The future depends on what we do in the present

I am “Designing the Future” in association with & INK talks.

“I’m so crazy I don’t know this isn’t possible!”, said Daffy, while riding an invisible bike.

The “Porky & Daffy” cartoons were my favorites when I was 6 years old. Not knowing that something might be impossible was an old idea that has stuck with me even today, just like that invisible bike. Since I did not know that it was “not” possible, I voluntarily dropped out of school, as I believed I could learn better outside it. And I clung on to a bag full of these old childhood ideas, pulling them out one at a time and playing around with them. My latest muse is Gandhigiri. Old, rusted, washed clean on every 2nd October and then thrown back into the bag. But I decided to take it to the streets and waited to see if it would get swept off!! Well it did not!!

The idea of designing the future brings a million possibilities in my mind – from Wow, to super high-tech to Utopian. But unconsciously there is an attack of these visions of the future, where I see a dwindled number of humans dressed in steel – and no trace of green on our land.

My major concerns today are global warming, going far away from our Indian roots, and an increasing gap between the haves and have nots. These dark thoughts are clouding my vision of the future.

But suddenly there’s a ray of sunshine!

“No matter who you are, some scholar can show you the great idea you had was had by someone before you.” ~Albert Einstein.

We often tend to find ourselves trying to be different, and then complicating that which could be simple. The design of my future is to be as simple and basic as it can be to create a breeding ground for a change, a change that can be scalable and easy for a child as it is for an adult. I believe that quite simply,  execution of the most profoundly discovered ideas can change our future. Not each one ought to be intellectually driven and satisfied to enable it: what is needed is only awareness of the impact a small change of actions can make. I have taken inspiration from one of the most eminent persons in the last century, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

I took up an experiment, just like Gandhiji did, to take responsibility with a few other people. A group I organized outlined five broad causes and worked on them for a week. Read the Manifesto of Mission Gandhigiri, and then read  the results, what actually happened.

* * * * * * *
Hello all,

Here’s how we the Youth of Coimbatore can and will drive change in Coimbatore for this week. Activities under five broad causes are going to be executed in different places in the city, with a thrust on R.S Puram and Kovaipudur. Read on!

# For the environment: Planting AND adopting trees and working on responsible waste disposal through people and shops we are in contact with.

# Hope for our public spaces: “Saying that Indian are dirty and we are like that only is cute, but doesn’t do anything to solve the problem. Meet The Ugly Indians! < >  become one, and change Coimbatore’s public spaces (almost) overnight. Open dumps, cigarette littering, paan stains, public urination… it’s absolutely cleanable.

# Celebrating India: A few years down the line Indians are going to be indistinguishable from the increasing mass of Global Village citizen. Becoming “modern” isn’t a bad thing but the word is a bit misused in the context of progress. Modernizing is not about aping Americanism and Westernism, but about how we can bring riches from our past in a present-day context.  It’s about Kalamkari, Karma and Kozhukottai, and you’d better be ashamed if you don’t know what these are. Bring on the Art and Culture – in dress, speech, thought, expression… In association with Bhakti Natya Niketan and Prastara we present to you, BHARAT.

# Serving the lesser privileged: Shanti Ashram from Coimbatore has been doing dedicated service for 26 years in many villages of the city. Under their auspices, we take part in programmes aimed at poverty alleviation and “Sarvodaya” in the 40 villages they have adopted.

Anybody can volunteer, call Aditi at 09787581258 for details.

* * * * * * * *

What resulted:

For the Environment:
One school and one college agreed to adopt saplings until they they could take care of themselves. We planted 10 saplings in Govt Music College and Govt Corporation School for Girls.

For our Public Spaces:
Volunteers and bakery owners adopted innovatively designed cigarette bins to curb the menacing problem of cigarette litter that no drainage/waste system is designed to handle. One small stretch of pavement in prime commercial area was ‘spot-fixed’! The ground saw sunlight, litter found its place and the walls got a fresh coat of paint. Plastic litter scattered around a favourite sports ground was cleared.








Service to the Underprivileged:
We attended a workshop at Shanti Ashram and became the first volunteers for their newly launched Poverty Solutions programme with easy, effective solutions. Sixty of us took home “undiyals” (traditional piggy banks) to save money and distribute after four months in the following ways: ⅓ for our own progress, ⅓ for our family and ⅓ as contribution to Poverty Solutions.

