All from the Heart!

 

Namaste

The countdown is truly emotional to think about so I won’t mention how long exactly… (Less than a week left). I have also tried to grasp on an Indian skill, eating with my hands. Honestly, I don’t know whether my hands are made for this because it is very difficult. They have a skill which I hope to adopt whilst I still have about 3 weeks in India still. It’s like if spoons were not existent then it wouldn’t make a huge difference. Even with Daal, it will be eaten somehow, it amazes me. And the funny thing is that when I try, everything just falls and they know that she needs help and therefore they provide me a spoon.

The Talent Continues…

For the past 2 weeks, I have been introducing the Vamshi/Basaree/Flute (whatever you wish to call it) to the blind students. If you don’t know already, the blind students are extremely talented in Music. Like extremely! They can sing, play tabla and harmonium! So basically Divya Vidyalay has their own unique exclusive band. Anyone is able to sing if they practice, but the difference is how it is sung. All of the songs are sung from the heart and it instantly touches the audience. On Sunday 8th July, Keshav Srushti held a big event where people from the city come to the tribal villages to plant trees. The city people then came to the school, in which the students performed geets and bhajans, which created such an amazing atmosphere where everyone’s eyes were glued to the singers and brought tears to their eyes as it touched everyone because of the sincerity in the voice. Therefore, there is no better place to introduce more talent to the students! I have been teaching 5 students the Vamshi; 2 partially blind and 3 totally blind. I have been learning Vamshi through Samiti for over 5 years now and also have experience in teaching it. We tend to get annoyed at the learners for not doing it right or not picking up the tune quickly. A skill of mine that has been put to the test whilst doing my sessions was patience. In any scenario, anger or annoyance is the first thing that attacks us if it is not going our way, but what I have definitely learnt is that patience is key, and then eventually it will happen. For example, the mobile connection here is not the absolute greatest and definitely no such thing as 4G especially during heavy rainfall. So when wanting to call home, it may take more than 5 calls and 16 different phone placements (move the phone up… a little bit to the left… a bit higher – You get the drill!) for the connection to be great to have a decent phone call. Therefore, in this case I have definitely learnt that eventually with PATIENCE, it will work.

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Blind Students practicing their Vamshi skills 

The very first session, I came out thinking this is going to be a challenge, but I also knew it was very possible because if they can play the harmonium perfectly, then Vamshi is a piece of pie. And of course… 4 sessions after, they are able to play the notes. As well as teaching them, it was my time to bond with these 5 students, by asking them “What do you want to be?”, so I can learn more about them. All 5 are amazing singers, so we did small competitions on who can hold a note for the longest – And I like to sing, so being able to sing with them was even better. These students are all around my age or even older, so having that brotherly/sisterly bond was really important for me, and in fact, I aim to have that with all the students and hopefully, they will end up calling me Didi, instead of Madam/Tai.

Happiness, Fun & Laughter

Sundays are the usual days where the students are resting in their rooms especially because of the weather. Therefore, I tend to find Sundays slight harder to keep myself busy and to utilize my time. I have seen the children dance like crazy before and enjoy it so much, so dancing again will just make them even happier. So I thought, I need to do something with the children today, Sunday 15th July… Dancing! I was first thinking the boys won’t join in because it will seem too girly, but as soon as I went into the hall, the boys were jumping about showing me their dance moves. Hopefully majority of you have seen the video, and you can definitely give everyone an A* for participation. I was only going to do it for a short time; instead we ended up doing it for 2 and a half hours! I also witnessed a partially blind student helping a totally blind student with the moves as well, which is incredible that the thought of thinking about others comes into the student’s minds.

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The students doing the Gulabi Dance all alone
Every day for the past week, I have had the students come up to me and gesturing a dance move to indicate “Let’s do the dance!”, at least we know this dance will stay with them and they can do it in their own time because they have become experts due to the continuous repetition.

On Friday 20th July, we danced even more and everyone including the teachers got involved which was so fun, that the children had forgotten about dinner and wanted to carry on dancing. We did a lot of Garba, Tarapa (Traditional dance) and also some had extremely unique moves in which are unexplainable. Overall, it was just some light hearted fun and an excuse to get everyone on the dance floor and to see every one go crazy as we have some brilliant dancers at Divya Vidyalay! Definitely need to take the Tarapa dance back to the UK!

Enjoy the photos!

Pranaam

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.”- Swami Sivananda

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Intelligence Quotient (IQ) VS Emotional Quotient (EQ)

 

Namaste!

