26th Aug, 2006
thought i'd use this space to brainstorm on things i could do with my life.
right now, i have the luxury of time - i'll work for exxon for at least a year, the lightness of load (more on that later) - and i absolutely revel in fabulous unconditional support of everyone who loves me, who have looked fondly at my forays into various random fields and are supremely confident that i'll settle on something and do a remarkable job with it.
if only i could decide what to do. and make the decision in a finite amount of time so that i don't spend a lifetime deciding. although, thats not a bad way of spending a lifetime, but i digress.
So of course, i have various options. Today i'd like to talk about peace. and no, this is not a digression, this is something around which i would like to weave a career. Specifically i would like to achieve two objectives:-Hindu-Muslim peace and-India-Pakistan peace,both of which are correlated to some extent, and vastly different in others. one could easily make a lifetime out of promoting just one or the other. for me however, they are both issues that are close to my heart and i can think of common techniques, common obstacles that one would face in achieving both.
Where do you start working on something like this? well, i have a readymade opportunity working for utthan in gujarat. i build grassroots experience and credibility and then look at scaling up the efforts. it would be difficult - i'd be shuttling back and forth between delhi and gujarat but its only an hourlong flight and definitely doable.
what specifically would i do? well i have no idea - there are the activities of utthan that i could start with and look at expanding to the rest of the state somehow. and initiate dialog with various groups in the delhi area that are working on the same thing. then expand my network to include grassroots activists in pakistan and holding anti-communalism workshops in both countries to slowly build a network for peace.
none of this is new. its being done even now by some very capable people. the difference is that most people are working on this issue as a part of other programs, such as nafisaben incorporating peace into the gender and water programs, and several prominent feminist activists adding peace as an important component of their activities. in my case, peace would be the central goal - holding workshops, bringing communities together, exploding corrosive myths.
with my background and my baggage, i can't think of a better way to serve my land, my people and my own personal dreams.
as a footnote, speaking of baggage, let me relate my anecdote about "keeping the load light". i had rented a jeep to explore new mexico. one evening, after a grueling, exhilarating drive around suicidal hairpin curves, i got to a set of historic cave dwellings called Gila National Monument. I wandered around with the appropriate curiosity, asking all the right questions, trying to absorb as much as i could. then i sat down next to an old man who was holding forth on the caves. he worked for the monument as a guide, showing people around. turns out he had arrived there when young, and spent the night camping in the caves and had been very touched by the atmosphere, the aura, if you will, of the caves and had always dreamed of returning. he then went forth in the world, trying a lot of different callings, was an actor, a clerk, a father and whatnot. but somewhere inside, he remembered the caves and ended up coming back. now, he is not only the guide but is also a prominent activist, mobilizing the native american communities to gain recognition, and several other things (much of which, unfortunately i don't remember, but i do recall being quite impressed by all his activities). the important thing is that he loves what he's doing and is very good at it. the combination of the two equals a happy life. and i told him that i was searching for a calling do, and finding it hard to settle down. he laughed and said that it had taken him an incredibly long time too. but time doesn't matter. what matters is that when it does appear in front of you - that golden combination - you should be able to drop everything else and go for it. don't add any unnecessary burdens, futile responsibilities that will hold you back when the time comes. keep your load light.