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`Uncle' - sweet and steady



Hanu

As he briskly saunters down the Beach Road every evening, rain or shine, one could find people envying this always-erect, strapping 'young' octogenarian with awe-struck eyes. Not only that, every few paces one would find people either greeting him with a handshake or with the simple nod of the head.

Meet C. Hanumantha Rao, or more popularly known as `Hanu'---and `Uncle Hanu' to many---the past Rotary District Governor and one of the most popular persons in the city.

Being a pharmacy graduate from Madras Medical College, Hanu set up a medical store in 1945, after working as personal secretary to the then Member of Central Assembly from this district, K.S. Gupta, for a brief period. In fact, Hanu was present by his side when Mr. Gupta suddenly collapsed on the floor of the House, while initiating a protest against the British Government.

Retired from business in 1985, he is an accomplished and contented man today. He modestly says that he owes everything to two incidents in his life. "The first one that changed the course of my life was when I had the opportunity to see and listen to Annie Besant during my school days at the Theosophical School and College in Chennai. Till that time I was one among the other mediocre students, but that speech by Besant changed my life and inspired me to be a leader. And till date, I not only cherish that memory but also continue to carry that leadership quality. The other factor that played a major role in making me what I am today is my decision to join the Rotary movement in 1951. I took to Rotary as duck takes to water. Incidentally I was born on April 19, 1919, which also happens to be the birthday of the Rotary founder, Paul Harris, and the year happens to be the same when Rotary had first come to India in Kolkata.''

He was elected as the Rotary District Governor in 1969, at the Pune conference, and at that time the Rotary District comprised the States of Maharashtra, MP and AP. Hanu was also one among those few in the country to have visited Israel, when there were no diplomatic ties with that country.

Reminiscing that trip he says, "I was invited by Rotary International to address the annual conference of Israel at Tel Aviv in 1971. The moment I applied for visa, I was called by the then Foreign Secretary to explain the purpose of my trip. He put me off by asking `Why do you want to visit Israel when you are aware that we do not have any diplomatic ties with that country?' At the spur of the moment I replied, `To build bridges of friendship through Rotary'. He was so impressed by my answer that he immediately picked up the phone and got my visa sanctioned.

"During my visit to Israel, I was fortunate to meet the then Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir, and the Israeli President, Shazar.''

As the Rotary District Governor, Hanu visited the home district of Paul Harris, Wallingford in the US, and also addressed the District Rotary club in the school where Mr. Harris had studied. He also acted as the Rotary ambassador of peace and fellowship from India and addressed a number of clubs in Italy, Germany, France, the US, Japan, Singapore and Hawaii. For his outstanding services to the Rotary, he was honoured with the title of Paul Harris Fellow and was awarded the Golden Century Award by Rotary International.

Apart from being a Rotarian, he is also an active member of Society of Free Masons and has held positions in various social and cultural organisations like Prema Samajam, Society for Consumer Awareness Redressal and Education, Lebenshilfe and Walkers Club.

Being childless and having profound love for girl children, he and his better half, C. Gangabai, have adopted three girls in orphanages at Kotagiri and Courtallam, apart from their foster daughter.

On how he is able to remain so bright and energetic, the octogenarian, says, "I believe in the philosophy `Remember all better things and forget all bitter things'. That keeps me going.''Keep going Uncle Hanu!

SUMIT BHATTACHARJEE

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