Wild Hearts is a contemporary art piece regarding my personal sharing as a sustainable entrepreneur that I have prepared for my voice and participation in Day in the Sun, wonderfully organised by Millet World. I think this fair might just have sparked the beginning of the integration of my core passions: family, art, entrepreneurism.
“Wild Hearts”, 2019
for a Day in the Sun
mixed media, multiple dimension
a work travel bag of stuff
Here is how “Wild Hearts” work:
my work travel bag
- Kindly unpack my work travel bag.
- Do enjoy my work survival kit, but please remember to pack them back in.
- Help yourself to my namecard, and please leave yours in my namecard purse.
- Should you desire to exchange a token for a Wild Heart Token, please do so. I would be absolutely thrilled! Kindly place your exchange token in my work travel bag.
- Kindly repack my work travel bag when satisfied.
- I’ll pick it up from Aravind on Monday.
- You’ve been swell exploring my work travel bag. Thank you.
“In the sunshine of your mind” – Roy Orbison
It is so important to be able to light up hope when during the difficult nights of doubts, you wonder if the path that you are on is where you are supposed to tread on. The good and bad news is that your foot is treading on the next step anyway. So, whether it is good or bad, is really up to you. Up to you to define and direct the next step. Then the path becomes your own way. You can own it, and interestingly, it is never for sale. So, what is for sale?
What is sustainable entrepreneurship if your path and your work is not for sale?
This has been my constant, business (somewhat treacherous) conflict and dilemma as a sustainable entrepreneur. I ask this question every day, and it agonises me a lot, and it comes out as foolish to many, and equally agonising to my investors and colleagues. Yet, we have stayed. We have stayed with each other, for one another.
I realise now after 20 years of daring to take that first step as an entrepreneur, meaning starting up my own business, and owning my own companies, that entrepreneurism isn’t that act of owning a business, but that act of desiring to do something different, not for the sake of it, but in recognition that something isn’t right. Something in the economics system is missing, and isn’t serving everyone. And so, my own path has always been about the discovery of the responses that MUST work, to serve those previously unserved. Must because, there are lives who are in great need. And they are suffering. And a precious human life suffering, is unacceptable, for me.
And we can’t look away, and pretend that it is ok.
And I didn’t know that this is to become my unchanging “why” when I took that first step on the journey of entrepreneurism. Until 20 years later. And then, I look back and say to myself, “Gosh, that went by fast.” And what have I to show for that journey? Alas, it is becoming clear this morning: it’s my stories. I have become a storyteller, a travelling tradeswoman; a simple, honest peddler on the streets, of hope. And actually, that ain’t bad at all. In fact, it is quite fantastic. I have found riches beyond the currency of the times; I have found so many friends, so many hopes, delivered on so many dreams – especially, truthfully, my own. Paradoxically, I have been the unquestionable beneficiary of this tumultuous journey, and I feel tremendously grateful for it.
The Surprising Insight
The insight of this morning is that my first unserved was – me. Over the 20 years of ups and downs, I realise today that I have been prototying iteratively for myself an unshakeable and unsinkable boat in the storm: conviction.
Conviction, for me, or the search of voice, meaning, purpose, culture, participation, citizenry, and service is about identity. These can’t find articulation until they hit us, sock us in the stomach like a big internalisation of our own authentically experienced and determined language, story, knowledge, framing, and decisions of acceptable truths, and then commitments, often discovered during a gifting of a big dose of humility, accompanied by learnt patience, taught tenderly.
Dignity and Beauty
Feelings are the hardest. They are raw, emotional and undeniable, no matter how much we run away from it. What does all this have to do with entrepreneurism? For me, I have learnt that this is everything. I understand now that being an entrepreneur is birthed out of the fire of necessity and circumstance. If entrepreneurism is detached from livelihood, it is a lab exercise. It isn’t entrepreneurism but a research project. Entrepreneurs breathe very close to the air of survival and hold in our guts every day of those who need to fend and provide for ourselves, our families, our communities, our nation states, and our local-global governance, peace and harmony. Entrepreneurs are persons, teams, family, community, nation, global village builders.
And so, the most critical, vital and vibrant quality of a sustainable entrepreneur, for me, is care. In caring, we find joy. We feel the inarticulable of loving and being loved.