Hopefully you are all enjoying the blogs and pictures, and not sick already as I still have another 2 and a half weeks here in Jawhar and I am enjoying every single bit of it and don’t want to leave! This week I have been getting up to a lot of fun things and spending more time with the children and trying to speak to them in Hindi and the very few words in Marathi. At least I know how to say what is your name – “Thujha naav kaay aahe?” and I have picked up a few words that the teachers say a lot such as “Ikade ye” (come here). Actually, that might be the only word, but every time I say it, the teachers start laughing, whether they are laughing with me or at me, is the real question (probably the latter one). I think I have got to the stage where I am mixing my English, Hindi and Gujarati together so when I come back to the UK, have fun speaking to me if you understand me, and maybe whilst you’re at it, teach me English!20180712_105930.jpg

Intelligence Quotient vs Emotional Quotient

As we all are aware that IQ is very important and we tend to compare our IQ whether it is at school, work, or anywhere else. Intelligence is very important. In Bhaarat, the billboards are filled with smart students who have the highest grades smiling ecstatically and the vision to be a doctor (mind the stereotype) is only an arm reach away because of their intelligence. Nevertheless, we know in reality, that is not the case for every student. But the difference with these children here is that their EQ is beyond ours. Through my time here at Divya Vidyalay, I have seen exceptional emotional connection between the students and living here as a parivaar (family) is in real practice. Their IQ level may not be the highest, or even very low, but their EQ is beyond thought. My very first week, I witnessed an older child feeding a younger one with his own hands. That instantly increased my sense of respect and love for the children. Every breakfast, lunch and dinner, you see a train of 5 totally blind students being led by 1 partially blind student. Being able to witness this first-hand just shows the sense of parivaar atmosphere there is at Divya Vidyalay. The teachers have to hardly help the students because the students are willing to help each other no matter if they have to go out of their way to do so.  20180712_105809.jpg

And even though some of the children may not have all 5 senses, they have an extra gift of emotional connection that we can hardly find within ourselves. Whether this is because of their difficult past life before coming to Divya Vidyalay or because it is instilled in their lifestyles to always help willingly and through that emotional connection and gratitude (had to chuck that word in somewhere!) it automatically evolves. When I went to the remote villages, I noticed that young children were working as if they are mature children and looking after their siblings as well as other babies in the village. This is the sense of emotional connection that is portrayed throughout these tribal villages.

Teacher’s Appreciation

You may be thinking that I am only praising the school and probably get to the stage where you are thinking “Is there anything wrong with the school?”. And I am here to experience this lifestyle and relay back the truth of the village life as well as the school. Yes, there are problems with the school, but they never seem to be an issue. Even if a frog hopping around whilst the children are eating, to them this is practically normal. Even when rain is cascading down like thousand hooves pounding against the ground, the children are not afraid and you see me carrying my umbrella that really doesn’t do much! I have purposely tried to forget my umbrella but it just ends up coming back to me. Yet, these are very minor problems that actually, nothing can be done and it is super ordinary for these events. Nevertheless, the issues such as, lack of water, reminding students of hygiene practises and power cuts (which happen at least 5 times a day, and a couple of times during the night, but I guess we can find some sort of fun like making sure everything is fully charged constantly) are all major issues, however they are not permanent and the only way we can overcome these issues are by improving gradually and implementing slow practise.

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The shelter to protect the children from heavy rain. It is quite entertaining to watch the transportation! 

We talk a lot about the concept of Sewa and doing Sewa without wanting anything in return. Now when I look at the teachers (including the careers, kitchen staff and all staff total up to 35), even though they are being paid, they are no ordinary teachers. From their affection to the children and the bond they have, you can tell that the vision of the children is at their first and best interest. We hardly see a regular teacher who has a lot of “banter” (fun) with the children and vice versa. And yes, I talk a lot about connection between the children and teachers etc. but I truly believe that this school has an exceptional connection (might need to find another word), which is what makes them a family and because of that, that’s why I have adjusted so well and feel part of the school instead of an outsider/guest. Additionally, every guest that comes to visit the school, can sense the inspiration and dedication from the children, teachers and of course Pramila Tai (founder and principal of the school).

Overall, Sewa includes so many different aspects and I think developing a bond is an important part of Sewa activities as well as doing your work truthfully, positively and full-heartedly in order for them and us to gain maximum benefits from our actions, and even if that just means an experience. Experiencing the lifestyle, language, culture, animals, exotic fruits – These are most likely the main benefits I will receive from my time at Divya Vidyalay.

Enjoy the pictures!

Pranaam

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

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Is English becoming a Necessity?

Namaste!

(By the way, the feature picture is a waterfall in Jawhar!)

