Posts Tagged 'Jayesh Patel'

Remembering Ishwarbhai Patel

Ishwarbhai Patel

Ishwarbhai Patel was the role model to my role models. Today, on the first anniversary of his death, we remember him fondly.

In a country where ritual hygiene is sacrosanct and actual hygiene is observed mostly in the breach, Ishwarbhai devoted his life to the rational, hygienic management of human waste. Recipient of India’s Padma Shri for distinguished service to the country, among many other national and international awards, Ishwarbhai’s greatness and achievements were certainly widely admired. But, true to his modesty and good humor, he got more pleasure from his more humble nickname, “Mr. Toilet”.

Ishwarbhai was as matter-of-fact as could be about all matters of human waste. Within the first five minutes of the first time we met, he advised me how much my average daily dump weighed in grams – I forget the number – and added that it was likely more dense than the average Indian feces, because the Western diet includes more refined and processed foods. This was typical conversation, and there was nothing casual about it. It was part of Ishwarbhai’s mission. Having made sanitation his life’s work, he could hardly afford to be abashed in discussing these things. Moreover, he understood that the polite refusal of most people to talk about human waste entailed a pernicious complicity in the epidemic of debilitating and frequently lethal diarrheal diseases in India. “How can we solve a problem people are too embarrassed to talk about sensibly?” he complained.

Continue reading ‘Remembering Ishwarbhai Patel’

Jayesh Patel, Superstar!

Jayesh and Anar Patel

In October of 2005, I wrote a short profile of my friends Jayesh and Anar Patel, husband-and-wife and two-thirds of the founding triumvirate of the extraordinary Ahmedabad-based NGO, Manav Sadhna. Two years later, that small essay has received nearly 400 viewings and still averages nearly three hits per week.

Small wonder. Jayesh-bhai and Anar-ben are perhaps the loveliest, most optimistic, and broadly inspiring people I know. This is no small distinction, given that I am in the habit of collecting friends who answer to the general description “lovely, optimistic, and inspiring.”

Now, a group of filmmakers calling themselves the “Global Oneness Project” have created a beautiful portrait of Jayesh-bhai and his philosophy in a new video called “Living Service.”

Continue reading ‘Jayesh Patel, Superstar!’

A Gift of Service

Within my circle of friends, it is not uncommon to give gifts-of-service in lieu of material gifts for birthdays and other special events. Saturday afternoon, the day before Pavi and Viral’s wedding, a small group of friends ducked out of the festivities for about four hours to dedicate a gift of service to them.

Continue reading ‘A Gift of Service’

Finding Teachers Along the Way

Each of us bears the imprint
of a friend met along the way.
In each the trace of each.
– Primo Levi

In fact, we bear the imprint of every life that intersects with ours – whether or not the people we touch are friends or perfect strangers, whether the interpersonal contact occurred in dramatic fashion or was barely noticeable. But some people teach us lesson that are so profound that we cannot help but think of them as mentors. Here are a few of mine.

Ashish Mehta has taught me the ineffable value of constant awareness. It is the channel through which compassion and thoughtfulness flows. I consider this the most important ethical insight I have ever been shown – and the most difficult to live up to.

David Cavanero taught me to respect the earth and showed me the interconnection of all living things.

Guri Mehta and John Silliphant have shown me the beauty of modesty, and that white-hot brilliance is never negated by soft warmth, quietude, and humility.

My father, if by negative example, showed me that a sharp intellect is valuable, but empty without compassion and kindness. Eric Zakim reminds me of the astonishing potential of intellect wedded to decency, common sense, and groundedness.

My mother taught me that a person who is full of joy and unfettered by self-doubt can do just about anything, and do it far better than they have a right to expect. She, Trishna Shah, and Uma Prajapati have demonstrated that, while moderation and striking “balance” in life is all well-and-fine, undaunted people can almost literally do-it-all, which is even better.

Nipun Mehta and Jayesh Patel taught me that the opportunity to serve is not only found in doing of grand, dramatic philanthropy, or even in the doing of Mother Teresa’s “small things with great love.” It exists in every human interaction.

Roger Sleight showed me that, despite the common wisdom, one could reach the top of the legal profession, representing soulless corporate clients, while growing in humanity and exercising ethical leadership.

Viral Mehta is my paragon of generosity and friendship.

Manoj Pavithran serves as a exemplary reminder that if one surrenders to the magical interconnectedness of the universe, it is impossible to ignore the joy and beauty in every moment.

Rubin Macaya and Phillipe Mollard taught me the joy of fearlessness. This has, perhaps, been the most formative lesson of my life.

Yoo-Mi Lee and my sister Betsy reveal the very limits of human perfection. Every day.  Neither have ever entered a room they did not make a better place by their presence.  I cannot hope to aspire to this; but neither can I be unaffected by it.

There are two common threads in this admittedly incomplete list. First, the people who have mentored me have done so by example, not in a didactic way. Second, either I know way too many people named Mehta or way too few.


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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