Volume 11 - Issue 08
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Posted on: Aug 27, 2013

Sai Alumnus Wins Top Young Leader Award

Excerpts from the conversation with Mr. Sohan Dutta

Part 02

sohan dutta part 01 sohan dutta part 02


The inspiration to join this competition...

Sohan Dutta: Actually, I was neither keen nor interested but few of my friends urged me, and it is because of their request I took the first round of tests which was conducted online. When the results were out, I got a mailer saying I have been shortlisted for the second round.


In the second round I had to take a test on numerical ability, verbal ability, reasoning and on leadership traits. Now, to attempt some of these questions I needed a scientific calculator. Since I did not have one I requested a friend to lend the same to me. Unfortunately it did not reach me on time. So I felt that appearing for the test was a futile exercise.

The test was scheduled at 6.30 PM and I was supposed to reach the test centre at 6 PM. Around 5.50 PM I got a call from one of my ex-colleagues. Casually I told this friend that I was going to take this test and also expressed by pessimism on probability of me clearing the test since I did not even have a scientific calculator with me. What happened next was very interesting.

This friend called one of her friends, who in turn called another friend. This last guy – who was a total stranger to me – had a scientific calculator with him and he took the trouble of driving down all the way to my test centre just to hand over this to me seconds before the scheduled start time of the test!

These are times when you feel that Baba is helping you; without His intervention there was no way the calculator could have reached me on that day.

So I managed to clear Round 2 and was now in Round 3. Here, all those who were shortlisted had to go through a series of activities. It started with a round of introductions. When the other participants started speaking about their profiles, I was feeling a bit diffident. All of them were people with far greater accomplishments than mine. I was then just an Assistant Project Manager. Besides, many of the participants had not even heard the name of our university.

However eventually when it was my turn, I felt Swami took over; things just went on fine. And then of course came the final round where I was interviewed by Mr. Nitin Paranjpe. I told you how Swami played a clear role in helping me sail through this one too.

Reflections on the days spent in Baba's University...

Sohan Dutta: The first thing that I had to adapt to was the disciplined life in the hostel. Coming from Kolkata where I was used to a very easy schedule, it was not easy to settle down here. In fact after a few days of joining here I thought of running away. The regulated routine here was a bit too much for me.

Right at the start of the year we had the Summer Course on Indian Culture and Spirituality. During that period, in a room, which normally accommodates 14-15 people, there were double the number of boys lodged. This was the first time I was staying away from my parents and the conditions in the hostel at this time weren’t making things any easier.

Actually even my parents and relatives were expecting that I might return home. On the first day of the summer course when my parents were leaving to home, I thought of going with them.

But on that morning I happened to sit in the first line for darshan. When Swami came He moved gently towards where I was seated, never spoke anything but just looked deep into my eyes for almost 20-25 seconds. This did something to me; I told my parents I was not going home with them. Maybe I would leave after the Summer Course, I thought then.


So, Summer Course went by, and first semester too concluded. In fact few of my roommates thought that I would not come back after the first semester vacations. But I did. And before I realized I had spent three years in the Bengaluru campus and two years in the Prasanthi Nilayam.

After this I went out to work briefly only to come back again to the university for my MBA. Now I feel Prasanthi is like a second home, or rather I prefer calling it my first home because I feel so relaxed, so much at ease when I am here.

I can’t explain how this transition happened. One important factor definitely is the teachers, the way they help you and motivate you; in fact their dedication and the ambience they create takes you to a different level.

And once you settle down here you don’t feel like going anywhere else. For instance, my wife has come to Prasanthi now for the first time. I had already talked to her a lot about Puttaparthi. She is completely new to Swami, so I was a bit apprehensive about how she will take all this.

So on Monday evening, when we reached here, I just took her around the place. On Tuesday after the morning session in the Mandir, guess what she said? 'I am not feeling like coming out of the mandir!' In fact that evening she did not wait for me to go to the Mandir, she was inside at 4 PM.

