Yesterday I had an unusual day. I was invited to speak on ‘Participatory Democracy and Eternal Vigilance – in the light of Gandhism’. This is a subject close to my heart and the talk was part of the ‘Sarvodaya Mela’ organized by elderly Gandhians at Srirangapatna, 20 km from Mysore. Dr. Sujay Kumar requested me to also participate in another function earlier in the day in the nearby hostel run by the Government.
This was a hostel run by the Social Welfare Department with 32 children in it. The hostel had a new warden who had joined a year ago. Being a young man holding a master’s degree in English, he wanted to engage in community service through Government employment. He was an enthusiastic young man who did not allow his physically challenged status come in the way of his passion for service. This hostel was not the typical Government-run institution. It was very well-kept and hygienic and the ambiance was very different from what I had expected to see. This young man’s energy had also rubbed off on his team and the children. Everyone was joyous and the spirit was festive.
They had invited me to participate in an event celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. Nagaraj, the warden, believed in doing this differently. He wanted the children to remember Swamiji and his message throughout their lives and he hit upon a practical idea of doing this. He brought 150 saplings from the forest department to plant them around the campus. His felt that each child could take care of 4-5 saplings. He decided that he would continuously share the teachings of Swami Vivekananda with these children on a daily basis. His explanation was very simple – based on the philosophy propounded by Vivekananda, he saw God in these children and he wanted these children to begin seeing God in the sapling that they had planted. And with each passing day, as they saw it grow, they would also see their knowledge of Swamiji and his message grow. Nagaraj felt that this was the best way to honour a man he admired, respected and worshiped.
Being amongst all of them and sharing their joy was easily the best celebration commemorating Swami Vivekananda that I have attended in the recent past.