Journey with XL Pioneer Club

I’m writing this from Agra, where 63 of us on the XL Pioneer Club visited the Taj Mahal today on our way to Satna with the Hunger Project. It’s been an extraordinary trip so far, and here’s two stories from the trip to share with you:

Be Zero: Nothing plus nothing is everything. From Circle Groups, to Circle Membership, so much of what XL is about is drawn into a circle. We heard a great story today from Nirmala Deshpande, who has been head of the Rajghat Gandhi Samadhi. We had planned to be at the memorial held within the Rajghat, which is Gandhi’s memorial where his ashes are, but due to security this year there were no foreigners allowed. Even Sonia Gandhi, who is Italian, was not part of the official ceremony. Through a connection with Nirmala, however, all 60 of us managed to attend as the only foreigners, with the President, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, various heads of government and about 400 invited guests. It was very intimate and a great testament to the power of connections that we were there. After, we spoke with Nirmala. One of the questions was what learning she could share from Gandhi. She told a story about how, when asked his great ambition, Gandhi drew a circle in the sand and said “To be zero”. She said what he meant by that was to be the opening, with no ego, for god’s work to flow. To be the opening. I loved that!

Tiger is Life: Another story worth sharing is a meeting we had with Fetah Singh Rathore at the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Fetah was the first warden at the park, some 29 years ago. He told us “Tiger is Life”. We asked him why, and he said “Where there are tigers, there is forest. Where there is forest, there is rain. Where there is rain, there is water. Where there is water, there is life. So where there is tiger, there is life.” When we heard the amount of poaching that was still rife (over one per day is killed out of a population of 1,200 left in India), we asked what we could do. He mentioned a hostel project he had to support the villagers who were getting paid by traders to kill the tigers. By taking them out of poverty, they would no longer need to kill. So we all hopped on a bus to see the hostel, which supported the villager’s children so they could earn and the kids could be educated. Within the day, we had a group of us supporting the hostel and planning to build a second on a piece of land he had secured. The speed of action was inspiring.

It’s been six days so far, and the trip has been everything I could have hoped for and more. Seeing the challenges and colour of India at ground level has stimulated our imaginations in every sense, and the connections and information we have made acquired has been phenomenal. I’ll report more at the end of the trip.



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