Dear Mr. Einstein

 In Events & Campaigns
Sepideh – Reaching for the Stars

Dear Mr. Einstein,

When people ask what motivates me in leading Ākāśa Innovation, I often reply ‘social change’. Yes, I want to change the world. Do you feel my aspiration is too ambitious? Maybe so, but without an ambitious aspiration, what am I left with? What would the meaning of our life be if we were unable to dream?

A couple of weeks ago I opened my post London Dreamcatchers Day by quoting African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman on dreams and I will reiterate her words again as I cannot find a more accurate way to describe how I feel about my commitment to changemaking: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” I know I am a dreamer, but I sometimes forget I have the strength and patience within me to carry on despite the obstacles.

Yesterday, an absolutely brilliant and moving film reminded me of why I do what I do. Like every year, I went to the Human Rights Watch Film Festival to know more about human rights violations and the struggles of courageous individuals who fight for their dreams. And yesterday night, I found inspiration in Sepideh – Reaching for the Stars, a film that tells the story of a bright young Iranian woman who dares to dream of becoming an astronaut.

After the sudden death of her father when she was twelve, Sepideh finds a new purpose in stargazing and astronomy. But her dreams are at odds with the reality of living as a teenage girl in Iran: she does not want to learn to cook; she does not want to visit her relatives; and she is not interested in marriage. She quotes former Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh following his imprisonment after the 1953 coup to share her feelings, “my pain is not the fences around the pond but to live amongst fish that cannot imagine the ocean.” However, her uncle reminds her that it is not appropriate for girls to go out late at night and threatens to kill her if she continues to do so. “Do you think God chose you to fight for astronomy in Iran?” he asks her.

Without resorting to any brutal scene of violence, oppression and abuse (unlike most human rights films), the film is sprinkled with stunning shots of the night sky and tells a story of loss and despair, dreams and love, the past and the future. It gave me the courage to keep dreaming.

Thank you for inspiring Sepideh’s journey, Mr. Einstein.

Greta Rossi

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