Imagine taking a commitment to run an underprivileged school that imparts free education to first generation students from the lower economic strata of the society! Now imagine running the school without having money to do so, not knowing where the funds would come in from and how you would pay the salaries of the school teachers and staff. For a school that is non-funded, raising money is a huge huge struggle and more so in an environment like todays, it is almost like not knowing where your next meal would come from. Imagine calling donor after donor, going door to door to neighborhood shops and establishments, sending out emails after emails to raise funds and facing rejection 95% of the time. Now imagine doing this month after month, knowing that the responsibility of the education of the 200 students rests on you and so also the fact that you need to generate funds month after month to ensure that salaries are paid on time. Imagine the uncertainty and the stress that this would bring! Now imagine doing this with a big smile on the face, not giving up at all despite the hurdles, despite the challenges, despite the setbacks and keeping on going – that is commitment and that is success!
Meena and I have been privileged to know Asha – a very courageous and strong lady, the coordinator for SVVN school – since the day she walked into our house to do the Art of Living course a few years back. Every time we hear her talk to us about the struggles and the miraculous ways that funds have managed to reach her to sustain the school – we know that there is something much more than pure luck at work here. It is pure Grace! Every time we hear her challenges and the setbacks and her cool and unaffected way of dealing with it – we know that here is a truly spiritual person, so totally committed to her work and so totally detached at the same time.
This Sankrantri, Asha was reminiscing about her childhood and told us a very wonderful Guru story, after much pushing and prodding she finally decided to pen it down and send it to me, so here is the story in her own words. A little bit more on the context after you finish reading the story.
As I was celebrating the Shankranthi this year, I was reminded yet again of an incident that happened sometime in the early 80s. This incident comes back to me every year, when I go from house to house, friend to friend distributing the ‘Yellu Bella’ as is the custom among Kannadigas. This year due to the prodding, pursuing, persevering of my friends Raj & Meena, I am putting the beautiful and vivd memory/image in some nook and corner of my brain into words.
My family has lived in Jaynagar right from early 70s to mid 90s. My daadi’s sisters family, maama and naani used to live in various parts of Jaynagar, Bangalore. Added to that we had various relatons spread through the length and breadth of all the blocks of jaynagar. During those days there were hardly any vehicles, cars, scooters, mobikes etc. In short NO TRAFFIC. We children could roam around right from Lalbagh to Ragi Gudda freely without any fear.
During those days, I remember mention of a Satsang every Thursday in ‘ That House on 41st Cross ‘, That House opposite to the play ground ‘. (The beautiful park opposite to VVK on 11th main was just an open ground then). If I remember correctly, there was a triangular shaped Nandini milk booth. But nothing else.). Even during those days, there used to be atleast 4-5 cars in front of the then residence of Amma, Pitaji, Guruji and Bhanu didi. Even I have attended a few during those days right up to mid 90s.
The year and the incident that is etched in my memory might have happened in, maybe 82 or 83, I must have been in 2nd or 3rd Std. I had gone around distributing Yellu Bella from 2nd block to 4th block. For my company I had Lakshmi, who was my friend and neighbour and her elder brother Ravi, who was supposedly our bodyguard and caretaker. We proceeded from cross to cross and finally reached 41st cross. There on an impulse we entered Guruji’s residence because even as children we were always very curious about the so called ‘family that taught yoga to foreigners’.
At Guruji’s house, we were greeted by Bhanu Didi and Amma. We did not know who they were at that time. They asked us to sit on the mat and sing a Karnatic classical song. We both sang ‘Lambodhara Lakunikara’ which is the most favourite song of every little child who has been put into the rigours of classical musical training. We were thrilled to receive high praise and encouragement from both Didi and Amma which I am sure they were, are and Will be doing to everyone they meet. After that Pitaji and Guruji came out from one of the inner rooms and we women and girls were in the process of the exchange of Yellu Bella. The procedure includes us asking them to give us a plate in which we proudly arranged the Sugarcane piece, Banana, Sugar Doll (made by my mother and grand mother by pouring hot sugar syrup into little wodden moulds of various shapes and sizes) and the packets of Yellu Bella mixture. They accept it with the exchange of ‘Yellu Bella Thinni, Olle Maat aadi’ ( Take sweet talk sweet ).
Pitaji asked Amma to give us a little bit of Yellu Bella then and there to eat and Didi went and got a small bowl that contained the auspicious and tasty mixture. Ravi was the first to dip his hand into the bowl and took a very generous portion of the mixture, Lakshmi was the next and them it was my turn. There was very little left of the mixture and it was mainly full of sesame seeds.The belief is that the jaggery in the mixture is distributed to multiply all happiness and good karma and the sesame seeds that denote bad karma and sorrow is distributed to halve all sadness and bad things in life. So when the bowl came to me Pitaji jokingly said ‘ Avalige beri Yellu mikkide ‘ (She has only sesame seeds left for her). To which Guruji, who had not said anything till then said ‘Parvagilla avalige kodi, avalu adannu tadko taale’ (Its alright give it to her as she can bear it ). It was his way of teaching ‘Opposite Values are Complimentary’.
Even as a child this incident and the soothing assuring voice of Guruji captured my impressionable mind and left a lasting impact on me. When I came and recited the incident to my grand parents they just brushed it aside as the persistent questioning of a nagging, curious child. But this ncident kept coming back to me till one day in my college days in ’92 I had gone again to VVK for a satsang and saw Guruji again. He was talking to all youngsters and asking them what they wanted to do and when it was my turn I said very loftily that I wanted to become an Art of Living Teacher and go abroad to take the courses to the western world. He just nodded.
For many more Shankrantis and much more Sesame Seeds in Life
JAI GURUDEV !!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have typed this whole memoir in great haste and from childhood memory of 25 years ago. All mistakes are mine and are to be forgiven.
Sree Veena Vidyaniketan
+91 09343381517 (C)
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A School for the Economically and Socially Challenged Children
183 children ( Age 3yrs – 13 yrs )
108 boys/75 girls, Pre Primary-7th Grade
13 full time teachers, 2 part time teachers,1 head master, 2 helpers.
This year the strength of the school dropped from 200 odd students to just a little below 200. One of the reasons is that since the children come from economically lower strata of the society, they are probably being removed by the parents to make them go to work. One way of getting the students back to school is to give them free mid-day meals. Now, this again involves big money. Asha was in talk with different agencies (Akshay Patra from ISKON etc) to see how best to work this out. Finally it turns out that it required a few lacs per year to get this scheme going.
While she was talking with Meena about these challenges, she suddenly remembered the incident of the sesame seeds and Guruji’s response – and then it stuck to her that probably Guruji knew all along the struggles that she would undergo in running this school and the strength she derives from her spiritual practices to keep going!!
So dear readers, here is a pitch for SVVN school, feel a bit generous and do loosen your purse strings and contribute your bit towards the school and for the future of the children and the country. You can write to Asha at “ashaasho ( at ) gmail ( dot ) com”