The word ‘Politics’ has different connotations for different people. It also has many meanings attached to it and the way it is used is also different in different contexts. I would like to use the word ‘Politics’ to indicate the activities that are associated with the governance of a country or state or a local area. While this is indeed a sweeping statement and necessarily includes development, I would like to exclude all activities born out of a particular ideology or party in order to acquire power to rule. Purists may argue that my understanding and definition of this word is incomplete and restrictive. While this may be partially true, I would like to stick to it in order to communicate what I mean by saying SVYM is non-political.
Saying that SVYM is non-political would sound like an oxymoron. On one side, we talk of SVYM being a development organization. This surely makes us political from the perspective of ‘Development’ being inseparable from ‘Governance’. The point I would like to drive home is that we are non-political in the context of party politics and do not indulge in any attempt to either acquire or influence the acquisition of power to rule over any area or state or country. We are value-neutral as far as electoral politics goes. This translates into we neither endorsing nor campaigning for any person or party in any electoral situation. It surely does not prevent us from advocating public causes on behalf of the many constituents that we partner with in the political system – either those in power or out of power.
Considering the fact that we are interacting with the Government and undertaking policy research and advocacy, it is a tightrope walk to stay this way. But we have been able to maintain this position for the last 3 decades. We have had people from across the political spectrum interacting with us and many of them have indeed lent a helping hand for our activities. Despite our good working relationships with many, we have been careful in not getting too close to any one person or party. We have remained equidistant from each of them and that is our strength. While we may be critical of the positions and stands of many of them, we have never let this come in the way of personal relationships.
Being non-political also means that we do not encourage our employees from contesting elections while they are regular and full-time employees. They are asked to take a call and decide on whether they would like to remain employees or quit and contest the elections. Being an employee does not preclude anyone from having his own personal political thought, but it surely does not permit him/her to campaign or use his/her position to influence any voter during the electoral process.
Being non-political has allowed us to be independent and vocal about our views on development. It has also given us the bandwidth to implement programs like Making Democracy Work. It has also given us the credibility to articulate our positions and be taken seriously. We cherish this view of ours and intend to keep it that way.
A question many have asked me for the last few years is ‘Is SVYM a religious organization’? The changing political landscape that thrives on religious polarization may lead people to ask this question, especially since we are named after Swami Vivekananda. This question has only one straightforward answer – No! We are not a religious organization. We neither talk religion nor are we into the world of proselytizing or preaching. Many of us individually may or may not be having different religious beliefs, but these are purely personal and outside the domain of organizational matters. How do we demonstrate that we are not religious in the way the world has now-a-days defined religion? As far as we are concerned, since our inception we have held onto the highest ideals promoted by Swami Vivekananda in his teachings – ideals of service and sacrifice. These are reflected in our values along with those that the Mahatma wanted us to practice – truth and non-violence. And the practice of these values is the only religion we have within SVYM.
Vivekananda believed that religion is an intensely personal matter. His only religion was to see ‘God in man’ and serve him unconditionally. That is the religion we practice in SVYM. We neither care nor bother about the ‘personal’ God that any of our employees, partners or program participants may subscribe to. All that matters to us is the question of how truthful we are to our values. We would like to see the oneness of man and not the narrow divisions that exist today. Being non-religious and inclusive means respecting every individual that we interact with, irrespective of their faiths, denominations, colour, social status, economic worth or caste. It is reflected in the fact that we have people of different backgrounds, religious beliefs and caste groups working in the organization and at all levels too. None of our programs tolerate any kind of discrimination and that is what makes us special. We cherish these ideals and would not compromise with them on any grounds. All our prayers are universal and multi-faith. And this is our way of respecting and embracing all these faiths, while each individual can hold to whatever he or she believes in and is comfortable with. We believe that this would be the best way of honoring the memory of a man, whose 150th birth anniversary the whole nation is celebrating this year. We are indeed proud to have our organization named after him. For it is his vision of not just ‘universal tolerance’ but ‘universal acceptance’ that guides our existence and every action that we undertake.
The photos and statues of Swami Vivekananda that we have in our campuses are to constantly remind us of these values and keep us ever mindful of what we are committed to. And we believe that the very way in which we live and conduct business is proof enough of our position.
My talk at Ramakrishna Mission’s Youth Convention in New Delhi on Oct 20, 2013.
