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Learning to empathize

Avish Vijay

I am Avish Vijaivergiya. I am a User Experience Designer and in the meantime, I
just look at things and I love to compare and bitch about them.

Have you ever done this exercise, when someone special is coming to your house created, you try to imagine all the scenario possible, try to understand their needs, you tidy up the place a little, looking into those minor details?

Well, it’s simple, you have just put things in a meaningful order so that your guest feels good. You have just designed a usable experience. That’s what I try as well, So the question is, how do I it, or rather why do I do this? Why is it needed?

To answer that question, I would like to roll back the time a little. I was a very very shy kid, cannot talk more than a sentence. Adding to the mess, I am a single child as well. I used to have this strange thought that was a byproduct of this low self-esteem “I as a person don’t matter, its the person for whom I am doing this work for which matters a lot”. All these years I always felt that my views, my feelings, my thoughts don’t matter to anyone.

Among all this, I did had a hard family time as well which suppressed me even further. Don’t worry I won’t go into sentimental details. This thing, which back then had many negative impacts, had empowered me with one amazing thing which I cherish forever i.e empathy.

My experience with subsequent trauma has offered me High Self-Monitoring, Hyper-vigilance and a predisposition to and taking on a lot of Emotional Work.

With my background, I find this difficult to turn off. Whenever I’m around people or things, I’m gathering information, I’m studying behaviours, I’m noticing usability. I struggle to avoid being the vessel. I have to make a conscious effort to stop. But stopping feels unsafe.
This makes me more of a designer.

Avish Vijaivergiya
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019

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Ankit’s Journey and Young India Challenge

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Change never happens in isolation and once it starts happening, it cannot be confined or controlled. I have experienced it in my journey of bringing change. 

Hi, I am Ankit Raj, and I belong to a small remote village of western Bihar. From the very beginning, like most of the families who aspire to fix the financial insecurities by getting a government job, my family was also very ambitious and wanted me to be an officer in Indian Army and carry forward the legacy of my previous generation dominated by officers of Indian Army. After several failures to get into military schools, the memorable successes during my NCC Career brought me the opportunity to go through Officers Training and also the title ‘Pride of the Battalion’. Henceforth, rather than choosing to secure the nation from external threats, I chose to eradicate the bigger threat to internal security and prosperity of the nation that is ‘poverty’.

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With 93.8 percentile at national level in AIMA-UGAT 2012, instead of pursuing business studies, I chose to go for B.A. Honours in my English Literature and remain close to my villagers and apply my whatever little knowledge I had for their welfare. That drove me to student politics, RTI activism and citizen journalism. I successfully solved some problems also and that ignited to work for impact at scale. After completion of B.A English Honours, I was chosen for in Gandhi Fellowship and got placed in the tribal block of Surat Gujarat. While working with tribal communities in remote areas, I used to come across several issues and used to feel an urge inside to solve all the problems. I tried my hands in some of the problems and tasted partial success. It made me think about the process I followed and It brought me a realization that I didn’t use the perspectives of my collegues for the solution. That led me to the realization that to solve the traditional issues of the community, we need to bring creative, holistic and comprehensive ways. There starts the search for opportunities where I may meet ‘creative-problem-solvers’ and the nature conspired to bring Young India Challenge 2017 in my way. I just grabbed it and made myself available for a life changing opportunity. 

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YIC may be several things for several people, but for me, it was a platform which expanded the framework of my thought process which made my outlook more spacious for knowledge, aspiration and vision. It stretched my outlook from local to global; and due to that along with my interest in local governance and rural development, I started getting interested in international developments and challenges. The challenge of finding solutions to global problems in few hours was like shaking your brain like anything, but with the enthusiastic team members, we could find a solution, propose a business plan and appeared replicable. This brought me a learning that solution will be in our hand as and when we want it. 

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The habit of visualizing problems in global framework and local resources made me realize the importance of even a small positive step anywhere in the world. It increased my interconnectedness, expanded my knowledge base, my network, capability and opportunities. Today, I am a person whose interest lies in foreign relations along with local governance of India.

In 2019, I am working with the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj to implement a national project which aims to bring youngsters in Panchayats to increase the capacity of Panchayat Elected representatives and government employees and ensure that participatory, planned and sustainable development is taking place. Now, when I apply the global lens and find myself solving several of UN – SDGs. This makes me visionary and makes me ahead of the average thought leaders.  

I will always be grateful to YIC and will keep being a problem solver for the community. I think this is the best way to build the nation and self. 

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Life is beyond uncertainties – The spark of Doing What You Love!

Every day, at around 5:00 AM, I’d be rushing down the flight of steps to board the Churchgate local transiting through Vasai Road (a small town in the outskirts of Mumbai) to kick-start my day as a University student. In about 90 minutes I’d be at the Churchgate station at an hour of the day where Bombay still seemed to be dressed in the freshness of a golden morn. Treasuring the silence, I’d be happily strolling down the heritage lanes of South Bombay, or stop by the bay and relish the beauty of the morning calm. With the rise of the Sun, my hours would soon be devoted to attending Sociology lectures followed by French lessons until late afternoons.  Towards the start of a pleasant evening, I’d slip into the shanty slums of Dharavi and transition my role from a student to a part-time English and French teacher at a non-profit. This was what had got me productive during the weekdays. The weekends, however, were quite rigorously meant for short day trips and a volunteer project that identified me as an online English tutor for the orphans of rural West Bengal. Occasionally I’d also be gladly working part-time as a city guide, showing around hidden nooks of Bombay to guests from Sri Lanka, Turkey, West Indies, Canada, Australia, just to name a few! 

