Élan Issue 2

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2 Changing India, One Village at a time Shruti Sekhsaria 3 Going Back to School Abhinav Jha Mentored Raghuveer Dinavahi 4 Delving into Data Analytics Mayank Sharma 5 A December of Revelations Vishal Khatri Photograph by Rakesh

Young India Fellowship Class of 2015


Half Past the Fellowship Tarunima Mago shares her experience of the Fellowship 8 Embracing Uncertainty Rimjhim Roy 9 Moving Art Lav Kanoi Mentored Sakshi Ghai 10 A Walk into the Past Shaleen Wadhwana & Rohini Singh 12 The WordsWorth Project Varsha Varghese On Absolute Solidarity Akshay Lakhi

Photograph by Karan Bhola

Editors' Note Six months have passed since the Fellowship began. Six months, since one hundred and ninety seven starry-eyed young Fellows were ushered into a sparkling new life. The first issue of Élan simply happened - with the simple idea of creating a medium for the community of Fellows to interact, discuss and voice their opinions. Like all firsts, it did not have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and goals. However, the second issue of Élan saw the team adopt a very focused approach towards the task, which truly helped us work as a collective. The overarching concept for this issue was to showcase the tremendous diversity of the cohort and the Fellowship at large. Young India Fellows come from a variety of disciplines and represent diverse perspectives and belief systems. We wanted this issue to reflect these perspectives, through the unique experience of the Fellowship. Thus, Élan has made an effort to give representation to the exchange of diverse ideas between Fellows with different backgrounds, cultures, opinions and ambitions. It was a conscious team decision to encourage Fellows who were not necessarily writers, but had valuable experiences to offer to contribute for the second issue. Further, the Fellowship itself is an overwhelming mix of interesting elements. Halfway through, Fellows have learnt from and lived through many of their dreams. Many are working in sectors far removed from their academic majors through the Experiential Learning Module(ELM) and several others are learning life lessons through interactions with their mentors, who are changemakers in their respective fields. Every week, a guest speaker dazzles and inspires at least one Fellow among the one hundred and ninety seven. This issue dives into the learnings from each of these experiences which make the Fellowship what it is a life-changing year. It was indeed a challenge, but we have tried our best to incorporate every flavour of the Fellowship and present a collective voice at the same time. It took three whole months, thousands of words, fonts and colours, one system’s crash and endless cups of coffee to make these eighteen odd pages a tangible reality. We sincerely thank every Fellow for contributing to this issue, in words, photographs and spirit and we hope that Élan is a success! Team Élan



Going Back to School

Changing India, One Village at a Time

Abhinav Jha writes about his team’s motivation behind creating a mentorship network for school students

Shruti Sekhsaria shares her team’s experience of working in the village of Pudurpalayam in Tamil Nadu

Achievers' Corner Sonali Chowdhry was awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. An Economics graduate

from Miranda House, University of Delhi, Sonali intends to examine the implications of international economic integration for developing countries at Oxford University

Peeyush Khare published his latest research on indoor environments in Wiley's Journal of Indoor Air, popularly known as Indoor Air. The

paper is titled ‘Simulation of Vertical Concentration Gradient of Influenza Viruses in Dust Resuspended by Walking’. The study makes an important contribution to global research at the interface of building science and microbial ecology

Gaurav Dhankar has been chosen as the Indian Ambassador for ISFIT which is the world's largest festival on social issues in Trondhiem, Norway.

Abhinav Jha was selected 3rd in an Essay Writing Competition organised by the Global Peter Drucker Forum which earned him an all expense paid trip to Vienna. The theme for the essay was ‘Lost in Digital Wonderland’

Ashwini Ashokkumar and Abhilasha Kumar published their short stories in a best-selling fiction anthology titled Mango Chutney, published by Rumour Books India

Taru is a project aimed at creating an on-call academ-

The Dalmia Model Village project is based along the lines

ic mentorship network for school students between the classes of 8 to 12, to guide them through their academic careers. The idea for taru emerged during a conversation I had a few months before joining YIF with Dr. Anil Gupta, Professor (IIM-Ahmedabad) and founder of the Honey Bee Network. At YIF, I got the opportunity to discuss this idea with people, Chavi and Jayashree being among them.