After all the settling difficulties, I can very happily say that I am thoroughly enjoying my time here and I cannot believe I have less than a month at Divya Vidyalay ALREADY! I know it sounds very cliché but full-heartedly, in the last two weeks, the amount I have learnt and seen is without a doubt eye opening. From the students, teachers, remoted villages, lifestyle, families and the list goes on.

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Certificates for the blind students who took their exams and came out with a first. Also certificates for the teachers who completed their special education course.

Keshav Srushti Gram Vikas

Saturday 23rd of June I attended a training session for all the kaaryakartas (workers) who are part of this project initiated by Keshav Srushti (Inspired by the vision of Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar – Founder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). This Gram Vikas (Village development) Yojna is aimed at the Palghar district, Maharashtra. With there being a lot of remoted tribal area, their vision is to develop these areas by getting the Rural Yuvas involved in the process of Gram-Vikas. There focus areas are water, education, health, solar energy, agriculture, environment, and many more. Currently, they have adopted 40 villages where exceptional work is going on to develop these villages.

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Keshav Srushti Kaaryakartas

The aim of the training day was to focus on the role of a kaaryakarta, sewa, techniques, methods to carry the work etc. You’d think from the Sangh background and doing Youth for Sewa, this is right up my street and I can get new ideas. Well, a slight issue occurred… The training sessions were in Marathi, slight Hindi and some words in English. Therefore, any word I understood, I quickly jotted it down even if it did not make sense to me. But definitely, through this day, I learnt great things and techniques that I hope to take back to the UK as well as implement it at Divya Vidyalay. For example, doing a quick SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, will allow me to expand my knowledge on the school as well as acknowledge the opportunities that the school can benefit from and taking these on to make them strengths.

On Tuesday 26th June, I was very privileged to go with Pramila Tai (principal and founder of Divya Vidyalay) to see a real very underprivileged remoted tribal village, or were we can say extreme “poverty”. My first reaction was in complete awe to this place where 100 people live and this is all they practical know of. When we think of a tribal village, we instantly think poor, unhappy, unsanitary – negative things. But actually, there is a real sense of community and compassion even in the state where their houses are falling apart and little clothing. Even with the extreme complexity, the strength they all have is inspirational to see and they are still living their lives to their capacity, which is what makes them aspirational. Most importantly, pity-ness and dependency are not the correct methods or ways to go about helping the villages develop. This can only be done through them doing the work and us being the kaaryakartas who guide them in order for them to become independent. After that experience, it was definitely eye-opening to see this not in just a movie but in real life, and without a doubt, it will stick with me throughout my life.

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Creating a committee at the village, Kumbhar Khand

If you haven’t seen the 200 acres Keshav Srushti land in Mumbai, it is a project to definitely have a look at as there is a lot of great educational, social and irrigational projects. Check out their website!

http://www.keshavsrushti.com/

Is English Becoming a Necessity?

As mentioned before, I have completed 2 weeks at Divya Vidyalay and there has been playing, dancing, singing, eating, learning and many more. Going back to the first week, which seems such a long time ago, those were the days where I felt like I was not doing much and sitting around. Nevertheless, in those couple of days, I was able to experience and hear the extreme cases of some of the children here at Divya Vidyalay as well as in Jawhar. Currently, there are 2 students who are not able to walk properly but yet can independently. Before attending Divya Vidyalay, they didn’t know how to use their legs at all, they were very dependent on their parents. After coming to Vidyalay, they had provided them with physio and now that are able to walk alone without needing as much help. The support the teachers and the school gives to every student is amazing to see and witness.

One of my projects were to join in with classes and take English classes to improve their English. It can be debated, but unfortunately, English is becoming such an essential language in order for any person to even get a good enough job in Bhaarat. Therefore, at Divya Vidyalay, they aim not only to educate them for now, but providing them with the skills now to enable them to earn a livelihood and succeed once finishing their education at Divya Vidyalay. As this is my first time experiencing the true essence of village life, what I have definitely noticed is the culture of their “tribe” is very pure and that they are quite oblivious to anything other than their lives, which I guess some may say that it is a negative thing and vice versa. On the other hand, you look at a very western city such as Mumbai, and many years ago, the culture of Bhaarat was there, but now, you see the culture of the western world influencing them. Therefore, when it comes to moving with the times, these tribal areas are very backwards thus for them to even get anywhere near a sufficient earning job, it is very difficult, or near enough impossible. So, going back to the importance of English, it is becoming a part of the culture in Bhaarat especially in the more denominating cities and as a result, to improve the income of the village people, they need to be taught English speaking. Thus I have been slowly implementing common words/phrase/sentences that the students can learn. But because of my strong British, you can say unique Woolwich accent that does slow the process down, because of the pronunciation and accent difference. I might even add in some exclusive to Woolwich lingo!

