Meet Rotary’s New President

Kamal Sanghvi

Rotary Club of Dhanbad, India

2019-21 Rotary International director

People are so accustomed to thinking like everybody else that they are afraid to explore the possibilities of their mind. Shekhar, on the other hand, has an uncanny ability to picture something that isn’t yet there. He sees possibilities where others find dead ends.

He constantly questions the status quo and thinks of improving the Rotary experience, product, or service. Shekhar is one of the most innovative people I have known. He has a solution for every problem.

Shekhar has a tremendous capacity to overcome obstacles with sheer steadfastness and grit. He will not sleep until he achieves his goals, no matter how hard that may be. His team members do not rest either, and Shekhar ensures that each one follows a mantra of excellence.

For him, everything has to be larger than life. Thinking big is not unique, but thinking big and achieving the audacious is. Shekhar believes that a dream is not what you see while sleeping; a dream is what won’t let you sleep. He believes that “love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries; humanity cannot survive without them.” He also believes that if you cannot keep your family happy, you cannot keep anybody else happy.

Anand Sureka

Rotary Club of Calcutta-Mahanagar

I’ve known Shekhar since 2001 and had the privilege of working closely with him during the year of Rotary’s centennial in 2005. Here’s what I’ve learned: He is highly focused, he never says no to anything, he is witty and has a great sense of humor, he always delights his audience when he speaks, and, more than anything, he is a very good human being and a great friend. At the base of all of his activities is the philosophy that mankind is his business.

In 2008, Shekhar dreamed of setting up another eye hospital, in Kolkata. He established a partnership with the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, one of the best eye care hospitals in the country. He helped raise funds and gave his time, resources, and energy to make it self-sustaining.

He always leads from the front. Whenever a disaster struck the nation, I saw Shekhar present. When there were floods in Guntur and Begusarai or earthquakes near the Pakistan border or in Nepal, Shekhar was there, lending his hand for Service Above Self.

He is always looking for ways to do more and explore new areas of service. Whether constructing toilets or setting up a library, he is never short of energy and vision.

Kishore Kumar Cherukumalli

Rotary Club of Vizag Elite, India

2009-10 governor of District 3020

I first encountered Shekhar when he spoke at a club in Kolkata in 2008. I was moved by his speech, which was laced with candid and bold ideas. In 2010, I invited him to our district conference; it turned out to be the beginning of a strong friendship. I have also had the privilege of working with him on events and committees and have witnessed his exceptional work ethic. His mission in Rotary is service, service, service.

He has big dreams, but he is also a keen listener who observes, analyzes, and then implements a plan in order to achieve his objective. He believes strongly in Rotary, and he practices what he preaches. He respects democracy and carefully weighs every opinion in group decisions. This encourages everyone he works with to give their best. He can precisely identify the strengths of his team members and match them with the Rotary responsibilities best suited to them. In meetings he often breaks the monotony with anecdotes and humor.

Shekhar once had to address a conference with just a couple of hours to prepare. One of his former employees lived in the town where the event was being held and had invited him to visit. Although he was on an impossible timetable, Shekhar obliged. He has demonstrated the importance of sustaining relationships — as well as a mysterious supply of constant energy, a capacity for 18-hour workdays, and an ability to provide instant solutions for any problem.

Anirudha Roychowdhury

Rotary Club of Calcutta Mega City

2007-08 governor of District 3291

Shekhar is a charismatic leader who always exudes positive energy. He’s a great motivator and an out-of-the-box thinker. He fosters friendships, generates goodwill, and is easily approachable. His never-say-die attitude is one of his greatest assets. He is a down-to-earth person; he enjoys simple food from ordinary places and often visits roadside joints to eat spicy Indian snacks.

He and Rashi complement each other: Rashi is calm and rooted to the ground, providing strength for Shekhar to fly high.

Chandni Mehta

Shekhar and Rashi’s daughter

Dad has tremendous zeal and enthusiasm for life. He exudes energy and warmth and wins people over with his sense of humor and thoughtfulness. He has an intuitive awareness of inequities, and his commitment to service springs from his commitment to fairness and fellowship among people. He ignites enthusiasm in others. He is, most important, a free soul with an undying spirit for life and action.

