On Saturday, 9th February 2013, Great Lakes Institute of Management witnessed the first ever Karma-Yoga Convention – an annual all-inclusive platform that aimed to bring together farmers, businessmen, self-help groups, non-governmental organizations, students, local Panchayat leaders and every other stake-holder relevant in the rural development schema together under one roof.
Interlaced with motivating speeches, cultural celebrations and discussions on raging socio-economic issues, this event enabled the institute to take the relationship and trust it established with the villagers through the Karma-Yoga project to a whole new level.
The Convention was divided into four segments: first was the inauguration session, which included motivating addresses by the chief guests, next was a panel discussion on the topic “Changing trends in Rural Communities: A look at livelihoods, education and social interface of communities”, which was followed by the cultural program by children from all 20 villages and the valediction ceremony.
Dr. Swarnamalaya Ganesh – a professional Bharatnatyam dancer and Director of Ranga Mandira Trust and School of performing arts and Dr. S. Natarajan – Opthalmologist, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital Pvt. Ltd were the chief guests for the day. The conference also saw the participation of members from NGOs and non-profit organizations, who participated in the discussion as panelists. Some of the NGOs and non-profits organizations that were represented are: Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Vaanagam, Centre for Culture and Development, Tamil Nadu Science Forum, RUWSEC, Reward Trust, Rotary Club of Madras West, Childline, Centre for Social Initiative & Management, Hope Foundation Elementary & Primary School & Nalamdana Trust.
After the invocation song and lighting of the lamp of knowledge by the dignitaries, Prof. Venkat R. Krishnan – Director, Yale-Great Lakes Center for Management Research welcomed the dignitaries, members from NGOs and non-profit organizations and the people from the villages and set the context for the convention. The objective of Karma-Yoga, the village empowerment project undertaken by the institute with the help of its students, he said, was to help the people lift themselves into their better selves and to enable them to achieve growth and development without any dependence.
After the welcome speech, Uncle Bala took to the dias to address the gathering. He welcomed the guests and said that it was heartening to see the involvement of more than 2/3rd of the students who weren’t from south, in this Leadership Experiential Project called Karma-Yoga which necessitates them to visit the villages and interact with the village people who speak only Tamil. This, he said, was an example of the inclusive growth that the institute promotes. He also provided some nuggets of wisdom in his mesmerizing manner and asked the students and villagers to aim high in life so that they got somewhere even when they failed to achieve what they had initially aimed for. Uncle ended his address with a quote from Saint Thiruvalluvar in Tamil, which meant, “There is nothing called impossible, everything is possible. Yes we can, and we will!”
After Uncle Bala’s welcome, it was time for a thought-provoking and insightful inaugural address by Dr. Swarnamalya Ganesh that dwelt on how ‘aesthetic action’ can make the action itself, less burdensome. Dr. Ganesh also spoke about the three levels of problems existing in our country today – that of Governance, Society and Individual morals and said, that we would need to work our way up to solve these issues for which we needed to empower our brothers and sisters through education. She was delighted that the Karma-Yoga project was aiming at doing exactly that by reaching out and connecting with the village people and trying to curate their morals through various initiatives. The dialogues between the communities that this project was creating, she said, was the best way to carry out and sustain aesthetic actions like ahimsa, activism, social responsibility and public services which would make the whole process of solving the problems existing in the society a lot easier!
Our other Chief Guest Dr. S. Natarajan’s address was disarming in its simplicity and adherence to his to-the-core family-values. He spoke about the origins of Karma-yoga by quoting from the Bhagwad Gita and said the best way to live is by dedicating ones’ life for the service of humanity. He asked the students to have a large heart, as that was what was expected of tomorrow’s nation builders. He also spoke of the opportunity the students got by virtue of being born in well-to-do families which most of the people in this country don’t have, but they have skills and it was our duty to accommodate and hone their skills and to provide them equal opportunity to shine in the society.
Next was the keynote address by Dr. Prabhat Kumar – CMD, BHAVINI, in which he spoke about how time-tested tenets guide one as one strives for excellence. “It’s a terrible thing to see but have no vision”, he quoted before going on to talk about the importance of nurturing dreams and aspirations and how they tend to become important in shaping one’s future by citing examples from life of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. After an enthralling speech, he left the audience with his formula for achieving success, which he called the 3Cs: Clarity of vision, Conviction to succeed and Confidence to be.
It was time for the panel discussion post the inauguration session. The topic “Changing trends in Rural Development: An overview of education, livelihoods and the attitudes of people towards change”. Moderated by Prof. Venkat R. Krishnan, this was an open-ended and frank discussion of burning issues between the panel members from the NGO and non-profit organization and representatives of the rural communities which included but wasn’t limited to farmers, labourers, panchayat-presidents, councilors, women-self-help group leaders and young college-goers. This energy packed discussion session drew the participation from almost everyone in the hall!
Next was a cultural extravaganza by 20 teams – one from each of our Karma-Yoga village. The performances made sure the audience were glued to their seats till the very end and clearly reflected the amount of hard work put in by the students over a period of 3-4 weeks which resulted in extremely inventive and entertaining dance, music, fusion and drama performances by children ranging 5-17 years of age.
The first-of-its-kind convention ended with the valedictory session where the winners of the Cultural extravaganza were announced and certificates were distributed to all the participants whose hard work and dedication resulted in the event’s roaring success. The convention not only played a major role in bringing all the stakeholders together but also provided them with a platform to interact and to witness the development brought in by the Karma-Yoga project. This will definitely result in further community-development and engagement in mutually elevating collaborations for the partners.