Ripples In Various Cities ...

December 2013

Ripples from Pune to Baroda ...

--few days ago, we landed in Pune, straight into Awakin Nigdi.  Neeti and Suvid and the local gang had put so much love into the smallest things, that it left everyone super grateful.

--the next day, Sheetal and Khush hosted an 80 person Awakin.  The ambiance was beautiful, and the vibe was very strong so I amped up the conversation (ie. death -- LOL!).  Many many small ripples.  Shaheen had brought her parents and brother, and his brother had one of those inner experiences that evening and later wrote a touching note that said how he now totally understood what our work was all about. :)

--the one-day retreat in Pune was great, in a beautiful chapel where it was the first time in 50 years that they had allowed others to be there.  The nuns have also been hosting Monday (6AM! :)) Awakins for 1.5 years.  Wah!  You've seen the photos and stories. :)  Several folks want to come to MBL retreat, one person with a studio wants to synch up with Nimo, Shaily wants to wisdom photos, the Catholic nuns at the monastery feel so connected.

--I was supposed to fly out on Friday, but instead chose to take an overnight bus with Audrey -- since Sheetal felt called for us to be "chief guests" at Dada Vaswani's program.  Truly incredible evening.  Instead of the usual place, Dada walks in and insists on having me sit next to him; then the 93 year old gets up from his chair again (which requires two people) to greet me and whispers in my ear, "I am so grateful to meet you."  I had some awesomely embrassing moments that our local gang in the audience thoroughly enjoyed, :) and I also spoke for a bit to the crowd of 1200.  Dada opened his talk by candidly expressing his gratitude for our work and blessing it whole heartedly, and we closed the evening with some special private time with him.  Actually, I was sick and my body was weak but it didn't seem to matter in the grand scheme of things.

--Baroda 1-day retreat was the next morning, and we jokingly called it the Pandya retreat.  Lots of small things with great love, at the Vinoba retreat.  When Jagdisha Dada spoke in the afternoon, grace seemed to be flowing through in full throttle mode ... in his soft 80 year old voice, he spoke about his personal encounters with Vinoba, his journey, and he wept on several occasions -- particularly in thinking about Guri. :)  He said we were all one in a thousand.  Ba followed with her usually cute sharing.  And the whole context felt connected to Vinoba.

--Yesterday morning, I spoke to a 300 person crowd (a surprise for 9AM on Sunday morning!) around "making Baroda innovative".  Former mayor, and collector and industry heads, and chancellors and lot of  city's thought leaders was there.  My kaka was anchoring this, so I agreed to anything they asked for -- including a "press conference" the day before. LOL.  All major local papers had front page stories on Sunday morning.  The night before, Audrey and I were wondering how genius was going to flow with such very little time to prepare a talk on "innovation" ... but then sometimes you luck out. :)  Hundreds of ripples were seeded, Gandhian thought was reignited and we now have massive opportunities to encourage acts of kindness across the city.  So many touching moments, but the classic was when my Uncle (who is one of the legendary entrepreneurs in India's telecomm history) concludes by saying, "In a way, I am the anti-thesis of Nipun.  This morning, I looked up the presentation I had given to him in 2000 to convince him OUT of his path -- so I can't take any credit for all he has done. :)  But today, I had tears in my eyes -- and I'm not the one to tear up."  I went up and hugged him.  Fruit of 13 years of giftivism on display in a public forum. :)

--In a sort of after-party, 15-20 of local deep ties met for lunch that my Kaki had elegantly hosted -- and as Audrey anchored the space with her beautiful stories, the circle went on for five hours. :)  Deep space for listening and sharing, and lots of local strength was built invisibly.  Spirited Talks, Awakin Circles, and so much more are unfolding in the local scene.

Madhu, Audrey and I are heading to A'bad today; Anarben, Jayeshbhai and I are going to spent today and tomorrow together in Sughad; Wednesday is the "women's retreat" with VandanaDidi, anchored by Madhu; and Friday is the start of another 10-day roadtrip that will span Hyderabad, Surat, Udaipur, Delhi and Nadiad.

Ripples from Hyderabad ...

Enjoyed Hyderbad y'day ... 

