The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes
I started my career with my younger sibling Badrinath in a small medium scale business by taking a loan of `6.50 lacs from a bank in 1986. Somehow, the business did not run well for long. I then started working as a contributor in national and regional newspapers. The yearning with a deep pain continued in my life. I was also worried about my future and ultimate goal in my life.
Back in 1993, one day I was reading The Times of India; and I caught sight of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s advertisement. It was an opening for the post of National Public Relations Officer in Noida, near Delhi. The next day I left for Delhi, as it was a walk-in interview. My first interview experience was something I never expected it was just spontaneity and presence of mind. I attended the interview with the firm belief that I will get it. I heard that the selection procedure was very strict and knowledge in philosophy and religion was essential. So let me describe what happened.
First, I entered the interview room, wished ‘Good morning’ to the retired Colonel S.P. Bakshi who was the Director Personnel and Dr Prakash Joshi, the Vice-Chairman. “Very good morning” they said and collected the form from me. They then asked me to speak about myself, my parents, my hobbies et cetera. I started speaking. I spoke about my education, experience, my parents and myself. When they asked me about my hobby, I replied, “Reading The Bhagavad Gita.” They then started asking more about that and I enjoyed answering all those questions. I also told them that I am a journalist and a freelance columnist in the national newspapers. They were impressed!
I then spoke about my fields of interest, my interest for development and practice of spirituality. They asked me about my expectations. I refused to say anything, and told them that I am not after money; rather am looking for work. I am here for achievement of Maharishi’s goals and his vision. Later, when he repeatedly asked the same question, I answered that I need two meals, a room to live in and two pairs of clothes; that is all. They were happy.
The next question was, “What gravitated you towards the Maharishi?”
“Spirituality, simple life style, opportunity to serve my country and to help educate for peace…” I answered. Then I came out of the hall. I found many aspirants waiting outside; recounted in detail what happened. By 3 pm, the result was published: only one candidate was selected out of 100 and I found that it was me. I accepted the offer. I told the interviewers that I would take 15 days to join my duties. All other candidates present there congratulated me, and I was very happy. I then went to the Jagannath temple in Hauz Khas in Delhi to offer my prayer; the pundit gave me prasadam and chandan, and I kept it with me.
This is what happened during my first interview. I thanked God for making it a wonderful one. I had barely sat down and closed my eyes when I did not know how it all happened, but I experienced showers of supreme bliss. I was in a blissful union with the Lord of the Universe. What I was looking for was to be in the companion of Maharishi. I travelled to New Delhi and was selected for the post. This was my first opportunity to join a large educational group belonging to His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the second richest saint after the missionary of charities. I was its National Public Relations Officer.The group has a chain of global universities in Ayurveda and managements in and around 133 countries and over 200 public schools in India.
I worked in this post of Public Relations Officer for almost three months. In the beginning, I was sent on tour with one of my senior colleagues and two assistants in a well-furnished mobile van called Gyan-Ratha. I toured entire Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to visit some of the schools run by Maharishi Yogi. At some places, I used to speak first; and in some places,I spoke in the morning and in the evening. Thus, I gained experience in speaking. I also got the opportunity to meet and listen to many enlightened souls and their spiritual discourses. I also experienced the bliss and closeness to God in Maharishi’s company. I learnt the Sanskrit slokas, and the transcendental meditation programme including siddha practices. Thus, I attained mastery in yoga and yogic flying.
I started travelling from place to place. The whole world seemed like a plaything and the feeling of supreme bliss and eternal happiness was there with me. I had these glimpses during my first visit to the Ashram of Maharishi Yogi located in Noida. Little did I know that I was entering an entirely different world and still had a lot to learn. Although it was not an easy road, I would do it all over again. Here are some lessons that I learnt in my first year as an administrator over there.
