Monday, August 14, 2017

To Modi ji with love

Dear Narendra Modi (PM) ji,
Hope you are good! I have stopped writing about anything that happens in our country because everything is justified nowadays. But reading the news of Gorakhpur and listening to the parents, brings mix emotions in me, from pain to sadness to anger. We need to set right priorities as a country, as a government and stop this propaganda based development. Focus on health and education, if you wish to improve lives of people, the return might not be immediate and it might happen that next government sees the benefit but we don't have a choice, someone needs to be honest. 
Health and education can't be improved like a crash course, to build the right foundation and strengthen the entire system, our government needs to let go of instant gratification and multiplying votes. Do that by talking about cows and army, Indians will vote you back in power but also focus on fundamental things. Your only contribution in education seems like in changing history syllabus, just to remind you that education has other subjects as well. I am yet to hear you talk about education as vociferously as you talk about "other" issues close to your heart. When I say "YOU/YOUR", I mean you and your party. 
Also, lets stop blaming the past governments, they were not good and thats why country chose you and now that you are here for 7 more years, set your agenda right. People will remember and vote you back in 2024 as well but do something. Stop the untouchability that you have created among political parties, see the model of health reform of Delhi Government. Arvind Kejriwal isn't that bad, he like you(loud), seems like a well intentioned man just that he has a minuscule online army compared to yours and he has been stupid to not have best friends like Adani and Ambani. Delhi is small in comparison to states like UP but I am sure there are ways to learn and implement good practices. All good practices doesn't necessarily need to come from Gujrat. Amit Shah ji is enough for the country to be replicated across the states. 
I was never in favour of hate-monger MYogiAdityanath as CM but I like your honesty and unlike other politicians you are clear that yes this is my agenda and I will stand by it. I got to know your favourite colour, which is fair, you have all the right to choose your colour. That day gave me clarity and I stopped giving any benefit of doubt that I might have given otherwise and thus stopped writing.
I have never been your big fan just like Atal ji (for those who have forgotten him, he was first BJP Prime Minister of India) wasn't but now that you are here, I respect you for the constitutional post that you hold which was once held by Nehru and Atal. I agree to disagree with you on certain things and that's the beauty of India that we have these rights still intact, but I have hoped (still hope) that you are someone who will make system work more efficiently atleast for common Indians. I keep reading, you work so hard, don't sleep much, it will be great if tomorrow from Red Fort, you share a little about what exactly are you working on, sort of a daily and weekly plan. I will be glad to know and I am sure million others would like to know, it will help us understand the priorities better. You should share that with us, as you are our Pradhan Sevak!

Sleep well tonight, tomorrow you will be live in front of camera, look good.

- Hopeful,
Prakhar Bhartiya
(an ordinary citizen in 2017!)

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Rotten within me!

Sometimes I feel there is something rotten within me. This sense of helplessness. This sense of dissatisfaction, sense of losing everything. A deep misery that I am not worth it, a sense that I can't do anything. Deep sense of weakness and a feeling of being lost. I see a lot around me which I wish could be different. The world I imagine is so far from reality, the people I imagine are just imaginary.
All I come across is misery, lack of courage, apathy, selfishness, narrow minded, short sightedness. Everything around stands strong on the feet of corruption, from what I see, to what I eat to what I hear. People are dying and I contribute in their death because I am part of the system. Some will die tomorrow and some will later but we have ensured that tragedy persists. I don't see the courage of moral imagination, all I see around me is deep sense of self-centered approach and no space to something different. I feel like I live in the world of labels, I portray some on me and I put some on others.
The only hope I see is among few individuals who are trying their bit, struggling among all odds to do something but that seems insignificant. The number of such people is too small, they are sometimes overpowered by popular narratives of the world.
I die every night in my bed only to gather courage to do something about the rotten inside me, the next day. I both win and lose to die again. Only hope is that one day I will die as a hopeful!
(PS. These are reflections from last night.)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Congress: Introspect or prepare to write obituary on hills

Democracy works best when both ruling government and opposition are strong. In current state of affairs in our country the opposition(National Party and not regional ones) is very weak and nearly trembling to death. No matter how strong the government is, opposition plays a constructive role in its functioning. 

