Five Days in Bangalore
Lots of inspiration unfolded in the last five days in Bangalore.
It started on Friday night, with an Awakin gathering at Rajesh and Vallari's place. Awakin Circles have a simple format of an hour of meditation, followed by a circle of sharing and then dinner offered by the host. And it feels like magic every time, no matter which part of the world. Thirty people in the circle all held a powerful space together. One woman described her experiments of connecting with the janitors, by actually following their journey throughout the day; with that renewed sensitivity, she noticed how they wear the same pair of clothes everyday and then tagged them all with t-shirt, and was intending to throw a celebration for them. Siddharth spoke about touching human moments in his interactions with CEO of Coca Cola, while Afreen was in tears expressing her gratitude towards her mother in law (also in the circle). Eleven year old Parthiv candidly shared his take on kindness, as the former head of Duetsche Bank eloquently described about our need to engage with others selflessly. And Vinod spoke powerfully about the happy death of his father few weeks ago, to conclude the circle. Such diversity, all held together by spirit of inner transformation. Vallari served everyone delicious food, lot of which she had grown herself in her backyard. By the end of the night, as is frequently the case with Awakin Circles, everyone felt energized and elevated, without even knowing why. :)
The next day, Anupreet and Goli hosted a full-day "Head, Hands, Heart" retreat with a group of 25 folks. We opened with an "all-religions prayer" and a circle that parlayed into a small group discussion on edges like sustainability versus gift, impact versus transformation, small vs. systemic change. The collection of people was beautiful. Greg shared his resonance with "pulling invisible strings for good", Kruti humorously described her shift from scarcity to abundance by trusting local rickshaw drivers, as a young musician described an awesome smile tag by his roommate. By afternoon, we all split into three teams for "hands" activity; one group made artistic banners to spiff up a local senior park, another group planted trees, and third group made tea and gave it to strangers. After a silent walk, we closed out the day in gratitude by writing a letter to an elder. Susheel shared a powerful story of a widening gap between him and his grandfather, ever since he had forced him to cut his hair in his childhood; he wrote him a letter of forgiveness.
Throughout the day, as we fought to do each other's dishes, as we received all kinds of small gifts from each other, as we listened without being distracted by our cell phones :), we practiced being other-oriented and got closer to each other along the way. In one of the most touching moments of the day,
Anupreet's sister in law, who lovingly helped host the gathering, hugged Anupreet and shared how she now understands what this was all about. :)
Next day was Seva Cafe, at the beautiful Vriksh restaurant. Let alone the guests, volunteer count alone was over 40. :) This was their 11th Seva Cafe in Bangalore since last year, and it has yielded a beautiful family that continues to expand and grow. Ripples of ServiceSpace kept showing up throughout the day. Some people heard about this through a KarmaTube video, some others were subscribers to DailyGood, one or two even spoke about how they've been following ServiceSpace since its early days. And they continue to expand the local family. Tharanath, and enthusiastic volunteers like Madhur, have also started hosting another Seva Cafe at Carrots restaurant in Koramangala In our closing circle, Lahar (who anchored Seva Cafe in Ahmedabad for a full year) and I got tagged with a beautiful notebook that had personal, hand-written notes (in multiple languages!) from guests and volunteers. "Thank you for bringing the spirit of gift to Bangalore," each one echoed in their own unique ways.
Shiva Prasad, for whom this weekend was a first exposure to the ecosystem, wrote to everyone: "I would like to Thank You All for giving me the two Best Days of My Life with so much love, happiness and care which I would like to remember every day and every minute." A love warrior named Tharanath also echoed what lot of us felt: "I was indeed experiencing all the love I received and that love was flowing out of me in all things I did, in all peoples I met and spoke to. What a weekend it was. Too much to digest at once. What started with Awakin gathering at Whitefield, continued with retreat and then Seva Cafe. And now I feel it didn't end there, that it's only a beginning. Beginning of change that is flooding the Bangalore circle. Thank you all for being the part of this and allowing me to be a part too. The energy and love I received and experienced was immense."
