From A Lonely Corner In The Island Of Utopia

by | May 4, 2019

When we fly high in the garb of achieving zenith,
A deep sense of empowerment soars through our blood,
And adrenaline keeps the excitement intact,
Yes, that is indeed the excitement of Utopia.
The urge to achieve the unattainable!

On a lazy summer afternoon, I lay back callously on the floor of my room. Ping! Popped an e-mail. I am too lazy to go grab the phone. It’s too far to fetch! Alas, I mustered up the strength to walk to the other end of the room. The mail read “India Fellow July 2018 Cohort – Selected!” The next minute that I could recognise, I was calling up my sister.

All I could recollect was the tagline of the fellowship, “Change Starts With You”. Since the application process, if there was one thing that made me feel an eerie sense of connect with the fellowship, it was this.

So what did this mean? From the outside, it did emanate a sense of entitlement of a probable change maker in the making. In all these years, I had never felt so powerful from within. Indeed, the association with an impactful statement from the fellowship even before the selection made me feel that the turning point of my life had just begun. It was time to hallucinate over my sense of freedom to bring change to the things that matter. It was time for the ‘urban feminist’ to walk the talk!

Little did the naïve me know the meaning for such loaded words and statement,
When the hopeless child was given wings to fly,
The heart took a plunge to hunt for the impossible,
With the unknown fear of where the flight could take her,
Imagining a rock-less bottom,
She shut her eyes to set out on a journey to experience the Utopia.

Finally, it was time to leave the comforts of my city life and dwell a minimalist life in Bihar. With butterflies in my stomach, I began to tread on an unknown path with an unrealistic assumption of a change maker. But the zeal did not take too long to crumble. I had been placed with a healthcare organisation and the moment of a harrowing death experience changed my world. Having never seen death so close until now, made me vulnerable in unexplainable ways.

In team meetings, we often discussed about deaths in detail, but this one was unbearable. One of our field supervisors narrated to us, Yesterday, during one of the deliveries at the sub-divisional hospital, a woman’s uterus was pulled out because the delivery was being done by a quack instead of the trained nurse. And this was not the end, post the incident, the quack even tried to fix the uterus back. The woman died within minutes. We could do nothing about it!” Every one paused for a moment but the meeting continued, though at a pace slower than other days. This has been etched in my memory and would probably be forever. The kind of helplessness I was rendered into within five months of the fellowship was nerve wrecking. Suddenly, the power that rose in my heart had dipped to zilch. This was not the first such death discussion but the tremors it created within me, were manifold.

What is the cost of death?
It shakes no one, it breaks no one, we all learn about it
And move on
In a system infested with termites,
What can a minuscule drop of disinfectant actually do?
What’s the point of this empowerment then?
Where is the unknown path to take you?
It takes you to the same old known realisations.

Days passed and we moved away from the idea of community to control. With each step, I realised that the highest point of my life had just tossed me into the lowest. Stuck in the daily challenges of handling diplomacy and managerial-ism, I forgot the purpose of these 13 months of my life that had once promised me to add to the larger purpose. The bigger picture to live by the smiles from the community suddenly boiled down to, “What is my stake here? Why am I not given ownership?” On being asked during my interview, on why I wanted to be an India Fellow, all I had in my head was the people I would be living with, but in the next 5 months, I was lost, lost in the race to find my stake. The cognisance of differentiating between my purpose and the rat race for ownership often struck me, but I kept it at bay.

In the tussle between ownership (read power) and purpose,
The former mostly wins as it gives more control.
Like any other job, this one was no different,
The purpose was forgotten, the ideas of ‘development’ (read change) had now faded.
And the suffocation had begun.

Stuck in the middle of political motives, my heart now knows that the urban preachy feminist indeed couldn’t bring about any change, be it pushing women to speak up or carving a space for raising my own voice. Though, a lot did change in me. The biggest learning in the journey has been acceptance. The academic me, moved a step ahead to accept the reality. Maybe that’s how people work in real life. For everyone, development sector jobs were the same as any other job. People would come and go, if they were able to alter a process, its well and good, else it’s completely fine. After all, it’s just me who lives in the utopia of walking the talk! Everyone else is hallucinating over the idea of reality, hence accepting it as the biggest truth of life. And here I was, staring hopelessly at the night sky wondering, “If this is the purpose of my life?”

With her wings cut, she fell into the deep darkness
Waiting for the light to seep in and heal her wounds!

गुलाबी सर्द

गुलाबी सर्द

रात के ग्यारह बज रहे है। मैं एक रेलवे स्टेशन पर बैठा हूँ। मेरे सामने बहुत सी...

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  1. Swati Saxena

    Such heartfelt writing Uttara. It was a treat to read this, and you know why. You not only attempted a personal piece but done it so well. The urban preachy feminist will find her space, if not sooner then later, and acceptance, of internal and external realities, will play a huge role in the journey 🙂

    • Uttara Seshu

      Thank you so much Swati! Also, thank you so much for the kind of freedom we are given as India fellows to express.

  2. Uttara Seshu

    Eagerly waiting for that free evening. I would love to delve into this . Thank you Anupama 🙂


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