8th Convocation Address to Cordia Group of Colleges, Punjabi University, India

NNEdPro Chair Prof Sumantra Ray spent much of February and March travelling India to spread our mandate of integrating nutrition in medical education. Of interest are establishing the Teaching Kitchen project in the Chetla Slum of Kolkata and establishing collaborations with the support of Lord Rana with Cordia Group of Colleges in the Indian state of Punjab.

Prof Ray had the honour to deliver the convocation speech to the graduating class of 2017 at Cordia Group of Colleges affiliated with Punjabi University, Patiala, India, shared below:

8th Convocation Address by the NNEdPro Chair on 4th March 2017, Cordia Group of Colleges, Punjabi University, India

A very good morning, namaskar and satsriakaal… I bring you greetings the very best of wishes from Cambridge and the NNEdPro Global Centre…

I am truly honoured to be here at the 8th Annual Convocation of the Cordia Group of Educational Institutes in this beautiful setting of the Lord Rana Edu-City in Sanghol. My heartfelt thanks to the Director and Chairman of the Lord Rana Foundation and to all of you here on campus, particularly the 184 graduands from across 18 academic programmes, who have made me feel so welcome by letting me be part of one of the most memorable days of their professional lives.

I remember this day myself a decade and a half ago when I was poised and ready to step up and embrace the world, diving into the unknown and guided by the light I could muster as a result of the collective efforts of all of my own teachers as well as peers. After this I had the good fortune to undertake four more degrees in my thirst for further learning and each time the excitement of being able to actually use newly acquired knowledge fuels my enthusiasm and captures the imagination of the inner child that is within each of us. I am sure that you too are excited in a way that combines the elation of academic achievement with the trepidations of facing the real world and its challenges. But whilst the real world does bring its hurdles, it is also full of opportunities which are waiting to be seen and seized by a well-trained mind.

As you complete your individual journeys today as students, it is simply the beginning of a much longer and even more exciting voyage through the rest of your lives as you each strive to be the best that you can possibly be. Reflecting on my own recollections I have a few simple words of advice to say that you must never be afraid to have big dreams or let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve something as long as you know that your aspirations are geared towards making this world a better place. But having big dreams alone is not enough as every dream will need 99 per cent perspiration, to go with each per cent of inspiration. Work hard but also work smart and above all work for the greater good and it will never fail you. Once you have identified your mission in life and if you love your work, no obstacle will seem too large and this is the way some of my colleagues and I seem to have attained the impossible as we work not for our personal achievement but in the spirit of service to society, recognising the privileges we have been given in a place such as Cambridge and making the most of our resources to create useful legacies to leave behind in the world.

Speaking of the world at large, we live in interesting times where we are witnessing history in the making each day. But whilst the world is swept by forces of populism, walls of division and a fundamentalism that threatens western civilisation, be fully aware of these developments but also detached. For you are fortunate to be in a country which on one hand is capable of embracing the tenets of western civilisation but on the other hand draws its strength from being the very cradle of human civilisation itself. So think not of populism but instead of serving the population and the good karma that Indian philosophy teaches us to accrue each and every day of our lives. Remember, that the battles we need to fight are those against the pull of five vices which continue to tug at us just like gravity itself – Anger, Lust, Greed, Ego and Attachment – if allowed to flourish may give us momentary and hedonic returns but only to lead us into a spiral of insatiable personal ambition and diminishing margins of satisfaction. Instead, aspire towards the five virtues that underpin every great faith of the world – Love, Peace, Goodness, Happiness and Truth – express unconditional love for humanity, make your opinions known but only in the pursuit of peace, bring out the inherent goodness in yourself and see the best in others, stay happy and give others the gift of happiness and above all speak the truth as truth alone triumphs – this is the translation of the Sanskrit phrase satyameva jayate but this is also the motto of Wolfson College (Ring True) at Cambridge University! As you seek personal triumphs on this daily journey from the pull of vice to the liberation of virtue, these guiding stars will not fail you even in the darkest of hours.

But all of you will be well equipped to navigate the route ahead of you as you have been trained and nurtured as part of the Cordia family. Just like the brilliant yellow Cordia flower which adorns your campus, you all have the potential to shine brightly and be an example to those around you. C.O.R.D.I.A. is in fact the perfect acronym…

C for – courage and compassion, remember that true courage comes from not only the determination to face challenges but also to face your fears and failures… in fact there are no failures, only delayed success as you learn the best way to do things… in the meantime keep getting up again and don’t stop trying as long as you know your cause is worthwhile which brings me to compassion… this is the essence of human kindness that makes everything worthwhile so always use it and never lose it…

O for – open mindedness, which is paramount in the life of any learner… and remember this is only the beginning of the learning that life will have to offer…

R for – respect, which is a basic pillar of social integrity is to be applied at all levels… always respect the circumstance and views of others, even when you might politely disagree, but also start at home and have self-respect and you will not go wrong…

D for – dedication and determination, which go hand in hand to fuel any aspiration and no target is unachievable if you work steadily and bit by bit…

I for – information based and implementation orientated… choose your sources of information and evidence carefully and critically and use your knowledge to implement changes in practice…

A for – agility… those who are Darwinian evolve through the changing landscape of this world and adapt to situations with agility… this is what makes Indian graduates some of the most attractive employees around the world… sustain your agility and fall not into complacency and this tool will serve you and society very well indeed…

All of this said I would like to conclude with an ode to Cordia through a few rhyming couplets that I was inspired to write today at the crack of dawn in the serene settings of Sanghol…

As we commence this bright new day there is a note of excitement in the air
Sunshine with smiles and the atmosphere of a celebratory fair

It is the day so many have awaited over the past few years
After an incredible journey of learning without any fears

It has been a road full of twists, turns and always with a gradient
But today you are all jubilant and looking truly radiant

For there have been ups and downs
And so many smiles and frowns

As you stand proud upon your achievements from these years gone past
Flying the flag of knowledge today at more than full mast

Go forth today onto the road ahead full of hopes and dreams
Know your map well including seas and mountains as well as hills and streams

Always work for the greater good and with the best of intention
This is just as important as working on a novel invention

And remember there is no darkness that cannot be dispelled with the light of a single flame
As you set your path to achieve great things for society rather than just the pursuit of fame

On this road ahead I wish you every blessing and all the very best
Go forth with your newfound knowledge as well as zeal and zest!

MANY CONGRATULATIONS CONVOCATION CLASS OF 2017 & MAY YOU ALWAYS BE BLESSED.

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