We looked at each other in slight disbelief. Did they say ‘450 people’?
A month ago, we received an email from Jagriti Yatra, a team that organizes a 15 day journey for budding social entrepreneurs from 26 Indian states and 23 countries across the world. The pilgrimage takes them across 9000km and 15 locations all aboard one custom-made train.
Immediately, we had all sorts of questions racing through our mind. The eco-system based in and around Sabarmati Ashram wasn’t exactly a social enterprise. Also, the essence of people’s work here lay in doing small things as opposed to statistics. How were we to address an audience as large as this?
One of our volunteers immediately stepped in to point out – this was an opportunity to share our thought with 450 receptive people. That is all. Just be yourself and trust your philosophy – do small things and decentralize as much as possible! ‘Engage’, and don’t ‘address’ the visitors.
And on the 7th of January, 2012 we welcomed the Yatris. All 450 of them. To start things off, the girls from the Primary Teachers Training College welcomed the audience with an all religion prayer by the banks of the Sabarmati, bathed in the winter morning sun.
Amrutbhai Mody who has walked for 14 years as part of Vinobha Bhave’s Land Gift Movement and is now the director of the Gandhi Smarak Sanghralay addressed the audience with a brief introduction to the Ashram and how it stands today.
We then broke the 450 strong audience into 10 groups with 2-3 speakers each. Each group was led by people whose work and background was diverse. But there were common factors binding them all – their work was a manifestation of their own internal journey, it was decentralized and it had grown organically.
Over the course of the next hour, each group was engaged into a discussion about each person’s lives and what they do on a daily basis. Flowers, smile cardsand little acts of kindness were discussed and immediately you could see people opening up. There were no laptops, PowerPoint presentations or brochures. Not even visiting cards. Only an open heart sharing what it believed in.
Anarben spoke about Gramshree and women empowerment, Virenbhai for Manav Sadhnaand the children of Ahmedabad, Nimesh about Ekatva, Vandanadidi explained Craftrootsand the Earn ‘N’ Learn program. Devendrabhai spoke about his dedication to the Safai Vidyalaya and the Nandini Van, Lahar about experiments at Moved By Love and Seva Café, Neil shared the idea behind Awaaz De, Dev described what service meant at Indicorps, while Jayeshbhai shared the role of compassion in his work.
Concepts like faith, purity and love were discussed as opposed to statistics and charts. Some were moved to tears while others observed in disbelief. Whatever it was, it differed from what they had witnessed so far in the Yatra.
We wound things up with a short performance by the Ekatva kids at the Ashram-shaala, and the energy flowed like a monsoon torrent out of a flood gate. Everyone joined in as we ended with the Jagriti Yatra Anthem.
About 20 individuals with their roots in the Sabarmati Ashram opened their hearts that day without any hesitation. As one of them mentioned, their “duty is not only to work, but also to share their journey along the way with whoever is interested”.
The ‘impact’ of such an event is hard to estimate, but we were honoured to share our thought with 450 other individuals. However it may manifest, we were certain that they would carry these ripples of positive thought into wherever they might go. And that is all we can hope, for that is the way of love.
~ We can do no great things, only only small things with great love ~