For those of you reading right now who aren’t familiar with Sridar Iyengar, our irreverent and fearless chair of the AIF Clinton Fellowship, first of all, I am sorry. Everyone should get to know him. Sridar is the highly successful business man turned omnipresent board member (his business card should just read “Board Member to all Companies”), restaurateur, daily world traveler, start-up investor, and above all, champion to all our Fellowship causes and issues. Ok I’ll stop. He is too modest, and probably already hates me for writing this blog. He is the godfather to all the Fellowship, and as such, makes it a goal to take his own Exposure Visits to as many fellows each year. In particular, he takes on an ambitious plan to visit three remote fellows in the mountains on one trip, and often fellows join him for different legs. Following advice from some smart alumnae, I decided with my fellow clowns Zain, Mohit, and Yu to follow Sridar on all three visits in April. Our ambitious 11 day trip took us to Darjeeling, the Garwal region of Uttrakhand, and Dharamsala.
Now I’m supposed to write about all the great subject-matter skills and great work I picked up and learned from my co-Fellows’ projects, but I cannot do that, especially when others already have already done so eloquently: Julie about Darjeeling, Anastasia about APV, and Srijana about Dharamsala. Instead, in a roundabout way of thanking him, I want to impart a few key pieces of what I learned from Sridar. This blog entry doesn’t scratch the surface of what we regularly learn from him, nor does it come close to encapsulating one of the best trips of my life.
1. Sleep as little as possible and tell better stories
For most people, it was inevitable that all of the long drives would make us tired. For others, each long drive was an opportunity for a slumber (Hi Mohit). For Sridar, who travels what seems like 95% of the year, I think I saw him take one 10 minute power nap on our 11 day journey. You can’t miss the opportunity to see India’s diverse countryside, to hear stories of past trips and hilarious run-ins with celebrities in airports, and have honest and open professional conversations with Sridar.
2. Laugh off all injuries
During a community trash pick-up in a village in Dharamsala, a motorcycle knocked the bag he was carrying into his leg. Unfortunately, there was a piece of glass that was in the bag that gouged part of his calf. Immediately the blood started gushing, people were shocked and starting to freak out, I took my shirt off because I thought it was the only thing to compress the injury (completely unnecessary), but Sridar, as calm as ever, looked down, realized what happened, laughed, and took out his handkerchief. I put my shirt back on, and started to wrap his leg. Suddenly, Dudhsagar appeared out of nowhere with haldi (turmeric) to apply to the cut, and then we finished wrapping it up. Eventually, he was transported to the local rural health clinic and treated to some stitches while still cracking jokes. Although that disrupted plans for dinner in Dharamsala, and he couldn’t join us on the hike the next day, Sridar was still able to organize a dinner on his hotel’s roof for us and maintained his high spirits.
[Too busy taking my shirt off / helping to take a photo of this emergency]
3. You can still be mindful and own a smartphone
I was impressed to see Sridar’s increasing excitement as we traversed the dangerous roads in the dark up to APV. Upon reaching, I witnessed his mind racing about the improvements to the school that they all have been working so hard on, and his analytic business acumen on what more moneyneeds to be raised and what to do for the school. In spite of this very action-oriented mindset, he showed us a different side heavily influenced by the concepts expounded on by Sir-ji at APV. Here is a guy used to improving big time strategy for corporations and start-ups, yet most passionate about a comparatively small project in APV’s informal education approach through music and mindfulness. As Anastasia stated in her blog, I cannot possibly try putting the philosophy of the school in my own words, but I wholeheartedly felt the special nature of APV.
Finally, thank you to Megan and Meraj in Darjeeling, to Matt at APV, and Cassie in Dharamsala, for being great hosts in April!