Volume 6 - Issue 07
JULY - 2008
THE ZENITH OF HOLISTIC LEARNING
The Sublime Story of Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School,
A Home for Enlightened Living: The Sri Sathya Sai Junior Boys’ Hostel
“Tears roll down my cheeks when I think of the days I spent in Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School,” says Mr. S. Ramakrishnan, who is currently as a Senior Research Analyst in Forst & Sullivan He adds, “The unique facet of the school is the teacher-pupil relationship reminiscent of the ‘Gurukula’ system prevalent in ancient India. But what is more important, and is the main strength of the school, is the one-of-its-kind hostel life. I have learnt some of life’s greatest principles living with other boys in this hostel.”
Dr. Shailesh Srivastava, the physics teacher who stays in the hostel along with the boys, says, “In this hostel students come from different parts of India and abroad, with different backgrounds and cultures, live under the same roof and in the same dormitory. There are at least 6 boys in every room, and they learn to appreciate each other’s likes and dislikes, and adjust accordingly.”
“In my room there are boys from different states of India – Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal - with very varied tastes and habits. It is not that we do not have differences; we live in harmony in spite of several views and attitudes. And there are boys belonging to different faiths too,” says Abhay, grade XII, who hails from Bangalore.
Encouraging Personal Faith
Narrating his personal experience, Mohammad Faizuddin from Karnataka, now in grade XII, says, “All my roommates are so kind and co-operative.
"Whenever I sit down to perform Nammaz during the day, the room suddenly becomes silent. And all the teachers too encourage me to offer daily prayers and observe fasting during the holy month of Ramzan.
"During this period, I was very particular about doing Roza (fasting), and since one has to partake food before sunrise, on the first day of Ramzan, I preserved a little from the previous night’s dinner in my cupboard for the next morning breakfast.
"When Mr. Satheesh Babu, my hostel teacher, came to know of this, from the next day onwards he arranged fresh breakfast for me before 5 am itself! I feel blessed to be studying in such an environment.
"In fact, when one of the teachers became aware of the poor financial status of my parents, who were unable to pay the minimum hostel fees, he told me not to worry. My dues were paid. Staying in this hostel is, truly, for me, a dream come true.”
Hostel - An Oasis of Mutual Consideration and Concern
“Our hostel is all about senior-junior brotherhood,” says Shivam Chopra of grade XII and explains, “When we step into the hostel for the first time in grade VIII, the XII graders lovingly welcome us and carry our luggage to our rooms. If you accidentally dash against a senior in the corridor, ‘sorry brother’ comes spontaneously first from the senior.”
Illustrating this heart-warming environment of the hostel, Mr. Satheesh Babu, the hostel teacher, says, “Food is served in the hostel in a buffet fashion, where each one collects his food from the counter, and there are always a few boys serving.
"One evening, I was standing in the queue just like other boys, and noticed that one boy, Vinay, came to the counter for the second time because he liked a particular dish. But the boy at the counter could not oblige him as there was still a long queue and there was just enough for everybody. Prakash, the boy standing in front of me, noticed this.
"When his turn came, he took his share, and then quietly went near Vinay, and placed his share of the dish in Vinay’s plate. He immediately looked up in protest. Prakash, then very gently, said to Vinay, ‘Frankly, I do not like this dish. Please have it.’ When I saw this I knew that there is surely more to this story, and therefore, later, I called Prakash and asked, ‘Why did you tell a lie?’
"He said, ‘Unless I did that, I knew Vinay would not accept my share. Truly, I am more satisfied and happy seeing him happy than having the special dish.’ And believe me, I see such instances umpteen times every single day. In fact, in this hostel, it would a quite a task to find situations where one boy is not willing to help the other!”
Each Lives for the Other and All Live for God
Mr. Janardhan, the Warden of Sri Sathya Sai Junior Boys Hostel, says, “Our only objective is to inculcate love in the hearts of boys. Ours is a small world where each lives for the other and all live for God. This is our motto.
