I signed up for a lot of things while deciding to apply for India Fellow and I knew that it was going to be a rough path to walk on, for the next 13 months. There was always a blank space inside me, a void that had to fill but the confusion was, with what and how? This confusion only grew at each and every step of my life until I found about an opportunity like this.
Now, I’m in the fourth month of the fellowship, in my field area, Adilabad, in Telangana and have already gone through hardships as a fellow. There is always a huge amount of learning in all the work I am doing in my organisation, I DO, and that’s what keeps me going, giving me the strength to move forward. The values and the realizations I am having, are incomparable and now, I’m able to fill the blank space with all these experiences. For a long time, I have told myself that it’s okay to not always be okay, and have to accept that when I’m not okay, I need to stop pretending because that is when the magic happens. When you decide to accept your mistakes, you learn from them and become a better person to not repeat it in future. The last three months have been unexpectedly amazing and somehow, I know that the rest of my journey is going to be much more than this. Eagerly waiting for it!
I clearly remember my first day in Utnur, the block where we work. Goutam (my co-fellow) and I stepped out of the bus. It was early morning and the place was new for both of us. Goutam knows Telugu, the local language. It was relieving to have him as I don’t speak Telugu. The first thing I noticed was that I was the only female member in the organisation and was allotted a separate guest house far from everyone else. Then they moved me to a Government quarter, again at the same distance. It had 4 living rooms, 1 big hall, a kitchen and a garden. It was fine for me until I was told that I was supposed to live there all alone. Well, it was a nice and huge space but it scared and creeped me out soon. Hence, I decided to not live there and instead, began looking for a new place.
It was okay to share an apartment with Goutam but the society wouldn’t approve a girl and a boy living in the same house. Since, we are working with the people here, we need to understand their norms and work according to them. Luckily, I got a place in the same building where he and other colleagues were staying.
The most important part of our work is to interact with the community and in the initial days, I realized that we have to know them through their culture, spaces and practices. My next biggest challenge was the language. It was going to be difficult. Every time we went to the villages, I used to stand in the corner and observe whatever my teammates were doing because it involved meeting and talking to people. Even if I tried, I could not be a part of it. This made me feel really low and helpless as I couldn’t do much because of the language. There is still discomfort when others around me are talking in Telugu and I have to repeatedly ask them to say it in Hindi or English but at least my colleagues are cooperative that way. They make me feel a part of the conversation. In the process, I’m trying hard to learn the language so that one day, I’m able to go to the villages by myself and talk to the people directly. I’ve learnt a few words and practice them with my teammates. It is still a challenge but now, I don’t feel left out.
There are a lot of things happening and I am trying to learn from all the ups and downs. On some days, the road is smooth, without any hurdles and I feel that I’m on track but on other days, the path is uneven, even rocky and then I hold on to myself tight, trying to go through it. The time keeps changing and the life of a fellow is full of surprises. Every process includes learning and that’s what matters the most.
The title sure says it all 🙂
Good to read this compilation Muskan. Looking forward to know more on your roles and responsibilities there and insights on things you are doing / learning! Good luck for the road ahead and the move to the new location 🙂