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Arpita Bohra

Gandhi Fellow 2011

UG – Literature, Lady Shri Ram College

PG – Counselling, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Having shifted six schools across two continents, and experienced the intellectual and emotional dizziness of processing two different cultures, Irish and Indian – the whole idea of identity simmered into one question - What do I have in me that will help me co-create something to make this world a better place?

This is the question that I have breathlessly trailed across the years. The answers have been startling, humbling, and always a step ahead of me! My choice to join the Fellowship came from my work with slum children in Andrews Ganj, and my own experiences of class and teaching across Ireland and India. I wanted to understand how one could create a classroom that nurtures the spirit and idea of transformation. Post Fellowship, this evolved into how do I access, create, and cultivate a space - inner and outer - that brings about transformation. Fellows taught me a lot, changing the ways I processed and the questions I asked. My “big fat change the world alone” dream mellowed into a humbler, deeper question. I am curious about how one builds, replenishes and strengthens spaces that encourage self-reflection and change. As a writer, that space for me is paper. I think I am the sum of all the whirlwinds that have travelled through me and the pages I have written. Except paper, my love for working with people pushes me to figure out what is the best way to co-create and transform - how do we come together and stay together as a team and community. To me delving deeper into that question holds the keys to any kind of engagement with change. The Fellowship helped me understand on an almost cellular level, the importance of approaching someone else’s world with humility and openness.

I came into the Fellowship with my nose up in the air, slightly, just at a respectful height - because I thought I’d breeze into school and say enlightening things and voila - transformation!!! The whole process of aligning that flawed conception to the realities of change has been the richest and deepest learning experience. Initially I struggled to change my headmasters. There was a lot of anger at the ways they ran their schools. I think the changing moment for me was the day I sat down with a lady I had judged for her inertia and asked her to draw me a life map.

After those 7 hours of listening to her story - I didn’t have to struggle to believe in her. Seeing all the conflicts, choices, and struggles she had experienced and come through – I couldn’t help but see that here was someone who had survived. The very fact that she was sitting here, leading a school (however haphazardly) was a triumph over odds in itself - given her life. When I could see and trust that part of her, believing she had it in her something came naturally. It radically altered our relationship - and how close she felt to me. She allowed me to push her, and challenge her to rethink.

I chose to get back to writing in a more intense and focused way, since it continues to be a part of who I am and what I dream about. In my last semester of the Fellowship, I had applied to Stanford University’s Online Writing Workshop. I spent the next few months after Fellowship learning the art of good storytelling with a bunch of people spread across the world and a mentor from Stanford University. I applied to Tata Institute of Social Sciences and got accepted to the MA Counselling program.

Right now, between juggling assignments and poetry and working with people and reading about theories of personality - I try to remember how I’m going to weave all of this together someday and create something new (hopefully). Figuring out financial feasibility, networking, co-creators, and my own shifting perspectives is a part of the journey.
“The fellowship was a turning point in my life that allowed me to clarify the direction I should take in my life. Each day working hard providing field support to Headmasters and then reflecting about the same in the evening really churned my life. The outcome was a clearer vision towards my future. Today I am working in my area which is youth, as a Program Director in an organization called Masoom. I am sure that through the training that have I received as a fellow, I can genuinely contribute towards the success of this initiative.”

Pallavi Gandhalikar
Gandhi Fellow, Batch 3 (2010-12)

“The people and experiences in the fellowship was a real life changer for me. My area of interest had always been working with orphans, and during my last 6 months I was able to research and study that area. I was also given an opportunity to work with organizations and experts dealing with orphans. The entire journey has fortified my inner resolve to accomplish what I set out to do. Through all the support I have received at the fellowship, I have clearly moved in the direction that I can relate to. Today I am working with India Sponsorship Committee’s Vidayapeeth Project that is committed to protecting Child Rights in Pune.”

Mayuri Joshi
Gandhi Fellow, Batch 3 (2010-12)

“The experience of Gandhi Fellowship proved to be useful because it has made me capable of making my own decisions. I have also learned the true meaning of working with a team of diversely qualified and capable individuals. It has been a very valuable experience to understand how each individual stands at his/her position in the context of life and the society around. It has made me realise that change is possible with a strategic and constructive approach. It has certainly added a page in the journey of my life and it has given me the right direction to move along the path.”

Kshitij Ramkrishna Patil
Gandhi Fellow, Batch 3 (2010-12)

“Fellowship brought clarity and conviction towards my life’s goal. My interests lie in creating models of self sustained village so as to control migration happening from villages to cities and to make it an interdependent economy. I have taken a first step to understand youth and learn how to convince others of one’s idea; working with fresh college youth shall give me a perspective of what they want and what I need to do so as to convince them of my idea.”

Atul Kotnala
Gandhi Fellow, Batch 3 (2010-12)