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The journey of ‘WHY’

Shodhgram(SEARCH), Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, India

Shodhgram (SEARCH), a place on the easternmost corner of Maharashtra, in the lush forest of Gadchiroli. This place has always been close to my heart. Since then, this place has witnessed my transformation and it continues to do so. There is some magic in the air over there! It makes me feel at home. I feel a different me at that place. A little more peaceful and a little less reserved.

Not only do I share an emotional bond with this place but it is also a place of educational process for me. The NIRMAN workshop was a vital part of it.

NIRMAN is an educational program that nurtures young leadership for social change. It comprises of series of 3 unique workshops focusing on self-growth (from self to society), various approaches of social change, and finally a youth culture in pursuit of Purpose & Impact. However, it does not limit itself to just a series of workshops but rather becomes a way to live a meaningful life.

Dr. Abhay Bang and Dr. Rani Bang with one of the batch of young nirmanees at Shodhgram, Gadchiroli

I filled the form to apply for this program in 2017. It was then when I actually articulated my thoughts about society for the first time. Then came the interview where my views were probed and cross-examined by the NIRMAN team.

After that I was assigned to write a book review of Victor Frankl’s ‘Man’s search for meaning’. This book first introduced me to the concept of meaning and purpose in life, which was further discussed to depth during the workshop. In fact, the tagline of NIRMAN itself is ‘Youth for purposeful life’. One of my favourite quotes in this book is – ‘One who knows the WHY of living can bear almost any HOW’. This journey of ‘WHY’ started from NIRMAN. It made me realise that with no deeper questions how superficial my life was!

At NIRMAN I witnessed a very sincere & dedicated effort of introducing a sensitive youth to the actual reality of social problems. I went there with an identity of an aspiring doctor; but it was then happily shifted to what has now become a ‘budding social change maker’.

Till now, I was aware of social problems around me but I wasn’t adequately sensitive regarding them. I was so immersed in problems regarding my life as if living inside a bubble. NIRMAN helped me break this bubble. Now I have realised that, me and my life occupy a negligible place on this pale blue dot called Earth, in this vast universe. It feels little poetic but it’s the reality. We need to open our eyes to the BIG PICTURE!

I have always believed that working for the betterment of the society is my responsibility rather than service. I feel myself morally obligated to do something for it. But how to know what exactly is this ‘something’ that I had to do?

Having been through quite a few harsh incidences I strongly believed that there is a dying need for awareness & de-stigmatization in the field of mental illness. But we are never taught about the process by which we can actually convert our thoughts into actions. NIRMAN is that process for me. It taught me how to switch from ‘problem-mode’ to ‘solution-mode’.

Being in the phase of emerging adulthood, NIRMAN made me realise the importance of the four pillars – identity, purpose, agency and meaning. I now know that purpose commitment is the most important proven indicator of subjective well-being. So, it has motivated me to exercise my agency or sense of self-responsibility to identify and pursue my purpose in life. Now I find myself on a path where I am working towards a society wherein it will be as normal to have a mental illness as it is to have a physical illness. And my purpose will serve as a pole star in this journey.

I had this habit of taking decisions by pros and cons method. But NIRMAN taught me that fundamental decisions of life can be precisely taken only if they are value-based. I have started focusing on my values since then and not be a moral relativist. This is a marked shift from the usual college campus culture to which I / we get exposed where taking a moral stand itself is belittled.

This process illuminated the significance of cooperation and altruism. I now see my surroundings with the eyes of cooperation rather than competition. It was a harsh realisation that how deeply this virus called ‘competition’ was rooted in me, that I was ready to rise above by defeating others. This is absolutely against the nature which works on the principle of cooperation every single moment.

NIRMAN, I feel, is also a journey of self-acceptance. I have started being honest with my emotions. I learnt that becoming aware of my emotions, acknowledging them and then authentically and spontaneously expressing them is crucial. So articulating emotions rather than passing judgement about others is what I have started practicing.

Dr. Abhay Bang is the person I look up to the most. He has a remarkable positive aura and I feel elevated and optimistic in his presence. ‘Face challenges and take it as a reconfirmation about your goal’ he said. His life journey reflects his ability to make decisions based on the higher principles that he believes in. I learnt that a mere wave of sentiment is not enough but constant dedication is what is required. The way he sought solution for a problem by multiplicity of approaches is inspiring and will continue to be a guiding light for me.

The process of NIRMAN constantly probed us to put forward our views in more concise, specific way and to take full responsibility of what we speak.

Ultimately, NIRMAN has restored my faith in mankind. Now I can confidently say that there are encouraging, supportive and caring people with whom I feel a strong sense of belonging.

Experience this life-changing process yourself. There are more than thousand kind hearts in this beautiful community to support you & help you find your life-mission.

I feel immensely fortunate to be a part of this compassionate, talented & diverse community of young change-makers.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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