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Everyday Heroes
Guri A photo of Guri Grewal holding a little boy sits on a table at the entrance to her Redwood City apartment. She can't help but glance at it each time she goes in or out...more ... ]

Everyday Heroes 

Nipun Mehta: the everymoment hero
-- by Pavithra Krishnan

Inspire (in-'spIr) v. to fill (someone) with confidence and eagerness, esp. so that they feel they can achieve something difficult or special
--Cambridge International Dictionary of English

So what does he do? If you had to say it in one word, this would be it:

Inspire.

"If you start thinking about the score, whether you're ahead or behind, you're dead. The only way to win is to play each ball to the best of your ability. And you can't play your opponent; you have got to play the ball." --Nipun Mehta, On Tennis, Life and Other Spiritual Exercises

Meet Nipun

The ace tennis player with deep-rooted truths in his heart, the brilliant software engineer who sneaked the spirit of service into Sun, and the pumped-up founder of CharityFocus who lives life creating ripples that continue to draw more and more people into the circle of giving.

When someone walks the walk the way Nipun does, a lot of beautiful things happen. Behind every step lies the inexhaustible force of an inner commitment that translates into a thousand different ways of giving, growing, being, changing. In other words: "Be the Change." If you know Nipun, ten to one you've heard that before. It's something he says a lot -- something he lives a lot more.

All of us have dreams -- ideals and aspirations -- that we
 
Nipun Mehta
cherish. But a lot of us have yet to find the kind of courage, conviction and compassion it takes to live them. Maybe that's part of the reason why Nipun is such an inspiration to so many.

"We were driving up from San Diego on a recent trip and stopped by a gas station. There was a person selling his own rap/hip-hop CD. Nipun instantly jumped at the opportunity to buy it -- not so much for the music but more just to encourage that person. The music artist signed the CD, 'Live your Dreams, Nipun,' and he does," reflects Ashish Mehta, CF volunteer and former colleague (He remembers Nipun from his days at Sun as 'the guy who came to work in the funny-looking hat').

Nipun's life is an open invitation: to walk your walk, to live your dreams.

Once Upon a New Year's Eve

Nipun was born December 31, 1975 in the city of Ahmedabad, India. He spent the first years of his childhood there, enrolled in a unique school that focused on a holistic, well-rounded education. He remembers a schedule with 32 subjects, which included cooking, karate, horseback riding, and sewing. More significantly, his classes also involved meditation sessions, spiritual discourses, and yoga study.

Whether he can stitch a buttonhole is anybody's guess, but the school's general approach must have worked. Nipun is a spectacularly versatile person. As a child he won a roller-skating championship in India; more recently he received the Jefferson Award for outstanding public service.

"From complex computer code, to a punishing tennis serve, from people management to subtle and obscure spiritual teachings, he's on top of it all." --John Silliphant, CF volunteer

Finding the Himalayas

Underneath the immediate clamor, color, and confusion of India lies a land surging with centuries of hard-earned wisdom and enduring spirituality. Living on the other side of the world, Nipun carries a part of that early connection with him.

"Every square inch of Indian land has probably been prayed on ... I'm physically far from it now, but very near to it spiritually. When I was 17, I always wanted to head out to the Himalayas -- until I found the Himalayas right in my backyard- in my own heart." --Nipun Mehta

The family moved to Santa Clara, California, when Nipun was in middle school. Reaching 'swifter, higher, stronger' is second nature to him and as a teenager he was driven to push the boundaries of excellence in everything he did. In a single semester at junior college he took an unheard-of 40 units and played competitive tennis at the same time. It was a fast and furious year of dizzying heights and brimming drama, a pivotal period, where several possibilities were played out. "It showed me all that was in my reach, and I realized that wasn't what it was about. The whole year was like this huge tidal wave that came in and then, all of a sudden, left," he says.

Nipun moved to Berkeley as a junior in college. Majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Philosophy, he was 17, and this time deliberately stayed on the periphery.

"You can think about life's philosophies forever. You can go after being the school stud, being a famous tennis star, becoming filthy rich and buying what you want. All these things are mental dramas. In and of themselves, they don't provide any real fulfillment. I was satiated with my drive for 'glory.' I had started my internal questioning. In a sense, I have been going through my mid-life crisis since I was 17. No joke," says Nipun with a twinkle.

In the Spirit of Service

When a summer internship with Sun Microsystems led to a job offer with a scholarship for college, he accepted. But there is in Nipun an internal spiritual impetus, a "flame of compassion" burning to serve. In his first week at work, Nipun and a few friends started the Quote-a-Day service that today inspires thousands of people on a daily basis. That was just the beginning. Soon Nipun had set up a Donation Club that gave money to different people in need. He was volunteering at a hospice, organizing sandwich brigades for the homeless -- giving in every way he could of his time, money, self -- and still, he says, "It wasn't enough."

