Written for  The Idea Caravan contest on IndiBlogger, organized by Franklin Templeton Investments  who partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

On a typical Sunday afternoon, I was lazing around on my very comfortable couch, watching the tv and planning to take a nap at any moment but not quite able to sink into slumber as the ticking of the wall clock constantly reminded me that weekend was almost over and thus perturbing my idea of perfect solitude, when my phone rang, shattering every cumulative effect accumulated in favour of controlling my restless mind to sleep, I couldn’t help picking it up for Ajay was one of those few people, whom I would forgive of this grave crime. Ajay was also one of the remarkable people who did engineering with me, and though he went through a successful beginning of career with Infosys, he decided to quit everything to do whatever pleased him. I kept hearing from him from time to time and each time he had something to surprise me with.
“Hey! Bro, what’s up? How have you been?”, I said.
“Oh! All good. What about you?”
“Same old and then again I’m not the adventurous type. You must be up to something now, aren’t you?”
“As a matter of fact, I’m and sorry to interrupt you in your perfect resting hour on a Sunday - but I need a quick help and couldn’t think of anyone else but you right now.”
“Anytime for you, tell me how can I be of any help?”
 “You know this website that I maintain right? You need to go there and post on my behalf that we are reaching tomorrow as we were caught up midway and fell behind two days of our scheduled arrival. Then you will get some responses to which you need to respond and you need to tell me how to go to College street from Howrah station in Kolkata.”
“Okay, that won’t be a problem. I could be there to receive you from Howrah station, if you tell me which train are you arriving at?”
“Well, I'm actually coming to Kolkata in an auto-rickshaw all the way from Hydrabad. I’d be reaching there tomorrow - sometime in the afternoon I guess. I was supposed to reach earlier but it got delayed…”
Absolutely shocked, I cut him in the middle, “What did you just say?”
“You heard me – I am coming in an auto-rickshaw, the plain and simple Indian three wheeler with no modifications, that I am driving along with a friend of mine, actually taking turns in driving though.”
“What nonsense?”
“What is the nonsense about it?”
“I mean of all why an auto rickshaw – it isn’t some globally accepted commute after all!!” I almost screamed at him.
“Well, it isn’t but that is the idea – the adventure, the sheer thrill and it was a deliberate attempt as well to make it look out of the ordinary, that way the message reaches more people.”
“What kind of message?”
“Well, when we were pretty determined to make the trip and were looking for sponsorship – a few companies came up, each having an agenda of their own and we chose and NGO that wasn’t paying very well, but it had a social message about education and employment of women in rural India, that kind of suited as the best cause for taking the trouble. When you see us, you’ll know how we have decorated the vehicle – logos, festoons and colours – it looks wonderful for an auto.”
“I just can’t believe you did all that you are telling me.”
“Surely you remember that I took a trip all in bicycle across north ease India?”
“Yep, I do remember that one - was remarkable. I even thought that you'd write a book or something on that. Then you were silent for quite some time. I guessed you found a girl and planning to settle.”
“Ah! I wish, but not there yet. I did join a regular day job though but going back to IT wasn’t an option for me – here I try a hell lot of new things. Meet new people, exchange ideas and so on.”
“Surely you have some guts to have taken all that risk!”
“Well, my parents are not dependent upon me and my sister got married. I can support myself from all that I do – have a small business here and then some savings from initial couple of years. I handle things, probably not affluent as you lot, but I make do.”
“You’re seriously funny – had you continued, you’ll know that it’s a never ending rat race – all for money. I am glad that you are not a part of it.”
“You are only limited by your imagination, mate – I’m sure you have more in you than you know.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, while working with this NGO I came across a really extraordinary person – Mr Arunachalam Muruganantham, have you heard of him?”
“No, doesn’t ring a bell – why?”
“One man, not so qualified, have revolutionized the rural marker of sanitary pads and achieved wonder with his relentless efforts. He recently got a president's award.”
“Okay but does not impress me as such – I mean, lots of people get it and we don't even hear their names. What is there to do after all?”
“You say that because you don't have the slightest idea of pathetic the condition is among rural women in India, it is hard to know all that staying within the comfortable boundaries of your apartment. The real India is not all that lustre of shopping malls we have now- it's grim. Do you know women hardly use something healthy - rather they resort to rag clothes, leaves, mud or sometime even ashes. His own wife said that if they had to purchase her pads during periods then the whole family have to put a check on their milk ration. All this didn't stop him. Today he holds the patent to a mechanical machine he has devised to prepare quality sanitary pads, yet very cheap compared to what sells in the market today from big corporate houses and he is spreading the usage of this machine all across India where they need it, creating employment and improving healthcare road map. In a way he has challenged corporate social responsibility that no one has done till date - because social responsibility is not just about throwing money to get media attention. He says that he is after mission, a purpose in life and not riches. This man has an extremely good sense of humour to present his ideas across. I’ll send you a youtube link - have a look at it, you’ll know what I am talking about.”
I nodded in silence, “Okay, I’ll.”
“You don’t seem very convinced, but believe me - for us growing like a vegetable is not an option.”
“I can understand, but what difference can I make?”
“No one can make a difference alone - but the vision is important. I don't think anyone of us, in our age and right frame of mind, would like to accept the idea of completely heterogeneous social balance and see our country as a place where there is such a thick line of demarcation among its own people. We need to join hands, we need to collaborate. We have this extremely talented pool of engineers, doctors, economists and journalists among people of our age group, we have the right tool of social media and we can remain connected in a way that wasn't even conceived in a dream. We should not be blinded by petty differences like cast, creed or political polarity anymore. We have the potential to build a new India. Trust me – we can do wonder in this way and we are not even halfway there. We just need to find a meaningful life, or how Mr Muruganantham would say – find a problem.”
“So, is that why you have set out? Your words sound a little heavy to me.”
“I don't know as yet. I keep exploring. It is not simple to explain all of that over phone. You need to find your inner calling. Listen I’ve to hang up now – running out of battery. I will text you when I am about to reach. Okay?”  
“Okay, be safe.”

I hang up the phone and realized I was not feeling sleepy anymore - nor was worried about the ticking clock. I looked up the name I heard from Ajay on Google. It didn’t take me long to know all about him and the presentation, indeed, was moving, inspiring. He was an excellent speaker by all means with a brilliant sense of humour yet so subtle in implanting a seed of thought in my mind, that it compelled me to think.

I closed my eyes and knew what I could do – I could do what I am good at, I could design information cum solution mesh on web, which would feed from a wide range of sources like  news, live data, mobile sms, and act as a common platform to reach millions, who would like to take a little time off their own schedule for philanthropic work. The open source philosophy started with this belief. We could bring that up to a new level. Who says, we have to grow like vegetables? Social consciousness, helping out by connecting people, would be a tryst with destiny in true sense. 

The next morning, when I was getting ready for work, I wasn’t feeling upset like I generally do on a Monday morning, something was different – a ray of hope was gleaming and I was sure it'd pass on the spirit to others. 

It's a payback time for us, to the nation, we are greatly indebted to.


Anonymous said...

Abhra you have very nicely put the matter across .. I have read about the White revolution in many blogs .. and I have seen the video of the achiever gentleman .. and I can say you are among those few who have represented this well Best of Luck !

Abhra said...

Thanks a lot - it makes my day. Out of all the videos, this is the one that impresses me most and it was a real challenge to bring out what my thoughts exactly were...thank you once again...

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