Achievements

Dr Stya Paul’s 102nd birth anniversary: Celebrating the life and times of a visionary with a mission

The theme for the Founder’s Day celebrations this year was to appreciate the indomitable spirit of ‘an ordinary man who rose to extraordinary heights’

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Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia, co-promoter and President Apeejay Stya and Svran Group, chairman Apeejay Education and Chancellor Apeejay Stya University

The 102nd birth anniversary of Dr Stya Paul, Founder Chairman, Apeejay Stya and Svran Group, was a heady mix of inspiring life lessons and elevating, soulful music. For the uninitiated, Dr Stya Paul was an eminent industrialist, educationist, visionary, philanthropist and freedom fighter who dedicated his life towards man-making and nation building. He is the inspiration behind the Apeejay Stya and Svran Group and one of the architects of India’s emergence as a self-reliant industrial nation founded on the strength of Indian capability and enterprise. 

The virtual celebrations began with the traditional lighting of lamp by the dignitaries which included the chief guest, Paralympic silver medallist and District Magistrate of Gautam Budh Nagar Suhas L. Yathiraj, along with singer par excellence Hariharan and members of the Berlia family.

This was followed by a Vinamra Shraddhanjali at Dr.Stya Paul’s portrait by Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia, co-promoter and President Apeejay Stya and Svran Group, chairman Apeejay Education and Chancellor Apeejay Stya University.

After an enriching and enlightening address by Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia and the announcement of Dr. Stya Paul Awards for Human Values, the virtual audience was addressed by the chief guest, Suhas L Yathiraj, followed by a scintillating concert by Hariharan that included a series of popular numbers sung by the acclaimed musician. As a token of their appreciation, the musical virtuoso was felicitated by Mr Vijay Berlia, Chairman Svran Group; Mr Nishant Berlia,  Co-Promoter, Apeejay Stya and Svran Group; Mr Aditya Berlia, Co-Founder and Pro Chancellor, Apeejay Stya University and Dr Neha Berlia, Co-Promoter, Apeejay Stya and Svran Group.

During her address, Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia, the first woman to lead a multi-state apex chamber of commerce in India, who has been felicitated by the Skill Tree Knowledge Consortium at the House of Commons, London, for her contribution to Indian Education and Industry and was recently honoured as a Covid Warrior by the Rotary Club of Delhi Premier, touched upon the inspiring life story, values and timeless legacy of Dr Stya Paul. Edited excerpts from the address:

The importance of the guru

 As always, I would like to commence with this doha from Kabir:  Guru Govind dou khade, kake lagoon paay; Balihari Guru aapne, Govind diyo batay. (My God and my guru both are standing before me. Whose feet should I touch first?)

I begin by touching the feet of my guru Dr Stya Paul because it is through him that I have learnt to live life. It is through him that I have understood who I truly am and my God.

 Today as we gather here together to celebrate the 102nd birth anniversary of Dr Stya Paul, it is not for me to thank anybody for coming together for this celebration. Because I know that each one of us are here not only to pay our shraddhanjali to that great soul, but also because he remains alive in our hearts and our minds.

This is an occasion which we celebrate. As we say, energy never dissipates, it is there in some form or the other. And though this man never desired any rewards, awards, or monuments to himself, he lives on through all the people he came in touch. And the educational institutions that he left behind are living monuments to the values that he stood for, the values that he exemplified in his life.

Padma Shri recipient, music virtuoso Hariharan being felicitated during the virtual 102nd birth anniversary celebrations of Dr Stya Paul by Mr Vijay Berlia, Chairman Svran Group; Mr Nishant Berlia,  Co-Promoter, Apeejay Stya and Svran Group; Mr Aditya Berlia, Co-Founder and Pro Chancellor, Apeejay Stya University and Dr Neha Berlia, Co-Promoter, Apeejay Stya and Svran Group.

Indomitable spirit

We all know what his achievements in life were. But it is these values, it is this indomitable spirit, determination, resilience, never giving up, striving for excellence in every area of life that truly determined the soul that he was.

