Often, tragic experiences lead people to raise their voice or start initiatives to help others suffering from similar situations. But there was no misery or disaster for Rushabh Turakhia. It was only the sheer willingness to spread smiles and happiness that led him to start the ‘Your Turn Now’ movement—help someone, give them a YTN card, and, in return, ask them to pass on the help any way they can along with the card. Having grown up listening to moral stories from his grandmother and mother, and reading multiple self-help books, Rushabh, in his own words, was highly self-aware. He was inspired by the anecdotes his family and friends recalled about his grandfather, Shri Panachand Turakhia, a philanthropist. In a candid conversation with Annesha Banerjee he reveals how everything manifested itself and marvels at how a seemingly basic idea has now created a snowball effect.
The most underrated noble virtue—kindness—is as powerful as one can imagine. It’s like breathing; you don’t take notice of it until you have to, and, subsequently, you are left feeling nothing but gratitude. One simple act of kindness can transform one’s mood, one’s experience, and one’s day, and even change the trajectory of one’s whole life. I was aware of this fact, but the realisation hit me one fine morning when I was rushing to catch a metro as per my usual routine, my mind occupied with all kinds of agitating thoughts. Proceeding towards the security check and ready to be frisked by the lady officer, I was met with a wide smile. A face with a sizable red bindi (a coloured dot worn on the centre of the forehead) and big pretty eyes wished me a ‘good morning’ and turned my mood 180 degrees! I was suddenly happy, and as I hurried to board the metro, I recalled something my friend once said, “You should be ‘smile-y’ in the morning; people who look at you also begin their day on a good note and you never know whose day you’ll make better.” Indeed, my sour thoughts were all erased with that one kind smile.
In our lives, despite the unpleasant things, we always remember the acts of kindness done to us. So believes Rushabh Turakhia, who decided and chose to spread kindness as his token of love and compassion towards the society. An MBA by qualification and a diamond merchant by profession, Rushabh has created a potent labyrinth of righteousness and goodness using a simple concept—help someone and spread smiles. Being an author, an entrepreneur, and a life coach, he concluded from real-life experiences that when someone helps us, we thank them and move forward. In the rush of our urban lives, we rarely spare a moment to stop and appreciate the things around us, and this is what prompted the idea of ‘Your Turn Now’—to keep this thankfulness moving on. “Acknowledging a person’s good deed is the best way to spread smiles,” says Turakhia. “The person doesn’t have to thank you back but pay it ahead by being kind or by being there for someone else,” he adds.
Thought of the day
“Every day, we have 60,000 thoughts, and then we forget. But I am glad that this wasn’t one of those to be flushed out of the memory,” says Rushabh. The seeds sowed in his childhood sprouted in November 2009, and by the first week of December 2009, he printed the first batch of the blue YTN cards. He began with 2,000 cards and aimed to print a total of 5,000 over the year. But a surprise awaited him as the first year sale itself was of 25,000 cards! Today, 8.5 lakh of these blue cards are in circulation in over 45 countries and have been printed in ten languages.
Talking about the hiccups he faced, he says, “In my head, the idea was clear, and I knew I had to do it. There were no negative doubtful thoughts about it. Everyone has kindness within them, and this was an initiative where all I wanted to do was tap into that.” But just like every great idea, this one too battled discouraging opinions. Narrating an incident, Rushabh says, “Six months after having begun with YTN, I got together with a couple of my friends. A few minutes into the party, they gathered around me with questions like ‘What are you doing? You are in your early thirties, and this isn’t the time to get involved in social things. You are supposed to focus on your work and your business’ and ‘What’s the point of all this? The poor people are not getting anything in this.’ They said, ‘You ask people to pay the toll for the car behind them in a toll check, but when the car behind is a Mercedes, what difference would it make?’ It is a misconception that most of us have—it’s not about the 35 rupees of toll amount, it’s about the smile that you create. It might be that the person behind the wheels in a Mercedes is in need of that smile. You never know.”
In retrospect, most of us think that way. We forget that kindness isn’t about money and whether or not the person is privileged. It is about making someone happy, which can be in any manner. He says, “After all these years, I have learned that, eventually, it does trickle down to the underprivileged. I have seen many such examples of good deeds ending with reaching the right people who are in need. And it doesn’t even matter if someone is rich and famous because everyone needs someone to make them smile. It doesn’t mean that if someone is rich, they may not be depressed. This is the problem, and kindness is the one thing that can actually get you out of it.”
Rushabh adds that coming from a business background, he has been trained to be focussed only on business matters and not on social issues. But he, true to his spirit, dedicates four to five hours daily on the YTN movement. In his own words, he believes, “Philanthropy is not just about money. For me, it’s more about time because it is never going to come back. Even if you help someone cross the road, you have given them your time, and that is a huge help, with no money involved.”
The kindness ATM
Just like magnets, one kind act attracts another. When Rushabh started on his humble endeavour, he was supported by fellow do-gooders. His friend who designed the cards and the website didn’t charge him money saying “Tu itna accha kaam kar raha hai, main tere se paise thodi lega (How can I charge you for doing such a good deed)!” Not only this, his cards are printed at cost price.