It is time for Gandhi family to deeply introspect and see where they are failing the party and eventually the country. If Congress is not worthy of being a strong opposition or even remain a National Party, the family should take responsibility and step down. It's been long that their leaders have been saving Rahul Gandhi, he should step down or take responsibility and stir the party.

Time to step up or step down.

From ruling over largely entire nation, Congress has shrinked to around 6% and there are literally no chances for them to do any magic in UP or Goa next year and very feeble chances of a magic in Punjab. The main state they are in power is Karnataka and few other small states like HP, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur and in an alliance in Uttarakhand. It will be hard for them to retain other states apart from three in North-East.

On the other hand BJP, has brilliantly moved from ruling 19% while Vajpayee was Prime Minister to 65% under Modi. The nation has accepted both its nationalist ideology and development plank. It has very well captured the vacuum created by lack of leadership in Congress. Seeing at the growth of BJP, it is very likely that they seal the results of 2019 much before it actually happens. The elections in many ways are a mind game and dwindle on popular perceptions, with the confidence that Congress has right now, it is very hard for them to even imagine winning 2019 unless BJP does a huge blunder.

One important learning that is becoming important for parties is to strengthen local leadership. With emerging regional parties, it has become all the more important for both national parties to strengthen their local leadership. If we reflect on Delhi and Bihar, the two election where BJP lost post 2014 and Assam where it remarkably has won, one thing that stands out is that in both Delhi and Bihar it did not have a local face. Delhi and Bihar were run on Modi's face value while in Assam it had Sonowal. The voter is intelligent to make a choice when it comes to local and centre.

After election in Karnataka in 2018, Congress might be forced to take a vacation and enjoy writing its obituary in the hills, the only ruled states by them. The only choice they have is to take charge and evolve or become history!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Youth Alliance: Journey between then and Now :)

There are some days that leave a mark on our lives and become a defining milestone. Four years back it was this day when the hard work of many people brought together a group of 17 youngsters as part of Lead The Change program. Youth Alliance was in its primitive stage, full of passion and commitment it set off its first program.Today when I look back at first LTC, I feel it was that program that made Youth Alliance what it is today. 

Some brilliant compassionate hearts joined the program, they nurtured it with their love and faith. Many of them stayed back for around two years to build the organisation. Manisha, Seema, Angna, Subhash, Ajay, Shashank became the pillars of the organisation for years to come. They started walking the journey with Vibhuti, Udit, Shivang, Akanksha, the pioneers who hosted the first LTC into the unknown, we could only see a step further sometimes even the step was blurry but faith kept us moving until many more joined the caravan.


I still remember sitting with my diary and scribbling the proposed structure of LTC, with literally zero experience in designing a leadership program. I reached out to Swapnil Bhaiya, one of the co-founders of Jagriti Yatra and I remember finalising 90% of LTC sitting with him. He used to make coffee for me and scold me like a younger brother. The next stop was Vivek bhaiya from Gandhi Fellowship, who had his own unique style of loving by challenging the person. I still remember, "This will not work, you are making a program that will take them to Ivy League." He constantly challenged me to think deeper and was always around when I felt depressed.

It was  Valentine's Day when I went to Anshu Bhaiya, to share the model and take his inputs. He patiently listened to all my super excited talks, after the long conversation around the program that we had at the dining table in Goonj, he went in and handed a cheque to me. I did not ask for funds in the entire discussion, not even mentioned the struggle of finances but he saw through me and said,"I know you don't have money and you will need it." He wrote in my diary, "Lage Raho!" I think the only justice I could do to him all these years, is not stop.


There are so many other people who made this possible. It will be hard for me to write about everyone, all I can feel today is deep gratitude for all each one them. From Jayesh Bhai to Ravi Bhaiya who later became part of the journey, from TFI flatmate to school friend, from kids of my TFI class to slum right across my childhood school, from my family back in Kanpur to my partner for life, from my college to universities across the world, from the forces visible to forces invisible, from my country which has always made me feel proud to the world I have started knowing now, all I can say is a big Thank You for making this a reality :)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Reflections from Eye Camp!

