I was brought up in downtown Srinagar, Kashmir. My childhood life was not-as-beautiful as I hoped it to be. I was 4 years old when my father expired in an unprecedented, ghastly mishap. I grew up with my grandparents while my mother was completing her post graduate medical studies and subsequent medical practising abroad. In 2013 my grandmother was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour and was operated upon while I had my secondary board examinations. Subsequently, I lost my grandmother in November 2014. I passed my higher secondary board examination in December 2015 and subsequently appeared for the competitive entrance examinations in 2016. I couldn’t do the required formalities for the admission process as I missed my counselling session due to the internet ban imposed because of an unrest political scenario. Meanwhile, I was awarded the prestigious scholarship AICTE- PMSSS and came to know about my selection through it on the radio. Furtherance I got admitted to the prestigious Department of Chemical Engineering, Jadavpur University. Initially the days at the University were difficult practically due to the language barrier and cultural gap, but it wasn’t anything unmanageable. In 2019 my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, and he passed away. 2019 has been a year of uncertainty for Kashmiris at large, as the implications of revoking the Article 370 are still unknown and may tend towards appalling consequences. The year 2020 was uncertain for the whole world with COVID-19 pandemic raging like anything. It was in the same year I graduated, and I applied for the prestigious SBI- Youth For India fellowship, where I was selected out of 70,000+ applicants. I was able to actively pursue my co-curricular activities at a competitive level till recent times. I was awarded the gold medal at district level for Wu-Shu, Taekwondo and Boxing. I pursed stamp collection and photography as a hobby, winning the bronze medal at the state level respectively. I was ranked third in 2015 by the Government of India- Skiing Course. I have been instrumental in organising a mixed-gender sports initiative at Jadavpur University and was an organizing committee member for the annual cultural and film festival at my university. I authored for Wande Magazine in the year 2019. I also interned at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and researched on increasing the shelf life of Anthocyanins, thereby improving the food quality standards and getting a chance at improving the economic conditions of the farming community. I am currently working as a rural development fellow under SBI- Youth For India in Bodoland, Assam (India-Bangladesh border); a conflict area torn apart by CAA & NRC where people are tagged as ‘illegal Bangladeshi immigrants’ and detained just like that. I have volunteered for imparting elementary education to students especially during communication blackouts, curfews and COVID-19 pandemic in Kashmir; the densest militarised zone in the world. I have also imparted elementary education to children in blighted areas in Kolkata, along with imparting practical education to children in and around the Sundarbans, West Bengal.
VOLUNTEERING FOR ME
It’s easy to forget about the community while it continues to suffer due to the growing inequalities and atrocities. With a little effort, though, we can really bridge that expanding gap through various acts - one such act being volunteering. As a volunteer, one decides to act on their own accord, free from pressure to act from others, ultimately generated from our desire and enthusiasm to help. The sense of achievement coming with it, makes me feel like I have a right to belong to this world.
Life has always been a teacher for me. It has carved its own new paths that I have followed. There have been multiple hardships in my way since childhood. In this path, I even took some life-changing decisions rather quickly which could have been thought of patiently instead. As I retrospect my journey so far, the biggest regret I come across is on a broader perspective; I’m yet to make my mark in this society. I am yet to accomplish something of value for this world. And in terms of qualitative and quantitative betterment for the same, I’ve been volunteering occasionally since 2016. I try looking for opportunities which can help me reach my zeal of doing something good for the society we live in. I do so in order to get a sense of self accomplishment. So that I don’t feel empty any more and that I am able to look myself in the eye while looking into the mirror. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to change if at all, but something, somewhere will definitely change, eventually. Change is not sudden, it takes time and I hope my effort paves a way for a change, making the world a better place and an equal one.
It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.
― Nelson Mandela
In the coming years I feel one of the things which will happen is the world (especially developing world/third world) fast becoming a collection of governments “of the rich, by the elite, for the corporations” rather than the government “of the people, by the people, for the people”. The rich are going to be richer; and the poor, poorer. Social Inequalities, the divisions in the society will deepen. Wealthier have more income, more opportunities. The rich are getting more powerful, while anyone who doesn’t belong to the elite gets more and more powerless to do anything about the nation’s steady slide towards fascism, authoritarianism and a profit-driven police state. Authority can jail people who cannot afford to pay the money owed by them or exorbitant fines imposed on them by courts and other agencies. To make payments, some forego medical care, skip utility bills, work overtime etc affecting them in ways one can’t think of. I am trying to do my part by trying to educate them, one of my reasons for volunteering. I am currently working in Bodoland, Assam (India-Bangladesh border); a conflict area torn apart by CAA & NRC where people are tagged as ‘illegal Bangladeshi immigrants’ and detained unreasonably. I have volunteered in imparting elementary education to students especially during communication blackouts, curfews and CoViD-19 pandemic in Kashmir; the densest militarised zone in the world. I have also imparted elementary education to children in blighted areas in Kolkata along with imparting practical education to children in and around the Sundarbans, West Bengal. It matters because the world needs to be a better place and we can do our part by changing the world, one head at a time.
