Several years ago, we used to have our annual picnic to Gorai beach. Those were the days of no mobile phones… Colour TV hadn’t come, yet... leave alone internet and digital cameras… There were no video games and Candy Crush saga… multiplexes weren’t born… So, a picnic like ours – which was well-organized – would appeal to one and all… the affluent and the middle class, the local-college kids and the town-college kids, all alike… The challenge for us was to bring together all these young college boys and girls, right from 11th standard to TY, who belonged to different colleges and did not know each other – yes, the challenge was to knit all of them together through series of volunteers’ meetings. A core leadership-group would call these 40-50 volunteers to animate the rest – about 500 to 600 young boys and girls - to take them to Gorai beach and bring them back… yes, ALIVE!
For almost ten long years, we went for those Gorai picnics… Mind you, college boys and girls going to a beach… and, leaving right on dot and reaching back right on dot… with no mobiles to co-ordinate and no parents to do the helicopter work…
Just the young, motivated and trustworthy kids making it work!
I am proud to say this: The Dawn Club was born on the sands of Gorai beach on 10th Dec., 1988. That was close to three decades ago… And, I feel truly nice whenever the thoughts come back to me!
Well the reason for bringing up this memory?
When the core committee would ask the volunteers to introduce themselves, I used to delightfully watch this difference: those from the ‘Town’ colleges – H.R., Jai Hind, K.C., Sydenham, and Poddar - used to proudly declare... “Hi, this is Kunal from H.R.” or “Hi, I am Simran from R.A. Poddar"…
For those who are clueless, H.R. and Poddar were great Commerce colleges and they still are… Hence, you know what would make the young-ones feel so proud of belonging to such great institutions!
What would make me watch it with delight was the response from the students of other colleges – “SO?”
Yes, so what if you are from H.R. or R.A. Poddar? Come on, tell us: What makes you ‘special’… the so-called ‘the chosen one’?
Poor young boys and girls! They had to prove they were from H.R. and Poddar!
Well, that grilling was purely for fun to become good friends for our Gorai picnic… But, there was a very valuable lesson to all, including me:
Great institutions have become great because of great students and great teachers... and, yes, their great founders. Neither the students nor the teachers, who die to join these institutions, become ‘great’ just because they ‘join’ them…
Today, I get to teach so many of these ‘Best-Commerce-college’ students… and, I have no hesitation in saying, that most of them carry the same-old herd-mindset…
“What is your contribution to your college?” I, often, challenge my students, “Are you just a care-of?”
For most, the ‘dream’ was to ‘join’ these colleges… Once in, it is all over… Hardly a few show some exemplary qualities to excel… the rest run from one coaching class to another… with all the ‘big’ talks!
“The fire in your belly… the fire in your belly,” I keep poking my students, “If you possess it, it doesn’t matter which institution you hail from.”
Fortuanately, some understand what I try to convey… but, many just don’t. That’s really sad!
Last evening, I was with two gentlemen. When I enquired about the only son of the first gentleman, I learnt, that after passing his tenth-standard board-exams from a boarding school, the young boy had now joined H.R. college.
“He must’ve scored well in tenth?” asked the other gentleman.
“And, you did not tell us such a great news about your son?”
“Why blow the trumpet?”
I joined in: “Excellence is a continuous process… Let the young-ones enjoy the experience.”
I was pleased to witness the low-key reaction of the father of the well-groomed young-man. He seemed aware of the reality: unless the process of ‘greatness’ is continuous, no percentage and no institution could make his son ‘great’…
And, this morning, I chanced upon one more video carrying the story of 13-year-old Mariam. I wondered, what made this little girl so sensitive and so confident… so clear and so compassionate… so mature, above all?
In Life, there is, always, a ‘special school’ for each one of us… That, if we enroll in it, I believe, ‘Greatness’ is bound to be enshrined!
Pic.: Azriel D'Souza