What Inspires You
‘What inspires you?’ is more difficult question to answer than ‘who inspires you.’ Ask me ‘who inspires you’ and I will reel out a long list of cricketers, authors, playwrights, actors, and singers.
But ask me ‘what inspires you’ and I will look like a passenger who is waiting for his train which is running late; anxious, a bit confused and searching for an answer.
When you have a question on mind, the universe conspires to provide you an answer. This ‘conspiracy of universe’ theory is a popular explanation to anything fuzzy, difficult to explain. Be that as it may, the point is that I experienced the conspiracy of the universe. In a span of a week, I got many clues to what inspires me.
The visit to Atul at Vapi was decided rather hurriedly. Their hospitality was impeccable. As I arrived at their Guest House, I noticed a beautiful play of light and shade. Out came my camera, I mean my mobile, and I clicked this photograph and looked up the result. A kind of energy wave hit me.
“Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working” I told myself this famous quote of Pablo Picasso.
Then arrived Ms. Swatiben Lalbhai to meet me. A diminutive lady of pleasant disposition, she took me to the ‘Inspiring Centre.’ (For those who do not know, the building is actually called so.) It is a simple structure which has ‘posters’ of Mr. Kasturbhai Lalbhai on the walls. Kasturbhai was a visionary; he was clearly ahead of his time. Swatiben explained his life mentioning many stories which are well known but not written on the posters.
Why do life stories inspire us? We wish to leave a mark on the world around us. We wish to leave behind a legacy, something that the next generations can follow to become successful. In the life story of Kasturbhai, or any inspiring life story, we see leaving a legacy is achievable, it’s possible! We often under-rate ourselves, and the life stories ask us to reexamine that assessment. Life stories tell us that we grossly underestimate our own potential.
That realization is the spark that lights a lamp.
Within seven days of my Atul visit, I landed at Vapi again. I was accompanying the CEO of TIDE (NGO), which is the acronym of Tribal Integrated Development & Education Trust. TIDE has projects in 16 states. Their work covers a few thousand villages.
We halted at a village. I entered a hut, about 8ft x 8ft in size where an old couple lived. Both appeared to be in their eighties. The man made a feeble attempt to stand; it was painful for him to stand up. There was a small Chula in a corner. The lady had prepared food (which she showed) and which would not have been sufficient for the two. They had no means of earning except by working in the fields. The TIDE representative assured them of immediate assistance.
This was a wake-up call. I felt helpless much like the old man and his wife. I knew something had to be done, not just to alleviate their poverty because there were several with the same fate like the old couple, in the Dang District. When you see abject poverty, you want to do something to solve the problem; leaving a legacy is not on your mind. Then one cools down, finds ways of doing something constructive for the benefit of the downtrodden and you do not stop at mere financial assistance.
This urge to do constructive work is, in quality, much different from the inspiration one gets from life-stories of great men and women. Perhaps there is a sense of social responsibility, or perhaps a sense of guilt. I am not sure. You are shocked by the misery, and you feel the need to act immediately. Karl Marx rightly said, ‘Misery motivates, not utopia.’
We travelled long distance to meet a group of paramedics. About fifty of them, mostly all women. They were waiting for us. The CEO had a way of engaging them in lighthearted conversation which everyone enjoyed. Then he asked questions to test their knowledge of symptoms of common diseases. Surprisingly, all answers were right.
Each paramedic had undergone training to identify common diseases. And they also offer medicines which are available as OTC medicines or non-prescription medicines. They keep a diary in which they record their work. The paramedics told me that they treat three to four patients a day! Simple idea but extremely effective.
India has one of the lowest numbers of paramedics per 10,000 people at 15.8 workers, making its position lower than South Africa, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.
TIDE has a novel way of getting people involved to identify certain diseases in their community.
Three sources of inspiration for me – First, Life stories of persons who have achieved ‘primary greatness’. To quote Stephen Covey, (Quote) ‘Primary greatness, is open to everyone. Every single person can have it; there are no bell-curve limits. Primary greatness has to do with a person’s integrity, work ethic, treatment of others, motives, and level of initiative. It has also to do with a person’s character, contributions, talents, creativity, and discipline. It represents who people are – every day – as opposed to what they own or temporary achievements.
Secondary greatness has to do with positions or titles, awards, wealth, fame rankings or rare accomplishments. Almost by any definition, secondary greatness can only be attained by a select few, an extremely small percentage of a population. Secondary greatness is largely determined by comparing one person against another.’ (Unquote)
Kasturbhai Lalbhai was clearly in the primary greatness class.
Second source of inspiration to do meaningful work comes from the shock of witnessing the human misery. Witnessing misery is inescapable while we visit the villages. Such cases may be around us in the cities too. But we open our eyes as well as mind when we visit the villages. And the dilemma of offering immediate help versus providing help by creating support system confronts us.
The Third source of inspiration comes when we see that a system is created to solve a problem, like training the paramedics and ensuring that patients receive immediate attention. It also comes when we see that the women feel empowered, and their social status goes up when they serve the society by acquiring a skill set.
Finally, the words of St Francis of Assisi – ‘Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.’ That is what NGOs do. That is the TIDE story as well as of Kasturbhai Lalbhai.