Like every year, we went to the villages with a small group of enthusiastic young people eager and excited to know more about villages. Gramya Manthan, the rural immersion program that happened in June 2015. During the program, a camp for Eye check up was organized  for the people of surrounding villages. More than 200 people turned up for check up, most of them were old men and women. During the camp, we came across 21 people who were suffering from cataract disease, which is a curable blindness. All they needed was a small surgery to get their sight back. In the scorching heat of June local care was limited and not infeasible to have surgeries. On consultation, mild winters of February 2016 were finalized for operation and thus began the planning with the beginning of new year.


On 11th February, I and my team-mate Ajay Sharma reached Paliya. We had already shared about surgery with a few people from the village over a call. Now, the next step was to visit homes and talk to people. After the first round of conversations in the village, mixed responses were received. We were a bit worried whether people would come for surgery or not yet in our heads we were determined to make the surgeries happen even if there were 5 people ready as we had planned for 20 surgeries. Surprisingly, People had different notions about an operation here in the village. Many have had distressing experiences with doctors in the past while some of the responses were hilarious enough as one old lady said that they might take our eye out and I might get blind and some said the doctors take out kidneys etc. showing their respective worries.



During a basic check up before the operation like BP, Sugar etc a lot of people gathered marking a good response and positive spirit to go ahead with the plan.To our surprise, an old lady around 70-year old had Blood Sugar level at 268 which is quite dangerous and she was unaware about the same. Such incidents showed us the reality of what more needs to be done in rural India. These are the basic healthcare facilities and our people have been unaware and denied of this for decades.





It was such an amazing experience to be there and share(sometimes convince) that how life could change post this operation. There was a lot to learn from their responses as it showed a lot of apprehensions, their past experiences and how they have not been given basic access. Another heart-filling humorous incident happened when an old lady came to us next day that the doctor has filled her hand with air yesterday and it has been paining, to our surprise the doctor checked her BP and she was convinced that her hand is filled with air now. :) On one side I was in laughter but on the other side it made me wonder that she has never ever experienced this before.


Finally, the day had come. We were ready to make the move to Kanpur city and many of the people who agreed yesterday  had dropped out. There were several reasons and one of them that really worried me was apathy of younger generation towards old people within families. For a moment, we grappled on how to make sure that we have at least 5 people. We reached out to all who had given their confirmation earlier and heard their concern.It was humbling to see the challenges and importance of a day for them, as how difficult it was for many to take a couple of day's leave.


We finally had 8 people with whom we left for the villages and it was such a fulfilling feeling to see their trust and belief in us. The operation was scheduled for next day, cataract surgery is not a long process. It's a 20 min. surgery but the nervousness was quite visible, sharing stories of our distant relatives who had undergone this surgery and how simple it was served to pacify their queasy hearts.


It was such an endearing experience the next day to witness as they held each others hand with love and encouragement to vanishing all the fear before calling in for the operation. The time came and 5 of them were called to get ready for operation. It was a difficult time for me as well, 8 people had come all the way with sheer trust and hope and if something goes wrong what would I say to their families. The utmost belief they showed in me that none of their families accompanied and they said to me, "Bhaiya, you just be with them constantly." Meanwhile, I meditated to calm myself and then cleaned the room where we all were staying. In the next three hours all were back, pin-drop silence in the room, a couple of them were trembling. All I could do was hold their hand and be with them. It is hard for me to express that moment in words, as some feelings can only be felt in our hearts. They were made sleep then.


As they woke up, the amusing conversations started. By now, other Youth Alliance volunteers had also arrived. Tejal, our alumni from first GM was also there, making sure that she is there with them and taking care of their basic needs like to use toilet. By the evening the room was filled with laughter and lively spirits. I had to request our oldies to talk less. Happiness was evident and infectious. We also had three volunteers from Mexico, Honduras, and Panama. They were amazed to see a hospital room filled with so much love.
Next day the bandages were removed to check for the vision and gratefully everything went well for all. The joy was of hopes being fulfilled. Now, all were excited to go back home and see their families. We reached back to villages post noon, explained about the future medication and care that was needed to be taken. I felt relaxed and at peace.



