Apr 29 2014

From Jacqueline


Journal, part 11

(We talked about 'What We Learned About India From Jacqueline Novogratz'. We brought to you a part of her journal from her most recent trip to India (Part I). Here we bring you more from her journal on her recent India.)


Delhi is also looking more beautiful than ever. Perhaps it is because April is supposed to be scorching, but I am finding the weather to be beautiful. And again, I feel I am home – I stay at a tiny guest house where I’ve been staying for a decade now.

There are parrots in the trees; coffee waiting in the morning; and the inimitable Shukla, who runs the guesthouse, remembers every visitor, and makes everyone feel like family.

After more meetings, we head out to Blue Frog, a new, hip club recently opened in Delhi. It is one of the first real night clubs with live music – usually several bands in an evening – and it is run by a visionary entrepreneur who is already thinking beyond the borders of India. The afternoon is hot, but already, cool, young professionals are looking at scripts and deals over coffees and glasses of wine in a courtyard under umbrellas. This is India on the move. And it can’t help but make you smile.


All human beings want to see a correlation between their hard work and some reward. It isn’t more complicated than this.


Friends and young people start streaming in for the Blue Sweater launch. It is the first time the publisher here in India has seen a book launched in a club like this, but it is classic Acumen and I’m proud of our team for going for the unconventional. That makes me smile too. I also feel incredibly blessed as Rohini and Nandan Nilekani, our partners and friends, are hosting the event along with a smaller dinner afterwards. These two are change makers in every sense and our whole team feels honored. Rohini also wrote the foreword to the Indian version of the book and she interviews me in front of what turns out to be a crowd of more than 150.

It is thrilling to see the audience: they are mostly young and committed to being part of something bigger than themselves. You can feel electricity in the air. I want to talk to so many old friends – entrepreneurs, investors, supporters, alumni. This feels like a real homecoming.

(The audience is committed to being part of something bigger than themselves.)

Molly and Keya from the team ask me if I will take a minute to say hello to one of our teammate’s closest friends. She was in an accident and considers Acumen her dream. We walk through the room, saying hello to the vibrant, sparkling young people smiling. In the corner of the room, a young woman in a wheelchair with braces on her legs looks at us. Keya introduces me and the young woman puts her hands over her mouth and squeals. I lean over and hug her, holding her tight as her father and friends look on.

Tarini Mohan, a young, beautiful, intelligent woman, was working at Morgan Stanley when she read my book, decided to quit her job, and moved to Uganda to pursue her dream. I can only imagine the conversations she had, for I remember my own. But this young woman was determined. She had been accepted to Yale School of Management and promised to attend after learning about her true passion: solving poverty.

Six weeks into her time in Uganda, a country she had already come to love, Tarini was driving with a friend on a motorbike, feeling the freedom of wind blowing in her hair in one of the most beautiful places she’d been. A passing truck came out of nowhere and hit the motorbike head-on, killing her friend instantly, smashing her body, and sending her into a coma that would last six months. Life changes in an instant.

"The doctors asked me to name the founder of Acumen to see if I was regaining memory," she says to me through a slowed but intelligent voice. Her father nods, telling me that I am his daughter’s hero – that I inspired her to go to Uganda. My heart breaks. Life isn’t supposed to happen this way.

I tell Tarini that I look forward to seeing her back in Uganda once she is fully recovered. Her smile is full of light: "I still dream of Uganda and I will go back," she says. She hopes to attend Yale one day as well. It has been 18 long months since the accident, with a grueling schedule of physical and cognitive rehab. She knows the journey will be long. And she is not giving up.

I hug her again, feeling as inspired as I have ever been, wondering how many people she already has touched and changed just by being who she is.

We have a wonderful dinner and make it back to the guesthouse long after midnight. I set my alarm for 3:45 for the 6:00 am flight to Pune, but I am not complaining. Not tonight and hopefully not ever.


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