--the inspirEd conference in Hyderabad opened with grateful video (which continues to spread and Guri/KS team just shipped it out this morning to another 105 thousand people!) :)  I sat next to Dean of ISB, who stood up to applaud Nimo. :)  after my talk, he also asked for a copy of my slides, so he can spread these ideas. :) 

--at the "executive lunch" with about 25 folks, shaheen gave a topic on each table: inner transformation!  wah. :) 

--in the evening Nimo and I were with Dr. Newton and their community.  an elevated spirit, super humble, a direct disciple of Buddha in a past life. :)  few of us had met at a coffee shop in Berkeley, and interestingly those same folks converged in H'bad y'day.  60-70 diverse folks (including two nuns) crammed in a humble setting with great vibrations for a talk on giftivism.  truly amazing evening.  great questions, interactions, flow of love.  showed being kind at the end, and then you know how it is -- we hugged every SINGLE person.  so many people said the evening has changed their life.  Smile Decks, kind acts, Awakin possibility, and so many ripples are on the way in H'bad.  this felt like the main reason I was called to H'bad y'day.  And Dr. Newton is whole heartedly coming to upcoming "Gandhi 3.0" gathering.

--in the late night, we chatted with TFI leadership as they asked, "How do we lead with inner transformation?  How do we be more process oriented?"  Nimojeeee was laying it down with his experience with Ekatva!  They had 700 fellows over the last 5 years; this next year alone, they are adding 700 more.  Main takeaway was our recommendation to let their upcoming A'bad chapter be deeply led by "IT", as an experiment in their ecosystem -- and have it be closely connected to MBL.  And internally within all of TFI, they are all talking about Gandhi 3.0 (and heavily experimenting with circles, many-to-many, and more) as many of them are vying to attend the next MBL retreat.

I've left town for Surat, where a dozen of us are convening to support the local ecosystem there.  In the meantime, Nimojeeeeeeeee is ready to rock inspirEd tonight in H'bad with his session on lessons from Ekatva.  Wah! :) 

Ripples from Surat ...

About ten of us piled onto Surat yesterday.  "In 24 hours, I think we might've just lived a week or maybe even a month," Parag (our host) said.  Rest of us agreed. :)

We started with a public talk to a group of 200 service oriented folks -- in Gujarati!  Mukeshbhai, Suresh, Audrey and I were up on stage.  Giftivism, generosity and love were in the air.  Since there were so many of us, it created a beautiful many-to-many field of loads of ripples.  Someone served the security guards, another kid went out to give pastries to stranger, another said, "I just fought with my carpenter but now I'm going to practice giftivism and take sweets for him," (a la Madhu's story!); yet another person told Khushmita, "I've always want to take care of my maid's daughter; I'm going to tell her tonight that I'm taking care of all her marriage expenses and then will email you about it."  Some company CEO ran into Mukeshbhai and is now going to start meditating. :) Another couple is set to start a Seva Cafe this month.  The stories went on.  Many said the space last night had decidedly transformed their path in the direction of love.  Wah!

In the late night hours, we had a beautiful circle as everyone felt elated -- and grateful for our incredible hosts. :) 

Next morning, we all went to a dharmic house where they've been hosting Vipassana meditations every morning in their basement -- for the past many years.  They tragically lost their 9 year old daughter, and said it was meditation that helped them stay equanimous.  Another great circle, with great stories, like their family practice of feeding 2500 monks everyday. :) 

Then, Sheetal and gang anchored a "Dil ki Kahani" with Meetaben.  In the strong space that was held with 20 random folks who had arrived by serendipity, Meetaben spoke about her touching stories with tears in her eyes.  "I had such high expectations of my first son, and then the Universe gifted me a second son -- of whom I'm couldn't have any expectations."  He was born deaf.  Her organic stories of service inspired everyone, as it opened a field for others to share powerful stories as well.

In the afternoon, Trupti, Madhu, Audrey and I spoke to packed hall of teachers and some student leaders at Fountain Head School -- where they have been doing all kinds of Smile Card acts for a while.  Great interaction, particularly with the students, who shared fantastic stories and asked rich questions -- what happens if someone refuses your kind act?  Does generosity make others dependent on us?  Is technology helping us get connected or disconnected?  

We were out of Smile Cards, but everyone got a Smile Deck.  One guy in the audience has a staff of 1700 and a personal practice of meeting all birthday people every morning before starting the day.  He's now going to translate the deck in Gujarati and incorporate a small act of kindness into each of those interactions.

