Day 4: So Monday morning bright and early, Hiru didi promptly woke us up at 7:30 with tea and toast. It being the first day of work, the excitement and anticipation was high and we got ready fast (also at this point there were many possible outfits to choose to wear resulting in less stress.) Since we were advised to get to work every day at 10:00 am, we left the house at 8:45 to ensure ample time. We arrived 30 minutes early and ended up walking in with one of our bosses Siddharth or Sid for short. He sat us down and explained to us that he is fairly new to the field of social entrepreneurship and was until recently was in the business sector. He told us he had a read a book, “How to Change the World: Social Entrepeneurship…(I can’t remember the rest)” by Richard Bornstein. His outlook on his ability to create change shifted and he left the private sector for Ashoka. Aside from informing us about work, he also proceeded to tell us that he hadn’t slept in 2 months and suffers from insomnia – to which Nora replied ‘TAKE MEDSSS’ – in true Nora fashion. But like many people in India, he relies only on herbal supplements for aid. We then were taken to our office and met our other boss Dolon, who gave us reading material to acquaint ourselves with the organization.
Now, to explain our work in greater detail: We are working for Ashoka International, a social entrepreneur organization. As Sid put it when we asked him if Ashoka was an NGO he replied, “If I am not a criminal, I do not go around introducing myself as a non-criminal, in the same sense if I my organization is not an NGO I do not go around going around introducing my organization as a non NGO. I simply refer to my organization as being part of the citizen sector.” Specifically, Nora and I are working on the Venture Team, which nominates and elects Ashoka fellows. For our specific project, Dolon, Sid, and the two of us make up the Ashoka Venture Team and are working in regards to a partnership made with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in 2008. The partnership focuses in on Indian agriculture and rural development and through it about 30 new Ashoka fellows must be elected in India. So far, it has been an interesting experience working with the team. We are treated not as interns but as equal members of the Venture Team. Dolon and Sid explain to us that they know just as much about the agricultural sector (hardly anything at all) as we do as we begin to look for nominators.
Our main mission is to put together a database of 100 people who can nominate fellows working within the field of Indian Agriculture. Fellows are citizens who have come up with new and innovative ideas for organizations or projects. Once a fellow is nominated, Ashoka puts them through a round of interviews and panels, and if selected this person becomes part of the Ashoka International Fellowship and his or her project is given a stipend for three years. After that, their project should be able to sustain itself and the social entrepreneur. More than the stipend itself, the majority of the value of becoming a fellow is through the connections Ashoka presents to the individual. In the field of social entrepreneurship, connections and social networking are essential if not vital to the success of their projects. Through their connections, the fellows get new ideas and build upon their old ones. Ashoka fellows’ work focuses on truly everything- wherever there is a social problem and an innovative way to fix it. Ashoka’s work deals broadly with human rights, citizen engagement, health, education, and environment. Fellows can be any one, but their idea must be flawless. They can be of any religious background, educational standing, sexual orientation, or gender (The founder of WIKIPEDIA is an Ashoka fellow- where would all of your research papers be without this organization?!).
ANYWAY, the first day of work we only stayed until 12- a little thief by the name of Payal (El Diablo for short…or long) had stolen Mohenna’s glasses and she was developing a fierce migrane from glaring at the computer screen. So, we ventured away from Ashoka and went to Khan market to grab some coffee and books. At the book store, Nora looked for the book Sid had described (How to change the world), which is fairly well known and promoted by Ashoka. The bookstore did not have it, but believing that she was a lost soul looking for a dummies guide to saving the world, suggested “How to save the world in 365 days.” She declined. Thank you, Bherrison’s book store.
That night, we sat in the Big Room and decided that by this point there was no possible route for Nora to be able to escape by and promptly decided to tell her of the spirit in this house. She is a lady in a white sari who has been seen by various members of the household, even the most rational out of them. However, everybody claimed that the presence was a peaceful entity and was not there with the purpose to harm. This led to a story telling session; of a disappearing man in a car, of a little boy’s body in Leepa’s bed, of an eight-foot tall woman following Ashish, and many more. As many conversations dealing with the realm of the spiritual do, we began to discuss our views on human spirituality and mind-body connections. It was evident that Mohenna was an Eastern (culturally Hindu) hippie and that Nora was a staunch, biological (this will make sense soon) realist. Mohenna questioned why when she thought about the center of her forehead, she felt it pulse and her chakra being released. Nora explained that this may be fully possible, but only in the same way that you purse your lips when you think of something sour. She said there must be a biological (perhaps magnetism) reason for Mohenna’s pulsing forehead. But Mohenna thought that the thought was so connected to her chakra that the thought in itself activated its energy release. Nora was skeptical. (at this moment, all readers put their index finger to the space between your eyebrows, but not touching the skin. This is a millimeter away from your third-eye chakra. After a short time, you should feel a pulse- one that almost feels like a headache. If you don’t, you lack a chakra. If you do, congratulations.)
Nora attempting spirituality
By this point, Aman had rushed upstairs to get their grandfather, the Grand Master. No, literally, one of a handful of Grand Masters of Rekhi (spiritual healing). As random as this sounds, it is true. He is above us at this very moment. So, he comes to the Big Room and begins to explain the seven chakras as being synonymous with the body’s glands. and by this point we were both satisfied spiritually and biologically. Speaking with him, he told us about his work in Rekhi (many Americans call him on the phone for physical and spiritual healing). Soon, he asked us if we wanted to do something fun- read our auras. Aman, Leepa, Ashish, Diglet, Spicy, and the Grand Master/Grandfather crowded onto the bed and shut the lights off while one by one we sat in a chair across the room. The grandfather then spoke in a soothing voice, putting the person in the chair in a meditative state, and told us to watch around their heads for a faint glow, or aura. Most people’s glowed light blue or white, signifying love and purity. We saw faint but visible auras around everyones’ heads. Soon, it was Nora’s turn. She sat in the chair and closed her eyes, relaxed. The grandfather told Nora to think of love, and then to think of prayer, and pray for all she was thankful for. Nora wasn’t sure who she was praying to, since she is very ambivalent about religion and god these days, as most know. However, as she began to get more lost in her thoughts, everyone, including Mohenna, shrieked. When the lights came on 20 seconds later, they all exclaimed that she had a purple aura (definitely a real color and not a trick of the eye). Aman even claimed that he saw a white and then brown aura within Nora’s stomach region. Mohenna was sufficiently freaked out; although she had been advocating for the Chakras and spirituality, she had not truly believed auras would emanate from anyone, let alone Nora. Needless to say, Mohenna now has trouble looking at Nora when she sleeps at night. Nora, when she realized that the aura was not a joke, has now taken on her purple aura of spirituality proudly.
After this extravaganza, we went to sleep. Sleep entails an imbalanced blanket:person ratio (skewed greatly towards Nora), waking up Mohenna to go to the bathroom with her for fear of ghosts, and sleep talking “WHO ARE YOU” “WHO ARE YOU.” We have come to the conclusion that Nora is possessed.
Spicy and Diglet