The Art of Inspiring : Akanksha Foundation

It was this time, last year. My big 30th birthday. And I had got the best present ever, when I wrote this.

Akanksha, someone once told me the closest they can come to explaining that word in English is ambition. A quick search on the internet and you see words like ‘desire’ and ‘want’ explaining Akanksha. Desire and want, are about yourself, to me they sound selfish. Ambition, does have a slight negative tone, smelling of arrogance, lacking in soul. All of these perceptions, connotations, synonyms are lost though, the moment you see the amazing work that the Akanksha Foundation is doing in India.

If you have lived in India, and are remotely interested in NGOs working with children, chances are you’ve heard of them. I had too. And found it inspiring. And then I read about the founder, Shaheen Mistry’s journey in the Rashmi Bansal book, ‘I have a dream‘ and I was blown away! The determination, the belief and the simplicity in her thought “in today’s world, how can the idea of basic education be revolutionary?” was beyond inspiring!

IMG_1610 Art for Akanksha, is their initiative to provide the Akanksha kids an opportunity to get specialised education in arts. They design and produce a fantastic range of products and market them under the Akanksha brand. In my most precious birthday present until now, I got a chance to spend a day at one of their art workshops at their center in Worli, Mumbai.

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The Stranger’s connect : At the Rainforest Music Festival… and beyond

It’s been a while since I wrote on the blog. Ironically, though the last post spoke of ‘a full circle’, it has worked as anything but closure. Not that I didn’t mean to write anymore, but if I had come across that post on another blog, I would’ve assumed that to be ‘the last of sorts’. Quite contrarily, that post ( weeks later) continues to bring me conversations with strangers.

In one such recent mail from Geneva, (if you are reading this, thanks once again for writing :-)), my ‘stranger’ wrote to me about soul to soul connect. And the last few years of my life flashed right in front of me! My most cherished memories, some of the best conversations in the last years have been with strangers, some of whom I have lost along the way and some, have gone on to become my soul mates (I believe you have many in one lifetime!).

One thing these experiences have made me, is a HUGE advocator of solo travel and open mind – so far it’s been the greatest potent combination I’ve seen, to make special connections. 🙂

Recently, I was at the Rainforest Music Festival in Sarawak, Kuching. I wasn’t traveling solo, and sure enough, when I am not, I don’t make very many strangers’ connections (that perhaps explains the deadly combination observation earlier on).

But something said this trip was going to be different – and I’m glad it was :-). There was music, a cultural village, meeting a few locals, world musicians, many a travelers and a strong strangers’ connect!

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Luck, Perspective and a Full Circle

‘Damn lucky’ is what I have been branded, pretty much all my life. And I wouldn’t much deny it either. But is that really such a simple analysis to make?

When I speak for myself, I’d say – yes, ‘coz I’ve lived this life, and chosen to believe the ‘good’ has far out numbered the ‘bad’.

When others say it though – it sounds, well, ignorant to begin with, and unimaginative and (unfortunately, sorry to say) wallowing in self-pity.

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A Film School… MAMI 2012

Just when I thought I was taking a break, I am back in the thick of the entrepreneurial space!

…So while it may seem like I’ve been missing in action, i’ve in fact been in the middle of too much action!

..And while I haven’t been really dedicated to the blog, I’ve been writing a lot!

And all this startup talk took me right back to the days when I had one, and when I wrote this:

Mumbai International Film Festival, 2012

Photo Credit: MAMI Website

Photo Credit: MAMI Website

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Finally, I can talk about running!

Just read a book about running, by a man who’s immensely passionate about running. And something compelled me to not only read it but also write about it!

Those who know me, will be surprised about how the book landed up in my shelf, and secondly in my hands! Well, I have a fairly simple and plausible explanation to the first, I am married to a runner. So it didn’t so much land up on ‘my’ shelf as it did on ‘ours’. 🙂 What made me read it (at least at the time when I decided to) was the hope of finally being able to understand what makes running so precious to my husband. What goes on in his mind. Why does he call it ‘his meditation’.

