April 17, 2018

Why an obscure little coastal town called Chorwad should be on your ‘Must Visit’ list?

Hidden from the rest of the world,Chorwad is a peaceful little coastal town surrounded by coconut trees, in Saurashtra region of Gujarat. We happened to visit this town purely by chance. While we were on our way to Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace Porbandar, our driver suggested that we might as well check out Chorwad on the way as the two towns are situated at a distance of just 100 kms from each other and we happily agreed. But I must admit quite honestly, that this chance visit to Chorwad, which incidentally happens to be the birth place of one of India’s top industrialists Dhirubhai Ambani, gave me an entirely fresh perspective on how success can mean different things for different individuals. It also taught me never to judge someone without knowing their whole story.

DHA Memorial House, Chorwad surrounded by coconut trees

Why is the town named Chorwad?
The first thing that struck my mind was the rather strange and unusual name of the town. The word ‘chor’ means a thief in hindi and so Chorwad would roughly translate to ‘abode of the thieves’ and I could see no reason why anyone would want to be known as someone belonging to a place whether the thieves reside!
As per the local folk tales, in ancient times, this town was originally called Chanchiyawad and was a popular trading harbour. Initially, the population that dominated here was mostly the business class known locally as the Bania community. Gradually, it became a notorious haunt of sea pirates and hence, came to be known as Chorwad.

Chorwad Beach

Chorwad’s claim to fame
Otherwise a very ordinary town without having as much as a modern Shopping Mall to call its own, Chorwad possesses a palatial bungalow which appears rather conspicuous in its modest surroundings. This is the bungalow in whose rented one bedroom apartment Ambani was born and spent his early childhood days and this is the bungalow which he ultimately came to own after becoming a businessman of an iconic stature. It is now known as Dhirubhai Hiralal Ambani Memorial House.

DHA Memorial House
It is an inspirational place for those who want to learn more about Ambani, those who want to grow beyond their modest background. It offers an insight into the life of Ambani through a series of portraits displayed in a chronological order.

The portraits at DHA Memorial House

I am sure everyone will have his own takeaway but I was mighty impressed with Dhirubhai Ambani’s thoughts on travelling. It was fascinating to know that a businessman of his stature could find time to pursue passions like travelling.

Dhirubhai Ambani’s love for traveling

And surprisingly for a first generation entrepreneur who achieved so much in such a short span of time, Ambani used to work for very less number of hours per day- never more than 10 hours. He used to say, “Anybody who says he works for 16 hours or 18 hours a day is either a slow worker or a liar.” He used to spend the remaining hours of the day with his family- his 19 children and grand children, passing on his wisdom. He would often take them out on family outings.

Dhirubhai Ambani loved to travel with his family

Ambani, the man as seen from the eyes of natives of Chorwad
In one of the portraits of DHA Memorial House, Ambani is seen hugging his driver affectionately. Being a first generation entrepreneur, he appeared to be a man of the soil, who never forgot his roots.
Indeed, during our trip to Chorwad, the native people had many interesting stories to tell us about Dhirubhai Ambani’s magnanimity. They told us that Mr. Ambani used to visit his ancestral village every year without fail. He would host a community lunch for all the villagers and would sit and eat with them.
A native told us a story about how one of his childhood friends had gone to meet Ambani at his bungalow in Mumbai. As expected, he was not allowed by the security guard to enter the Ambani Mansion as he had the appearance of a typical villager and had no proof of knowing Ambani personally. Ambani who happened to be at home at that time, overheard the argument between the security guard and this dhoti clad old man. After knowing that he was his childhood friend, Ambani hosted his friend in his home for two months and asked him to visit him again whenever he felt like.
It is said that Ambani never said no for a job to any person from his village. He would hire a person without any reference check as soon as he told that he belongs to Chorwad.

Ambani, a man of paradoxes
In Indian media, Ambani was always known as the man who acted tough and knew how to bend rules or have them bent for him, the man who would bulldoze his opponents mercilessly. But my visit to Chorwad let me peek into the more humane side of the seemingly hardcore businessman I had read about. I saw in him an innocent boy with dreamy eyes who wanted to make it big in life no matter what; and later a grown up man who wanted to pay back to his motherland in whichever way he could; a man who was generous beyond the call of duty for people he loved; a man who was a dedicated father and a grandfather who wanted to pass on the wealth of his acquired wisdom to his coming generations.