Monday, November 17, 2014

I Have A Dream - Rashmi Bansal

The first thing thought  I think when I read this book is this. Why did I not read this before? I also thought of what would have happened if I'd read something like this when I was twenty. But at twenty I was so much more frazzled in the head (a little more than I am now) and it might not even have touched me. You know you have to be ready for a book, an idea.
Rashmi Bansal's book 'I have a dream' highlights some real heroes who make you seem small. Very small. It is extremely humbling to read about them, their work, their commitment, their courage, their vision, their resilience. It makes my life seem pretty empty.

To get down to the real business of the book - it contains stories of 20 social entrepreneurs in India who got down and addressed problems that bothered them.

Here is the roll call of the heroes.
Bindeshwar Pathak (born 1943) of Sulabh toilets.
Anita Ahuja (1960) of Conserve India - recycles plastic waste to create export-quality handbags, Vineet Rai (1971) of Aavishkar Social Venture Fund - set up micro-venture funds for rural entrepreneurs.
Sumita Ghose (1960) of Rangsutra - sources craft and textiles from villages and retails through FabIndia.
Saloni Malhotra (1981) of DesiCrew - India's first rural BPO.
Ishita Khanna (1977) of Spiti Ecosphere - promotes eco-tourism and berry processing and helps mountain people conserve their heritage.
Harish Hande (1967) of Selco - makes solar lighting suitable and affordable for villagers - has installed 120, 000 systems in Karnataka.
Santosh Parulekar (1969) of Pipal Tree - transforms rural youth into skilled construction workers. Dinabandhu Sahoo (1961) of Project Chilka - trains villagers to farm the sea weed or farm the ocean. Anand Kumar (1973) of Super 30 - making all 30 poor students for IIT JEE crack the exam.
Dhruv Lakra (1980) of Mirakle Couriers - a courier service that employs only the deaf.
Madhav Chavan (1954) of Pratham - the largest NGO in education in India.
Anshu Gupta (1970) of Goonj - systematic collection and delivery of urban waste to those who need it with dignity and care.
Shaheen Mistri (1971) - Akanksha - education and Teach for India.
Arvind Kejriwal (1968) of Parivartan - the IRS Officer who used RTI to empower citizens to govern themselves.
Bhushan Punani (1954) - Blind Person's Association - training and empowering the blind.
Madhu Pandit Dasa (1956) of Akshaya Patra - feeds hungry children.
Vinayak Lohani (1978) of Parivaar Ashram  - adopting and educating orphans, tribals and children of prostitutes.
Shreesh Jadhav (1968) of Belur Math - a monk who renounced everything.

Sulabh's numbers - 7500 Shauchalayas run on pay per use basis and earns a revenue of 120 crores - show only the tip of the iceberg. What Bindehswar Pathak did was to go into the hearts of scavengers and the society, to clean them up to follow his Gandhian ideal of cleanliness. To hear of him taking his workers to a five star hotel for a meal just to show that they were no different and blowing up Rs. 3 lakh shows what he (and such people) are made of. But the returns of such work shows up like this -  the parents of a Class X topper in Karnataka state exams called Harish Hande of Selco to tell him that she could achieve that because she could study - thanks to the solar lighting Selco had provided. Enough to make you feel that it was all worth it. Or when all 30 of the 30 poor students selected for the Super 30 crack the IIT JEE. Or educating girls from slums who went on to join the colleges that the teachers of Akanksha themselves went to. Or adopting children of prostitutes and growing them all together as one family. Or filing a PIL that makes politicians reveal their assets and their criminal record under tremendous duress. Or as Kejriwal did - use RTI to bring justice to the poorest of the poor - getting ration to Triveni - bring governance to the real people while taking on the mafia that runs these cartels. There are very powerful stories out there.

What strikes you is the high number of highly qualified people - they must be in an elite 1% in India in terms of their educational qualifications - and what they have chosen to give up to pursue their calling. A high number of IITs, IIMs, PhDs, Engineers, MBAs, investment bankers, media professionals and so on. People with comfortable lives who chose to walk the hard path to add real value, real meaning to their lives and those around them.

The content is highly inspiring, thought and action provoking and provides a path to all those youngsters who have the fire but no direction. Look around, and you will find a cause. Gt into it in a small way seems to be the message. So many youngsters can take inspiration from these role models and get started. The mantra our heroes give is also this - get into it in a small way of 1 hour a week or so and the cause will draw you in and take you to heights you could never have imagined. It gives you the strength to achieve what you would not have thought possible.

Though its written in a manner that I did not find the best, it can all be forgiven for the content, the intent, the energy and the focus Rashmi Bansal brings into her book. This book should be made compulsory reading in  all professional courses, the MBAs more so, to show the kind of work that is possible. Forget about placements, you can make a real difference here and be self reliant. This is the kind of work that you can say was worth your time, your life, at the end.

Thanks Rashmi Bansal. Now I'd like to read her two bestsellers 'Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish' and 'Connect the dots' and see if they connect some more dots for me.

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