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Teaching basic English to the visually impaired students.

Overall, this is just a snippet of the things that I have been up to in the first 2 weeks and I know there will be so many stories, experiences and lessons that I will come back with and be able to relay the true stories of Bhaarat.

But for now, enjoy the pictures!
Pranaam!

“Caste or untouchability have nothing to do with Dharma. Belonging to all, intended to all – only this is pure Dharma. ” – Gautam

Bhaarat Mata Ki Jay!

Namaste!

The time had come where I put all of my knowledge and education into action. As this is my first time travelling alone for 2 months, every piece of advice, precautions and warnings were given to me before flying out on the Wednesday 13th June to Bhaarat.  My mum has packed a whole pharmacy in my suitcase therefore if for any reason I get ill (fingers crossed I don’t), then there is no need for a doctor. As much as I was excited to go to Bhaarat and do Sewa, the reality didn’t hit me until leaving my loved ones back in the UK, and then the nerves, the doubts and worries started to kick in whilst saying bye to my mother and sister at the airport, because from then on… I was a 19-year-old girl from the UK going to a place in Bhaarat that I am not familiar with, and we tend to be not very fond of the unfamiliarity. I had reached everyone’s favourite, duty free, in which I thought in order to make me less nervous, to sit in Costa, check in and write a Facebook post, which took me an awfully long time to write 2 sentences.

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I had finally arrived at Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport, which seemed like the quickest and most relaxing journey ever, maybe because I slept like a baby (I’d like to think) throughout the whole journey. I tried to warn myself of the humidness smell as soon as I leave the plane. But that thought ran away after a couple of minutes, and by the time I knew it, I was attacked with the smell and heat of the Indian humidified air. That’s when you know you are in Bhaarat. The fun of mosquito bites and never seen before animals/creatures start now! After collecting my luggage, the feeling of going to the host family’s house, sleeping peacefully and being freshened up for the day ahead was very enticing. Well, that was no way near as close as I thought as I was stuck at the airport for 2 hours. However, I did a lot of thinking whilst spending a large amount of time at the airport. There are many small restaurants in the airport, so I was hopping around from seat to restaurant so it didn’t seem as if I was lost. In fact, I was very lost. Whilst being a frog at the airport, it made me realise how important phones and mobile data actually are and finally once that was sorted… Well, there was more! In order to get to my host family’s house, I needed to be transported away using an Ola (similar to Uber). After spending about another 30 minutes, the struggle was over for the time being. Ahh, the independent life!

Make Way for the Traffic

In the UK, we tend to be over-friendly to “strangers” and show our appreciation a lot. I was also taught in Orientation Day 1, to show my gratitude and appreciation by even saying the words of “Thank You” and “Sorry”. So I thought, obviously I need to take all my teachings to Bhaarat. The habit of saying “Thank you” and not getting a response, showed me that 1) This is not the UK and they say Dhanyawaad 2) Don’t expect the same back.  Nevertheless, that was not the attitude I needed in order to get anything done. One of the most stereotypical aspects about Bhaarat is their traffic. As I would stand there patiently waiting for all the vehicles to pass and saying thank you whilst I got through, it was not very efficient. Every time I visit Bhaarat, the “system” they have regarding their roads, traffic and pedestrians will never not seem to not amaze me.  Nearly much every vehicle has the sign “horn ok please”, which I will never understand what it actually means as well as the logic behind that. Regardless of this extreme stereotype, the thing that most astonishes me is the fact that there are fewer daily incidents or broken down cars happening in Bhaarat than there  are in UK, so maybe that suggests that we need to change our system, a more like Bhaarat’s because something is working. It is like everyone is telepathic and they know whose right it is to go ahead, whether it is the pining pedestrians, swift scooters, (think they’re) racing rickshas or crazy cars. In just being in Bhaarat for a little over a week, you can say I have been fortunate to travel in nearly every mode of transport including, cars, rickshas, trains and two-wheeler (motorbikes) – which was the most terrifying but yet amazing experience to do it in Mumbai. Literally weaving through any tiny space they can find between two big buses, they will do it. And then trains are another story but I don’t want to bore you with all the transport story otherwise this blog will be extremely long and I’m sure you want me to get to the actual Sewa Project that I am currently at in Jawhar, Maharashtra.

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I arrived at the Divya Vidyalay in Jawhar on Sunday 17th June and the initial thoughts that comes into anyone’s head is “What are the rooms like?”, “What are the washrooms like?” etc. So these were my exact first reaction and it kind of hit me that I will be staying at this place for 6 weeks. In fact, the whole school and the hostel is so well built, that the living conditions are good for a place in the rural villages. However, before I get into what I have been doing in the last week, I want to talk about my emotions and feelings because I was going through a hard time adjusting.

