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Vijay out to ‘make a difference’
- $580,000 collected from Foundation’s first fund-raising exercise

Mumbai: In wanting to “make a difference,” one of our most charismatic sportsmen, Vijay Amritraj, has launched an India-specific Foundation to help those who probably are most needy. “The ones without a voice,” as he put it, with a touch of emotion.

The Vijay Amritraj Foundation came into being in June, but the fund-raising only began this month — through corporate golf in Los Angeles on November 4 and a “gala” black tie-dinner in glitzy Beverly Hills the next day.

“In terms of gross collections, we touched $580,000... It’s a nice start and I intend the fund-raising exercise to be an annual event,” Vijay told The Telegraph, over a cup of tea, on Thursday afternoon.

The lone Indian with the enviable status of United Nations’ Messenger of Peace, Vijay was in transit (to home town Chennai) on the way from London. The 52-year-old, who produced many moments of magic on the tennis courts (he was once, briefly, bracketed with Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors), recently had angioplasty.

“I’m fine... I’m back to hitting tennis balls... If there’s a bother, it’s this dry cough which just doesn’t seem to leave me... I’ve tried a variety of medicines,” he pointed out, grinning.

Talking about the Foundation, Vijay said: “It’s this desire to make a difference which encouraged me to launch it... We’ll help fund the most needy causes in India. In fact, we’ve already identified two institutions — one which works out of New Delhi and tackles paediatric Aids and another in Chennai which, too, is working with Aids victims... The latter project is actually run by doctors based in the US...

“Frankly, we aren’t looking at the high profile charities... For example, we’re also going to fund a school for blind children in Karnataka, which is being managed by a visually challenged lady... Nobody has heard about it, but look at what it has been doing... We’ll be guided by the work being put in, not the profile of a particular NGO or some charity...”

He added: “The Foundation’s motto is simple: ‘In Giving We Receive’... That, I believe, sums up the driving force. The giver, after all, can feel a lot more than the receiver... The receiver has no choice but to accept what’s being given... It’s the giver who gets an opportunity to make a difference.”

Vijay informed that he’d “requested” some of his well-connected “friends” to join the board of trustees. “It wouldn’t be proper to reveal names, not at this stage... Of course, I’m hoping for a positive response...”

Asked if he would consider involving Indian cricketers in the fund-raising exercise, Vijay replied: “Oh, absolutely... I would love to have a fund-raiser in India and would love to have the cricketers take part in celebrity events in the US and England... I don’t have reservations, none at all... My concern is the cause.”

Incidentally, Shashi Tharoor (the United Nations’ under-secretary general for communications and public information) was the “keynote speaker” at the Beverly Hills fund-raiser, while Sir Ben Kingsley turned up as “guest speaker.”

Trust a Vijay Amritraj venture to be high on class.

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