We hardly question ourselves on why we are doing something currently, especially if that option provides us with most of the material comforts. If one thinks beyond these material comforts, there is lot that awaits to be explored. I learnt this while I was comfortable in my IT job at a big firm. I worked as a software Engineer for 4 years as any other Engineer would choose to only to realize that the job was not fitting me well, by the end of the 3rd year itself … Then I started my journey of exploration to know WHAT GIVES ME HAPPINESS?
I volunteered with some NGOs to teach kids in slums, work with people in orphanages, old age homes, donate blood and finally pool funds to support education of more than 50 kids. This was the DISCOVERY! When you come out of comfort zones and give your best, then you are bound to find that happiness. So, I thought why not extend this just beyond volunteering to a way of life … That’s when I joined the fellowship and that changed a lot of things that followed thereon. I joined the fellowship in the fall of 2010 and worked in the hinterlands of the then Orrisa in really remote and lowest human development index regions of the country like Kalahandi. I worked with the reputed host organization Gram Vikas on thematic issues like:-
- on ‘Water and Sanitation’ issues including building toilets
- large scale ‘Watershed’ projects
- horticulture based livelihoods program for tribal farmers
- micro-hydro projects where I could finally apply my Mechanical Engineering academic background to light up a tribal village in Lanjigarh block of Kalahandi district
Of these, the last is really close to my heart. The first thing that comes to my mind when I see a micro hydro project is – the bollywood movie ‘SWADES’ … but a micro hydro power project requires lot more effort, time and commitment than one can imagine. While working with the organization’s team in Kalahandi, this was evident. The technical part of the project has created nostalgia in me as I’m a mechanical engineer by qualification but never applied the knowledge anywhere before. I was involved in turbine fabrication and other social (community based infrastructure such as power house, penstock / pipelines), technical aspects of the project. From community interactions to motivate them to work on construction of dam, tank and power house etc to liaisoning with government departments to mobilize NREGA funds to working with local machine shops for the turbine fabrication and fabrication of mechanical parts, the field visits … – each component has a strong story behind it.
A huge gap in a country as big as ours is the one between need and skill. I was trained to do exactly this! I knew how a turbine works. The chances that I would have used it as an IT professional in a tier 1 city was, well almost zero. On the other hand, the chances of a Lanjigarh kid one day becoming a turbine engineer and setting up the micro-hydro project is sadly also dim, if not impossible. The serendipitous coming together of the village and me did a great deal good to both of us. The joy of using ones skill for something beyond just the self or earning money is unparalleled. Imagine a village which was in darkness one night and in light the other. And the exuberance one faces at being able to be in the cusp of this transition as one of its enablers.
It is one of the feats I am going to remember with a lot of pride for the rest of my being. Change is not easy. But when life gives you an opportunity to be an agent of change – what are the chances you recognize it. I forever feel glad that I did. As I write this, I feel hopeful that the electricity in that village will enable them to read this article.
My years at the fellowship proved formative and gave me a clearer vision and a life philosophy I am now happy to be with. I saw first hand the stark face of poverty and realized how impact at mass scale can be brought about by working at the very top with the knowledge of the happening at the extreme bottom. While I write this, I await the results of my recently completed UPSC exams and I am hopeful of joining hands with many others who are trying at their respective levels to make India a better place for all of us.
But above all I improved my happiness quotient. It has not been easy, these years. But like I always knew, treading an unknown path and being little adventurous makes life more enjoyable and fulfilling.
I worked in one of the nearly 7 lac villages in our country. The number of young people required to even start getting things to change in a country as big as ours is much more than now. The fellowship is a FAITH that there are young people who are reading this waiting for the opportunity. It is a HOPE that giving time to the grassroots community work will not just make us a better citizen and potential leader, it will also bring about that elusive social change we all want.
About the author: Anvesh is a 2010 fellow. He is a mechanical engineer and joined the fellowship after over 4 years of work experience in IT.