(Social Entrepreneurship/Motivational Tales – INR 150)
Well, figuratively speaking, we have several of them. As we climb the social ladder, our dreams proliferate. I want that n-figure salary, that n-room bungalow, that – err, 4-wheeler car. I listened to this lecture on protecting our environment. I wish we could do something about the car-cleaner’s five-year old. If only we had better sanitation in the aunt’s rat-ridden village. We dream in hundreds, we act on none. We quote this, that and them as obstacles and indeed, the obstacles are real enough. Fortunately, some of us do look the boulders in the eye and carry our dream further. Rashmi Bansal’s “I have a Dream” charts the course of twenty such entrepreneurs who share their vision – an India that truly ‘shines’ and grows, in all its entirety.
“Most of my friends, my classfellows, are in the Rs. 1 crore salary bracket. And I tell you, none of them gets sound sleep in the night…”
Bhushan Punani, an MBA from IIM-A, could have easily joined the bracket but he chose instead to manage the Blind Person’s Association. Today, the BPA offers a plethora of opportunities for the visually challenged, ranging from IT training to a course in beauty.
Like Punani, the author of the bestselling “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”, picks the interviewees for her latest offering expertly. There is Bindeshwar Pathak, the mind behind the successful Sulabh chain of lavatories. Hailing from a Brahmin family in Bihar – where he found that an ‘untouchable’ was forced to live up to his label – Pathak took up a cause that many considered a sacrilege. Likewise for Madhu Pandit Dasa, who heads Akshaya Patra. Feeding hungry mouths is not the calling conventionally associated with an IITian. And before you brush this off as a mere one-off act of charity, this is what Akshaya Patra does day after day and in turn, helps the little kids do better in school and elsewhere. Of what use is any ‘free primary education’ to a starving child? On similar lines, the stories of Anand Kumar and Shaheen Mistri really stand out – while one got together a Super 30 batch of poor but talented students and trained them for IIT, Mistri’s Teach For India conquers new grounds every day.
What makes the stories work is the first-hand narrative, coupled with the impediments faced and conquered. Every entrepreneur shares the nitty-gritty of his project and the book thus has an immense knowledge base for venturers in the NGO or cooperatives sector. But the first-person narrative is also what makes the book lose some of its steam. You wish there were more people in every story, the issue discussed by the other parties involved as well. The reading tends to get highly predictable at points – which is really a genre thing considering documentarish-tales bound by a common thread can only get so much diverse.
Change starts with one person, says Bansal. Pick this up if you are waiting to be inspired. Pick this up even if you belong to the group of cynics which feels nothing that is initiated in this country ever manages to work.