As an Experiential Learning Module (ELM) team, we (Soni Jha, Amulya Yerramaneni and I) are working on this project with the Dalmia Bharat Group Foundation (the CSR wing of Dalmia Bharat Group) in a village called Pudurpalayam, located in the sub-district of Lalgudi which is in Tiruchirappalli district of Tamil Nadu. The first phase of the project involves identifying various government schemes in different sectors like education, health, sanitation, etc. The plan of action then focuses on conducting baseline surveys and field visits, resource-mapping, drafting a micro-plan as well as the final implementation of the plan.

Once we got together with the realisation that mentorship was important for school students, it didn't take time to convert it into an Experiential Learning Module project. What glued us together was the fact that each of us had felt shortchanged at some point in our careers due to the lack of exposure or intelligent guidance and we felt deeply passionate about finding a solution to this problem.

of Prime Minister's Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY), which involves building stronger village-level institutions for greater community participation by developing model villages. Our main objective is to mobilise the local community to participate in the development of their own village by making them the stakeholders in the development process.

During our one-week stay in the village of Pudurpalayam, the local team helped us prepare the survey questionnaire to collect household data. In order to understand the needs of the local community and explore the possibilities of involving local governing bodies in micro-panning, we conducted participatory rural appraisal and had numerous interactions as well as focussed group discussions with the villagers. Currently, we are drafting a micro-plan based on our research which would align with the existing government welfare schemes and policies. While we had a surface knowledge about the various problems that existed in rural India, there was a certain curiosity towards understanding the developmental aspect of these issues. This project thus far has proved to be a very big learning experience for us. We have gained very valuable insights about the development sector through intensive field work. Our final aim is to create a self-sustaining village community in Pudurpalayam, whose model can be replicated in other villages of India.

Ananta Seth, Peeyush Khare and Danish Ahmad Mir have been awarded the Charpak Scholarship to attend the Sciences Po Exchange



None of us had much experience in the education sector - we didn’t have a client and we really wanted to work on the project without delay. That meant a lot of crossroads and asking for directions. We spoke with YIF fellows, faculty, administrative staff, friends, family, strangers and just about anyone who was willing to talk to us about the project and could give us some ideas.

After several surveys and some struggle, we found a school that was willing to work with us. Swami Vivekanand Lotus Valley Public School in Yamunanagar agreed to let us pilot the project in their school. We interacted with the students, held an art workshop for them and will soon start connecting them with personal mentors. Our initial crop of mentors will be from YIF. A few weeks ago, Central Square Foundation agreed to be our client and we're excited about this. We also have Dr. Annie Koshi, Principal of St. Mary's School (Delhi), as our official mentor. One roller coaster of a meeting with her has given us some extraordinary insights that we're very grateful for. We are currently working towards establishing a training program for our mentors after which we plan to start profiling students. We’ve only begun and there’s a lot of work that remains to be done. Nonetheless, we are very committed towards our initiative because we believe that it will truly benefit school students in creating a more rewarding educational experience for themselves.

Mentored Raghuveer Dinavahi Personal Mentor: Gautam Sen, Founder, Auto India During my first interaction with Gautam, he told me that he will be able to assist me on topics like the design, history and social impact of automobiles. This was something that I had always wanted to learn. From the start, he emphasised that this mentoring relationship was going to be a collective learning experience for both of us. Over the course of our subsequent interactions, we discussed topics that ranged from the history of cars to philosophical themes in Professor Kenwyn’s course. His experiences of attending Formula-1 races and the 24 Hours of Le Mans have been an absolute treat to listen to. It has been two years since I’ve actively discussed something that I had a sustained interest in. I hope I have many more fruitful interactions with him in the future.




When a fellow, Abhinay, sent an e-mail out to the entire class about hosting an art auction, I jumped at the idea. This was one of the art projects suggested by Dr. Chaubey and his teaching assistant, Habiba Insaf, for his course on Art Appreciation. The course itself involved a more informed engagement with art. However, just as art itself must be experienced, so we felt that another element in the reception of art also had to be experienced: the buying and selling of artwork. It was the unique design of the YIF which enabled us to move a few pieces of art by means of an art auction.

