The Memory Of A Conversation
Studying in Manipal means long weekends and vacations are the only time I get to visit my hometown, Bengaluru. But in the third week of April, I went home on an official visit for two reasons; one, to exercise my right to vote and two, to check out Udhyam Learning Foundation for the first time. I got down at Halasuru Metro station and walked my miserly self for thirty straight minutes to reach the destination (which is otherwise 10 mins by an auto) maneuvering across the narrow gullies with one eye on the roads that didn't exist and another on Google maps.
The office was set in a beautiful locality. It was actually a two storied duplex that was converted into a work space. All staff and interns left their footwear outside and sat on comfortable chairs, beds or cushions which were placed across the area with walls covered in motivational posters. Lunch was being prepared at the kitchen (excuse my foodie nose) and there was a warm sense of welcome in the air. It had been almost a month since I began volunteering and was familiar with some faces from WhatsApp display pictures. I had also imagined their voice according to the context of the conversation which made the first hour of my visit a really curious one. Turns out the authoritative tone was only in my head!
I was briefed about their on ground working style and got to witness their interaction with participants and other interns first hand. At lunch I sat down with interns from CMR PU College who were working with the foundation for almost two weeks. The conversation with them gave me a new insight into the kind of work that goes down at Udhyam.
Most of the interns began their work for an experience of working in an organization. The 12th standard students wanted to have a glimpse of what their future might seem like if they were to pursue business or commerce in their graduation. Students of economics, computer science and other fields began their internship purely based on curiosity without any concrete goal or expectations.
Their two week journey was dotted with many team building exercises, group discussions, activities, reflection sessions and streaming of motivational videos. The team was divided into two sets, one working with the Udhyam Shiksha Program and the other with the Udhyam Vyapaar Program. Those in charge of Shiksha had to build entrepreneurial mindsets through 2.5 months long program with schools and colleges and assist the facilitators in smooth conduction of the events. Similarly those working with Vyapaar had to chart the progress and suggest propositions to small businesses and entrepreneurs that Udhyam was mentoring. Their work basically involved documentation of all interactions that went on in the programs and suggesting changes that could maximize productivity.
They were a cheerful lot who had bonded over the two weeks into a well coordinated team. This was apparent in the similarity of their interpretation of the outputs from the program. Their perspective towards the program had changed and now they were trying to do their bit for the realization of the Foundation's goals, than just work for a certificate. They claimed to have a new insight into the problems with the Indian education system. Most of them were from well to do English medium schools and were awestruck by the cheer and zeal that kids from underprivileged schools exhibit inspire of the poor infrastructure. While some confessed to be jealous most of them were of the opinion that a lot of potential was left un-harnessed thanks to the poor academic environment that the students were subject to. They even learnt the lessons of content and the joy in little things from the students of Udhyam Shiksha Program.
The program had infused a sense of community in the interns and introduced them to support groups that are slowly developing to shape a sustainable future. They were introduced to healthy hierarchies for the first time through their interaction with the Udhyam team, a team that they claim to have slowly morphed into a family.
On my way back home, gazing at the city outside the metro's window, I had a moment to reflect on all that went down during the day. Most of the conversations I had were filled with positivity. The stories were unsophisticated and reflected on the humble yet noble goals of the foundation. A sense of pride, a sense of worth, a unique feeling engaged my mind. Maybe this is how the aftermath of stirring conversation is; a conversation with change agents