I am sure these eight stories will be a powerful example and people will not delay in health matters. This was not just a health care initiative but a huge step to break many stereotypes in disguise, it had already brought a Brahmin and SC on the same bed, yes they did not touch each other but atleast they were next to each other on bed. 

At last, I would like to thank everyone, who came forward to support us, especially Dr. Awadh Dubey(Eye Surgeon) who offered us his services and has been a huge support for Gramya Manthan since the beginning. All this was possible because there is love in everyone's heart for everyone, it is just that we need a medium and chance to express.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lage Raho, You Inspire Us - Anshu Gupta!

Everytime I meet you in person, I feel blessed and inspired! People like you are rare species :)

Yesterday(20 September) while we all were celebrating GOONJ's inspirational work and Ramon #Magsaysay award, I was constantly feeling goosebumps and my heart was filled with pride :)

Both veterans and beginners had assembled to be part of Samosa, laddu and Chai party. While he invited veterans & close friends to come and share about Goonj, I felt overwhelmed when he asked me to come and share :)

At the first instance I was short of words and full of emotions but then I shared two things that makes him class apart!

It was February 14, 2012 and I was sitting with him in Goonj's office sharing the plan and idea of our upcoming Lead The Change program, we spoke for an hour or so, he gave some brilliant feedback. During the entire conversation we did not talk about funds, after the meeting I was about to leave, when he stopped me and handed over a cheque. Without even uttering a word I looked into his eyes and he replied,"Mujhe pata hai tumhare paas paise nhi hain, kaam ayenge.(I know you dont have money, it will be of use)" I had a big smile on my face and enough courage to never look back! It was the first funding cheque for Youth Alliance and he wrote "Lage Raho" on my diary. One of the best Valentine's Day gift I can imagine :)

Second thing, that I shared is often missed in this data driven, quantifiable world, where numbers matter more than anything. Couple of week back I called him and asked him, "Bhaiya, how many talks have you given til now?" and we estimated around 500 talks/lectures. With an average of 50 people(I am sure it will be more than that), he has spoken to more than 5000 youngsters in past five years and with his powerful oratory, if he has ignited even 1 heart in every talk, he has inspired 50 more initiatives or individual to do something powerful. Apart from this, thousands of people have visited Goonj's processing center and left spellbound and inspired. I know around 5-6 youngsters personally who have initiated their enterprise because of him. This cannot be quantified and the seeds of inspiration that have gone deep because of Goonj, cannot be seen currently and we might witness the impact in decades and centuries to come.

Goonj might be there or not but 100 years down the line, its inspiration would be doing things which are incomprehensible!

Thank you Anshu bhaiya! You are my hero :)




Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Circle is Growing :)

I was about to enter the hall to facilitate a session named as "Pyar se Parivar" (Family of Love) with Divas but the sea of footwears (chappals) outside the hall intrigued me. I wasn't aware of exact number of people sitting in a large circle inside the Satyagraha Hall of Gandhi Darshan and thus began my counting. There were 129 pair of footwears. The family of love has grown, this was the largest number of people Youth Alliance family has ever hosted in one program, in one circle. I am talking of Change Festival, the two day residential program that has strengthened our belief in love, trust, surrender & compassion. 

Change Festival with its motto to celebrate both people & ideas had a deep focus on transformative enterprise & we prepared with a guiding question, how will my work change me from inside? The two days were of complete surrender in trust. The team worked hard to make every little thing special, nearly all the things used in the program were handmade from namecards to mementos to decoration material :) It was heartening to see the team put their heart and soul in every little things they were doing.


