Small Talk With Ajit Sivaram

CHANGE leaders do great things, and often that is all we know about them. Here we want to get a different glimpse of the personalities that constitute the development space. Every month we get one leader to answer four quirky questions. This week we catch up with AJIT SIVARAM, the managing trustee of U&I.

U&I is a volunteer-driven non-profit that invests in after-school programmes for children from underprivileged backgrounds and healthcare for the differently-abled. Besides courses in English, maths, science and social studies, their 360 Program give children a holistic education through science camps, field trips, art workshops and career building workshops in order to build their confidence.

Today, U&I reaches 850 individuals in 10 cities across India. Additionally, U&I also seeks to transform institutional care in India and assists in the care and rehabilitation of 85 mentally challenged and 100 special needs men at two Bangalore-based, state-run residential facilities. They provide medical care, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and grooming for the residents, many of whom have been abandoned by their families.

Small Change: Dogs, cats, or reptiles? And why? While you are at it, are you scared of lizards?

A.S: First answer would be NONE! But if I had to pick, then it would be reptiles for sure. Why? They’re offbeat and very few people would actually have reptiles as pets. Would make for fun conversations when people come over and would be a great way to teach my kids to love all animals, not just dogs and cats. Am I scared of lizards? Nah, I’m a professional lizard slayer.

Small Change: What are three things you would take with you on a 16-hour flight?

A.S: My wife and two kids …oh the question says things! iPad, headphones and a really, really nice pillow.

Small Change: What movie last made you tear up? If movies don’t make you cry, then which one had the most emotional impact?

A.S: Last teared up watching ‘I Am Not Your Guru’ – it’s a documentary about Tony Robbins. Cried like a baby just listening to some of the stories. Some of the things people have been through and fought through really got to me. The transformation in people’s lives that they showcased was amazing. I have watched it four-five times and I still cry!

Small Change: Do you think humans have souls? If so, tell us more about what you think. If not, why?

A.S: Wow! This is a deep one. Definitely. I believe that there is intelligent design in everything we see around us and that goes for humans too. Impacting a human’s soul is one of the greatest things we can do. It’s lasting and makes a world of difference. It’s what I live for.

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