Money that came to Vijay Merchant as awards and recognition for his philanthropy went into the Vijay Merchant Trust. His philosophy was that everyone comes with his own fortune into this world, and he would try to help in augmenting it, thereby getting peace of mind and spiritual happiness © Getty Images
Money that came to Vijay Merchant as awards and recognition for his philanthropy went into the Vijay Merchant Trust. His philosophy was that everyone comes with his own fortune into this world, and he would try to help in augmenting it, thereby getting peace of mind and spiritual happiness © Getty Images

 

By Shashi Kothari

 

Vijay Merchant could have lived a lavish life as he was born in a very affluent industrialist family. But he chose to lead a very Spartan life. “God has been kind to me in many ways. There is only one way to repay my debt to him: by helping the handicapped and the disabled,” he used to say.

 

Merchant’s daily routine was to get up at 5.00 am and spend an hour every day attending to his mails and replying to them. At about 6.00 am he used to go for a walk and returned home around 7.30 am to be available on the phone for an hour to anyone who wanted to contact him. He would then work for about 12 hours, with just an intake of fruits and curd. He called his kitchen one without fire and ate only to live. He believed that no doctor in the world could look after him better than himself. He followed cardiologist Dr Datey’s motto: “It’s not in our hands how long we live, but how well we live is certainly in our hands.”

 

A generation that grew up listening to his vibrant voice every Sunday on “Cricket with Vijay Merchant” every Sunday on Vividh Bharthi will vouch for how well he took care of his health.

 

During the day he met, on an average, 15-20 homeless and handicapped people at his office. On several occasions, even rich people called on him for help with regard to their marital problems. Merchant helped school and college students too in solving their problems. He made arrangements for medical treatment for many.

 

I was associated with Merchant in his work for the blind, to whom he provided white canes, Braille machines, lottery business, cloth agency, fruit vending, public telephone booths, and to the handicapped, he provided wheelchairs, three-wheeled cycles, special types of chairs and Jaipur Foot. Not only he provided help, but he would follow up on them to ensure that they are making proper use of the help provided to them.

 

In 21 years of social service, he arranged 17 marriages between blind, handicapped and leprosy-afflicted couples and conducted the ceremonies at his own business establishment – the Hindoostan Mills. He saw to it that all the married couples were provided with the necessary household items for everyday use like utensils, crockery, etc.

 

Money that came to him as awards and recognition for his philanthropy went into the Vijay Merchant Trust. His philosophy was that everyone comes with his own fortune into this world, and he (Merchant) would try to help in augmenting it, thereby getting peace of mind and spiritual happiness. I was associated with his other projects too. We collected 2000 bottles of blood which we gave to the Tata Blood Bank.

 

Merchant, for me, was a true Karmayogi.

 

(The above tribute to Merchant is from “Vijay Merchant – In Memoriam” which is reproduced here with permission of Marcus Couto, editor of that book. The book was produced in 1988)