Monday, February 7, 2011

120 minutes with Infosys mentor

I and Madhu left Divyadeepa at 3.30 pm to bring our role model Sri Narayana Murthy of Infosys to Divyadeepa. We were supposed to be at Infosys guest house, Vontikoppal at 4.20 pm. I was mentally preparing to brief him. I wanted to tell him about learnings from my stay at Pondicherry, Kanyakumari and Srirampura village. I wanted to brief him about how we started the school, about the role of Sri Shah-our chief patron, about our children, about our approach to education, about volunteers, about our vision and challenges…. I was just thinking how to maintain the flow.

But when we were at Andolana circle, NRN’s secretary called me and informed  me to proceed to Infosys campus instead of the guest house to meet NRN. He also suggested me to brief NRN about our organization and regarding the programme. So we started towards the campus.
Madhu stopped his car near a petrol bunk for fuel. It was a real mix up there! Boy  at the bunk filled the petrol car with Diesel. So car could not move. I was anxious. It was 4.05 pm. Madhu walked some distance and brought an auto, which I boarded in a hurry! I was at the campus at 4.20 pm. They took me to NRN’s place inside the campus. He boarded the car. I also sat beside him. (Madhu came after the function was over)
Next 120 minutes revealed NRN’s simplicity, great listening skills, and analytical  ability. First question from him was: “How many children are there and from what standard to what standard?” He was slightly disappointed when he heard the number (52), but my answer “Threre are no rigid standards like 1st standard, 2nd standard in our school” made him ask more questions. My job became easy. Right questions at right  time elicited right answers. This way he understood the whole concept of alternative approach to education and its relevance. I explained the case histories of Shwetha, Sachin  and Vighnesh and how there was no hope of schooling for them. I could explain to him the great role played by Sri Shah in the growth of the organization.
He concurred with our views on exams. The purpose of examination is to test the comprehension of the child; it should enable the teacher to decide what next has to be taught but definitely not to instill fear in children. He also agreed that Education or rather lack of it is the principal reason for India’s backwardness. He asked a few personal questions too, i.e. about my parents, education, inspiration for starting this organization  etc. He was moved when I spoke about young volunteers. I briefed him about our concerns. I told him about our twin huge challenges. We wanted people with skill, attitude and most importantly without high monetary expectations. When I shared my concerns about escalating operating costs, he enquired about annual operating costs. I told him that the school has progressed from -10 to +40 on a scale of 0 to 100.
“Wonderful” was his remark when he learnt about the result of Arvind group  children. Next immediate question was “What they are doing now?” “Excellent” was his remark when he learnt the facts. He was very happy to know that they had passed in English medium.
 We were at the campus gate by 5.10. I told him about the programme.  Introduction of senior people, campus walk, a dance by kids, 5 minutes documentary about Youth’s  involvement, Shah’s talk for about 5 minutes and then NRN would take over and address the gathering till he gets late. As we all were keen to listen to him as long as possible, I suggested that we could forego all formalities like invocation, welcome speech, introduction of chief guest (Does he need introduction?)  founder’s speech, vote of thanks…..He smilingly agreed.

He was happy when he was greeted by our children with flowers. Then I introduced a few senior people who are associated with Divyadeepa since quite some time. He took a tour of the campus. He evinced keenness in knowing the operation of the Kids’ bank, He witnessed all the facilities like ‘Chilipili’ dormitory, Gobar Gas plant, Kitchen, Volunteer’s block, Open learning areas like ‘Vahini’, ‘Prajna’, Library, Office, Computer laboratory, Science laboratory etc. Before entering ‘Chilipili’ I removed my footwear. He was so humble; he also started removing his shoes. Narayana Murthy enquired about extent of the project area. After witnessing all the facilities, we entered Arvind hall.

Now volunteers took over! Rashmi may be a talented dancer. I’m using the  word ‘may’, because I haven’t seen her dancing. But she is a great trainer. I don’t know how she trains within such a short period. Hats off to her! Every one appreciated the performance of the kids including NRN. Even now I find Pramod and Chaitra swaying their bodies singing the song!
I had a few anxious moments regarding the documentary. It was supposed to be  ready by previous evening. It was not ready even at 2.00 pm on the function day. When we actually watched the documentary on the screen, it reflected the hard work of Rakshit and team, their dedication, their emotional commitment to Kaliyuva Mane. I found NRN wonderstruck.

Next Sri Shah spoke at length about his involvement in educational projects of  Divyadeepa and projects at Pondicherry. He also felt the need of creating corpus fund for all.

Next NRN spoke. First he addressed the kids in Kannada, to develop character,  study well and help Kaliyuva Mane in future. Later he addressed the volunteers in English. He discussed India’s problems. He was happy with Divyadeepa.

 Rakshit’s concluding piece “Naavu Gedde Geltivi” followed NRN’s speech. .The  entire audience clapped to the tune. All of us came out. Sitting on a chair, putting on his shoes, NRN wrote in our visitor’s book:

Indeed we need more power! Finally Sri Narayana Murthy left Divyadeepa  around 6.40 pm. After this impressive event there was a large gathering of volunteers at ‘Vahini”. Rakshit and Abhi were motivating them.

I did not start this work to meet celebrities cum role models like APJ Abdul Kalam or N R Narayana Murthy. But I consider, these are the rewards for our hard and sincere work apart from the inner joy and satisfaction we derive. For me, without Divyadeepa, life would have been meaningless.

I know pretty well, how all the volunteers have worked for this event! To  name each one of them is difficult and of course it is needless! It was good that we had Sri Shah also among us on the occasion. Naveen anchored well. Kotresh and Sunil took care of the stage arrangement. Pritha, Mahdura, Roshni, Vipin, Aditya,  Azaruddin……………everyone contributed to the success of the event.

We must have unintentionally forgotten to invite some patrons, volunteers and  well-wishers. But the Arvind hall was jam packed in spite of that!