Out of 110 participants, 26 shared their idea. The ideas varied on issues ranging from Education to Sports Comics to Employment for Visually Impaired etc. We had to work on 10 of them to learn the art of refining an idea keeping transformation at core. All of them collectively chose 10 of them and effortlessly all other joined the chosen ideas to form 10 teams. During our planning we were thinking this transition from 26 ideas to 10 teams(of around 10 member each) would be difficult but it so happened that everyone was happy in their teams. In the final closing circle on Day 2, the final presentations were made and everyone came forward to offer their gifts to these 10 ideas. We felt happy that everyone in the circle could see that finance is not the only form of capital support and there were multiple form of capitals that were offered to each team.

It was a leap of faith for us both in terms of number of participants in the program and also that we were hosting this on Gift EconomyShashank shared with us that GIFT is nothing but Giving in Full Trust and that set the tone for us. We promised ourselves to host a space for 120 people in full trust without any participation fees & they can pay it forward whatever they are moved to. At the night of Day 1 when participants were engrossed in refining their ideas, I was sitting with my team members and then we shared that it is not the outcome of 3-4 months of hardwork but it's years that have gone behind building this ecosystem. Two days were enriched with the gifts of Ravi BhaiyaDeven Bhai, Vivek Bhai, Anshu Bhaiya, entire Moved By Love community and several other mentors who were part of it to mentor the teams. For us it was such a wonderful feeling to see around 15 mentors who stayed with us for two days to support the participants in refining their ideas.

A day before CF we were holding our review circle and Jagdish bhaiya who is the caretaker at Gandhi Darshan was around. We asked him to join us, he sat with us throughout our sharing, later he said,"Yahan itne log aate hain, per aap logon jaisa pyar nhi dekha maine." (Many people come here but I have not seen such love in people.) He had set the right tone for us. GSDS is an amazing place and one of the few places where things were ready before time :)



All in all, it was a humbling experience where everyone came together in a circle to make it a reality. It was a wonderful confluence of multiple form of capital, participants from across the country enriched it with the diversity, GSDS offered us the space, Youth Time Movement supported us financially, mentors shared their experience, team offered their labor of love, the rain made the two days pleasant. 

It was in true form a community build with love, trust and collaboration. Now, all we need to do is make it stronger one person at a time, one heart at a time :)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

To love, is to SERVE :)

Today, I went to bank to withdraw some money for Change Festival, only to know that banks are closed on every 1st April and then closed on 2nd for Mahavir Jayanti, 3rd for Good Friday. All in all bank will be closed for next three days and 3rd, 4th April is our much awaited Change Festival. Thinking of people from whom I would borrow some money for the event, I prepared a list in my head.

I entered the office & shared this with our team (mostly comprising of college students) that has been working relentlessly for the upcoming festival. I shared the bank scenario and said that we need to crowd source a significant amount for next three days. In next one minute what happened moved me completely and strengthened my belief in power of collaborative community. The team offered to pool in a huge amount for next three days, good enough to meet urgent requirements. It was a powerful moment for everyone, each one of us was happy seeing the ownership in the team. This is true interdependence :)

This is one such incident in the series of such things that have been happening at Youth Alliance office. Each one has been trying to make it as special as possible. Often with the race of time we prefer things that are ready-made but this team has been working day and night to make every little thing from the quotes, to gifts, to backdrop everything has been made with love, trust and compassion. It has been a truly collective effort, where each one has risen to the occasion and given her or his best. 



There have been times over last couple of weeks when I have stopped one of them and said, "Isn't this too much of work for you? Can you do this alone? Start only if you can complete it?" and the reply has been,"Bhaiya, it will done! Don't worry. I will do it at home."

I feel proud to be part of an organization rather team that is so special. This is a true community, where everyone brings their gifts together, share them with each other and surrenders in trust :) The artist takes care of art and gives space to others for expressing; the critical thinker asks the right questions and surrenders in trust; the (main)host makes sure that everyone has space to do what they want to do; the believer takes care that everyone understands the true meaning of gift economy/ multiple form of capital and maintains the ethos; the writer makes sure that every word is written with love; the invisible is busy arranging the logistics and running across the city to make sure that everyone's stay is blessed, the list goes on...