"We take care of every single need of the boys inside the hostel premises itself; they do not have to go outside for anything, whatsoever. In fact, the hostel is actually run by the boys themselves, we only guide them.”
Taking Responsibilities Instills confidence and Independence
As the school is strictly residential and the hostel is almost like their home, there is no activity of their ‘home’ in which the boys are not involved right from maintaining cleanliness of their rooms and cupboards to running the hostel kitchen, dispensary, stores, sick-ward, reading room, library and so on.
“I had never before touched a broom,” says Abhay Kini, who joined in 2007 as a student in grade XI. “But now I have learnt to sweep and I do not mind it at all. In fact, in my room, everybody volunteers to handle the broom. It is not an activity to be looked down upon. It has taught me that every task is sacred and important in its own way.”
Handy Skills - Part of Hostel Routine
“A few years ago, one of our students was traveling in a bus from Chennai to Puttaparthi,” says Mr. Venkateswarlu. “On the way, the bus met with a minor accident. Nobody was hurt but the headlights of the vehicle would not work. And it was in the middle of the night. The bus driver, understandably, refused to drive further. The passengers requested him to move slowly, but he would not relent. Then, our student who was also around, requested the driver for the toolkit.
"The next moment, he was trying to fix the headlights and he successfully accomplished it! The passengers were happy, while the driver was taken aback. He said him, ‘Do you work in some kind of a mechanic shop?’ The boy said, ‘No. I am student in Swami’s hostel. We are taught many skills. I work in the maintenance department of the hostel.’
Living in Swami’s Hostel - A Course in Management
Mr. T. M. Gopikrishna, a school alumnus currently working as a Divisional Head in Saint Gobain Glass India Ltd., says, “My involvement in various self-help activities during my stay at Swami’s hostel has developed in me a do-it-yourself attitude. Though I am a non-MBA, I have never felt inadequate in managing small business divisions largely because management is all about initiative, responsibility and participation – and all these traits unconsciously became a part of my personality by just living in Swami’s hostel.”
Hostel - A Mini World, Ideal Training Ground for Life
Just like the maintenance department, the Hostel dispensary is another section where many boys work enthusiastically. “These boys are trained and are ready to render service at any time of the day,” says Mr. Satheesh Babu. “They know how to professionally clean injuries and dress wounds. They can read temperature and blood pressure, and can identify whether a particular drug is an antibiotic or an analgesic, antipyretic or anti-inflammatory. However, they always function under the direct and complete guidance of the hostel doctor.”
Sastry of grade XII, who works in this department, says, “For me, to work in the hostel dispensary is a dream come true. I always wanted to become a doctor and this work fills me with great satisfaction. The joy I see on my brothers’ faces when I dress their wounds or clarify their doubts on drug usage or dosage, or accompany them to Swami’s hospitals whenever there is a need, is my greatest reward.”
Working closely with the hostel dispensary is the hostel sick-ward which the boys call “Delightful Dietary Services” - and for good reason. The boys working in this department share joy and love with the ones who need it the most in the hostel in a wonderful fashion. They have the opportunity to serve the sick. They go everyday to the boys who are unwell, and after enquiring about their welfare, prepare tailor-made special dishes for them. Be it breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner, they are always eager to cheer up the ailing ones. They joyfully present the food attractively and inspiring messages, and serve their sick brothers personally with a smiling face.
The Irrepressible Urge to Serve
Mr. Satheesh Babu who supervises this department, says, “I am shocked to see how boys from grade VIII to XII long to sacrifice whatever little spare time they have for others when they could have played or just relaxed. The other day when the new academic year began (in 2008), one boy, who was part of this service department when he was in grade X the previous year, came to me with the request to allow him to continue in this department. As he was not a very bright student academically, I told him, ‘You are now in XI grade and selected for the group MPC (Maths, Physics and Chemistry).
"You will now need a lot more time for your studies. So, I cannot permit you to spend time in this department. Use your time and study well. 'But the boy was insistent. ‘Sir, I want to serve, please.’ To tactically dissuade him, I said, ‘I cannot allow you unless you have permission from other teachers.’ The boy returned within minutes having obtained their consent. As a last try, I said, ‘Unless your parents are happy about this, I cannot allow you.’
