“At 26, when I left a cozy financial services consulting job to move to the ‘development’ sector my seniors and my colleagues thought I was crazy. My best friend thought it was some quarter life crisis! One my friends who didn’t understand the meaning of ‘development’, actually asked me if I was joining the construction industry! And my mom thought I wanted to do ‘social work’. She said to me, “why don’t you do social work after retirement, like other normal people?” To top it all, one of my aunts actually said, “For us women it is actually better to do ‘social work’; the work is part-time and we have enough time for our family and other social activities”. Thankfully, my husband (then boyfriend of five years) knew very well what I was up to and was extremely supportive of the move.
Well, I am sad to disappoint everyone, but in the last 18 months of working in the development sector, I have travelled more than 20 days each month, covered all but 6 states in the country, and worked closely with communities and local governments in the most backwards regions of the country. By empowering disadvantaged communities overcome poverty and helping governments plan effectively I am, albeit in a small way, contributing towards ‘development’ of the country and bringing about social change.
I had some threatening experiences. During my first field visit, I got the news of my grandmom’s sad demise. That very moment when I got the news, I was in a small village in Ghazipur district of UP interviewing a pregnant lady who was declared a ‘high risk pregnancy’ after having multiple miscarriages. She was so weak that she could hardly walk, but she actually held my hand and said everything would be alright. On my way back home I was immensely thankful for all the privileges my family had given me and for the fact that my grandmom lived a long healthy and peaceful life.
In another incident, during one of my field visits to small village in western Rajasthan where we work closely with women’s groups, a bunch of women began the meeting my asking me which caste I belonged to. When I refused to answer the question they were offended and left the meeting. The younger girls, no more than 12-13 years of age were actually surprised I travelled ‘this far’ alone and unaccompanied by a man, despite being married. One of them actually said that she wanted to grow up and be like me!
I have no words to describe some of the life lessons that these travels teach me. They continue to push me to work hard each day and inspire me to continue doing my best at work. Yeah, I do miss my family when I travel so much, but the days I’m back in town, I cannot be more appreciative of them. I can’t thank my parents and my husband enough for being such amazing support systems in my life!”
Submitted By – Nikhita Nadkarni
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