PROMINENT personalities from all walks of life – in the UK, India, and abroad, have paid tributes to Ramniklal Solanki, the editor-in-chief and founder of the Asian Media Group (AMG), who passed away on March 1 in India following a short illness. This is a small selection from the many messages received by the family…
HH Mahant Swami, head of BAPS: The demise of Mr Ramniklal Solanki, a simple man with a great personality, is a huge loss to Indian journalism abroad.
We met back in 1970, when I accompanied our guru, Brahmswarup Yogiji Maharaj and HH Param Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj, on a visit to London.
A bond of love evolved between Yogiji Maharaj, HH Param Pujya Pramukhswami Maharaj and Mr Solanki in the first meeting itself.
Such a relationship with such religious leaders of a great character is only possible when one’s heart is pure and pious. By profession, Mr Ramniklal was a journalist, but he was free of many vices that are usually associated with his profession. It was his belief and his actions as well as his creativity that were directed to further good causes and the best values through journalism. He set the best example of positive journalism.
Even as his news magazine Garavi Gujarat was highly popular and read extensively in many countries, he ensured that religion was well followed through its columns regularly. News about Indian spiritual leaders visiting abroad were always covered prominently in Garavi Gujarat. The news magazine played the role of a catalyst in the relentless efforts of the spiritual leaders to ensure that Indian immigrants settled abroad remained rooted to their Indian culture and religion.
His belief in HH Param Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj was of the highest order. For many decades now, Garavi Gujarat published news about HH Param Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj and later about HH Pujya Mahant Swami Maharaj in the opening pages of the news weekly.
Mr Solanki enjoyed the blessings of HH Param Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj and that gave his heart and confidence unique strength. The demise of such a devoted persona is indeed a huge loss.
Pragat Brahmswarup Mahant Swami Maharaj has prayed to the Almighty to give strength to his sons Kalpesh and Shailesh Solanki and the entire Garavi Gujarat family to cope with the shock of his demise. He has also blessed his sons and the family to carry forward the noble cause that was so dear to Mr Solanki.
HH Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji: It is so sad that we have lost the physical presence of our beloved and respected Ramnikbhai Solanki, but it is not only a time to mourn. Rather, it is a time to celebrate, to celebrate the extraordinary contribution of his life to the world.
Ramnikbhai’s entire life was dedicated to sanskriti (culture), sanskar (values and ethics) and parivar (family). He was so deeply committed to Indian culture, to Gujarati culture and the language, to the divine teachings and association of the saints. That commitment truly formed the foundation of his life and infused every minute of his day and everything he did with devotion and piety. He passed this onto his children, grandchildren and all the members of the family and community – keeping everyone connected to the land of India, to Gujarati culture, to the blessings and darshan of the saints through his newspapers and magazines, and everything he did.
And his family, especially his wife Parvatiben, was not separate from him, but rather was truly part of every aspect of both his life and his livelihood. She played a crucial role in birthing not only their children Kalpesh, Shailesh, Sadhana and Smita, but also the publications, even going door to door in the early days.
However, Ramnikbhai did not consider only those connected to him by blood or marriage to be his family. Rather, he considered the entire Asian community and Gujarati community to be his family. He was deeply committed to service both in Britain as well as in India, and deeply engaged in many projects and programmes for the underprivileged and needy.
For many decades I have watched him build an incredibly successful business, and even in times of difficulty and trouble, he never lost his smile or his complete surrender to the Divine. In the face of any and every challenge, Ramnikbhai’s faith never wavered and the satsang of the saints and gurus filled him with strength and absolute resilience.
Ramnikbhai has created and left a true legacy and it is one now that those left behind must continue to fulfil. It is a legacy of oneness and togetherness, not only in the extended family of blood and marriage, but the extended family of the entire community. His life was his message. It is a message of devoted to God and service to the community, service for all. We have lost the physical presence of a truly divine soul, and we have gained a legacy that will continue to touch the world forever.
HH Sadhu Viveksagardas, senior swami of BAPS: With the sad demise of Ramniklal Solanki, the Gujarati community globally has suffered an irreparable loss of a talented person who served the cause of Gujarati language and literature. He could be well described as a ‘man of letters’ for Gujarati.
