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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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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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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One thing leads to another…

A couple months of hiatus, traveling across different continents, relocating to a new country and a month-long intensive yoga workshop at the foothills of the Himalayas later, I finally have my feet and my mind in the same place, enough to write again about the splendours of art and craft. It is in fact one such splendour (which I have actually known about for couple years now), that completely renewed my energy (something they invariably manage to do each time I go there!) and compelled me to start writing again.

Stree Shakti

Stree Shakti is an empowerment scheme for the women who live in and around the village of Purkal in Uttarakhand.

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