It All Started With The Idea Of Doing Daan To Myself, Progressed To Contributing To Be Relevant
My dream today is that a few of the many people I work with will get a Nobel or will become the PM and change the poverty landscape of this country
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It started with Daan to myself. Eight years back I turned sixty. I also decided that I will not work full time any longer. I had no pension, was poor by the standards of my banking peers. Luckily I had spent the previous eight years working in the social space, first as CEO OF Pratham then as CEO of GiveIndia and this had brought a dose of reality to my life. I had been closely associated with Venkat Krishnan the founder of GiveIndia who had recently been involved with the launch of “DaanUtsav” in 2009.
The temptation to lead a life of leisure, of rediscovery, of no deadlines, of being time rich, of independence etc. was strong. Influenced by the idea of celebrating “Giving” I decided to gift myself retirement. I took the plunge. Like all romantic notions, this also lead to discovery. In my case it was that leisure and laziness do not consume time, beyond a point fellow persons of leisure can be boring and travel has constraints of company, seasons, money etc.
All your life you have had a job, or a business, or a profession and have had something to do, you counted and suddenly the vacuum. The soul went comatose almost dead. Reflection and analysis were revealing. The revelation was that,”Nothing is as soul stirring as the feeling that you have something to contribute, be it to family, community or society at large.” Almost imperceptibly the emptiness led to seeking happiness from the tested ideas of the past.
For me it was encouraging youth and being helpful to them that had always been a source of immense pleasure. A check with past colleagues in age group twenty five to forty five suggested that they could do with unobtrusive help on tap i.e., someone who could help them if and when they had a problem, or a doubt or were stuck etc. I declared I was available. Gradually the calls started.
Being a sounding board, being a gentle prodder, being liberal with your networks with them, was appreciated and most importantly your idle time became your biggest asset. People loved it that they could talk to you when they had the time. All it required was a patient ear, interest in people and the faith that they had the potential to achieve a lot and that honest advice could not hurt them.
The trick was also to not be dogmatic and to be in the shadows, recognise that they knew best and would only take that part of your advice that they thought was right. Give what you can, give in good faith, give it when they need it and in return expect only the joy that their growth would give.
Over the years word spread that I had time, the ability to ask questions, suggest solutions and perhaps make connections that would be useful to the young person seeking help either with his/her enterprise, job, profession, idea.
Today almost all of my mornings are either on calls with youngsters or meeting them in person, to discuss their ideas of the moment in diverse spaces as education, livelihoods, health, kindness, governance, artificial intelligence, block chain etc.
Social media and my writing about the excitement of meeting them has helped. Completely unknown people from as far as Cachar in north east to Kutch in the west or from the jungles of Bastar to snow clad areas of Himachal have called, come to meet and have invited me to visit them etc. etc. I have met and am in touch with hundreds of enthusiastic youngsters with ideas and dreams, joined the boards of six organisations whose founders I did not know as recently as a year or two back.
I do not charge a penny for any of this. My life has been enriched by the energy and vitality of these people, by the wisdom and insights of the many leaders from different spheres who are my fellow board members. I am most excited about life and at my age have agreed to be the founding mentor to a brilliant idea that will potentially and hugely improve the quality of democracy that brings a spring to my step.
My dream today is that a few of the many people I work with will get a Nobel or will become the PM and change the poverty landscape of this country. It all started with the idea of doing Daan to myself, progressed to contributing to be relevant. It has given me so much Joy, an idea that deserves celebration. Let us all give, let us celebrate our giving, and that of others. Join the festivities of the tenth edition of Daan Utsav in this Gandhi Jayanti week.
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