To set the tone on Day One of 2021, we are delighted to bring you this reflection by eminent brand architect Kiran Khalap, Co-founder & MD – chlorophyll.
In this exclusive Year-Ender 2020 piece, Kiran — who began his career as a school teacher and moved on to become a copywriter, brand consultant, travel writer and author, and co-founded his highly regarded communications company — reflects upon the lessons from 2020.
His thoughts offer a wonderfully eye-opening mix of the philosophic and the actionable — all stemming from an empathetic heart. Amongst the several takeaways is the immensely relevant 4-word phrase that can — and should — become a guidance and mission for each one of us in all that we do.
It’s in the headline.
What did 2020 teach me?
The biggest inflection point in my life was in 1977, when at 19 years of age, I read J. Krishnamurti, jumped off the middle-class ship to prosperity via becoming a medical practitioner, and ended up as a house-master and teacher in one of the schools inspired by his teachings…in exotic Benaras.
I was there till 1983: which means I was soaked in his books, videos, and his live personal dialogues with students and teachers.
What’s that got to do with 2020, you ask?
Indulge me for a couple of paras and I will attempt an answer.
Because it was in 2020, just a couple of weeks ago, that Ajai Jhala, my good friend since 1983, made me aware of a stunning phrase used by Krishnamurti in 1977 in California.
I quote now.
“Part-way through this particular talk,” writes Jim Dreaver, who was present, “Krishnamurti suddenly paused, leaned forward and said, almost conspiratorially, ‘Do you want to know what my secret is?’ ” (There are several accounts of this event; details vary.) Krishnamurti rarely spoke in such personal terms, and the audience was electrified, Dreaver recalls. “Almost as though we were one body we sat up… I could see people all around me lean forward, their ears straining and their mouths slowly opening in hushed anticipation.” Then Krishnamurti, “In a soft, almost shy voice,” said: “You see, I don’t mind what happens.”*
Not minding what happens.
There’s another word for that: acceptance.
There’s another phrase for that from the Bhagavad Gita: “Karmanye vaadhikaarastey ma faleshu kadaachan”.
2020 taught me acceptance.
Not resignation. Not sufferance. Not passivity. Not submission.
Acceptance of the fact that I had no a?nswers. Not insisting I had solutions.
I realised that a joyous acceptance of reality releases a kind of energy you have never witnessed before: Kiran Khalap
I realized that a joyous acceptance of reality releases a kind of energy you have never witnessed before.
The first reality was that nobody, absolutely nobody knew anything.
In March 2020, six scholars from CDDEP, John Hopkins, and Princeton predicted 400 million (40 crore) Indians would be affected by July 2020. **
The worldometer site says India has reached one crore by December 30th, 2020.
The WHO didn’t know what it was saying. Doctors didn’t know. The so-called epidemiologists were busy building conspiracy theories probably because they didn’t know either.
All theories, all prediction, all illusion.
So I was left with the acceptance of the reality around me.
One reality was the heartbreaking hunger and deprivation of the daily workers pan-India: so I ended up helping multiple organizations with donations.
At the other end, one reality was the security guards in the building
I stay in. I realized sponsoring breakfast or lunch wasn’t enough.
Their hearts were empty, not just their stomachs; they envied colleagues that had run away to the safety of their villages. So I started yoga, pranayama, and meditation classes for them.
The reality in my organization was the revenue shrinking because of the revenue of the clients shrinking: so we pivoted and started four new verticals, went out and found out who they were most relevant to, and created a new stream of business.
We prevented the most vulnerable colleagues from succumbing to this alien darkness at noon.
I started speaking to the families of my colleagues, every day, one at a time, reassuring them I was around, the organization was around, we were not going to cave in.
The reality of our clients: we assured them we would be around even if they were unable to pay us.
The reality of not needing an office space you have to pay lakhs for.
On the other hand, the reality of working from home: not everybody is happy doing it.
The emptiness of Zoom versus the reality of meeting your colleagues and hugging them after their parents and children and brothers and sisters have returned from lonely nights in hospitals to a home lit with sunshine and family.
Let me end with the acceptance of the future since it will merely be an extension of the past.
Whatever we do, what will
make our lives meaningful will only be what makes us
human: Kiran Khalap
Whatever we do, what will make our lives meaningful will only be what makes us human.
Yes, profits build bulwarks for organizations against future Covid eras, but it is compassion and love for each other that builds bulwarks against the collapse of the human spirit during those eras.
Let us not mind what happens, but always mind what we can.