He was a giant in every sense that mattered

Barry Gardiner MP writes a personal tribute to Ramniklal Solanki

AGracious Spirit is leaving this world. And all who were touched by this extraordinary  man are the poorer for his passing.

For those who did not know Ramniklal Solanki it might seem strange to describe a man – who was physically small – as a giant, but in every  sense that mattered, this is what he was.

A giant first of all in courage. To risk all, leave one’s birthplace and forge an entirely new business out of nothing in a foreign land takes courage; and Ram had it in abundance.

His truest courage though, was perhaps best shown in the editorial decisions he made. Never less than scrupulous in performing what he regarded as his sacred duty as a journalist: exposing falsehood and reporting news rather than partisan opinion or idle gossip.

He was a giant too in the influence he wielded. Ram’s publications became the essential industry reading whether in the pharmacy, hotel or grocery sector. As a result, he became an adviser and friend to a multitude of powerful business leaders and politicians — though he allowed no friendship ever to cloud his judgement.

The walls of his office bore testimony to the many political leaders he had grilled, with a gallery of photos of him interviewing everyone from Tony Blair all the way back to one of a dynamic young Ram with Indira Gandhi.

Business and politics though are not a true mark of this man. Ramniklal Solanki was also a moral giant. He could have used the immense business empire he built up across three continents simply for personal gain and aggrandisement.

Nothing was further from his nature. He knew what racism and injustice was. No Indian arriving in England in the 1960s could be in any doubt: the notices in every Room to Rent proclaimed it. And Ram was determined to fight it — not on a street protest or a picket line, but through education and encouragement.