Campus visits by Alumni to Alike

OM SRI SAI RAM

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. It couldn’t have been truer for those of us who travelled to the Alike Campus recently to meet and interact with the girl students and teachers of the campus.

Neatly tucked away from the hustle and bustle of city life, which we have all unconsciously gotten so accustomed to, the Alike campus presented a picture of peace and stillness. The fresh air, breathtaking spans of greenery and the entire ambiance of the place was a welcome break to all of us. Four of us (Krishna Subhaga, Ranjani Sathyan, Prashanti N and Dr Sai Lakshmi) along with Dr K P Sai Leela, Chairperson of the Education Committee for Girls, made a weekend trip to Alike, leaving from Bangalore on Saturday morning. The drive was long, but the picturesque locales we had to meander through to reach the campus more than made up for any physical tiredness.

Campus History and Tour

Once we reached Alike, we were welcomed by Sri Mahendra Hegde, and Devaki aunty-sister of Late Sri Madiyal Narayan Bhatt, to Sathya Sai Vihar, the main campus in Alike. After a quick tea and snack break, we were briefed on the history of the campus by Sri Hegde. He also shared with us snapshots of Bhagawan’s visit to the campus in a helicopter in 2001. We were then taken on a guided tour of the campus, our first stop being the idol of Lord Ganesha that Bhagawan had blessed. Around 6 PM, we were ushered into the PUC prayer hall, where the boys were singing bhajans.

Our campus tour resumed once the bhajans were over. We were taken to Swami Nivas – Bhagawan’s residence and a couple of other places, before it was time for dinner.

While the dinner itself was quite delicious, what added to the entire experience was the love with which the students served us! Post dinner, we continued our tour of the campus, this time going to Bapuji Balaniketan, a hostel run exclusively for the orphan and destitute children. We were introduced to the boys there and it was a humbling experience for all of us. The boys, though disadvantaged, were cheerful, happy, and so full of love. What needs a special mention here is the cleanliness and discipline that these boys followed. Their hostel rooms, washrooms, kitchen and even the staircase were really clean, despite it being a monsoon season. We were told that the place was managed by two alumni, who too had grown up there. Sri Hegde spoke very highly of the students here and pointed that some of the boys from this institution had done really well for themselves, making all of them very proud. Who would have thought children like these would be ever given a chance at life? Indeed, the ones for whom no one is there, God is. We spoke to these children, and were simply overwhelmed with their love and innocence.

After this we called it a day and retired to our respective rooms, eagerly awaiting the new experiences the next morning would bring.

Sunday Morning – Student Interactions

We were all up early in the morning, ready for the planned itinerary of the day. The campus tour resumed once again and we were shown the swimming pool (Sathya Sai Vihar, Alike is the only campus to boast of a swimming pool among all other Sai institutions) to the classrooms and even the areca-nut and banana farms. We then went to the Smrithi Mantap, a memorial erected in fond memory of revered Anna. Sri Madiyal Narayan Bhat, or Anna, was an epitome of selflessness. He single-handedly had inspired generations of men to take up the cause of nation building through education, and was the founder of the schools in Alike and Muddenahalli. It was truly inspiring to know more about him.

We were also taken to the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital at Alike, Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Kendra- the CBSE section and the newly inaugurated Golden Jubilee building for PU students.

After breakfast, we visited the newly-established Prashanthi Niketanam Pre-University campus for girls at Madiyal, the birth place of Anna. This campus is located about six kilometers from the main campus. We reached just in time to listen to Dr Sai Leela address the girl students. Her years of experience in talking to students was obvious from the instant connect she established with the girls here. The purpose of our visit to Alike was two-fold. Firstly we wanted to interact with the staff and students in the new campus and establish a connect with them. Secondly we also wanted to connect to the alumni living in the Dakshina Kannada dist and so had requested them to join us at Alike. Six alumnae from Mangalore and Puttur joined us that morning. After the morning bhajans, we were introduced to the students by their principal, Lakshmi Madam.

We then spoke to the students, taking turns in sharing with them the intent of our visit. Soon, the interactive sessions began, and it was a learning experience for each one of us. The first speaker was sister Ranjani Sathyan. She gave a presentation –Responsible Living on environmental awareness, conservation of water and energy, minimizing usage of plastic and importance of afforestation. Students were encouraged to do most of the talking so that session is more informal. Dr Sai Lakshmi then spoke on the importance of personal health and hygiene. A couple of challenges faced by the girls were discussed and ideas to resolve them were exchanged.

  The local alumnae who had joined us for the day then spoke to girls. Sister Shilpa G Achar took the girls through a ten-minute guided meditation and taught them an action song on the I to We to He theme. The other sisters –  Sudha Bhat, her daughter Harshini Bhat, Manisha Salian, Sai Prarthana and Divya Kote then introduced themselves. Each of them shared with everyone their experiences of personal transformation and Bhagawan’s love that they have experienced as students, and how they connected to His subtle form and continue to receive the same love even today.

This was followed by a lunch break. This time around, we took the opportunity to serve the girls. Post lunch, we were taken around the Madiyal House, which is currently serving as the girls’ hostel. It was both inspiring and endearing to see how well the girls had adjusted themselves, out of their comfort zones, most of them being in the hostel for the first time.

The afternoon session commenced soon, and we encouraged the students to interact with us this time. The girls were asked to share their hostel experiences. While it took a while for them to warm up, the session gathered steam as the day progressed. While some girls shared some of their humorous experiences in the hostel, some spoke about the challenges. We even discovered many a hidden talents in the group – some were good singers and sang a couple of keerthanas and other songs; there was also a tablist and even a Saxophone player!

On popular demand, sister Krishna shared her personal experiences with Bhagawan. Sister Prashanti and Dr Sai Lakshmi followed next, both sharing their journey to Swami and the lessons they learnt.

The local alumnae took the responsibility of conducting regular sessions with the girls on vedam, bhajan singing and academics. The session ended with group photographs, etching the memories of the day forever.

Once the students had left the hall for a tea break, the visiting alumnae along with the local alumnae had an informal discussion, to conclude the day’s events and highlight key areas that needed focus.

Swami’s message to alumni and the guidance that He had given in recent sessions at Muddenahalli were shared to rest of the group. They also allocated roles and responsibilities to ensure that these visits continue either fortnightly or on a monthly basis. Achievable targets were set and plans were made to take it forward.

 

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