A few months back my friend and I were catching up over dinner after several rain checks. A real millennial conundrum, you know? Making plans but backing out last minute because you forgot or you just felt lazy and didn’t want to see anyone. Yep, yep. I fall into that category. We got talking about our dreams and what we had thought life would be in our twenties when we were in school and what we expected out of it. The classic game of imagining our future…and well living it now…and not quite as we imagined it. Or at least for most people.
Hi, I’m Sukanya Sharma and I’m a 27 year old adult working in Mumbai. I have a good life. I have a reputed job. I earn enough. I even have two pets! An ideal lifestyle for most people, you’d think. No? Why do I then, more often than not, get into downward spiral of questioning of what I do? What’s my direction? Is there a purpose?
And you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m certainly not the only one asking these questions! Let’s take a look story that probably represents or simply counts as an inspiring read for many.
Like many millennials, Jui Jamsandekar, a young professional working with a corporate giant questioned her perfectly well established life too. Hailing from Kohlapur in Maharashtra, she was going places and getting recognised for her work until something just didn’t feel right. “I didn’t feel fulfilled…”, she told me. And as turn of events would have it, she soon changed the course of her life…by joining NIRMAN.
Now, before you cringe thinking I’m here to preach about some abstract “purpose” and give you some wisdom, don’t worry, I’m not heading that way. This piece talks about a certain, might I add an important one as well, section of the society that is in the midst of achieving greatness through their actions — the emerging adults. And how a Maharashtra based NGO — SEARCH, started a program NIRMAN to help these budding minds recognise their dreams and goals.
SEARCH (Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health) was founded in 1986 by Dr. Abhay Bang and Dr. Rani Bang for rural health care and research in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra. It was in the year 2006 that they started a program called NIRMAN, under the leadership of Amrut Bang, which now has spread to various corners of the state. NIRMAN was built as a means to fill the void of youth leadership that was lacking in the social sector …and their aim? — to nurture young professionals from all aspects of life to understand the world around them better and pursue the chance of making it better in their own unique way. Jui now works with this organisation.
She says, “I did not know who the exact beneficiaries of my work earlier were. Was I helping the rich grow richer? I just didn’t know! Here, I can see long lasting impact of my work on the people I live with. Specifically those of my same age.”
According to the Indian census, there are 1.2 billion people in the country. Out of which one fifth constitutes as youth and this youth is defined by the age group 15–24 years. Surely a rich human resource for a country that needs a working class to keeps its wheels churning. Add a few years here and there and you get the millennial generation, the generation of young adults. These are the people who are working, participating, leading. But this is also the generation that has several questions and agitations about the world around them. According to a research done by Deloitte in the year 2019, the millennials in India want to make a difference in the society — their top ranking ambition is to make an impact. They also believe that businesses will be most effective in solving the world’s most pressing challenges.
NIRMAN works with this section of the youth on a structured framework that helps them understand how they want to contribute to the society. This structure is a forever evolving process but what lies in its essence is the idea of finding purpose, something which was proposed by Jeffery Arnett in his book Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood in 2001. The book specifically talks about the age group of 18–28 years old, the emerging adults, who are looking to find some answers to how to live a fulfilling life.
Inspired by these findings, Jui, now leading the Youth Purpose and Flourishing team, applies this approach when she interacts with the students that enrol in the NIRMAN program; their selection process for the new batch is just starting, in case anyone wants to explore it! Her and her team nurture these students to be a part of social change by understanding their needs and their skills.
“Youth is the most dynamic, active and productive developmental stage of a life span. Unfortunately, current institutions, education pattern doesn’t teach or train them about how to manage their own ‘quarter-life crisis’. There are no exact ‘7-things’ on what emerging adults should do to make critical life decisions. But NIRMAN facilitates them in finding answers to such worthwhile questions and facilitates in pursuing purpose. This gives higher subjective well-being…”
Now, while all this sounds wonderful, one of the main concerns of the youth is that involving themselves in the social sector means giving up on comfort of their lives — which acts as a huge limitation. Jui tells me that their program in fact takes these things into consideration, “..when social work and career go hand in hand, it is more impactful and we’ve recognised that…”. She adds a personal note as well, “Now in 3rd working year of this line, I realize that this work is dynamic, creative and intellectually challenging too! — which drives me to work more. Plus, indeed there are very few folks in India who are working on positive youth development approach where youth counts 26 crore of its population.”
She also talks about other attributes that make this transition easy and that is family support. It’s a big positive! “It is also important that your life partner is like-minded when you work in the social sector…”, in fact she met her partner in the same NIRMAN batch that she had enrolled in! He works as an IAS officer now and she recognises that while their tools of change may be different now, their purpose still remains the same — to inspire social change.
Jui ends her conversation with me on a insightful note saying, “…in positive psychology it is said that people who do not have any mental illness may be leading a normal life but not a flourishing life…” and that got me thinking about how the choices we make on daily basis are more out of familiarity and regularity than fulfilment. Are we doing what we do because we want to or it’s just a way of survival? Something to get us thinking for sure!