CODE FOR LOVE - When Angels Dare
--Ragunath Padmanabhan
6 minute read
Dec 25, 2019


"Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans", sang the Beatles.

Could we meet life face to face without our business getting in the way? It seems that all the different year-end gatherings of Service Space are an attempt to answer that question.

Each Service Space event chooses a core aspect of life to explore if we can be fully alive to that aspect for at least a few days. On December 16th and 17th at Anahad, Hyderabad, we chose love.

In December 2015, Anahad was one of the ideas presented at the Startup Service event at ESI, Sughad. This was a time when even the name Anahad was not yet conceived. Abid and Shabbar, who had presented the idea, carried home all the inspiration from that event (with extra luggage :) and created a farm-based community in record time. Ever since, they had a strong intention of paying-it-forward. Hence they collaborated with some Service Space volunteers to conceive and offer Code for Love, a unique startup event.

One strong intention that emerged in our early volunteer meetings was not to select a few ideas from all the presented ideas but give space to all the ideas. Given limited time, we knew it would be challenging. The heart-storming that followed carried us like a wave to land us into an insight that informed everything that followed:

In the presence of deep connections, life effortlessly self-organizes to heal its wounds and realize its potentials. This frees us from narrowly defining problems and solutions; and avoids unintentional conflicts and unexpected complications.

We asked ourselves, "What if we asked the participants to not focus on the end results of the tasks they needed to undertake for their projects but on the deep connections that can be enabled through those tasks?" We decided to ask the participants to go on a journey, not to reach their destinations but for the sake of the friendships they could make along the way.

On December 15th evening, except for a few participants scheduled to arrive the next morning, everyone gathered at Anahad. We did a circle of sharing on "a priceless moment of love". Each person shared from one's heart a story, incident or observation that had revealed to him or her the priceless nature of love. It set the tone for the event.

On 16th morning, 19 ideas were presented, four minutes per person. What a range of ideas it was - from a Children's Discovery Center to a Tech Monastery!

To warm up the participants towards an approach that emphasizes on self-transformation and compassion, we had invited Suchitra Shenoy. She is a Service Space volunteer and the co-author of the book Infinite Vision, the story of Aravind Eye Care.

Suchitra shared a documentary that captures in half an hour, how Aravind became the world's greatest business case for compassion over three generations. Following the documentary, the participants did a Q&A session with her. Through many personal stories and insights, she brought to life the legendary life of Dr.V, the founder of Aravind Eye Care and his relentless focus on service and love.

We then clubbed the ideas into six groups based on similarities among those ideas. Within each group, we identified a few actions areas that are common to each idea in that group. And we asked each group to list the different important tasks under each action area.

Group >> Action Areas >> Tasks

We then asked each group to imaging how they might go about executing those tasks if they are done not only for their external benefits but mainly to enable deep connections of three types: within oneself, with others and with nature.

The insight is that, in the presence of deep connections, a lot more than tasks get done. Even if the focus on making connections render the tasks inefficient, it enables embracing a gentle, priceless life instead of a fast and costly style.

Naturally, it was not an easy process. Each group struggled with a Connection Canvas we had given to help them see beyond tasks to focus on relationships. Prof.Sangal and Shri.Gunarajan, two big-hearted and accomplished people were introduced to the participants and they agreed to be available for guidance.

While the overt agenda was on ideas, groups and tasks, from the minute the participants arrived at Ahahad, many invisible angles attended to enveloping them with love. From heart-pins to hugs everyone was made to feel at home. From flowers to insightful posters, the entire space was filled with warmth and wisdom. Much before and during the event, the residents of Anahad put their heart and soul into ensuring that everyone is in a space of deep connection. Therefore, the confusions of the mind found comfortable seats to hold the questions and doubts.

On day 0 and day 1, post dinner, under a golden moon and around a camp fire, Vaibhav, brought hearts together with his singing, dancing and inviting everyone to commune. Mihir's hearfelt songs, Sudha's gazelle-like dance, Annamalai's DJ prowess, Manisha's peppy numbers, Fatima and Ganapathy's horse riding... we were all children under the stars.

On day 2, we asked Shri.Gunaranjan-ji to share with us his life and work with YouSee. He moved us with his utter simplicity (he has two pairs of cloths) and great compassion made visible through his volunteer-driven hospital services in eight states. A Q&A session with him brought to light the life of a selfless person and how it has empowered him to attract and nurture long-term volunteers.

We had reserved our big-gun for the last, our non-resident angel, Nipun Mehta. He had arrived late the previous night and insisted on preparing the presentation for the next day later into the night (just routine work :). His one-hour presentation and Q&A revealed through vivid stories and radical ideas, where the power in the power point comes from. He talked about Design Principles of Saints. The audacity to think that those who want to do startups can think like saints is the magic that makes Nipun's and Service Space's work break through complex mind-barriers. And give escape velocity to the service journeys of hundreds of people around the world. Throughput his presentation and the Q&A, I saw many participants faces light up from within.

After day 1's healthy confusion and following Nipun's presentation on day 2, the groups had found their footing and generated dozens of approaches to convert tasks into connection-agents.

In the last two hours of the day, each group presented its discoveries of how to see the tasks in its projects as relationship-makers. A small panel of people like Prof.Sangal, Shailendar-ji, Nipun, Ramgopal, Nisha-ji and two of her friends added their comments, questions and wishes to each group.

Everyone wished we had had more time with one another. Manisha mentioned that she will measure the success of this gathering by the number of goosebumps she got per hour :)

Startup events usually end with a few winners fund-raising for their ideas. Code for Love left behind the "money question", and did a ton of what Jayeshbhai calls, friend-raising for every person at the event.

With metrics like goosebumps and friend-raising, Shabbar wants to create a Connection Quotient that represents the diversity and depth of connections in our lives. To enable that, volunteers are working to create a Code for Love team within Service Space to nurture the journeys of past, present and future Startup Service participants.
Look forward to the invite!

As I close this post, I am humming a new Beatles number:

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful girl...
Before you cross *the street*
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you while you're gently connecting with other hearts.

See all the masti pictures here.

Posted by Ragunath Padmanabhan on Dec 25, 2019

2 Past Reflections