Practicing (and Finding) Your Art

Posted in Story of Self

Like every good Bengali girl, I was sent to music and dance and art classes when I was young. From the age of seven I attended the classes early in the morning every weekend and during the course of the week, my parents would insist that I practice, at least for an hour, every evening. Practice implied gargling with warm water, sitting with the harmonium, starting with basic notes and then gradually working my way up to a full song. Practice was very much intended to perfect my art. Every note needed to be perfect before I could leave.
Now, at 32, as an entrepreneur, I am finally beginning to recognize why that practice was so important. Today there is such need for everyone to be an expert. However, what if you are a communications expert a digital media expert and a reproductive rights expert as well as a fundraiser and a young global Fellow who has worked on policy change is 18 countries and you speak 8 languages and last but not the least, you train street children in dance, it begs the question, what is your art? What is the single thing that has your entire attention and dedication? What are you working towards perfecting? Or are you trying to perfect anything at all?
When I started 42 Strategies in 2014, I was looking at providing digital services to social impact organizations, and I intended to model the firm along the lines of an agency. Six months down the line, I found myself dabbling in more than just digital services. I was training people and trying to write papers and also delving  into traditional international development – the area of study for my Masters’ degree. What I found, however, was that I was tired, stretched thin and definitely for mastering an art, any art at all. Being a student by nature, I kept finding myself starting to study a topic in depth and then being dragged out so that I could work on something entirely unrelated. It was intensely discombobulating.
I drew the line when I found myself tearing up while watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a famous documentary. Here is a man who has spent his entire life perfecting his art. Practicing every day, for more than sixty years, and still wondering if he had reached his peak. It reminded me of practicing Indian classical music or watching a great guru dance. I realized that I wanted to focus on a single thing and I wanted to be really good at it.
Jiro Ono and his son Yoshikazu

Jiro Ono and his son Yoshikazu. Jiro is widely renowned as the greatest sushi craftsman alive and despite this, still thrives for that elusive goal of perfection.

So, at last, it’s time for the big reveal and here it is: I want to train people to use technology and digital platforms to participate in democratic processes. In the times we are in today, it is really important that citizens are informed and empowered to participate in the political processes that govern their lives, and it’s my single hope that I am able to contribute to that process by training them to take political action.