Actually, we were supposed to leave yesterday for Bengaluru, but she pleaded with me to extend our stay by one more day, that’s the reason I am here today!

By virtue of being here for just a couple of days she says she felt the power of the positive vibes of this place. This makes me think about the impact this would have had on me during the seven years I got to stay here!

Memories of staying in the Hostel and being with Baba in the Mandir...

Sohan Dutta: Ah! Those are the best days of my life. Life has its own ups and downs. But whenever there is something which upsets me I play some old video of Swami or recollect the interactions with Him in the Mandir or in the hostel. Then within a few minutes I invariably find myself in high spirits again.

There are many such moments but maybe I will share one or two here. What comes first to my mind is an experience when Swami scolded me in my dream. That was in the first semester of my undergraduate course. I had a very bad habit; I never used to practice or solve any problems. Even with physics and mathematics I used to just flick through the pages and then go and write the exam.

The night before the physics exam, Swami came in my dream and took me to task. He told me that henceforth before an exam I should write and practice. I remember it was such a stern warning, to call it a 'severe reprimand' would also be an understatement. When I woke up that morning I was literally sweating!

Needless to say I started putting His command into practice and believe me, after that my grades kept getting better and better, since then I never lost that habit of writing and practicing for exams.

Another beautiful episode comes to mind; this is very close to my heart. It happened on March 17, 2007. It was our ‘Gratitude Day’ and we had come to Mandir to make our offering to Swami.


For this special occasion I had made a big heart-shaped card for Swami. So when my turn came I went to Him to offer my ‘heart’ to Him. On it I had written the words ‘My Properties’ since Baba often refers to His students as His property.

While showing the card to Swami, I said, “Swami, do You want to know what is there inside the heart of Your students?’’

Saying this, I opened the card and out came another small heart, which was connected to the bigger heart with a golden thread. And in that small heart there was Swami’s photo and there was Swami in every student’s heart.

“You are there in each of our hearts, Swami,” I ventured to say.

At that moment I saw Swami’s face light up in joy. I can never forget that beautiful sight. I will cherish that throughout my life.

I then proceeded to say, “Swami, it’s always that You give us everything. Can You please keep this heart with You?”

And believe me, for the whole programme Swami sat with that 'heart' in His hand! He was resting His hand on that till the end of the programme.

Once the function was over, Swami went inside the interview room and suddenly I saw a student brother who had accompanied Swami into the room come running towards the portico. Swami had specifically sent him back to fetch the ‘heart’ that had been left next to His chair.

As Baba says, every individual's relationship with Him is 'Heart to Heart' and “Love to Love'.

The Days in the Brindavan Campus...

I also fondly remember the days I spent in the Brindavan campus in Bengaluru. I was part of the adventure sports team during one of the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet festival. Initially it was a bit scary especially when you are engaged in all those dare devil stunts on bikes and jeeps. But somewhere within you know that Swami is there and He will take care, so fear vanishes.

In 2004, while doing a bike stunt I had injured myself; it was a soft tissue injury which was troubling me a lot. I took in these pain killers without realizing how much they can sometimes harm you.

I managed maybe a month or two in this manner but finally I didn’t have any other option than seeing the doctor. When the specialist saw me, he chastised me for seeking medical attention so late despite being a literate and educated person.

I was then told to go for physiotherapy which went on for almost three weeks. For the next six months I was not supposed to lift anything with my left hand. But cricket is something which I am very passionate about. There was a practice session going on, and since I felt that the pain had reduced I decided to have a go. But after playing a few balls, the pain increased again. And this time neither could I go to the doctor nor to the physiotherapist nor even to the warden.

I did not tell my parents too as they would get worried. So I just started praying to Swami. Meanwhile, the pain was getting really bad. So on August 29 - I still remember the day - Swami came in my dream.

