It is an extremely moving occasion, and a great privilege for me to be here today to celebrate and recognize excellence at the school, in memory of women very dear and special to me. Although many long years have passed since I finished higher secondary from LIS, I remain deeply loyal and grateful to the school for the great foundation and wonderful education I received here. It is also significant that this education was in a non-elitist environment and for an extremely nominal fee.
It is a dream come true for me, to come back and to share what this school meant to me and what it inspired me to do today!
I am very grateful to Mrs. Kashyap, the teachers and the Lady Irwin School Alumni Association, especially, Mrs. Meenakshi Verma and Ms. Anita Bembey, for working diligently to make this possible.
I would also like to thank Wellesley College for the excellent opportunity to continue my education.
The awards recognize academic and extra curricular achievements, and include art, music and dance, so important to the human spirit. The students are from each class..from little girls in class 1, starting their exploration, to young ladies in class 12, poised on the edge of an important phase of their life. In addition, the awards list includes students form the last class 12, now in college. My congratulations to each of them.
Since excellence is not limited to only a few, and has many dimensions, these awards are intended to be encouragement prizes to many students, instead of a few big prizes given to only a few girls. I am so pleased to see so many wonderfully accomplished students and see the potential for continued future achievements.
“Dhiyo yo nah pracodayat”
That is the school’s motto from the sacred Gayatri mantra of the Rig Veda.
“Om bhur bhuvah swaha
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yo nah pracodayat”
May our minds be illuminated. To me, this profound illumination is of the whole being of mind and heart and is a secular concept. It is most reflected in excellence as a human being, where differences of race, religion, gender, caste economic and social differences have absolutely no bearing.
This excellence is in knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the strength to choose the right action. At times, in Tagore’s words,
“Jodi tor dak shune keyu na ashe
Tobe ekla cholo re”
If no one comes in response to your call, the go on alone!
Excellence of the heart is very precious, as manifested in kindness, caring & compassion, tempered with judgment; karuna in Buddhism. Of course, Mother Theresa was a totally exceptional and supreme personification of that.
In this context, in the words of Ahmad Faraz, one of the greatest modern Urdu poets of the 20th century
“Shikvaye zulmate shab se to yahi behtar tha
Apne hisse ki koyi shama jalate jate”
Instead of complaining about the darkness of the night, it would be better to light your share of some illumination.
Raat ke………jalate jate
Shama & illumination
Imagine a room full of people where all is dark. Then one person is fortunate enough to get a candle, and there is light and hope. But, when that person is not there, the glow and hope are lost. However, if the light has been shared with others, soon the whole room is full of glowing lights and remains so, and the sharing & passing on of light & hope continue to be luminous!
I am here because of the many shamas shared with me over many years and being given chances. It is my ardent hope that there will be several resonances, glows and reflections of shama, jyoti and illuminations, in many aspects of your lives….for you, within you, around you, and by you for the lives of those you touch, directly and otherwise. And, that, now, and perhaps in some distant future, their glimmer and echoes will nourish and enrich many lives.
I would like to end with a Bengali poem by the great Rabindranath Tagore, the great Bengali literary talent. It is very beautiful and lyrical with exquisite and delicate imagery, with an expression of inner strength.
“Je Gondho………………pare dhorite”
The fragrance which trembles near the flower’s heart
That song which is hidden in the dawn’s light
That glow which dances in winter’s wheat
In every ray, the green which laughs
With that fragrance, has my being been sculpted
That song, a new world has within me created
That glow casts reflections on my eyes
Within my inner being, who can hold me back?
Jo sugandh………kaun rok sakta he