People

Ritesh Barot – Kenya’s tallest man with a golden heart and gifted painting hand

Whenever people meet Ritesh Barot (OGW), they always ask him one of two questions; “How is the weather up there?” or “Can you see the future?” Standing at an amazing height of 7’6, Ritesh says he enjoys more fresh air than the rest of us average people. I believe him!

Ritesh is a few years shy of 40 years. He has an infectious smile. However, what draws attraction is his height. Everywhere he goes, people always ask for a selfie with him. I think he will soon be the most “selfied” Kenyan alive or Facebook will list him as the Kenyan with the most shared photos. “It has been a blessed life so far, and I appreciate being gifted this unique characteristic,” says Ritesh.

In this blog, Ritesh opens up his life.

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You are 36 years old. Your family has called Kenya home since your great-grandfather arrived here from India in the early 1900s. How has life been for you?

With every challenge, there is a solution. Here I am not referring to my height. I have always had a mindset of “I can do this”, which has definitely helped me to overcome any perceived challenges. I am different and am grateful for being so. Life is beautiful.

Where did you grow up? What are your fondest childhood memories? 

First, I am a very proud Kenyan. I studied in Nairobi until my A-Levels, thereafter I went to London to further my studies. As a child, I was, of course, taller than my classmates and age mates, however, I lived a fairly normal childhood having been born in the early 1980s. I remember being over 6 foot tall in high school (St. Austin’s Academy). I was a very enthusiastic and competitive in my studies.

I was also a good swimmer and played basketball until I had a femur dislocation. It was good to reach up and “dunk” the ball into the basket without much effort.

After my A-Levels at St. Austins Academy, I studied Business Finance at University of Westminster, graduated with a BA (Hons), then and proceeded for my graduate studies. I graduated with an MSc Business Finance.

My fondest childhood memories are mostly associated with my family and include listening to music (which I am still very fond of), outdoor activities, watching movies together.

 

Back to your high school life. How tall were then? Did your height intimidate fellow students and teachers?

I was 6ft 2 inches tall when I was in form 2 at St Austins Academy. Thereafter, my height kept increasing marginally. I got along very well with the other students and tutors. I hope they thought the same. I can certainly confirm that I am unaware if I was seen as intimidating. If there was intimidation or coldness, I am certain it would have dissolved with a cheerful smile. Honestly, this is a question I do not know the correct answer is.

Are there other tall members of your family?

My brother is approximately 6 feet 8 inches. My maternal and paternal grandfathers were quite tall. My parents are 5 feet 10 inches which is above normal average height I assume.

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You are almost 7’6” tall. Where do you buy your clothes? Shoes?

Finding clothes is not that challenging as there are many good tailors in Nairobi and around the world.

So you get custom-made clothes and shoes right?

Your guess is correct – my clothes are custom made. My shoes are available in Canada (shoe size is 20, in case you were wondering). I am a huge fan of formal wear – a trait I inherited from my grandfather who was almost always dressed formally.

Ritesh says he has had a blessed life so far, and appreciates being gifted this unique characteristic (being tall).

Are there places you cannot go because of your height?

Traveling becomes a tiring ordeal at times. I do not participate in most sporting activities owing to a recovering femur dislocation and a spinal and knee injury. I am very cautious. I certainly do not want to consider mountain climbing in my condition. In daily life, I can make adjustments and move along with the day’s demands. I am very mobile.

So how do you travel? 

I am committed to many causes alongside my profession, this demands me to be outgoing and active. On a daily basis, my local travel takes place in regular cars, I just need to take the front passenger seat back to its maximum capacity. I do not drive anymore as it is terribly uncomfortable. Traveling abroad takes place in Club or First Class as it would be an excruciating experience to try and contort myself to fit into the regular seating.

Ever used a matatu? 

I have never used a matatu in my life. During the many years, I was in London, I have used the buses and underground trains there. The experience is quite liberating. However, I did have to almost contort to make my way into and out of the doors and within the containment.

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Have you ever met anyone taller than you? If yes, how was the experience?

In the last few years, I have not met any individual taller than me. I say since the past few years because my height probably stopped increasing when I was 25 years of age.

There are many individuals taller than myself around the world (I am sure). I have met many very tall individuals. I am very grateful for my height, it is perhaps the single most prominent feature about me which generates so much interest amongst the public.

That is precisely why I use the media focus I get to push for agendas regarding the physically challenged individuals and related causes. I believe that I have received this blessing for a reason. The experience of meeting fellow tall individuals is unique. It feels like we are members of an exclusive club.

 

At 7’6″ and most ladies barely 6 feet, how has dating been like for you?

The height has not been a hindrance. If anything I am sure the height is a plus point here. Haaaaaa!!! That is all you get about my love life, Carole. In case anyone is interested, they should contact you.

You are an investor and financial analyst. Any economic insights, now that you are known to “see the future?”

I am a Director of Barco Investments, and very passionate about the economy and investments scene. If I am to give my take on the current investment situation – Individuals are currently focusing greatly on property development.

In the money market, the focus is on investing by purchasing shares of companies quoted on the  Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) for long-term growth/dividend income/ speculative purposes for capital gain, and Treasury Bonds.

With regards to the top performing industries, most are generally doing well, and we are noticing a slow but steady revival of the securities exchange. The Shilling is also currently strengthening which is a bonus.

“I love life and my height is very much part of my life!” – Ritesh

When you meet a person you have only interacted with online or talking via phone – for the first time, how do they react? 