Delving into Data Analytics Mayank Sharma recounts the highlights of a guest lecture by Deb Roy, the Chief Media Scientist at Twitter

November 3rd, 7:55 AM: A steady stream of people

walked into class, some rubbing their eyes, some shining bright with hair still wet and a few trying to take the last few bites of their parantha. But all of them were eagerly awaiting a talk by Professor Deb Roy and Professor James Kondo. Deb Roy is a tenured professor at MIT and is the Chief Media Scientist at Twitter, while James Kondo is a Visiting Professor at Hitotsubashi University, Japan and also the Managing Director of East Asia at Twitter.

-ool, Mr. Ashish Dhawan, Roy was aware of the nature of students at the university. Their desire to help change the state of affairs in the country was what he spoke of next. A town called Jun in Spain that Deb Roy and James Kondo’s teams had been studying, is run on Twitter to a large extent. Each citizen and public worker has a Twitter handle and citizens tweet for services they need and the town government responds through Twitter.

It would have been unfair to have an art auction without exhibiting the pieces first. So, jugaad happened! The large multi-purpose hall on the fourth floor served as our exhibition space. There were several disadvantages to this, of course: no spotlights, nowhere to hang the paintings, and no proper display facility as such. So we used all sorts of on-site material to transform the multi-purpose hall. All this jugaad resulted in a philosophical profundity: the gallery was no longer just exhibiting artworks, it was also exhibiting itself.

Moving Art Lav Kanoi describes his tryst with art and the art of jugaad Abhinay, Ankit and I began the process of buying and selling art. We made up a name, professed ourselves auctioneers, and invited our co-fellows and all artists within the Ashoka community to submit their canvases. We arranged for a professional art critic to shortlist the submissions for the auction. We then conducted interviews with the artists to prepare a catalogue that was published electronically. Using our made up name, we drafted a sale deed, a statement of authenticity, and also prepared a catalogue of items that would be put up for auction. Once the paperwork was in place, we went about readying the auction itself.

The gallery was inaugurated by the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Rudrangshu Mukherjee. Over the single day of the exhibition, we had about ninety people visit our gallery of whom eight registered as bidders. That same evening, the hammer dropped, seven times. We sold seven of ten paintings and the proceeds were divided equally between the artist and an effort towards charity. In the process, we learnt more about art and about art’s power to effect material change in the world. It was a unique opportunity, indeed a privilege, to be able practice this kind of jugaad with success!

Mentored Sakshi Ghai Alumni Mentor: Mrudula N S, 2011-12 Batch Source: Twitter

Thus began the talk at 8 AM, with Deb Roy discussing how he turned the birth of his first child into an opportunity to explore how children learn language. His larger goal though was to introduce us to the power of data analytics. By creating “workspaces” that tracked the motion of his child and each utterance of the word “water” within the house, they learnt how context plays a role in word acquisition. One may only wonder how much more we can learn about this process that every person goes through. Given that the talk was in Ashoka University, co-founded by James Kondo’s colleague at Harvard Business Sch-

Mrudula N S, my Fellow mentor is currently pursuing a PhD in Management and Organisation Behavior at the Ross school of Business, University of Michigan. As a PhD aspirant, I was very inquisitive about the nature of the program and had innumerable questions to ask. Mrudula provided me profound direction and helped me understand the significance of actually doing a PhD. I took her through my academic interests, background, key influences and all my aspirations in great depth. She gave me valuable insights into what makes a good graduate school application and its essential ingredients. She also delved into her professional journey, filled me in on her major life experiences and her passion to unravel organisational behavior.

Literally running an entire town through Twitter is something even a science fiction writer would find far-fetched yet this was already reality. This led to a spew of questions regarding the role of Twitter in governance. Being able to dive deep into human behaviour not through speculation and theorising but through the power of data has left us dreaming of the things we might one day learn about ourselves and the ways that could change the world. We wait with bated breath to hear of how we can be involved in the future of human understanding.

