While all this was happening I thought that I must handle the whole thing in a way that while the construction was in progress, I should be able to engage myself in some fruitful activities not by simply spending time – money, collecting stones and building a structure on the Rock. Will a simple structure be enough to perpetuate Swamiji’s memory? This Memorial should form the nucleus for something still greater. What would be that & how this situation could be made best use for that purpose?
Fund-Tip of the Iceberg – I had never collected money. After seeing the figure of Rs 30 lakhs everybody said: “This 30 lakhs, you will get over a period of 25-30 years”. They discouraged me saying that we have to be with this Memorial all our life.
Among industrialists one person whom I knew well was Shri Jugal Kishore Birla. He discouraged me, offered me Rs 10,000/ instead of a lakh that I asked for. Again after 3-4 months, I met him. He said: “though I am not in a position to give you more than 10,000/ my brothers are here, you talk to them. You talk to Shri B M Birla”. Then we had a meeting and I again pressed the Birlas for Rs 1 lakh. They said: “This one lakh is not going to bring 30 lakhs. Because nobody is going to donate for temples, that too for Vivekananda temple”. I said: “If you give me one lakh, I assure you that I will bring one crore”. They laughed. I asked: “How much money is required to inspire your confidence? “You collect 10 lakhs and then we shall confidence that you can”. I said : “You give me 50,000/ now. I shall ask for the other 50,000/ only on that day when our Committee’s Kosha there will be 10 lakhs”. I took 50,000/. When I confided that I intended to make all State govts to donate one lakh each, almost all my friends ridiculed the idea of donating towards the construction of VRM.
Vision of a New Horizon - We can have an order of workers in whose case marriage need not be barred. If we can provide for all their basic needs we may get a fine class of workers out of such dedicated people we see all around. But what could that work be? I started discussing it with all-important people like Swami Ranganathananda, Secretary of the Institute of Culture, President Radhakrishnan, President of Ramakrishna Mission, Shri Jaya Prakash Narayan, Shankaracharyas top leaders etc. Slowly in my press briefings I used to tell that the Memorial was the first phase of the plan and as soon as it was over we would take up the second phase.
As I met a cross spectrum of people I found that almost all people belonging to various political groups had complete identification with Swamiji’s idea, with whatever Swamiji had said. The book gives two examples of two such leaders which I am not reproducing. One is Shri Kalyanasundaram, the Right wing Communist leader of Madras and two is Shri Jyoti Basu, the left Communist leader.
In this way when we were discussing the matters with Swami Ranganathananda when our collection drive was going on, we were also thinking of plans for the future. The whole campaign was so organized & designed that whatever we did, our collections during the phase should prepare for the needs of the second phase.
We had not formed a Committee for Maharashtra for six months. I wanted Shri S K Patil, the then Railway Minister to be the President. Through a series of contacts and six months ultimately Shri Patil became the President after which Shri V P Naik readily became Vice-President. The same pattern was followed in other states.
Shri V C Shukhla, Minister for Defence Production came here. He was happy that the VRM was coming up and he helped us in every way. The CM of Madhya Pradesh had not donated the Rs 1 lakh. Shri Shukhla said it is because I was from the RSS & Shri Mishra is allergic to the RSS. Then I asked Shri Shukhla a point blank question: “Are you affected by the revelation that I am connected with the RSS? “I tell you, the health of this country is spoilt. This political atmosphere is so much vitiated that even for good work, we do not come together, except for the defence of the country”.
Different people belonging to different political affiliations all reacted in this manner & rallied around us because we carefully kept ourselves aloof from politics. This has helped us & this is the secret & substance of the success, whether in collection of funds or in mobilizing people.