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By Nupur Kala
Nupur Kala, freshly minted graduate from IIT Delhi talks about her growing up in IIT through Social Service and mentorship.
For most of us Jodha ji is an ordinary man, residing in a slum of Delhi and earning his living working as a security guard, he sounds exactly like the person we conveniently ignore. However, there is one thing that makes him special and that is his desire to make the slum he lives in a better place. In a locality where fights and crimes are a daily occurrence, his efforts in creating a healthy atmosphere especially for the kids, by organizing events to celebrate national holidays, facilitating the construction of a common temple, or making sure that a group of students could safely and conveniently teach the kids at the basti are nothing but commendable. Trust me when I say that the chance of getting to know people like him is one of the greatest perks of social work.
Before I go further, let me introduce myself. I just completed my undergraduate studies in Electrical Engineering from IIT Delhi and have joined Samsung Electronics this September. I happen to fall into the category of day dreaming, over-thinking individuals and up until a couple of years I also fell into the category of those who liked to keep all their thoughts and dreams to themselves. However, over the past four years, my life has been transformed dramatically and my involvement with social work or service as I prefer to call it has been one of the major facilitator of this change.
The way it all started:
My first year at IIT was actually a struggle, I was home sick, over loaded with information and too shy to make new friends and try out new things. There was so much to do that I ended up doing absolutely nothing.
However, there were these two friends whom I had been introduced to when I came at IIT who were like my mentors. I would meet them occasionally, discuss out things, would ask for their advice on almost everything. They were like brothers to me and it was this affection that motivated me towards social work. So at the end of first year, I am a labeled 'Maggu' at IIT with no social life and this strong feeling that something is missing, and thus came the decision to join AINA, which not co-incidentally these two were founding members of. The motivation was simple, meet more genuinely good people like them and do something fulfilling and valuable with my time.
Teaching the kids at a slum near IIT Delhi was my first introduction to service and will always be the one thing closest to my heart. Before going any further, I would like to introduce you to AINA the main protagonist of this story. AINA stands for An Initiative for National Advancement; it is a body of students and professors at IIT Delhi that aims at contributing to the nation building moment via local action. For people like me who are a part of it, it is like a family that brings out the good in us; AINA parivaar is what we fondly call ourselves. Currently, we have four pillars of AINA - Srijan ( the slum development and teaching program), Manthan ( the portal to discuss on various social, political issues of national importance), Swades ( the end semester program to explore rural India) and Being Woman, which I co-founded (a platform for talking about gender from a holistic point of view).
Crossing the threshold:
I am one of those who have very strong beliefs though my friends prefer to use the word stubborn. So, even though I was a part of AINA, it was only with time and efforts that I could truly embrace it.
Going down the memory lane, the first event that I organized at the basti was the Vasant mela on the occasion of 26th January. We had planned for this grand event, which was supposed to begin with a patriotic movie screening, followed by a procession through the slum and a fair with the aim of creating awareness and solidarity. So, it's the day of event, a couple of hours before the movie screening and all of sudden the projector is not available. We were doing our best to arrange a projector at such a short notice while at the same time trying to figure out how to manage and entertain a crowd of over 150 people in case nothing works out. I remember coming up with the not so brilliant idea of having a "Bhajan Sandhya " as none of us could sing anything but Bollywood numbers. Fortunately, the projector was arranged and the event was a success. Since then, the basti is no more a place where I go just for teaching but a place where I can be with my friends.
Over the past years, there hasn't been any looking back. From co-founding Being Woman, to moderating and conducting discussions, from being a facilitator at Public Policy Bootcamp, the first public policy summer school in India, to venturing into yoga and spirituality. The last few years have been the time of many firsts.
At the risk of sounding too philosophical, I would like to say the greatest journey, however, has been the one within, to understand my own strengths and weaknesses; to realize the way I have been changing and evolving with time has been beautiful.
The Korean Twist:
One of the major concerns I had about coming to Korea was how I am going to continue doing this in a completely different setting. There is no definite modus operandi. The only thing that is certain right now is that I make sure I am spending at least an hour daily doing something that keeps me connected to the thought, there is no constraint on what I do in this time, mostly it's reading, meditation and discussions with my friends from AINA.
I also intend to meet people and organizations who are involved in social work, see how different or similar things are here, try them out and broaden my own perspective.
I know the destination, my heart belongs to India and my people. I want to become a catalyst in the process of transforming India. I am not sure about the how now and am hoping that it will come to me with time. Until then it is all about acquiring new experiences, learning, and exploring.