We closed out the evening with an Awakin Circle.  Anne Marie introduced it, "Doctor" Khushmita Sanghvi opened with a rocking story, and about 30-40 of us had a truly beautiful circle with rich stories.  Suresh closed with a song in tribute to GopalDada.  Then, Parag and Meeta served everyone food; Parag's father said it was the first time he was serving anyone food. :)  Swara, Trupti and Sheetal took over the dishes.  Happiness was in the air.

As we were all leaving, group hugs, smiles, people fighting to touch each other's feet, tears in some eyes, gratitude in everyone's heart. "We just met y'day but I feel like we've know each other for lifetimes," people said to each other.  Parag quietly says, "Thank you.  To pay forward all your love, I'm going to meditate everyday for half an hour."  And today was the first time he's ever meditated an hour. :)

Onwards we charge -- as the love caravan (with another combination of love warriorrs) heads out to Udaipur this afternoon, :) 

Ripples from Udaipur ...

Some updates from day and a half in Udaipur few days ago ...

--day after Surat, a car load of us (Madhu, Meghna, Sheetal, Khush, Swara, and Reva) left for udaipur.  Being process driven, lot of unexpected value emerges on the way.  At one point, our conversation went from laughing to super deep talk about Boddhisattvas.  It wasn't so much the content but the collective presence, that emerges and flows where it needs to.
--On the first day, we visited Reva on a farm where they host 'Swaraj University'.  They have batches of 15 students, who do ongoing two-month vocational internships with partner NGOs for two years; their overarching mission is to "regenerate local cultures, local economies and local ecologies."  A wonderful old couple who owns the farm told us: "Our greatest teacher of generosity is nature.  Everything from nature comes as a gift." 

--At night, we had a circle of sharing at a beautiful restaurant -- Millets of Mewar, where everyone is locally grown.  Sheetal anchored it with the topic of Mujarwara -- being a good neighbor.  Wah!

--In Udaipur, we were hosted by Manish Jain (68 minute video on his thinking).  On the spectrum of education reform, he's on the far end -- encouraging youth to unlearn, deschool, and walk out.  :)  Inspired by Gandhi, their efforts emphasize "hands" in the "hands, head, heart" trilogy.  In recent years, they've really come to adopt the "gift culture" idea and are doing lots of local experiments (including a local "gift store").  A wonderful quote that someone shared with him: "In rural areas, people are connected to processes; in urban areas, people are connected to products."

--Next morning, we met Sant Amitabh, 92 year old monastic -- via gentle insistence from Mukeshbhai.  We meditated together for an hour and we shared some thought for another half hour.  Despite his age, he's super lucid and articulate.  "Anyone who cultivates is a saint.  It has nothing to do with what color robes you wear."  One time Mukeshbhai took a young Canadian there, who had dedicated her life to service and he said, "Service is just a hobby for her."  Although gentle, he was very clear that we should end all craving and aversion.  I asked about his teacher, and he said it was a 10-minute encounter with a saintly woman who essentially told him that there is nothing in this field of "maya" that is worth pursuing. :)

--In the afternoon, Madhu and Meghna held a circle with various local friends at Shikshantar.  Later, I gave a public talk about designs that lead with inner transformation -- in Hindi, for a full 2 hours!  Who knew. :)  It was really well received, with some great questions, and a strong vibe that was built in the room.  One journalist offered to translate the deck, another offered to give free bulk-SMS's through his company, another took some of us to a peaceful forest sanctuary the next day, and many blessed our journey.

--At night, we held an Awakin Circle at the home of a young man who had attended Awakin in various cities and started Awakin Udaipur four weeks ago.  So beautiful, as 20-25 of us sat in a circle, and Swara opened with a thoughtful reading that brought up some great shares.

--That night, we all laughed a lot (photos: divine-feminine-Gandhi-3.0 and Marward-Ke-Madhujee), as Ashima and Sikaandar dropped in for a surprise visit.  Even later in the night, we spontaneously did a "Dil Ki Kahini" with Manish and Vidhi (his wife) -- which was really beautiful.  Manish shared how early in his path, he took very strong stances against the status-quo but that creates even more polarities.  He now tries to be a good friend first and let that lead the way.  These days, he's most excited about creating learning cities and learning unconferences.  Sheetal is also to host Manish on a Forest Call in the upcoming future.

We all felt connected and they're keen to explore more local projects in Udaipur that promote the spirit of mujawarah (good neighbor), gift culture, and skilful technology.