One day Dr Girish Verma, the nephew of His Holiness Mahesh Yogi who was the Chairman of Maharishi Public Schools, informed me that he wants to get in touch with me via a live video conference from Holland that was to be held with the Maharishi and all top executives of the organization. He asked me very politely, “Dear, tell me how your experience with the movement is?” He also asked me to chant some of the Sanskrit slokas and asked me many questions on life and my experiences. I told him that my experience in this Gyan Rath has taught me a lot; it now seems like a dream and my mind is full of energy to accomplish big. Immediately after my video conference, his nephew asked me to stop going to the Office of Public Relations and kept me under suspense, without any further assignment. This gave me deep pain, and worries of the future engulfed me once again.
I spent some days at Maharishi Ashram in Noida in a state of great dilemma. Suddenly I got a call from Holland; I was asked to talk to the management for the new assignment. They asked me to join as Director of Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, for its International Students Recruitment Office in New Delhi, India. I was very happy, as this was my first chance to work independently in a dedicated manner in my position as Director. I was overwhelmed with joy and could not speak for a while.
By now, I had been through many vicissitudes and was confident about taking up the new assignment. Moreover, the company of the learned souls and my conversation with various people at various places had added grace and dignity to my experience. I have been fortunate to work with Sri Sri Ravisankar, Dr Prasanna Patsani, Deepak Chopra, Dr Gyanendra Mohapatra and Dr Tony Nader, the successor of Maharshi Mahesh Yogi. They are the disciples of the same Guru Parampara of Maharishi World Enlightenment Ministry.
They are among the few people who are loved and respected by the masses for their selfless service to their fellowmen. I would like to cite the name of Dr Prasanna Patsani who was my colleague for more than a year, when both of us rendered such services in the Mahesh Yogi Ministry of Enligtenment. Sri Sri Ravisankar has without doubt attained amazing heights in providing good moral education to the future citizens of the world, striving hard to bring about a behavioural change in public life.
My role in the international student network was both challenging and rewarding, as I frequently assumed the role of a diplomat and intermediary for 100+ international students. Reaching out to the larger Indian student population, I organized inclusive events and marketed Maharishi group as an accessible and welcoming global network; but I wanted to do something more for India and include features that are available in the US educational systems.
I gave numerous presentations about the business model and my own experiences in implementing it. I then decided to establish eight management colleges in various capital cities of India with the Maharishi US Model. By that time, the Indian student population had increased to more than 800; it is ever on the increase since. Based on the foundation laid by my efforts, now the Maharishi Institute of Managements is one of the premier institutions of the country. This experience greatly improved my ability as a motivator and a leader and helped me understand how best to reach out to others and turn my ideas into concrete results.
I worked in the organization for two years successfully establishing eight management colleges in the country with the vision of the Maharishi. I did not get even a single penny for the project, but it was all through the big ideas and great thoughts that money kept pouring in; the infrastructure was made and the institute started. People come forward and contribute when you have the right vision. It is now one of the premier B-schools in India. I became so popular in the Maharishi movements that everyone started meeting me for advice. I was very close to the Chairman who was very gentle and kind to me. He would entrust every important assignment to me. I also felt satisfied doing the work.
I earned the love and pleasure of the Maharshi movements, including students and teachers. In terms of money, they gave me more than I needed and thus honoured me. I remember during my interview I had told them. I am here for achievement of Maharishi’s goals and his vision.
I resigned from the Maharishi Organization and opted for a different path. In order to earn my livelihood, I approached Vinayak Missions Group of Institutions, a large educational group in Salem, Tamilnadu, whom I knew earlier and got an instant offer to join them. I was appointed the Director, Planning, Development and International Relations. The Chairman, Dr Shanmugam Sundaram, was a great visionary like Maharishi. He used to dream at night and implement it the next morning.
He treated everyone in his organization as a member of his own family. He was like a father figure for me. My salary was not fixed, but he used to pay me as he paid his own sons. He even paid for my honeymoon trip and purchased all household furniture and utensils and rent-free accommodation. I did not feel as if I was working as an employee in an organization but developed more ‘apnapan’ in my developmental initiatives.