PROJECT Building The Rainbow
ORGANISATION SBI Youth For India
MISSION & VISION
Project Objective: To work on wholesome development of youth by promoting reading habits with the aim of setting up a mobile library. To introduce sports (including self-defense for young women) and indoor games as a medium to inculcate communal harmony among diverse ethnic, religious groups and tribes.
Project Rationale: The youth are literate but lack the general awareness/knowledge as they are exposed to studying only school subjects in local language with no importance given to pursuing out of the syllabus content. Throughout the process, the qualification is not accompanied by sufficient skill building or exposure to alternate possibilities, resulting in waste of considerable talent and low productivity. Students, who realize their potential, pursue courses in private local institutions which fleece them with high fees but fail to impart quality education. Such private local institutions also suffer from dearth of quality manpower. Lack of basic skills thus results in depriving the students of awareness and opportunities. Also, the Assam riots of 2012 saw the whole village being burnt down. The area has been sensitive ever since with various tribes, religious and ethnic groups being hostile to each other. As an attempt to resolve the increasing gap, the key aspects of the project will involve: wholesome development of youth by inculcating reading habits, utilization of e-resources, career guidance and promotion of music and sports at inter community level with special focus on indoor games because the area becomes inundated during the monsoon season. The project also aims to impart self-defence training to young women at the project location.
Month 1 (February 2021)
• Understanding the specific need and mindset of the children, youth and women in the project location
• Identification of pilot village and mobilization of youth
• Youth assessment sessions conducted
• Reports for the survey and sessions
Month 2 (March 2021)
• Research on creative methods for mobile library and formulate a course for the youth and children
• Generate & source supporting content for the module
• Identify a group of local women/young girls who can be trained inself-defence techniques
• Finalize the structure of course for youth and children.
• Finalize the supporting content
Month 3 (April 2021)
• Start the sessions (course for reading, indoor games and setting up mobile library) with the first set of selected local youth
• Start self-defence classes with first set of selected local women/young girls
• First training batch started
• Document list of attendees and their queries
Month 4 (May 2021)
Proposed activities for the month of May could not take place because of state-wide CoViD-19 lockdown.
Month 5 (June 2021)
Proposed activities for the month of June could not take place because of state-wide CoViD-19 lockdown. Hence, worked on “vaccine hesitancy” survey in the village (project location).
Month 6 (July 2021)
Proposed Activity (modified as per CoViD guidelines after 2nd wave)
• Shifting back to the project location keeping all the safety protocols in check
• Assess the current COVID-19 scenario on ground
• Realigning the previous sessions as per availability and feasibility in the area
• Film screenings
• Assessment report for restarting the previous work compiled
• Film screening in hamlets
Month 7 (August 2021)
Proposed Activity (modified as per CoViD guidelines after 2nd wave)
• Start the sessions (course for reading, sports/indoor games) with the first set of selected local youth
• Film screenings
• Assessment report for new students compiled
• Film screening in hamlets
Month 8 (September 2021)
Proposed Activity (modified as per CoViD guidelines after 2nd wave)
• Explore accessible platform to host all career FAQs (offline book or online portal or telephone helpline)
• Review sessions on completion of the batch by trained students
• Assessment of trained students to understand the extent of their improvement
• FAQs available for easy access by local youth
• 4 local women/girls trained in self defence
• Feedback session conducted and assessment report prepared
Month 9 (October 2021)
• Handover and documentation
LENGTH OF SERVICE
Project duration- 12 months (03/11/2020 to 03/11/2021)
Project location- Village- Basugaon, Block- Sidli, District- Chirang. Bodoland, Assam.
ROLE IN PROJECT
The project in still an ongoing one with my role as a rural development fellow. I along with other team members performed a Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) exercise in different villages. PRA is a growing combination of approaches and methods that enable rural people to share, enhance and analyse their knowledge of life and conditions, to plan and act and to monitor and evaluate. The role of the outsider is that of a catalyst, a facilitator of processes within a community which is prepared to alter their situation.
As per results from the PRA exercise, I chose my project location as Basugaon primarily because of two reasons:
1) The village being ethnically, tribally and religiously very diverse.
2) Also, the Assam riots of 2012 saw the whole village being burnt down.
The area has been sensitive ever since with various tribes, religious and ethnic groups being hostile to each other. As an attempt to resolve the increasing gap, I came up with a project plan which focuses on the same. The project will majorly try to liaise among each other by inculcating reading habits, promotion of music and especially sports at inter community level with special focus on indoor games because the area becomes inundated during the monsoon season. The project also aims to impart self-defense training to young women at the project location. I come from a sports background. I used my expertise in sports to come up with project plan which majorly uses sports as a medium to inculcate harmony among different tribes, religious and ethnic groups. Our basic rule for the sessions- minimum representation of three different communities and two genders! We also have regular book clubs where I along with the teenagers discuss things ranging from stories to geographies to history to communal violence and all. All this is done to promote equality, equity, harmony, to make them aware about the day to day happenings and general knowledge. The project indeed has helped me in my personal development. Some things I realize and maybe some I don’t.The project took me to that version India which we are either largely unaware of or whose complete existence we are unwilling to acknowledge. It led me through it so efficaciously and savagely that I had no option but to go, and later wonder at the stories of rural India, that everyone has to offer. This journey might be the first trench in the battle for bringing about a fundamental change in the nature of state and society, it gives you an insight. On one hand, it represents the desolate picture of the exploitation, corruption and the exceedingly unjust behavior of the state. On the other hand, it portrays the gratitude, resilience, humility and the pride of the rural India. Human resilience makes itself invariably visible, for instance the poor and tribal people smiling, sending their children to schools, encouraging their participation in sports. These subtle snapshots do tell us that hope flowers in the unlikeliest places!
