Career and compassion

Charmed by Kailash Satyarthi, Sanjna Sudan discovers it's possible to retain one’s childlike passion throughout life.

February 22, 2015 03:37 pm | Updated 03:37 pm IST

Kailash Satyarthi

Kailash Satyarthi

“Career and compassion are not contradictory. If you discover that compassion and that leader inside you, each one of you has the potential to win a Nobel Prize.” – Kailash Satyarthi

It is indeed interesting that how as years pass by, one can’t help but become more and more removed from the childish idealism of becoming Superman or Wonder Woman of sorts. The childlike passion to do something to make the world a better place keeps slipping away into oblivion, until it becomes a forgotten memory, shoved away in old school notebooks and diaries. For me, the childish fascination with Rani of Jhansi was always difficult to keep alive in a world that was sceptical. Childish dreams, they said, were nothing but works of an idle juvenile mind. However, a windy sunny day in a bitterly cold January taught me otherwise. The towering red-bricked walls of Ashoka University campus housed excited anticipation that day. Nobel laureate, Kailash Satyarthi, was to arrive any moment to officially inaugurate the University.

Achieving greatness

The idea of Nobel laureates always reminded me of general knowledge textbooks in school, where biographies of great men and women were put down on paper to help teachers all over the country reiterate to students about how greatness is assured to those with grit and determination. The enigma of these charismatic leaders always fascinated me. What extra something did they have that set them apart? As such thoughts crept in I looked up excitedly to see Pramath Sinha, one of the founders of Ashoka University, leading a middle-aged man clad in white salwaar kameez and muffler. His simplicity was simply disarming. His honest smile, even more.

Effortlessly charming an audience that comprised Young India Fellows, undergraduate students, founders and academia from all across the globe, Satyarthi started off by explaining the importance of holding on to one’s childlike enthusiasm and idealism for the world. Satyarthi had fought, advocated and worked for children’s rights for more than four decades all across the world and his child-like simplicity and clarity of thought and expression won the audience over.

Haunting questions

He recounted many profound instances where children had asked him simple questions to which he had no answer. Questions that had haunted him for days together and then helped him change his life in more ways than one. He emphasised the need for protecting one’s youthful idealism and not succumbing to the seductive powers of greed, jealousy, but instead trying and bringing compassion and career together. His simple and honest articulation came like a breath of fresh air for youngsters who were used to being continually encouraged to leave behind their ‘immature’ selves to adapt to realistic and ‘adult’ ways.

The Nobel laureate passionately stated that the prize was not just for him or his organisation, but was a signal for each one of us to be part of the change we wished to see. Winning the prize, according to him, meant taking up responsibilities, hence. he said he had given away the prize to the President so that every Indian takes up his share of responsibility towards humanity.

All in all, listening to Satyarthi’s speech was indeed an enlightening and humbling experience. The hazy idea I had created about great leaders in my head was very close and real for the first time. The child in me had woken up again. This time, not just with Rani of Jhansi, but with the leader within me.

The writer is Young India Fellow 2014-15, Ashoka University, Haryana.

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