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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Keep the Spark - Part I

- Chaten Bhagat
Inaugural Speech for the new batch at the Symbiosis BBA program 2008

Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates – there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party – several months in advance – just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.

I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how to save the spark?

Imagine the spark to be a lamp’s flame. The first aspect is nurturing – to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms.
To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn't any external measure – a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.
Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement.

 But it isn’t the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won’t be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions

They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive. Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.
Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature’s design. Are you? Goals will help you do that.

I must add, don’t just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.
You must have read some quotes – Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school. Where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

 One last thing about nurturing the spark – don’t take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said – don’t be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It’s ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.

I’ve told you three things – reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.

stay tuned for partII :)


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Purpose of Life

An educated girl, especially when she is a good human being, and visionary with god gifted women emotions, always can find purpose of life, not for her self, but for other people also and can contribute to society in a real sense.

Dr. Neha Vakharia:
She has a fragile body, an anxious body language, agitated voice. If you look at this small bundle of energy, you won’t believe what she has done in and with her life.
First and foremost, she is an M.B.B.S. doctor. She had joined Oasis when she was a student and she says that Oasis added important values of humanity and selfless services in her training as a doctor.

Right from beginning, in every Oasis camp and gathering, like many other youths, she used to share her dreams of serving the poor of India and other third world countries. Mother Theresa was her ideal. But unlike many others, her passion to serve was so authentic that it only grew with time. After completing her studies, equipped by the lofty idealism of making life more meaningful by service to humanity, she joined a private hospital at Vadodara. But she felt some guilt pinching, the biting of conscience-that she was not doing the right thing by serving the rich when poor people were so under privileged.
As part of some “crazy” experiments facilitated by Oasis, she went to stay in slums for about 1 to 2 months to experience their living conditions. The experience in her words, “This exposure brought me closer to the reality of millions of underprivileged people of our country. They would share from whatever was in their home even if they were not sure about where the next meal would come from. I was astonished to see the greatness of their heart despite their poverty and felt ashamed of the poverty of my heart. While staying amongst them, I also witnessed the amount of physical abuse, mental torture, hard life, ill health, humiliation etc a poor Indian woman has to undergo. At the same time I felt proud of them as I could see them as tough warriors balancing between being a mother, loyal wife and most hard working, earning member of families.”
Of course, Neha left her job. It was adieu for life time. After getting married, she had to shift to Bangalore where she promptly started health service centers in the slums around her area. While working there for years in a dedicated way, she realized that people were visiting her centers again and again with the same illnesses. She also observed that many patients suffered from severe liver or lung diseases leading to early death. All these experiences compelled her to introspect. She had to find out some solutions and interventions at an early, tender age. Thus Oasis, ASHA – Adolescent Students’ Health Alternative- was born.
The help from volunteers slowly brought out another component of this activity viz. involvement of Women/housewives for educating these underprivileged slum children. Today, Neha and her core team of extremely talented and dedicated women friends are teaching health classes as a year round supplementary course to hundreds of students in municipality schools. “ASHA of Oasis” has spread to Surat in Gujarat and is dreaming to reach more and more children in different cities in the coming years.
Was all this easy? The answer is obvious - serious illness, fragile health, social pressures for traditional career, and with all human weaknesses, she did this. How? With her sense of gratitude for everything, with her unflinching passion-come what may-, and her dedication that’s so overpowering, life had to bow to her.
What gives her so much of strength? Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy has been life long inspiration for Neha- “It is only with great fortune and immense grace of God that you have got the opportunity to serve the ignorant, diseased and suffering humanity. If you dedicate yourself completely in a selfless way, you realize the unlimited power within you.”
Neha says, “I have no regret whatsoever about leaving the conventional career and serving poor people like this. I never cared for earning and being wealthy. Having millions of rupees in my account, has no comparison with what I have got today in my heart. I have a definite, important role to play through Oasis Movement, I have been able to recognize my mission and for that I feel very happy, very grateful to Oasis and God.”

Imagine a few more such educated youths emulating Neha’s example in future. Imagine them working for educating billions of children of our country. Thank you Neha for living your dream!
From OASIS Blog: http://www.oasiswebsite.com/asha/index.php