Thou Shall Know The Truth (About My 1st Month As A Fellow)!

by | Sep 23, 2017

“The grass is always greener on the other side”. But wait, is it, really?

Not even a day has passed in the last one month, when the beautiful pictures shared by my co-fellows working in rural setups didn’t give me a rush of the ‘fear of missing out’ or FOMO as it is called these days. Trying hard to console myself, I wonder if my office would seem like the scenes of a movie to them. Just to give you an idea of how my office looks like – glass doors, clean and spacious rooms, organised desks, comfortable chairs that swivel round and round, air conditioners, high-speed WiFi, power back-up facility and a beautiful balcony to enjoy the tea breaks and rain showers. To add to this luxury, I have found a house for myself that has a bathtub as well (even though I may not have access to it ☹)!  

While I don’t have to worry about mosquitoes or the quality of water or lack of phone connectivity, that surely doesn’t make my life any easy. Living in a city like Pune, as a fellow, and managing the monthly finances in a shoe string budget is nearly an impossible task. More than anything, keeping away from the beautiful (read expensive) cafés and pubs of Koregaon Park on the weekends is a never ending struggle, especially when all you have had in the whole week is Vada Pav (Rs. 6), Dosa (Rs. 25) and bread omelette (Rs. 20). Indeed, self-control is my lesson from the first month.

While the fellowship is all about such contrasting experiences and learning, there were few that remained common to quite a few of us (not all!) in the first month. After many conversations that I had with my co-fellows, I present to you a list of few such “common ties”.

  1. Readings (annual reports, brochures, policy briefs, newsletters and books) are at the heart of India Fellow. You are supposed to be as wise as the gentleman in the photograph below, and fast. So READ EVERYTHING!


     Reading is inevitable, breathing is optional.


2. The dilemma– ‘Are people becoming more annoying, or am I being a crotchety old man?’  The encounter with a welcoming and friendly (read as annoying) colleague had forced this question onto me over and over again. While trying to be polite in turning down his coffee and lunch invites,  I appeared as cool as a cucumber, but within I was a squirrel in the traffic.


Can it be both?


3. Sanchar se Badlaav (communication for social change) is what is I am aimed at doing! And what better medium can I have for it other than Twitter and Facebook.  Though the monotony of the routine (which is eat, tweet, sleep, repeat) is annoying, but now I understand the power it holds.

h - Copy

Can’t decide which one is my favourite.


4. Notes are a must, no matter what for! While some of my co-fellows were busy making notes of the surveys, focused group discussions (FGD) and in-depth interviews (IDI), I struggled hard to get used to record and transcribe interviews. The perks of getting a chance to interact with an expert in the field of renewable energy was that there was a lot to learn, but the technicalities like grid failure and backing down just went over my head. But never mind, that is a part of my job here  – to make sense out of everything that doesn’t make sense.

giphy (2)

These notes are not affected by demonetisation.


5. Peer learning and knowledge sharing continues through the unplanned meetings and never ending discussions. Though I am still not sure if ‘meeting’ is just another way to kill time, or it is meant to boost productivity of a team, I am aware quite confident of the fact that the conclusion of a meeting will never be in sync with its agenda.

giphy (1)

So it’s agreed, the bourgeoisie play a major role in promoting political democracy!”. “Wait… wasn’t this meeting about getting stationery supplies…”


6. And then there was the elephant in the room – blog writing! Working with the publication team here, my role is that of a writer and an editor for their blog-site, which means I write not just the monthly blogs, but many more. Indeed, I am proud of myself!


Not a bad idea, sir!
This is India… Add ‘sanskriti’ there!


7. Too many roles and responsibilities for a day, and too much of expectations from a year! I can’t simply do without the checklists and planners anymore!



8. Boredom is a state of mind, just like confusion. With the uncertainty regarding my deliverable(s) and the objective of my project, I knew that there was a lot of confusion and miscommunication happening in the organization. I has almost succumbed to the ennui, like my colleagues, when I realized that this was the very purpose and the call for me to strive through – to facilitate the communication process for others in the organization.



9. Field visit is the best teacher! Amidst all the doubts and confusion regarding WOTR’s motivation to relentlessly work in the field of watershed development, the visit to Bhojdari village in Maharashtra served as a perfect to opportunity to get all my queries resolved. Not only that, the field visit made me more comfortable with the jargons like water budgeting, agro-meteorology, ridge to valley approach, Shramdaan and many more.


Unlike college, field trips don’t equal impromptu picnics.


10.  “Your mailbox is almost full”. With the tons of mails (from Anupama in the fellowship team and the staff members here) flooding my inbox, that is what happened to me in the second week itself.


“It was high time I retired the cool_rahul_rox ID anyway.”


11. I am having some language issues! But as we know that necessity is the mother of all invention, I have managed to innovate and adopt some gestures and signs to communicate with auto-rickshaw drivers and street vendors.

giphy (6)

If I called a horse by any other name, would he kick less hard?


12. Tired  and exhausted, I was all set to hit the bed in the guest house by the evening. But unfortunately, that never happened. All I ended up doing is – keep calm and keep searching a house!

j - Copy

If house hunting is a crime, I am a most wanted poacher.


13. Sitting at a road side stall, I gaze at the beautiful buildings and expensive restaurants across the street with an eye full of dreams. But then as the plate of Masala Dosa was served onto my table, I realised that perhaps that’s all I can afford!


If I have bread today, lettuce tomorrow and bread the day after, did I technically eat a sandwich over 3 days?


14.  SOS calls were made to the program team and all my loved ones. But the real saviour were the calls made to co-fellows. Not only I started feeling  a bit more privileged with those calls, but also got the much – needed motivation to tackle whatever little troubles I was facing.



Phew! That is how I spent my first month in the WOTR office in Pune. How was your first month? What do you think – Is grass is always greener on the other side, or are you on the same boat as mine? – a question for all my co-fellows. Share your views in the comment box below.

Half Half None

Half Half None

The following blog has been co-written by co-fellows Daraab Saleem Abbasi and...

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  1. Swati Saxena

    Both urban and rural locations have their own share of advantages and disadvantages. I’m glad you already realized a lot of them. Reading this took me back to my first month as a fellow and a similar blog post I wrote with a mix of GIFs and pointers. Write more. Do well 🙂

    • Isha Fuletra

      Hi Swati! Thanks a lot for your wishes 🙂 I would say that I owe the early realisation to the conversations with my co-fellows in the first month. Thanks to them that I could settle with the FOMO of not being placed in a rural setup. Also,I would like to mention that while I was struggling to write this piece, it was your blog post from your first month in the fellowship that came as a saviour to help me structure my thoughts well.

  2. Yatti Soni

    High Five on the bathtub, Isha 🙂 Who’s this technical expert you interviewed? Is that interview available online?

  3. Isha Fuletra

    Hi Yati! I had interviewed Ashwin Gambhir, a senior researcher at Prayas Energy Group. The interview was meant for internal use only and so, we do not have a copy of it online.

    • Yatti Soni

      Oh cool! Hope the grass gets greener on your side soon. 🙂

  4. Anupama Pain

    Enjoyed this one! While you have said that you have tonnes of emails, i think you are doing quite well in terms of promptness in responding and keeping up. I also understand that an urban fellowship is forever a struggle across cohorts. My hope is that just like how you have managed to understand the theory of change of WOTR and found your space within it, so will you begin to look at the city from new lenses and share insights of city as a community with the larger cohort.


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