Karma yoga – Serving the community

Most B Schools have an inherent characteristic that makes them stand out from the rest. Ours is this – Karma yoga. It’s been nearly a month since we’ve been on campus taking classes in Marketing, Economics and a plethora of other courses. Yet, one course started off with Karma yoga by Swami Vivekananda. Most gladiators would have wondered what this was doing in the course and some might still be wondering. Well, arriving at a single reason for this would be superfluous but it makes a great difference at the beginning of our PGPM to have a course like this.

As a part of the course, we will be visiting 30 villages in and around our campus. The names of some of the villages such as Irumbulicheri and Echankaranai are tongue twisters for my fellow gladiators who are not from Tamil Nadu. Last weekend, in groups of ten, we headed to the villages around our campus, to understand how and where we could make a difference.

On reaching the village, we were greeted by the scorching sun and the warmth of one of the locals who volunteered to help us in our initiatives there. I realized one thing on reaching the village. Being thorough “city-breds”, there is a severe disconnect between what we think of a village and what a village actually is. Most of us assume that villages are backward places with little or no penetration of technology and knowledge. On the contrary, the situation is not as primitive as it seems.

There are issues such as lack of hygienic sanitation, potable drinking water, electricity supply etc, but this problem exists in cities as well (else we would not have a market for water purifiers). The educated youth in the villages, who have managed to get a degree or at least high school education are able to find themselves employment in the nearby industrial areas. The people have mobile phones, two wheelers etc which shows that they are by no stretch of imagination, technologically primitive.

The village visit

So what is the factor that differentiates the city from a village or the inhabitants? Firstly in terms of education- Most schools here do not have access to quality education. English medium schools are few and accessibility is limited. Education is one solution to most social disparities and evils. We will look to make a difference over the next few months in this aspect. Secondly, in terms of hygiene and sanitation, there seems to be a kind of ignorance among the people. This has to be overcome through the right kind of awareness creation programmes. Thirdly, I find that the biggest difference as a fallout of the above difference is in terms of aspirations. The lack of education has stunted aspirations of most people here. It’s either a lack of imagination or an ignorance of the capabilities of the human potential. This cannot be changed in the one year; we shall be here, though we shall make every attempt at bridging the gaps.

Our group spent close to 2 hours interacting with the locals to identify what they need and what we could do to help them. It is surprising that most people appeared very content with their lives. Yet a few people could articulate a gap in their system and put forth their ideas on how this could be changed. As it neared noon, we headed to refresh ourselves with water and took the trip back to campus reflecting upon what we had seen and heard.

Winston Churchill once said “If you are not a socialist by the time you are 25, you have no heart. If you are still a socialist by the time you are 35, you have no head”. I’m not sure if all of us agree with the second statement, but I’m sure most of us do agree on the first. The karma yoga visits are going to be an eye opener for sure and that will probably explain a lot of things that initially seemed unreal in the books of Swami Vivekananda. The concept of karma yoga is about giving back to society. But I would say it’s a two way relationship, we give and take, we educate and we learn. It may not matter how much we do, but whatever little bit we do, if that can be done sincerely, I’m sure it will make a world of difference.

– Venkatanathan H

About Venkat

I am a post graduate student at Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai. My interests include Technology, Nuclear Physics and the evolution of String Theory, Performance Management in Organizations, OB, Strategy, Cricket, F1 and Books...
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