Leading with Inner Transformation ... Dear Youth Alliance Gang,

It was a delight to connect after the beautiful Awakin Circle at your place.

In the face of incredibly difficult questions with YA, I'm so glad that you are not letting go of your commitment to inner transformation.  As we spoke ...

  • nature supports generosity; the emptier we become, the more we can genuinely give; and the more we offer, the more it comes back to us, and the more we can pay-forward

    until we enter into the equilibrium of nature's flow, we have to cultivate staying power.  Small percentage of this is material, but overwhelming majority is internal (equanimity, for example).  in our current world, we typically get this percentage wrong -- but if you study Vinoba and Gandhi, it become extremely clear that this was the foundation of their approach.

    to get into nature's flow, instead of spending majority of our time to acquire material resources, it is more skillful and sustainable (and efficient) to spend time for inner transformation.  this is the basis for designing by "leading with inner transformation".

    however, this is hard work because the mind will revolt and provide excuses without us even recognizing it.  hence, we need to cultivate noble friends.  this is the basis of ServiceSpace, Awakin, Moved by Love and other such experiments.
    once we are in that virtuous cycle of building inner capacity, supporting noble friends, and working in harmony with nature, material and non-material things fall into place elegantly.  at some point, one can even say that whatever falls into place is exactly the right thing, and there is a shift to the do-nothing end of value creation spectrum.

Such work is nothing short of revolutionary.  And I hope you continue to retain that fervor and zeal.  In this direction of inner transformation, please feel free to call on me anytime as your brother in service.

With lots of love, and hugs, :) 

Ripples from Delhi ...

Some ripples from Delhi trip, in the field of Pratyushanand :) ...

--The day I landed, I had to address the Manthan gathering ... at India Habitat Center (one of the fancier spots in Delhi).  Through a long comedy of errors, I ended up taking a cold water shower, Pratyush and I walked 2 kilometers to find a rickshaw (in a central area!), and Pratyush's shoe broke (I don't how else to describe it!) along the way, as we arrived about 60 seconds before the program started and I went up on stage without even knowing if my slides would work.  Yet, we were all smiles.  As Pratyush and I spoke, "We put in sincere effort on our end, and then the practice is just to be equanimous." :)  It was a fancy auditorium, with many CEO types, politicians, leading journalists and techies.  The short talk created a strong buzz, as one of the politicians (with not-such-a-great-vibe :)) later commented, "Your fifteen minutes has somehow changed the conversations we're all having."  I couldn't tell if he was happy about it or not. :) 

--The most touching moment was an older fellow, who came up to me aftewards, hugged me, and started tearing up.  "I want to live like this.  But I don't know how."  A few moments later: "Can I make an offering?"  And he hands me a thousand rupee note.  "This is all I have right now, but I just want to give it.  Will you accept it?"  Of course.  Gratitude economy. :)  He subsequently attended two other local events next two days.

--Pratyush and I were busy laddering ripples in all directions, from a mobile app for Karma Kitchen to zero-rupee note to a kindness column on Rediff.  And hugging people in nice suits and sarees. :)  In an informal circle, Pratyush invites couple folks to try out "Free Hugs".  A woman (Prez of Nasscomm) wonders if its safe for women.  Someone hugs her right then and everyone smiles.  One thing leads to another, and the day after, Pratyush manifested Free Hugs in Gurgaon.

--on the second day, Tarun from TFI organized a big-ish talk with all their local fellows; Ravi (Gulati) from Manzil brought his crew, who also opened with a Kabir song; as did the YIF fellows.  Great time, lots of great questions, and dozens signed on to stay engaged locally.  And bunch of them are now reading our local man's thoughts on giving. :)  Many people shared great stories of how ServiceSpace work has changed them -- gently and subtly but profoundly.  And Tarun himself wants to host Awakins now. :) 

--on the third day, I visited Geetanjali's Kat-Katha in the GB Road brothels.  Her work is really inspiring, because she leads with community relationships.  We did a fun circle with the kids and volunteers, and sang happy birthday to Geetanjali. They gave me a bouquet of roses, which we split amongst the kids to "share happiness" with a stranger in the community (and they even got some carrots in return!).  Then, we visited some of the Didis and did informal circle of sharing; one of them later tells me, "I pray once in the morning, but from today, I'd like to start doing it in the evening too."  And on the walk back, our gang of love-warriors shared desserts with "Didis" we'd meet, gifted balloons, hugged pimps and shared love.  Geetanjali is bringing lot of joy in the middle of tough conditions.