Further, we engaged in interesting discussions on the ideal time to enter a doctorate program. She carefully explained that ‘No matter which phase of life one is in, 4

age and time are two things that should hold very little importance while making a decision to pursue a PhD. It’s the subject that impassioned you, the research question that drives you and the love you have for the field that is your only guiding force’. Most faculties in prestigious colleges share a problem driven, interdisciplinary, multi method approach that leads to significant impact on both theory and practice of any subject. Hence, it is quintessential to gauge one’s level of interest and commitment and let instincts steer the way forward. I have been quite overwhelmed by how informative our conversation was and the depth and breadth of the advice she provided me with. Mrudula was immensely helpful and exceptionally humble to take out substantial time during her exam week to connect with me. Indeed, at YIF we are a fortunate bunch of students to have such stimulating people in our lives to mentor us consistently and patiently. 5



COVER STORY It is midnight. Through the glass walls, I can see the glorious moon perched atop the blanket of the night sky. I can hear the gentle, rhythmic tapping of shoes, perhaps of another Fellow sitting comfortably somewhere in the alley created between the book shelves. I sit here in relative paralysis, staring at all the books in my field-view that I want to read or reread before the Fellowship ends. I derive comfort in knowing that there are many Marquez, Kundera, Kafka, Mistry and Manto book-worlds that I still have to visit, live in, or become familiar with.

leadership, psychology and political identity waltzed in and out. Needless to say, I was left saying ‘encore’ after most of these short courses, especially sociology. The amazing guest lectures by the likes of Prof. Deb Roy (Chief Media Scientist at Twitter) exposed me to ideas that really stimulated my grey matter. Who would have thought that mounds of data could track the evolution of language or that Twitter could be used to enforce accountability in remote, small, idyllic towns? My anti-social self was finally acknowledging the merits of a socially networked world.

At that very moment, to break my silent soliloquy, the library door swooshes open, bringing in a gust of chilly breeze and the excited chatter of people, probably celebrating another birthday. I can hear the enthusiastic cheer floating in the air. Outside, the jaali casts irregular patterns on the floor. I start thinking about how the YIF has helped me in piecing together the jigsaws strewn over the space and time of my twenty three-year-old existence, in a matter of six months. It was in the sweltering summer of 2014 that I came to this free-spirited powerhouse. I was a hackneyed copy of an engineer in the garb of a bibliophile, in search of greener pastures. Add two tablespoons of introversion and one teaspoon of anti-social behaviour for effect. All my life, I have either pulled off a vanishing act in the library or in the laboratory. I was hence blown away by the number and variety of conversations on politics, music, society, people and books happening at the YIF in the very first week. To put it mildly, the Young India Fellowship consumed me, wholly and irrevocably. I realised during the very first week that I was in for a journey that would relegate all other parts of my life to obscure corners. It would monopolise my existence. I would be a Fellow for life and that realisation was like a bolt from the blue. The next few months whizzed past me, leaving behind frames of people, books and experiences that have left an indelible mark on my life. The months here helped me access intellectual faculties I didn’t even know I possessed. The listener in me thrived in the collective intelligence of an extraordinarily talented and diverse cohort. The YIF became an elegantly choreographed dance sequence for me, where art appreciation, history, sociology, business,

Photograph by Karan Bhola

Half Past the Fellowship Tarunima Mago “The Young India Fellowship consumed me, wholly and irrevocably. I realised during the very first week that I was in for a journey that would relegate all other parts of my life to obscure corners. It would monopolise my existence. I would be a Fellow for life and that realisation was like a bolt from the blue.”


For me, the Fellowship is not just any course or degree; it is an experience of being actively aware of my presence in the complex scheme of things in life. It is humbling to see people creating history, nearly every day – winning accolades such as the Rhodes, Charpak and what not. To be in a class of poets, economists, journalists, psychologists and engineers all at the same time is beyond enriching. Every single day here, I realise how much I enjoy meeting people randomly over dinner in the mess, travelling with them in the shuttle, bumping into them in Delhi or secretly listening to the stories they have to share. I think the uncertain excitement of knowing the unknown and these random conversations have majorly shaped my experience here. The Fellowship is the place where the monologue in my mind - constructive or not, becomes a shared one. My presence in the Fellowship in that sense is paradoxical. I came here to find my individuality but instead, I am finding solace in the collective consciousness of its family. It’s half past midnight now; I adjust the depression in the bean bag and make myself comfortable. It’s quieter both inside and outside the glass walls of the library and I revel in the awareness that comes with the silence of the night – the consciousness that the clock is ticking and the leaves outside are trembling in the wind. The world is in flow and I am suddenly aware of all the ‘halves’ in my life – half past the book -‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, half past my twenties (almost) and half past the Fellowship. Perhaps it is time that I catapult myself into the other half. My story started twenty three years ago, but I think the pivotal chapter that people will remember for life has only just begun.




