On the afternoon of 3 March, the sacred grounds of Sri Badrika Ashram were abuzz with the excited chatter of over 250 participants who had arrived to participate in ‘Aarohan’ – Scaling Greater Heights, the first annual meetup of the students and mentors of the SBA Emerging Youth Scholarship and Mentorship Scheme (SBA- EYSMS).
Padma Shri, Shri Yogeshwar Dutt ji, well known for his Olympic, Commonwealth, and Asian games medals was the Chief Guest. The esteemed participants included dignitaries like Prof P.L Sharma (Director UIT, HPU Shimla), Professor Rajendra Kumar Sharma (Vice Chancellor, JUIT), Dr Molly Abraham (St. Bede’s College), Sunita Thakur (Chairperson, Sheds Solan), and Dr Balbinder Singh Pathania (Chairman, Dronacharya PG College). Over 250 participants attended the event.
Aarohan encapsulates the spirit of the SBA EYSMS, which aims to support meritorious youth, especially girls, to scale greater heights professionally. After months of online interaction, mentoring and English language learning, Aarohan provided a physical platform for mentors and mentees to interact. Though the event was scheduled for three days, from 3rd March to 5th March, it was evident that a lot of forethought and preparation was already underway by the core team under the benevolent gaze of Sri Hari.
After acquainting themselves with the premises of the Ashram, the students gathered at the temple of Sri Hari for the evening aarti. The resonating sound of aarti filled the atmosphere with divinity. The entire milieu of people gathered in the temple’s precincts was mesmerized by the beautiful smile of Sri Hari, which filled their hearts to the brim.
The organizing team had gone to great lengths to make everyone feel comfortable on their first visit to Ashram. After a scrumptious dinner, the students gathered in the state of art meditation hall to participate in a host of interesting ice-breaking activities. The games included ‘Chinese whispers’, ‘Passing the ball’, ‘Spider web’ and ‘Fruit salad’, all of which required a great deal of team spirit and coordination to win. Both the students and the mentors thoroughly enjoyed the games, and the excitement was palpable in the hall. The activities winded up with expectations in the air that there was more to come the next morning.
The morning meditation session conducted by Sadhvi Vrinda Om was one of the most beautiful starts to the day. Seated in front of the magnanimous Sri Hari, the students took in the serenity of the early morning as Sadhvi ji gently guided them into a beautiful, heart-touching meditation by making them visualize their mothers. The sheer power and intensity of the meditation brought tears to the eyes of a number of students. Sadhvi ji reminded the students that ‘jiska koi nahi hota, unke bhagwan hote hein.’(if you think you are alone, never forget that God is always there) Many students professed to feel the caress of their mother and her gentle embrace. This reassurance was all one needed in the tumultuous world that we live in.
The next event was organized at the Meditation Hall, which was buzzing with energy. The auspicious lamp was lit to signify the beginning of the ceremony. Ravi Trivedi, the program lead, acquainted the audience with the history and the vision of the SBA Scholarship and Mentorship programme through a well-crafted video. The other related information sections envisaging the objectives and achievements were presented, such as Mentoring, the English Language and Communication classes and Placements.
Exemplary students who had secured top ranks in their respective institutions from colleges across Himachal Pradesh were recognized for their outstanding performances. The mentors shared their insights on how to succeed professionally and the importance of forming professional connections and networks. It was gratifying to listen to young scholars who expressed their gratitude for the scholarship program. One of the students, Priyanshu Choudhary, spoke of how the programme helped her overcome her fear of conversing in English.
After a short refreshment break, the students gathered back in the Meditation Hall for a Social Media and Mental Health session conducted by the program team. They touched on important aspects of social media usage, including the ‘dangers of addiction,’ ‘mindful usage’, and online ethical practices. Laced with humour and relatable anecdotes, the session was highly interactive. Several students shared how they were making a positive impact through social media platforms, and there was a lot to learn from each other.
Students also had a one-on-one session with their mentors to discuss their challenges and receive guidance. Several students remarked how it was wonderful to meet in person and interact with one another after online sessions. In their words, “ We wish the meet could be organized every six months or earlier.”
