I'm joining Service Space because ... I want to practice being the change
A good day to me is when ... I have done an act of kindness.
My hero in life is ...Gandhi.
My favorite book is ...Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
One thing I'm grateful for is ... opportunity to serve.
Jul 12, 2018, 20 comments, 49 smiles Dada Vaswani passed away today, just a few days before his 100th birthday. A monk for 80 years, he had a Sufi background but lived a truly interfaith life. For his millions of followers, he is their link to God. From the Pope to Mother Teresa to Dalai Lama, he was known to practically all of the world's great leaders of his time -- and everyone had a very common refrain about him: this man emanates love. Love. There's really no other way to describe him. A few years ago, I remember a dialogue he held with the ServiceSpace community in Pune, India. Audrey happened to be in the crowd and later told us, "Right as he walked in, I had tears in my eyes. I don't know why. And they continued for the whole hour, until he left." That's just what it's like to be around him. Whether you cry or not, ... Read Full Story
May 27, 2018, 16 comments, 29 smiles I've just returned from a few amazing days in Vietnam. Those stories, however, would be incomplete without the context of two remarkable women: Giang Dang and Hang Mai. First, about Giang. While I stood in immigration lines at the Ho Chi Minh International airport, Giang was waiting outside for a fairly long while. When I saw her, the first thing she said was, "I sent love to everyone who walked in before you." That's the kind of person Giang is. Many moons ago, she used to work at a multi-national aid agency; she left and started her own organization, Action for the City. At one point, they had 17 staff. Seeing herself drown in the superficiality of financial capital, she expanded to "multiple forms of capital" -- part of the staff salary came in vegetables that they grew together. Down that path, she downsized to just a few paid staff and "lot more ... Read Full Story
May 19, 2018, 20 comments, 33 smiles I'm about to depart the Philippines shortly. And my trip here has been a remarkable ripple of meeting Ana and Anjo at the Gandhi 3.0 retreat. On the surface, I came as a speaker for Assumption College commencement -- which, of course, was a remarkable experience. It's an all-women school with about 3000 kids, from K through college, and whose alumni have included 2 Philippines presidents, numerous business leaders and even more nuns! Somewhere behind a podium in the photo below, I'm speaking about embracing grace. :) Underneath the hood, though, I had the great joy of witnessing Ana's magic. (For those who don't know Ana, she was Julliard's "100 Most Outstanding Alumni in 100 Years" among other things.) First off, extreme hospitality from Anjo, Erwin, Wylette and the entire compassion army -- I mean, having been here multiple days, I still don't know my way around, because there were always volunteers ... Read Full Story
Oct 04, 2017, 13 comments, 29 smiles Many months ago, Jin Wei, a Buddhist monk, set the intention of starting a Karma Kitchen in the country of his birth -- Poland! Particularly with a four-pack posse of ServiceSpace veterans coming together for a delegation with Rev. Heng Sure, he asked around for restaurants who might be willing to give a try. Didn't get a lot of traction. Then, somehow, he ended up on a phone call with Ela. They didn't know each other, and she didn't know about Karma Kitchen, but within a minute of their conversation, she says, "Let's do it at my restaurant." "Really? Are you sure?" Jin Wei thought in his mind. Before he could say anything, Ela followed up with her response: "Yes, I'm sure. Let's do it." And so it was. Oct 1st, 11AM to 4PM. Krakow, Poland. Karma Kitchen is on. Another monastic, Jin He, designed a brilliant poster that hung on ... Read Full Story
Aug 22, 2017, 6 comments, 24 smiles [Post Charlottesville events, a friend emailed me various existential questions around his social service work on inclusion. Below was my response. The images are paintings by a famous Indian painter named Raza who only draws traingles and circles. :)] We can fundamentally organize our solutions as triangles, circles, or mobius. Triangles are hierarchies that are optimized for efficiency, via transactions. They are very narrow in focus and hence brittle. Circles are optimized for many-to-many possibilities through relationships. Yet, as they mature, they create exclusion with an in-circle and out-circle. In ServiceSpace, we speak of a third option, a "mobius strip", as a more suitable metaphor -- where the outside is in at times and inside is out at times, like the conveyor belt at an airport. How, then, do we create a mobius strip? In any context, that's a very pertinent design question. ServiceSpace approach has been to be leverage technology for efficiency, leverage ... Read Full Story
