Samir Jolly - Fearlessly serving the society

Hum seva se nahin jude hain, Guruji ke sankalp se jude hain (we are not just associated with the service we do, we are inspired by Guruji’s vision),” says Samir Jolly, Youth Leadership Training Program Coordinator, explaining the principle he lives and works by.

Whether braving harsh conditions to meet militants, or providing trauma relief in tsunami-hit areas, Samir Jolly is a fearless seva warrior who found direction to his life when he took his first Art of Living course.

Samir Jolly’s life had taken various twists and turns – from a pampered child, to a rebellious teenager, to a popular college guy, to a corporate employee.

The corporate world

Equipped with Honors degree in Political Science & a Business Management degree from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune, Samir had taken up his first job in Wockhardt (a pharmaceutical company), Mumbai. In his first job, he turned to alcohol and would go on regular drinking sprees with his friends.

“I spent eight months in Mumbai, in that job, and one day I realized that life wasn’t going in the direction I’d imagined - something had gone amiss”, he admits frankly. That’s when he quit his first job and came back home to Delhi (NCR) to re-orient himself.

The switch that ignited his life 

He traveled to Vaishno Devi on March 31, 1998, after which, he gave up drinking and meat. And he feels, “the moment I came back, I became less irritable and aggressive, and my life took an upswing for me.”

But the switch that turned his life upside down came on January 4, 2000, when he sat for his first Art of Living course. 

He recollects, “When I entered, there were 10-12 people and my teacher was Neeraji (who is an Advance Course teacher now). There were a lot of uncles and aunties there and the first thought that came to my mind was, ‘What will my friends think of me if they find out that I go to such places?’

I was already getting opinionated about the teacher, and I realized that I was there to learn breathing and meditation, not English. Then, we started the I Belong To You process - it was amazing - and I realized that anything else now would be a bonus. 

Also, I had no issues with the Sudarshan Kriya and people had so many experiences, but I had no experience. Later, I quoted a Bulleh Shah couplet during the course - ‘Urdiyaan pharda, jeda ghad bheta, unoon phadiya hi nahin (You are trying to catch the one outside, instead of the one inside).’ And right after that, Neeraji said, ‘Samir, you’ll become a teacher’.”

At the end of his first Advance Course in Rishikesh, the first thing he said to Guruji was, ‘Jai Gurudev, I love you, Guruji’, and Guruji said, ‘I love you too’. 

Answering the call of Seva

Soon after his Advance Course, Samir took up a job in Bangalore with Wipro, and the move meant that he could spend all his weekends doing seva at the ashram.

“One day after the kriya, some senior teachers spoke to us, and they told us about an upcoming course called DSN, and I landed up in the first course. And I came out with flying colors because I was the only guy who got a nav-chetna manual at the end of the course. I finished this on Sunday; and on Monday morning I went back to work, and wrote a two-line e-mail to my boss, that I’d like to quit the services of the company with immediate effect. Then I started doing nav-chetna shivirs in Kagli village close to the Bangalore ashram”, shares Samir about the decision that changed his life.  

Soon after, he became a full-time teacher, but the work he got in the ashram didn’t push him to his maximum potential. He was asked to go the Northeast and take courses in some of the roughest areas of Arunachal Pradesh.

Speaking about this experience, he says, “It’s a tough area and I’ve even survived with salt and vitamin C. It wasn’t a very successful trip, though I traveled a lot and tried to organize a few courses. After I came back, Guruji asked me if I wanted to join the ashram administration or become his secretary, but I said no. So, he said, ‘Let’s send you abroad after a month’.” 

Working without resources – a shift in attitude

“And I was sent to Sudan, Africa,” laughs Samir. “I always relate this to Lagaan. At the end of the film, the Major is sent to East Africa for his twisted attitude. Similarly, for my twisted attitude, I was sent to Sudan. And I had an extremely tough time there. I had run out of money and it took me 12 weeks to organize my first course. 

I stayed there for six months. And after five and a half months, I got an e-mail asking me to come back. That was the time when things had just started working out - I had money and an apartment and there was a lady who took me around to organize courses. But then I packed my bags and came to Bangalore. And around that time, Tsunami happened.”

Tsunami relief work – tapping his potential

Samir was sent to Nagapattinam (the worst hit Tsunami area in Tamil Nadu) for trauma relief work.

“That’s when my capabilities were tapped fully. Guruji is able to get the best out of you. He’s the best Human Resource Manager. There was a lot of learning and growing because earlier, I had enough Brahma shakti (ability to start something new) and even Shiva shakti (ability to destroy and start all over again), but no Vishnu shakti (maintaining something). But after the Tsumani project, I felt they all came together. And around that time, my parents also made peace with what I was doing”, he observes.

The rebellious and aggressive teenager, who ran away from home for 3 days due to poor academic results, who defied his parents’ wish of pursuing a career in science, who struggled and overcame his addiction to alcohol, who gave up his corporate career for a life of service – had learned to deal with the tsunamis in his life.

At the militant’s camp – running for life

After Tsunami and two previous attempts to meet the naxalites* in Bastar**, Chhattisgarh, he set out alone to meet them for the third time. 

Samir narrates in his deep voice, “There were some boys who had a house in the naxal-led territory, and I went with them. And while walking through the forest we had to be real careful. Putting on the torch is extremely dangerous because if you can be seen, you can be shot by the naxals or the police forces. But we finally reached that boy’s place and after one or two days, a naxal landed there with a gun. And I told him about the organization and showed him Guruji’s photograph, and told him that I wanted to meet his senior leader, but he asked me to wait. 

And by that time, food had become a big issue for me because there were pebbles in each bite I took. They wouldn’t even milk the cattle because they weren’t interested in milk - they just wanted to eat them up. And the same cup they used in the kitchen, they also used in the restroom. I guess after a while, the food just didn’t go in.

Anyway, after some days, their commander came and took me to their camp and there I kept waiting for their leaders. After a while, they told me that this camp is being dissolved and sent me to a different camp. Then, one day, I had this strong instinct that they were planning to kill me, and that night, I escaped from the camp and ran away when the sun was setting. I must have run for hours (30-40 kms) and my legs were badly bruised, because I had to go through the thickest part of the jungle. On the way, I drank water from ponds that were full of muck. And when people on the way asked me who I was, I said, ‘laal salaam’, which is something naxals do. Finally, I reached Sukhma (safe territory) and couldn’t believe that I was alive. In those 11 days, so much had happened and everyone was trying to locate me. Then I sent a text message to Guruji and told him that I was back.”

Abiding in the Guru 

But this little stint in a militant camp didn’t stop him from conducting courses with other militant groups in Guwahati (Assam) - which for him has been a dream run. And Samir hopes to carry on in this fearless and joyful way. 

Born as the youngest of three children in a small town called Yol Camp, close to Dharamshala (the abode of the Dalai Lama in the Himalayas), and growing up in a protective environment, this stubborn child matured into a fearless adult, daring to tread dangerous and unknown paths. His protective shield was the faith in his Master.

“And when I joined college, I realized that I was able to connect with all kinds of people and had a very versatile personality. Now, I feel that I was preparing for something else in life - a space where I’d interact with all kinds of people”, he adds.

“When I was younger, I’d read in one of the ISKON books - Guru bina gyaan nahin hai (there’s no knowledge without a guru) and wondered, ‘Where will I find a guru in today’s world?’ - but now, I’ve found that guru”, concludes Samir with an infectious smile.

* Naxalites - a Maoist Communist group in India that has been declared as a terrorist organization under the Unlawful Activities {Prevention} Act)

** Bastar, Chhattisgarh  - the most naxal-infested territory of India