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Monday, November 27, 2006

M.R. Pai: citizen extraordinary

Allwyn Fernandes; M.R. Pai Citizen Extraordinary, M.R. Pai Foundation; 105 pp.

The book is rightly named. Shri M.R. Pai was not a violent revolutionary or an ivory tower philosopher. He was just a citizen, but an extraordinary citizen, because he not only was aware of his rights and duties, but also was a struggler who innovatively helped fellow citizens in realising their rights. He was extraordinary, for unlike others, he neither gave up the struggle nor resorted to violent means by losing patience. He just moved on firmly and honestly, victories just followed him.

The author, Allwyn Fernandes, is an experienced journalist. He showed his research skills by successfully exploring the essential part of Shri Pai’s life, while respecting his privacy. The author’s skill lays in the way he encapsuled the significant part of Shri Pai’s struggle in a lucid way, that the book has significant information for multiple stakeholders such as students of law and governance, bureaucrats, businessmen, rights activists, development professionals, journalists and more importantly common men and women.

The book elaborates different instances where Shri Pai creatively fought with the state monopolistic system and emerged victorious. Whether it is Smt Jayalakshmi’s struggle with Provident Fund Commission or Smt Shanta Wagh’s complaint against MTNL or K.B. Shetty’s case of lost jewellery from a bank locker operated by Punjab National Bank or the frozen bank account of Shri A.N. Parekh, Shri Pai had answers for all. He supported the struggle by showing them the ways and means to fight the powerful system. The struggle was hard, but the message is very clear—take an honest step forward, think innovatively and stand firmly, success will be yours. The book is an inspiring account for those who give up even before the first step.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section is an account by the author of the significant struggles that Shri Pai was part of. The author has put a lot of efforts in exploring various cases. He has also detailed some personal but critical part of Shri Pai’s life. The second section includes various reminiscences offered by close friends and colleagues of Shri Pai. Cumulatively, the two sections provide an inspirational message to the readers.

The film, Lage Raho Munnabhai, was a hit because it caught the pulse of a large section of the Indian society for whom changing the system is synonymous with violent revolution. This book reminds us of the film. The author here describes various instances where Shri Pai intervened peacefully but strongly aiming at fighting with the system and not the individual, despite the fact that system here was state monopolistic institutions.

(M.R. Pai Foundation C/o Forum of Free Enterprise Peninsula House, IInd Floor 235, Dr D.N. Road, Mumbai-400 001.)

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