Ramnikbhai was not just a lover of the Gujarati language, he was also – in a true sense – a conductor of it. He launched Garavi Gujarat in the UK with the aim of preserving Gujarati culture among the community settled in Britain. Through the weekly, he can be credited for providing positive news, important information and helping in the preservation of the language among Gujaratis abroad.
In 1970, our guru, Yogiji Maharaj visited London. It coincided with the second anniversary of Garavi Gujarat and the magazine published a special issue on Yogiji Maharaj. Mr Solanki came to meet the saint, with the special issue, to seek his blessings. With his hard work and the blessings of the saint, Mr Solanki went from strength to strength in his endeavours.
His introduction to Yogiji Maharaj and the BAPS in 1970 evolved into a lifelong association with the publication, the family and BAPS. Just like HH Yogiji Maharaj, HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj also become a guiding light to the family and to Garavi Gujarat. Each time HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited London, Ramniklalbhai would visit him with his two sons and seek his blessings. Later, Mr Solanki started frequenting Ahmedabad and there too, he and his sons would make it a point to meet HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj and seek his blessings.
His belief in Pramukh Swami Maharaj become so strong that Garavi Gujarat started to devote space for news about the saint in the weekly.
Last week, as soon as we came to know of his hospitalisation, on behalf of our head, HH Pujya Mahant Swami Maharaj, we visited him and prayed for his health. It had been a special relationship for me with him, just like a close friend.
Late last month, when I went to see him he was unconscious and on the last leg of his journey of life. As per his wishes (that he had expressed on a few occasions when he met me as well as HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj), I placed a special, sacred string of beads around his neck and chanted the Swaminarayan Mahamantra with a prayer that the Almighty should relieve him from the painful condition and let his soul rest in the heavenly abode. A day later, Ramnikbhai passed away.
The demise of Mr Solanki is a huge loss. We pray that his mission is carried forward by his sons Kalpesh, Shailesh and the family members. May the Lord give strength to the staff members to cope with their loss.
Swami Madhavpriyadasji, SGVP, Ahmedabad: Ramanikbhai has served Gujaratis and the language through a lifetime through his newspaper Garavi Gujarat.
Ramnikbhai’s love for literature was profound and his love for culture, patriotism, Gujarati language was also unique. I have noticed his collection of rare books in his library. Today, when the mother tongue is forgotten in the fascination of foreign languages, Ramnikbhai did a lot of work to promote the Gujarati language.
By establishing Garavi Gujarat in England and in the US, Ramnikbhai delivered literature to the homes of Gujarati people. His editorial was about keeping society aware of every issue relevant to them.
Garavi Gujarat’s special Diwali issue was amazing. Each year, he prepared questions on different topics and inspired religious leaders to answer them. His questions regarding current trends and problems of religion were fascinating.
In previous editions, a few pages in Garavi Gujarat were published in English, so that our non-Gujarati brothers and sisters had access to the news of the nation and views of Indian culture. They now get this in Eastern Eye.
Ramnikbhai had great respect and affection for our Gurukul’s service. Whenever I had to go to England, I visited his office and he would visit our Gurukul when he came to Gujarat.
The entire Gurukul family pays homage to the soul of Ramanikbhai, a great servant of the motherland and the mother tongue. Praying at the feet of Lord Shriharhi, who gives His Holy Spirit the true happiness of His nearness.
Vijay Rupani, Gujarat chief minister: Ramniklal Solanki was a feather in thecap of Gujarati journalism.
He worked relentlessly to keep the flag of the Gujarati language flying high in a foreign land through Garavi Gujarat news weekly. It would not be out of place to expect that his sons, Kalpesh and Shailesh Solanki will keep the flame of Gujarati language alight and help the cause of unifying Gujaratis in Britain as well as elsewhere.
Pujya Rameshbhai Oza (Pujya Bhaishree): Mr Solanki will be remembered for his great service to Gujaratis settled abroad as well as to the Gujarati language and its literature.
With his passing, we have lost an enthusiastic journalist. My prayers to the Lord to ensure eternal peace for the departed soul and strength for the family to be able to withstand the shock and despair of his passing away.