--from the brothels, we headed to Hyatt to meet one of the richer Indians in the country. :)  But same work there.  He spoke about his inner transformation (which was rather impressive!), and a friend he had invited a friend (who headed eGovernance for all of India) was so moved (Pratyushanand was in full flow with his stories here!) in between that he asked his son to drop whatever he was doing and join our lunch. :)  Many years ago, that man used to be a collector in Bodhgaya; his son was named Siddharth; and our original friend had emailed me last year when he had some vision in Bodhgaya.  We all smiled at the Buddha undertones to our conversation. :)  As we left, Pratyush and I gave them a hand-made card from the kids in the brothels ... it said, "I love you" and had the hand-written names of dozen kids.

--by night, we held an Awakin Circle.  About 40 folks crammed into a small living room.  One IIT-wallah who nows run a gift-economy food truck, a person closely connected to Nithyashanti, some elders who came just to share gratitude, Youth Alliance gang, and more.  All diversely great folks.  Pratyush's mom helped cook, Nidhi baked two cakes, we all sang b'day song for Geetanjali.  So much love, joy, connection.  I love Awakins. :)  Towards the end of our circle, a first-timer spoke candidly about some challenges in her life; another first-timer felt moved to ask everyone to say, "We love you"; that girl is in tears, and on another side, another person starts sobbing.  Love is in the air, and because its source is decentralized, its even more generative.  So many ripples.  One person offered "upto to 3 lakhs per year" to cover cost of anything ServiceSpace in Delhi (he will cover first day's cost of upcoming Seva Cafe), two others offered their homes for Awakins; many first-timers hope to stay further engaged.

The next morning I meet an old friend for breakfast, before my flight.  When he was in the US, he had a habit of touching my parents feet every time he left them.  Seeing him, I was reminded of gratitude for my parents too. :)  I write all these summary emails (and more :)) primarily for them; it is been my personal practice since the time I quit my job, to have them feel a part of all that I'm engaged with.  Yet, these are super abbreviated snapshots of what actually happens -- so I'm just left with a prayer of gratitude, that what is in my heart reaches them and so many others through the Inner Net.  I have a strong feeling that the mail does indeed get delivered. :)

Ripples from Bombay (December Edition) ...

Few updates from couple days in Bombay ... 

--Yogeshbhai, Deven and I drove together for a talk at Mastek in Navi Mumbai.  Sudhakar, who attended our Nov Maitri Milan, emailed all their leaders to especially join. Couple hundred of them took time from their busy schedules to make a morning(!) talk; Sanjay opened by saying how they've now started Awakin Circles within the company.  I was ready with slides and videos, but alas, there was no setup, so I had to just riff spontaneously. :)   Fun stuff, followed by a very engaging Q&A.  Lots of hugs at the end, as people stood in long lines just to pick a Smile Deck card and sign up for our newsletters.  As always, we opened up the bouquet and paid forward the flowers.  A woman told me how she is going to do one act of kindness every single day -- life-long kindness challenge. :)

--in the afternoon, we met with Samir Somaiya -- big businessman, known for his ethics, big fan of Gandhi, runs schools with 33 thousand(!) students.  He was going way out of his to meet, and I was curious why.  "I didn't know anything about you three months ago, but since then, I keep running into people who ask me to meet you."  Its a familiar story in ServiceSpace worlds.  The thing about the Inner-Net is that it organizes just the right time to meet people -- ie. when the trust network ripens.  The day before, I was meeting an architect for our Wisdom Crafts store who randomly ended up being Samir's father-in-law; the day after we met, Samir was talking to a random friend at the airport about me, and that person was hosting me for a talk the next day. :)  Anyhow, he wants to bring Smile Cards to Somaiya College, bring us in to speak, come to our MBL retreat, and explore few others experiments. 

--at the end of that meeting, seven of us all picked a Smile Deck card.  One among us was Pradeep-bhai, who is a retired CPA and philanthropist.  "Give a meal to a homeless person, and spend 15 minutes listening to his/her story."  This 75+ year old man looks to me and says, "I've given a lot to those on the streets but I've always been afraid to spend time with them."  After a pause, he adds: "But I'll do this today."  He later met me at another event and said he had indeed done it.  "I met this man, learned more about him, and then once we had a relationship, I saw that he had an eye problem and I could help him with it."  In a touching email, he added, "Writing a cheque for a charity may fulfill the need of a poor person but may not make a person happy.  It is too impersonal. You have pointed way to the missing dimension.  I experienced that when I talked with Shivram the beggar outside a temple in Matunga."