I have learnt that unless and until we learn to practise seeing our own inner rawness as beauty and exercise self-care, it is very difficult to nurture others. Until we find our own coherence, our own voice, our own stand, our own meaning and purpose, our own decisions, our own presence, it is very difficult to actually lead others. At most, we are just in a holding pattern, hoping that something materialises, like shape-shifting clouds in the sky. We aren’t yet creating, and far from co-creating. Because, for me, leadership and creativity have a very definite direction: in the moment of greatest need, it arises to pay forward, always. And so, I have become unafraid of need. I have learnt that if we can hold our authenticity in our most difficult struggles then somehow the puzzle of the wholeness of dignity arrives in search of us.
I don’t know why I listen to songs during my road warrior investigation, validation and creation of new markets, but they are my accompaniments. I listen to the emotional tensions in the songs, to the inarticulable except by way of song, and the hope of love and friendship, and everything that can be right about the world, if only we believe. So, I listen to songs, to sooth myself during very difficult moments, and I listen to songs, to celebrate, during the amazing unexpected triumphs of insights and realities.
This song, “Wild Hearts Run Out of Time” by Roy Orbison, kept playing for me this grey morning, running up to Deepavali and Millet World’s incredible “Day in the Sun” micro-entrepreneurism fair. Aravind called me this morning, and I knew even before I had put down the phone, that I would be participating. Because, it isn’t about introducing Bilberries Blue to the community, but it is because of Colin, Ming Yen, Tee Tong, Aravind, Tenny and their teams. It is because they inspire me. They keep lighting the light in the dark, forgotten places, and they reclaim the truths of spaces, and turn them into places of belonging. Places of hope, of love, of friendship, and of the preciousness of realness. They turn darkness not into the blinding light of neons, but into places of hospitality where wild hearts can truly share and realise dreams.
I have learnt that sometimes turning up is all that matters. Especially if it seems very little or invisible, even. It is the intent that matters. Because the intent that carries the heart of that small hope for a better future is already on its way to realising itself.
The most difficult moments for me are when I can’t find or build the bridges between separations, to enable the flows of goodwill and trade between people and communities through the market mechanism. For me, sustainable entrepreneurs are living exchanges of multitudes of crossroads and confluences of culture, which over time turn into the mutuality and reciprocity of hospitality. When you understand the other’s world, you then begin to enter it, and vice versa. After a while, a new world forms between the two. And very often, it begins because both have a need, a void that can only be filled by the other. It sounds terrifyingly like a love affair, but perhaps, truthful exchanges do drill down to this: I need you, and you need me, for us to be whole.
My friends who are my colleagues are going to yell at me for saying all this. But, I think, today, I really just want to stand on my own ground of truth. And this is really where I have arrived at after that very first decision to be an entrepreneur.
Don’t Waste Time
I hold in my own wild heart, a very dear wisdom of one of my mentors, “Don’t waste time.” And he is right. And so, I turn up with my suitcase too at this fair. It is all I ever wanted to be: to be an entrepreneur. The reason just revealed itself to me now. Because of my dad. I want to be an entrepreneur, just like my dad. Because he is my star. And so, I have always aspired to be a star, like him. And today, for whatever strange reason, I do feel like a star. Even though I don’t have the traditional riches to show for it, but a humble suitcase of hope.
my work travel bag
Because I am a woman
And because I am a woman, I also wanted more than anything to have a family: to be a mom. To be a mom like my mom is to me. She is always fully present for me, even now, and I am already 49 years old. I will always be her baby, and she always – my mom. Motherhood is really just this, for me and my mom. When mom is around, she is my mom, and I am her precious, baby daughter. It is that simple, and that marvelous. My mom was fully present throughout my childhood, for me. And when I was a young adult, what I wanted more than anything, even more than being an entrepreneur, is to be a mom. To be that kind of woman, who is a mom for my children. My husband and two beautiful children are gifts for my life, and weekends are our family time. And because childhood comes with a timeclock, I have learnt never to compromise this priority, and risk the regret of missing out too much of family time when I look back later after my children have grown into independent adults. And so, my work-life choices have always been about my family first.
