Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Last Lecture

“Why you have come all over from America to serve the country?” someone asked. “So that you can ask me this question” Anand Shah answered and this is how our last lecture in the training institute on a rainy Saturday morning began. It was the last time 144 of us were together after the valuable bonding of 5 weeks. Something powerful could only hold our attention as we long for celebrations (read as nostalagia) of our last day. And Anand’s mesmerizing talk immersed us completely for next 120 minutes.

Anand Shah told us his story. He was born and educated in US and has come back now to contribute in establishing a Higher Education Institute in India. Read more about Anand here 

Our first mental stimulant: Legitamize the idea of serving your country!
It is usually funny to tell I am here to serve my country. Nobody talks like that! Why?
Anand Shah threw a question in IIM-Ahmedabad once “Why were IIM, IIT established?”. The answer is “The founders of our Nation knew that we need world-class engineers and managers to build the nation. So, the idea was to create a force which SERVES THE NATION. He asked the IIM crowd again “Do you know how many people paid for you to come here? Many people, for whose villages had to be built, paid by establishing these institutes by sacrificing what they deserved. So I ask you would you like to volunteer for one year of your life to serve your country and contribute in building it because that is what the purpose of the institute you are in. Don’t you think you should pay-off?” No hand rose.
Even at Teach for India we don’t hear these kind of answers a lot. People are hesitant to say “I am here to serve my Nation”.
Why serving the nation is such a hard idea after all?

Our Second mental stimulant : The world is so fast that there is no point having an urge to go behind where everyone is going
“Why people go to IIT-IIM or Why over 6-7 lakh people compete for IIT-JEE and CAT every year?”
“Why someone who joined Lehman Brothers in 2005 got assured that his life is set and later found himself in the crisis in 2008”
Following the herd might be the right thing to do or say it better safe thing to do. To compete and reach to be in top 1% brings out the aspirations. People want to be more than what they are and they just go through the usual psychology of following the herd and work hard to be at the top of that.
Going against the herd might not be the smart thing to do always. But going with the herd has one serious disadvantage:

Our Third Mental Stimulant : Herd follows consumption.
Successful moments are those in which you are a producer. The blunt truth of following the herd is that you are consuming opportunities that others are producing. But when you are a producer you create a value nobody else is even thinking about.
“Why if there is a tree in a middle of road, you have to drive around it?”
The tree makes it presence feel.
Mahatma Gandhi might be an old school of thought but he stood like that tree. Steve Jobs might be a modern school of thought and he creates a value no one else was even thinking about. They stood for what they believe in These people are producers.
Who remembers who was Vice-President of Golman Sachs in Mumbai three years ago or the Head of Maruti Suzuki ten years ago. But people will remember Gandhi and Steve Jobs.
When you have a handful oh wheat grains in your hand, you have two options – send them to mill and once they are grinded you cannot tell what’s what or re-grow them and you will find a new value created if nurtured properly.

The fourth mental stimulant : The litmus test
Every morning when you wake up and look in the mirror, can you say “I am doing the right job.” Will we, the trained teachers, after 60 days be able to say that? Will I be able to know always in middle of my class “Why am I doing what I am doing?’

Will I always have a moment of being a producer for next two years for 40 students I teach? There are very big questions that we will be confused about in next two years.

For 144 of us, the moment of reckoning has come.


  1. It's hard to find people who actually can say "they work to serve the country." Probably, not even those working in the government organisations can't say that. But, its always delightful to find some who do.
    I am glad I read this article.

  2. you ask questions.. awesomeness!!!

  3. Let Anand Shah know that,"Very few IIT's and IIM's attendees and Alumni and all are in reality interested in --- IDEA OF GIVING BACK TO INDIA,rather than raking the most possible MONEY on ABROAD soil." That's whats been happening since the past decade, 92% young-achievers went abroad for it was boom-time monetarily, then came that moementary OBAMA lull wherein he scrapped 50,000 American jobbers. They came back to start,"A new BRITISH-Babus-raj",sic...Foreign expat-academia ruling now in think-tank India. How can you,even expect the basics of service that Gandhiji--Vinoba Bhave,once espoused.
    Now,its no wonder that most of us shed--crocodile tears on the condition of Indian Education and Voluntary Work? Haven't we lost our ancient Vedic Wisdom glory and Mindset, where is "Vasudaiva-Kutumbakam," being applied !! We all have changed into, wolves in sheep's clothing. Morality gone down the drains. Rationality only on sale for monetary consideration given by big corporates and multi-nationals. Indeed Indian-mindset in young-achievers category has undergone wider transformation without conscience ?

  4. I agree to you when you say that youth has been going abroad. Don't mind my saying but ask a youth how painful it is to stay outside home country for long, and in how much pain the soul is despite the materialistic comfort. Youth is like a budding flower, it is still not strong enough to jump in the difficult life of a social activist or settle for ordinary when it is getting an extraordinary opportunity - it takes lot of courage and clear thinking to deviate from the herd mentality...As Anand Shah said it is also not the safe thing to do always...And I think that is why platforms like Teach for India are needed. When Wendy Kopp started Teach for America two decades back, her analysis was that organizations that come to recruit in campuses offers finance, consulting kind of job roles. That's what the youth gets and that is what it accepts. Now when TFI goes to campus, youth is applying and joining TFI. That's practical patriotism. Give youth that! And Trust me it is not always monetary a youth works for and nor youth's morality is corroded. The youth doesn't know how to walk the unknown path and it chooses a safe and a known path for self and family. You really cannot blame youth for everything, stimulate their minds and they will make learn to make decisions in favor of their country.