IMPACT OF PROJECT
Under the SBI- Youth For India fellowship, I’ve been partnered up with an NGO ‘the ant’ working in Bodoland, Assam. The Assam riots of 2012 saw the villages of some specific communities (at the location) being burnt down. The area has been sensitive ever since with various tribes, religious and ethnic groups being hostile to each other. The project specifically aims at peace-building as a medium to inculcate communal harmony among diverse ethnic, religious groups and tribes especially among children. It argues that peace-building should not be regarded as a specific activity but as an impact. It notes a need to avoid ‘ghettoising’ peace-building as a type of project separate from ‘conventional’ development. Rather, all development activities (especially those in environments of potential conflict) should be assessed in terms of their peace and conflict impact. The children have been the worst target of the communal disharmony with the location seeing community specific government school. Children form one community generally go to one specific school thereby creating a divide among the various communities. The main focus of the project is to focus on this ever increasing gap by primarily introducing book clubs and sports among the children. The main focus here is representation of different communities. We participate on one condition- minimum representation of three communities and two genders. Keeping this in mind, teams are formed and we play or participate in the book club, whichever comes as per the schedule. One can clearly see improved communication and relations among children from different communities as compared to what it was 10 months ago. The project duration is of 12 months (at the location) out of which 10 months have already passed. One can see the peace-building outcomes. The project is expected to end by October 2021. The methodologies applied in the project will be taken up by the partner NGO and imbibed in their other ongoing projects (in education) at the location. The applied methodologies seem to have an impact and the assessment for the same will be done on yearly basis. The project might end at the completion of twelve months but the impact will hopefully continue to stay with the partner NGO promoting the same in the future. The one thing, a personal learning that I’ll definitely carry forward with me is the new perspective gained from the project- things are not just back and white or right and wrong, but much more than that.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Selected for IsDB worldwide scholarship program in 2019.
Awarded AICTE PMSSS merit based scholarship in 2016.
Selected under scholarship scheme by SUMS in 2016.
Selected as a rural development fellow for the prestigious SBI- Youth For India Fellowship- 2020.
Author at Wande Magazine(Kashmir and Militarization)- 2019.
Participated at the ‘National workshop on LPG as a Cryogenic fuel’ conducted by Centre for Rural and Cryogenic Technologies, Jadavpur University- 2019.
Official jury member at ‘District Wu-Shu Championship, Srinagar- 2017’.
Public speaker at ‘District Wu-Shu Championship, Srinagar- 2017’.
Selected as public speaker by IISM, Government of India in 2015.
Selected for debate titled ‘Female Foeticide’ by NRHM in 2012.
Represented India at ‘International Taekwondo Championship- 2011’.
Represented state in ‘National Baseball Championship- 2012’.
Awarded Diploma in Vovinam (martial arts) in 2011.
Awarded gold medal at ‘District Wu-Shu Championship, Srinagar- 2017’.
Ranked 3rd in Mixed Shuttle Relay Race, ‘Jadavpur University Annual Sports- 2017’.
Ranked 3rd for technique in ‘Skiing Course by Govt. of India’ in 2015.
Awarded gold medal at ‘District Boxing Championship- 2012’.
Ranked 3rd in ‘CHANGE Photo Exhibition, Kashmir- 2012’.
Awarded gold medal at ‘Open Kashmir Taekwondo Championship- 2011’.
Awarded bronze medal at state level in ‘Chinar-2011 J&K Philatelic Exhibition’.
Awarded gold medal at ‘District Taekwondo Championship- 2011’.
Awarded Bronze medal at ‘2nd National Vovinam Martial Art Championship-2011’.
The Gulmohar Foundation and Institute of Social Volunteering shall be the perfect next step to put my career on an excellent growth path in sync with my motives and aspirations. The impact of education it shall imbibe within me would have huge impetus on my objective for a better and equal world. It will help in working on scalable and sustainable development projects under the Sustainable Development Goals. I have come to realise the strong conviction I hold to work for the people all around me.Things might be a bit strenuous, but by the end of the day I hope to achieve an extensive exposure towards policy making and comprehensive approach to its implementation. I hold a strong desire to help the society shape itself and commit to positive change while also strengthening the civil society. Along with the knowledge gained, I wish to apply critical thinking from multiple perspectives, communicate effectively and be an asset as a think-tank and working for the betterment of the society, at-least the part we owe to it.
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