"You work for a NGO, don't you?", she asked. "I wonder if you know any organisation that helps cancer patients who cannot afford treatment. You see, my brother-in-law's driver has cancer, and they just cannot afford treatment. I was wondering if there was anyone who could help."
I started telling her that I work for a non-profit that works with children, and we have absolutely nothing in common with organisations in the health sector, but by the time the words formed, what came out was something like, "You could try Cancer Patients Association. They are based in Worli and I know they subsidise treatments for people who cannot afford it. And there is this other lady who is a cancer survivor herself. Her organisation mainly does counselling, but on a case to case basis, they try to raise money for deserving people. And of course, you could always try..."
Ten minutes later, the lady had details of five organisations that she could approach, including one where I knew the founder personally, even though we had been out of touch for nearly six years. She was thrilled to get so many leads, and I was equally happy that I had been able to help someone.
And that got me thinking about Networking. Now there are some people who are born networkers, but I never considered myself one of them. An only child, I was always quite self contained and did not have any great need for personal friendships. I was friendly with people, but never went out of my way to keep in touch. To be perfectly honest, I almost considered "Networking" a bad word. Networking was something people who did not have much to recommend themselves did to advance themselves. In fact, there were times in my life when I actually went out of my way to avoid contact with people who had passed out of my life.
And then I discovered LinkedIn, and Facebook. I discovered people I had even forgotten I knew, and I found that I liked interacting with them outside real time. Without quite realising it, I found myself storing random bits of information in my brain, and pretty soon found myself making connections. The school mate who was looking for an editor, the friend who did freelance editing. The colleague looking to change jobs, a batch-mate who wanted to recruit someone with a similar profile. An NGO desperate for donations, a funder looking for an organisation similar to that. I found myself networking all the time, and I found that I enjoyed it.
All my life, I had known two things about my brain - that it had the capacity to store an almost infinite amount of trivial information, and that my neural pathways were wired in a way that made seemingly random connections between disconnected pieces of information to come up with something almost intuitive. Looked at dispassionately, my brain was hard wired for Networking.
Networking, I now realise, is anything but a dirty word. Networking has the capacity to connect two needs, and come up with a synergistic relationship. Networking creates a cat's cradle out of a tangled mass of wool. And when it is used to do good, there is nothing more fulfilling than that.