A small story worth sharing on securing the Chevening scholarship for public health studies.
As a child born and brought up in a middle class, educated family, I always dreamed of studying abroad, seeing different countries and gaining many experiences. I have always been fascinated by western education and the opportunities it offers.
I completed my master’s degree from the Indian Institute of Forest Management and began my quest in the field of rural development. It was an unknown domain as no one from my family ever worked in villages in an NGO set up.
It was exciting, but looking back now, I think it was also extremely challenging.
The key learnings and values you learn in such jobs can’t be taught through any other kind of engagement. I got the opportunity to see and experience rural life very closely in different parts of India.
I worked on women empowerment and livelihood strengthening in PRADAN; CSR (corporate social responsibility) outreach and fund mobilisation for rural development projects at S M Sehgal Foundation; and public health strengthening in Ministry of Home Affairs under the “aspirational district” program at NITI Aayog.
It is said that some things etched in our minds never fade, they seem to be fresh and constantly cross your dreams and thoughts.
One such experience for me was during my village stay after my post-graduation, when as a younger chap, I had gone to stay in a village for the first time.
Life seemed pretty okay as long as real adversities didn’t come my way. It all changed when my landlord fell due to a stroke, and I took him to the district hospital in an ambulance.
It was then I realised how fragile life is and that all people, especially the people in rural areas, live in deficiency.
Since then, I have been keen on public health as a subject; and how I can increase the access of rural populace to a better and decent healthcare scenario. I was lucky to get the opportunity to work with numerous NGOs at the grassroots level and with ministries at the central level.
My experience of villages taught me that: nothing is impossible!
Seeing women from self-help groups take up initiatives to build better lives for the coming generations, made me believe in my own self.
Working at the central level introduced me to policy formulation. Working in the development sector is both rewarding as well as it can take a huge toll on one’s personal and professional life. One gets disillusioned by seeing poverty and that causes lot of disturbances within.
It’s only after years of efforts can we bring some amount of permanent change in someone’s life.
The last couple of years were full of turmoil for each one of us due to Covid-19, lockdowns and uncertainty. But, things took a turn for the worse when I was detected with breast cancer. It was unbelievable and my tears wouldn’t stop.
Cancer is such a word that it makes you lose sense of the present as well as the future.
A lot of days went in contemplating: “Why me?” But, I guess there is no answer to that. Anyway, with the support of my family and few good friends as well as mentors (and of course, insurance companies and my present employer), I was able to undergo treatment.
I got unprecedented support from friends at the SM Foundation, on the emotional and psychological fronts, in these difficult times. A lot can be written about this phase of treatment, but I think only key is to have patience and hope— hope of a brighter future helps not only you, but also people around you who take care of you day and night.
Another realization I had among many was that: there are many people with amazing hearts full of kindness, who come to help when you need them.
It was so good and reassuring to know this and to have these people around.
With the clouds comes a silver lining, and this year, I was able to secure the Chevening scholarship after years of trying. It is a competitive scholarship with millions of candidates applying to it from across the world.
Each year, roughly 40 professionals and students get a chance to go to the UK and pursue a master’s program.
I will be going to London to study public health, which has been my passion since the beginning, with the hope of a better and brighter future.
Looking back, I feel that life comes full circle and if you are persistent in your efforts, you do reach your goal!
It may sound like a cliché, but from my own experience I can say that it is indeed true. The situations became difficult but my past experiences and efforts paid off at a time when I needed it the most.
The course will help me in building academic knowledge in the field of public health and also give me opportunity to meet and work with best minds in the sector. I really hope to contribute more objectively with the knowledge I receive.