Sunday the 3rd of February 2013 will be long cherished in the history of social activism for several reasons. The world witnessed a new order in social activism on that day. Peaceful and musical yet strident and meaningful. The occasion was the launch of the Volunteer for a better India (VBI) movement at the Ramlila grounds by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar renowned spiritual leader and Founder of the Art of Living.
It was a sea of humanity present there. I thought perhaps the Kumbh Mela of social activism was playing at the Ramlila grounds in the capital. Over one lakh people from all walks of life. Disciplined yet celebrative. Drenched in peace yet firm in their resolve. Committed to honestly look at several issues facing the nation without blaming, shaming or naming anyone. People were spilling onto the nearby roads, sitting atop vehicles and far into the horizon waiting to listen to Sri Sri talk. At regular intervals cheerful and celebrative music was in the air. Inspiring to the mind and meditative for the soul.
For a change there were no theatrics or high drama that we normally see at such events. There were no screaming sirens of peace howling into the mike. Nor were there any sarcastic or veiled speeches aimed at any Man, Madam or Minister.
And the best of all, there were absolutely no relay fasts or single-man fasts to impress the nation that anyways finally ends with that million dollar climax scene of sipping juice under the hundred-odd flashing bulbs and cameras of an ever – hungry media ! There was clearly no attempt at bringing the nation or the capital to a screeching halt. Nor did we find any tear-jerkers to give ideas to our Hindi teleserial script-writers!
Welcome to the new order of social activism. With that touch of soulful music. Only a man of peace and genuine concern like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar could have brought such grace and dignity at the Volunteer for a better India (VBI) launch to make a telling point on several burning issues that both the government and people of India are embroiled in today.
Complete with music, determination and total inclusiveness which is a hallmark and virtue of Sri Sri and his Art of Living Foundation, the program saw religious leaders, social activists and welfare workers sit alongside with the mighty United Nations officials. All ready to even give their right hand to volunteer for a better India. As the phalanx of dignitaries rose to make their pledges and workable ideas known to the people gathered there and as well as to people watching the live webcast in over 50 countries.
Just as how all of Sri Sri`s charitable works and programs include people without discrimination towards anyone, the Volunteer for a better India (VFABI) launch was also the perfect all-inclusive affair. Westerners from the Americas and Europe, the under-privileged, farmers and rural citizens from every Indian State, youth in thousands and even many Chinese were spotted amongst the audience. Probably even some spies in the crowd may have simply fallen in love with the peace and harmony running throughout the program and not to forget Sri Sri`s charm and peaceful presence !
India needs and longs for such a leadership and direction. Moreover, it is such noble initiatives that make a powerful impact and inspire people to really put shoulder to the wheel and get working. The huge inspired crowds at the event clearly show that this movement has not begun simply on a passing fad, emotional plank or a prayer. This movement has begun as a force-multiplier in the Indian landscape with the collective genuine intention of more than a million people.
Come February 24th and the Bhavan`s College Grounds in Mumbai I hear is all set to see a wave of support for the VBI. Well I am going to possibly have yet another story to tell about how amazingly Sri Sri Ravi Shankar proves that ideas, issues and life`s challenges can be handled and expressed with dignity, peace. And great music!
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