Kirti Vardhana (1982—2015): Indian Social Entrepreneur and Acumen Fellow
Last week, the world lost a truly beautiful soul.
Kirti Vardhana was a devoted son, brother and uncle. He was also a deeply cherished member of our Acumen family, as well as that of our investee, LabourNet.
In so many ways, Kirti embodied the best of our values. He lived a life of courage and compassion. Kirti had an inherent, undeniable goodness. He was driven by a grand and daunting purpose—to brighten the future of everyone he met, and the world at large. It was a purpose befitting a man with an impossibly big heart and superhuman generosity.
Kirti’s boundless love was paired with a powerful intellect and playful curiosity; so much so that a few of his fellow Acumen Fellows lovingly nick named him Socrates. Kirti’s presence amongst his cohort of Fellows was profound and so deeply felt that we often joked that he was “omnipresent.” He had a tendency to always be there, to always show up, to always bring his best self. He also had a tendency to magically pop up in all of our selfies, no matter where in India we seemed to be.
Perhaps this is one of the simplest yet most profound lessons to learn from the way he lived his life: the importance of showing up. The importance of always being there for the people you love—whether through a text, a phone call or in person with an exuberant and contagious smile.
In Kirti’s passing we have a chance to honor his omnipresence…if we choose, as a community, to hold his memory with us, knowing that he is and always will be a permanent and essential part of who we are.
In Kirti’s passing we have chance to become better…if we choose to see him reflected back in the work that we do, standing on his shoulders and reaching even further toward our audacious goals.
In Kirti’s passing we have a chance to be stronger as a community…if we take pick up where his too short life left off, fostering all along the way a sense of belonging grounded in love and selflessness.
If, by Rudyard Kipling, was one of Kirti’s favorite poems. He once shared this with us, his Fellows, and so it seemed only fitting now to pass it on to our community as we struggle to make sense of this untimely and tragic loss. In sharing it, we are reminded that, although we did not have a choice in letting him go, we do have a choice in how we keep him with us—carrying forth his spirit and his values to continue to make his life matter.
Kirti’s presence in our lives was, and will forever be, a gift.
If—by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.
Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)