Celebrating India:
A series of lecture-demonstrations on the highly overlooked question of why we must stay close to our Indian roots (and still branch out into the world!) struck a chord. The sixty young people in attendance were those at that crucial part of life when they wonder, “Who are we, really?” This talk was accompanied by a dance performance and tour around the venue – the magnificent 7th century temple at Perur.

* * * * * * * *

This was the execution of an experiment of my design for the future. And what I found in the last few days was startling:
* The area of pavements cleaned or amount of garbage picked up was a measly figure, but those 60 people will never litter their roads or public spaces again.
* Countries and their cultures are dying, but these sixty people care and make efforts, however small, to know, revive and preserve that which is important to them.
* 43% poverty hasn’t been reduced to 3% overnight , but sixty people are taking their role in poverty alleviation seriously, having contributed time, money and efforts.

Coimbatore has hardly changed in the last one week, but can and will see something beautiful in the coming years because these sixty people who took part have experienced inner transformation – they are BECOMING THE CHANGE. This complex idea executed itself to manifest solutions so effortlessly and quickly that it’s quite surprising. As the experiment goes on, 60 could turn into the 16 lakh people of the city, and we’d be looking at a revolution in sensitivity, change and action. Permeating Coimbatore, right through to the world.

My Design for the Future? Being the change, sixty people at a time.

* * * * * * * * *

See more about Gandhigiri at

* * * * * * * * *

Mission Gandhigiri ’12 featured in the Deccan Chronicle! See the article here.


World Do-your-bit-and-green-it Day

June 5, 2012 – World Environment Day

The school calendar (of all things!) reminded me of the occasion just a day earlier. I contemplated reaching out to Green Print and Street Cause EForce, but realized there wasn’t much time. Perhaps you could reach out to them, reader, and maybe I will, sometime in the future.

But thank God inspiration was on my bedside table – I picked up my big Change the World Guidebook , gathered some stationery and got down to greening the world with Mom.

Easy tips and cartoons to bribe them into helping the world

We came up with these colourful posters and baby-steps to coax people into doing their bit (yes, they are like blissfully unaware kids who need to be bribed). One of them, along with the You are a Super Power intro of the book, was put on the notice board of our apartment and accordingly a “Super Power” meeting was scheduled for 4 pm.

4:30 pm, and there were only five of us in place of the estimated 20 kids. My ex-school friends who come to the apartment for tutions saw how the carpets were still empty and I read a “Unschooling and changing the world it seems…hmph!” expression on their face. Not done. Not done at all. Resorting to desperation, I put on my adorable expression and excitedly pleaded (!) with all the kids on the block to come to my SuperPower meeting. Turns out that they were old enough to stop believing in such fallacies but I managed to drag them anyway. With the number at 15 we began. And it was a hit.

Turns out that my suspicions were right. Kids are kind, thoughtful and sensitive, but with the people and environment around they get conditioned to the comfort and thoughtlessness that comes with a carbon-heavy lifestyle. My mom told them, “Yes, we parents are selfish – we want lots of water to clean the vessels and a car to go even till the next lane. But you have to stop us from polluting and wasting things, just like myy daughter does.” *Beautiful moment* Then the kids went on to identify and make small doable commitments to make life a little more eco-friendly. Madhurya promised to make do with half a bucket of water (“except on Sundays Akka. I have to wash my hair no?”). Mehul said he’d give up riding his dad’s scooter because it was polluting (and illegal, since Mehul is just 12) Liya said she’d eat when her mom called so as to avoid re-heating on the gas or in the oven. And with that, we concluded our first Super Power meeting.

My successful Super Power gathering!

Then came the part of reaching out to the adults. The big, responsible ones who drive fancy cars and frequent expensive stores. The ones who think its their right to exploit and dirty the earth. Armed with the colourful posters, a pretty friend came along with me to stick them on the walls and windows of R.S.Puram.

I don’t know how many gave an eye or brought this to their life, but I was glad to start off somewhere. The energy never gets lost – it’s out there, working it’s magic in ways we can’t see. Let the universe work its mystery.