Alina Alam - an Inspiration
Updated: Apr 9
This isn’t an eloquent work couched in literary devices. It is not about my words speaking to you, but instead, about events that will hopefully string our hearts together with an invisible bond, urging us to make a difference.
Three years from today, Alina Alam was just another student fresh out of university, waiting for job placements. It was then that she heard the story of Nero:
“Once upon a time (I don’t use the phrase loosely – I’m talking about 54 AD.), the vast lands of Rome were ruled by a powerful and ambitious ruler, Nero. He won battle after battle, conquered land after land, gaining fame for his prowess and power. One evening, weary and exhausted, Nero returned from the what he considered the biggest battle of his life. As dusk settled in, he decided that his victory merited a party. Lightbulbs being a luxury of the future, Nero was at a loss of how to brighten the evening, until, all of a sudden, he felt inspired.
‘Why not burn some waste?’ he thought. ‘Why not burn the prisoners of war?’
And that’s what he did. The who’s who of Rome all arrived at the party, dancing and singing, chirping and cheering, while people around them morphed into melted flesh.”
It was through this story, that something in Alina shifted. She realised then, that the problem in the story was not Nero – there will always be Neros in the world. The problem, was his guests, who were dancing and singing while people died. Alina then raised the question, “Who is Nero’s guest?”, and realised that the finger pointed at her, and me, and you, and every person that has the power of making a difference, but instead, chooses to be indifferent.
It was with this thought, that Mitti Café was born, with the hope of providing employment to the physically and mentally disabled. What started with a single employee – Kirti – in Hubli, is now the tale of 100+ hopeful men and women, who have found their niche under Alina.
The tales of Alina are numerous and excruciating. At the threshold of her journey, Alina went from donor to donor, institution to institution, but in vain – she was knocked down by everybody. A leading philanthropist company that Alina visited in high spirits, had to mark her basis certain criteria. When it came to marking “Passion”, the one criteria Alina believed she more than fulfilled, she was marked a paltry 1/5 by every judge on the panel. Explaining how she ploughed on, Alina said, “I would have betrayed my heart if I'd had heard what the world said about me.”
I had the pleasure of coming in contact with Alina through my internship with Social Venture Partners (SVP), a philanthropist institution that is currently supporting the growth of Mitti Café. Over the last few months, I have heard this very story, and the tales of her resilient employees three times, and each time, I am left with a chill creeping down my spine, feeling unsettled but simultaneously heart-warmed and absolutely amazed. Working with SVP was very enriching. However, I’m waiting (fingers crossed) for an opportunity to work for the lady whose empathy, courage and determination have touched my heart immensely. I would not be exaggerating if I called Alina Alam one of my role models.
As the plight of the world, and of humanity, worsens, I believe that it is our obligation to work towards a cause we believe in. I spent a large part of the previous year feeling small, inconsiderate and worthless, trying to figure out how I could do something as impactful as the Alina Alams of the world. It took some time before I realised that I need not begin with a bang. A cliché Hindi phrase reads, “Boond boond se sagar bharta hai”. This roughly translates to “every drop contributes to filling the ocean”. Not everybody needs to have an epiphany and the courage to put aside everything in their life to prioritise the growth of others. A small change is still a change.
Maybe you didn’t learn anything interesting from this piece. Maybe you’re bored. Maybe you skipped to the end because I wrote too much. But if you didn’t feel inspired by this story, it's on you to find your Alina Alam, and the cause that truly moves you, and then to do something about it. Here's something to mull over: if you feel for a cause and don’t do anything about it, then you have already taken a side.