I would like to write about two people who mean a lot to me and worked quietly to make Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement what it is today. They are Vivek and Mamatha. Both came in at a time when we were hardly known, societal support was minimal and the resources that we had was inadequate.
Balu, with Vivek at Kenchanahalli
Vivek had come as a medical intern in 1989 and decided to stay back. At that time, I had asked him how long he intended to be with us and he had mentioned 7 years. I still have not figured out how he arrived at that figure, but I am sure even he will not know why and how! But the fact was that he stayed on much longer to take our financial and management systems to such dizzying heights. What he has left behind is indeed a great challenge to live up to.
One day, I had asked him if he could oversee our accounts and become the Treasurer of the organization. In his own naive way and not knowing what was in store, he agreed (though hesitatingly). It was soon after that he had to go to Mysore to the bank to draw cash for our regular expenses. In those days, we had to go all the way to Mysore and bring cash to be used in our activities. He had taken along the check with him and in his own sweet way had crossed the self-check. Imagine his shock when the clerk told him that he could not be given cash against a crossed check and that it had to be either a self or a bearer check in his name. Vivek was livid with rage (he becomes red all over when he is angry and that is the only way we can figure out that he is upset). He tried arguing with the teller and explained to him that he was now the treasurer of the organization and could not understand how he could be denied our own money by the bank. I still remember he marching to me in anger and telling me that we needed to change our bankers. Not knowing what was happening, I asked him why we needed to do so? He declared that a bank that refused to give us our own money did not deserve to have our account. It took me quite a while to explain to him how banks worked and what crossed checks were.
One cannot imagine the magnitude of Vivek’s contributions in the years that followed. He designed the accounting and financial systems for SVYM, which has now become a benchmark for all NGOs in India. He kept expanding his knowledge of finance and made sure that we always set very high standards of excellence in operations, in transparency and disclosure issues and that we had a balance sheet which stood out as a work of art. Mr.Venkatesh, our auditor, was fond of telling me that we had a self-qualified chartered accountant in our midst. Vivek subsequently went on to specialize in financial management. The icing on the cake was when we received the award from Institute of Chartered Accountants of India for the best-presented financial report last year.
A few years ago, Vivek decided to try his hand at agriculture at his native village near Ujire in Dakshina Kannada. Thankfully, he did not get as adept in agriculture as he was in finance and accounts! 3 years later, the development bug has bitten him again. He now intends to specialize in health policy and financing at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). I wish him well and look forward to working with this extraordinary human being – one of the few selfless and compassionate human beings that I have ever met and worked with.