Soul Entrepreneurs

During the land donation movement, Vinoba Bhave , who is also known as spiritual successer of Gandhi ji asks a 30 year old enthusiastic Gopal :” Do you take a pledge to dedicate your life for service ? ” I do said Gopal without a blink and today at the age of 80, Gopal kaka with just one extra pair of clothes and almost no possessions works for the poorest of poor in rural India.

When 25 year old Nandan, an engineering student in Mumbai leaves his home, he makes sure he has an extra pair of footwear, which he then distributes to the barefoot in the railway stations. No one in his family knew about his kindness act till recently and he doesn’t accepts donation just footwear.

Every Sunday, instead of taking a day off after a very hectic week as a bank manager, S. Shreedhar goes to Government hospital in Chennai to look for unclaimed dead bodies. He would then personally cremate them with proper rituals and prayer.

These are everyday, invisible people who are doing small act of random kindness to bring together oneness in the world. These are whom we call soul entrepreneurs.

We broadly outlined few characteristics which reflects the spirit of soul entrepreneurship:

* Dharma (Belief): Every Soul entrepreneur deeply knows that his journey is about self exploration and connecting with the oneness of the universal energy. He follows his Swadharma ( His natural act). He knows he is just an instrument. he is follower of truth. He does what he does because he finds selfless joy in it, there’s no other way to express his truth. He lives in this moment.

When Shreedhar was asked, why he does the cremation of strangers, he simply replied ” because every human being deserves a dignified farewell.

*Karma (Action): His actions are effortless because he knows Small is beautiful. He acts from a space of no fear and no desire but complete abundance. Unlike an entrepreneur who works for the top of the pyramid and a social entrepreneur who works for the bottom, he is one with the pyramid. There’s no separate two. The giver is receiver and vice versa.

Nandan never fund raised for his cause, he would buy it all from his own pocket money or use donated footwear. When his story was shared, many people poured to send donations to which Nandan politely declined and requested them to buy and distribute themselves.

* Akarma ( Non Attachment with result) :
Unlike any enterprise, the growth here is not sought vertically but naturally horizontally. There’s no desire to scale or measure the impact of one’s deed because he knows that ripples of each selfless act has the potential to transform every life which is touched by it.

Knowing the magnitude of work Gopal kaka has accomplished in his lifetime, I once asked him, ” Kaka what do you think, how many lives you must have changed ?
He looks at me and with a most beautiful smile, he replies ” I am changed”.

I believe there’s a bit of soul entrepreneur in all of us and to find it we just have to follow our truth through whatever we do.

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The Compassion Union

This is the third installment of a series (see Thinking Big, Living Small andNandan’s Experiment with Shoes).

I will use questions from Mazarine’s comment to my second piece as the stimulus for this piece: “I love the idea of growing horizontally, and living simply, but can you give us some clues about how you did that? Are you a cooperative now? Do your workers have a union? Are you organized differently?”

Growing horizontally: Thinking back, I feel our biggest concern was “branding” (it goes hand-in-hand with “trust”), not just within the organization but also outside. We were not able to completely rely on delegation of work to others. There was always this unknown sense of being responsible for everything that happened at the organization. Everything had to be under our control, because we thought we knew better. Measuring the steps that were taken, assuming the impact it would cause and producing a result that we thought would be most appropriate became our preoccupation. In short, we were working “only” from a pool of knowledge that we had and limiting it to that. A very dear friend puts it very well: “How can we trust what we know, when everything we know, depends so heavily on what we know”. :)

If a volunteer came in, we would steer him/her in the direction of our work, not leaving them much room to try something new. If we did any collaborations with other companies or organizations, we made clear what our deliverables were and what theirs for us would be. e.g. We host the “I am the change film project” every year. Until 2008, it was all about the sponsors, media partners, newspaper partners, radio, television etc. And we always found ourselves telling them what we needed (from our limited knowledge) and what we can give in return. Again “interpreting knowledge from interpreted knowledge”.

Click here to read more

Thinking Big, Living Small

It’s been over 3 years, since MAM was formed. Its interesting to see how naturally our progression in terms of team-size has lowered (as opposed to increasing). It wasn’t a conscious effort to scale down. Neither was it the case that people weren’t interested. But we just came across people for a reason, and a season … creating a lifetime of experience and learning!

In 2006-07 (the year we were born), we had over 15 volunteers. It was a big number, considering we weren’t really sure where we were going. We just had a passion and an understanding (of sorts) of where we’d like to go. By the year 2007-08, we were a super excited team of 6 full time staff, some intermediate financial support and less than 5 volunteers. Great! We were getting into a stronger and a more focused zone. By 2008-09, we were just 6 full-time staff and almost no volunteers. Interestingly by late 2009, we became a 2-person husband-wife army on a bigger change – moving to a new city – Ahmedabad.