Bundi, Rajasthan

Right from my hours spent studying culture, norms, and society to exploring the diverse vividity of this globe as a Sociology and a French student, I’ve always loved the idea of materializing my learnings; in an environment that would allow me to share my skills and take it to the ones in need. Certainly, that was what led me to start working in Dharavi and eventually handed me a fellowship in rural Rajasthan. Simultaneously, my love for traveling to foreign lands and connecting with people from across the globe also motivated me to come up with my travel blog – ‘Steps and Streets‘ to share my travel stories. 

My work in Rajasthan was that of an English teacher at a rural school which parallelly also allowed me to travel and write stories during school vacations and long holidays. However, a few months down the line, a prolonged illness dropped me at the crossroads of quitting the fellowship and looking for another job in the development sector or diving into a less-promising career option of being a full-time travel writer. I chose the second one. The one that I’ve always had connected with. 

With my students in Tilonia

Tanisha with her students in Tilonia, Rajasthan

Since then, my travel-writing career has taken me to the remote villages of the Uttarakhand Himalayas, to lesser-known heritage nooks in Rajasthan, and several other parts of West Bengal, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. 

But none of this was a bed of roses. There still are days where I think of opting for a full-time job. But every time I think such, I’m turned down by a virtual loop of all the adventures I’ve had on the road ever since I got into travel blogging. Despite the pain and the instability of financially sustaining my life as a digital nomad, I’d never trade this life of pure bliss and pure struggle for anything that is less exciting than the one that I’m in. 

At an unmapped village, Uttarakhand

Ever since I was 17 till today that I’m 21, I’ve never thought of rewinding or living my life differently! As a less-experienced teenager to an ever-evolving adult, I’ve always chosen what rang with my passion. 

By the verandah, as I sip my coffee overlooking the fresh paddy fields of Bengal, once again, I ask myself, ‘how do I manage to stick to the drama of having a life with all sort of uncertainties?’, my gut simply murmurs, ‘That’s the spark of doing what you love!’

Tanisha Guin
(YIC Mumbai 2017)

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Footprints of YIC Impact Edition – 2017

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Everyone has a turning point in their life. Some might have experienced, some might be experiencing, while some would experience it. In my case, it was during the 4th and 5th March of 2017, when the 8th Young India Challenge happened in my life. I remember, one of my friend, Mahadevan, who also closely works with the YIC Team, telling me, ‘You must attend YIC, at least once, no matter what’! I filled up the application form and soon I got an email stating that I was shortlisted for a telephonic interview. Later, I qualified and got the chance to attend the 8th YIC at IIT Delhi! I was thrilled to get such an opportunity; which also meant that I could actually experience something new for the first time in Delhi. Yes, I could never explore Delhi before YIC with reasons given that I was an alien to that place!

Did I tell you that I was in Delhi for my post-grad? The reason to mention it is, I knew, I only had a few months to explore Delhi and I will be returning back to my place in Gujarat. So, YIC played a major role in taking the steps towards moving out of my comfort zone. Coming back to my experience, I recall, all the delegates were welcomed with a cheerful hi-5 from volunteers standing along the doorways of the entrance. Being an ambivert (more inclined towards being an introvert), my heart felt lighter. I was spellbound by looking at the number of students who were attending the event. From compelling real-life success stories to mind-challenging activities, every minute in YIC was a captivating moment. 

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YIC is meant for people who:

  • Want to do what they love
  • Want to become a youth influencer 
  • Want to create an impact
  • Are an active learner
  • Are social media savvy
  • Are committed to excellence
  • Have a global mindset

I belonged to the first group, I wanted to pursue arts, but fortunately or unfortunately, I was pursuing my M.Sc. in Biotechnology from Gurgaon. Although I never belonged to the 1% of the population who could actualize a change, I knew, YIC had influenced my mind in some way. From writing poems when alone to writing for a publishing house and a fashion magazine, I evolved to be a writer in its true sense. I couldn’t make friends during YIC due to my phobia in initiating talks (as I define it). However, I try to follow every person I met there and get inspired by their amazing works. I recall a few mentors and friends of YIC at IITD such as Onkar Sir, Durgesh Sir, Deep Shikha Ma’am, Pankhuri, Tanvi, Ishani, Vagisha, Nikhil, Mahadevan, and most importantly, Kamal Sir and Wioleta Ma’am; everyone inspired me to transform my passion into profession. 

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YIC was the foundation of my writing career. I could gather my courage to not work in the field I educated from and switched my career from a Microbiologist/ Biotechnologist to a full-time Content Writer. It’s been more than a year since I have followed my passion and guess what – No Regrets! The #DoWhatYouLove movement not only helped me step out but also gave me wings to fly and actualize my dreams. I always felt guilty for not being able to contribute to the platform that completely changed my life. However, the only way to cross these geographical barriers was writing! I was overjoyed when I was asked to be a part of the contributors’ network and I am elated to contribute my YIC experience through this blog. To everyone who contributed to enhancing my life, here is a virtual hug and a Big Thank You! You all have carved a special place in my heart. I am obliged to have met you. Kamal Sir and Wioleta Ma’am, you both are creating tremendous impacts on humanity and your contribution to Sustainable Development is unparalleled. The world needs people like you, thank you for inspiring every human you come across! YIC is and will always be cherished.

Justina Jose
(YIC IIT Delhi 2017)