It is not very often that one comes across a person who has a multi-hyphenated career- for example, Deutsche Bank global strategist-environmentalist-urban planner-writer-Rhodes scholar. But Young India Fellowship is just the sort of place which would present the opportunity to interact with someone who is as astoundingly brilliant as Sanjeev Sanyal, through a guest session which all of YIF’s alumna has deemed to be among the best. Sanjeev Sanyal started the session by discussing his book “The Land of Seven Rivers”, a book he described as the “geographical history of India”. He talked about how India’s history had been shaped by its geography. For instance, why did Buddha deliver his first sermon at Sarnath and not at Pataliputra, which was the closest city to Bodh Gaya, where he received enlightenment? He spoke of how the one route we know as the Grand Trunk Road has been almost instrumental in shaping India’s history and the way it unraveled. His talk quickly moved from the genetic and genealogical origins of India to the establishment of modern cities like Gurgaon and Modi’s plan for the establishment of smart cities.

A December of Revelations Vishal Khatri looks back at the unique experience of learning as a collective with Professor Kenwyn Smith

Come December and YIF revels in the pleasant Delhi

winters and the festive mood of Christmas. December also brought along another cherished guest to YIF from the University of Pennsylvania - Kenwyn Smith. Amongst the most intense at YIF, his two courses, Leadership in a New Economy and Group Dynamics were completed within a span of twenty-five days and led to many realisations during that time. Both the courses had a packed schedule with daily reading, writing and peer review assignments, complemented with various class simulations and activities. Dr. Smith

as the clout of a godfather – and he uses both these traits effectively to facilitate learning in the classroom. From the very first day, his insistence on discipline and commitment, along with his no-nonsense approach created a positive learning atmosphere in the classroom. The clarity and conviction of his ideas left me mesmerised and inspired. It was fun to sit in his lectures and listen to the interesting tales and incidents from his long-spanning career, delivered in a dramatically modulating voice, complete with theatrical gestures. As a Fellow put it, “Kenwyn Smith is a boss.”

From sharing his passion for cartography and collecting old maps, he went on to discuss the present scenario of urban planning in India, an area which is his expertise. He juxtaposed planned cities like Chandigarh with more unplanned, organic ones like Gurgaon. One of the most interesting things discussed was about slums, an aspect of urbanisation that he claimed to be essential. He said that slums are routers for people from rural areas to urban areas, which was an interesting perspective on rural migration.

Embracing Uncertainty

Rimjhim Roy revisits the most interesting moments from Sanjeev Sanyal’s guest session The floor was then opened for questions. Sensing the general apprehension that most twenty-somethings harbour about the future, he revealed that he never had a set plan in life. He stressed on the importance of nurturing relationships and good will, in order to have a team in place that acts as your support system through everything that you undertake. He revealed that his family had moved back to India with him when he wanted to research and travel around the country. I had been taking his views on teams rather lightly, until I began to think about all the things I had ever attempted and how some outside intervention and support had invariably been required. Mr. Sanyal’s self-deprecating humour and charm ensured that he had an enraptured audience. His talk reassured us that it was absolutely normal to be unsure about career plans at our age, as long as one is open to learning, exploring and having a support system.


