Pathological fear of failure of a charity garba & dandia event

arewethereyetIn my second year at uni, a few friends and I restarted up the Hindu society, which had not operated for a year or two before us.

One of the first events we held was a ‘Charity Garba and Dandia night’. Being the first big event that any of us had ever organized we were nervous as to how it would go. The biggest fear on our minds is whether we would be able to draw a big enough crowd.

The event was to take place on the first anniversary of the Gujarat Earthquake (26th January 2002), and the proceeds would go to help the victims who were still struggling to rebuild their lives. Being a charity event, we managed to book the uni hall, which is not normally given out to student societies.

Everything seemed set to go well. We paid attention to all the little details to make sure everything went well; a good band, dandia sticks, extensive advertising and all the other things necessary to host a proper garba night. We printed out some tickets and gave them out to a bunch of people who had expressed interest in being ticket sellers.

Two days before the event, we called up all the ticket sellers to see how sales were going. To our absolute horror, only about 15 had been sold! Our worst fears seemed to be coming true.

When I asked why sales had been so slow, I was given a variety of reasons, mostly that our event clashed with someone’s birthday party and a massive gig taking place at the Leisure Lounge (a nightclub), and that most people who might have come to the Garba was going to one or the other of these two events.

We panicked. We would be the laughing stock of uni if we couldn’t even get a couple of hundred people to our garba that was actually inside the uni itself! Friends would crack jokes at us about our failed attempt at throwing an event, and the Hindu society would have a totally crap reputation.

These may seem quite small and selfish things to be worried about, but to us it was a matter of life and death. We eventually decided to cancel the event, and claim that the university let us down over the hall at the last minute.

That evening however, a good friend of ours talked us out of our decision to cancel the event. After all, we’d put in all the effort in hiring a band, designing and printing tickets and posters, getting refreshments sorted, etc – it would be sad to not follow through with our plan.

On the night of the event, we summoned up what little courage we had and nervously made our way to set up the hall. We made all our friends, including many non-Hindus, turn up early so it would look like there is a crowd right from the beginning.

Finally, the clock hit 8.30, time to open the door to the hall and let people in. As it turned out, there were a lot more people than we expected, apparently because most people don’t buy tickets in advance for these kind of uni events but rather turn up at the door. All our worry and panic subsided as a steady stream of people trickled in over the next hour, and the hall filled up.

It turned out that everyone had a really great night, and the feedback was good too. On top of covering our costs we even managed to raise about 700 quid for charity. So all things considered, it went well, and in hindsight we were absolute idiots for being so worried beforehand.

Come to think of it, our worry was not only unfounded, but also a most un-Hindu attitude to take. If we had been following the teachings of our own religion, we would have been calm and poised before the event rather than the nervous wrecks that we were. Our crippling fear was really all about how we would look in front of everyone for throwing a failed event. While it was understandable for people our age (20-ish), it was a selfish and egoistic fear.

The Bhagavad Gita tells us that our right is always to the action and not to the fruit of the action. That is because what we do is something we have control over, but the end result is something that we cannot control, being the outcome of a variety of factors, some of which are not in our control. In the example of our garba, we knew we had put in our best efforts, and were doing something that was worthwhile both in trying to get a Hindu society up and running as well as raising money for charity. We should be satisfied with that. The end result (whether or not people decided to come or not) was not in our control, and we should be detached from it. Also, we shouldn’t be too obsessed about what other people would think of us. The Gita tells us in numerous verses to do our duty with a calm mind regardless of praise or criticism, pleasure and pain, victory and defeat, e.g:

A person who is free from attachment, is selfless, has 
willpower and enthusiasm, and remains calm in success or 
failure, is called sattvic. (Bhagavad Gita 18.26)

I learnt from my mistake. In the next few years, there were many times when I would feel the same kind of nervousness that I felt while organizing our first garba. But as soon as I felt the fear setting in, I learnt to control it and stay poised by recalling the Gita’s teachings. So all things considered, the Gita is a good book to read for anybody wanting to stop being a wimp and get up to try and make a difference in the world!

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