By Achyut Gopal Das
"Life is like a game of tennis - in order to win, you have to serve well."
For two consecutive years, 2011 and 2012, we organised a contest for the school children across Goa called Gita Champions League (Henceforth referred to as GCL). We had a massive success with 3800 children participating the first year and 8600 children participating the second year. But, all this didn't come easily, we had to literally slog it out. Well, for that matter nothing wonderful comes easily, does it!
THE BURDEN OF LOVE
I took up GCL or rather GCL came to me at a time when I was going through intense personal struggles on literally every front - physically, mentally and institutionally. Yes, I was desperately praying for a service that could literally pull me out of the quagmire of my problems. I have always believed and witnessed the power of service. Service has always saved me in difficult times. The only reason, I am intact in my spiritual life despite the numerous challenges is because I always took shelter of the principle of service. It has never failed me.
My friend, Anant Shayan Prabhu and myself spearheaded the GCL. I have managed and organised many events but this was a herculean task by every angle. When we started GCL, we didn't know that we would get such overwhelming response from the schools. What we thought would be a small task turned out to be a massive operation. The entire execution right from the start till the end lasted for nearly 5 months. For those 5 months, we didn't know the difference between day and night. We literally worked like mad sometimes to the point of exhaustion. But, we loved each part of it. It was definitely a burden but because we were doing it selflessly, we felt it as a burden of love. This burden gave us more pleasure than pain.
THE INTOXICATION OF GIVING
For the first year, we spent a lot of time planning because we were doing something that we had never done before with no prior experience and no proper support. We only had faith that Krishna would help us. After preparing a mental blueprint, the first step was to put the concept of the whole contest in the form of a simple but effective pamphlet to be given to the children. The next part was the most difficult. We had to visit different schools, convince the principals of the schools and then with their permission talk to the children about the importance of understanding Bhagavad-Gita and participating in this unique contest. We would either go class to class and talk to the children or appeal to the entire school in their assemblies. Interacting with children was the best part of the entire GCL experience. I really loved it. Interacting with and convincing children about connecting to our spiritual heritage is an amazing experience. I realized that, most children have a dormant attraction for spirituality and a principle based living - they only need the right guidance in an appealing manner for them to make that connect.
After our short but "to the point" presentation, the students would be super excited to enroll for the contest. In some schools, we got an 100% response - the entire school participated. Seeing the response of children was such an intoxication that we covered more than 150 schools across Goa in less than a month. We were literally crazy about this event. We visited every remote school in every remote village. We didn't want any child to miss this opportunity. Our trouble was a small price to connect even a single child to the message of Gita. We were missionaries on a mission to help children make the connection with the vision of Gita.
THE JOY IN STRUGGLE
I had gone to such an extent that with the help of one of my friend, I designed a customized software based on SQL to track all the scores and details of every child. It was a full proof system. Report of the score could be generated in any format desired. But, it wasn't easy either. I had to feed manually feed in all the details of every child without a single mistake. I couldn't outsource this job to anyone else because a small mistake meant a big flaw in the results.
After all the campaigning, and persistent following up with schools and getting the students enrolled, it was time to set the question paper and get it printed. This part was a little easy. Thanks to the few volunteers who did a fabulous job in this regard.
Then, it was time for us to plan the conduction of the exam. We made 50 schools in different parts of Goa as the examination centers because we didn't want to inconvenience the children by making them travel far. The exams had to be conducted on the same day and the same time parallely. We had planned it like the Board of Education plans the board exam. We allocated a center in-charge who would have many supervisors under him or her, who would in turn supervise each class. In some centers, we had as many as 20+ supervisors. We made packets of the question paper and answer sheet along with special atractive gifts to be given to the children, dispatched a day before to all the centers. We were all set for the examination day.
THE TEARS OF JOY
I was very excited and a little nervous on that day even though we had done a thorough job. A lot of responsibility lied on my shoulder. I had to oversee the smooth operation of all the centers along with personally managing an examination center at Porvorim. What I got to witness on this day was the gift for all the strenuous efforts we put in. On the day of the exam, I saw children come in large numbers few hours before the allotted time for the exam with Bhagavad-Gita in their hands, scrutinizigly studying it. It was the perfection of eyes to see this sight. I was feeling extremely grateful and thankful to the Lord for being chosen as a small instrument in this great mission of connecting the heart's of children to the wisdom of Bhagavad-Gita - giving them access to the true education. Whether they understood much or not, whether they won a prize or not, for me each one of them was a winner who made a bold start on their spiritual journey. This sight was so overwhelming that my eyes went moist. I felt that this was the success of GCL.
THE LIFELINE OF LIFE
After the examination was over, our job was not yet over. We had to correct all the papers, announce the results to the schools and then had to plan a gala prize distribution program. The whole process, lasted for few months but every part of it was a feast for the soul. I have learnt in life that hard work is never tiring if you have a great purpose. And what greater purpose than to selflessly serve others. Conducting GCL for two consecutive years is something I will relish throughout my life. We stretched ourselves beyond our limits but not in vain. We gained a lot. We gained the opportunity to serve, gained an opportunity to please the Lord, gained the opportunity to witness miracles first hand, gained blessings of so many people, gained tremendous enthusiasm and energy, gained deep bonding with whom we worked, gained great management skills, gained confidence, gained deep wisdom and gained a deep sense of satisfaction. So much is the gain for the little pain of engaging in service. I believe in embracing services however big and challenging it may seem. That's where real adventure is, that's where real joy is and that's where real life is. Life means service and no service means no life. Service is our lifeline. Give yourself fully to service and you will receive more than your expectation. As they say - in giving, we receive. And that's the purpose of life - to live a life of purpose.
So, the next time you come across an opportunity to serve, grab it or if none is around, create one because without it, our life has no much value.