This is like a dream come true for all of us. Now, it is just a day away :) Youth Alliance is going to host its largest gathering ever. We all can feel butterflies in our stomach, I trust the festival will be blissful but I am sure that the process has brought us closer to each other and this is what we all aspire :)

To love, is to SERVE and we have loved :)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Why BJP losing Delhi is in National Interest?

Last year when general elections were about to happen and Modi wave was clearly riding over the country, the big worry for me was who will stop the communal people from RSS, VHP, BJP etc. once Modi becomes PM. I was sure that it would be beyond his control to stop the people who would use his name to spread communalism in the country. The best was that he did not speak once during his entire campaign last year about communalism but promised development(I have some questions on his development model as well) and promoted that agenda. He had a very positive narrative to share with the country and he tried to move away from his 2002 riot image.

Today after around 9 months of Modi government, the entire country has seen surge in communal forces trying to run campaigns like "Gharwapsi", love jihad, vandalizing churches in Delhi. We have seen Praveen Togadia spreading hatred, BJP MP's supporting such things and adding fuel. The worst is that our PM Modi did not come out to speak(read tweet) once about anything. He has been tweeting for everything, he tweeted for Charlie Hebdo the very same evening but we are yet to hear from him about one statement against such thing.

Next disastrous thing for me is accepting a person like Amit Shah and media channels heaping praise on him. SIT might have given him clean chit but we have a history of how CBI and SIT have been misused in this country. Same Amit Shah was stopped by court to enter Gujrat for two years when Modi was CM. It was Shah who was the incharge of UP elections in 2014 and his chosen MPs have been fueling hatred in the country. 

Modi observes all this and never utters a word, in a way he silently agrees and promotes what is happening. We as a country have to decide what we want, if we want development then on the cost of what? I would not like my generations to live in posh concrete colonies with hatred for each other.

It is important to stop the hegemony of Modi brand politics and teach a lesson to people like Amit Shah who breed in the idea of communalism. Arvind Kejriwal and his party AAP has been able to challenge him and we have seen how challenged Modi and his team have felt over last few weeks. They have resorted to all sorts of means to stop the Aam Admi but this time it seems it will be impossible for them.

These are defining moment in a democracy, these moments make history, these moments strengthen our belief in the rights of people.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Three Stories. One Hope. #5SaalKejriwal

The best way to understand the mood of public is to be with them, observe and talk to them. Election being the most buzzing topic around, I have been talking to people about it and responses this time are more consistent. I would like to share few stories that truly moved me and gave me hope.

I got a call today from the village which hosts Youth Alliance for Gramya Manthan. It is a village 80 km away from Kanpur with no electricity polls. It was 8:30am and 25 year old Pankaj from other side says,"Bhaiya do something to mobilize people for Arvind Kejriwal, if you want I can come to Delhi for campaigning. This time we need to make sure that he should win. You work with so many youngsters take everyone for campaigning." I was speechless about his excitement and the way he is hoping that something will change.

Second story is of a rickshaw puller. It was 10pm at night and I was standing near Jangpura crossing and talking to various rickshaw pullers with my vicks candy, that I usually keep with me in winters and offer to people I meet on road. I asked one of them, "Bhaiya kisko vote doge?" (Brother, whom will you vote?) He replied,"I am from West Bengal and vote Congress but if Kejriwal would go to Bengal I will surely vote him." I smiled and went ahead.

Third story is that of an auto-rickshaw driver. He has been driving auto rickshaw for many years. We started talking about socio-political situation of Delhi and then I asked which party are you going to vote and why. He replied, "Bhaiya, is baar to jhaadu chalegi. Meri auto mein jo log baithte hain unme 10 mein se 7 log jhaadu ko vote de rhe hain." ( Brother, this time broom(Aam Admi Party), 7 out of 10 people who sit in my auto are going to vote them.) He then narrates how he was free from police troubles during those 49 days. Auto rickshaw drivers have been rallying behind AAP since its inception and they are quite vocal about their support.

These are just three stories from bouquet of stories I have come across over last one month. I see a lot of hope in people specially those who come from economically weaker section. I am looking forward to see the change and witness it, just hoping that this time an honest politician remains honest with time.

Like happiness is contagious, so is hope!