Art of Living guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Tuesday beseeched a large congregation of farmers in this high-distress village of Maharashtra's Vidarbha region never to commit suicide nor let anyone else do so. "You call me guru, so give me this 'guru-dakshina' - give me a promise that none of you will ever commit suicide, come what may," Sri Sri Ravi Shankar urged the farmers in a soul-stirring speech.
The once prosperous village in Yavatmal district in Vidarbha's cotton belt had a grim record of 12 suicides last year. But it is already on course of a transformation, thanks to an AOL project underway for about a year now.
While a team of AOL trainers has constructed a few farm ponds in the village and imparted a hands-on training in chemicals-free, zero-budget farming besides conducting yoga workshops, the villagers have given up liquor and stopped defecating in the open.
Touched by a frenzied welcome accorded to him by 3,000 villagers, Sri Sri told them that he was amidst them not to give a discourse but to enquire after their welfare.
"Have the things improved since the AOL work started here? Have you started harvesting rainwater in farm ponds? Have you stopped poisoning the soil with chemical fertilizers? Are you helping each other now?" Predictably, the spiritual mentor got a chorus of 'yes' to each question.
Sri Sri exhorted the villagers to grow vegetables besides food crops and cotton, do their own water management and thus become self-reliant like their forefathers rather than helplessly depending on the government for everything.
He pointed out to the villagers that their forefathers, who suffered untold hardships in long spells of slavery and weathered countless famines and epidemics, never committed suicide. Sri Sri attributed it to their intrinsic strength, spiritual bend of mind and because of well-knit communities.
"Share whatever small surplus of food you might have with your hungry neighbour who has none at all and shore up each other in times of crisis rather than suffocating to death in isolation", he added.