Before you judge me as being naive, let me say this, I do understand that any form of physically intensive activity would be calming for the mind, but meditation to me is being able to channelize the mind towards something. It’s mastering the mind. In my Yoga practice, the mind is as much active and attentive as the body (I am talking of Iyengar school of Yoga). So yes, my practice is my meditation, it detaches me from the world outside and makes me focus within. But running? Forgive me for saying this, but isn’t it ‘a mind numbing exercise’, like literally!? How does that combine meditation then!? Well, I’ve argued about this for years, finally I decided to unravel the mystery. Not by running, of course not, so this book was probably my best chance.

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Heart the craft in Auroville

So I was at Auroville last year. A community, an international township in the south of India, which is a melting pot of different cultures, people from different parts of the world, for whom this is home.

The idyllic setting and the lovely people creates the perfect atmosphere for both silence and conversations.

Amidst the organic food, the lovely workshops, concerts in the amphitheatre on a beautiful moonlit night, the stunning handicraft there swept me off my feet! Simple and charming. Soulful, like everything else in Auroville, and what the place stands for. Innovation, Beauty, simplicity, recycling, earthy, creating employment opportunities (some of the stuff is made by women from surrounding villages). Truly inspiring!

Here is a low down on my top picks:

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Shades of old Delhi…

The word ‘old’ brings to mind a vintage image – worn out, yet charming. An image that speaks of a time that’s gone by, and that lived to tell the tale.

One such magical place is Delhi. My fascination with the city began with reading City of Djinn. William Dalrymple’s account of Delhi, ‘City of Djinn, a year spent in Delhi’, is in fact much more than that. It opens your eyes to the abandoned ruins of the past and lets you see it come alive!

Among the various pockets of Delhi, one of the most fascinating is Chandni Chowk (a moonlit square) nestled in Purani Dilli (old Delhi). Chandni Chowk is one old paradise, where you see something new each time you go there. Built in the 17th century by the great Mughal Emperor of India, Shah Jahan, Chandni Chowk was once a grand market. Its full glory, a canal ran through the length of the street that reflected moonlight (hence the name).

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…of mystic, magic and music!

A mystic, a poet, an artist and a singer, Parvathy seems to follow her heart like there isn’t another way!

In an interview with the Sufi journal, she talks about how she was drawn to the Baul tradition (hailing from the West Bengal in India. Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baul). A chance meeting with a Baul singer in a train, opened her heart to it. She then found her guru in Shri Sanatan Das Baul and one afternoon, before she’d even begun any training, just started singing with him!

I had the privilege of watching her perform at ‘Ruhaniyat’, an all India Sufi and Mystic Music Festival. The organisers aptly describe the festival as the ‘call of the soul, enlivening centuries of spiritual wisdom’. It brings together musicians from Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan etc. besides India. (Read more about the festival here: http://ruhaniyat.com/)

On a mystical night in Bombay, set in the Hornimon circle garden, among the Sema dervishes and the Qawwals, in walked Parvathy Baul and her magic!

Pic Courtesy: Ruhaniyat Website

Pic Courtesy: Ruhaniyat Website

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With love, from the kitchen…

What do you do when your best friend makes the most amazing, all natural cosmetics, and you are a sucker for handmade and handcrafted with a blog? Well, you put two and two together (it’s easy math ;-)) and proud as you are, you brag about it!

Meet Ilaria Zinzani and ‘La cosmetica in dispensa’.
La Cosmetics In Dispensa

I asked her a few questions to write about her and she, who always tells me how well I write, sent these beautifully expressed answers! So warm, personal, honest… so like her… and any interpretation by me, would have been a distortion, so I decided to let it be as is…

Hearing it now, straight from the horses’ mouth (with my little bits)!

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A reason to celebrate!

Picture this:
a bunch of kids – drenched in water – armed with a host of colors – music on the house – food galore – gleeful faces!

The first word that comes to mind is:

CELEBRATION!

Holi is exactly that, a story of faith, the celebration of love, the destruction of ego, and the joy and verve is expressed across india, with colors!

Story goes, Prahalad (a great devotee of Lord Vishnu) emerged unscathed out of fire, which was meant to burn him to death and instead accounted for his evil aunt Holika’s life.

Legend also has it that Krishna (a reincarnation of Vishnu) loved playing Holi with his beloved Radha. The festival is celebrated with much gusto even today in Vrindavan (Krishna’s playground) with colors and rose petals!

LEGENDARY! This had to be celebrated! 🙂

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