The Man
The Professional
The Astrologer
The Activist
Shanker Adawal wears white; to him it signifies totality, the amalgamation of all hues. He speaks softly. There is never a raucous voice in his stream of conscious thoughts. As a corporate head, he has never missed the bull’s eye; that is his job. As an astrologer he steps beyond the mundane and explains the inexplicable; astrology is his passion. He is an activist who holds on to honesty and stands by those whose truths are muffled. That is his peace. 

Too many roles, too many expectations, but Shanker is at ease. Everywhere.

He studied economics, learnt the nuances of management and hurried up the corporate ladder. As President, Corporate Affairs, Reliance Industries, Shanker has dabbled in millions and handled projects large enough to unnerve the mediocre. But he has dug his heels in; whatever job he undertakes, whichever alley he walks, for Shanker the method always remains the same: diligence.

When he is not brainstorming strategies, Shanker moseys to another realm – an astrologer keen on understanding the intricacies of the metaphysical and the randomness of human lives and their destinies. The esoteric fascinates him, he has written several books on astrology.

When he sits behind the mahogany desk as president of the Manavadhikar Samajik Manch, he knows he is fighting the battle for the values which are under siege in this modern world. Violation of human rights is his pet peeve and he stretches beyond putative boundaries to ensure justice and dignity to all.   

Too much to pack in one life? But Shanker is not complaining. He does not. He would never rewrite his life.  

At the end of the journey when the credits for his life roll, Shanker will take responsibility for his actions and their consequences. He would stand for his beliefs, for his dreams, for the questions that brew forever, for the blessings that he can count, for the mistakes that cannot be erased and for the chaos that simmers in his heart.

That’s Dr. Shanker Adawal.  
“This too will pass”. That would be his epitaph.

Watch Shanker Adawal at his desk and perhaps the first thing one would notice is his grit, his determination and his reticent demenaour. Nothing wavers his fortitude, not the loudest of detractors, not the belligerence of a thorny situation, not the magnitude of a colossal project, not even the paucity of time. As a professional he does not wait for conclusions, he concludes before the beginning – the job has to be done. Well. On time. And with utmost dedication.

Perhaps that is why deadlines do not daunt Shanker. “Deadlines amuse me,” says the corporate professional who has worked in prestigious companies like DCM, Modi Xerox, Tatas, Nortel and Reliance Industries. Deadlines amused him when he started as a professional in DCM’s branch office in Lucknow in 1978; they continue to do so 30 years later as he lords over as President, Corporate Affairs, Reliance Industries.

The son of a bureaucrat father and an educationist mother, Shanker did his Ph.D in Economics, later adding a Management in Business Administration degree from Delhi University with major in Marketing Management and honed his technical skills by learning various software languages in Singapore.

Astrology. That is not Shanker’s alibi to while away lazy hours, it is his preferred passion – a passion that fell his way in childhood, a zeal that he picked from his father. As a child Shanker often saw his father, a bureaucrat-astrologer, scrambling with dates and numbers on a horoscope; he often sat at his father’s feet as he flipped through books to unravel the mysteries of human lives and existence; while boys his age were fiddling with cars and machines, Shanker sat hours to partake in intellectual debates about the futility and paradoxes of life that his father had with his friends and fellow astrologers.

The esoteric so fascinated Shanker that he studied astrology to become a Jyotishacharya. As word spread, Shanker’s weekends started getting crowded, friends sought solace and answers, strangers knocked his doors for ways to mollify an irate planet. The more he delved, the more astrology intrigued him. He perused his personal library of 3,000 books trying to cull wisdom from ancient scriptures and musings of sages. And the more he studied the more he felt the need to share his knowledge with others – a need that has resulted in sixteen path-breaking books on astrology.

So, what is Destiny? Are human beings dictated by destiny? Is everything preordained? Are we mere puppets playing our roles in this world without any control over our lives? Do horoscopes hold the secret to our future? Can astrologers unfold lives and reveal what waits at the next bend?      

Shanker rebuffs common perceptions; he refuses to attribute everything to destiny. No, not everything is destined. Our lives, to a great extent, are shaped by our choices and our character, he affirms.     

Do astrologers know all about future? No, not everything. For Shanker astrology is not an absolute science, it is a predictive science. It is based on assumptions, on the average of the larger numbers. Ask him about the absurdity of human predicaments and he would tell you about the physics of the metaphysical, about the journey of the primal energy, about the impact of colours on our lives. Nothing is absurd, nothing is random, it is our karma.
Shanker promises no miracles with astrology. For him, astrology is an alternative or supportive therapy, a handy tool to mitigate problems and help people become better within their parameters, their context. He says, “We are not here on earth to change our destiny, but to fulfill it.”

For Shanker, astrology is more than passion; it is a responsibility. A responsibility that he fulfills ardently. Everyday.  
Ask Shanker how he squeezes benevolence in his already cluttered 24 hours and he smiles. For him. generosity is not an acquired virtue, it is a way of life. A lesson he learnt from his  parents whom he often saw lending a helping hand to those who needed it the most. “You need to count your blessings and give back to the society.” For that urge to speak for the underdog, stand for truth and to make the world a better place, in 1997 Shanker founded Manavadhikar Samajik Manch (MASM), headquartered in New Delhi with chapters in Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Maharastra.

In the past 10 years, MASM has lived its motto of ‘impartial protection and promotion of human rights in all its forms’ and each day strives to fulfill its vision of ‘the creation of a just and equitable society’. MASM has action-oriented and research-oriented goals; one stressing on medical and legal camps, identification of incidence of human rights violation, networking with similar organizations, while the other focuses on seminars, surveys and research on various subjects.  

In this world torn by strife and selfishness, Shanker knows the task is arduous, but when he sets out like a pilgrim in search of truth and justice, he is ready to pick up cudgels for anyone, fight any battle. 

Had it not been for this fortitude, Sashi Bansal would have been just another statistic in the dowry death roster. In the dusty Godhla village in Jharkhand, nobody spared a thought about this 23-year old who was dumped by her husband for not providing a motorcycle. Sashi begged and pleaded but her tears tricked in vain. It was then that MASM intervened, providing Sashi and her in-laws with the much-needed counseling. Thanks to MASM, Sashi’s story had a happily-after ending.

She is not the only one, though. Meet Rinku Bindra who was caught in a web of deceit and treachery by her family who wanted to snatch away not only her property but also her dignity. The case was tricky but MASM pleaded her case with the National Human Rights Commission and National Women’s Commission and the guilty were brought to book. 

When that smile finally flickered on the Sashi’s distraught face, Shanker did not count it as another milestone. He added peace to his soul. That is his reason to be.