Doubts? Loneliness?

Now I am just a “western city” girl going into a rural area therefore automatically I was very much on edge. I had a few sevikas from RSS who came with me to see the school for the very first time and because I had spent the day before with them, I had automatically felt a connection with them. Once they drove back to Mumbai, all I thought was “that’s it, it’s just me now”. Adjusting to the weather, creatures, power cuts and food, I found it very hard for the first couple of days, I really started to doubt myself and thought would I be able to do this for 6 weeks. Doubt and loneliness were my biggest problems and in some cases still is as I am still adjusting and getting use to everything as well as the way of living. My biggest strength was trying to reassure myself, and sometimes crying it out can be good for you too. I kept on planting into my head that this feeling is temporary and the creatures will come and go. Everyone I have been speaking to, I have said that the creatures and animals are my biggest worry, other than that I would happily stay here. But what is Bhaarat without these surprises?!WhatsApp Image 2018-06-25 at 11.06.08(3)

Why did I share my first feelings with so many people who will be reading this? It is so normal to feel like this when we are out of our comfort zone and it is unnatural to feel attached straight away and very comfortable. For example, majority of the children here only speak Marathi, which I know very little or near to nothing of. Therefore, for the first couple of days, I was thinking to myself whether I would connect with the children and how am I going to communicate with them. This really got me down because my one of my aims are to connect with the children, but if I cannot speak the language then how am I supposed to? Nevertheless, the important thing is that once I have that connection with them that is more significant than the language barrier. I can definitely say that at the end of the first week, I have more positive feelings and all I know from now is that they will carry on growing. The reason to why I have spoken about my feelings is to not scare anyone away from doing Sewa, but actually hopefully enlightening you that when you do go out to do Sewa (which I am sure more than half of you reading this will), our feelings and emotions will be there but the way we are able to overcome this struggle is more important as it will make us grow as a person.

In my next blog, I will be speaking more about the sessions I have taken part in as well as what I have witnessed in just 7 days. And there is a lot! But for now, I will tease you with some pictures from the last week (hopefully my photography and videography skills do justice to the session Vin Mistry took with us on our 3rd Orientation day)

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. ” – Neale Donald Walsch 

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Serving the Society is Serving God

Namaste!

The Project is Set!

The time finally arrived where we were told which organisation we would be working with whilst in Bhaarat. I will be spending 6 weeks at Divya Vidyalaya, located in Jawhaar, Maharashtra. This school is specially designed for children with special needs in Jawhaar, who attend school but rarely progress therefore leading ultimately to lower employment chances and long-term income poverty. In orddownloader to maintain a sustainable future for these children, Sewa UK decided to build a residential school for the children in Jawhaar to aid them to better their future.

Orientation Day 2

Our second orientation day was held on Saturday 7th April at University of Warwick. The day started with Saagar and myself conversing about the book “Service of Sadhana”, NHSF and about our exciting upcoming trip to Bhaarat, whilst Hiten Ji was snoring away at the back. It was great catching up with the fellow interns and YFS mentors once we had arrived. The first session started with a face-to-face conversation with our personal mentors. Avnish Ji is my mentor, and we spoke about our weaknesses and how we can use them into making them positives; as well as, disciplining ourselves in order to make our days more productive.

Dharma & Sewa Bhaav

Majority of the sessions were related to “Sewa Bhaav” and the idea of developing our mind-set in our daily lives. In Avnish Ji’s session, we explored different verses from our past Shaastras (scriptures) such as the Upanishads, Bhagavat Purana, Mahabharat, Vedas etc. We tend to listen to Shloks in Sanskrit, and maybe dwell upon on the meaning for a couple of minutes, but actually this session was all about understanding and acting upon the thoughts being said years ago and how they are all still relevant to us today. Especially, in this day and age, we hear about all these inspirational stories and people from our Shaastras, but actually are we implementing them in our lives? From our first orientation day, we were practising yoga, and many of us do not know the immense benefits of practising yogasana and we usually identify it with bodily postures. But what about mentally and spiritually? In the Patanjali Yoga Sutra, it mentions “Yoga is the restriction of the movements of the mind. When this is achieved, the witness comes to exist in terms of its own identity. Otherwise, the witness assumes the identity dictated by the movement of the mind” (Patanjali Yoga Sutra (1.1-4)). Our mind is constantly agitated and rushing ahead. Whilst we are sleeping, we are thinking about the next day already and therefore rarely live in the present. As a result, practicing Yoga and dhyana (meditation) aids us to still the mind, and focus in the present.

