The Kindness Revolution In India ... Is On!
Posted by Nipun Mehta on Mar 7, 2009
"How was India?" It's been a common question, since I returned from a six-week India trip.
Well, India was good. :) Outside of the 20-day meditation, I connected with lots of small groups of people (and some large groups), shared many stories and heard even more stories, and received way more acts of kindness than I gave out. Jayeshbhai (Patel) and I were together most of the time, and that meant that the Karma police had to be on high alert. :)
In Ahmedabad, an informal posse of 20-40 folks -- an evolution of the compassion gang -- meets every Sunday morning at the Gandhi Ashram before going out to "be the change"; most recently, they put on an awesome cricket tournament for the slum children, complete with try-outs, coaches, white-uniforms, umpires, live commentary, videographers, and the whole schabang. At the end, they said, "Everyone really loved what we did, but people kept asking us about the budget. So once everything was paid for and the event was over, we made a budget. :)" The group calls themselves "By Heart", and the stories of their underground acts of kindness are what books ought to be made of. Powerful stuff. When we all hung out, we started with a simple three-steps-one-bow exercise that had many in tears.
Similarly in Bombay, Vinod has started taking his "Super Sundays" gang to do small acts of beauty -- like taking a big kettle of tea on the streets, and offering "chai and conversation" to strangers that we often overlook. Amitabh has now turned Yuva into an organization of random acts of kindness; every week, hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of hip youth gather in a gym, go out and do an act of kindness around a certain theme, and come back to share stories; when I spoke to them, it was about connecting with seniors. Every week, their acts of kindness are being picked up by many newspapers, and it is really creating a big buzz in the community. In Pune, Sheetal hosted a spirited, gift-economy drum circle with more than 40 friends, as he does every week; the Pune gang is very close to starting "Karma Cafe" -- a gift-economy cafe in Pune. In South Bombay, Madhu and Meghna started a weekly Wednesday meditation while Jayeshbhai and I were there. The Seva Cafe team just launched a "Seva Cafe at Home" initiative, which is about over-filling people's cup of gratitude in their own homes! Venkat, inspired founder of Give India which channels 250 million Rupees of donations each year, asked for 200 Smile Decks over lunch and as we translate it in multiple languages, he wants corporations to give these as Diwali gifts this year. Couple of newspapers and magazines agreed to take stories from HelpOthers.org and print them in a weekly column, to spread the good. In Baroda, half a dozen folks are brainstorming about starting another Seva Cafe. MAM Movies -- whose "101 filmmakers, 101 NGOs and 101 hours" screening drew capacity crowd of 800 people! -- has decided to go full out gift-economy. The list can go on and on.
Jayeshbhai and I must've interacted with thousands of people, over the couple weeks we spent together -- living rooms, business schools, factories, streets, fancy restaurants, villages, corporations, nonprofits, you name it. Message was the same: be the change, do small acts of kindness, spend some time in silence, serve in a gift-economy way. And the vibe was so evident, that things just happened -- including close encounters with Dalai Lama and Morari Bapu one day. There were so many stories to write, but by the time one could write it, another two had already happened. So we just went with the flow, feeling like absolute instruments.
Last night, I got another note from Bharatbhai, the Gramshree director in A'bad, sharing stories about the ripples that are continuing, even after our roadshow had come to an end. :) Three days ago, Mumbai Mirror wrote a feature story on ... gift-economy! Gift-economy is quickly becoming part of the Indian vocabulary. :) Two days ago, they translated our rickshaw story in Gujarati for a prominent paper. Yesterday, a man in Bombay read a story on the front page of Times of India, cried for half an hour, and got on a 8-hour train to A'bad that night ... just because he couldn't wait any longer to experience gift-economy.
The kindness revolution in India ... is on! And it was a joy to be a part of it.