Apr 29, 2005
And incidentally, Times of India also published a big "Sunday Special" story about our pilgrimage today. Although we are really curious how they found the pictures, or those quotes, or information about CharityFocus, it seems that lot of people have read the story. My cousins even think that we're famous because we're "in the paper". :)
Like with CharityFocus, I don't pitch stories to the press. If it happens, fine; otherwise, fine. Our job is to serve, seek and share. Rest has to happen of its own accord. We are not out to create movements, attract attention or solve problems. The biggest movement is from the self to the selfless, the easiest marketing is done by laws of nature, and only problem to solve is the one in your own heart.
For many, this doesn't make sense; for me, it's been my experience. And this article was no exception to the rule.
As Guri is sipping chai on a coffee table in Baroda, I am reading a copy of Times of India. Getting news is always an act of randomness for us. For so many days, we will be totally unplugged; and then, we'll get some news, which all seems trivial in the larger picture. Nonetheless, it's good to know what Bollywood movies are playing, read editorials on why politicians are fighting, and contemplate the impact of communal harmony on India-Pakistan cricket matches.
Recently, Guri and I have been talking about youngsters. "We should profile some youth leaders, so others are inspired and it becomes "cool" to give," Guri and I would conclude. But in a country where 750 million people -- 3 times the population of America -- live under the poverty line, it's hard to find such dedicated youth. Survival is always a big concern, and you can't blame them. Unfortunately, societal pressure transforms that need into greed, and before you know it, you're 65 and counting-down to death.
While I'm leafing through "page 3" of the entertainment/gossip/movie section, on the bottom, I read a small yet inspiring article on a young journalism student trying to make a difference.
"Wow. It would be awesome to get in touch with her. How do you get in touch with her?" we wondered out loud. Bhabhi, sitting across the table, tells us to call Times of India.
We look up the number in the phone directory and try calling. "Sorry, call back later." We call another listed number. "Umm, yeah, who do you want to talk to?" "Sir, Paarth Joshi, who wrote an article in the paper today." "He won't be in till 6PM. But this is not his number. Call him at this number." Ok. No one has told me to call a business office in off-peak hours, but oh well. We forget about it.
At night, we randomly think about it and figure we should at least try. And baam! We got through to the reporter. I ask for the contact information of the girl in the story and he asks me why I want this information. I describe what we are doing, and he proceeds to ask me a few questions.
"I would really like to do a story on your pilgrimage," the reporter tells me. "Thank you. We don't really want to focus on ourselves, though," I tell him. "But this is really inspiring. I have never heard of anything like this. Just imagine, how many people it will inspire," Paarth Joshi, the news writer, pleads on the phone. He is bent up on doing the story now.
After some discussion, Guri and I agree on meeting the next day. The reporter is sincere in his approach; having spent three weeks on the pilgrimage, we are qualified to speak about it; and receiving so much from the universe, we felt an obligation to share the inspiration in the hopes that it may light other candles along the way. Plus, this is slated to be a small, 250-word, local story to be published two days later by a reporter who was himself a college student.
Following the interview, Paarth Joshi himself told us, "If there is anything I can do to support your journey, please tell me anytime. It would be my privilege." Whenever I have spoken to reporters, for me I am sharing stories with the primary intent of getting him/her to pick up an attitude of service; so this is my text book ending for any interview.
We were gonna leave town within a day or so, so the odds were that we wouldn't even get to read the story. And so we keep walking.
Couple days later, Paarth emails with, "I've sent you like a trillion messages. Where are you guys? I need to get a hold of you ASAP." We were out of phone range, so we didn't have access to any communication. Paarth goes on to add that his editor is really taken by the story, wants to really help and wants to give it the most prominence by featuring it in the "Sunday Special". His editor even agrees to put "ijourney.org" website in the story, as an exception to their journalistic rules!
Before we read the story, we get messages from family and friends around the state, telling us about the photo in the story. That night, some of my local cousins hunt us down to spend the day doing service work; they also bring us the hard copy of the paper. We still don't know who leaked all the pictures (none of which were on the web), or the info about CF and the awards. Maybe we have Google to blame for this too. :)
But the story seems to have inspired many folks. Last night, an old gentleman came up to us and said, "I read about you. Thank you for doing what you are doing. Hats off." I replied, "We are just trying to change the eyes through which we see the world. Still very much a work in progress."