As if that's not enough activity for a weekend, Afreen and Praveen hosted another Awakin Circle on Sunday night -- the first in their Bangalore home with Praveen's parents. Again, very touching, particularly since this was the first time their parents hosted it. In the after-hours, Ravi sang some beautiful Kabir songs, as Lahar and Anupreet joined in. Good times. :)
After meeting some friends, Monday night, I spoke at a private gathering of industry executives. Intel CEO gave an opening keynote on unstoppable projects of technology, ten entrepreneurs were given awards, and I gave the closing keynote (titled "Gandhi 3.0"). Fancy place, fancy people -- heads of most prominent tech companies were among the crowd of 150. It was an extremely unlikely crowd to hear this message, so I had to be skilful in presenting in a way that they could relate -- yet by the end, not only did they stand up to applaud, but after watching Being Kind, they want to continue the theme of generosity next year by inviting Nimo to perform. :)
Before the talk, one exec came up and told me how he was a "hard core capitalist" and by the end, he's describing his walking pilgrimages with Jain monks. :) The president of MindTree told me how he had sent my UPenn talk to his entire company of 30K employees. One woman said how she had been to my parents home for an Awakin gathering; I told her, "You've had my mom's food. You're like my sister then!" And we hugged. :) Everyone kept sharing stories about how acts of generosity had propelled their success -- like one fellow who said he was helped for 9 months by an anonymous stranger, and his whole life since then has been an attempt in paying that forward. Lots of people volunteered to help, engage and bring this spirit into their ecosystems. And everyone got a Smile Card. :) When the talk of change got too strategic, I would shift the focus to Smile Card acts. Similar to an earlier gathering, a very heartwarming evening.
The next day, I was the final keynote at Nascomm. The emcee asked how many people from the crowd of 1500 were founders of companies and 75% raised their hands. India's head of Google and Microsoft and Cisco and Qualcomm and Indian startup like RedBus and Naukri.com and makemytrip.com -- they were all there. A tough, heady crowd -- and I doubt they've ever had a speaker like me, but open-hearted curators MR and Ravi wanted to throw in a curve ball this year. :) To top it off, I was going on very little sleep, jet-lagged and hitting the prime of my sleep cycle at the time of the keynote. But I was reminded of a prayer by St. Francis that Lahar and Ravi had sung the night before -- may I be a good instrument for all that needs to flow through. MR later wrote to me that in his decade of emceeing this event, "seldom have we seen a standing ovation, let alone two in two nights". Before I even finished, the organizers insisted on handing Smile Cards to everyone (unfortunately, we didn't have enough but that only meant that they had to spread it around :)).
Some nice comments on social media too ... like MR: "Smile Card made my day!", Raja: "#NPC13 had its Aha! Moment. And it came in the form of a standing ovation for Nipun Mehta." Badri: "Nipun Mehta's soul-filled #npc2013 session left me & others dazed. Reminded of my Vipassana experience. Can we be human once in a while?" Several techies came up and mentioned how they teared up. Our own posse of a dozen love warriors were there in full support, catching all kinds of ripples. Next day, MR asked the crowd: "How many got a Smile Card?" 30% raised their hands (wish we had more cards on hand!). "How many have done a kind act?" About 10 hands. "By the end of the day, all those should be in circulation. Let's do this as a community."
As you might imagine, lots of goodness unfolded -- and I sense it'll continue to unfold for a while.
That night, as our posse ducked out in a hotel room to share stories, we decided that next day's talk at NMiMS business school would be around the four shifts and each of us would share one of them. I shared context around the shift from consumption to contribution, Susheel told his story of transitioning from heading a massive corporate division to shift into a trust-based ecosystem around his restaurant. Anupreet spoke about going from being a stock broker selling Monsanto shares to building community with local liftmen and security guards. Kapila talked about her journey of shifting from money-based scarcity to abundance of various kinds of capital. Hearing all this, the college students were completely shell shocked (in a good kind of way :)). The second question was from a student who said, "I am so stunned that I can't even think straight. We have heard many speakers who talk about placements, and career advice and strategies to get ahead -- but this was completely unexpected." He literally fumbled for sixty seconds to gather himself to just articulate his question. Some great questions about competition, about being strong in face of peer pressure and insecurity, about designing for scale (or not). At the end, we opened up the bouquet of flowers and asked everyone to share with school staff as an act of appreciation; on the ground, Goli made a heart from Smile Deck cards that student picked up; we asked folks to engage in 21-Day Kindness Challenge. At the end, we ran out of time and kids were huddled around each of us, so we just did a giant group hug. The school administrator herself was had moist eyes while dropping us to the car, and invited us to her home next time.
In just a few days, we held space with thousands at a hotel alongside small circles in people's living rooms; we were offered tea to strangers on the street alongside creating a chain of generosity at a restaurant; we hugged executives alongside college students; we held moments of silence and smiled.
Together, many stories were told, many more were heard, and even more were created. Thanks to the local posse of love warriors, we were all moved by love in Bangalore.