(4) How the seeds were sown…
Whenever I am invited to speak about SVYM and its activities, I am asked by many people what prompted me to start SVYM. What was the motivating force that led me to do so? Well, I feel that I need to share it.
It was 1982 and I had just completed my PUC. I had done well in my exams and as with any other typical middle class family, was wanting to either do engineering or medicine. I wanted to study at IIT but was unsuccessful in the entrance exams. The next option that I had in mind was to study at REC, Suratkal (now known as National Institute of Engineering). I had 98.67% in PCM and was sure that I would qualify to study Computer Science in REC. Unfortunately, I could not qualify as there was only one general merit seat and was taken by my friend Shivram Purohit who had secured 100%.
Disappointed, I settled down to choose mechanical engineering at BMS Engineering College, Bangalore. My first day at college was indeed eventful. Those were the days when ragging was a norm. I was ragged so badly on that day that I did not have the courage to go back to the college next day. My middle class background meant that I could not stay at home nor spend time somewhere else. I had to leave home and do something which did not cost me money but somehow killed time. I set out the next day dreading what was in store for me. As I neared the college, I lost all courage. Thankfully, I noticed the Ramakrishna Ashram close to the college. The lush green campus beckoned me. I cycled in and decided to spend time there. I found that this place was so beautiful, serene and the best part was that I didn’t have to spend any money to be there. I started going there everyday. A few days later, one of the monks observed me coming everyday and became inquisitive. I needed to look serious and not laze around. I felt that the library at the Ashram entrance would make a good hideout. I started frequenting the library and started reading books by Swami Vivekananda to keep my self-occupied. Nothing more and nothing else. The next few weeks saw me read the complete works of Swami Vivekananda. Not that I understood much!!
Two small books written by Swamiji deserve mention here; they changed my life forever. One was ‘His call to the Nation’ and the other ‘To the Youth of India’. Suddenly there was so much clarity in my mind. I resolved that if I were to get an opportunity to take up medicine, I would go to the villages of India and work for their development as per the call given by Swami Vivekananda in these books.
I can still vividly remember the day. It was Saturday, 29th of September 1982. I was feeling hyper-charged after reading the books and wanted to do something immediately. I just could not sit and restrict myself to mere reading. Such is the power of Swamiji’s works, that no person who reads and comprehends his nationalistic message can sit quiet without responding. I made a commitment to myself that if I were to get a medical seat, then my life would be dedicated to serving our rural brethren in remote corners of India. A pleasant and shocking surprise awaited me at home. I found a telegram from the Director of Medical Education asking me to join the Mysore Medical College (MMC) immediately. To me, this was more than a mere telegram. It was divine sign clarifying to me my life’s mission. I now knew what I needed to do.
I went to the BMS Engg College to cancel my admission and get all my records. I then went to Mysore on the 3rd of October with my father to get myself admitted to MMC.
My admission is another story by itself. My father had already warned me that a mere telegram would not guarantee admission. He was even suspicious that one of my friends who knew that I wanted to do medicine was playing a crude joke on me. Both of us met the Principal, Dr.Shankar Raj. He took one look at the telegram and told me that no admission was possible until he received the official letter from the DME. I was so devastated that I could not hold back my tears. I was standing outside his offices and listening to my father lecturing me on my stupidity. He was reminding me that I had canceled my engineering admission and now did not have a medical seat either.
As we stood talking, an elderly person stopped to enquire what the matter was. Hesitatingly and holding back my tears, I explained to him my predicament. He patiently listened to me and then gently counseled me and asked me not to worry. He told me that he was the Office Superintendent and that all letters would first be received by him. He explained to me that all important letters from the DME would only come by the registered post and that mail for the day was yet to be delivered. He asked me to wait till noon and not lose heart. These kind words were what a 17 year old needed. For once, I felt that all hope was not lost. I suddenly felt that I could not lose faith in myself. Otherwise, what use was reading Swamiji and his works if I could not apply it in my own life.
Just like this kind gentleman had predicted, the letter arrived by the day’s registered mail. I got myself admitted and was now a first year student at the Mysore Medical College. It was October 1982 and the course had started a few months before. I now felt doubly convinced that I was destined to live my life differently and that Swamiji and his works would guide me in all that I would do.