He was born a very ordinary man, but a man who rose to extraordinary heights. The reason that we want to celebrate his life is to commemorate, to remember, to be inspired by and to take forward all that he stood for and exemplified in his life. We all know, he got polio at a very young age. And despite the fact that he went through most of his childhood and youth, walking with the help of crutches, anybody who has spoken about him to me doesn’t remember anything about a physical challenge. Much of his childhood and college education were spent walking around with crutches, because in those days there was no surgery for polio in India. He could not even afford to have that treatment because he was born to a family with humble beginnings. Despite all of that, or maybe because of that, he rose above all of those challenges. He became a gold medallist in combined Punjab in Mathematics in his higher education. Nothing deterred him, not even the loss of both his parents early in his life.   He was a freedom fighter who was almost sent to Andaman and Nicobar Islands because he refused to divulge the name of people involved with him in distributing seditious literature. It just so happened that at that time there was a general amnesty and he was let out.

Let’s become the greatest versions of ourselves

Why am I sharing all of this? It is important to remind ourselves of some of these values as we struggle through our lives. This pandemic has forced all of us to look deeply within us. In terms of statistics, India may have done well globally, but the impact that it left on each one of us, has not been something small. Even for those of us who did not suffer any loss, it was a period for introspection, and truly understanding what every breath in life means. Each one of has the potential within us to become the grandest versions of who we are. But many of us don’t allow ourselves to bloom to our fullest extent. Many of us get lost in day to day activities without understanding the purpose for which we are in this world.

Rising above challenges

Shri Suhas Yathiraj Ji we are grateful to you for acceding to our request to be the chief guest. Despite the kind of challenges that you faced, you are leading in every way possible and giving your best of what there can be. You have shown to the world once again that no kind of disability needs to put anybody behind. Even those of us who think we are fully abled are actually differently abled or disabled in different ways. The real ability comes from making the most of what we have. The dedication, the determination that we can see that you have put in into everything that you have been doing for the last few years is indeed inspiring. I was amazed to find that Suhas Ji for the last six years has been practicing badminton every day for two hours at 10 pm every night. He has shown that it is not necessary that you are only focused on academics. But what matters is that are you dedicated, determined to make the most of the God-given potential.

Musician par excellence Hariharan during the virtual concert held on the occasion of the 102nd birth anniversary of Dr Stya Paul, Founder Chairman, Apeejay Stya and Svran Group.

 An eclectic legacy

Not only did Dr Stya Paul focus on academics, he had a passion for the fine arts, for music, for dance….every aspect of life, what you might call a man for all seasons. He forayed into spirituality when he met Swami Ranganathananda in Calcutta of Ramakrishna Mission. He just said three words to him: Be a man. And with that my father said some barrier that was holding him back was lifted and he suddenly understood who he was and what his purpose in life was. In that love of music and spirituality both merged into one. He was a singer, he played the harmonium and he was very fond of ghazals, Urdu poetry as well as bhajans.  

An NEP visionary

In all of this what stood out was his vision and mission to have educational institutions that help develop every dimension of a child: Emotional, mental, physical, spiritual and now what we have focused upon in the last couple of years, scientific temperament and the journey within themselves. To truly understand their strength their potential and be able to make the most of who they are in real terms of the word. The new National Education Policy (NEP) that has now come out is fundamentally, in a way encapsulating a lot of vision and mission that Dr Stya Paul put into place when he talked about the kind of education that we need in modern India. We are delighted that after so many years his vision and mission have found a place in the vision and mission of the entire country.

Beyond moksha

Although Dr Stya Paul was always very active, towards the end, polio caught up with him a little bit. He did become weaker and started having to sit in a wheelchair. It got to a point that he even found it difficult to turn sides at night. Despite all of that, he would wake up in the morning sharp at 6,  get ready despite all the pain he was having, be in his wheelchair and go out for work. Dr Paul was absolutely disciplined.  Never a word of complaint, he was still smiling, still focused on getting to work and still determined. Towards the last few days, I happened to talk to him about moksha (liberation). And he looked at me and said: Now I don’t even desire that. He had gone beyond the state of desiring anything.

So the celebration is therefore not of the man. The celebration is of those values, of those thoughts, determination, dedication, of that life purpose, which is what if we emulate in our lives, we would truly all be great beings.  

I would like to end with an Urdu couplet. He had a collection of those which he put together in a book called Reflections in Time.  I am quoting out of one of them, which was very dear to him.

Rahe talab mein jazba-e-kamil ho jinke saath,

Khud unko dhoond leti hai manzil kabhi kabhi.

(If your intensity of desire, your quest is matched with the intensity of your dedication and determination, then the desired goal itself will seek you out.)

This we see demonstrated among you Suhas Ji, Hariharan ji, so many of us who are gathered here today and of course, Dr Stya Paul.

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected]

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