Although his idea created a ripple effect across the globe, Rushabh credits most of its success to social media, which played a huge role in spreading awareness and the message of YTN. “People say that social media is bad, but, for me, it has been a boon. It is just how you choose to use the platform. Facebook has been a partner in spreading this message. Initially, YTN was active in nine countries, and as more people got involved with us, they understood the motive and shared it, spreading it to the extent it is now,” said Rushabh.
Unlike other ideas that see the light of day only to fizzle out after a few months or years, Your Turn Now was a self-motivated initiative. Despite various questions like ‘What is happening to all this effort you’re putting in?’, ‘Is anyone even doing anything about it?’ and ‘What is coming of the workshops and sessions that you conducted in schools, colleges, and corporate houses?’ thrown at him, he stayed focussed without expecting anything in return. How did he do that? “I have currently 8.5 lakh cards out there, of which maybe a lakh haven’t ever been used. But my focus is on those 7.5 lakh that have been used to make someone smile. I always focus on what is working rather than on what isn’t.” The concept is pretty straightforward: the card keeps getting passed on as a result of a good deed and creates a domino effect of kind acts. “You know the kick you get when you are high, when you feel like you’re on top of the world? These stories that people send me, give me the same kick. It gives me immense happiness knowing that one small or big act of kindness created a new smile,” he adds happily.
A shiny report card
In an interesting turn of events, Rushabh shared this story: “I got a call one morning from a tapori (street rowdy) guy in Mumbai. He said, ‘So I received this card of yours.’ Now, as a tapori, he is accustomed to using rude and abusive language and so was talking in the same manner. I said, ‘Yes, someone who helped you gave you this card.’ He said, ‘Yes, my car tyre was punctured on the highway and someone helped me and gave me the card. So what do I do with this card?’
“You don’t have to do anything. If you get a chance to help someone, do it, and then you can pass it forward,’ I said. He seemed to think a bit before replying, ‘My work is to do vasooli (extortion). It isn’t exactly a legal line of work, so we don’t do such things. To which I suggested, ‘See, if you want, you can do it; the rest is up to you.’
“Then, around a month and a half later, I got a call from the same person. He informed me that he had used the card. I was surprised and asked him, ‘What did you do?’ He said, ‘I was to extort money from someone, but I let him go and forgave his loan.’ I was impressed and happy to hear that and so, further inquired why he did it since he had said that he doesn’t do such things. ‘Sir, till date, no one explained to me that I too can do good work. I never knew and no one told me.’” Continuing further, Rushabh explained, “The guy stayed in a very dirty locality in Mumbai. Being born and brought up there, he knew of only the wrong things in life. Through the card, it was the first time that he realised he is capable of good too and can help others. That thought really struck him.”
The idea is very simple—just help someone. Anyone. It’s not even about going out of your way to help people or about separately devoting time. You can just do it anywhere, anytime, on the go. Make someone smile, share a chocolate, give your colleagues a card for no reason, or compliment someone; it is that simple. This incident is proof of the fact that kindness is in the human DNA and that maybe we’re called mankind for a reason—for man to be kind. Indeed, kindness is pretty straightforward; you don’t need to do extravagant gestures to show someone that you care. YTN is an effortless idea and yet a very compelling one.
Restructuring the building blocks
Rushabh has two Your Turn Now books to his name, which he says were unplanned. “I aim for the YTN cards to reach the 7.7 billion people on the globe through circulation, which roughly amounts to printing at least 1.2 crore cards since one card exchanges hands six times on an average. And as necessity is the mother of all inventions, the two books were a result of that. Since I don’t accept funds for the cards, the royalty I receive from the sale of the books goes directly towards that goal.” The first YTN book came out in 2013 and became a bestseller. The second book was published in 2016. The YTN books were selected by Crossword as ‘Best of 2013: Children’s Writing’ and by Amazon as ‘Most memorable books of 2016.’ Both his books are written in a child-friendly and non-didactic manner. Interestingly, the books have real-life stories of people engaging in kind gestures and are targeted for readers aged five to 99! Priding on his books, he expressed excitedly that the books have reached places where he couldn’t.
Recently, based on a survey, eight books on peace and kindness were chosen, of which one was a YTN book. Also, the two books have been selected among 15 books across the world that parents should give their children to instil kindness and love in them. Rushabh also made a video on his 40th birthday, inviting 40 people to do one kind act each. With the video and books to his credit, he is excited about the kindness wave that is soon to take over, one kind act at a time. But there’s more: Rushabh has pledged to donate 11 of his organs when the time comes. He says, “In all these acts, this one act will outlive even me. And I am sure it will give life to at least 11 other people.”
Rushabh has created a beautiful string of compassion and joy, which can bring about the revolution that the human race frantically needs. Random acts of kindness are not really random; bit by bit, they become a habit. Tomorrow, I will be back at the metro station to give the sweet lady one of my own YTN cards and join in the chain of kindness.
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