On being conferred the 'Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy'


22nd October 2022

This past week, I was conferred the 'Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy'.

I was truly honoured and humbled to receive this.  I must recognize the work of my father, Dr. Shantilal Karamshi Somaiya and the entire team at Somaiya Vidyavihar for this honour.   The Consul General - Alessandro De Masi presented me this award that was signed by the President of Italy.

Dr. Shantilal Somaiya started the tradition of reaching out.  He believed that the world deserved to be a better place (as we all do).  But he felt that the best means of trying this would be to reach out and have dialogue with others.  

When I often asked him, how do you speak to people who have 'that opinion'.  His answer always was - 'Samir - to achieve positive change, you must have dialogue with those who think differently than you.  Talking only to people who are the same as you in opinion will not result in harmonious social change.'  

And so he reached out to establish links.  Academically, culturally and spiritually.  He did much work with Italy.

It is in that tradition that I carried that tradition forward.  I have visited Italy many, many times and have also visited the Vatican three or four times.  I would like to speak about my visit to the Vatican.  

I stayed at the 'Pontifical University - Urbaniana' and was the guest of the then Rector - Father Alberto Trevisol.  He spoke no English and I spoke no Italian.  Still, with the help of a translator (Father Benedict Kanakapally) we spoke for over 6 hours in our very first meeting.  We developed a great regard for each other.  At one of our meetings, he mentioned to me that if he would have ever had a son, he would have liked him to be like me.  This is what reaching out can do.  Different cultures, different religions, different nationalities, different vocations.  I would not have imagined that we could be of one mind and think of each other as family if I would have thought of him as 'the other'.

I am deeply grateful to the Government of Italy and the Consul General for giving us this honour.  

We have been celebrating the Italian Buzz festival on our campus.  Let us keep celebrating the diversity that we all share in this world and keep trying to make it a better place.

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