"The next day, I received a call from his father who said, ‘Please give him chance to work in the sick-ward; he has learnt so much being there.’"Frankly, the boys in this department, are able to master the art of cooking many tasty dishes in a matter of months. In fact, when they go home, they surprise their parents with their preparations. But as far as this boy was concerned, he was just passionate to serve. And finally he got what he wanted, but it really set me thinking. I said to myself, ‘Where on earth would you find a place where young hearts are pleading for a chance to serve!’
“When boys leave our school and join other hostels in the course of their further education, this is a department they never forget. Just a few days ago, a former student called me and in a melancholic voice said, ‘Sir, I am sick. I cannot help but recollect how my brothers and teachers took care of me so lovingly when I was sick in Swami’s hostel. I miss you all a lot. I miss your love.’
Doing the Right Thing When No One is Watching
The draw of the Sri Sathya Sai Hostel is its compelling love energy that has its source in Bhagavan’s love. “Swami, in His own way, instills these precious values so strongly in the young minds,” says Dr. Shailesh Srivastava, and goes on to narrate one particular instance. “I know of a student who was found in the middle of the night cleaning the toilets! It was a strange coincidence that the teacher happened to visit the toilet in that late hour that day.
"He asked him, ‘Why are you doing this? There are workers to take care of it in the morning.’ The boy then put his head down and softly said, ‘Swami told the other day that we must do some service activity which is unseen by others. He said that He will reward us if we render any service when nobody is noticing us. I thought no one will see me now, and that is why I was doing it secretly.’ The teacher could see that the small boy was visibly upset for being discovered. This is how Swami creates diamonds out of dust.”
Early Start to Ceiling on Desires
The children in this hostel, at a very early age, learn how to be judicious when it comes to spending money. “The system is designed in such a way that the concept of ‘ceiling on desires’ gets embedded in their beings,” says Mr. Venkateswarlu, who manages the hostel stores along with the help of a few boys. “The singular purpose of hostel general stores is to help the boys, not earn profit. Moreover, it gives a chance to many boys working in this department to serve others. Interestingly, we have many innovative ways to see that the boys do not indulge in excessive spending. As soon as the boys join the hostel, they are given credit cards to make purchases in the hostel stores – a Rs. 50 card for every week. Only on case-to-case basis, are they given more cards whenever necessary. Therefore, the boys are always careful about spending their weekly amount, be it in fruit stall, stores, or any other expense.
"The small children in grade VIII do not like such restrictions in the beginning, but by the time they come to grade X, we have to persuade them to use their cards! One day when I asked one such boy, ‘Why don’t you buy something for yourself to eat?’ He said, ‘Sir, hostel food is good; I do not feel hungry. I do not want to spend parents’ money unnecessarily.’ ”
The impact of this spirit of simplicity, service and contentedness extends beyond the inmates of the hostel. Mr. K. Ramakrishna, the parent of Sabareesh who completed his grade XII this year, says, “During the summer holidays in 2006, when I wanted to buy him a pair of costly clothes, my son refused. He suggested that we use that amount towards social welfare, and that is how we started feeding the 70 inhabitants of a home for the mentally challenged on the first Sunday of every month. We have been doing this for 18 months now.”
Summing up what the hostel means to him, Abhay Kini, a student in grade XII, says, “In this hostel, we are not forced to be become what the system or the teachers want, rather we are wholesomely assisted to become what we aspire to be. And here, one aspires not to be great, but good.”
Uncovering the latent goodness in every child is what ‘Educare’ is all about, as Swami has often emphasized. The exemplary manner in which this enlightened concept of education is put into action greatly impacts the milieu and modus operandi of the Sathya Sai Junior Boys’ Hostel and its inhabitants.The rest of humanity has only to see, appreciate and emulate.
- Bishu Prusty
Vol 6 Issue 07 - JULY 2008
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