Tag Archives: #community

Small Connections

While growing up at home in India, I was not very observant. But now that I am away and I come back – I see more and more. Like my parents make tea for the watchman and our maid everyday. My parents went to our neighbour’s wedding, who also happens to be the Ruby Fruits shop’ owner – shop across from where we live. (Street shops are more common than malls, still thankfully).

Yesterday, we smelled something burning outside. And today we found out that our building watchman had informed our neighbours that he saw a snake, so they decided to put all the dried leaves etc. together and burn them to prevent the snake from getting tempted.

Our neighbours know when my parents are away for a long time so that they can watch the house. They all know that I live in the US, and my brother lives in Sydney.

You cannot hide anything from the community. My parents decided to live in our ancestral house in the village for a month or so. And they would diligently go for a walk in the evening. After a week or so it was a frequent topic of discussion – people would ask, ‘Not going for a walk? or How was the walk?’

Communities are a reality for cities and villages in India. You end up forming a connection which starts off with small talk but eventually ends up being a little deeper than that.

Lives in India seem more intertwined naturally as the remnants of a reducing community culture still exist. These small gestures help us stay grounded in the fact that we are all humans going through the human predicament. We are not that different from each other despite what religion, leaders or sometimes even textbooks say.

Just because you go to a different place of god – does that make you a different human from me? Only because you live across a man-made boundary, does that make you any less human than me? If we genuinely interacted with other humans, we will realize that we all are not that different from each other. Unfortunately, the society we live in today does not encourage or provide opportunities for such interactions. In India, it still exists, but in lots of other countries people live inside their house and occasionally wave to their neighbours, or they don’t even know who their neighbours are. In contrast, my parents can tell you who are all our neighbours not only in our building complex but on the street we live as well.

Trust word as symbol in chrome chain

Social media and technology seem to be driving us towards a culture of divisiveness. We need to remember that we are connected at a fundamental level. We need to pro-actively indulge in activities that bring us together as a race so that we start from a place of trust and not from a place of mistrust. We tend to trust people less than we should because we believe the media and the news which tells us what is happening in 10% of the world – what about the 90% of the world which contains humans just like you and me.

How will you connect today?

Building a Bridge

Have you ever been a situation where
1. Let’s say you have had a bad experience with somebody – for example, you had to ask for directions and that somebody shouted at you for asking the directions. So, now you are afraid of asking directions. You use your previous interaction to frame your current interactions.
2. You have felt scared inside, but you put a brave face and went on about it. Can you think of one situation in your life when you were not sure of how things are done, but you went about it like you have done it a dozen times? For me, it was ordering my first subway sandwich – coming straight from India; it was an ordeal.
3. You have looked at somebody and assessed where they fit in the interaction models that pre-exist in your mind. For example, this person is reading a book – People who read books are friendly people so I can trust them.

I am sure most of you can say yes to all the three situations before. Now, what if I told you that the youth experiencing homelessness could also say yes to the above situations. Yes, our circumstances might be vastly different but we are experiencing the same feelings, emotions and we come from the same space.

For those of you who don’t know – Adam and I (along with a few other great people) have embarked on a journey to establish a social enterprise (Wild Tiger Tees) which employs youth experiencing homelessness to screen print t-shirt. Our ultimate goal is to get them out of homelessness entirely. We are taking one step at a time – build a relationship and a sustainable business model first – coach and mentor the youth for long-term success. We do not know if we will be successful or not but its a start of something for sure. Like anything new – this has been the foremost thought in my mind chatter in the recent days.

The first thing that struck me was that I was as afraid of approaching these youth as they were of me. And that led me to see other things that we have in common. Surprise! Surprise! We have a lot more in common than I ever imagined – at the end of the day we are all going through the same human predicament, and suffering is the one common thread we have.

What Wild Tiger Tees is trying to do is to fill in a gap that exists in our society – for reasons beyond our control we have youth experiencing homelessness in our society. And there is no structure in place currently that encourages, enables and empowers these youth to integrate back into the society – in some ways, it is like two different worlds, and there is no bridge across them. Before I got involved in this enterprise, I was not even aware of this other world except in passing.

In our society we have a set structure of how life works – you graduate, you have campus placements – interviews, and then you get a job. But there is nothing of this sort that exists for the youth we are working with – they are an untapped workforce that we have not figured out how to integrate into our current workforce.

What we are trying to do is to build the bridge across our two worlds which have more similarities than differences.