Photograph by Karan Bhola

was joined by Dr. Flora and Dr. Charlene as co-instructors for the Group Dynamics course. The Group Dynamics course had ‘sessions’ to directly expose us to group processes and conflicts. I, for one, had many moments of insight during these group sessions, which helped me understand my own as well as others’ past behaviour in group settings. Dr. Smith also emphasised collective and community-based learning rather than individual learning, which encouraged, even necessitated, collaboration. This meant I was working with a new team every day and got the chance to work with people outside my usual friend circle and know them like never before. The experience helped me understand and perform in team settings to my best potential. Dr. Smith has the endearingness of an immersed researcher as well

I will remember the last day of the course for long, as will many others. It started with the instructors making us dance and them dancing to an Australian folk song. Following this, there were a series of activities where Fellows opened up to each other. We learnt to resolve our conflicts and appreciate the good in each other. It was an emotionally charged atmosphere and many could be seen teary-eyed, thanking other Fellows and the instructors. Both these courses were interesting and managed to keep me away from my smartphone for the whole day. They delivered on the hype that preceded them and YIF has been richer for the experience. A hat tip to Karan, Ruchi and Sarah, the Teaching Assistants for the course, who toiled incessantly to ensure a flawless experience! 9



A Walk into the Past Shaleen Wadhwana and Rohini Singh talk about their passion for conducting Heritage Walks at the Fellowship

With the purpose of wanting to share amazing stories of the past, we created the History and Heritage Society at Ashoka University. The Ashoka community can expect guest lectures, out-of-station heritage trips and food tours. The proximity to a culturally rich city like Delhi has helped us conduct three Heritage Walks so far: Humayun’s Tomb, the Hauz Khas Complex and the Mehrauli Archaeological Park.

Why conduct Heritage Walks?

Places of historical significance have always fascinated us for being able to keep the past alive in our present. There is an immense amount of admiration for the resilience and perseverance of such spaces to withstand the ravages of time. We have utmost respect for any attempt made to learn about and preserve these icons of bygone eras, which is where the concept of heritage walks comes in for Rohini. Shaleen has trained to conduct such walks under the aegis of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). The fondest memory she has is of taking school children to these sites and being a part of the process that sensitises them to their heritage. It’s not only important to visit historical monuments but respect the craft that went into the creation of such spaces. It is always rewarding for us to hear how someone sees

the same place differently, after a Heritage Walk.

What stories do these historical sites tell?

These don't just remain structures that once functioned as places of worship, residence or the resting place for those who are dead, but become a reservoir of knowledge across many disciplines. To situate our attendees within that time period is our goal. The architecture defines the artistic appeal at that time; the application of geometry and mathematical principles; the use of natural dyes depending on how the site aged and the climate of the region; the economic well being of the area; whoever commissioned the building speaks to the political dynamics of the time; the role that the religion of the artisans and the rules had to play; and of course, the foresight of the creators at a time when knowledge was not as advanced as it is today.

What’s next in store?

We also wish to broaden the scope of heritage walks by going beyond the conventional tours of monuments to linking heritage with the fields of e-commerce, business and anthropology. We will show this in our next walk to the Azadpur Mandi, the largest fruit and vegetable-selling market in India. Preliminary visits to document the heritage of Haryana have been made and we may look 10

I have always been fascinated by our rich treasure of forts and monuments. In each brick and corner of these structures lies a story to be explored. But often, in the business of life, I have unknowingly ignored this fact. Living in South Delhi for so many years now, Hauz Khas Village has been one of my most frequented places. I am fond of PESPECTIVES ON THE WALKS sitting at the fort, reading a book or just catching up with I felt the walk was very professional, informative, and en- friends there. However, I never made an effort to discovgaging. I couldn’t have asked for a more capable guide. er the story that it tells. Of course, I could have gone for hours more, so maybe it needs to be a bit longer -- or maybe I was having so To me, an evening’s Heritage Walk with Shaleen Wadhwamuch fun the time seems to have gone quickly! I wish I na added a new meaning to the place. The Walk was not could have done more of these! I think it’s a great way to restricted to being just a reiteration of facts from history; learn about the city. Thank you for taking the time to be she spun a story out of it. Being a student myself, I was most drawn by the madrasa and the classrooms overour guide. looking the lake. As Shaleen continued to paint a picture - Dr. Ulises A. Mejias, Assosiate Professor, of a Tughlaq era class and hostel room, she brought in SUNY, Oswego elements from our own classrooms and hostels to beautifully enhance the contrast. It gave me so much pleasure to share this knowledge with my sister when I went back I had an absolutely lovely time today, thank you! You to the fort a few weeks later. This Walk gave birth to a were both fantastic guides. I look forward to more heri- new curiosity in me – a zeal to complete the historical jigsaw puzzle of Delhi in my mind. I wish to attend many tage events in the future! more such Walks! - Antara Raychaudhury, Fellow - Nandita Ramanathan, Fellow

at adopting a monument here. This is our tiny step to infect others with our passion for India’s Heritage and create a sense of regional collective ownership to what is ‘ours’ since 3000 BCE (approx.).

