Beckenham charity patron tells rags to riches story
16:19 02 August 2012
Landing in London from India, Saroj Chakravarty had just three pounds in his pocket. The year was 1964 and the average weekly wage was £16. The Kinks were topping the charts with You Really Got Me and the death penalty had only just been abolished.
Nearly five decades later, Saroj, of The Avenue, Beckenham, is in charge of organising the prestigious Prince’s Trust polo tournament and the event is even named in his honour.
The Chakravarty Cup, attended by Prince Charles and his sons William and Harry, is an annual competition which raises money for the Trust and which requires year-round organisation from Saroj and his family.
The charity works with 13 to 30-year-olds who have struggled at school, have been in care, are long-term unemployed or have been in trouble with the law.
“It has saved many youngsters from a life of crime. Last year it helped 55,000 young men and women,” said Saroj, who has a son of his own. With donations from the event now exceeding £1m, the 75-year-old is an undeniable local hero.
But it was a long and arduous journey from those first days back in swinging sixties London to where he is today.
Saroj’s ideas of strolling into a well-paid job in England were soon dashed after landing here.
He worked many a long hour in exhausting roles after arriving, from a kitchen porter to a postman – all while studying.
During his time at Royal Mail, he earned the nickname the “flying postman”, owing to the speed at which he delivered letters around East Acton.
“I used to run with the mail bag, so I had time to study to be a chartered management accountant,” he recalled.
After passing his accountancy exams and gaining a job, he continued to work hard, climbing to the top before becoming an executive of a paper company.
Having become financially comfortable, Saroj was keen to share what he had with others and would regularly donate to charities.
Explaining what motivates him, he said: “I do not live for myself but for others. These are the same principles I have given to my son.”
The businessman attends many benefit events and it was at one such happening in 1992 that he was introduced to Prince Charles, to whom he told his rags-to-riches tale.
The Prince immediately recognised in him qualities which would transfer well to inspiring disaffected youth – perseverance and hard work.
His Royal Highness asked the businessman to become a patron of his charity. Saroj’s decision was an easy one – he knew how hard it is to succeed in the face of adversity.
After working with the Prince’s Trust for five years, the Chakravarty Cup was conceived in 1997, despite Saroj never hopping on to a polo pony in his life.
Speaking about running the event, which happens on September 22 in Richmond, he said: “It is such a great honour to organise such a prestigious polo competition after all the menial tasks when I was younger. It is my life.”
Polo was chosen as an event which would attract a wealthy crowd. Foreign diplomats and celebrities all flock there – in recent years ambassadors of the USA, Argentina and Japan have visited, along with Richard E Grant, Jerry Hall, Jodie Kidd and Bill Wyman.
In the coming weeks the pressure will mount on Saroj to pull off yet another stunning event. But he is unfazed by the pressure of entertaining such high calibre guests.
and humble about how much he has achieved since coming to England.
He added: “I am sure that there are people who are doing much more than me, but I am happy with what I have contributed.”
The Chakravarty Cup 2012 is on Saturday September 22 at the Ham Polo Club in Richmond.