Throughout these years, great inspirations, deviators (challengers) and spiritual mentors crossed our paths, sowing seeds in different ways. The way we realized these learnings were with the opportunity that life gave us and tested us on, so that we could remove what was not necessary and refresh what was most important. Struggles became a sort of an anti-virus software :). It cleaned up our mental system. What we realized after our move to Ahmedabad, was that it was all a part of a bigger plan. The plan that lay in front of us now — in our present. As soon as we became a 2-person army, we became less afraid. We realized that we had been driven a lot by fear in the past. Not the fear of following our dreams into the unknown, but the fear to live our dreams authentically and make all a part of who we were. Not all shared the same thought process, or the spirit with which we wanted to move forward. Most important, we weren’t sure whether we were being true to ourselves. Fear was our biggest hindrance. These experiences taught us so many incredible lessons and gave room to so many thoughts that lied dormant in our hearts. We started “thinking without” :) A phrase we started to understand, alas, after a lot of fallings.

Click here for complete article

Nandan's Experiments With Shoes

It all started with a Wednesday meditation night that Madhu and I were hosting in Bombay.  As we all shared our “aha moments” in the second hour, there was silent contributor in the room — Nandan.  It was his first time and not knowing what to share, he gently says, “I don’t know how appropriate this is for the circle of sharing, but for the last few months, I’ve been donating slippers to the needy.”

Everyday Nandan would see barefoot beggars on the streets, and he would give them ‘chappals’; if it wasn’t the right size, he would take them to the store to gift them a pair that worked.   As Nandan is describing his experienced, he focused more on how he was moved by it instead of the act itself or even the need.

By the end of it, we were all just floored.  Shocked, to be honest.  How many such incredible, untold stories must lurk amidst our midst?

The following Wednesday, Nandan couldn’t make it — but his sister did.   Quite naturally, we spoke about how amazing and thoughtful it was of Nandan to be doing something like this.  Much to our surprise, his own sister was shocked.  Nandan had never even told anyone in the family that he was doing something like this!  He was truly an anonymous warrior.

Click here for complete article (By Somik Raha)

Learnings from Riverside

Pic: Nikita (in center) with Jyotsna and students of Lok Darshan

“How to tell a good story ?” Nikita asked when we first met at Seva Cafe. I had no direct answers however I believed, a story emerges itself when we are truly connected. Kiran Sethi , founder of Riverside School in Ahmedabad recommended Nikita to spend a week with us and learn about filmmaking or more of power of storytelling. Thus began a beautiful one week where Nikita who is also a teacher at Riverside became a student and by doing that she taught us so much more than we could have given her. We were infected with her contagious enthusiasm, which is quite common in everyone from Kiran to all the teachers and students of Riverside. We were inspired by her willingness to learn so that she could go back and share with her students who she lovingly called her ‘Bachchas’ (children). Her beautiful spirit and love unfolded a new story for us in MAM.

Here’s few lines from a poem she wrote:

My experience with Movie Makers at MAM,
was so very ‘Khaas’ and not at all ‘AAM’.

Production head over here is Kunal,
an energetic young guy – “Kya du uski misaal?”

Got to learn ideating, script writing and editing from him,
He was always there to help his team.

Saw Jyotsana in action with her kids,
a passionate teacher, who understands their needs.

Her desire to make difference humbled me,
in her own way, she is giving back to the community.

Maadhu shared how each story has it’s soul,
For Zen Film Making, a strong story line is the goal.

Different story lines are going on in my mind,
This experience at MAM was one of it’s kind.

Desire to learn and make difference in lives,
Is what my heart now strives.

MAM Updates [December 2009]

Here’s regular MAM updates, would love to hear about your journey as well. So keep us all posted.

* Festival: Preparation for I am the change festival which has been finalized on 12-13th Jan in IIM Ahmedabad is on full swing. Many delegates from various specializations would be coming together to share their ideas and take workshops on using media for social change. Films from Genesis film project and I am the change film project will be shown. This grass-root conclave is open for all, would love to see you all there :)
* Seva Journal Project: 3 films are under post production. Latest film to be completed is on Manthan Awards, a great initiative by Digital Empowerment Foundation which brings together organizations using Digital Media. View film

* Lok Darshan: Knowing that every life has a story we started a regular storytelling / film workshop for the children living on streets in the midst of biggest slums of Ahmedabad. Learning so much from them.
* Internship: Kshama just finished her one month Internship. Read her beautiful poem and experience here. If you would like to apply for internship please click here.

* New Team Member: Two years back a very enthusiastic, just fresh out of college, Kunal had joined MAM as an intern. Now as we settle in Ahmedabad, life brings him back to us as a full time member. A walking yellow pages as we lovingly call him because he has contacts and solutions for every little problem. His contagious energy brings a fresh perspective in our little world.

* Misc News

  1. As our new year resolution a bunch of friends decided to donate our body organs. Felt little awkward in beginning but now more we think about it the more it excites us. It is possible for a single donor to donate organs and tissues that may help as many as 50 recipients. For more information or to join click here.
  2. Digital Academy Film School is also supporting 3 PSA ideas on Organ Donation and will give their production equipment to 3 filmmakers. more info
  3. We are proud to have a new board members team for MAM, they are the people who we admire, love and respect. Few more to be added soon.  Check out their profile
And ending with a beautiful Quote : One day Sun wanted to take a day off so he asks stars and moon to replace him, but none was ready to take the responsibility. Then the little lamp steps in and says to the sun ” I may not be able to light the entire world like you but I can promise to bring light wherever I am.”
Thankyou again all of you, visible and invisible, for walking together.
In the spirit of being a lamp

Madhusudan :)

MAM Team