10th Anniversary Of Mantra4Change: The evening we all waited for!
Updated: Mar 29
March 02, 2023, Bengaluru: As I stepped out of Innovations, a venue near Mantra4Change’s office in Bengaluru, after finishing the last session of Mantra Manthan, Mantra’s annual reflection & strategy meet, I was greeted with a wave of heat that immediately made me break into sweat. The air was thick, with the regular car horn honking. The streets were crowded with people hurrying to their destinations, their faces flushed with the heat. It was not the pleasant weather Bangalore is known for. Dehydrated and drenched in sweat, I walked my way home.
My mind was preoccupied with what to wear for the special evening. I mulled over the various options in my head, trying to decide on the perfect outfit. As I finally reached home, I hurriedly made my way to my wardrobe, confused and indecisive. After searching through my clothes for what seemed like ages, I finally stumbled upon a teal blue kurta, washed but wrinkled. I had no energy to pick up the press and iron it. Thinking of the occasion, I summoned all my strength and ironed it. It drained me further. When I finished ironing, it was already 4 PM. Am I going to make it on time? I panicked even more! I had to be there before everyone else, as I was not only part of the organizing team but also the communications team, which had to ensure coverage. I requested auto, not just on Uber, but Rapido, Ola, and whatnot, while I was still getting ready.
Bangalore surprised me once again when my phone rang, I picked up, and I heard - Sar nānu sthaḷadalliddēne, nīvu elliddīri? (Sir, I am at the location, where are you). The auto had come instantly. I quickly grabbed my bag and rushed downstairs before he canceled the ride. My heart skipped a beat as the auto engine roared to life. Suddenly, I remembered the favor Rhea and Hari, the hosts of the evening, had asked of me - to bring a xerox copy of their script to the venue. Panic set in as I realized I had forgotten it. My forehead broke out in a cold sweat, and my palms became slick with nervousness. "Ohhh no!" I exclaimed aloud, feeling the pressure mounting. Now it was a race against time, which I was already short on, to get the script to the hosts before the event started! I asked the driver to halt the auto and hurried to the photocopy shop. I felt a wave of panic wash over me when I realized that I was not going to make it to the venue anytime soon! But just as I thought all was lost, a miracle happened. As I fumbled to pull out the tab to send the file to the shopkeeper, the script magically appeared from my bag! In all the chaos around me, I had completely forgotten that I had it with me since leaving Innovations. With my heart rate finally returning to normal and my sweat drying up, I felt a sense of calm after a very long time, and I eagerly continued on to the venue.
Arriving at the venue
I arrived at the venue and was greeted with a buzz of excitement. The atmosphere was electric, and I felt a sense of pride and joy seeing all the planning and preparations come to life. The lights were shining brightly, and the decorations were beautiful, with every detail carefully thought out. As I mingled with the guests, I couldn't help but feel a sense of happiness seeing everyone having a good time.
Narayan and Archana were busy with the registration process, handing out handmade butterfly bracelets made by the school children from Youth Resource Center, Hennagara, a cluster where Mantra works on school transformation. The excitement in the air was palpable, and everyone was looking forward to an evening filled with fun, laughter, and nostalgia.
At around 5 in the evening, the guests started the "gallery walk," walking through the ten-year journey of Mantra, which was categorized into five stages: seed, sapling, budding, branching, and flowering. It was fascinating to witness the transformation of Mantra over the years and how it has impacted so many lives.
After the gallery walk, people made their way to the gaming area, where various teams had set up their game stations, themed around the work of Mantra. It was a great way to learn about Mantra's initiatives while having fun and winning prizes. The teams had put in much effort to create informative and engaging games for children and adults. Katyayani, my colleague, and I were intrigued by the Pictionary counter by Vijay and Pradeep from the Karnataka team.
When the games were over, we took a break to have some evening tea and snacks, and people took the opportunity to catch up with old friends, greet each other, and take photographs while the children ran around and played tirelessly.
As the evening progressed, people slowly settled inside the hall, where the stage was set for the next few hours of magical performances. At 6:00 PM, Rhea and Hari, welcomed everyone to the evening - it began with Yakshagana, a dance drama popular in coastal Karnataka, by the school students of Hennagar. The performance was captivating, and the students showcased their talent with great enthusiasm.
Today's evening is for you!
Later, the hosts asked some interesting questions to the guests before welcoming Rucha, COO of Mantra4Change, who delivered the welcome note. It’s always good to listen to Rucha, but this time it was a little more, with a collar mic round her neck, making her look elegant and cool at the same time. The whole room resounded with thunderous applause when Rucha said - “Mantra’s strength has been shared by our team of 80, with over 50% of them women and almost 30 of whom have been with us for at least four years. Team, today’s evening is for you. Congratulations! Here’s to many more miles together”. Absolute goosebumps!!! This was followed by a Mantra film trailer covering its ten-year journey. It was indeed an emotional journey, and the guests were deeply moved by the impact that Mantra had created over the years. There was a moment of quiet when the film ended. I guess everyone was thinking about how they were instrumental in this journey.