Photograph by Jyotsnav

Why start the History and Heritage Society?


Reaching for the Stars



Many of us live in a world of imagined realities. I often dreamt of a distant future where I would have successfully combined my love for traveling, reading, writing and teaching children. Then there are those of us who are grateful for the opportunities they received and recognise their responsibility to give back. And then there are those who are nostalgic about the lost passion for books and want to ensure that the children around see a better world. What happens when these three independent dreams of three twenty-somethings find a common way to translate into a tangible reality?

The WordsWorth Project Varsha Varghese writes on making her team’s dream of building libraries in schools a reality It is these personal narratives that gave way to our self-designed ELM, The WordsWorth Project. I along with my teammates Priyanka Roychoudhury and Rahul Sreekumar envisioned to build libraries in low-funded schools, community centers and shelter homes to foster a love for reading in students and open doors to a world previously inaccessible. Our focus is to have tailored mini-libraries stocked with books specific to the reading level of the children in the space and to have an engaging reading space but with an understanding that our responsibility does not end there. With volunteer intervention in the form of reading facilitators, we aim to map the individual progress of every child in the programme. with the

Big dreams often spill onto the real world, beginning as small tales. Our tale will start this January, in two community centers in Delhi with the three of us, a group of dedicated volunteers and children ready to explore the magic inside pages. The scene is already set with taking the initial assessments of the children in the two spaces, finalising the book titles and working on the procurement channels for these resources. We do not know the ending, even if there will be one, yet the support and encouragement from friends to complete strangers leave behind a quiet glow of happiness, like the fellow who pledged to devote a few hours every month to teaching chess to the children. As we attempt to translate our dream into beautiful libraries and happy children, we search for these moments of quiet happiness and people to join us.

TEAM éLAN Chief Editors Abhilasha Kumar Sanjna Sudan

Copy Editor Ritvik Carvalho

Concept & Design Apoorva Kamat Prama Neeraja

Photograph by Rakesh

Contributors-in-Spirit Parushya, Priyanka R. Raghav A., Rishabh R. Shaleen W.

On Absolute Solidarity Deeply moved after a guest session by Dev Tayde, for- of everything else, the one thing that I’d take on the world for. mer Executive Director at Indicorps, Akshay Lakhi That is exactly why your concept of absolute solidarity struck wrote him an endearing email. Presented below are me. some excerpts from the same:

However, even though I'm having some incredible experiences that I would never have had sitting inside a cubicle in an ivory tower in Hiranandani Gardens, the primary objective of figurYour talk yesterday left me really uncomfortable on the ing out the absolute solidarity is really not happening. This is the reason why your session left me uncomfortable, with the inside, especially the part about ‘absolute solidarity’. questions surfacing yet again. I come from an average-middle class urban life setting, having spent the entire twenty two years of my existence If this was not enough, the climax of your session scared me. in Mumbai. You said something about your reason for You left me with a line, “Some people's potential is funneled working in Indicorps, “The organization allowed me to into existence. Others have the opportunity to funnel their represent myself.” This line made me shiver, because this potential into more than existence.” I believe I fall in the latter reason somewhere resonated with mine for leaving JP category. I hope that I can make the most of this privilege that Morgan after 11 months. The problem at JPMC was that I have been fortunate enough to receive. there was no purpose that drove me. This was my fundamental reason to join the Fellowship - to find a purpose Finally, I can't thank you enough for what you did yesterday. in life. To find that one thing that I could do regardless You showed us the mirror, from the inside. Thank you. Dear Dev bhai,

Photograph by Karan Bhola



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