By Richa Williams:
Born and brought up in Kota, a small town in south-eastern Rajasthan, I was always sure of one thing: I was not made for a regular desk job, or for research in a science lab somewhere. I needed human engagement and hands-on work to keep me happy. So, I pursued my diploma in Event Management, and thought I was all set to lead the life of my choice and dreams. I was fairly successful, but 4 years into the field made me realise that it wasn’t what I really wanted.
I needed to switch to work that not only makes me happy; but also has value in it. Promoting Samsung Galaxy S2, or planning a 3 crore wedding for a corporate giant’s kid wouldn’t suffice. I was 27. And all set to change things around for myself.
Unsure about what I was going to do next, I quit my job. It was then, while looking for opportunities in the development sector, that I came across the India Fellow programme. Interested, but unsure about wanting to do it, I applied to the fellowship and got selected. It is to date the most courageous, borderline reckless decision I have ever taken.
The journey ahead was fraught with doubts. I was assigned work with a social enterprise in Bombay. My heart sank. I had been under the impression that I was journeying into India’s heartland. Instead, I was being sent to the most crowded metropolis in the country. This wasn’t the plan, at all! But having taken the leap, I decided to stick it out a little longer.
Then, during the 3rd week of the fellowship, I began working with Grassroutes Journeys Pvt Ltd. I was told that my project with the organisation involved ‘curating a platform to engage more people with the communities we work with’. It sounded just like another event management stint. My doubts grew, and I began to feel a sense of panic and unrest. What was I go to tell all those people who had told me that my decision to join the fellowship was foolish? What was I planning to tell my parents, and more importantly, my idealistic 27-year-old self?
What happened over the next month, however, put everything into perspective. Grassroutes turned out to be nothing like anything I had imagined. A community-based rural tourism initiative, its objective was to provide livelihoods to communities across rural India, using tourism as a tool.
Suddenly, everything I had learnt was not a waste anymore. Not only was my new job role to create livelihood opportunities to those in need, but also a means to help bridge the urban-rural gap through tourism. The pieces of my life were beginning to fit in together. My prior experience with events helped me quickly pick up the threads at my new work and life. The city grew on me and visits to its various communities taught me much!
Eighteen months down the line, I now work with Grassroutes, looking at their overall marketing and communications. What happened in the interim, is a story I love to tell. The experience has made me realise that there are many organisations like Grassroutes in the country, just hidden from plain sight. It’s so easy to miss them, when we look in the wrong places!
People often say that a fellowship is a good break – a free ticket to the social sector. But, in my experience, it is much more than that. It has taught me that I am capable of making a change in areas that matter, to lives other than mine. It might not guarantee job security, but it certainly secured my faith in relationships beyond cultural, social and economical backgrounds.
Most importantly, I learned that everything is susceptible to change. People, jobs, presidents, relationships, Facebook statuses- everything changes. And that is absolutely fine. In fact, in my experience, change was a stumbling step that opened up my future to brighter, happier possibilities.