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Love and Light

Youth Wing - Sathya Sai Leadership Training Programme Outward Bound Weekend

On Friday 14 September, after work, we made our way to Upminster in Essex, where we were to have our latest SSLTP weekend session, but this time it was to incorporate outdoor activities in addition to the normal modular lessons.

The time spent in the classroom on both days was led by brother Sri Kandiah, ably assisted by the SSLTP Committee, led by Deviesh Tankaria. The highlight of the classroom sessions was an interesting scenario where we each assumed the role of someone wanting to start a business or other new community venture and we were being interviewed by a bank manager for a financial loan required to progress the venture. The bank manager role was enacted by Dushyanthan Selvaratnam, lovingly called Dushy. It was very imaginative, challenging, and interesting. This was followed by a revision session led by Sri where we went through all the salient features of what we had previously learnt, really helping us to polish-up lessons from earlier sessions.

But the usual weekend’s events were virtually overtaken by some breathtaking outdoor activities on both beautiful and sunny days. Though we knew there were going to be some outdoor activities, lips were being sealed and none knew the details until the last moment as to what those activities were. Being the youngest (!) within the cohort, I was happily dreaming of playing some ball games, running around or playing a little with the river like I did when as a child...but what we went through was completely different and was one of the most challenging but exciting, excellent events I had ever experienced since 1971 (when I went for similar training to get my first job)!

On the Saturday, we were asked to gather in front of our lodge in loose and comfortable outdoor clothing and eventually formed three teams: male candidates; female candidates and Committee members. After being shown a heap of plastic barrels, piles of short wooden planks and bundles of strong nylon ropes, it became clear: our task was to plan and build a raft using the above mentioned materials and then paddle around the lake. We were given roughly an hour to complete the entire task.

At this point, members of our team looked at each other wondering where and how to start, when one candidate, Yatin Mistry, began to unravel the perceived mystery by suggesting how we could build the raft. Motivated by this, many useful suggestions from all the others then started pouring forth. Without dispute, we accepted Yatin’s suggestions along with others and began building the raft. I sincerely believed Swami was responding to our prayers and working through Yatin and the rest of the team to accomplish the given task: at this point all of us became leaders as well as team members, leading and learning from each other as well as managing and guiding each other. We successfully completed the raft, ready and fit for floating.

Our team was now at the edge of the lake and was ready to float the raft having carried it to that point. We also assigned each member according to weight and height, to be equally distributed on the raft. Then the tricky part was to sit tight and not move as the plastic barrels were rolling around on their own when we moved our hips. Some of us, including me, fell head first straight in the water and got completely soaked! Regardless, this strengthened my resolve to complete the task. We slowly moved forward, paddling to the tune and timing of chanting our beloved Lord’s name: “Aum Sri Sai Ram.” The paddling was excellent as all were very well coordinated and we managed to manoeuvre the raft around a pole in the water and successfully returned to the lake’s edge within the allocated time.

Whilst we were dismantling our raft, we noticed that the other teams were still struggling either to build their rafts or paddle their rafts on the water; however the most important aspect was they were all trying hard and giving their best shot.

We returned to a lively dinner served for us by the Committee during which time we also shared the happy moments of a young couple who were marking their first wedding anniversary on the Saturday, Laavanya and Ruthra Nagendran. Well, it was a good excuse to eat some delicious vegetarian cake!

The Sunday saw us gathered around at another end of the lake, where we saw a strong rope running across the lake of around 30 to 40m in length. We were shown a pile of thick and strong ropes with hooks and pulleys, a plastic and cloth chair with a top pulley-hook and more ropes and two strong ten feet long wooden pillars. Divided this time into two teams (male and female), our task this time was to plan and prepare a way of crossing the lake with each one seated on the chair, until all team members were on the other side. Once again, two team members, Yatin and Punit Ghumra, along with Ajay Pankhania and others, came up with the correct plan. From Saturday’s experience, we unanimously selected Yatin as our team leader, assisted by Punit.

The plan was to hook the chair onto the main rope that ran across the lake and connections were made so that the chair could be pulled back for the next one to cross the river. The first one to cross, however, also had an arduous task because as he reached the other side, there would be none to pull him to the shores and support him to get onto the wooden landing platform. Also he had to pull the rope across on his own to cross the river. Ajay Pankhania from the SSLTP Committee volunteered to be first and cross the river unsupported at the other end, which he did with great gusto, in spite of being dropped low and getting a good dip in the water! After this challenging aspect of the task, everyone crossed one by one. The one to cross last had a similarly arduous task as there were none to pull him through and he had to pull himself. Yatin took up this challenge: I felt this was an example of the leader ensuring his team was safe and sound before taking the plunge. The other teams too completed this adventure with lots of joy and happiness.

In my humble opinion, this was living proof of what I had so far learnt out from the course: (a) manage or lead yourself well before you can manage or lead others; (b) trusting God without doubt is like trusting yourself; (c) be positive and courageous, else you can never realise your own courage, capabilities and levels of endurance; (d) energy becomes synergy when everyone in the team thinks and acts together towards the same goal and what you can achieve is really unbelievable and beyond imagination; (e) believe in yourself, else others will not believe in you; (f) be strong, physically and mentally, but be humble; and (g) take failures as your steps towards success: never give-up.

Thank you SSLTP for the opportunity and thank You Swami for Your guidance and guardianship.

With humble, loving pranams
Raj Selvakumar, SSLTP Cohort 2012