The highlight of the day was the presence of 2012 Olympic Bronze medallist Padma Shri Yogeshwar Dutt, who was the Chief Guest for the event. A special fireside chat was organized with the inspiring athlete, and he floored everyone with his simplicity and humility and inspired the students to work hard and follow their dreams. When asked about which medal was his favourite, without missing a beat, he replied, “all of them. Every win is a result of immense effort and sacrifice.”
Mr Dutt was also asked how an athlete realizes when they are being overconfident, and to this, he replied – “failure is all that is needed to remind you of your overconfidence.”
By the end of the session, it was evident that everyone present there had gathered enough food for thought for the day, but more was in store.
A special Treasure Hunt was organized for the students, with hints placed all across the ashram premises. Combining quick thinking with fast running, the students scoured the place to find clues leading them to the final reward.
The basket would be empty without the divine pourings of one who pervades eternity. As the evening rolled in, brilliant students and the hardworking team members of the SBA EYSMS were ready for the most cherished moment of the entire event – a photograph with Swamiji. Right on time, He walked in, bestowing his vision on the eager souls.
The discourse was laced with subtle humour and distinct insights. Swamiji spoke of the tussle that exists in the external and the internal world. Going against the popular notion of maintaining a “work-life balance”, he stressed the importance of working extremely hard, especially in the second decade of one’s life. “If you want work-life balance in your 20s, your entire life will be in imbalance.”
Calling it the era of ‘specialists’, he said that today there is no dearth of opportunities for the one who has mastered their craft. With the power of the internet, all forms of knowledge are now at one’s fingertips. His main message to the students was that the tussle between good and bad will always exist.“You can either choose to while away your time now or dedicate yourself to your craft so that in the future, you can live your life on your own terms. Self-discipline and committing to your goals are exceedingly important.”
Swamiji also shared that reading and saving are two important habits that would prove to be beneficial throughout one’s lifetime.
Students had some pressing questions to ask Swamiji about his decision to leave behind his immense material success, His truth and even concerning difficulties that lie in the spiritual path for women. The answers left the audience with thoughts to introspect and contemplate. Swamiji also gave out certificates to the toppers who had bagged the first positions in their college and acknowledged the key mentors of the SBA Emerging Youth Scholarship and Mentoring Scheme. The evening ended with a grand prayerful celebration with hymns sung by Him.
The fun-filled day was not ever yet. After a delicious dinner, the students participated in the Talent Show, which saw an array of great performances. From Pahadi(from the mountains) dance to Yoga performances, from Shayaris(Urdu poetry) to Songs and Art Exhibitions, the students expressed their creative pursuits with grace and confidence.
On the final day of the session, Vikram Shastry, CEO of Black Lotus, conducted a special meditation session for the students, which evoked ‘lateral thinking.’ He then spoke of the four aspects of the mind, namely: Thought generation, Attention, Imagination and Memory. Drawing parallels with the Bangalore traffic, he threw light on the working of the mind and how its functioning could be enhanced through a dedicated meditation practice of fewer than ten minutes a day. The session ended with a beautiful visualization meditation which left the participants feeling relaxed and brimming with positivity.
After an exclusive session of interaction with the Mentees and Scholarship students, the programme inched towards its end. Everybody had beautiful memories to carry back along with their luggage. For young scholars, it was definitely a life-changing experience as they were not only exposed to a world outside theirs but also to impactful sessions that inspired them to scale greater heights. The meet was packed with everything needed to set out on the path to success!
SBA-EYSMS sincerely thanks its donors, mentors, and team members for their relentless hours of volunteering.
Volunteers do not necessarily have the time. They have the heart.
From the Press Release: Sri Badrika Ashram’s Emerging Youth Scholarship and Mentorship Scheme is for meritorious underprivileged students of Himachal Pradesh. With an outlay of over Rs 1.6 crores, this is the largest private scholarship scheme in the state. The SBA-EYSMS has tied up with over 28 leading colleges and universities in the state, including IIT Mandi, NIT Hamirpur, IGMC Shimla, HP University, JPUIT, and St Bede’s. In 2022-23 alone, over 245 students from various streams were awarded scholarships, of which 70% are girls and 75% are from rural schools.
The comprehensively designed scholarship scheme also has English classes conducted at the foundation and intermediate levels, a placement cell that counsels students in career opportunities and further education, and a mentorship cell. Over 140 students have benefited from the mentorship of 51 experts from various fields.