Near to the end of this session, we were told to reflect on the question of “What do I need to work on, in order to develop the welfare of the world?” Mainly focusing on Shreya (the good/righteous) vs Preya (the pleasurable), removing selfish desires and following ahimsa (non-violence) and compassion. Throughout this workshop, we all realised that all of these factors relate to gratitude in some way or another. As cliché as it sounds and I may have drained the word out already from my previous blogs, but gratitude is definitely one of many foundations to developing the welfare of the world.

Stay grounded like a tree

Sumit Ji took the next session, which was on public speaking. When we say “public speaking”, we instantly think about talking to a large group of people, a bit like in a lecture room. However, we are constantly speaking publicly whether it is towards one person or many persons. Therefore, disregarding the quantity of the audience, we should always be aware of the way we are talking and portraying ourselves towards them. Sumit Ji took incredible little activities, which aids us to gain the confidence to talk to any number 30226605_2064940713784053_7735917466592739328_nof people. We started with individually standing up and introducing ourselves. The focus of this exercise was confidence and body language, to ensure that we are grounded to the ground just as a tree is to its roots.

JustAMinute Jamming

The next activity was all about Just-A-Minute (JAM), where we have to speak about a spontaneous topic or object for just a minute. This seems quite simple and talking for a minute is easy. However, speaking continuously on an unplanned topic is quite difficult and it feels like the longest minute ever. This activity is beneficial in many ways and is a great laugh. The method of Gesture & Acclaims was also encouraging for the jammer. As a group, we decided to do a Pranaam at the beginning (gesture) of the jammer’s talk and then end with a “Booo!”(acclaim). It wasn’t long until we changed the acclaim to something a little bit more encouraging.

Why am I gesturing?

We all use gestures when we are speaking, and sometimes we use our hands too much that we start waving them around unnecessarily and tends to become a habit. Sumit Ji taught us the meaning of different hand gestures that are commonly used. Therefore, when we are publicly speaking, instead of waving our hands around needlessly, using these gestures allows the speeches to become more powerful and engaging for the audience. This activity was enlightening, as we constantly use hand gestures, and sometimes they become so distracting and meaningless; therefore, knowing the meaning as to why we use certain gestures gives more purpose to the topic.30221685_2064940857117372_1882239958291316736_n

We then began constructing our own speeches about any topic. Regarding my public speaking, I have done presentations, talks, etc. however they have all been pre-planned and with a lot of talking to the mirror preparation. However, like mentioned in my previous blogs, on the spot questions/topics are not my expertise. Therefore, it is definitely something that I would like to work on and being able to articulate myself with the use of pacing my speech, meaningful gestures, confidence and staying rooted to the ground.

Sanskaar & Sewa

Vipashaben led the next session on Sanskaar and Sewa. I have always defined Sanskaar to be values, but in this session, I saw different perspectives and meanings of the word Sanskaar. Just like most Sanskrit words, it is very difficult to translate it to English exactly, because the words have such a powerful meaning. Suraj Ji also gave us an interesting view and how Sanskaar can fall into three categories: memory, habit and addiction. This really allowed me to think wider of the meaning and was a stimulating approach, as I generally see Sanskaar to be a positive attribute, and in fact, everyone has his or her own habits and addictions, which all fall under Sanskaars. But how does Sanskaar relate to Sewa? Anyone is able to do Sewa, however what should differentiate us is our mind-set towards Sewa, which is Sanskaar. If we don’t have the right Sanskaars, then we are not able to do Sewa righteously. And yes, Sewa is loosely defined as “Selfless service”, but actually whilst brainstorming what Sewa means to us, the thought of seeing other people as an extension of myself and the sense of oneness (Sangathan) shows the important relationship between Sanskaar and Sewa.

Serving the Society is Serving God

Vidhuben Sharma, also known as BananaSharma, took the final workshop. Feeling as if I was back at school studying English, as her workshop focused on creative writing and expressing our thoughts using different English30571494_2066313993646725_8620819564386582528_n techniques. I just about can speak English, let alone using English techniques, but it definitely helped me to open up and get out of my comfort zone. Do you remember similes, metaphors, alliteration, onomatopoeia etc…? Yep, that’s what we were using. We learnt many techniques in which we can use whilst we will be blogging, and one of the techniques that I really thought I want to try is the “Six Word Stories”. Vidhuben gave us some examples that have been published, and definitely, whilst reading them, it showed that just six words can give a powerful meaning and can tell a story instantly.

