This blog is a mix of observations and realizations in the last month of working as a fellow. I’ll be shuffling between the two…
One fine morning, a co-fellow and I were arguing if an SHG (Self-Help Group) needs to be trained on enterprise development or not. At the end of the day, it turned out that the conversation didn’t matter. While both of us had done a cost analysis of the product, arrived at a price point and evaluated other factors, the president of the SHG and a man assisting the group, who we thought (due to our biases) were not qualified enough, had already decided that all this needs to be done only once the SHG starts production.
He even knew about marketing and promotion activities. Surely, we had underestimated his knowledge. So, the question is – Does the SHG actually need our support? Why did the group not do anything in the past three years, inspite of all this knowledge?
While thinking of this, I recalled a statement from a webinar I had attended last week – “People are not lazy in their jobs, they just do not have the right incentives“. For the SHG to make progress, what was the incentive for the two people we had talked to?
Is it just the lack of incentive or is the problem more complex? Most of the times, it’s the latter. Before joining Agragamee, a voluntary organization, I always thought that the only objective of any business is to maximize profits, getting the ‘moolah’. However, I now also appreciate the businesses who try to add value to customers, solve their everyday problems and make lives easier.
“If you are selling anything at a lower price, you’re already doing social service“, again I recall from another webinar. The local Kirana store near my building makes it easier for me to buy butter as it saves me a few minutes and calories to go farther. But for the shopkeeper, it is just a source of income. Does he know that he is adding value? Or am I adding value to him?
In the past three months, I have hardly ever felt that there is a need for me to contribute for the community to grow. I am just doing a job which makes sense to me. They will grow with or without my contribution. In any case, is there anyone whose non-existence would matter to this planet?
While talking to an experienced professional about social development, he said, “Log toh apna life jee rahe hai. Tum chahte ho ki wo aage badhein, isliye unke pass jate ho. Tum unko nahi bolte ho ki hum development kar rahe hain, tum sirf donors ko funding ke liye bolte ho ki development ho raha hai” (People are living their life. You think they need to grow, so you approach them. You don’t tell them that I am here for your development, you only tell the donors for raising funds that development is going on). Is it all just talk?
I recently met a person in my organization, who has been working here for the last 33 years. He was 12 years old when our founder asked him if he wants to work together. In return, at that time, he was offered food and clothes. This went on for the first three years, longer than any internship I have heard of. For him, whether we call it an internship or a job or something else, it doesn’t really matter.
I have learnt to never underestimate basic human intelligence. Many people who don’t read or write, learn from experiences. That gives them more knowledge and skills than most of the books we read or the work we do. They connect the dots that get them ahead.
I spoke to a few more people around, to understand why they changed jobs. The best reply I got was “Mazza nai a raha tha” (It wasn’t fun anymore). While we think of progress, growth and other incentives, Mazza/fun is the most important thing for some people. Don’t they enjoy their work-life more than most people we know?
This took me back to grade IX, when in Economics class, I never understood why a certain term has multiple definitions. It was a mystery as to what was the need of putting all 9 definitions in the book, each with the writer’s name. It didn’t end at that. There would be a ‘Fill in the blanks‘ question in the exam on who wrote which definition. Today, I like to read and hear as many definitions as I can, and pick the one I want. Because, as one of my professors said, “Each term is defined by each individual differently”. My favourite one is of ‘Family’ told by another professor during a chemistry lecture, “Family is the only institution that keeps one sane”.
In a conversation with a senior colleague here, I learnt that one of the eligibility criteria for teaching school students in Odisha is to know the history of Konark Temple and Jagannath Puri temple. Otherwise, what kind of a teacher are you, they say. Knowing the 500-year-old history is crucial. I gave my two cents on Socrates, Plato and Alexander the Great but even being more than 2500 years old, it wasn’t much required in this context. I can’t say which of the two is more important but my interest in both has drastically increased after this conversation.
While I try to understand more about my contribution, what I have learnt this month is that ‘Maza‘ needs to be an incentive at work too. I also realized that change is an extremely slow process. It takes time to witness it. On the other hand, it’s a lot easier to blame, point out what’s wrong and what can be improved. Making those improvements needs patience.