VEDH, Vocational Education, Direction and Harmony, an annual program of the Institute for Psychological Health. Now an annual program not just in Thane but in so many cities across Maharashtra! I use VEDH as an example in so many talks I do for Academic audiences, using it as a prime model of a flagship program in community settings. The last one was just last week at SPPU, Pune.

VEDH started small, as do most community programs, in classrooms of a little known school in Thane, opposite the now well know Gadkari Rangayatan. We invited a few greats like Dr. Shreeram Lagu, and then we took our own sessions cooked up out of our own, then very limited experience,………and even those were interesting!
I remember speaking in that edition of VEDH, on Research in Social Science settings, and when I finished, I was rather amazed at myself, like Oliver Goldsmith’s Village Schoolmaster, that I knew whatever I had shared with the young audience.

At the time, Career Conferences were boring affairs where well known names came and talked about how to shape a successful Medical or Engineering career. Or sometimes more well known names came and shared (most inappropriately) how they never studied in school and failed multiple times, leaving me rather worried about the kind of message they must be leaving behind in the malleable young minds in the audience!
Then came a wave of Posters, where people read about the least known careers with their jaws hanging open. Large flex banners proclaimed how careers ranging from Phlebotomist to Pharmacist, from the Navy to Neurology, were the best choice, and how you could qualify yourself for them.
Career testing became a fad, and although the tests are good and psychometrically sound, one had to know that the person responding to them too had to be doing the task sincerely.

Then came the IPH VEDH, a grand affair, catering to thousands of children and parents. Dr. Anand Nadkarni would write a VEDH song, and get the audience to sing it to a tune he had set. The pendal resounded to thousands of young voices singing that song, and learning it by heart after a few iterations. Amazing group energy which added to the VEDH message.

Off beat themes, well known names, well chosen interview questions that seemed so effortless but carried so much meaning, the whole group vibe, and later the food and gift stalls of our Tridal Shubharthis and other IPH stalls, all added to the VEDH magic. Audiences grew, equal parts younger and older people. Venues multiplied till it has now become an all Maharashtra phenomenon.

But all along, the introvert in me knew that, however good an orator I grow to be, I can never, ever, carry off a VEDH.
For that, you need to have a strong connect with every man, woman and child in the audience. You need a genuine love of people that never tires of iterations of the program with shades of differences; for the sheer passion of taking it to millions. You need to truly enjoy every moment on and off stage, off stage for the humongous planning that goes before, during and after VEDH, and on stage for that Aha! Moment when everyone on the premises, both on and off the dais, hits that first beat of the cycle in Indian music, the “Sam (सम)” so to speak. When all get an important point and there is an audible sigh that goes around the gathering, and many shared smiles.

VEDH has given many tens of thousands of students this Aha moment, got them to rethink their career graph, and grow enamored with an entrepreneurial concept, or a creative thought. It has taught many parents not to push the envelope, and to trust their children’s dreams.

But I wait with bated breath to watch who will step into Dr. Anand’s shoes and do an equally good, if not better job, and carry the great VEDH tradition forward.

Dr. Anuradha Sovani,
Trustee and Consultant, IPH, Thane,
Professor and Head, Department of Psychology, Associate Dean, Humanities, SNDT Women’s University

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