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The saint effect

Vivekananda, the secret behind why Indians are today respected in the West

I was born in Narsapuram in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, and brought up in Visakhapatnam. I joined TCS in Hyderabad in 1998 and my first project was an assignment in the United States lasting three months. This was quite a big challenge in my house. Neither did my mother want me to go nor was I keen to do so. I am not a risk-taker by nature and I did not want to move out of my comfort zone where I was being pampered by my parents.

 

But my father desperately wanted me to go to U.S. He wanted me to be brave and experience this opportunity. He wanted me to visit Mertil Beach, which was a very significant location for Meher Baba lovers (he is a saint from Maharashtra). My father tried to motivate me by talking about Swami Vivekananda, of how as a wandering monk nobody would receive him, how he travelled months together in a ship to reach the western land. But now I will have my office colleagues to pick me up on arrival, or if I needed any other help. And I can fly and reach the U.S. in 20 hours unlike the months that Vivekananda took.

 

Finally the day of my departure arrived. My mom, dad and elder brother were in the airport. My mom and dad were in tears, and so was I. Seeing the emotional scene, even the other passengers around us started giving advice: It is all fine nowadays… lots of people are going to America… it’s all safe, she will be well taken care of, etc.

 

I went to the office the day after I landed. I did not feel an alien as I had feared. We did not know how to enter the office, how to use the swipe card, how to use the coffee machine and so on. But all this was made so easy by the staff of Nasdaq, where I went to work. What was amazing and thought-provoking was the respect I received. I had seen the U.S. in the movies and television as a great, advanced, economically progressed country. So I had this image of the country with people who were so intelligent, great and special, who just knew it all. I was therefore very fearful, thinking I would need to ensure I do every task given to me by them correctly, without any mistake. Basically I had the mindset to accept instructions and execute.

 

But quite to the contrary, I realised they were asking for ideas to our team and treating us as consultants. I went to follow, but I realised they are waiting to follow, and I am to be a giver of ideas. At that time I thought this was because I was very intelligent and knowledgeable. This could have been the case if they had interacted with me for some time and they understood I was knowledgeable and so on. But at first sight itself they were treating me as a thinker and an idea-giver. So that could not be because of me alone, but rather somebody who was there before me.

 

It never stopped there: I worked for GE Plastics in the Netherlands, Nokia and ABB in Finland, and so on, and in all the customer-locations I enjoyed good respect. Not only me, but also many of my Indian colleagues who worked in foreign lands were treated as people of ideas and wisdom and never people of wages. This subtle reason or rather in IT terms the root cause of this treatment, had been missed out by me and the whole IT world. It came to my ignorant mind only after I read Vivekananda 10 years later. The first book I read was Speeches from Colombo to Almoro.

 

His books not only gave me an idea of his dreams, but also opened my eyes to why every Indian’s thoughts and ideas are respected in the western world. It opened my eyes as to who lay the seeds of this thought process in the western mind about the wisdom of the Indian mind. Vivekananda was one of the first Indian monks to have stepped on to foreign lands. He had not just exposed Hinduism to the western world but also gave a glimpse of the Hindu mind to the western world. The effect of that glimpse is still benefiting each and every Indian mind that travels and works in the western world. Each Indian mind is considered a mind of wisdom, a mind of tolerance and a mind of acceptance. This in turn fetches us respect.

 

One of his dreams about youth was: Youth have to travel to other countries to learn and spread the latest technology, alleviate poverty. That is what the whole of our IT world is doing now. After 150 years his dream is a reality. We not only learnt and spread but we became leaders and pioneers in this field. Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella and many more are the living examples of his dream. As his story goes, we are no more frogs in the well but belong to the wide ocean.

 

I have immense gratitude to Vivekananda’s purity, his thoughts, his dreams and to his monumental efforts to make those dreams come true.

 

What next? He dreamt to drive away poverty in India. He could not see India suffering in poverty. He felt Vedanta cannot be taught to the poor experiencing the pangs of hunger. Now 22% of India is below the poverty line compared to the 70% in those days. How can the new empowered youth of the country who have got the exposure of the economically advanced countries help raise the brothers and sisters of India above the poverty line?

 

A hundred years back, just one swamiji’s travel created today; today so many of us travel – what will we make of India a hundred years down the line?

 

 

 

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chinthapalli@yahoo.com

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 10:27:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/The-saint-effect/article17047354.ece

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