After a stroll in central Mumbai this morning, I stopped to have some chai. The morning rays were pleasant yet sharp. The tea-seller was doing business as usual. There was a tiny entry next to his stall which looked like a walkway into a room where he lives. A younger man walked out of that walkway, rubbing his eyes.
His first question to his tea-seller father was “Pakistan ne kuch kiya? (Did Pakistan do anything?)” Everyone in the city and my Nation is aware and conscious of what is happening at the border and beyond. There is hope for the best. You probably came across different versions on news channels. I do not intend to bombard you with more. Opinions are all over the place, you have the right to have yours.
Today is a significant day and all of us are waiting for a hero to return home.
The conversation I overheard this morning rekindled my emotions from an event not so long ago. A fortnight has passed since the terrorist attack in Pulawama. I was in Bengaluru photographing an employee wellness run the Sunday after the attack. I intended to write about the Empower Run the day it happened but could not get around to it until today.
The Empower Run, is an employee engagement initiative by Accenture and is entwined with its Corporate Social Responsibility. I have been a freelance sports photographer for a while now and covered a reasonable number of events. I continue to do these assignments for multiple reasons. The biggest is to connect to real, raw and unstaged emotions that sport usually highlights.
Here’s my interpretation of the Empower Run. I imagine whoever coined the name must have thought “Em(ployee) power Run, why not? Right!” It is exactly what it seemed like to me. As an observer, there was so much to take in. We all know health is wealth. What follows comes from what I saw and connected with on the day and will continue to hold relevance in my heart.
‘Empower’, for starters, is such a beautiful word, it means: ‘make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.’ I wonder if the thought leaders behind the event took the word literally. It sure seemed like that.
I could see the employees and employers breathing fresh air outside tall concrete buildings in which they work every day. That Sunday morning felt truly empowered. #MyWellBeing was inscribed on their T-shirts and they picked a reason for why they were out there that morning.
Self-awareness and being responsible for something they truly feel for, a beautiful concept super simply displayed and clearly encouraged meaningfully. That morning, the employees had a choice. They could participate by walking, running or walking & running various distances from 2.5km to 10km. The idea was not competition; it was about camaraderie and that was in display aplenty.
It stuck with me because it was an enabler, it helped people get out on a Sunday to spend time beyond the walls of their offices. While at it, they were made conscious of how important their own well-being was.
Such initiatives help start a new journey for many. With no pressure of time to complete or competition, and choice of distance, the outing allowed them to do what they wanted. And they did it in support of a cause that is/was close to their heart. The organisers encouraged them to write down what the employees were running for.
It was heart touching to see them wear their thoughts on their bibs. Writing makes one think. Writing makes one belong to a thought that could be fleeting. Thoughts I saw, ranged from Self Improvement to Women Empowerment and mental illness, amongst others but the most common one was: “In support of the CRPF Jawans”.
The moment I saw the first bib, emotions swirled in my heart. It made me smile and sad at the same time. The people I saw that Sunday did not just write on their bibs because someone else did. I believe they did it in true, unwavering support and respect for those brave jawans, who keep us safe, and their families. I believe everyone in India is aware and concerned about their well-being. It is challenging to write further as I am truly out of words for the heroes, the real heroes.
All of us may not be able to live every day in the spirit that they do. The spirit of the Indian Armed Forces whose motto is Service before Self. We can however remind ourselves constantly that they put their service before themselves for us, for our well-being. They are doing everything they can to keep us safe. We could honor them in a small way by being aware of our well-being by taking little steps.