Class Project — Introduction

Among communicators, it is the belief that stories are the most useful way to convey ideas and deliver impact. Today’s post “Class Project — “Introduction” is the first of a series of posts. A series that uses the narrative technique in the hope to inspire at least a few baby boomers like me. Provoke us to get out of our post-retirement armchairs and pontifications and go out and try to make change happen,

As I sat across Prakriti, the Deputy Collector of Akola, I felt a quiet sense of accomplishment. I was sure the rest of my Class of 81 mates — Sunil, Ram, and Iqbal — sitting with me thought the same.

My mind went back to that day 18 months ago. That day the chat on the Class of 81 WhatsApp group had got entirely heated between the overt and covert anti-Modi and pro-Modi supporters. Underlying it all that anger and disagreement was the notion that somebody else was responsible for the perceived mess in the country.

Ram, one of the more perceptive and quieter ones among us, caught the underlying drift.

He wondered how a group of 60 plus years old, all educated at the country’s best institutions at a high cost to the exchequer, all having tasted great success in one field or the other essentially making money for themselves and others, did not feel any pang of guilt at their hand in making the mess.

And how we all felt important enough to offer analysis and solutions from the comfort of our near-retirement material success.

Shouldn’t we, at least now with all-out material needs met, get off our backsides and do something concrete to improve the lot of the so-called underprivileged we spoke and wrote so much about and seemed to have for whom such great sympathy?

So Ram called Sunil, Iqbal and me and spoke about his feelings. Over the next three weeks, we bandied ideas around and came up with a plan to test if people like us could make a difference to the life of others.

Sunil’s cousin Prakriti was the DC in Akola, and we decided that we will offer our services to Prakriti. We planned to shift to Akola for a year and work with her to try and improve the Government schools and primary care system in her district. She accepted, and the four of us have been in Akola for the past 15 months.

The story of what happened is exciting, and I will tell it in short, bite-sized instalments.

Suffice it to say the experience changed much in us, and Prakriti tells us that it has done significant good to the schools and primary care system in her district

Surprising learning is that the change went beyond external outcomes. But happened within the four of us and the scores of teachers and primary care workers, we interacted closely with over these months. It is almost as if we catalyzed for each other a change within which then radiated out to positively affect our work, our relationships, and our thinking like no external event, control, or process could have.

One fundamental change within me now is how I perceive the power of words. Words are the vehicle that allows intent to catalyze change. To be the change, you want to see.

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