Are You Waiting for the Monkey God? …..Rishi Kumar.In the early 60s, Edward Lorenz, an MITmeteorologist, coined the term “Butterfly Effect.”He theorized that the formation of a hurricanewas predicated upon the flapping of a butterfly’swings weeks earlier. Now accepted as part ofchaos theory, the butterfly effect does not statethat a butterfly causes the hurricane. Instead, ittheorizes that the fluttering of a butterfly’s wingscan create tiny changes in the atmosphere, which can create a ripple effect thatmay determine the occurrence of a hurricane in a different location. Being theintelligent species we are, let us make intrinsic changes within ourselves, withinour communities, and watch the effect snowball.Are you waiting for Hanuman to right the wrongs in theworld? Don’t. Mahatma Gandhi’s oft repeated quotecomes to mind, “Be the change you want to see in theworld.”We witnessed global unrest last year with the ArabSpring revolt. It began in Tunisia, spread to Egypt, Libya,Greece, Spain, Chile and emerged in North America withthe Occupy movement.The Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement mobilized Indians en masse andenergized the country behind a cause other than cricket. The dots are finallyconnecting. The people of this world are empowering themselves to take action.Come to think of it, every massive change has a grass-roots beginning. Back in2007, a state senator running a very aggressive ground campaign, depended onan electronic network of neighborhood organizers, volunteers, activists, and
energized young precinct walkers to take on Goliath—and ended up in theWhite House. Yes, President Obama used simple Neighbor-to-Neighbor toolswith volunteers reaching out to their community brethren.The volunteers walked within their own neighbour-hoods talking about thereasons why they were supporting Obama, their personal opinions of hispolicies and other election issues. That resonated across the country. The resultswere spectacular.Does the name Daniel Valenzuela ring a bell? It will in the next few months.Daniel Valenzuela is a fourth-generation Mexican-American who won aPhoenix City Council election by having local university students knock onmore than 70,000 doors and increasing the Latino voter turnout by more than400 percent. The statistics were so compelling that President Obama is lookingto copy Daniel’s playbook for the upcoming elections.More recently the KONY 2012 video, a short film created by “The InvisibleChildren, Inc.,” has reached over 90 million views on YouTube creating a grassroots movement to oust Joseph Kony, a Ugandan guerilla leader, from power.Kony, your days are numbered.People’s sentiments can push the wheels of many a cause, and it is for each ofus to take the first step. Growing up in Mumbai, I had the typical “chalta hai”attitude, that typical Mumbaikar attitude of absolute disregard, wanting to besomewhere yesterday. Hey, that’s not my problem, was a common refrain.I discovered the state of total empowerment in graduate school. Tuition hikeswereproposed for the state schools during the recession of ’92. As a graduatestudent I did not need to worry about the tuition, this topic was only of passinginterest. But, I was surprised upon reading the Daily Campus newspaper, howstudents from all over Connecticut had descended onto the State Capitol andwere raising a hue and cry over the upcoming hikes. And I was even more
surprised to discover the then Governor Weicker back down when faced withthe student protests. As a result, the tuition hikes were not as significant asoriginally planned. It made my mind boggle when I realized that the commonman could exert this kind of influence.Back in early 2000, as I settled down in Saratoga, a small town, in the heart ofSilicon Valley California, I was told again and again about Saratoga’santiquated ordinances and stringent processes that seemingly slow projectsdown to the point of frustration. I knew there was more to it. How couldsomething be that wrong? I decided to become a part of the process and thesolution. I joined the city planning commission, and found myself beginning tounderstand the motives behind the process driven culture that the cityforefathers had adopted.Admittedly there were quirks. On the one hand we wanted to promotedevelopment in Saratoga to lead to the revitalization that is talked about at everyelection. On the other hand we needed re-vitalization for the development tohappen; the classic chicken and the egg.I began to wonder what could be done to revitalize Saratoga’s downtown? Theintention was to bring in more foot traffic into the Village to help out the city’sbusinesses. I teamed up with the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce and came upwith the idea of a weekly “Saratoga Village Karaoke,” positioning it as a“Celebration of Cultures” to bring all the various cliques and cultures to join inand mingle.“Saratoga Village Karaoke” rebranded as “Saratoga’s Got Talent”gradually succeeded in bringing lots of newcomers to Saratoga downtown. Did Iever expect that? Not in my wildest dream.At the end of the day, issues are not complicated. All it needs is thoughtleadership and focused interest, to come up with answers. If we can sift throughthe issues and really try to make a difference, answers eventually come. The keyis to get started and get engaged.
The grass roots movement is taking over. Hanuman is here and within each ofus. Are you ready to jump in?“Rishi Kumar lives in the heart of Silicon Valley with his wife Seema and theirtwo boys. Rishi’s day job is in the valley tech industry selling software. In hisspare time, Rishi loves being involved in volunteering for charity, local politics,and hosting the “Saratoga’s Got Talent” event.”