Last week I was at Delhi speaking to around thousand young people about Swami Vivekananda and how we could creatively apply his message for National Reconstruction. The highlight of my visit was the speeches made by many other achievers and dignitaries. I would like to particularly mention two of them who left a deep imprint on me. The first was by the young and lively Arunima Sinha and the other by the grand old technocrat of India, Mr E Sreedharan.
Arunima was a national-level volleyball player traveling by train to attend an interview for a job at CISF in April 2011. A few thieves had entered the bogie of the train that she was traveling in and were taking away money, jewelry and other possessions of her fellow travelers. When she protested handing over her gold chain, the thieves threw her out of the moving train. As luck would have it, a train was moving in the opposite direction at that exact moment and ran over one of her legs. Badly injured, she lay there the whole night and 49 trains had chugged along with no one noticing her. Local villagers noticed her the next morning and her struggle to survive began. After treatment at many local hospitals and finally at AIIMS, she managed to survive but one of her legs was amputated. Though the Government did come to her rescue after courts intervened, many tried to malign her with the accusation that she had attempted suicide. Her condition and the subsequent societal reactions did little to deter her determination to not only live but to live a different life from then on. A chance reading of Swami Vivekananda’s works also happened around the same time. From her bed at AIIMS, she announced that she would climb the Mount Everest soon. People including the doctors around and her own mother ridiculed her. Some even labeled her ‘crazy’. But she was determined and her elder brother, who worked in the army, quit his job to be with her and encouraged her on.
After painstaking practice and with little support coming, she continued to live every minute of her life to realize her dream. She had made this idea of climbing Everest her only mission in life. Two years after her tragic accident, she did realize her dream and reached the summit of Mount Everest on 21st of May 2013. She proudly hoisted the tri-colour and placed the photo of Swami Vivekananda on the summit. Today she travels around the country, inspiring hundreds of young people to take on the task of rebuilding India. What a treat it was to listen to her personal narrative told in such child-like fashion! She is so full of energy that one can hardly spot any anger or hatred towards the people who were responsible for her fate. She sees the whole incident as something to learn from. There was no self-pity or an arrogant sense of achievement in her. People like Arunima give us faith that the power and potential of the human spirit is indeed limitless. She politely accepted my invitation to come to Mysore and share her dreams with the youth of this region too.
The other person who is the silver lining in the dark clouds of Indian bureaucracy is Mr E Sreedharan. He is called the ‘Metro Man’ of India and has many firsts to his credit. Apart from being the key person in the construction of the Pamban bridge and the Konkan Railway, Sreedharan is best known for building the world-class metro network in New Delhi. What he has achieved is a great lesson for our public servants. Every project that he has handled has been completed much ahead of time and within the earmarked budget. His standards of integrity and transparency are legendary. He had a simple message to deliver. He said that all the achievements credited to him were not because of him, but only because of the four institutional values that the entire team espoused and followed. He called it the powerful and poignant message that the DMRC gives to this country. These values are:
- Professional Competence
- Social Responsibility and Accountability
At a practical level, he mentioned that the result of practicing these values was not just the absence of corruption of any kind within DMRC, but the net result was that DMRC laid 65 km of metro line in 7 years and 3 months as against the allotted time of 10 years and much within the stipulated budget. Compare this with the Calcutta Metro that took 22 years to lay 17 km of track with a cost over-run of 14 times the original budget. To prove a point, DMRC laid the next phase of 135 km within 4½ years as against 5 years of allotted time. The Delhi Metro is also one of the few metros in the world that can boast of a 99% punctuality rate of its trains. It has reduced the average commuting time of an individual by 45 minutes each way. Half a ton of emission is avoided each day only because of the metro. More than 200 accidents that would have otherwise occurred each month on the roads of Delhi is also avoided as the Delhi Metro provides a cheaper, more reliable, faster and safer transport alternate. Listening to Sreedharan, one cannot but help feel proud that India has such accomplished people quietly giving back so much to our country with an impact that would last beyond their lifetime. So much to learn from such extra-ordinary men and women around us. People who not only believe in themselves, but whose lives are sources of inspiration for generations to come.
I have been having a holiday from writing for the last month and more. I have always written only when I felt the urge from deep within. One of the reasons I stopped writing my regular column was because if felt uncomfortable writing to meet a deadline. Most of my writings have been born out of my own inner reflections. In the last month i have had two unique experiences and I would like to share them in this blog piece.