So he got a bunch of friends together to talk it out over dinner. And that is how CharityFocus began: an evening with pizza, Nipun, and the spirit of service.

"Still felt like I was holding back," he says. At 24, Nipun quit his job at Sun to go full-time into service.

"In a nutshell, I would say service to Nipun is a spiritual discipline and his devotion and commitment to that discipline is extreme. We're all very fortunate to benefit in the process." --John Silliphant

Be Now- Sleep Later

Nipun is a born leader. There is something so infectious about his enthusiasm, something so openhearted about his approach, and boundless about his energy, that it compels you to smile, listen -- and respond.

"On the level of using the mind to organize people, structures in ways that naturally flow he's nothing short of visionary. It gives me some hope for the use of the human mind to bring together, rather than separate." --Viral Mehta, CF volunteer and Nipun's younger brother

Apart from CharityFocus, Nipun serves on the board of the Seva Foundation, the Institute for Global Communications, Airline Ambassadors, and the Silicon Valley Volunteer Center. He started a Pay-It-Forward Club with his cousins, continues to organize Help-the-Homeless Drives and participates in countless other random acts of service.

Tireless. It's a word a lot of people use to describe him. Tireless: in his ability to work day and night. Tireless: in his unswerving dedication to service. Tireless: in his implicit comprehension of deeper truths.

"He seems to be functioning pretty well in a state of constant sleep deprivation. He said he would much rather help someone than sleep. I am not sure what's keeping him functioning at times like those, but I am sure that's also what makes him extraordinary," says CF volunteer Mindy Chiang.

Tireless: in his awesome determination to live the beauty of each present moment.

Living the Moments

An uncanny ability to connect with everyone, an abiding respect for humanity, and a generosity that reaches out to touch every life that crosses his path. That's what Nipun brings to his present -- along with a quality of inner awareness that, in some way, is what makes all the rest possible.

"I would say it comes down to attention. When someone brings a deep quality of attention to, first of all, their own self, there's a sense of realness to that. A sense of being with the truth of the moment," says Viral (who himself, has that quality), "Whenever a person has that quality, it inspires that attention within our own selves."

Meditation is an integral part of Nipun's life. This special space of 'sitting' -- of inward stillness, silence and self-understanding helps him truly live the moments. And like all the other good things he has going, this, too, he shares. Once a week he holds an open meditation session at his home.

"When I think of Nipun, I think of eating dinner after meditation. There were always these fights over who would get to do the dishes. I mean where else do people fight to do dishes? It's like something out of Tom Sawyer." --Matt Henning, CF volunteer

A World of Thanks

Ask Nipun who his inspirations are, and his blessings. He'll say Viral, for sure, and Gandhiji, J Krishnamurti, Hesse, and his 'Zen' tennis coach Jeff Nelson. He'll include his parents, two remarkable people who in so many ways have given him the space and support to be all that he is today. He'll include the unusual number of sages and wise souls he has met over the years, gangsters who have taught him invaluable lessons, friends who've been there through the moments. If you have the time and the patience he'll run you down a list of thanksgiving that extends far beyond the physical limits of his journey to the very edges of humanity. His gratitude radiates in all directions. His humility humbles.

"Basically, I'm a very lucky guy blessed with very many unusual conditions. I try to give away those blessings to the best of my ability. But the more I give, the more I get back. I just can't catch up!" --Nipun Mehta

Nipun: He's the Man!

The ripples set in motion with the beginning of CharityFocus are starting to make waves. With a volunteer base of close to 2,000 and projects that criss-cross the globe, Nipun and fellow CF volunteers are making Silicon Valley history. The growing support, publicity and recognition won over by this 'experiment in service' tend to cast Nipun in the role of celebrity-Samaritan. He has been the subject of numerous print and television interviews and has delivered speeches alongside Nobel laureates. He has been invited to participate in international conferences and, as a spokesperson for service, has had the opportunity to interact with several high-profile names in the field.

He carries it all so lightly. One of the nicest things about Nipun is that despite everything, he never stops being Real.

"He keeps the spirit of a volunteer always pure. Not giving in to 'being a leader,' only into being true to himself. He still does more projects than anyone. Nipun, he's the man!" --Yaniv Cohen, CF volunteer

The Short Version

People who have known him for years say he's a 'true friend,' the kind who is always there for you. They recall his boyish sense of fun, the way he invisibly fills in for people in need, his habit of impulsively giving away inspiring books. Siddhartha, anyone? These friends say he's a great listener, is extremely thoughtful, extremely selfless. They say knowing him has made a difference to them. The funny thing is, people he has only just met say pretty much the same thing.

"What you see is what you get. He's the same no matter who he's talking to. It doesn't matter if he's known you for five minutes or five years," says Guri, CF volunteer and longtime friend.

Hunter Boyle, a friend traveling cross-country who didn't have time to say very much, put it this way:

"The short version is simply this: I'm a better person today because of him."

Our sentiments exactly.

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