My role was that of a team leader for the quality assurance and new ventures. I developed a number of colleges in the group in and around the country and especially in Tamilnadu. It was thus a challenging situation in a new cultural context for me. I was very happy to see that my actions translated into a much better working atmosphere and a successful project delivery. I was always positive and listened to Dr Shanmugam Sundaram. He liked me so much that one day he told, “Give me 100 Patnaiks, I will transform India;” I still remember his words. Had that great man been alive today, he could have really created more than 100 such Patnaiks and achieved his goals for development of our lost culture, education, honesty, alleviation of poverty and above all the unending zeal for transforming an unproductive life into a fruitful one.
He indulged in multifarious activities and had achievements in various fields. We used to have open and heartfelt discussions that I enjoyed; fresh energy and determination in me. I remember some of his words and fervent expressions. One day he said, “You are Lord Ganesh !” “No sir, I am Kartikeya because I travel with your wisdom; you are Ganesh, an embodiment of The Knowledge Giver.” I replied, and he smiled.
Now after three years, I consider my experience in the Salem project as a big achievement and an important milestone in my career. The fact that I could master the complex situation there, boosted my self-confidence and proved that I could manage people successfully even in difficult situations. Today, this unique ability of handling teams attributed to me has established me as a strong leader for my people. Along with team management, I also developed my emotional intelligence further, particularly my social awareness and empathy skills. These qualities will continue to be my foundation while pursuing future endeavours in my academic and career aspirations.
With only a limited amount of time, people need to stay true to their beliefs and make the most of life. Now that all my goals are in place, it is time to fulfill them to the best of my ability. I have planned the road ahead and now it is time to stride forward.
I personally had the same feeling every time a major event happened, such as when I set up my first business, when I had to close a business for the first time, when I won my first competition, and on many such other occasions. It is of course true that these were steps on a ladder to reach new heights, stepping stones for bigger events in the future, but aren’t all events merely stepping stones to something!
I left Vinayak Missions in 1998 and joined as Registrar of International Medical and Technological University in Tanzania, East Africa, which was promoted by Vignan Educational Foundation, Bangalore. I worked there for a year. When I joined there the university was much smaller and less visible. The university had been losing influence and position for some years. At that time, my aim was, and has continued to be, making the university visible and respect. This meant getting the university’s faculty into a series of external arenas and investing in communications. We needed to attend events, speak and get our voice heard and recognized in various countries. The university is in a completely different position today, thanks to many colleagues across the university, and especially the founder Mr Katuri Suba Rao. Today the university is recognized not only as a leading university in south-east on health and medicine, but also at the forefront of educational development initiatives in East Africa.
I then joined Manipal Academy of Higher Education deemed university as Director Projects Development in December 1999 for few months. As part of my job, I was supposed to visit each one of the institutions of Manipal Group and identify their problems and pending projects. I have helped each of the institutions to achieve their objectives, clear the pending projects and augment the institution’s strength.
Taking cognizance of my performance and extraordinary skill in attaining success, Dr Ramdas Pai the President of the Group called me and requested to take the responsibility of Sikkim Manipal University for Medical and Technology Sciences as the Registrar and Director Distance Education. The University at that time had teething problems with the Government and Dr Pai was looking for someone who could be a catalyst between the government and the university and bring some change in the joint venture. Besides, I was also entrusted with the responsibility of Vice President Education Development with the Manipal Group along with the responsibility of group institutions and university development in liaison with government and independent institutions.
The Manipal experience was truly professional. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has said, “Be like a king, but don’t behave like a king”. This is the sign of a true leader. They are very polite, friendly and ever caring. Even Dr Ramdas Pai of the Manipal Group would never show bossism, but very politely ask, “Please advise me”. Only such people can grow, who place their faith in their employees. He was very caring, loving and always looked after employees’ interests as if they were part of his own family or friend.
