Wednesday, March 7, 2012

8 days of hope

I have just come back from Hideout, Hemant & Sangeeta's farm in Jhadpoli, Maharashtra. And I have come back with a few things which are very different from what I thought I would get.

One, have faith. Faith that things will work out. Faith that you will always have food to eat, and a roof to take shelter under. Faith that you will always have people around you willing to help and give direction and meaning to your life. This faith is essential, if you want to chart your own course.

And this ties with my second takeaway, question. Question your assumptions. For if you really question the assumptions on which you base your life, you will start realizing that the world built up around you is a facade. It has trapped the human mind. And if you have faith, you can start on your journey to understand these assumptions, challenge them and start living that much more freely.

Third, when you start questioning the fundamentals on which you have always lived, you need an anchor. Not just externally, but internally as well, a thought process that helps you make sense of the world. Ravi Gulati, the founder of Manzil and also an alumnus of IIM-A, whom I met there asked me a very simple question. He asked me what is my gift, my talent? He saw me struggle with the question, guessing correctly that I was looking past the tools and skills I possess. Understanding that I was able to tell that skills I have learned over the years are not my talent and yet I was floundering trying to define what talent was, he stopped me. And he gave me a beautiful, and as beautiful things always are, a simple answer. He said, "Your talent is something that comes to you effortlessly. For which you don't have to make an effort and doing which you lose track of time." And he had seen me over the last 4 days doing something which he guessed, from afar, as my gift.

Children.

That is my gift. I always knew I loved being with kids. But I always thought that there was nothing special about it. I consider myself intelligent. I am. And I always placed that at a much higher pedestal than the fun I had playing with kids. For that is what we are trained to think aren't we? That we need to work and for that we need strong technical skills. And all these mushy gooy soft skills are just a small tool that can help you out sometimes but do not define your career.

You know what. I learnt how wrong I was. For over 5 days I was surrounded with children of ages 3 to 8. And I was constantly playing with them. Even while I was busy cleaning the pathways in the jungle, or the toilets, or the dishes, even when I was busy feeding the cows, lifting and moving tents and chairs, peeling the garlic and straining the syrup, I was always surrounded by kids. They gave me 5 new names, their parents trusted me with them. We had fun playing for hours in the hay. We went for ghost story sessions at night in the jungle, all huddled up around a solitary lantern throwing little shadows on our faces. And while saying goodbye we hugged and cried. And made promises to meet again. I loved every moment of it. I reconnected with something deep within. It was almost as if I was living a different life!

And these 8 days have left me happier for knowing these 3 things. But I am troubled because knowing is not the same as internalizing. That will take time. But again, as Manish & Ravi bhayya said, don't evaluate right now. Just experience and reflect. Evaluating and judging on a daily basis is like taking out a seed that you have planted everyday to see if it is sprouting. If you do that, it never will. And that is the final message I come back with. That things happen gradually. Changes happen gradually. It is very much like saying that life is what happens between when you are busy making plans.

I can't possibly narrate every thing I heard, read or talked about there. But faith, questioning, children and time are the 4 things I will try to accept and ingrain.

Thanks Rajeev Sir for suggesting to go here, Manish, Ravi, Vishy, Kalyani, Sebastian, Kate, Rahul, Zain, Sachin, Gautum, Ramji, Varun, Vinesh, Hemant, Sangeeta, Anusha, Claude, Sonia, Jebba, Tushar and so many more inspiring people I met there. And Amey and Amit for helping me get in touch with Manish.

Thanks Kritika, Gokul, Mrunal,  Kudrat, Ajayanmaya, Niel, Nikita, Janani, Nikunj, Kabir and Ayana for the glorious time I spent with you and rediscovered the joy of being with kids :-)

And now I move to the next leg of my journey. I am leaving now for Hyderabad where I plan to meet a person who was the one who inspired me to take the plunge, in whatever manner I have.