--in early evening hours, we held a circle with about 20 youngsters at Bhumi's home in Kandivelli.  They call themselves "Earthlings".  Everyone shared super-beautiful stories of generosity!  Once youth get ignited in a many-to-many context, the best thing to do is get out of the way and let their inner compassion lead the way.  We spoke about spontaneous acts of kindness, but also pushing the bounds to slow acts of kindness (I gave example of a local hair-cutter, who charges me 20 rupees but after six months, he told me last week, "Even if you don't pay me its okay, because I value our friendship much more than the money.")  After the circle, one youngster organically says, "From today, I've decided that I'm no longer going to kill mosquitoes, as my commitment to nonviolence and kindness." :)

--that evening was Awakin Kandivelli at the Mathuria residence.  Sixty people piled into a cozy space.  Bunch of people from past retreats, and lots of first-timers to an Awakin Circle.  So much sincerity was in the room.  A happy fellow ended up sharing the concluding story: "I continue to learn and re-learn faith.  The other day, I met a wandering woman on the streets, who yelled out at me: 'Hey, go and get me some tea.'  A little startled, I decided to give her a twenty so she can buy it herself.  She tucked that away and said, 'Go on the other side of the street and get me some tea.'  Really?  Somehow I felt compelled to go.  When I gave her the tea, she says, 'Now, get me two sarees and a scarf.'  It was ludicrous but something deep inside me told me that I needed to do this -- for myself.  On the way to the store, I was in tears.  I returned with sarees and scarf, an hour and a half later and the woman is standing in the same spot. 'I knew you'd return,' she said.  I have no doubt that some divine genius was flowing through that woman to teach me about faith and love.  And I'm now left with the question -- what if I treated each moment as an invitation to practice that kind of faith?"

--next day, we had small circles with many beautiful folks that were connected to ServiceSpace through different serendipities.  Like Madhu Siri Prakash.  She's a Gandhian scholar, professor at Penn State, just finished teaching a workshop with Satish Kumar and Vandana Shiva.  One of her students (Yogesh-bhai) said, "Just come to Bombay" -- and she did. :)  A while back, she was heading into a 10-day meditation and was a bit frazzled by a few events.  Just then, she opened a random magazine and it had my UPenn talk. :)  "I found a lot of parallels between my meditation and your walking," she told me. :) 

--that evening, Caring Friends had organized a very nice dinner event.  This group donates 35 crores every year; every quarter, they host events with their grantees, but this was their first exception with an "outsider" and ended up being their biggest one to date, with about 150 philanthropists.  Mostly people come to request money, but I took the occasion to be a bit provocative. :)  "Sympathy says, 'I see your pain.'  It has its merits, but the next step is empathy: 'Your pain is my pain.'  How do we shift from sympathy to empathy?"  I gave the example of Pradeep-bhai (who was in the audience) from the previous day and his shift from giving money or even food to beggars, versus relating to them with the understanding that your and his liberation are inter-twined.  It was very well received.  So many ripples from this gathering.  Most everyone got a Smile Deck to practice being the change.  One fellow comes and says, "I just want to say -- bless you."  I did indeed feel blessed by the collective.

--the next day, Siddarth, Lahar, Pratyush, Mukeshbhai and gang had Mumbai's first 1-day MBL retreat.  40+ folks from around Bombay, and 15 on the waitlist. :)  Most interesting thing was that the circle held six set of parents and their son/daughter.  In hallway conversations, it was beautiful to see all kinds of new pattern open up.  For instance, at lunch, one person said, "I donated, I volunteered, I gave to everyone but there was one person I couldn't love -- at all.  She's lived with me for decades.  My mother-in-law.  But after hosting Awakins for a year, something has shifted.  My Awakin children have made me sensitive and for the first time in my life, my mother-in-law and I are now connected."  Another mom added: "I've started learning from my son.  I recently opened another medical clinic and he said, 'Mom, pay attention to your intention.  Are you doing this to build your ego or to help people?'  He was right.  It was ego, and that's why it was heavy."  With teary eyes, Darpan shared in the circle, "The more I do acts of kindness for others, the more I realize that I've been receiving acts of kindness from everyone -- and most importantly from my parents."  Most of these relationships are far from rosy-peachy to start with ... but inner transformation seems to create these bridges naturally.  Lahar, one of the hosts, was in tears three times during the day.  In the opening circle, Sheetal Aunty shared: "At first, I didn't understand all this work, but I now I see that this is what the world needs.  Last week, 40 people watch this man bleed to death while one, only one, 19 year old tried to help.  We need to sensitize ourselves and our world!"  We closed with a powerful video, a gratitude walk/bow, and one-word sermons.

