On the eve of the Third International Women’s Conference to be held at the AOL Foundation in Bangalore between February 6 and 8, Bhanumathi told MiD DAY the theme of the conference was Light of Leadership. The director of AOL’s Women and Child Welfare programmes said they would discuss the role of the woman as a leader during the meet. Excerpts from the interview:
Q: What is the objective behind the conference?
Bhanu Didi :The vision is to bring together women from diverse backgrounds and beliefs and create a harmonious thread of friendship and belonging. The theme of our 3rd conference is the ‘Light of Leadership: Integrating Global Perspectives’. I would say, today, more than ever, the world requires leadership that is compassionate, progressive, equal and responsible. Our aim is to bring out the role of women as leaders and share a vision of progress for the whole globe. This conference aims to highlight what women can achieve. It’s a meeting of hearts and minds.
What are the projects being undertaken for uplifting women?
Bhanu Didi : Sri Sri often says: “When you train a woman, you help the entire family, community and nation.” Based on his direction, AOL focuses on empowering women by providing vocational training and life skills. Our programmes help to gain economic independence, instil confidence and inspire women to become leaders in their communities. The Youth Leadership Training Programmes and Rural Development Programmes have transformed the lives of thousands of women across the world. I am very happy to say that the outcomes are very inspiring.
Of course, a lot more needs to be done in this regard. But it is a clear beginning and will take shape in reviving our traditional culture of honoring women.
Q :There is much talk on discontinuing pub culture. What are your views on this?
Bhanu Didi : Pub culture is new to me. Our generation had a different upbringing. I would say, this is western culture and is not natural to us. Whether it is a boy or a girl, drinking is not welcome. Nowadays, youth are stressed because of environmental and peer pressures.
This is escapism under the garb of relaxation and happiness. Youth resort to such modes of escapism and later become their slaves. Youth love to be free. They don’t understand that habits like drinking and smoking, which are addictions, result in bondage. The only answer to this situation is proper spiritual education where you get higher pleasure through meditation.
By adopting spiritual knowledge, you can control your mind. It helps you recognise your own power and makes you realise that external pleasures cannot give you inner joy. You can be cool, be popular and have a healthy lifestyle as well. I am sure that present-day youth are intelligent enough to opt for a healthy lifestyle of vegetarianism, yoga and meditation.
Q: There is a debate on moral policing. Do you think outfits such as the Sri Ram Sene or Shiv Sena have the right to don the role of a moral police?
Bhanu Didi :When we are responsible, we don’t need moral policing. A responsible citizen will never allow himself to be policed. Moral policing can be argued as concern for youth. Yet, this concern must be expressed in a compassionate manner, by educating them. Violence is not the answer. A wrong act can never be corrected through violent behavior. Only love can bring in the transformation. Every human being is divine. We have no right over another’s life or lifestyle. I would appeal to elders to respect youth and treat them as equals. Yoga is considered to be an anushasan. When one follows proper yoga of the body and mind, self-discipline is inculcated. Yoga can open the doors of self-transformation. This is my belief and my experience.
What should be the role of the parents when it comes to moral policing?
Bhanu Didi :Our tradition says: Prapte tu Shodhashe varshe, Putram mitram, Vada charet. Once a child is 16 years, treat him/her as a friend. Be a friend to your child. Advise them. Keep a close watch on them. Take an interest in their lives. That’s how you can become a part of their lives.