The Cube of Gratitude

Posted by Shaalini Srinivasan on Feb 23, 2013

"And whos your Neighbourhood Hero", I looked at 7 year old Keya and ask. "The Elevator operator! He works the entire 8 hour shift with a smile on his face. Hes always welcoming people into the elevator with a big smile - and it transforms so many peoples days. He doesnt have to keep smiling, but he chooses to. He is my hero!" 

Miraculously, I find myself smiling - it was like the the elevator-operators kindness had blessed my day too, all thanks to Keya.
It all started when Shital Mehta who has been teaching art for the last 35 years heard the quote, "Suffering and Gratitude cannot co-exist". As an experiment, she decided to practice it herself and began writing a list of 10 things she was grateful for. The list just kept expanding since she couldnt stop being grateful - and soon, it inspired her students to follow. 

She labeled it The Cube of Gratitude and for three months, children from the most privileged backgrounds to slum communities of Mumbai came together to practice gratefulness on a daily basis. Everyday, the children would wake up and write in their own Gratitude Diary. On their refrigerators at home, they put up Gratitude Cards to remind themselves and their families to be grateful. 

They even went out in their communities, identifying heroes who are serving them kindly have been otherwise invisible. After interacting with them on a regular basis, they set out to draw portraits of their identified Heroes - from bus conductors, to maids, local social workers and car-drivers. In fact, at the Kala Ghoda Arts festival thats held in Mumbai, the team of kids set up an installation that displayed all their creations. For the hundreds of thousands of passersby that streamed through their installation at the festival, the kids would explain why their practiced gratitude, explain who their Neighbourhood Hero was and then offered adults and children thousands of Gratitude Cards so that they may be grateful :) There was even a big blackboard for everyone to share what they were thankful for.

A shift from What we Want, to What we Have is what one child called it. Another said If Im grateful, I will not be sad since I see all the gifts I have." 

Just the year before that the same group of children decided to host the Cube of Compassion for the same festival. This time, the 50 children were engaged in random acts of kindness for 3 months, and would regularly share the process with one another. At the installation, they put up their Akshaypatra bottles with which they all did acts of kindness and also distributed 7000 cards with suggestions for kindness to the interested guests. 

In response, a beaming, enthusiastic Shital replies - "Gratitude and Compassion always unlock the potential of children - irrespective of social status. You see how empowering it is for a child from a slum being generous towards someone who is poorer in his community By using Art, I then allow them to express these values creatively!"

"But the greatest gift has been practicing these values in my life, and being transformed within"

Posted by Shaalini Srinivasan on Feb 23, 2013 | permalink

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  • nisha wrote ...

    Wonderful to learn about Shital's work.

  • Jignasha wrote ...

    beautiful story shalini. thanks ofr sharing