Jun 09, 2017, 5 comments, 18 smiles "If you had a billion dollars to give, what would you do?" It's a great question that we often ask our interns. In this week's NY Times, best-selling author David Brooks articulated his response after being inspired by the recent letters of Giving Pledge signers. And it seemed like a page straight out of the ServiceSpace handbook. "Only loving relationships transform lives, and such relationships can be formed only in small groups. I’d seed 25-person collectives, a group of people who met once a week to share." Just like Awakin Circles. He spoke about local retreats, quite in the vein of Moved by Love. In fact, he even explicitly referenced the Hands, Head, Heart framework, as the "pressure points required for personal transformation." Brooks further added how "each collective would have a curriculum, a set of biographical and reflective readings, to help members come up with their own life philosophies, to help them master the intellectual [foundation of] virtues." Sounds ... Read Full Story
May 15, 2017, 9 comments, 31 smiles Last couple days, I participated in a TED-style event in France -- L'echappee Volee. In a gorgeous setting in Chantily, the event brought together entrepreneurs, innovators and investors for an idea-filled, 3-day event. This year's theme was Exponential Happiness. Most of it was in French, but there were various English speakers as well. It turned out that Emmanuel Macron was also invited, but he texted saying he was a bit busy, considering that he had to deliver the President's inaugural address. :) The speakers had a very Singularity-esque flavor of technology solutions for society's progress. One speaker spoke about curing humanity of "disease of aging", another gave a live demonstration of "AI replica" to communicate with someone as if they hadn't passed away, another spoke on hacking someone's memory to make them forget past experiences, another on colonizing Mars. Most of them had companies dedicated to the cause. Although all their ... Read Full Story
Aug 04, 2016, 1 comments, 19 smiles As a part of our 10-week summer internship, we had two bright lights join us this summer -- 15 year old Jacob and 14 year old Saheli. Every week, they would select one value, have readings and videos, reflection questions, personal practices, and local volunteer projects. It's like a Laddership Circle for youth. :) All along, they were mentored whole-heartedly by Amit, Audrey and Pranidhi with weekly 1-on-1 and group calls -- and infused with guest speakers from around the ecosystem like Zilong, Pavi and Vinit. Needless to say, it was a powerful summer for everyone involved. While the mentors were prepping ways to thanks the interns, in the final call, our two interns preempted their surprise them with this stunning video ... On the call, they each gave a "Ted Talk" on -- "If I had to choose one value to practice over the next 365 days, it would be ..." ... Read Full Story
Jul 04, 2016, 18 comments, 42 smiles [Below is an email I just received. It absolutely made my week. --Nipun] Hello Mr. Mehta, I apologize for this long email, but please if you have some time in your busy day can you please read it. My name is [Vinny] and I have had the privilege to listen to you and converse with you in Southern California and in Atlanta. I was inspired by your words then and I am still now. Whenever I am stuck in a sticky situation I remind myself to "Be the Change". I remind myself that kindness is the only universal language that people understand. Those guiding principles have helped me through life so far, and especially during my senior year in high school. At my school, there was a school shooting and there also was a girl who had committed suicide. The morale among the student body was at its all time low with suspicion, anxiety, ... Read Full Story
Jun 03, 2016, 2 comments, 26 smiles [I got this note from a friend: "Close to my Dad's heart, and the way that he has lived his life, has been our religion and faith, Zoroastrianism, which, simply asks us to do three things: think good thoughts, say good words and do good deeds. For his birthday, could you do something that falls under those categories -- either think a really good thought for yourself, someone else, or the world; pay particular attention to speaking kind, good words; or do something special - tiny or big - for someone else." Below was my contribution, earlier this week.] On the way to a meeting today, I saw a blind woman who looked a bit lost. I wanted to reach out but was a bit hesitant since I didn't want to sound patronizing. In my heart, I wished her well, and lo and behold, right as I crossed her, she blurts out, ... Read Full Story