This was one of my unique opportunities to excel professionally as well as personally. Personally, it appeared to be a great challenge for me. A different culture and complete professionalism are only two examples. Nevertheless, I wanted to accept the challenge and get to know about my work-life in Manipal, the workload and how I could handle it in various Councils and the Government. Furthermore, I saw it as a great chance to improve my professional skills. I left Manipal because I was appointed to the highest office of Chancellor of the Kalinga University in 2003 as one of the youngest Chancellors in the country. After serving for two years, I rejoined Manipal Education Group as Advisory Vice President and Executive Director of Manipal Consulting. I also served as the Education Advisor to Aptech and ICFAI Group during 2003–2005. As Advisory Vice President and Advisor, I have helped and coordinated with organizations by providing them feasibility studies, financial planning and accreditation process et cetera besides giving in-depth understanding on regulatory mechanism to the executive team.
I left Manipal to join Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune, as Director Planning, Development and International Relations in 2006 with an additional charge of the Director Alternate Mode of Learning and Head, International Project Operations with the responsibility of American and UK accreditation processes for management institutions.
My experience of spatial and policy planning in Bharati Vidyapeeth on development plans compatible with various changes of legislation and practices in India and abroad; and I am quite satisfied with it.
One of the most pressing projects was to establish a branch campus in Dubai. I was able to deploy my project management and funding skills in the project and document for the accreditation efforts with the American Accreditation Team. I found the experience at Bharati Vidyapeeth the best of all that I have in any international project during my four-year tenure there. I remember one day Dr Shivajirao Kadam in the presence of my colleagues scolded me, “What a donkey you are!” I coolly replied, “You are right sir, I have taken your entire load on my back”. Everyone present there smiled and the atmosphere became pleasant. I am always positive by nature and enjoy challenges.
In 2009, I was appointed the Honorary Pro-Chancellor of Singhania University in Rajasthan and in the year 2010 as Secretary General of Confederation of Indian Universities, New Delhi, which is an inter-university consortium. Later I joined as Vice Chancellor of Kalinga University, Raipur, in 2011. I often think of it: if every single moment of our life adds up and leads us to that one particular ‘life-defining moment,’ should we not treat every moment as ‘life defining’? What I have come to realize is that a ‘big break’ opportunity does not just come unexpectedly. It comes from the small events that precede it. Nevertheless, this will not happen without consistently stellar performance throughout the years. If I wait for the ‘big break’ without doing anything about the small ones, I will never get it.
This newfound understanding was like a jolt. Nowadays, people keep talking about waiting for their ‘big break’ to come, but they never get it. We should stop waiting for our ‘big break’ and instead, focus on tackling the small but equally important breaks. Who knows what wonders we could have achieved if we had realized this and put the knowledge to good use!
While looking to the future, we as humans like to see ourselves doing something good or personally better off. Humans reach this state of success by setting and accomplishing goals. A goal is a very broad task that can range anywhere from scoring in basketball to discovering the cure for cancer. I, too, like others have a set of goals to pursue. However, I have chosen only my top three goals to discuss here as describing all my goals would not fit into this space.
To succeed in any objective, one has to put forth his best efforts. Nonetheless, my first goal is to succeed in any task I attempt. By trying my best, I can complete almost any goal set to myself. However, I do not succeed in every task that I attempt. We generally assume ‘failure’ as a negative word. I believe failure is essential for success, because new information comes on record every day. This information is essentially sitting there, just waiting for someone to learn. I would like to learn as much of this mass of information as possible.
People will always learn from their mistakes. I believe if we put our full effort in completing a task then we will truly not fail, regardless the outcome. Thus runs the popular proverb, ‘Failure is the pillar of success.’ There is virtually unlimited amount of information in the society. Moreover, with the technology advancing at an alarming rate, I am the kind of person who enjoys hearing small random facts virtually about anything. For example, “it is impossible to keep your eyes open while sneezing” is a completely random fact, yet I find it intriguing. I would also like to expand my knowledge in educational management; and mastering all this information would greatly benefit me in real-life situations.
After thinking about future jobs, I have realized I do not necessarily want a high paying job, I just want one I am happy to do. As my father always says, “If you do something you love, you never work a day in your life”. This quote is very inspiring and I seek never to go to work in future. With respect to the love of my job, I also want it to pull in enough money to support a family easily.