Overall, just like Orientation day 1, day 2 was very thought provoking and definitely beneficial not only for the internship but for me to grow as a person. Furthermore; hopefully, all the public speaking and writing skills/techniques will show through in my future blogs as well as the talks to come, but obviously this all will come with practice.

Dharmo eva hato hantee dharmo rakshati rakshitaah |
Tasmadhrmo na hantabhyo  maa no dharmo hatovadhit |

Dharma destroys those who destroy it, Dharma protects those who protect it. Dharma does not destroy and cannot be destroyed.

Am I Grateful Enough?

Namaste!

Define Gratitude

Gratitude is simply defined as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. This word evidently means a lot to any person; however, the question is, are we grateful enough?

We can easily appreciate others’ action in our head, however expressing our gratitude and showing the appreciation gracefully, portrays a different outcome. If I said to anyone, ‘Name me 5 things you are grateful for.”, the immediate responses of gratitude can be for family, inspirational people, friend29132981_2051028888508569_2537652951208427520_ns, material objects, food and many more. On the first YFS orientation day, Sumit Ji Sharma took the session on gratitude, which allowed us to think of small acts of gratitude that go on around us, as well as, most importantly, not forgetting the body itself.  The thought of being grateful for your feet is unusual; yet, our feet are the one thing that keeps us going by carrying the whole weight of our body, so we can continue to do our work. Therefore, he enlightened us to think about being grateful for our heart along with other organs. Hence, being able to be grateful for the things internally and externally are definitely something we should examine often.

What Am I Grateful For?

At different times during the discussion, we had to write about the person, place, food, object and anything else we are grateful for. This is where it got me thinking about connecting everything together and thinking of it more like a chain reaction. For example, I am grateful for food, which comes from plants, that needs the Sun and water in order to grow. Therefore, naturally, we seem to only be grateful for one part of the chain, which in my case was food, but actually being able to acknowledge more towards the root, is the key difference.

All of us want to be happy, but how do we imagine our happiness? We all have the common ground of wanting happiness and people may question, what is the relationship between happiness and being grateful? Some people may say that when we are happy we become automatically grateful, but we also know that naturally when we are so happy, we tend to want more happiness and more things. On the other hand, we see people who are not as fortunate to have what others have but yet deeply happy with what they already got. Why? Because they are grateful for it. Therefore, it is not happiness that makes us grateful, in fact, it is grateful that makes us happy. If we value everything that we have, that will create gratitude. As part of an activity during the day, we were told to bring one valuable thing. (I don’t want to embarrass myself just yet, so I will keep my valuable thing to tell you in person, if I pluck up the courage!). Nevertheless, the message that we can take is that the importance and significance of the action/object creates gratitude.

Today I Am Grateful For…

It is great listening or reading about gratitude, but are we practising it? There are 4 A’s of Gratitude which are small steps of expressing as well as being able to reflect and develop ourselves as a person. They are appreciation (thank you), approval (give praise), admiration (compliments) and attention (listen). We all like to be appreciated and the simple words of thank you, sorry and please can show a lot of gratitude. We are so quick on appreciating a stranger holding the door for us, which is great. However, if a near and dear one, such your parent did the same; will we still express our appreciation by saying thank you in the same way? Therefore, no matter what the relationship is, the gratitude should come from within and not vary because of our relationship with the person.

A small exercise that Sumit Ji told us to do is to express our gratitude daily. Experiencing  gratitude is not just an occasional thing; we should be continuously gratefully living. Therefore, by recognising and noting down one thing minimum, what we are grateful for on that day will make us more apparent to being grateful and grow as a person.  From experience, I have been doing this task daily, and even though I sometimes think, “I don’t know what I am grateful for today”, it allows me to think deeper, appreciate and reflect on my day.

Today I am grateful

Lastly, what does gratitude have to do with Sewa? Being grateful whilst doing Sewa is a true quality to have. Appreciating the lifestyle and people as well as acknowledging everything we are blessed with. Building relations to create a wider family whilst helping others and not expecting a reward from our actions; but instead, being grateful that we have the opportunity to do anything.

 

īśāvāsyamidaṁ sarvaṁ yatkiñca jagatyāṁ jagat |
tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā mā gṛdhaḥ kasyasviddhanam |

Iśāvāsya Upanishad 

The entire universe consists of the Supreme Lord present within nature that has existed since the beginning of time. That Almighty alone is therefore independent – without a beginning and without an end. Due to this quality, do not lust for others’ wealth. Instead, enjoy whatever is given to you by the Lord, and realise the Self by passive awareness and renunciation.

 

 

The Start of the Journey – Orientation Day 1

Namaste!