--Many ripples, of course.  Shaily is now set to start a "Wisdom Photography Commons".  Chandani wants to bring this spirit into "Satya Mev Jayate" (where she is the director of partnerships) and they are going to start with featuring one of our articles on their website and brainstorm ideas that Deven and others shared with her.  Sachi is working on Feb 9th public event around inspiring stories of service.  Bunch of us are heading to 10-day meditation retreat together.  Bindu Aunty wants to start an Awakin at her place!  Darpan keep saying, "It's not acceptable that Mumbai doesn't have a regular [Karma Kitchen].  When can we start?"  And with over a thousand Mumbaites on our mailing list, Shalini is poised to start a weekly newsletter and a convenient destination for various local activities.

--The next morning, I spoke at WOI.  Anil asked me at a previous Awakin, "We have some kids who'd love to hear these ideas."  I figured if someone is dedicated to meditation and listening, I'll just blindly say yes.  Turned out to be 200 engineers in their twenties.  They've never had a guest speaker so everyone just sort of piled on in the hallways.  Parag also rolled out to share stories about last weekend's Karma Kitchen in Surat.  Kavita, Anil's wife, "It was an incredible experience to have you speak to us at WOI.  Thank you so much for taking the time to come address our kids.  Normally, a verbose, rambunctious, noisy bunch, there was complete silence today as you spoke.  There can be no doubt that you touched them and the ripples will come in unexpected and beautiful ways in their lives for a long time.  May God bless you all with endless energy to spread this work."  Kavita also super keen to attend the next MBL retreat; when I told her it was full, she said: "Can I come just to do dishes?" :)  WOI is now also exploring doing some kindness game and good news as a part of their in-flight entertainment software. :)

--Another meeting and a circle later, Sachi and I closed out the day with a talk at Rotary.  Not the kind of crowd that would easily understand this kind of thinking, but that's precisely why I agreed.  An officiating member himself opens the Q&A with:  "We've tried this kind of thing at Bombay at Zodiac Grill and it didn't work." Leader of another Rotary club himself counters with, "Actually, that was very different.  Pay-what-you-want is very different than paying-it-forward."  The organizer SMS'd me later saying his daughter has very little attention span but she was tuned in the whole way through.  Two others invited me to other gatherings.  We ran out of Decks, so they've requested more.  One set of parents sincerely said, "My kids are partying upstairs but they really need to hear this.   Will you just come upstairs for two minutes?"  Not keen to head into a party, :) I asked her to bring her daughter downstairs, which she did -- as we hugged. :)

Along the way, of course, lots of fun/small events too.  In Bangalore, one of my slippers had disappeared (likely fallen off from a car), so Praveen insisted on giving me his.  I loved it -- but needed another pair that were a bit bigger, and also somewhat more formal for stage appearances. :)  Someday, I figured.  And then at an Awakin Circle last Friday, one fellow (whom I've never met and for whom it was a first Awakin Circle) comes up to me and says, "I've got a gift for you, if you'll accept it." A pair of slip-on shoes!  "Really?" I said while being a bit surprised at rather random gift, particularly at an Awakin. :)  And it was the right size too!  "How did you think of this?"  "Well, one of my friends is a mystic.  We were sitting in the dessert one day and he tells me that you're coming to town, told me about you and that I should visit.  I asked, 'I'd like to offer him something.  What can I give him?'  He told me shoes, so here it is -- a gift from me, and this other friend from the dessert whom you don't know."  I couldn't help but smile. :) 

Two months ago, I landed in India with one planned event (folks who were covering my travel fare).  These few days in Bombay were nowhere on the horizon, and yet, here it is -- lots of the smiles in the land of ripples.

With a new-shoes bounce in my step, :) 



Projects I'm Involved With

"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

"Real privilege lies in knowing that you have enough."