It will be convenient to say that gone are those days when the so-called social workers were identified commuting in local buses, wearing khadi kurtas, a jhola hanging from their shoulder, dirty chappals in their feet and obligatory anger in their voice. In more than a year, I have hardly seen anyone who fits the description. My family often ridicules me by asking if I want to become one of them. Let me tell you, we blend in these days!
But, so do the models, researchers and terrorists.
You can (or not) find us in all kind of clothes, from shirts to shorts. Honestly, we don’t get paid enough to afford real khadi and our values don’t allow us to flaunt the nakli maal. About the good-old jholas, they usually don’t have space for a laptop and paper bundles we won’t ever need because we have the soft copies but our organizations want us to carry them so they have someone to blame when any of it goes missing. Sorry, with increasing responsibilities (read weight) we had to move on to bigger bags. The chappals part may still be true for some of us, including me. You will also find shiny shoes and high heels. We still take local transport and also own fancy cars. Regarding anger, for now, let’s just say, we have learned to keep calm (well, mostly).
We aren’t even always called social workers anymore. You can use several other terms like development sector professionals, social reformers, change agents or social leaders. My relatives have begun to call me Mother Teresa. Please don’t do that to your folks. It hurts! Instead of going by the stereotypical looks, talk to people and here’s how you can spot one of us in a crowd:
- We like to talk about ourselves and the work we have done.
- Look out for words like ‘impact’, ‘empathy’, ‘equality’, ‘field’ and ‘change’.
- There will always (ALWAYS) be a long story about a remote village and its people.
- We like to find a lot of problems, in systems, societies, situations. But, that’s just the demand of the sector. We would be jobless if the world was a better place.
- You will repeatedly hear how our life changed drastically after entering into the social space and how it’s not easy.
- Ask us about our plans for the weekend. There would definitely be a seminar, fundraising event or a cleanliness drive coming up. We will make sure we invite you for it.
- By the end of the discussion, you may either think we are doing great work or that we are crazy, none of which may be true. Or both may.
Think you can add some more points? Let us know in comments below.