been active with women’s rights movements in Mumbai since 2001;
you also pitched in with relief work after the 2004 tsunami. Was setting
up your own NGO a natural progression from all this?
just dreams: Bose with Gauri Bhure at The Foundation’s
The marathons in Delhi
and Mumbai are one of the most equal spaces — you have people
running in their Nikes and people running barefoot
I didn’t see
it as a logical process; I’ve been involved with various social
work initiatives and this wasn’t a ‘progression’ in
that sense. But, yes, having your own NGO gives you that fleet-footedness
and flexibility to intervene quickly in the areas where one wants to.
For instance, I really wanted to help this peon who was the only eyewitness
in the Prof Sabharwal murder — he had been threatened and had
gone into hiding; in fact, he was hiding in a water tank for six days.
To help him, I had to find an NGO that was politically neutral and financially
transparent — that was important. But these issues take their
own time to sort out and you lose valuable time.
the broad areas that The Foundation is going to work with?
I naturally gravitate
to gender equality, youth, sports and communal harmony. One of our first
projects is the Andaman Nicobar Scholarship Initiative, where our basic
idea is to select children from the islands based on their academic
proficiency and talent, and get them admitted into mainstream schools.
The Andamans don’t even remotely figure on the psychological radar
of mainland India — we just have no idea of anything about the
people here, how they live, what their culture is like. The tremendous
ignorance levels are understandable because of the geographical schism
— there is no Indian Idol coming out of there, no Reality TV,
nothing — but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t
try to bridge the huge and very real psychological and emotional schisms
that exist. Ours is just an attempt to provide that bridge.
how does The Foundation propose to go about its work?
It’s a trust,
with two trustees, and me and two directors. We got very lucky —
we didn’t have to hire anyone, a close friend owns a pr agency
and they’re letting us use their office and people for our work.
Shalini Sachdev is the director working on the Andaman project, and
the other director, Gauri Bhure, is in Mumbai, shepherding the long-term
vision of the foundation. What really got us all together was a sort
of dismay at the direction things are taking today — I guess it
is something that many of us feel, but if you notice, there was no sense
of caste or creed in the schools and times we grew up in and now it’s
everywhere. We really want to work to bring in an ethos of non-discrimination;
as part of our next step, we’ve evolved an initiative with Teesta
Setalvad and Communalism Combat.
your vision for The Founda-tion? Where do you see it headed?
It has to be fearless
and robust, of course, but it’s not something that works only
out of a sense of outrage and a desire to see justice, but is at the
same time measured and loving as well.
Do you think
people who are prominent in the public eye should lend more support
to similar causes?
because it places an added responsibility on them. The same charter
of ethics doesn’t always apply to public service — it’s
something that can genuinely come only with a pure and loving space.
To produce great art, one doesn’t necessarily need great people.
The social contract is a deeply personal thing, it has to come from
celebrities in the West seem to be more engaged with this sense of a
I think it’s
all about the society that one is a part of at a point of time. Hollywood,
and what construes it, has grown to include social responsibility. Some
of them do it to raise their brand equity and some do it out of a deeper
sense of responsibility. It depends on what point you’re at in
your cycle of civilisation. This country is coming out of its lowest
cycle, and that upheaval is going to take a long time. What The Foundation
is trying to do is bring the two Indias together. Kherlanji is an hour’s
drive from Mumbai — one is already aware of the vast difference
between these two places. The two Indias have never been further apart
and that difference is phenomenal. Yet, if one sees the marathons that
happen in Delhi and Mumbai, they’re one of the most equal spaces
— you have people running in their Nikes and there are people