Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Radiating Love

Last night I had the fortune of sharing dinner with both my advisor Tapan and Jayeshbhai (and at Seva Cafe no less!). It was wonderful because it was a chance to further blur between my work/research life (represented by Tap) and my service/values life (represented by Jayeshbhai). Not that Tap doesn't already share many of the same values (it's one of the reasons we work well together and also why I feel blessed with the type of mentorship I'm getting in grad school), but he hadn't met Jayeshbhai formally and it was great to finally get them together.

In typical form, Jayeshbhai dropped whatever he was doing and took the time to tell the Manav Sadhna story to Tap with full focus and devotion. It's really hard to capture Jayeshbhai, what he represents to me, in words. He is a pure-hearted, inspirational soul dedicated to serving others with humility, compassion, generosity, and most of all love. He just radiates love.

I wanted to share three tidbits from Jayeshbhai from the night:
  1. He was describing to Tap the humble beginnings of MS. He, his wife Anarben, and their friend Virenbhai were moved to serve children in any small way. Not necessarily to even teach them or empower them in any traditional sense. He used the words, "just giving value." They would go out to the street or a slum area and meet with kids, play with them, clean them, cut their nails, feed them snacks, etc. Just make them smile. From that small intervention things snowballed. They realized kids needed to earn to support their families, so they set up an "earn and learn" program to teach skills while generating income. Then they saw that parents also needed to be supported, so they started women's empowerment programs and eventually Gramshree. Then they saw that kids had trouble going to schools because of affordability and accessibility, so they started street schools. And on and on until they had developed a holistic set of programs for upliftment and empowerment. Jayeshbhai at one point talked about a contrast in their approach to western-style social welfare programs. He said that in many cases the west puts results at the top, logic second, and relationships at the bottom. He said that MS operates in the opposite way: start with relationships, then apply logic, and the results will follow.
  2. Another powerful story Jayeshbhai told was about a small act rippling into big impact. Like any other household, at Jayeshbhai's and Anarben's home, when guests would come over they would serve them tea. But at some point they asked why should that be limited to just their friends and acquaintances? So one day Jayeshbhai goes out into a busy public area, asking passers-by, "Would you like to come to our home and have tea?" And like that Jayeshbhai began having tea with strangers in his home. One of those strangers was a vegetable seller, who was carrying a huge heavy parcel of vegetables on her head. As they had tea, Jayeshbhai learned that she was very poor and had to walk miles with that parcel every morning to sell her vegetables to be able to earn for her children. Because she was on foot, she would have to leave her home at 4am to get to the market on time. Jayeshbhai asked if she would benefit from having a wooden cart to transport her vegetables, and she said of course. So Jayeshbhai gets one for her. A few months later she comes back to tell him how much the cart has made a difference for her, how much time and effort she saves and how grateful she is. And to top it all off she hands Jayeshbhai Rs.800 to pay him back for the cart! Jayeshbhai is moved by this, but instead of keeping it he asks the woman to bring back someone else she knows who would benefit from having a cart, so they could pay forward. The woman brings back a friend, who then brings a friend of hers, and so on until eventually they had funded 59 carts! And all of it started from a simple but radical cup of tea. It's a reminer that even a seemingly small act of kindness can lead to powerful ripple effects that we cannot predict.
  3. The last Jayeshbhai story wasn't from last night, but one that my cousin Jigar (a.k.a. Jig a.k.a. JEEEE-gah) told me recently. When Jig first came to India a few months ago, he was being introduced to people in and around the MS ecosystem. At one point he ran into a highly regarded social changemaker in Ahmedabad. Jig had heard good things about this person, so he approached the changemaker to introduce himself. But this person basically blew Jig off; they were busy schmoozing and shaking hands and generally carrying on with an air of self-importance. Jig felt like the person totally ignored him. Then some time later Jig was at MS minding his own business and in the far distance from the corner of his eye he noticed Jayeshbhai, whom he had yet to meet. But as Jig looked over he saw that Jayeshbhai, who himself was surrounded by people and busy, had noticed Jig, trying to make him out. Then he started to walk over. Jayeshbhai came up to Jig and said, "You are Samir's brother, right?" When Jigar said he was, Jayeshbhai immediately welcomed him and made him feel at home. He had never met or seen Jigar, had no special reason to try and find out who he was, but still he went out of his way to welcome him. And then here is Jigar months later recalling that incident and how much it meant to him and how good it made him feel. To me that is the essential teaching of Jayeshbhai. Whatever the circumstance, however chance, there is an opportunity to show love, and there is absolutely every possibility that you can deeply touch a person through even a small gesture.
The best portion of a good man's life is his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and of love.
--William Wordsworth
Editor's Note: Photos courtesy of MegaCreative and Mariette


  1. Dear Neil,

    You have reflected the presence of Jayesh Bhai and all the other family at MS so beautifully. It is truly a blessing to be around values so deep into its core. Its true that Jayesh Bhai, Anar didi and Viren Bhai, bring out the best in us. That is what makes MS - MS :)

    LOVEEEEED This blog :)

  2. this is better than The Wire


  3. Stories of Jayeshbhai's love could fill books, I think. Here are a few stories I was fortunate enough to be able to record.

  4. Love it Neil! BTW, that top picture is mine!!!! :-) It's from last year's trip to Kutch with the whole gang and Nipun. Stunning memories that have transformed my life.

  5. Jayeshbhai is contagious! :)

    Thank you again for the post...
    Thanks to Nipunbhai for giving your link! :)