Palshikar sir stopped his science class before time. Huge bundles of some yellow colored pamphlets were brought in and kept on the desk. “Hmm, this is new”, I thought. For all we could see, Sir was extremely excited to tell us about something. It was a complete novelty of experience from usually seeing him as a hard- working teacher with ultimate equilibrium. All our naïve selves were happy we wouldn’t have to sit through some more physics.
Sir started with a question that wasn’t new to us SSC aspirants. “Tell me, what are your professional ambitions?”, he asked in his gentle voice, filled with genuine curiosity. Personally, this question wasn’t one I liked to answer. Not that I didn’t have an answer in mind. I was extremely sure of my goals. I wanted an education in the humanities. Previously, when I had answered questions about my aspirations, most people didn’t react encouragingly. I was met with remarks like, “Why are you taking up arts when you’re intelligent?” Like the two are mutually exclusive! While I sat there, worried as to how my answer would be received that day, a few of us had already answered. Then, something I dreaded happened. Sir pointed his hand in my direction. “Yes, you tell me…”, he said whilst lifting his eyebrows very encouragingly. “My deepest desire is to become a writer”, I said hesitantly. A very supportive Palshikar Sir instantly started telling me about his impressive library. My ambitions had never received such genuine support from anyone but my parents; let alone from a science teacher!
That was the day I was introduced to the revolutionary movement that VEDH is. Growing up, I have always loved biographies, interviews and the like. This love, along with the description of the work of that year’s faculty members compelled me to attend the conclave. This was in the year 2013. Ever since, I’ve been attending Pune VEDH regularly. After giving it a pragmatic thought, I sincerely think that VEDH has taught me more than my school has.
There is a different theme to VEDH every year. People treading different paths grace the stage and inspire us students. Many a time, our aspirations differ from those of the faculty members. Here, it is the ‘how’ of their work that is more educative than the ‘what’ of it. Over the past six years, VEDH has given me a lot to think about and incorporate in my life. I invite you all to walk through the remainder of this blog as I share my learnings.
Fulfilling career goals isn’t a mechanical event. It is a process of metamorphosis, of continuous learning. When one loves their field of study, they feel involved. It creates a strong sense of meaning, a deeper, more authentic happiness. It feels like one is fulfilling their life’s purpose and there is nothing else they would be doing but this. Imagine, what a luxury this state might be! Here, the work is the reward in itself; one doesn’t have to wait to reach the goal. This kind of happiness, identified by a sense of involvement and meaning is called ‘Preyas’ in Indian philosophical literature. It is supplementary to the more temporary happiness that one experiences after material gains and short- lived satisfactions. This kind of happiness is called ‘Shreyas’. VEDH has inspired me to aim for involvement in everything I do.
While one is on the path to goal fulfillment, one hopes he achieves the goal. Hope is not a passive prayer, but an active state of initiative, monitoring progress and being flexible in the way to achieve the goal. An American psychologist, Snyder, conceptualized hope as having two components: ‘willpower’ and ‘way- power’. Willpower refers to a strong desire to reach the destination, while way power refers to an active journey towards the goal. For this journey, one also needs to have a rational understanding of the resources one has. They could be economic, social, emotional or in any form; as long as they contribute to one’s cause. He needs to enhance what is and cultivate what isn’t. I see the personification of this concept of hope in the faculty at VEDH. Seeing them, I try to imbibe this virtue in myself. It helps in such a way that I feel centered. Neither am I too calculative to sit in front of a white board like Sherlock Holmes; nor in a state of inaction like Jon Snow before battle.
As cliched as it sounds, the journey towards our goal is not going to be a bed of roses. All the challenges along the way will have to be met resiliently. We will have to bounce back from failures, learn from them and land on our feet as gracefully as gymnasts. This bit is a hard nut for me to crack, but I’m trying.
Many difficult decisions need to be made along the way, too. Decision making is only a one- time event; bearing their consequences is a long one that requires immense patience and courage. All these virtues, I’m still trying to cultivate in good measures.
Apart from all the above qualities, what impresses me the most is being a good citizen. The faculty members have always contributed to the society. They’ve all dreamt of a better world and are working for it. I think it is such work that defines spirituality. It truly unites you with something greater and beyond yourself.
Today, I am pursuing my masters in counselling psychology from SNDT, Churchgate. In my family, I was the one to take up an education different from everyone else. I was the non- conformist. Shamefully so, that raised many eyebrows. In VEDH and specifically Palshikar Sir, I found an environment that accepts and encourages me, thus, nourishing my being. In the world of VEDH, I was still the conformist amongst people who had done inspiringly varied work. I am grateful VEDH found me when it did. It has widened my world in so many ways. I hold pride in the fact that my academic decisions, along with many life choices, are being shaped by VEDH. I look forward to many more years of learning