It has been 4 years since we began the journey of Vidyakshetra. Current holidays and the lockdown has given me some good time to reflect a little as to why we started Vidyakshetra and the principles on which we want it to run.
Here is my background and a brief story of how Vidyakshetra was born.
I hail from a middle-class joint family where seven of us lived together- my grandparents, my parents, two brothers, and l. At home, we always had enough to eat and also a little to spare for the birds and the dog on the road. With my father having his 4 sisters married off and well settled, festivals and marriages always saw a lot of extended family’s participation. I always saw my father riding a two-wheeler and so I grew with a dream of buying a car for my family, which I did fulfill as soon as I started earning. During my growing up years, my grandfather left a very deep impression on me. He was a very religious and pious man. He would wake up early, do his morning walk, abhyanga, aarti, have his breakfast and leave for work. It was my daily duty to apply oil on his back. I did this happily every day till I left for Bangalore at the age of 22. Babaji, as we lovingly called him, was full of energy and worked till he was in his late eighties and was a self-made man. Every evening, he would return from his work by the local DTS (Delhi Transport Service) bus, with a bag full of fresh vegetables and fruits that he would have bought enroute sabzi mandi, where he changed his bus. I would go daily to the bus stop, a km away from our home to help Babaji by carrying the bag for him and accompany him back home. My grandmother would cut the fruits and lay it for all of us. We would happily eat fresh fruits every evening. Then, Babaji would do evening aarti. We would all watch television for sometime before dinner and sleep. Babaji would always go for a walk with my grandmother after dinner.
My exposure to piety and religion was early, but I was never exposed to the dimension of spiritual practice, Dharma, reading scriptures, and अध्यात्म. It was at the age of 29, when i went to Germany, I got introduced to the dimension of अध्यात्म when I first read Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam; my sincere gratitude to Srila Prabhupad and ISKCON. Subsequently, at the age of 33, I got introduced to the field of education and moved back to India in early 2011. It took me another two years to narrow down further, that within education space I would like to be a teacher. A very powerful feeling, which helped me quit my Mindtree job in May 2013 and take up teaching in a school in Bangalore. In January 2012, I met Smt. Indumati Katdare in IIT Mumbai- a meeting that gave direction to my thoughts and also gave me a purpose worth living for. For the first time, I heard words like Dharma and Bhartiyata and I also learnt from her that these are not mere words to be intellectualized but to be put into practice. A friend once told me, “you need to give your life to get a purpose”. I felt blessed to have found my life’s purpose. The same year, I met another inspiration- Shri Ravindra Sharmaji (also known as Guruji), who always sported an unassuming (Sahaj) persona. Hearing from him, I learnt many invaluable lessons in grama vyavastha, samaj vyavastha, shiksha vyavastha and saundarya drishti.
Another turning point for me during my work in Mindtree was the induction of more than 2200 campus recruits in Mindtree in the year 2012-13. Upon speaking with many of them, it was a revelation to see only a handful of students really wanted to be engineers and more than 95% plus took up engineering either to earn money or to enjoy life in big cities like Bangalore, Delhi or even better to go abroad. Guruji’s words rang in my ear, “भारत मैं जीने की शिक्षा नहीं, जीवन की शिक्षा थी” which means integrated and connected education. In words of Indu Tai, संपूर्ण शिक्षा is education that connects the student with व्यष्टि (family, as family is the smallest unit), समष्टि (Samaj, society), सृष्टि (Environment, nature), परमेष्टि (Parmatma, Bhagwan, God). What a failure of education to have lakhs of students coming out of thousands of colleges but not knowing what they really want to do! A well-know saying goes- ‘when you don’t stand for something, you fall for everything’. No surprise we see our youth falling prey to modernity and materialism without knowing the cost they, their families, society and inadvertantly the whole nation is paying for it.
Intense study and preparation ensued in the subsequent 4 years. By 2016, we had visited at least 20 different traditional and modern alternative schools, communities & agriculture projects across India, met many educationists, scholars and read many related books. It was astonishing to see countless global and international schools mushrooming all across India, many alternate schools also functioning, but only a few of them were rooted in Bharatiya samskruti and even fewer were laid in today’s context or addressed the current & future needs of children. On one end of the spectrum were the modern global and international schools successfully killing the cultural, family roots, and the learning spirit of the child, and on other we had Vedic schools chosen by a handful. Equally concerning was the fact that most of the modern schools were unknowingly training children to remain superficial and not go deep in their learning, be result driven and not learning centered. They were subjecting children to constant performance pressure and encouraging rivalry. Values we would otherwise despise in our personal lives, we were teaching our children by paying heavy fees.
Inspired by the teachings of Indu Tai and Guruji, I dreamt of working on creating an education model- imparting our rich tradition, values, culture and above all character to children - education rooted in Bharatiya jeevan drishti, which then can be replicated to become mainstream education in India. Education that will shift the center of living from centralised urban to decentralized rural. I was also inspired to create a possibility for our future generation to find what they really want to do (their वृत्ति) during their education and not chance upon that possibility accidentally during their 30’s or 40’s. My wife, Preethi and I, along with some more team members started Vidyakshetra in the year 2016, on the auspicious day of Guru Poornima.
It has been a great learning journey until now in which many wonderful people have joined hands and now share our vision. I thank all the teachers and parents of Vidyakshetra, who have lived this dream, supported the Vidyalaya at each step, and continue to move forward in the noble direction with us in our endevour to make Bhartiya Shiksha the mainstream education of Bharat.
I pray to Krishna for His blessings upon all the children, parents, and teachers of Vidyakshetra.
In your service