And that is the way to ‘create’ inspiration for us.
PS: Dr Joseph George A, my friend, mentioned that the correct (St Francis of Assisi) idiom is ‘“Start with what’s possible. The impossible takes care of itself”. I had picked up the idiom from internet source, obviously incorrect.
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
Beautifully shared narrative of Inspiration!
Poverty is violence on the society said Ela Bhatt,founder of the SEWA movement.
That inspired by me years ago.
And those lines wove a story for me and inspired me.
Yes Sir. So true
The story is itself an inspiration- actually any service which delivers without the need for recognition is inspirational
“Misery inspires”, indeed it does. However, it appears that for many of us, we choose to become blind. That is more convenient because it perpetuates the myth that we are helpless. The story of TIDE gives the lie to anyone who thinks that they can’t make a difference. That is why my motto is: I will not allow what is not in my control to prevent me from doing what is in my control.
Many thanks Vivek for another inspiring post.
As always insightful with real life experience. Missed LuLu though in the conversation.
You trigger thought right in 1st line of What v/s Who inspires. Most of time it’s the intersection or the trigger either by situation (Misery of Lifecycle for Buddha) or Guru/Zen/Teacher (igniting potential Achrekar for Sachin) in person. The immense possibility of human potential to be unlocked is definately what “INSPIRE’s ME”
That Assissi idiom reads differently for me “Start with what’s possible. The impossible takes care of itself”.
Yesterday, I was in conversation with someone who was in Ahmedabad decades ago. Had it not been for the likes of Kasturbhai Lalbhai and Vikram Sarabhai, formal MBA education would not have seen its current forms in India. I enjoin you somewhat in spirit here to add this that I am in search of a Ford Foundation report for the Ahmedabad Management Association on Management Education needs in South Asia. India’s exception then can be owed to people like the Labhais. They proved to the Americans then that management practice was ahead of management education. The proverbial theory-practice gap can inspire practitioners and academicians both.
Your ‘hot-off-the-press’ writing reveals itself like the real competition our mainstream media should wake up to. Kudos to your generous sharing.
Thanks for sharing the correct idiom. I have placed a Post Script acknowledging it. Thanks again.
What Inspires Me made good reading, thank you Vivek. I am awed that you can dash off such an erudite post as soon as you witness something/someone that inspires you.
Life stories of great persons inspire, no doubt, but I find that the possibility of transformation- changing systems for the better- is exciting; moving towards ‘utopia’ in a way. The knowledge (and hope) that change is possible spurs me to action.
Correction: ‘What Inspires You’ makes good reading:)
Very well put Vivek – What inspires you not who as everyone has a different calling.
The article really makes me to look for inspiration on day to day basis. There is lot but we need to observe it and learn from it. Thanks for this article sir
Very well written!
Earlier,Atul had spent lot of energy, efforts n money towards development for have not.
The founder,Late Katurbhai, had done and practiced the giving model. Late Siddharthbhai,Dr. Vimlaben continued this tradition n Swatiben n Sunilbhai have taken it forward.The Lalbhais have not only done pioneering work in producing lot many import substitutes chemicals but have simultaneously worked for uplifting the needy,downtroden.
There is very little beating of their own drums but for sheer joy of doing it,quite silently.
And mind well, all the family members are well qualified but never show off. Lalbhai’s have scholastic record that will be envy for many.
However Giving Model is at work,24×7.
Dear Mr Patwardhan….”what inspires you…vs who inspires you…” actually made me reflect and surprisingly the answer wasn’t far….actually to think of it, I do not miss any of your posts because what you write have always been a source on inspiration….I see you as a friend…a senior and a colleague but I am inspired by what you write. The reason being, when you write you focus on the subject and the individuals….it’s about them and not about you… the key message being how “they” impacted you and that’s the learning I take away – that’s what inspires in your posts. I really hope to accompany you the next time in your inspirational journeys….and be a part of the learning…..
Oh, you have been so generous with appreciation. Grateful!
So wonderfully simple when you say it! and yet blinding in it profound implications! The opportunity an dither propensity for primary greatness is the beginning of all inspiration and the rest as you aver s how water flows with gravity. Thank you for another vignette of inspiring thoughts!
So wonderfully simple when you say it! and yet blinding in it profound implications! The opportunity and the propensity for primary greatness is the beginning of all inspiration and the rest as you aver is how water flows with gravity. Thank you for another vignette of inspiring thoughts!
Once again, very inspiring and thoughtful blog Vivek. Every one of us is blessed by God and is accountable and responsible for doing what we can to improve the situation for those needing help. Not doing anything is not an option. Doing it collectively always increases the effectiveness. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Also keep writing.
Great insights. I think both Misery and Beauty inspire. One for the need to do and the other for the possibilities that are exemplified. One for where we are and the other for where we can be. I also believe that inspiration without action is only a wish.Your writings are a reminder of both what inspiration can do and what we need to do. Thank you
Your Article is simple and yet profound, as always. It made one introspect from what ‘one could do’ to what ‘one needs to do’
It was truly Inspiring and so much to chew and digest.
And yes, keep writing for the benefit of persons like me.