Dad [Shekhar] has tremendous zeal and enthusiasm for life. He exudes energy and warmth and wins people over with his sense of humor and thoughtfulness.

Chandni Mehta

Shekhar and Rashi’s daughter

Rajendra “Raja” Saboo

Rotary Club of Chandigarh, India

1991-92 Rotary International president

I got to know Shekhar through Vijay Bhandari, a past district governor who spoke highly of Shekhar, saying that he had potential to rise within Rotary. My friend Vinay Nevatia, a member of the Rotary Club of Calcutta, told me that if I were to go to Shekhar’s apartment I would find that it was full of materials for disaster relief kits, and that both Shekhar and his wife, Rashi, would themselves be busy packing the boxes. I realized Shekhar was a hands-on, service-oriented Rotarian.

When the Boxing Day tsunami hit in 2004, Shekhar’s club put together hundreds of kits for people on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which had been devastated. Shekhar traveled thousands of miles, many times, to and from those islands in the Bay of Bengal to deliver kits and help set up shelters. And in 2015, Shekhar packed and organized the kits that were destined for Nepal after a catastrophic earthquake there.

Rashi Mehta

Shekhar’s wife

Shekhar has a deep soul and a large heart. He is not only genuinely kind but also sees kindness in others, and never shies from praising and encouraging others for the smallest acts of goodness. He loves to work with people; he is a team guy as much as a leader. His joy, energy, and capabilities double up when he works with a team. He is an exceptionally positive and enthusiastic person. I have not seen the thought of failure bogging him down. If anything, he emerges stronger and smarter out of challenging situations. He has trained his mind to see the silver lining in difficult situations and firmly holds on to the faith that we will overcome.

Rotary has contributed hugely to my parents’ growth as individuals. Traveling the world and meeting people from hundreds of countries has made them so much more knowledgeable, self-aware, humble, and compassionate.

Kalyan Banerjee

Rotary Club of Vapi, India, 2011-12 Rotary International president

Kalyan Banerjee

Rotary Club of Vapi, India

2011-12 Rotary International president

I first met Shekhar 25 years ago. I was a Rotary International director, and then-RI President Herb Brown had asked me to convene a South Asia conference in Kathmandu, Nepal, which then was in the same district as Kolkata. The district governor had assigned a team of young Rotarians to help me organize the event, and one particularly bright, smart, and often outspoken young man engaged my attention. He was full of ideas, enthusiasm, and innovations and was always willing to learn. That’s how I first got to know Shekhar.

Following the success of the Nepal event, Shekhar and I stayed connected. I followed his Rotary career with interest, first as he was elected governor of his district and then, a few years later, as a director. I was always amazed by his ability to get people to support him enthusiastically in whatever task he gave them. He was irrepressible and bustled with new ideas.

After the Boxing Day tsunami, he traveled to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands — which, though a part of his district, are 1,000 miles away in the Indian Ocean. And he later devised an amazing kit, which included a tent, bedding, toiletries, candles, clothing, and basic tools. Rotarians from all Indian districts helped with funds, and if there was an earthquake in Nepal, as there often are, or a tsunami in Chennai or a cyclone in Odisha or a disaster in Maharashtra, the kits would be there in 24 hours flat. Shekhar himself would be there just a bit later.

The UK-based ShelterBox, which was started by Rotarians, is internationally known for providing relief after disasters anywhere in the world. Around 2015, the Rotary Board asked Shekhar to meet with ShelterBox to negotiate a long-term arrangement. Not only was he successful in that, he served as a ShelterBox trustee as well.

Over the years, with his obvious sincerity and commitment to Rotary, Shekhar has elicited amazing trust and devotion from almost every Rotarian he meets, everywhere. I have watched with admiration as he became somewhat of a pied piper in Rotary and was not surprised when he took on the assignment to help make India fully literate. No one was sure how this could be done. India has a population of 1.3 billion people, about a quarter of whom are not literate. Shekhar connected with the Indian government, joined with all the appropriate NGOs, and got Rotary’s efforts and sincerity recognized.

This literacy task is as big as making India polio-free. Now, with Shekhar leading Rotary, I’m confident that it will be achieved. And Shekhar will ensure that Rotary is recognized all over the world not only for the service that it does, but for bringing people everywhere together.