Lunch with Shilpa Jain

Today was a rare treat, lunch with my friend Shilpa Jain. Rare because she lives in India, Udaipur to be exact. Once upon a time we ran a few days of Open Space Technology training together, for her organization, Shikshantar, the People’s Institute for Rethinking Education and Development.

My favorite of all the stories we told today was of a week-long bicycle trip 14 colleagues did last October in India — without cash. They rode out, with signs, juggling gear, sleeping pads, jewelry making tools and no food on their bicycles.

The signs invited conversation. The other stuff was some of what they used to survive… by offering entertainment, cleaning, carrying, and other “body labor” along the way, bridging the gap between urban and rural people, and learning a lot about simple, human relations, economics, exchange, humility and power. I think the humility of the endeavor is most impressive for me.

Shikshantar is doing community work with zero-waste and organic urban gardening. I shared my new Nestworking experiment and Shilpa has connected me with somebody here in town working on community gardens.

Finally, Shilpa brought me a copy of Expressions Annual 2005, a journal recently published by abhivyakti.org.in in which Shilpa interviews me about Open Space. Dialogue, walking, film-making, cooperative games, and a piece by Juanita Brown on World Cafe are also featured this year.

Jill and I are hoping to meet up with Shilpa in Udaipur this Fall, but likely not for the next cashless bike/work tour. Guess we’ll just have to organize our own tour here in Chicago!

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