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Varun Vidyarthi
Varun Vidyarthi

Varun Vidyarthi

Director with an organisation devoted to rural development in India

Manavodaya

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More about myself
The description above is a simplified or shall we say glorified version of the struggles and pains that we, my wife Amla and myself, had to undergo in the search for answers to meaningful transformation of rural India. Now,after thirty five years we know that it can be done. We therefore engage ourselves most of the time in training and guiding young persons.
Qualities needed to become a successful leader
>Vision: To put it another way Why am I doing what I am doing.
>Guts: To do what one wants to do despite adversities.
>Humility: Nothing meaningful is possible without being humble.
Constantly looking within to overcome biases and prejudices. I can list more. But this would be a good start.
My family background
My father had a clerical job in Calcutta. He could not send me to a good school in the absence of money. But in my school we had a good mathematics teacher. So I got admission in IIT. There is nothing much to say about the family background except that we lived with meagre resources.
Couple of years from now
I see myself melting into the larger consciousness immersed in the process of guiding youth to transform India and achieve what we are meant for as a civilization.
Thoughts on Education system of our country
Education is one sided. It does not contribute towards full understanding of life. In the rural sector, there is practically no education except that promoted by spirited individuals in pockets. There has to be massive program for training of teachers in knowledge, skills and attitudes in the rural sector. Multiple skills,I can describe later.In higher education, there has to be a process of combining theory with practice. I call it the Integral education. It has to start with the teachers.
Degree that I recommend
As an IITian, it helped in early confidence and in developing a certain approach to life. But soon I realized that I have to go beyond, where degrees become immaterial.
Initiative to develop a country
Share consciousness, skills and plain empathy with people, especially the poor. Be there, don't just give.If you are unable to share time,give to someone who is doing something sustainable. The process should build human resources at the grassroots. It is possible. The youth can transform the country, but there is no one to guide. Identify and support genuine change agents.
Ensuring success
Constant vigilance and self reflection for self development. As an institute, we have a lovely campus in Lucknow that is the hub of transformational courses. I am trying to build it into an institute where educated rural youth can be trained in transforming their villages through self help and empowerment. Also trying to share the idea with the corporate world to get support for these facilitators of change.
Important lesson learned
Difficult to work with the government, yet it is important to work with them. After all it is our government. Real change outside does not come without inner change. We have to make a sincere effort to change our-self. It is not easy.
My strongest skill
Motivating persons to combine inner and outer growth using my own example. It works.
Brief description about me
I have a formal background in Electrical Engineering from I.I.T. Kharagpur and Business Management from I.I.M. Calcutta. I started my career as an engineer with the corporate sector at TELCO, Pune. The Indian spiritual tradition of finding a purpose in life, led me to abandon that career track to live and work among poor villagers in Uttar Pradesh, North India. In the early eighties, my analysis of linkages between social structure and resource management issues in rural India led me to work as Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, U.K., Research Fellow at the East West Center, Honolulu, U.S.A. and later as Consultant to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. The call of the grassroots, however led me back from academics to being a practitioner of participatory development in Uttar Pradesh. Came to be known as a pioneer of the self help movement in rural India and trained several thousand professionals in values based approach to change.
Influenced by
My wife for her constant reminder that I am an idiot. I have been fortunate to feel the spirit of Swami Vivekananda.
Important decision
To resign from the house of Tatas and jump into the unknown world of rural India. Not to give bribes or commissions to the dark forces of our country even if it has meant severe financial problems. Not to do just some routine work.
My achievements
*To change the lives of thousands of very poor persons through self help
*To have inspired thousands of professionals to do so in their own working context.
*The attitudes and behavior of thousands have changed too through a process of reflection.For this we received the first Human Values award at national level.
*Managed to impart good education to our two daughters. All this,of course, with the help of wife Amla.
My role model
True inspiration came from Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo. Deep,silent and humble persons anywhere become role models.
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