mrs Berlia said.

She said that on Dr Stya Paul’s 103rd Birth Anniversary, we are not here to celebrate his memory, or because he became a renowned person or because he was her father. “We are here to celebrate the values that he stood for, the leadership quality he had what it means to be human. He never wanted anyone to follow in his footsteps, we only make poor copies if we try. All he wanted for us was to be the best original that we can be – be the grandest vision of ourselves; the grander version of ourselves. All it takes is for us to believe in ourselves,” Mrs Berlia said.

When we speak of resilience, we are essentially talking about believing in ourselves, self-reliance, determination, one-pointedness and most importantly – never giving up. “We are celebrating these qualities,” Mrs Berlia said.

“On his birth anniversary, each one of us is a guest of honour. I want to thank each one of you for being with us in this beautiful celebration. Dr Stya Paul was a person who always gave, of himself and his possessions. I end with a thought: You don’t get frightened of these furious, violent winds, Oh Eagle! These blow only to make you fly higher,” Mrs Berlia said.  

The scintillating address that was applauded by everyone was followed by a performance by Dr Neha Berlia playing the sarod. Dr Berlia has won numerous accolades throughout her career. In 2018, she became the recipient of the ‘Next Gen Power Icon’ award at Times Power Icons and India’s Greatest Leader Award for her exemplary contribution to the field of education. Adding another feather to her cap, she was recently awarded at The Education Summit 2022 in recognition of her persistent effort to re-envision the future of education.

Giving an introduction to what she played, Dr Berlia said: “I am playing raag Bhim Palasi. It will start with an alaap to be flowed by notes of the raag and ending with an antara. Accompanying me on the pakhawaj is Mahima Upadhaya, a well-known name in her field,” Dr Berlia said.

Her performance was truly fantastic, particularly the jugal bandi between the sarod and pakhawaj. It had everyone give a good round of applause at the end of the performance.

The cultural evening ended with a mono-act musical play by Shekhar Sen, Padamshri awardee on Swami Vivekanand. It was a befitting creative tribute to this spirited son of India, told through a narrative depicting his incredible life journey. Shekhar Sen, is a renowned singer, music composer, lyricist, playwright and actor, who has to credit more than 200 musical albums. Dr Stya Paul was highly inspired by the values of Swami Vivekanand and Apeejay Institutions always seek to propagate his teachings and values to the students belonging to the present generation. The over an hour of his performance was brilliant and enthralled the audience who gave him a standing ovation.

To honour Sen, Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia, Mr Vijay Berlia, and Mr Nishant Berlia were called upon the stage. Mr Vijay Berlia draped the shawl on Sen’s shoulder to felicitate him for his wonderful performance.

“Thanking Sen, Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia said that he has always been very kind to the Apeejay family. “We have called him to perform and he has always agreed. Through his performance on stage, he ensured that we were introduced to God once again,” Mrs Sushma Berlia said.The evening ended with the students of Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park and the audience singing the National Anthem.

Shalini is an Executive Editor with Apeejay Newsroom. With a PG Diploma in Business Management and Industrial Administration and an MA in Mass Communication, she was a former Associate Editor with News9live. She has worked on varied topics - from news-based to feature articles.

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