Bharathy Bhaskar is a household name in Tamil Nadu. Her motivational talks draw thousands, and her YouTube videos are seen by millions. She is a celebrity and needs no introduction. Why would she agree to a webinar to inspire the students of an engineering college in Chennai? Therein lie some great leadership lessons – a lesson in modesty, a lesson in compassion, and a lesson in the spirit of giving back.
In May of 2020, the alumni of the College of Engineering, Guindy (CEG) conducted a student survey. The goal of the survey was to discover the needs of the students with respect to their journey through CEG in getting an engineering education. One of the survey results said the students needed help with improving communication skills, especially English. Based on the survey results, the alumni created an initiative to help the students, particularly those who come from a rural background with a vernacular medium of education to overcome their fears of communication in English, and complete their programs with confidence, and be gainfully employed as an engineer.
The team working on this initiative created a comprehensive program with multiple components. One of the important components of this program is raising awareness of the importance of English in communication. Many students arrive at CEG without a clear understanding of why they should pay importance to English communication. They take a one-semester course in Technical English and are then left to their own devices in continuing their English communication education. This results in students completing their education and facing the world with less than adequate English communication skills, much needed in the global economy today.
After much discussion we decided to have webinars that will motivate the students to give importance to English communication. We hoped that we could find a great speaker who is willing to talk to the students and motivate them to consider communication as an important part of getting the engineering education. Several names were suggested, but one of them stood out – Bharathy Bhaskar.
A less well-known fact about Bharathy is that she is an alumna of Anna University and CEG. She is an engineer, who received her chemical engineering bachelor’s degree from Anna University’s AC Tech, and her MBA from CEG with a career in banking.
I reached out to Bharathy on social media and mentioned that I am an alumna of CEG and asked if she would be willing to talk to the students. I was not sure that she would respond to a message from someone she had never met. She is a celebrity, yet, she responded quickly, and affirmatively. What a great lesson in modesty!
Without hesitation, she said she will be willing to speak to the students. Bharathy could see I was dead serious about helping the students. She decided she was going to help us do it. Another leadership lesson here – compassion. She felt my pain and the pain of all the students of CEG and Anna University. She empathized with me, but went beyond empathy, by being compassionate and taking action.
The third, a lesson to all of us, is giving back to the community. CEG and Anna University gave her and me and the other alumni the foundation for our life. She has not forgotten, and how wonderful it is when alumni feel the urge to give back to their alma mater!
On September 12, 2020, Bharathi spoke to the students on the importance of English in communication on Zoom.
Her speech was electrifying, motivating, and inspirational. She made so many beautiful points in her speech about the importance of English communication. They gave me goosebumps. A few of them stuck in my mind and keep playing over and over again:
“We need Tamil for our soul, and English for our livelihood.”
“Learn your mother tongue well, learning English will become easy”
“Give equal importance to language teachers who can then be inspired to motivate the students to excel in communication”
I invite those of you who understand Tamil to listen to her. I can say that she is probably the best speaker I have heard in my mother tongue in a long time. I hope the students of CEG and Anna University will take her words to heart, and become experts in communicating.