I saw Him sitting on the portico. I saw myself getting up and telling Swami about the terrible pain. He just listened, but did not say anything. So I returned to my place. I then saw Swami heading towards the interview room. As He was about to enter inside, I heard Him call out my name. I went running towards where He was. Once I was near Him I saw Swami waving His hand twice. And with this He created some cream-coloured pills and gave it to me. I saw myself taking these pills then and there. All this happened in the dream.


The next morning when I woke up the pain was gone, completely! Till date my left arm has never pained again.

And the icing on the cake is this - our team won the cricket championship that year and Swami gifted us with t-shirts!

Therefore whether the problem is small or big you can always give it to Him and say, ‘Swami, I surrendering to You totally... now You please take care’. And He will.

In our daily life knowingly or unknowingly we take many risks only on the faith that He’ll take care. This in fact has helped me to become more courageous to take many bold decisions later in my life. It indeed gave me the courage to stand up against even seniors in the organisations I worked when I felt that values were being compromised.

For instance, in one of my previous companies, a matter concerning me was escalated to the higher ups but I stuck to what I had said because I knew it was not wrong. So the issue went right up to the senior most person and he had a meeting with me and the other people involved.

And thankfully, the boss's values resonated with mine and he took my side. So Swami took care of the whole thing. Therefore from a situation in which potentially I could have lost my job, it unfolded as something which ran completely in my favour! I completely believe that all the learning about values and principles that we were given during my MBA in Baba's university does work in real life; I have absolutely no doubt about this.

The story of involvement in some social initiatives in Kolkata...

Sohan Dutta: It so happened that a few of us, alumni of Baba's university in Kolkata, came together. Initially we started with a small project involving distributing water during the weekends. We used to go out in cars, distribute cold water to the traffic police who were on duty irrespective of the scorching heat, and also to the pedestrians who were thirsty. This went on for a few weeks. Summer was over and so was our project.

But we wanted to do something more since by then the sense of fulfilment of doing something for Swami had already set in. We found that in Kolkata, or rather in West Bengal, there were many youth who are educated but unemployed. After some study, we felt that this was happening because though these youth are educated they did not have the requisite grooming that would be required for anybody aspiring for a decent employment. So we thought we would help them in getting jobs.

So in the first week of July 2009 I was in Puttaparthi, and got an opportunity to show the blueprint of the project to Swami and He graciously blessed it.

We communicated this to the elders in the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation and they told us that it had to be done on September 13. But the time available was too less. Neither the venue nor the facilitators or even the applicants or the age-group from which we’ll pick the prospective candidates, had been decided. But when God wills, who can stop it!

So things just fell in place. Everything was streamlined and on September 13, by Swami’s grace the programme was conducted. It was a wonderful success. In fact after this we had to organise many more such sessions. Soon we extended these workshops to cover a few more districts in West Bengal. The best part was so many of these youth did subsequently get employed in good organisations.

It was a very fulfilling experience indeed. In January 2010 when we came here for the Alumni Meet, we had a session with Swami inside the Poorna Chandra auditorium. When our group approached Him with a card, a beautiful smile danced on His face. Nothing could have given us more happiness than that.

A reunion with the Source of Inspiration - Prema Bandham Alumni Meet

Future plans in the corporate career and final thoughts...

Sohan Dutta: Frankly, I have not given much thought about my future. I am currently just praying to Swami that He makes me an ideal instrument in His hand and makes me a part of His mission.

Maybe this is the time when we, the alumni of Baba's university, should take lead in every frontier for the betterment of society. Swami always focused on the youth and the students, and always wanted us to be the change elements. This Young Leaders Programme organised by The Economic Times is one platform through which our students would get recognized, and through this possibly more people would become aware of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation, its institutions and the work that goes on here.

It would be nice if more alumni participate in such programmes willingly and make Swami proud. We are in no way inferior to anyone outside. Rather, given all that He has invested in us we are much more special because we are His instruments for the change that is bound to come in society. And if we can do this and offer our gratitude to Swami in this manner, I think He will be very happy.

sohan dutta

Graphics: Mohan Dora (Radio Sai Team)

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