I almost always get “you are so tall!” I love that. However, I would actually like to know what individuals  (specifically those I know well now), thought when they met me for the first time in person.

I won’t give up Ritesh! Here goes. Has your height ever affected your job, deal, love life?  

This question is tricky to answer. I believe the answer to all above is No. With regards to my profession, I am a very dedicated individual and I truly believe in being efficient and productive. If the height has affected any of the above in a positive manner, I am grateful. I love life and my height is very much part of my life.

You paint as a hobby. How did this start?

Besides work and other commitments, I have always pursued several hobbies to make productive use of my time, including attempting to learn further languages. During University, I was addicted to reading and to unwind, I used to sketch whilst waiting for seminars and lectures. Over time, the sketches improved. In 2013, I had a bout of insomnia, and I used that time to sketch again. It soon thereafter became my “Late-Night-Hobby”. I have no formal training in the field and wanted to experiment and learn by experimenting with paints and pigments.

In 2013, Ritesh had a bout of insomnia. He used that time to sketch. It became my “Late-Night-Hobby”. In this photo, Ritesh is with PLO Lumumba.

I find it to be a very joyful and relaxing experience. Now however, I am attempting to develop the limited skill that I have. I enjoy spending time to come up with an image. I have held several exhibitions of my art over the past four years. In 2017, I was featured in the acclaimed “Kenya Arts Diary”. We need to explore our talents and develop them.

Do you make money from your paintings?

I paint for the causes I believe in (mostly in favor of aiding the physically challenged). The money made from the sale of the paintings are usually allocated to a cause.

What I would like to add is that every individual who paints (or does any other activity), is actually using time – the most limited and most valuable resource, to bring an image to life. Individuals who consider me to be a celebrity of sorts can purchase a piece of my art – which is some time of my life (forever) and have it enlighten their office spaces as they do mine.

I hope I have encouraged every reader to buy my art! It is not just a hobby, there is a greater purpose to this, and it has a calming effect on me after a long day of work.

Ritesh paints for charity (mostly in favour of aiding the physically challenged). The money made from the sale of the paintings are usually allocated to a cause.

What inspires your paintings?

Paintings offer a glimpse into the mind of the artist. My paintings are mostly dreamscapes or imaginary depictions of nature. I enjoy experimenting with color. As long as the end result seems like a pleasant or calming piece to look at.

His paintings are mostly dreamscapes or imaginary depictions of nature.

You are a member of the Rotary Club of Nairobi. How has that been for you? 

To be a member of the Rotary Club of Nairobi – the Oldest Rotary Club in East and Central Africa is an honor. I could go on about my love for Rotary. Many Rotarians would agree with me, I have made strong friendships with Rotarians from Rotary Clubs across Kenya and beyond. I am an active Rotarian and I am glad to be surrounded by business and professional leaders who make time to give back to society and I certainly have been guided well by the wonderful members of my Club. The impact we make is staggering.

“Many Rotarians would agree with me, I have made strong friendships with Rotarians from Rotary Clubs across Kenya and beyond,” Ritesh. Third left is the late Rotary International President-elect the late Sam F. Owori, who died on 13 July 2017. Sam, who had been elected to serve as president of Rotary International in 2018-19, would have been the second African Rotary member, and the first Ugandan, to hold that office. He joined Rotary in 1978 and was a member of the Rotary Club of Kampala, Uganda.

You also have the head of state commendation. Tell us about it? 

Due to several factors I have been gazetted in year 2017 as a recipient of the National Honor – Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya by HE President Uhuru Kenyatta. Being different is a blessing. As a result of the attention and local, regional and surprisingly, international media focus I receive (primarily due to my height) I consciously strive to be a role model and have used the media platforms in advocacy for humanitarian causes and motivating the physically challenged to empower them mentally with a positive outlook to life.

In the recent past I have been very actively involved with the physically challenged and related causes. Since the past few years I have been painting for a cause and have held some exhibitions of my art (proceeds of which were allocated to charitable foundations for the physically challenged). An exhibition dedicated towards child education received the attention of the Ministry of Arts and Culture. Despite being an investor and businessman, I decided to use this evening hobby of art as a means of supporting the causes I believe in.

Ritesh is a recipient of the National Honor – Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya (OGW).

I have received recognition on regional platforms. During an earlier private art auction, my art was sold to regional collectors and embassy representatives and proceeds went directly to causes I believe in. I have received recognition in the past few years. I will continue to challenge myself and actively champion causes I believe in whilst using the media focus to champion humanitarian causes.

If it were possible, would you have opted to reduce your height?

NEVER!!!!!!!!

Looking back at your life, what have been the highlights?

I need to contemplate on this and make a mental checklist. Many achievements have been mentioned above. I need to thank a lot of individuals for their support, encouragement, appreciation and guidance. The biggest highlight of my life so far is that I actually have an almost unending list of individuals I would like to thank starting with my family.

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Ritesh Barot will be remembered for?

Being an individual who always says “I CAN” and as an individual who brings fond memories or a genuine smile on people’s faces when I am mentioned.

Parting words?

We are all unique – each one of us. For those of us who are blessed with the attention of the public, we owe it to ourselves to carry ourselves in a manner of great dignity, to be leaders and to be aspirational to others. Our thoughts, words and actions can impact individuals. Be leaders who can uplift the thoughts, actions and consequently the lives of others in a positive manner.