Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement is undoubtedly what it is today due to the sustained support and encouragement that hundreds of our friends, donors and well-wishers have given us. While I have written about many such friends, I think that one needs to remember some who were not so helpful too. This article is about a few such people and these incidents happened when we were still a small organization desperately trying to survive and stay motivated.
It was 1988 and we had just started our tribal school in the cow shed. Our first batch of 28 students was such a sporty lot and enjoyed the little schooling, food and fun that we could provide. But the dirty and torn clothes that they came to school in each day pained me. Many of them could not have their clothes washed, as they did not have a second set. We did not have the money to buy them new sets and I was constantly looking for some donor who could help us out in this. I met a person who owns a chain of hotels across India and explained my position to him. He was very sympathetic and asked me to go ahead and have the uniforms made. Energized by his pledge, I requested Sri B S Srikantaiah, the then principal of Ramakrishna Vidyashala to help me in getting the cloth and stitching the uniforms. With his help, our children had brand new sets of clothes within a week and it had costed us a total of Rs.3600. I went and met this donor and presented the bill and reminded him about his pledge. He promised to pay this amount the next week and this went on for many such visits. I was not only getting frustrated with these vain attempts but was also being reminded by Srikantaiah about the overdue payments to the cloth shop and the tailor. I had to finally confess that the donor had let me down. Hearing about this, Srikantaiah and Swami Sureshananda came to my rescue and cleared these bills.
I had a similar experience with another rich hotelier in Mysore. One of our mutual friends, Dr MA Shekar had introduced me to him and briefed him about SVYM’s activities. He had promised me a substantial donation and I had even planned on how to spend it. The school’s rudimentary kitchen was falling apart and it needed urgent repairs. I was soon to be disappointed. Despite a dozen visits to this person’s office, no donation was forthcoming. The irony of the situation is both these people are still in touch with me and many a time claim that they have been supporting our work.
In an other instance, a guest at our first anniversary celebration promised us a refrigerator for our rural clinic at Thumnerale. Greatly impressed, I went to her house to collect the money for purchasing it. She very politely told me that she was not planning to give us the money but the fridge itself. She led me to her storeroom where an old rusted fridge stood. It clearly looked more than 20 years old and she had stopped using it many months ago when she had bought herself a new one. I was crestfallen and was unsure of how to react. Fortunately I did not follow through on this pledge and SVYM thankfully did not have to worry about managing this liability.
While these incidents left me demotivated and sad at that point of time, it served to teach me a lot. It helped me understand that there are different kinds of people in this world and one should not stand in judgment of anyone. We need to learn not to look at motives of people and their actions but to just accept things as they come. One needs to maintain equanimity in all situations and learn to accept both disappointment and joy in the same spirit.