Himat Swami from Anupam Mission Temple, Uxbridge: For over five decades, Mr Solanki had been serving the cause of literature, language and culture through Garavi Gujarat. He remained modest and empathetic while being prosperous and well known, having won high honours and also blessings of saints and gurus. The demise of such a humble person is a loss not only to the Solanki family but also to society at large.
Bharat Shah, founder and CEO of Sigma Pharmaceuticals: Ramnikbhai was instrumental in not only promoting Asian communities, but also in encouraging the integration of different Asian communities with UK businesses, well-known personalities and political arenas. I will always remember him for his Sanskrit religious grace before dinner that he so humbly recited from his heart. He was a legend in our Asian communities and will be remembered forever.
Dhruv Chhatralia, lawyer: Ramnikalji was blessed with a warm, loving and affable personality, and he made an incredible contribution to the Indian community. He served society with the utmost dedication and played a pivotal role in building bridges between several generations of the Indian diaspora with their roots, origins and their culture.
His vision and initiatives united people from different backgrounds, religions and communities. He endeared himself to both young and older people because of his youthful nature combined with his inspirational wisdom.
Mayur Madhvani, managing director of the Madhvani Group of Companies, and family: Ramniklalbhai was indeed a formidable individual whose drive and achievements set an example for us all. We fondly look back to the early days and the success of Garavi Gujarat and later Eastern Eye. His kindness, warmth and humbleness were exemplary.
Kamlesh Madhvani, co-director of the Madhvani Group: We will always remember Ramnikbhai as a very dynamic person who has indeed contributed a lot to the Asian community, in the particular the Gujarati community, in the UK and beyond. His journals are now regularly to be found in many Gujarati households in both Europe and in America. This is a truly remarkable achievement.
Sunder Katwala, founder of British Future: Mr Solanki was a truly remarkable man. In the months ahead, many people will see it as important to recognise the extent to which his personal story and achievements illuminate so much of the story about the British Indian contribution to this country, and his commitment to giving the next generation, and now the generations beyond that, as many opportunities as possible to build on the foundations which he laid over the last half century and more.
Nemu Chandaria, on behalf of the board of directors and OneJAIN Institute of Jainology UK & India: Ramnikbhai’s divine soul has left for an unknown destination from where no traveller returns. He was a very highly admired media icon in the UK. He is gone from our sight but never from our memories; he is gone from our touch but not from our hearts. He has left a gap that will never close, though the pain will recede. He will be immensely missed but never be forgotten.
Dame Asha Khemka and family: Mr Solanki’s death is a loss to all of us, our communities and to this country. I remember him as a man of honour and pride who had an infectious affection for mankind. Mr Solanki has not only left a huge legacy of wisdom and humbleness but his single most contribution of family values will last for generations to come.
Anuj Chande, corporate finance partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP, and wife Nishma: Ramnikbhai was a true pioneer in his field and it was really admirable and amazing how he continued working into his 80s. He has left a wonderful legacy behind which is in safe hands.
Lord Swraj Paul: Ramnikbhai was an exceptional man. I knew him for a very long time and he was a great pillar of the Indian community. We can all be proud of what he has achieved.
Viram Jasani, musician: I feel very lucky that I had met Ramnikbhai first some 50 years ago when he visited my father in our office and told us that he was starting a Gujarati publication. Since then he has steered the development of Asian journalism in the UK to great heights and it is a great credit to him.
Ameet Jogia, Conservative councillor for Canons Ward, Harrow: Ramnik Uncle always encouraged me to persevere with my politics and to never lose heart or give up. What I admired most about him, was the fact that regardless of his political beliefs or affiliations, he always empowered young people to take the baton and lead the charge. I will always remember him for his wise words and I hope to always live up to his expectations.
Rory Stewart, independent candidate for mayor of London: Mr Solanki’s dedication to fearless and pioneering journalism, paired with his entrepreneurial genius, were an example to us all. I have no doubt that his legacy will remain a source of great inspiration, both with all that he achieved in work, but also through the incredible Solanki family.
Radio 4 presenter Ritula Shah and family: He was a true pioneer and a visionary, who has a very important place in the history of British Asians in the UK.