When we discuss Leaders and Leadership, the discussion veers around to explore one oft discussed question: Are Leaders born or made? I have discussed this question in some of my blogs (read this for instance) but occasionally we meet a person whose life story surprises us and we think some persons are indeed born with innate qualities of leadership.
Dr. Anurag (Alok) Mishra of Delhi’s Maulana Azad Medical College is one of them.
Born in a family which valued openness and building relationships, Anurag (Alok to his family) always wanted to be a doctor. On the insistence of his father who was an engineer, he appeared for IIT entrance examination, and for entrance examination for medical college because he wanted to be a doctor. He secured admission to both! While on his way to complete IIT admission formalities he received a phone call that he had secured admission to MAMC (Maulana Azad Medical College). Anurag stopped in his way, turned back and he gave up IIT admission in favour of the admission to the Medical college.
Entrance to the professional course also marked emergence of the leader in him. He felt a sense of injustice when the din for reservation in professional course like medicine was cutting down merit against social caste. That was in 2006. The ‘inflection point’ came when he along with a group of friends watched ‘Rang De Basanti’. So charged was Anurag and his group of friends that when they came out of the theater in the late evening, they formed ‘Youth For Equality’ (YFE) before retiring for the day!
That was the inflection point which changes lives of leaders sometimes suddenly, sometimes gradually.
When Baba Amte stumbled upon leprosy affected Tulsiram, and the result was a lifelong dedication to the cause of leprosy eradication; he set up Anandwan. Dr Soundarya Rajesh’s candidature for a job was rejected because she had a break (maternity break it was) in her career and she realized that it was a common problem of all women. That incident and the unfairness of it, propelled her to launch her organization championing the cause of diversity, and inclusion. And she has done stupendous work in this area. The examples of inflection points in the lives of leaders are plenty, one has to just look up biographies.
The emotions behind ‘Youth For Equality’ (YFE) echoed among youngsters, spread quickly like a wild fire and YFE became a nationwide movement. Political leaders sympathized with them but their trade does not allow them to be honest to themselves. Nevertheless, the force of the agitation ensured that the number of seats in open category were not reduced though reservation was brought in. But not before a nation-wide strike. The young doctors however ensured that the services were not affected by running a parallel OPD.
There was a lot of learning as a leader in those turbulent times. Dr. Anurag understood the worth of negotiations where conflicting interests must be accommodated yet staying true to the cause.
Acquaintances during the YFE led to Anurag’s joining ‘Doctors For You’, an NGO. Its website declares ‘Doctors for You’ was Established in 2007 by doctors, medical students and like-minded people, (it is) a humanitarian organization based in India, has demonstrated pioneering work in community-based disaster risk reduction, public health, training and disaster emergency response. DFY, since its inception in 2007, has been involved extensively with vulnerable communities in the six states of India providing efficient, effective and equitable distribution of health care for all.’
Dr Anurag devotes time to volunteer wherever there is a disaster and health care is the cry of that hour. He has often raised funds for such activities while working in the affected area. He was actively organizing and providing health care during the J&K Floods (Sept 2014), Nepal Earthquake (Apr 2015) among many other instances. The involvement of Dr Anurag and DFY in Assam began much before the ethnic violence in July 2012. The group of doctors trained 4000 Doctors in Assam and paramedics in Disaster management. The Assam Ethnic Violence found the doctors in the cross-fire between the two parties but they managed to gain confidence of both, which must be regarded as a unique achievement.
Dr Anurag realizes that he must reach out to people wherever their help is needed. He has in his many years of medical work, inspired several young medical professionals and helped them learn the leadership skills. He runs ‘Gurukool’ under auspices of which he organizes many events for young doctors where the doctor who speaks of a problem is empowered to solve it. There can be no better training in leadership than solving what in your opinion is a big problem! It teaches and helps internalize proactive approach to life, which would be the greatest lesson of life.
In his characteristic way, Dr Anurag understates his achievements. His wit and sense of humour is endearing and he is a gadget-guru!
I asked him to reflect on his life, his contribution to the social cause and tell me how it had impacted him. ‘I have always followed my heart; it tells you ‘why’ (the ‘just cause’ as the books label it) and head tells you ‘how.’ Let your heart decide which cause to take up and let your head decide how to progress in its realization. That’s the best medicine for leadership, don’t you agree?
And Dr. Anurag Mishra’s statement also sums up several books on leadership in a single sentence!
Vivek S Patwardhan
Pic Courtesy: Atharva Tulsi on Unsplash
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” **** “Aroehan: Creating Dream Villages in Mokhada by 2025: “No Malnutrition Deaths, No Child ‘Out of School’, Reduction in migration by 50%.”