Raj Shukla

My day job is executive director of the River Alliance of Wisconsin. Our organization has been around for nearly a quarter of a century and our original mission was to open riverways throughout the state—to remove dams in areas where that wouldn’t have a devastating economic impact on the community in order to open the rivers for recreational purposes.

Over time, the group’s mission has changed. Now the River Alliance has broadened its focus to include water quality and quantity and to view rivers not just for their recreational opportunities but for the spiritual sustenance they provide.

We’ve gone beyond rivers and are now concerned with water writ large—whether that’s looking at ground water issues or the impact of mining on water quality and high-capacity wells on water levels. Our proximity to the Great Lakes—which hold more than 20% of the world’s fresh water—means we have a tremendous responsibility.

We’ve also moved beyond working only with our organization and its allies to actively engaging citizens in general. This is the only path to success and we strive to accomplish it in three ways: by building community, by developing and empowering leaders and by helping people restore Wisconsin’s waterways. A great example of the last is Project RED, which is helping us identify and eliminate invasive species in our waterways.

My most memorable caffeine is the coffee I consume every morning! It allows me to rejuvenate my soul and every sip is both memorable and a blur of joy (yes, I really like coffee).

My current caffeine of choice is the Dark Sumatra from Colectivo Coffee.

My favorite place for caffeine is Colectivo on the Square. I appreciate that they make a concerted effort to hire people with disabilities, which is especially important to me as my oldest daughter has Down Syndrome. The fact that they also serve exceptional coffee is just icing on the cake.

The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are Nelson Mandela. I’m in awe of the fact that he was willing to sacrifice everything for his beliefs. His ability to sustain his faith in his cause, in the face of mortal challenges, is inspiring to me.

I’d also love to sit down with some of my favorite musicians: Björk, Miles Davis and Jeff Buckley come to mind. I’m sure each of them faced incredible pushback for their commitment to creating music that mattered to them but wasn’t in the mainstream.

Last, I would like to have a conversation with my parents with all prohibitions removed. I’d love to ask my mom what it was like to move to this country from India in the ‘60s. She didn’t speak any English and was a devout Hindu and a vegetarian. What was it like to be confronted with this culture—think of the shock of a Sizzler ad! What drove you to move here?

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine:  I’m not a religious person but I do believe in love and truth. What does it take to live our beliefs and keep our selves on track? What can we do to help others live their love and truth.