Stories On Stage!
Rucha's welcome note was followed by our hosts calling teams on stage and presenting glimpses of some of the stories of change Mantra had enabled over the years. After they were done, the audience was asked to guess the story. Different teams kept coming in between the line-up, discussing micro-improvement projects such as Parents Teacher Meetings, Learning Circle, School Sawaren Hum, and many more. Learning circles are an integral part of one of our first programs, STEP - School Transformation and Empowerment Program. The Learning Circles empower teachers who often feel isolated in their classrooms. These teachers get a chance to come together and learn from their peers in a fun way through this weekly platform. In Bihar, 69,000 Headmasters conducted Parents Teachers Meeting leveraging Micro-Improvement projects on DIKSHA based on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy. Approx 14 lakh parents participated in these PTMs. School Sawarein Hum is an EduMentum-led initiative in partnership with NCERT to build a collective of organizations that celebrate grassroots innovations leading to school transformation. Over 80 organizations have participated in this initiative and have been recognized nationally. Seeing how much change Mantra had brought about in the education ecosystem was inspiring. I was surprised to see the hidden performers in Shivani, Charul, Sriram, Gunjan, Bidya and others when they were enacting the stories on stage.
Khushboo & Santosh's Turn!
Then came the moment everyone awaited; the co-founders of Mantra, Santosh, and Khushboo were called on stage to take the proceedings forward. They had been the driving force behind creating a culture of leadership, and their vision and unrelenting effort have helped bring Mantra this far. They took time to acknowledge each guest who had come from near or far. Everyone! With utmost humility and grace, they felicitated Mantra’s partners, supporters, and mentors, whose invaluable contribution has been instrumental in the organization's growth.
They did not forget to honor the backbone of Mantra - its dedicated employees. Those who had completed a remarkable five years of service were felicitated with great fervor and admiration.
Furthermore, the co-founders called upon all employees' family members onto the stage. They expressed deep gratitude for their unwavering support towards their loved ones' journey at Mantra. I watched in awe as they felicitated their respective mothers, thanking them for their unconditional love and support. It was truly a touching moment, not just for me but for everyone in the room.
The organizing team surprised Santosh and Khushboo with a sweet gesture. They got thumb impressions of the entire Mantra family on canvas, framed it, and presented it to them on stage. It was followed by a token of reverence from Regila and Ram from Vidhya Vidhai, one of our EduMentee-s, who gave a memento to Santosh and Khushboo.
Why believe in Mantra?
Next on stage was Mr. Sanjay Purohit, the guiding light for Mantra. As he stepped up to the microphone, the crowd fell silent in anticipation of his words. He began by sharing how he got in touch with Santosh and then explained his long-term association with Mantra and how it has grown from just an organization to an idea that embodies the true spirit of innovation, teamwork & dedication. His words were powerful, and you could see the impact they had on everyone in the room.
But he wasn't the only one to speak. Mr. Chetan Kapoor, another important figure in Mantra's journey, also took to the stage to share his reasons for sticking with the organization for so long. His words echoed the same sentiment as Mr. Purohit's, and the two of them together really drove home the idea of what Mantra is truly about.
Stealing the show: Anekal Team
But the highlight of the evening, without a doubt, was the hilarious skit performed by the Karnataka team. Their skit - “A Typical First Day at Mantra,” was so relatable that everyone in the audience was laughing their hearts out. Pradeep, Narayan, Vijay, Basavaraj and Raghu truly stole the show with their impeccable theatrical skills and perfect comic timing. Their performance was so entertaining that it had the entire crowd in splits, and we couldn't stop talking about it even after the event was over. I can't praise these four performers enough for their outstanding work. They truly brought the house down and left us all with a memory that we will cherish forever. What a fantastic way to end the evening!
Bringing Down the Curtain!
Finally, as the performances came to a close, Revathi, Director of People & Culture, Mantra4Change, took to the stage to deliver the vote of thanks. She thanked each and every person who contributed to making this event a success. As she asked people to gather for a group photo, it was time for the much-awaited dinner. The tables were laid out with a variety of dishes, and families and friends came together to enjoy the feast.
As everyone rushed towards dinner, I hung back, waiting for my colleague, Katyayani, to wrap up her tech responsibilities. We shared a moment of relief that everything had gone smoothly, without any technical hiccups. It felt like a true accomplishment, and we were both elated.
We waited for the dinner line to shorten, and I felt a sense of contentment wash over me. The night had been a celebration of our hard work and dedication, and it felt like we had all come together to create something truly special.
After dinner, I headed home, my mind racing with thoughts about the future of Mantra and the impact we could have on the education ecosystem. It was an exciting time, and I felt privileged to be a part of it. With ten years under our belts, we had already achieved so much, but there was so much more we could do. The possibilities were endless, and I couldn't wait to see where the journey would take us next.
An account by Sushant, Program Communications Lead, Mantra4Change