Biju Nair, a Kshatriya from Kottayam, Kerala, a Patriot, a Philanthropist, a keeper of Promises and constantly raising the Bar, pushing himself higher and higher to meet his own standards.
His desk is spotless, with an Indian Flag at one corner and a telephone at the other; it is evident that he doesn’t like clutter, not in his environment and certainly not in his head. Even the bright posters of ‘Premasree’ events are lined neatly on a notice board, above mementoes from around the world (including a little plaque that says he climbed the Great Wall of China!)
Biju is the Managing Director of B.B. Rubbers Pvt. Ltd., a Company established by his father in 1969; alongside, he is also the CEO and Founder of Premasree, a Free Residential School for Blind & Visually Impaired Children.
His father was a down to earth, self-made man, a devoted family man, despite being a workaholic, and well known for being the first graduate from his village, who left to build a new life in the far away city of Calcutta, way back in 1958. Biju was impacted by his father’s leadership qualities and visionary zeal and a large part of what he is today, was inculcated early, when he learned the worth of money, hard work, transparency, and integrity almost by Osmosis.
Educated in Calcutta, at Don Bosco, Biju was Head of the LTS in school and keenly aware of his Social responsibilities, often going out on a limb working at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Destitute, or at the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy.
Completing his MBA from Jadavpur University, young Biju was looking forward to his plush office at his father’s Company to kick-start his career with a flourish; terrible disappointment loomed, since his father sent him to work for 2 years, on the factory shop floor, from 8.00 am – 5.00 pm, with the laborers! He hunkered down and learned the business, hands on, and till today, at 50, is not shy of getting his hands dirty!
People often ask him about his Philanthropic activities, much to his bafflement. ‘I didn’t know it was Philanthropy, I thought it was just something that needed to be done, to help someone less privileged than yourself’ he said, talking about how his father stopped smoking overnight, and then sent that saved amount to a small school in his village in Kerala as a scholarship for the children who placed in the top three in class VII; by today’s standards, the sum was not a princely one, but it made Biju realize that it wasn’t the amount you gave, but the spirit to do so that mattered. That Scholarship continues to be sent till today, and yes, today it is a substantial amount!
For some reason, he always felt drawn to the Visually challenged; sometime in his late 30s, on his way to becoming an established businessman, Biju promised his mother that one day he would make life better for the Blind and Visually impaired ~ he had no idea how or why he would do it, but his mother’s encouragement so motivated him, that it became his goal, his prime focus, to honor this promise. Several years later, in 2012, Dec 17th, Premasree was inaugurated. His mother had passed away by then, but he had kept his promise to her.
Setting up a Free, Residential school for Blind children, deep in the village, on the way to the Sundarbans, proved to be a tougher task than he had bargained for. No one overtly dissuaded him, but he got little support or encouragement from near and dear ones’. Nay-sayers thought it was ‘the wrong time’, ‘a crazy whim’ and that he should be enjoying his success instead of chasing another challenge. Finance too was an area of concern since Biju was building his new office ‘Hevea’, as well as ‘Premasree’ at the same time ~ at one point things came to a head when, though heartbroken about it, he considered stopping work, since he anticipated delayed payments to the workers;
At this time, support came from an unexpected source. Biju’s Brick and Sand Supplier refused to stop work, even without any payments, and gave Biju the shot in the arm he needed ~ someone believed in the ‘Cause’ as much as he did!
“I will be forever indebted to that man,” he says, going on to name his Driver and his maid as two other people he is indebted to, for taking care of him without a grumble and ensuring his life runs on smooth wheels!
Because of the lack of support from any of his friends or family, Biju had kept Premasree under wraps till it was ready to be inaugurated. No one, not even his daughter, knew what was going on, till 17th December 2012, when she saw Premasree for the first time.
“You’re my Hero, Dad,” were the sweetest words he heard that day and suddenly all the hard work, the problems seemed worthwhile.
All those Nay-sayers are now ardent supporters, but Biju feels there’s still a long way to go before society undergoes the radical change that he’s hoping for.
To bring in the students, Biju writes to the Local Panchayats, asking for leads, and they oblige by telling them where they can find the blind children. Mostly from the poorest of poor families from the deepest interiors of the country, yet these parents are skeptical about sending them to Premasree. A lot of coaxing and cajoling goes on before they agree, even when they learn that the children will be fed and clothed, given an education and taught skills that will stand them in good stead. Despite their abject poverty, four children have been taken back because Premasree had Western Style Toilets and were given Rotis for dinner instead of rice.
Apart from educating feeding and clothing them, Premasree also teaches them Music, Cricket, Dancing, Football, and Computers. Regular medical & eye check-ups have restored 10% sight for a few children. Ten percent doesn’t sound like much, but when Alamin Mollah saw his face in a tiny mirror for the first time, he broke down, despite his teenage stoicism.
For Biju, Premasree is a Divine Journey; It has given him a disciplinary regimen; he is no longer fiercely ambitious professionally, there is no yearning for ‘more’, he just wants to do ‘more and more’ meaningful work now. He has learned to manage his time and NEVER carries work home; he pays attention to detail, maintains harmony in his relationships and enjoys the precious time he spends with his daughter, Aditi, traveling.
“Do something Extraordinary if you want a shot of Positivity” Biju says.
In 2010, Biju, never having gone trekking or Hiking ever before, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, a mountain in Africa, that is 19,300ft high and took 5 days to climb and 2 days to descend; the terrific self belief he gained along with the Positivity Booster, has taught him to remain unflustered in the face of any crisis today; no matter how grave the situation, he continues to greet everyone feeling ‘On Top of the World’
“My mantra? I work hard and I sleep peacefully, at 8.00 pm every day! My favorite book being Gone with the Wind, I would say my mantra is ‘Optimism’ – always expecting tomorrow to be a better day! Howard Roark from Fountainhead is an inspiration and Amitabh Bachchan my Icon, not for his stardom, but his humility and graciousness on KBC. That’s my mantra maybe?”
Biju Nair, truly a Patriot, Philanthropist, Keeper of Promises, bringing light to the dark worlds of the Blind. Biju Nair, not religious, yet doing God’s work.
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