The First Print Ad Of ‘Teach For India’ And The Story That Followed: Interview With Tarun Cherukuri

Posted on January 8, 2013 in Inspiration, Interviews

This post is part of a series of content focusing on covering inspiring work of Indian youth, brought by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with Potentiaa

Tarun Cherukuri is Fullbright- Nehru Scholar 2011-2012, and is currently pursuing his Masters in Public Administration at Harvard Univeristy (John F. Kennedy School of Government).

Having done his engineering from BITS Pilani, Tarun gave up a high-paying job at Hindustan Lever to dedicate himself to the education of underprivileged children by taking up the 2 year Teach for India fellowship in 2009.The TFI Fellowship program is a 2 year full-time commitment in which we place the most promising graduates and professionals teach as full time teachers in under resourced and low income schools.


Teach for America and Teach for All Founder Wendy Kopp wrote about Tarun’s classroom, in her book ‘A Chance to make History’. His class was also featured in a documentary with recently appointed Rajya Sabha and NAC member Anu Aga visiting his classroom

He is also assisting Sridhar Rajagopalan (Educational Initiatives) on his book on Indian education

Check out his entire profile on Potentiaa

In the words of Tarun:

Your Eureka moment. That first instance which inspired you/ motivated you to do something.

The first print ad of TeachforIndia in the newspapers. I remember reading it and feeling that it was written out for me. I knew in that split moment that my calling was to do the fellowship and teach.


How did you proceed? What did you do next? Knowing the next step is so important. What was your reasoning about the next step?

When you feel a moment as strong as that, I decided to go for it. I quit my job at HUL and applied for the fellowship. I had a vision for what I would like to achieve out of the fellowship.

How did you seek help from external sources? Family, friends, the mentor or that video online- what was the role of the external world in helping you take the next steps?

I read — My Experiments with Truth, Fountain Head, Leaving Microsoft to change the world(Wood of Room to Read fame), How to change the world:Social entrepreneurs by David Bornstein all at the same time to seek inspiration for the job ahead. I also spoke to a lot of close friends about the decision to pursue the fellowship.


What was your first break? How did you feel? What can you tell the readers about it?

It was an year after teaching in the community. I went for a 10 day Vipassana retreat. I came out feeling a new sense of self efficacy and conviction within myself. I did things I was most fearful of doing(e.g.public speaking) in ways which surprised my own self. In the process a lot of opportunities opened up -U.S trip for a global conference, U.S schools visit, second year vision, Harvard school visit, Fulbright scholarship, being featured in Wendy Kopp’s book etc. The Universe conspired in ways which were beyond the scope of my planning. There is a beautiful moment in the movie “Peaceful Warrior” where the coach’s voice runs in the background and the athlete’s subconscious answers the questions. I feel like being part of such a flow.
Where are you? HERE
What time is it? NOW
Who are you? THE MOMENT


What kept you inspired? Who/ What do you draw inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from everything around me. There is nothing like an ordinary moment if you can really observe things around you. I follow stories of inspiration on and Karmatube of ordinary people from across the world. I draw inspiration from great lives of Mother Teresa, Swami Vivekananda. I draw inspiration from the goodness I see in people who touch me in through their lives.

What is your formula? What are your attributes and qualities that allow you to do what you do? More importantly did you inculcate any of these? How difficult is it? How did you inculcate any?

Truth is a pathless path said renowned philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti. Each one of us follows our own path in the pursuit of truth. My formula is to be honest to my ideals. I try my best to align my words and actions on a daily basis to the larger ideal. I persevere on my ideals through the practice of meditation, listening deeply to others aspirations and ensure that I am anchored on them.

What did you learn while doing what you did. How has our thinking changed? Why do you think this process ‘of doing’ was important? If you had not done what you did, do you think you would have developed this thinking?

I learnt that giving your life for others — especially giving others means of empowerment is more fulfilling than living a life for yourself. This is not a new intuition at all. Many spiritual seekers and social workers have given the same message before. Living it out let me discover the meaning of those words for myself. Experience and personal wisdom is the best teacher I have ever known.

What about your failures? How important were they? What did you learn? Why are they important? How did they make you feel?

I have learnt that failures teach you more than your successes. Failures teach you humility. They give your perspective on larger things in life. They teach you that life’s regression equation has casual factors beyond your locus of control. They get you back to base one.

How did your college and school education shape you?

More than cognitive skills that those years spent in college and school gave me, I value the noncognitive skills I picked up by observing the value of my best teachers and inspiring friends. A lot of what I am today is shaped by the impression of those experiences.

What message would you give to readers. What if someone wants to be like you?

Your life is your own message and truth is a pathless path. Pursue it on your own terms.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]Potentiaa is a project that finds and showcases the most amazing, inspiring and enterprising Indian youth, and their interesting initiatives.[/box]