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December 2008 - January 2009


An African Knight with Indian Pedigree & British Decorum

by Krishan Ralleigh

It is almost an impossible task to encapsulate the personality and myriad achievements of Jayantibhai Chande in a couple of pages of this magazine. Suffice it to say that meeting him was an exhilarating experience, a soul-inspiring dialogue between the seeker and the saint.

Sir Chande has been living his life to the brim. Inquisitive about the mantra which led him to such an eventful life, I asked for the secret recipe. He said, “Plan your life as if you are going to live for ever. Work and implement as if this was your last day.”

Now that is a tall order. But it was certainly not impossible for Jayantilal Keshavji Chande. Popularly known as Andy among his friends; and he has been a friend and confidante of Julius Nyerere, the President of Tanzania and had met Nehru, Lord Mountbatten and many other statesmen and businessmen on the three continents of Asia, Europe and, of course, Africa. He was a key participant in bringing radical changes in his birthplace Tanzania. As a business entrepreneur he ran big business corporations successfully. As a tireless champion of charitable causes he devoted a very large part of his daily life in guiding charitable institutions in East Africa, Britain and India.

A former World President of Round Table and affiliated youth organisations and a Past Governor of Rotary International he's a recipient of Rotary Foundation’s Citation for Meritorious Service and Rotary International’s “Service Above Self” award which is the Organisation’s highest honour given to a Rotarian.

As a Free Mason, he was District Grand Master for East Africa (covering Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the Seychelles) from 1986 to 2005. He holds the award of Order of Service to Masonry; and has served as Senior Warden in the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England and Wales.

Crowning the illustrious career of Jayantilal Chande was the knighthood bestowed on him by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2003. In 2004, the government of India, recognising his services to India, honoured him with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award given by the President of India, Dr Abdul Kalam.

Honours and Decoration besides, it is the personality of the man that I found so enchanting.

Humble in manners, talking in whispers yet forcefully, Sir Chande reminded me of the great sages of the past; and a reflection of Mahatma Gandhi’s mannerism while talking to journalists (as depicted by Ben Kingsley in the film ‘Gandhi’ by Lord Attenborough). He was all-polite with clear thoughts and firm intentions. Rudeness never touched him. Sincerity and sagacity was the hall-mark of his conversation. He never harangued; but the pieces of advice he gave were brief, in short sentences; but full of deep meaning.

As a business tycoon, Sir Chande’s corporate interests span the Globe; and he is always on the go. A member of the Board of Directors of World Business Academy in Ohai, California, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Institute for Environmental Innovation, Tula, Oklahoma and a Director of World Innovation Foundation of Switzerland of which he is a consulting fellow. Sir Andy is also a member of the conference Board of New York and of Standford Research Institute Menlo Park, California. A Fellow of International Academy of Management, Sir Chande has an honorary doctorate in Business Administration from International Management Centres, Buckingham, England. He has previously served on the Council of the Federation of Commonwealth Chambers of Commerce and Industries of Eastern Africa.

In political arena, Sir Chande played a major role during the transition of that part of the world from colonial rule to independence, and Julius Nyerere took over as the President of Tanzania. Sir Chande wrote, “Any state based on the proposition that the means of production must be controlled by the state, be it Marxist, Maoist, or just plain socialist, quickly turns into a land full of ‘corporations’. Tanzania in the 1970s and 1980s was no exception.” Inevitably, the running of these corporations, mushrooming at a tremendous pace, became the responsibility of Jayantilal Chande. He was heading almost sixteen corporations at once stage. And that did not include his various board responsibilities elsewhere or chairmanship of various non-profit foundations.

No African or Asian statesman knows better than Sir Chande the blind alleys created by socialist experiences in the economy of Asian and African countries. Also, with his vast experience Sir Chande is well aware of the ambiguity shown by western countries towards economic growth in India and Africa. He is a great supporter of eco-friendly tourism; and has vast knowledge of the consequences faced by the world of rapid global warming. But, as he pointed out to me, the western countries are still dragging their feet. “They, and particularly the United States of America, are still subsidising their rich farmers at the cost of the poor farmers in Africa and India.”

It is impossible to circumscribe Sir Andy Chande life and personality as a ‘corporate giant’.There is another side to his personality which is more affable, almost romantic in nature. His love for his wife Jaylaxmi, lovingly called by him as ‘Jayali’ whom he married when she was still in her teens, has always been his strength. In his autobiography, “A Knight in Africa” Sir Chande describes the gifts he received from the bride’s family.. “Gifts we received in profusion. Most of them, like wedding presents the world over, have since sunk without trace into some dark abyss of my memory. One alone, a Favre Leuba gold watch with a gold strap that was given to me by my bride’s family, has stayed with me ever since, in my heart and on my wrist.” This romantic association of the famous gold watch with the teenage bride is an affirmation of the deep love between them. It is this romantic and humane side of his personality that has sustained the otherwise stormy life of Sir Andy and Jayali. A parting gesture on his part, after a long session of continuous grilling by me was the gift of a treasured collection of vinyls of Indian ghazal singers and romantic songs which he gave with a heavy heart. While thanking him for the gift, I told him that they could be converted into digital recordings. I noticed a twinkle in his eyes when he requested if he could have a copy of these CDs. These are the gestures that reveal Sir Jayantilal Keshavji Chande’s personality, a warm-hearted romantic with business acumen and statesmanship blended together harmoniously - A rare combination indeed.

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