A multifaceted personality

Ashok Ogra

“Thanks to the tireless efforts of K.L.Ganju, there has been much improvement in Indo-Comorian relations, whether in times of high- level visits, economic interaction or people to people contact. This strengthening of our bilateral cooperation has enabled a large number of Comorian students, today, to pursue their studies in India and many sick Comorian go to India for advance medical treatment,” H.E. Ikilliou Dhoinine, Hon’ble President of the Republic of Union of the Comoros.
K.L.Ganju is the Honorary Consul General representing Comoros in India – a small, democratic country with a population of less than one million situated in the Indian ocean, adjacent to Madagascar close to the coast of South East Africa. It is believed that the word Comoros is Derived from the Arabic word “Qamar” which means moon in the Arabic.
Before Mr.Ganju was nominated to represent the Republic of the Union of Comoros in 2005, there was hardly any interaction between India and Comoros over the ages partly because Comoros until becoming Independent in 1975 was Fench protectorate; its external links, political, commercial, military, etc., were more or less confined to France and other Francophone states. Hardly any Comorians used to travel to India whether for tourism, studies or medical treatment.
All these years, he has worked tirelessly to work towards strengthening the relations between the governments of the two countries, enhancing people to contact and promoting the culture, identity and uniqueness of Comoros.
Born in Srinagar – Bana mohalla – in mid 1940s, K.L.Ganju’s father late Badri Nath Ganju left the valley in 1950. He did his schooling from Delhi and Bombay and at a very young age of 17 he had to discontinue his studies to help his father in business that was facing fresh challenges. And that is when Mr.Ganju proved his mettle: he started manufacturing and exporting leather items and garments to Africa, entered entertainment and gaming business and consolidated his business. Rest is history. He emerged as one of the leading businessman of our country, earning lots of accolades along the way.
And when Mr.Ganju thought of taking it easy and devote himself to social causes he met a Lebanese businessman in 2002 who had come to India to explore investment and business opportunities. However, his investment ran into bureaucratic delays and hurdles. It was Mr.Ganju who used his influence to have dues settled.
To repay his gratitude, the Lebanese rings up Mr.Ganju from London in 2004 to find out whether he would be interested to represent the Republic of the Union of the Comoros as the Honorary Consul General in India.
Initially Mr. Ganju did not seem to be interested in accepting the offer as he was not sure what the job entails and was not even aware of the fact that there are Honorary Consul Generals in India representing various countries.
However, after great persuasion by the businessman, Mr. Ganju agreed to accept the challenge. He was in Mumbai at that time and was told to fly to Comoros at the earliest.
“I ordered a new suit to fit the occasion and got my passport courired from Delhi and flew to Comoros via Sana, Bahrain …as there was no direct flight to Moroni, the capital ,” recalls Mr. Ganju.
On reaching Comoros, he first met with the Foreign Minister and later called on the President who on seeing this dapper, good looking and immaculately dressed man in his 50s- immediately gave his nod.
Accordingly, the government of Comoros sent a formal communication to the Ministry of External Affairs, government of India who after verifying his credentials issued a gazette notification on January 10, 2005.
While there are some differences between diplomats and Hony. Consuls, it is accepted by all countries that both need to be treated more or less in the same way. This is because they carry out similar functions as outlined in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
The reader might also be curious as to why the prefix Hony. is attached to the designation ‘Consul’. This is because Hony. Consuls receive no payment, salary or monetary compensation of any kind from the country they represent. They themselves bear all the expenses incurred by them for discharging their duties as a Consul General.
While Hony. Consuls do more or less the same work as an Ambassador; in many ways their task is much more arduous. This is because they have to function more or less on their own and do not receive any assistance from the government they represent. They have to display an exceptional degree of dedication and perseverance.
An important distinction needs to be made between an Hony. Consul and a diplomat. A diplomat is invariably the citizen of the country he represents. He gets transferred from country to country. On the other hand, an Hony. Consul is either a citizen or at least a long-term resident of the country in which he/she represents another country.
Mr. Ganju has also authored a book ‘The Golden Decade:2005-15 ; My Life as Honorary Consul General. This book is a river of his valuable experiences in fostering friendly relations between India and Comoros, be it in the field of commerce, trade, education, health and allied fields of mutual interest.
His wife Dr. Gurdeep Kaur Ganju who is a noted gynecologist, offers free medical consultation to those Comorian students who can’t afford medical care.
He has made a huge success of his life, both as a businessman as well as a diplomat. While in his struggle of daily life he has faced many problems, he has always retained his basic sense of humanity and kindness which I think is the most essential aspect of human being. He has been an ideal family man, a loving son, a devoted husband and an adorable father and brother. He attributes his success to his late parents and the support he has received from his sister Dr. (Prof.). Veena Ganju Malla and her husband Mr.R.M.Malla who till recently was the Chairman of IDBI. At heart he is deeply compassionate, emotional, and spiritual. “During my adolescence my family increasingly faced financial constraints, and this was the reason I did not continue my college education. All this has taught me the importance of being compassionate and help the needy and the poor.”
Mr.Ganju is a well known social worker and has been arranging large amount of funds for victims of natural calamities inter alia. He also helped in setting up a specialist hospital, namely ‘Spinal Injury Centre’, perhaps the largest Spinal Hospital in Asia.
He is also engaged in promoting and supporting various cultural initiatives A proud Kashmiri Pandit by heart, Mr. Ganju hopes that one day we can revive the age old tradition of true ‘Kashmiriyat’.
Soft spoken with a commanding presence, Mr. Ganju takes interest in spiritualism. He has authored many books including ‘Saga of Hinduism’, ‘Present Day Gita’ etc. He is truly a man of letters.
In recognition of his service and for his dedication and outstanding performance as an Hony. Consul General, he has been conferred with the highest civilian award of the “Comoros Chevalier de I’ Ordre Du Croissant Vert Des Comores” in November, 2010.
As and when he visits Comoros he is received warmly by the local people for the help he has extended to them when in India – for studies or for medical care. In Comoros, his second home, the name of Mr. K.L.Ganju evokes admiration and respect.
(The author is a noted management & media professional. He has worked as Regional Director, Discovery Channel (South Asia) and also taught at Film Institute, Pune.)