One of the key lessons that I talk about in my leadership classes and workshops is about the need to take care of ourselves in four dimensions, and one of them is the physical one. We need to ensure that our bodies are fit and ready to exercise leadership and this needs to be done through regular and daily exercising. Whenever I am not traveling, I go to the local gym with Raghavan, a close friend who initiated me into this habit of working out. The gym is also the place where one gets the opportunity to meet and interact with a wide range of people from different backgrounds. One day, as I was furiously trying to shed the many extra pounds that I seem to accumulate with ease, the person exercising on the machine next to me struck a conversation. After the small talk about the gym and the benefits of exercise, he introduced himself to me and wanted to know what I do and where I work. I politely introduced myself as Balasubramaniam and that I worked at V-LEAD, the leadership institute at Mysore. Much to my surprise, he asked me if I knew of one Dr R Balasubramaniam at V-LEAD, whom he claimed to know well. He was a bit red-faced when I mentioned that I was the same person, but he did not seem convinced. He had a simple explanation to offer. He told me that I could not be that person as he had seen Dr Balasubramaniam always wearing a jubba (a loose Indian upper clothing) and here I was wearing a t-shirt!
As I sat thinking about this incident, I wonder how we easily we build and sustain images of others and ourselves in our mind. Over time, we soon start stereotyping them and expect them to behave as we expect them to be. Any variance – physically, emotionally or intellectually – always seems strange and we cannot come to terms with any movement away from the benchmarks that we set for them. The funny part is that we also feel nervous not living the images that others have of us. We seem to be living in this world of images so intensely that we even forget who we truly are. All our spontaneity and creativity gets buried under this pretense of trying to be somebody else. All our life is spent on deceiving ourselves and others and we do not even know about it. Knowing our true self is the only way for us to evolve and grow – not just internally but to function effectively in the outside world too.
Another very different kind of incident happened when I was visiting Bangalore. My brother had come visiting from Canada and we had been to Malleshwaram, the bustling middle-class suburb of Bangalore. I have many fond memories of my childhood days growing up here and things are so different now. Not being able to take the traffic and the jostling crowds, I decided to return home to what I considered was a well-deserved rest after driving around in the streets of Bangalore for most of the day.
As I was approaching the car, I noticed a young woman of around 25 years walking in the middle of the street. She suddenly looked up and asked if she could be helped to reach the nearby bus stand. It was then that I noticed the white cane in her hand. Holding her hand, I gently led her across the street. Politely, I asked her if I could help her on to the sidewalk instead of walking in the middle of the street. Her reply left me sad at the state of affairs today. She told me that she preferred to walk on the street as she found it easier to negotiate them than the uneven sidewalks. She recounted how she had fallen many times on the sidewalk and it was wiser and safer from her point of view to walk on the street. She was humming as we walked along and I found her happy face very fascinatingly different. Engaging her in a conversation, I learnt that she was planning on completing her graduation studies and was confident of doing so in the next few years. As I helped her along, a strange thought hit me. I wondered how she could trust a complete stranger to help her. I asked her about it and her reply left me dumbfounded. She mentioned that at least 3-4 people helped her each day. Her logic was simple. Despite all the evidence and news of women being abused and harassed, she had not come across a single instance when the trust she placed in complete strangers was ever misplaced. She said that she always received trust and goodness from people whom she trusted completely. She could not understand how else it could be. What a wonderful explanation it was for a person like me. We are all brought up not to trust people today. Children are told to be wary of strangers. We have come to believe that the meter in every auto or taxi that we hire will be doctored. We believe that every vendor selling fruits, vegetables or flowers by the street side is out to cheat us. Trust has indeed become such a rare commodity that it was wonderful to hear her simple disposition on the same. What a wonderful world it would be if we could all learn to trust each other and allow ourselves to be trusted. For only when we trust, will people regard us as trustworthy.
The excitement of coming to US for me is now-a-days dampened by the fatigue of the 24-hour air travel. While Emirates Airlines does try to make it as comfortable as possible, I think age is something I need to account for. As with my previous trips, I have now come to accept jet lag as part of my travel experience and it was no different this time too. The only difference was Arun Karpur, who usually makes me wait at JFK to be picked up, had come early and was waiting for me on Friday, the 30th.
