Golden Moments at Sri Sathya Sai Institute – By N. Vivek

Much has been written about Prasanthi Nilayam and its activities. So I would like to recollect some of the wonderful moments that we as students had during our student life at the wonderful educational institution created at Prasanthi Nilayam.

I would like to focus on the Institution. That it has Swami’s invisible and visible backing is too well known. My journey as a student started when I missed the deadline for applying to the Institute. Now the Puranas say that when all else is lost, only Narayana can save us. So I wrote a prayer in a letter to Swami who was at Kodaikanal and enclosed my application form. I then forgot about my admission and went for Darshan at Kodaikanal three to four times. To my surprise, my prayer was heard and the benevolent Lord had responded. I was called for the test, group discussion and interview.
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning - Prasanthi Nilayam Campus Auditorium
The entrance test was one of the most difficult that I had written in my life. The group discussion was on ‘IMF Forcing Indian Reforms’ and the interview had a panel of the most distinguished people from academics and the industry that anyone could imagine. I struggled to answer most of the questions on various subjects as the depth of questioning was incredible, worthy of an IIM. I decided to cool off from the Himalayan effort for a few days at Prasanthi Nilayam. Two days later, when the merit list was announced I got the delightful news that I was selected. I had made it past the most difficult selection test in my life. Now many years later, I still draw inspiration from the incident and have overcome many such situations.

We were given only five days to join for the summer course at Brindavan on May 20th. I rushed back, completed all my course completion formalities and packed my bags for Brindavan. There we got the first taste of the student’s life to come. The schedule started at 4 a.m. in the morning and ended at 10 p.m. From morning to evening we had a line of distinguished speakers talking to us on various spiritual matters and on how to lead a healthy and moral life. The star attraction of course was Swami’s Discourse every afternoon. For the first few days, we struggled to get up and shave at 4 a.m. We wondered why managers needed this sort of regimen. Today, after seeing daily schedules of most corporate executives, I feel that it was more than justified, a good training for the life to come. I still fondly quote the schedule at Parthi, when someone asks me about why I enjoy working long hours at office.

After ten days at Brindavan, we got down to serious business – the MBA course. This was a 100 credit course. Every semester, we had seven subjects followed by a comprehensive Viva Voce, which tested our in depth knowledge in every subject. This was because Swami wanted all of us to be General Managers and not mere marketing or finance managers. We struggled past the barrage of highly specific questions from every conceivable corner of the specified books on management. When we came out, it was like we had scaled Mt. Everest itself. This feature was to repeat itself at the end of every semester that we completed. The amount that we studied and discussed, fearing the Viva Voce was tremendous. But today, I fondly quote this to my students when they ask me how I read such a wide variety of subjects without getting tired. It must be the SSSIHL impact, I guess!
Sri Sathya Sai Hostel - Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Our life in the Hostel too was in no way easy. We had to share a room with eleven other students. We had to sleep on the floor. We had to eat sitting on the floor. We were called on to serve the food also. All these were in addition to the strenuous assignments, tests and case presentations that we had to do. Added to this were the extensive cultural celebrations during every festival. The scale of celebration was unbelievable! We had to organize a number of items for each function. Some of us went for Veda Chanting, some to the brass band, some for drama, and some for other activities, all connected to the festivals. All the while, our deadline for assignments was never extended, no excuse ever entertained, no test ever postponed, no presentation ever missed! To talk about efficiency, is this not world class? Even today, years later, I still fondly remember those days when I faced such pressure in my daily life. It was so perfect a training for a manager. 

Most of today’s educational institutions talk of 75% and 80% attendance. I remember that in the two years of my MBA programme, I had missed one or two classes at the most and that too, because I was very sick, unable to even walk. Otherwise, our average attendance percentage must have been around 99.9%. Not one of us ever missed a test or failed to submit an assignment. In any case, our faculty members used to personally ask each one of us for the necessary information. It was a down to earth, no-nonsense approach to getting the job done, that I still retain when dealing with my students and others in my life.

The crowning glory of any experience at the SSSIHL is to be selected for the Kodaikanal trip by Swami. That one month will probably add tons and tons of knowledge to each selected person in every conceivable field. Every day was filled with unbelievable, remarkable and wonderful experiences. Everyone genuinely enjoyed the trip.
Sri Sathya Sai with Students at Kodaikanal
One notable remark made by one of my professors was about one of Swami’s statements, “A good Management Programme aims to teach only three topics: Common Sense, General Knowledge and Human Values”. I still proudly quote this to my students. Our stay was of course, embedded with innumerable parables and teachings from Swami. Even a big book will not be enough to document all these. Most importantly, before leaving, we were asked to serve India in every way possible. Such patriotism is rarely taught in any B-School. 

When I joined the Institute, I received remarks that this was not a very well-known MBA programme and a few even asked me where Puttaparthi existed on the map of India. But recently, when I spoke to a few of my batch mates, I proudly discovered that all of them were in the senior management positions in their respective organisations and they drew salaries at par with the alumni from the best B-Schools in India. What better compliment can there be for any Institute than a final recognition from the industry itself?

- N. Vivek
Student (1992-1994), Department of Management & Commerce
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Currently, Faculty at PSG Institute of Management, Coimbatore

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