A Tribute to Vyjayanthi ji
Seva is viewed as an act of service but the undercurrent of this physical manifestation of actions is a heightened sense of living where one cultivates a mindset of service or ‘Seva Bhaav.’ This is not something that can be explained or summarized in words, but rather experienced in the company of individuals who embrace this mindset of service. Having worked with Vyjayanthi Krishnamurthy in close quarters for over 10 years, I can really attest to the fact that she was a truly remarkable human being who was a living embodiment of this.
Though her seva in public life lasted for a little over a decade, she added so much life to every moment, that numerous lives were deeply impacted, and everyone who came in contact with her felt inspired and elevated. She breathed hope and thereby life into many individuals who had given up, enabling a second chance at this wonderful journey called life.
She was an amazing human being, and the myriad facets that made her who she was can be perceived through her intentions and endeavours over the years. I know this reflection will not do complete justice to her, and yet, I labour on, in the hope that we find inspiration from her story.
Her Firm Resolve to Serve
This is what she wrote when she registered as a volunteer:
Date: Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 1:56 PM
Name Vyjayanthi Krishnamurthy
Interested in (children's education, street children, slums, hospitals, etc.)?
Ready to work for any kind of service for children and elders.
What's a good time to call you?
Her words here were not a casual statement of interest, but a ‘sankalpa’, a firm resolve to serve children and elders and be available for service anytime of the day, and she lived by this sankalpa until her last breath.
A Guiding Beacon and Emotional Anchor
When I received requests of medical support for children in dire need, I would simply refer them to Vyjayanthiji. Once I put a child on her lap, I never had to fret or follow up. I knew it was as good as placing the child on the divine mother’s lap, as I knew Vyjayanthi would move heaven and earth to do the needful for the child. Right from providing emotional support to the family, fundraising to meet expenses required for the treatment and being with the children and family in person, she would be the guiding beacon and emotional anchor in their time of need. She would do all this silently, as is her wont, and we would not be aware of the extent of her involvement until the case is closed and the family comes forth to express their gratitude. This is exemplified in how her efforts and involvement facilitated the recovery of a 7-year-old boy from a village near Tumkur whose leg was completely infected, but was able to walk within 6 months. The stories of how an 8-year-old girl who was labelled deaf and dumb from childhood, could hear and speak within a year due to her interventions; how a 10 year old girl got a new leash of life due to a heart transplantation done primarily due to her efforts, are but a few testaments to Vyjayanthi’s tenacity and perseverance in her journey of service.
Desire to be Grounded in Service
When she started volunteering at St. Martha’s hospital serving stroke affected patients, I could see her commitment and compassionate approach. She cut her office work down to three days per week and later in 2013 decided to resign completely from her job so that she could be available full-time for Seva. This was when I requested her to take up overall coordination of Doctors For Seva, to which she politely declined while stating:
“I intent to experience Seva continuously through ground level service. Yes, Youth for Seva has given me that platform to do service and make a difference…. I understand facts put forth by you, but express my difficulty in taking the role of a co-ordinator for DFS Chapter in Bangalore. I will support whenever required for any related work.”
Experiencing Seva continuously and being grounded in service were her prime movers while pursuing Seva full time.
A Professional with a Penchant for Learning
She was always eager to learn, acquire knowledge, perspectives and context that would enable her to be a better change agent. Travelling to Mumbai to attend a 3-day workshop on Menstrual Hygiene, travelling to remote villages in many states to understand menstrual hygiene practices in different communities, attending various workshops on adolescent health at NIMHANS once she decided to take up comprehensive adolescent health awareness program, are but few examples her penchant for learning. For every event of Youth for Seva, we used to sing “Vande Maataram” along with another patriotic song and I fondly recall her enthusiasm and excitement to learn a new patriotic song every time.
Her Enthusiasm and Zeal for Life
Her child-like innocence combined with unconditional love made her take part in every activity with enthusiasm and curiosity that was palpable. She would sing, dance and participate in drama like a child. Her positive outlook and enthusiasm were enough to counsel anyone in distress. She would proactively reach out and extend a warm hand to anyone who needed counsel or help.
Breathing Life to a Dream
In the last two years, Vyjayanthiji was fully immersed in developing a comprehensive adolescent health awareness program. Even on her last day, she was in a meeting at YFS office till 5:30PM discussing how to go about implementing adolescent health programs in Uttar Pradesh. She volunteered to prepare a training video in Hindi for the volunteers in U.P and also wanted to travel to U.P in the next few months to personally train key volunteers.
An Individual who placed Others before Herself
If volunteers were coming home for a meeting, she would prepare food. She would bring coffee in a thermos for meetings held in other places. She would always ask people whether they had lunch, but never cared much for her own lunch. Even on her last day, she packed a lunch box from home, but had not eaten it. Probably, if she had found a volunteer who did not have lunch, she would have gladly shared it!
The End She Wished For
During the “Live like Kalam” campaign of YFS in 2018, she causally remarked that she wishes to “Die like Kalam”. On her last day, she was in the Youth for Seva office talking about adolescent health programs and left the office to visit Banashankari Devi temple. She passed away like Kalam doing what she was passionate about, thinking about others and placing the needs of the many above her own.
Her life reminds me of this prayer from a devotee requesting the Lord for three wishes: A peaceful death, a life without having to beg anyone, and unwavering devotion to the Lord.
अनायासेन मरणं विनादैन्येन जीवनं ।
देहि मे कृपया शम्भो त्वयि भक्तिं अचन्चलं ॥
- Venkatesh Murthy (Founder, Youth for Seva)