We drove down straight to Dr Meena Murthy’s house at Princeton where I stayed for the first three days this time. Dr Meena and her husband are another special couple. They have two wonderful sons – Sandeep and Praveen. Praveen had come to SVYM as a student volunteer many years ago and impressed all of us with his humility and wisdom. Both are products of the Princeton University. Sandeep is an engineer doing his MBA and Vinny, as Praveen is fondly called, is studying medicine and wants to become an orthopedic surgeon. Dr Meena not only made sure that my stay was comfortable but also kept my focus on completing my book. It is now more than 4 years since I toyed with the idea of writing a book. Except for signing with a literary agent in New York, I had done pretty much nothing. But I had not bargained for Dr Meena! She was determined to see this project through and had also lined up a student assistant to help me with the same. Apart from regularly calling and emailing me to ensure that we worked together as a team, she was insistent that I spend at least 2-3 days with them, fine tuning the manuscript. Americans celebrate the Labour Day weekend with travel and leisure that they love, but Dr Meena had other ideas. She made sure I laboured away on my book!
The only exception was the time I spent at the Asha Conference on Saturday, the 31st. I facilitated the discussion on strategizing for their future before delivering my keynote address titled ‘Rediscovering Asha: Preparing India for the 21st Century Education needs’. Asha is another wonderful organization with which I have shared a special relationship. It was in 1991 that Mr Mahendra Jain, one of their early founding members wrote to me from Berkeley. He wanted to know if there was some way that they could partner in our work. And there has been no looking back ever since. Different chapters of Asha have consistently supported many of our education projects over these 22 years. At the conference, it seemed I was the only one with so much memory and understanding of the enormous good work that many of their chapters have done. After 22 years, Asha has supported more than 850 projects with USD 35 million in the area of education. It was a privilege for me to share some of my thoughts with them. Though the physical attendance was minimal, the talk was webcast to a wider audience. I am sure Asha will not only continue the good work but will also find more relevant ways of partnering with NGOs involved in India’s progress.
I could meet with Nitya, the student assistant and Dr Meena the same evening and we looked at the progress made and what we needed to do in the next few days. We met with many friends of Dr Meena who had been sent the excerpts of the book. These were people of all ages and professions – from housewives to professors, social workers to directors of professional institutions, and doctors to students. All of them had good things to say about what they had read. Importantly, they all believed that the message had to be told and loved the ‘story-telling’ way in which I had narrated it. What was encouraging was that everyone believed this was a book for a universal audience and I now felt very inspired to complete the manuscript. Dr Meena and Nitya made sure that we achieved substantial progress and I am now confident that we can have the finalized manuscript in the next 2-3 weeks.
On the 2nd Sept, Dr Meena took me along to an evening dinner meeting at the SKN Foundation. Dr Naveen Mehrotra, an Indian doctor, has started this foundation in the memory of his departed wife. They are deeply committed to ensuring the health and wellness of the South Asian, particularly the Indian communities living in the US. Apart from sitting through their discussions, I could share a few thoughts on Swami Vivekananda and his concepts of service, SVYM and other current challenges plaguing India as a country.
Catching an early morning flight in the US is a real test of one’s commitment to travel. Sanjeev was kind enough to take me to Newark airport at 4 in the morning. The drive was also very educative as I understood from Sanjeev (an expert in Material Sciences) how bio-materials were changing lives – from stents to warfare. Another thing I have come to dread is the inefficiency of the many airlines that exist in the US. I have somehow not been able to break the jinx of this last one-year. Each time I have had a different experience – from me and my baggage traveling separately, to missed connections and cancelled flights. This time, my flight into Cleveland was late and I missed the connection to Erie.
This also meant that I arrived late into Meadville, where Allegheny College is located. My lunch meeting started embarrassingly late but everyone was very understanding. Erie is a beautiful city and the view of the lake from above was spectacular. Moreover I had a fellow traveler me who insisted on giving me a running commentary throughout the journey. Thankfully this flight was only 25 minutes, but by then I had got a fair idea of the importance of this lovely city and its people.
I loved the two days I spent here at Allegheny College. All the people I met were so friendly and hospitable. They were all keen on building a partnership with VIIS and SVYM. It felt like home here. I was even staying for the first time in my life at an American ‘Bed and Breakfast’, something similar to our own ‘Home-stay’. Both the dinner lecture on the 3rd and the lunch lecture on the 4th were memorable. I found the intense engagement of the students very enriching. Allegheny College is among the top-25 Liberal Arts Colleges in the US and is home to around 2700 students. Jenny Kawata, the person overseeing international programs was my contact person along with Joe Christiano, the Dean of Students.
I left this picturesque 200-year-old college on the afternoon of 4th to catch my flight out of Erie to Los Angeles. Boyd, who drove me around on both the days was another interesting person and had his share of stories to share with me. Owning around 50 acres of land and having been a CFO of a Corporation locally, he seemed to be well-informed of all Global Affairs. He always carried his Kindle loaded with all the classics with him. He now bought old homes, refurbished them and sold them for a profit. Amidst his farming and his new vocation, he also doubled up as a driver on request for the Allegheny College. So much to learn from all of them!
