Join us on this heartful conversation with these 2 incredibly inspiring icons as we explore their inner journeys along with some stories and insights from their incredible work at Goonj.
Goonj’s work over last 2 decades has been instrumental in strengthening the culture of giving in urban India and increasing sensitivity towards the dignity of the receiver, and to honor the collective intelligence already present in rural communities. Further, at every disaster - like floods, or the pandemic, or the daily disasters like poverty, through the length and breadth of India, one can see spirited Goonj team, serving our sisters and brothers in need.
What started as an expression of the “still small voice” within them by giving away 67 of their own clothes, has become an idea, a movement in no time, today enabling 5,000 tonnes of material to be shared annually. Goonj has been torchbearer in highlighting clothing as a basic unaddressed need that deserved a place on the development agenda, and repositioned discard of urban households, as a development resource for villages. As Goonj has blazed the trail from discard to dignity, for a trash based (not cash based) circular economy. Born in the same year as their daughter Urvi, Goonj has been their child, as well as their parent.
Anshu Gupta - The eldest child in a middle-class family from Dehradun, a road accident in his teens rendered bed-ridden – botched healthcare because his father refused to pay a bribe. But the yearlong confinement in bed served as a period for introspection. To this, were added the seeds of service when he travelled to Uttarkashi in 1991 for post-earthquake relief efforts. Later, at Goonj, an organization he founded that redistributes over 3500 tonnes of used clothes annually, this first hand experience of rural India helped him structure imaginative solutions with urban surplus, to some basic needs that were outside the radar of civil society. Anshu Gupta, India’s Clothing Man, embodies an instinctive empathy and connect with people, moving the focus from the conventional – giver’s pride to the unconventional – receiver’s dignity. The Ramon Magsaysay award 2015, conferred to him credited him for “his creative vision in transforming the culture of giving in India, his enterprising leadership in treating cloth as a sustainable development resource for the poor, and in reminding the world that true giving always respects and preserves human dignity.” Anshu’s vision for Goonj extends beyond its organizational structure : “Goonj doesn’t want to grow only as an organization; it wants to grow as an idea.”
Meenakshi Gupta- A Commerce Graduate with an advanced degree in Advertising, Meenakshi largely remained the behind the scenes worker in the initial years of Goonj. In 2005 she joined the work full time, ending her 15 years corporate career, also ending 8-year stint as News Publicity Head at BBC South Asia. Often called the backbone of organization, Meenakshi serves the movement in multiple ways - right from anchoring the group in the foundational values, to giving voice to unheard communities like women including menstrual hygiene issues, it communications strategy, co-authoring 100 Stories of Change. Widely travelled and a trained Dance Movement Facilitator, Meenakshi values her time with people in the deep interiors of India as her biggest learning.
In this inspiring poem, they share their wisdom as they co-created their lives’ paths, and in turn, it shaped them.
अगर चल सकते हो अनथक,
और छाव का इंतज़ार नहीं है
तो यह जगह तुम्हारी है ...
अगर भरोसा है खुद पर,
और अविश्वास नहीं है जग पर
तो यह जगह तुम्हारी है ...
अगर आँख नहीं है पर दृष्टि है,
तन का एक भाग नहीं है, पर मस्ती है
तो यह जगह तुम्हारी है …
अगर नींद से प्यारा है सपना,
और ज़िद के साथ ले सकते हो जोख़िम
तो यह जगह तुम्हारी है..'