The beginning of a journey …for equality

It has been almost a month since the launch the fundraiser for the ‘Fellows for Equality’ program. We have raised about 8% of our estimated budget till date. I don’t know how we should feel, but I and Vimal, the founder of MSC are thrilled! I will go into the reason shortly!

First I want to tell you the story of my journey so far!

I knew Vimal as an acquaintance from the time I was studying for my masters in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. We had hardly met once but I had heard him present a paper during one of the conferences and appreciatedthat despite the hardships in his life, he was here following his dreams.

First Meeting of the Movement for Scavenger Community (2009)

The next time, I contacted Vimal was to ask about the Acumen India Fellows Program and how has it helped him. Without offering any details, he just said, “ Go for it, you will not regret it!” Later I came to know that he had recommended my name for the fellowship as well. I met him during the get together on the first day of the fellowship Seminar and again I asked him how has the fellowship changed me. He said, “ I cannot explain how, you will understand after you experience it.” I was left curious.

Throughout the fellowship year, I kept knowing more about myself, challenging myself. Making mistakes, learning and moving ahead — there was progress. No doubt that the trust I placed on the process had given me invaluable learning, friends and also the ability to see limitless possibilities ahead of me. It also made me aware of my privilege to choose my path.

Another constant throughout the year were stories and anecdotes about Vimal, which I heard through fellows from his cohort, mentors and the Acumen team. Whenever I said that the I came to know about the fellowship from Vimal, the next reaction would always be of spontaneous warmth and goodwill. Like I am better person just for knowing him.

It was during the last seminar and the first All India Fellows Gathering that we were able to talk and connect more meaningfully. The bus ride to Mumbai from Karjat was one of most memorable conversations of my life. The idea to work with this incredible person for the cause of the communities forced to choose manual scavenging as an occupation got ingrained into my mind then. This was in November 2016.

The past one year after the seminar has been another year of discovery of self. My belief in the role of coaching and that leadership isn’t a skill but an approach to life got strengthened. The question which I came into this year was —how can I take what I have gained and share with the communities and leaders who on a daily basis are struggling for their cause.

This idea to work together blossomed and developed through Vimal’s idea of engaging youth in the communities for development. This has now taken shape of this fellowship. In this journey we have Acumen fellows like Vini, Abbas and Ashish and friends like Krishan and Amit, whose support has been instrumental for us to reach this far.

Coming back to why we are thrilled! We set out for this journey which is unknown and uncharted, not expecting anything but also a bit scared and afraid of failure.

But through this last one month, amid personal and professional challenges, we have realised that the good we do out comes back to us and that is inspiration enough to carry on and move forward with optimism. We are still taking baby steps and determined to move forward with confidence and courage. Thus are the beginnings of this journey…for equality.