So pardon me, if I can’t be physically present at the fair. I am leaving a self-care suitcase. You may unpack and repack it. It contains my toolkits for work. It is my work travel bag. It has wheels to carry files. It also can be converted into a backpack if I have to run for buses, trains or planes. And sometimes, boats.
my work survival kit
I make sure I hydrate. So, I bring a water bottle everywhere I go. This is my water bottle, that during one of my work assignments, found itself getting labelled. The Receptionist was so kind that she had typed out my name and pasted it on my water bottle, as the Tea Aunty had kept finding it everywhere, in my absentmindedness of multiple meeting muddles.
my absolutest favourite water bottle of all times
In my work travel bag, you will also find my office Petty Cash box. Monetary capital is important. So, an entrepreneur must always learn to account for cash. For this fair, I am going to use tokens as a medium of gift exchange instead of cash.
my office Petty Cash box
‘Zombies & the Hitchhiker’*
I see exchanges as places where the dignity of life can be discovered, rediscovered, framed, reshaped, shared and grow in dynamic forms of possibilities. That way, the precious encountering of the shared time can be embodied in space in a tangible form, sometimes that which envelopes and embraces us, and sometimes that which is mobile, and inter-changeable. And most times, that which gifts us breathability and the place of freedom and solitude: to pause, think, contemplate, and make an informed and compassionate choice of response.
If you fancy any of the Wild Hearts Tokens, please leave a token for Bilberries Blue’s Travelling Gifts Exchange, an idea which emerged during our inaugural microsummit – Warm Data Emergences – with Nora Bateson. *We have quoted from Nora’s book “Small Arcs of Larger Circles” and named the Gift Pouch: Zombies & the Hitchhiker.
‘Zombies & the Hitchhiker’ Gift Pouch
Touching My Own Inner Heart
Nora taught me most of all to touch my inner heart. To tell my own story as an entrepreneur and business leader, from that space of being a woman, a mom, an intellectual, an entrepreneur and a whole person. She taught me that vulnerability in sharing isn’t something to be afraid of, but that it is the very power which grounds us to being simply very human in our every endeavor. And that is a great place to be. Because this groundedness travels wide and far, on its very own self-regenerative mileage of courage, camaraderie and meaningful collaboration. Everywhere we go is then home, work, play, and doing good. Doing good for me is increasingly becoming simply being human. If I can touch my inner humanity every moment, I think I am fully grateful, satisfied and ecstatically-content with the very simplicity of this goodness. That I am alive. To witness, articulate and participate in the whole wonder of this world.
Wild Hearts Tokens
I had made these drawings during 2014 when I was learning to convert my intense energy of dissatisfaction into love and beauty. It is an act and practice of courage and commitment. To take the hurt, anger and rage, of disappointments, failings and losses, and dare to say this visibly, “I will not be defeated, and I will make something good out of this experience.” I am grateful I have found the solace I needed in the honesty of making art.
Wild Hearts Tokens:
and so I offer my hope
to be exchanged for your hope
during this Day in the Sun fair;
and thus begins,
our first steps
towards a serendipitous friendship.
Contentment and discontent are both stuff that surface for us to examine to become beacons in storms. In leading up to Deepavali, I am writing this with the mindfulness of the importance to recognise with full humility, that humanity and world peace, sometimes really reside in that very dark place, where we are unsure. Where we dare to question our fallibility. And where we also dare to question our past triumphs. Both reveal things that we might be too afraid to confront. But when we do, we see insights previously unpacked. And then, suddenly, our hearts soar. Something rekindles. And we are home, while taking flight. Because we also know how to land safely. Because we now know where home is. And just as suddenly, we are on a new adventure, that we know we MUST take. Though we can’t yet say what it is, to anyone, or even ourselves.
And that for me is – joy. It uplights and uplifts our wild hearts.
And we won’t let wild hearts run out of time. Because time is a continuity. We get to carry the torch of the running, sometimes alone, but always together. Because even when we think we are running it alone, there is always someone cheering us on. And one by one, people do turn up. So, don’t lose heart in your sojourns, travels and adventures of being an entrepreneur.
We are still completing our pedagogical documentation and will be surfacing soon with our emergences post our inaugural microsummit. Please look out for news at:
Bilberries Blue FB Page https://www.facebook.com/BilberriesBlue/ or
Bilberries Blue Website www.bilberriesblue.com or
Bilberries Blue Youtube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCStbvZAZFsKYjRgngNLXFmQ.
For now, enjoy the backstory, while we create many, more new exciting adventures as Sustainability Stewards.
Here’s wishing you a happy wild heart day!
my namecard purse
PHOTOS FROM WILD HEARTS
Setting up the booth with Aravind and Dennis
Wild Hearts Stand
Wild Hearts Exchanges
Wild Hearts Joy