Anil pledged his 37th birthday to raise $9,226 for clean water projects in Rwanda.
He's a hungry, start-up master: the co-founder of Activate (which helps big media companies and consumer brands grow their business and evolve) and of ThinkUp (a powerful social network tool). He's a standout in the tech community, a bit of a blogging pioneer and an excellent writer. His story, which he tells better than we can, really struck a chord with us last year, and we're very excited to be working closely with him this year on our efforts in India.
ANIL'S TAKE ON BIRTHDAYS:
Most unusual birthday gift you've ever received? One of the best, most unusual birthday gifts I've ever gotten was from my wife for my birthday a few years ago. She got me a pig butchering class from a local butcher. He showed us how to break down half a hog, which was something like 300 pounds of pork. It was incredibly educational, and though I try to know where my food comes from, it gave me an even more detailed understanding of where the meat I eat comes from. Plus we went home with something like 20 pounds of fresh pork. We ought to show respect to animals if we're going to eat them, and being mindful about that while also getting to appreciate some tasty food later was a perfect gift for me - I came out smarter than I went in, and with a full belly to boot.
Which birthday would you love to re-live -- and why? I am always most excited about my next birthday. They've tended to be pretty low-key but in recent years my wife has always found a great way to celebrate my birthday and that's made them particularly meaningful, especially since my son was born. It was a simple thing, but my last birthday I was carrying my (then one-year-old) son on my back as we were walking in the morning and I snapped a picture of us together because I remember thinking specifically "this is the best birthday ever!"
How seriously do you embrace the spotlight on your birthday? I've actually always been a little uncomfortable with the way birthdays focus attention. I'm certainly no shrinking violet, and I don't mind being the center of attention, but my mom's family has a family tradition of people celebrating their birthdays by giving presents instead of receiving them, and that always made a lot of sense to me.
Why did you decide to pledge your next birthday campaign for clean water? Water's been a fundamental concern for me after spending time with my cousins when I was a kid growing up. I was born in a regular small town in Pennsylvania, so it was quite a shock to see that, in between going fishing or playing soccer like I was used to, my cousins would have to go and fetch water from a well that didn't seem drinkable to me.The only reason they had to do so was simply because they grew up in India. It was arbitrary and put such a huge burden on families living there that the image stayed with me for the past several decades.
Best birthday surprise you've ever received? Truly the best surprise I've ever gotten was so many people chipping in on the charity: water campaign I asked for on my last birthday. People all over the world offering everything from a few dollars to incredibly generous donations was such a validation of the connection we can form with so many people in so many different ways, and the fact that people are fundamentally generous and caring. I never expected that kind of response.