This visit of mine to my sister’s house was memorable in a different way. Apart from the joy of meeting family, I seemed to be getting roasted in the heat. The temperature was touching 45 degree celsius and it was probably the hottest time I have ever experienced in my life. Visit to the United States has to include some bit of shopping for the family back home and dining in atleast a couple of my favorite places. Having done this, my trip feels complete before I return here again for my semester teaching, later this year in November.
Mr Ashok Kapoor is an investment banker and has a MBA and a PhD in Economics. He has taught and written on Economics and now lives with his wife Susan in Princeton, NJ, USA. He was kind enough to review some portions of my upcoming book and below you find excerpts of his interview of mine on 01-Sep-13 at the residence of Dr Meena Murthy.
Ashok: I am broadly aware of what you have done and have great admiration for it. I also had a chance to read the introductory excerpt of your upcoming book. I will like to raise some broad questions to you and then share some of our observations. As a former professor I have written a lot and share a sense of what you are wishing to do. My first question: if you are speaking with a ten-year old child, the example that you gave in your chapter of doing the rounds in the Ob-Gyn ward, the senior physician identified you and encouraged you to do, and you said we must understand the whole person – how a brief moment can have a subsequent impact on one’s entire life. If this 10-year-old turns to you and asks why have you done what you have done, what would your answer be?
Balu: My honest answer would be that I felt it was my calling. Two years earlier to that, I had no intention of doing that in my life. My only dream was to come to the USA and this seemed the most logical career path for a person whose both siblings lived in North America. What changed was my introduction to Swami Vivekananda and his philosophy. It sounds like a divine providence, it was meant to be. I was at an impressionable age and you are inspired to do something different. Vivekananda’s works gave me purpose in my life. To me his work was very powerful, it was very action-oriented. Once your read Swamiji and his works, not only does your life change but you also feel an enormous sense of courage in your convictions and a sense of obligation to make a difference in your life. With this type of preparation, when this incident in the Ob-Gyn ward happened, I felt that life would be worthless if I didn’t speak up.
Ashok: To continue with that illustration. It’s like a farmer has a field and there are all sorts of soil conditions. You need to have the right combination to grow. There are many people who have read the same message, so what was the unique aspect of you that made you respond the way you did.
Balu: I don’t think it was about me. From my cultural background, it is easy for me to rationalize that this is simply the way it was to be. I would call it my Karma. I might look special, but I don’t think it was anything in me that was special. It was years of preparation, not just those two years. I feel that every person has their own way of preparing themselves. What we see is what our mind can rationalize, what we don’t see is the many years of preparatory work that goes into that. Not just of one lifetime, but may be many lifetimes.
Ashok: Would you say then that you were unique?
Balu: I wouldn’t say that I was unique. May be I had a unique perspective of the work I was reading. May be it was also the age I was reading it. You are searching for role models, things you want to imitate. Suddenly Vivekananda’s life and the practicality of his message was what I wanted to imitate. What I saw in him was what my mind was comfortable in absorbing. I saw the message of living for others the most comfortable one. May be now I can interpret it more deeply but even then it is mainly that I want to live for others.
Ashok: There is a very famous social anthropologist, Joseph Gamble, who said that many of his students would come to him and talk to him about what should they do and what should they pursue as a career. He would answer, “I can’t tell you that but do something where you follow your bliss”. And you obviously discovered your bliss at that moment and over your lifetime. In your opinion, when you have so many people who can both benefit from your voyage of discovery and journey of what you have done, what would say are the one or two important lessons that others can pick up?
Balu: In many of the Leadership Workshops that I run around India and the US, I ask people that if in this moment of time, if God were to appear in front of you and say I will give you what you want, but you must die for it, what would that be? Very few people have an answer to that question. I think in my life, I found an answer. If you haven’t figured out what you are ready to die for, you haven’t figured out what you are ready to live for. I think at that point I was ready to die for others, so that meant I had to find a way to live for others.
Ashok: So these twenty or so workshops a year, and you very seldom found people who could answer that question, why do you think that is so?
Balu: I think people don’t have the courage to look at the question and look inside themselves for the answer. We are always looking outside ourselves for the answer. They are afraid of finding the answer they might get and face the reality that life has no meaning for the way you are leading it today. This takes a lot of courage, isn’t it?