It’s finally time to blog! Follow me through my journey where I will be writing about my exciting summer as well as all the preparation beforehand. My name is Ushni Devraj and I am currently studying Mathematics at University of Essex. Clearly, English and blogging are not my strong points but definitely after lots of courage, we have our first blog!

Youth for Sewa?

yfs-logo

Youth for Sewa is a 6 week unpaid internship which focuses on young individuals flourishing and understanding the true essence to Sewa (Selfless Service) as well as self-development. The interview is the first stage of the process, then, once you have been accepted, the journey starts! This year six interns have been given an incredible opportunity to do Youth for Sewa. But before going to Bhaarat (India), we have to complete three training days, which prepares the interns and definitely gets us thinking about EVERYTHING.

Day One…

Sunday 11th of March was our first orientation day where I met all of my fellow Sewa friends. The day started with a very early wake and a road trip with YFS mentors, Hem and Vipasha. We all went to VSSV together and we were reminiscing about the great two weeks we had last summer as well as asking them about their experience when they did YFS in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Two and an half hours later, we reached Warwick University and I was definitely intrigued to know what was planned for the day. We first started with an icebreaker where we had to go around and ask others a question that was written on a piece of paper. One of them being “Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you like to have as a dinner guest?”. On the spot questions are not my biggest strengths and this really encouraged me to see if I can think intuitively.

Daily Yogasana

Anand Ji Parekh who runs his own Yoga business, Hot Yoga Nottingham, took the second session. It was great to hear his inspiration of starting the business and the effort he put into making it a massive success it is today. We also partook in some yoga, which was great to start the long day we had ahead of us and learn different variations to Surya Namaskaar (Salutations to the Sun). I definitely thought to myself how doing yoga would benefit me when I am in Bhaarat. Nevertheless, indeed, everything we did throughout the day was to ensure that we are building and improving ourselves first and have a stable lifestyle, in order to help society or even the people around us.

Today I am grateful for…

Following on, Sumit Ji Sharma from Spread of Wisdom took a very thoughtful session on gratitude. This session was one that started to hurt my brain because a lot of thought came into the question “What are you grateful for?”. The session allowed us to think about the smallest things, in which to us it may seem invaluable or maybe even silly and consider everything as well as showing our gratitude towards it.

State a change. Act on the change.

The next session was taken by Jayesh Ji Mistry, who opened his own vegan business, Suitable for Carnivores. He spoke about how we can use our time wisely and daily changes we can make to better ourselves. It was motivating to hear Jayesh Ji’s personal stories of before he started the business and how he has changed to make sure everything he does on a daily is not done “just in time”. We are very quick of stating what we are going to change about ourselves and actually implementing and doing the action is the difficult part. Jayesh Ji is a great example of where executing the changes can lead to bigger successful opportunities. We also had the privilege to try food from Suitable for Carnivores and it definitely lived up to its standards and more.

Are my actions Shreya or Preya?

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After lunch, Sachin Ji Nanda led the discussion about Dharma, particularly focusing on two types of actions. Shreya – doing things that are good and with the value of the action in mind. Secondly, Preya – doing what we think feels good, no matter what the consequences are. This session most certainly left me thinking about every action that I do and whether they are Shreya or Preya. For example, I know that I should be eating healthy (Shreya) but I do enjoy my crisps therefore easier to fall for the crisps (Preya).

Individualism VS Socialism = Integral Humanism

The final session was taken by Chandrakant Ji Sharma, which was on Integral Humanism. Even though, I have had several talks on this topic by Chandrakant Ji, without a doubt, I learn so much more and it is always taken in a different angle. After the two conflicting philosophies; Communism and Capitalism, Integral Humanism was put forth by Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, which recognises that in order to provide a life of dignity, the need of balancing individuals and society is key.

What Now?

The day concluded and for definite I had endless thoughts running through my head. Before we all headed home, we had to think of three daily changes that we would implement in our lives. Mine are to implement home exercises and yoga routine into my daily practice, to learn more Hindi and to watch at least one educational video every day. We have also been given the book Sadhana of Service, written by Eknath Ranade to read. This book reflects on the personality of an ideal kaaryakarta (worker).

Overall, right from the beginning of the day, it has definitely been stimulating and thought provoking. Without a doubt, I know when I go to Bhaarat (which I still cannot believe I am going) and serve my maatrubhoomi (motherland), I will be fully prepared and in the right mind-set to go and give back to the society, and most importantly, improve myself and bring back all my knowledge and experience to share with my UK parivaar (family).

I have to conclude the blog with our journey home as we ended the day with a full hour and a half of Sangh Geets straight. Can never go wrong!

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” – Dalai Lama