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January 01, 2024 | Pratibha Nayak Team: CoE-Schools 2047

Free Hugs!!

Philanthropy for me is enriching people’s lives through simple actions of love, giving them your time, energy & mental space for a cause… eschewing this over monetary donations (which of course have their own value!!) I have always harboured this deep-seated desire to make a difference to people’s lives through tangible actions (probably why I landed in education & in social sector!). 

Each year, I have dedicated myself to volunteering for either women or farmers or in spiritual organisations, driven by an innate calling for purposeful contribution. However, my relocation to Ahmedabad and integration into the CoE team presented challenges, distancing me from the organizations and people I had previously served in my hometown, Mumbai.

Yet, I didn’t want an entire year to go by without me contributing towards a positive change in a complete stranger’s life. So, I resolved to undertake something seemingly inconspicuous yet profoundly meaningful—a departure from conventional philanthropy yet something that resonated with my soul. I thought of a simple act …. In this busy world, where very few spare a moment to truly listen or demonstrate care, offering a listening ear and a comforting embrace to complete strangers.

Well… What began as a noble aspiration faced a lot of hurdles in real life execution. I reached out to numerous individuals, including our team in Ahmedabad but the constraints of time and space didn’t allow this event to happen. Yet, as the adage goes, when the heart truly desires, the Universe conspires to fulfill its yearnings. Serendipitously, a visit to the Ahmedabad Riverfront, a picturesque locale where diverse expressions find a safe haven, introduced me to a group led by Praful (instagram: listener man). His mission aligned with mine—to listen, hug, applaud, and share sweets with complete strangers. 

With a cardboard sign offering free hugs, I found myself conversing with unfamiliar faces, exchanging wonderful moments of connection through heartfelt hugs. Witnessing complete strangers open up & divulging snippets of their lives, and departing with radiant smiles etched a profound memory for me. The Universe not only orchestrated this convergence but also imparted a valuable lesson: a simple hug possesses the extraordinary power to elicit a beautiful smile from a stranger, transcending barriers of age, gender, caste, class, nationalities and religion. While the impact on them remains a mystery, the day gifted me a trove of stories to share with my future grandkids, friends, family & colleagues (hoping it inspires them to do random acts of kindness)—a testament to the transformative magic hidden within a simple hug of human love & kindness.


Piramal School of Leadership