Ashok: The answers lie within you, not externally. Very few people want to find out what the answers are. Why is that?
Balu: They are frightened of the answer. You are essentially questioning the purpose of your existence and people are nervous operating from zones of incompetence. I don’t think we prepare our children to work from these zones. People don’t feel prepared for that, and so they are uncomfortable doing so. They are trained to master the external world. I was fortunate to have a spiritual mentor in a monk called Swami Achalananda, who challenged me to answer these questions. Since we aren’t trained, we only do what we are comfortable with.
Ashok: What you are really highlighting is that there is a total system where the focus is not necessarily to look within themselves. But for those who can and those who have the unique purpose where the message can resonate internally, discovery of the bliss doesn’t necessarily mean blissful. It can be a very hard path. It is not so much that there is comfort but that you are comfortable with this path. You go with the grain, not against it. Were there ever moments where you ever had your faith tested?
Balu: I wish I had finished the book now. I don’t want to make it look like I found the answers to all my questions within myself. I only mean that I have to come to terms with my defects and human frailties. When I have had my doubts and lost my path and had my faith challenged, I found a lot of solutions and answers in Vivekananda’s works. Throughout Swamiji’s works and in the Bhagawad Gita, what your hear is ‘Don’t take what we say for granted. Try it out. If it works then keep it for yourself, if it doesn’t then throw it away.’ I enjoyed that freedom. There is a constant evolutionary process of inner growth. The deeper you go, the clearer things become but there is still more. For example, maturation seems too final to me. I had a very physical way of testing it, I was living in a small room in our school campus abutting the forest. I had returned late from a visit to Mysore city and had diarrhea, and needed to reach the water pump. I had to go through a wilderness patch in the dark with snakes and everything. I was so tired; I thought what I am doing here? It is times like this when you question your faith. That night, I thought about my situation. I think essentially a weak body also translates as a weak mind. Those experiences were extremely important to me since they became referencing benchmarks. The more difficult part is the non-physical part. I lost my way due to adulation and praise and credibility about my work, and you get carried away and start believing that you must be great. I think getting lost at the ego level is a bigger danger than the physical dangers. That things should be all about me rather than my work was dangerous. On the one side I hated myself but I also knew it was the fuel for my life now. I was disgusted with myself. This kind of work without a strong spiritual platform is very dangerous for one to perform.
Ashok: What would you regard to be your failure?
Balu: From a leadership perspective, I think allowing the people I was serving to become dependent on me was my biggest failure. Development work was all about empowering others, and I never understood it. I ended up doing the opposite, creating a system where I built people who would depend on the organization rather than empowering themselves. If I could live my life again, I would consciously build others instead of myself. The second failure I see personally is with the type of background I have, I think I took too long to come to terms with my own insecurities. May be it was meant to be this way.
Ashok: There is so much that you have captured in your remarks, and the way in which it can benefit a lot of other people. The challenge really is that you come from a normal middle class family in India, by serendipity you discovered all that, but there was something that resonated in you. What do you think are the one, or two, or three, important but simple lessons of your voyage of bliss that can be communicated to others?
Balu: To me, to be very simplistic, life is actually very short. It is worth living it only if you give it up to something greater than us. All of us make a life for ourselves; that’s not special. Every opportunity to make a difference to somebody, just do it. You don’t have to give up mainstream life and live in the forest. I for long led a life that others simply couldn’t lead, but somewhere it dawned on me that its hard being Gandhi, he is not imitable. What the world needs is a Gandhi in all of us. It is in being extremely ordinary that we can live the life we want while still helping others. A constant reflective life…without reflections we simply don’t go deep enough. We all need to find our own answers through reflection and diving deep within.
Ashok: You know what you just said, “a life that is lived without reflection is a shadow of life.” It reminds me of our son-in-law who is a lawyer. He works in the area of Waterloo, he was telling us the story of an older lawyer who yearns for the days when he would receive an inquiry letter from a client. He would think for two days and write a response. Today it is all e-mail and you are supposed to read and respond right away. When we look at cultures of societies around the world, we try to understand what are the characteristics of different cultures where I can get a more simplistic idea of what is normal and reasonable time in those cultures. The reflective part…internet time has different norm to it, that basic human dimension, not altered by internet time, is still seeking that reflection. My brother-in-law, a priest, gave me a definition of spiritual. Spiritual means living for something that is far greater than yourself. Thank you for sharing all that you did.