Never before have we co-created a program like this, where every participating Fellow – a senior leader – is immersed in Gandhiji’s world and the sacred spaces he lived in, is moved by doing Sewa (service to others), has the courage to go into an inner journey to understand himself/herself and uncovers one’s own divinity, discovers her / his life’s purpose, and adopt much of the richness of Gandhiji’s leadership; all for the purposes of becoming a greater leader. A leader who can imbibe Gandhiji’s ways and values and bring that into the world, to make a huge difference. A Lead Like Gandhi Fellow.
This was unlike any other workshop that anyone had ever experienced. And for us, it was 15 months of intense work, with much involvement by a number of fellow Karmayogis, a bunch of powerful, senior persons who chose to contribute to this design, including the Director of the Gandhi Ashram, Atul Pandya. Given that our role model was Gandhi, it was truly hard to bring this together with our vision that this be at the highest level of quality and impact in the world, get many, many people on the same page, and then execute it with the respect and reverence that such an event deserved.
Each day brought forth insights, openings, tears, realizations and joy with many Gandhians ~ Tushar Gandhi, Ela Bhat, Kartikeya Sarabhai, Atul Pandya and Jayesh Bhai sharing their stories of living their lives from love, truth, simplicity, fairness and non-violence. Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Gandhiji, shared stories overheard from his grandmother of courage and deep conviction of the beauty in each and every soul, of a time, where being noble was natural, a time of depth and simplicity, and its rich sacredness.
The journey of discovering this Mahatma called Gandhi, diving deep into his life, getting glimpses of this extraordinary man and leader, his mind-blowing steely resolve, his complete devotion to truth, touched all of us deeply. As we moved through each day, we sensed so much of his love that opened within us too and we realized how this amazing man could make miracles happen and shake the largest empire by having them see their own unfairness whilst evoking their highest selves. All by a firm, determined resolve to take their blows and refuse to hit back, not even lift an arm to protect oneself. Being totally clear that the inherent goodness of the perpetrator will come through. We also delved deeper into the way Gandhiji led. The invited speakers elaborated on how they have imbibed Gandhian principles in their current work. Kartikeya Sarabhai (who lives and stands for sustainable environment) talked about creating self-sustainable communities & Ramesh Mashelkar, (India’s innovation guru), shared about Gandhian engineering where innovations need to be created that use less resources and make more for everyone in the world. Ela Bhat, who founded SEWA, the world’s largest women organisation with 2 million members, who was inspired by Gandhi, although she never met him, painstakingly built SEWA. She brought in the humility and gentleness that seemed to be the motif of all these very special guests, who are such extraordinary souls and leaders, who speak at WEF, at the UN, and yet were more than willing to spend a couple of hours to share their wisdom with 9 Fellows, who felt it was such a privilege they were bestowed with.
William Bissell of Fabindia shared the Gandhian model that FabIndia is based on, community-owned companies, where every employee, artisan and farmer has a share in the organisation. R Mukundan recounted how much of his choices in running Tata Chemicals were around 5 principles of Gandhiji, and shared that Tata Chemicals was in fact in its origination, kick-started by Gandhi. William was delighted and truly excited with the program, and felt strongly that a similar version be opened up for everyone, to build a new India and world. Watch this space for more.
Added to this were the absolutely awesome, humble Jayeshbhai and Atulbhai – trustees and officers of the Gandhi Ashram, role models for a Gandhian life, and with teachings to impart through personal living, that resonated and inspired every Fellow. It was as if Gandhi himself was in them, guiding their words, their hearts and how they walked their talk.
At another level, the experiences of being in the spaces that Gandhi himself worked in, slept in, deliberated and looked inwards as these Fellows were – the Kochrab Satyagraha Ashram, the Gandhi Sabarmati Ashram, the Safai Vidyalaya and ESI (Environment Sanitation Institute). The atmosphere was rife and rich with Gandhi’s spirit, one could feel him there… watching the Gandhi movie next door to where the story unfolded was an experience that cannot be described… Tushar Gandhi joined us, as all of us experienced that magical, indescribable evening.
In the end, when each Lead Like Gandhi Fellow finally discovered their life’s purpose, it was a magical and sacred moment. To finally know and totally embody what they are here to do in the world, and tie that up with an unfinished business of Gandhiji, and declare it in the courtyard of where Gandhiji lived, was just an incredible experience.
Every day, in Gandhi circles, the 9 leaders would share their insights about themselves, about their place in the world, peeling off layer by layer, moving from ego to one’s true self, rejoicing in that profound understanding.
The Fellows navigated so many new realms, new ways of doing and being – in just listening, in being present, in enrolling another into one’s vision, in being able to generate the most beautiful and simply magical relationships – with loved ones, as well as with others that were no longer in one’s lives, and with virtually anyone.
Gandhigiri replaced warring with people… finding loving ways by which one could appeal to the highest goodness in the other, by willingness to take humiliation and blows… and bring forth that highest self in the other… what a way to be.
The 9 leaders, in their new avatars, chose to celebrate the richness of our world, took solemn oaths to take on massive projects in Gandhiji’s name, his unfinished business, if he were alive today. And reluctantly, tearfully left with their heads high, their hearts full, and their minds clear – as never before in their lives….
And we had the good fortune to be with these Fellows, to witness and catalyse these journeys, and to experience so much of their highest selves, to see their brilliance and their extraordinariness in action. So so blessed.