- Smita Ram, Rang De co-founder and Managing Trustee
Rang De co-founders Ram NK and Smita Ram recently returned from the 3 day Ashoka India Future Forum 2013 where they interacted with over 170 Ashoka Fellows from the across the country. Presenting Smita's experience at the Ashoka #IndiaFF.
In 1980, Bill Drayton founded Ashoka - a global organization that recognises outstanding social entrepreneurs and works with them to help facilitate long term social change. I believe the term "Ashoka" is apt as I am reminded of Emperor Ashoka who after having conquered, gave it all up.
Cut to 2013 June 27th to 29th at the sprawling Infosys campus spread across 115 acres. An incredible experience to see 170 Ashoka Fellows from across the length and breadth of the country participating in the Future Forum along with the founder Bill Drayton. For the 70 years young Bill Drayton, it must have been a milestone moment to see all of them gathered under one roof for the very first time.
From the hard core social activist to the awe inspiring story teller, there was everyone one could ever think was needed to bring about social change.For me it was nothing less than the sacred Maha Kumbh. The opportunity to meet each one of these and get inspired many times over a period of 3 days. No rejuvenation would come close to this 3 day experience at Pune.
The inspiration started right onboard the flight to Pune with a chance meeting of a few of the Fellows. We were all headed to the same destination and I did not lose a moment to get started with my questions.
First up was Vishal Talreja, the founder of Dream a Dream who has been a role model. It was great to see the same spirit in Vishal burning bright as it did more than a decade ago. We discussed challenges of running a non-profit to co-working spaces and like a big brother who has been in the space for much longer than us, he patiently shared his views.
Then there was Dr.Glory D'souza, the founder of Asha Foundation who shared a taxi ride with us. It was amazing to hear the story of this doctor who decided to set up Asha Foundation and has dedicated her life to helping people living with HIVAids.
The amazing experience continued with meeting several other fellows at Pune, including Sriram from Nalandaway who one fine day had decided to give up his lucrative tech career and start Nalandaway. It literally was a decision that Sriram had taken in a single day.
Then there were the stalwarts - George from Score Foundation, Bablu from Timbaktu Collective, Geetha Ramanujam from Kathalaya who have been quietly working in the space for many decades now. The amazing bit is all of them continued to have a great sense of humour and wit and cherish the many moments of their work.
When working in the social space itself is considered a tall task, there were the heroes like Binalakshmi Nepram, Haseena and Sharad Sharma all of them working in conflict zones and with the vulnerable, doing their best to give hope to humanity.
It is almost impossible to put down all the experiences of the 3 days in one blog post. I am just grateful that each one of these and many of whom I met let me into their lives and shared their "Ashoka" moment with me.
A big round of applause to the Ashoka India team for taking up this humongous task of bringing all of them together and for totally succeeding in doing an awesome job with it.For now, I just cherish the moments of the forum and sincerely hope that the Ashoka Tribe grows from strength to strength.
Rang De co-founders Ram and Smita and Rang De President Chaitanya with Ashoka Founder Bill Drayton at the Ashoka India Future Forum