Posted in SBI YFI Fellowship

Trained and Inducted

I had joined the SBI YFI fellowship in the November batch; starting on Nov 3rd, 2014 till Nov 2nd, 2015. Our batch had the initial training at Ahmedabad, in SBI Learning Centre campus and the Aga Khan Rural Support Program – India (AKRSPI), with all 32 fellows. ( I had not imagined that the numbers would go down slowly, though).

SBI YFI Fellows with the Traditional Gujarati Family
SBI YFI Fellows with the Traditional Gujarati Family

It was a long, fast and hectic week. We got to know all other fellows, their stories, their motivations, inspirations and future plans. We felt, some would stay, some would be weak. We met many experts working in the social sector, doing grass roots level mobilization, directly engaging with the communities, innovating and forming enterprises. Others shared their personal stories of determination and surviving the odds. We met rural women who rose above their times and a couple of other significant interactions. More of it can be seen here,

https://sunayanachatrapathy.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/the-beginning-of-a-new-journey/

where another fellow has described her experiences. I had my first visit to a village in North India, in Sayla, one of the model villages adopted by AKRSPI.

The short interaction with the villagers opened up some interesting facts. Previously, they used to lose a lot of money, even after good rain water harvesting techniques and good quality seeds were provided by AKRSPI. On further probing the matter, they understood that a large chunk of their money was lost as part of rituals, customs and feasting after each death. The amount was too huge, that the profits they earned also did not bring a significant change in lifestyle. Though initially, it was difficult to stop this habit, the villagers collectively had decided to cut down their expenses on post-death rituals. This change in habit actually gave them good savings. After some time, the villagers actually got a chance to utilize their profits. However, the still continued to attend such functions in nearby villages and eat a lot of food there. Seeing the change in Sayla, other villagers too followed suit. This change, though brought about a huge shift from the tradition, was something initiated by the villagers themselves, and so I decided that we need not feel guilty for having changed their habits.

Rain Water Harvesting under the house
Rain Water Harvesting under the house
Villager explaining the various interventions by AKRSPI
Villager explaining the various interventions by AKRSPI

I realized more stories and pictures are to come in the full one year of my fellowship. I hope to convey each and every one of them with all due respect and sensitivity that each deserves.

Kids waiting eagerly for their mom to finish cooking lunch
Kids waiting eagerly for their mom to finish cooking lunch

The training at Ahmedabad campus got over very soon, and it was time to leave the few like-minded souls who were strangers just a week before.

Quick farewells to the groups leaving for each NGOs, me and Sindhu, the only 2 fellows to M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, the NGO headquartered in Chennai, left the Ahmedabad campus last.

Ahmedabad had given me few wonderful friends, mentors and memories, the most noteworthy one: being able to travel with two other girls, past midnight, enjoying the street food in the crowded streets of Khao Gali, and getting ourselves clicked, by pros, along the banks of Sabarmati. Making a mental note to visit this wonderful city, I started for Chennai, my “home away from home”.

Posted in SBI YFI Fellowship

Rural Development Fellowship – as I call it

The State Bank of India sponsored Youth for India Fellowship, or SBI YFI, as we call it, was born as a CSR activity of the State Bank of India. Anyone interested can check it out here http://www.youthforindia.org/

A chance mail from the IITM alumni network had brought me to the unread mail calling for applications from SBI YFI. As I had already been at a point of self-doubt with the rote that I was through, my preparations for the civil services and other techie jobs, I was all excited to apply for the fellowship. A quick read through the website, made it clear that even if I end up getting selected, it’d be difficult to convince all near and dear. Disheartened and distracted, I closed the page to go about with my regular activities for a month. However, as pre-destined, on the last day of application, I somehow managed to laboriously fill up and submit it, just before it closed.

Barely a week later, I was getting a mail to confirm my interview dates. I had chosen day 1, and was actually too confused wondering if it was actually a good decision. The interview was really good and I had got very positive vibes from the panel members, Geeta Verghese ma’m, the Program Coordinator, and Joe Madiath sir, the heart and soul of the partner NGO Gram Vikas. Further steps of the selection process; reference, choosing the location/NGO and the batch; all happened too soon. I had selected the November batch to join, and there was some time at hand to convince everyone about my decision.

It was in fact not too difficult for me. I had been planning to stay in a remote location, do some volunteering work, although, only in my head and had never imagined that I would get a chance to actually do it, and that too with a stipend to support myself. I was convinced and was ready to convince all. Only when I began talking about my plans for the next one year, did I realize how big a social mistake was I about to commit. At my age, in my community, unmarried and not having a regular job, for a women who’s crossed 25 is a big disgrace. In the end, by hook or crook, I managed to get my point across, but people chose to call me insane and hoped that I’d soon come back to senses. It was a hurried exit from my previous office and home for the plunge of a whole year.

When I finally decided, I did take the plunge…..