Learning Story – Raji
“She lives in her own universe.”
These accusations were sometimes hurled at me, but I did not bat an eyelid. I did not trouble myself by responding to these words. I did, in fact, live in my own bubble, my own universe which comprised of the following (in order of importance):
I loved reading and bringing up my kids. I was considered a successful teacher. I saw that some teachers really got involved with students and went beyond merely teaching them subjects; they were committed to building character. Not me. I thought of teaching as a fun way to let the world know what was wonderful in books and had no clue about how to be noble as some of my colleagues were.
My students achieved good to excellent grades, but it rankled me that some of them did not seem to be doing well at all. Grades apart, either their understanding was poor, or there were those who were clearly underachievers. I started to look at these underachievers closely, and that’s when I felt that I had failed some of my students.
After this realization, I enrolled in evening college to study psychiatric counselling. I did this in to understand the minds of those underachieving students whose actions puzzled me. And lo and behold! For the first time in my life, the realization dawned on me that the world is not about books, but rather that books are about the world and about the people who inhabit it.
With a better understanding of interpersonal communication, I began to design courses that were customized for students. Later I even started my own language and leadership training centre. Although I built it into a successful venture, after a decade of training people and corporate groups of all ages in language, communication, and leadership skills, I felt that the venture was not enough for what I truly wanted to achieve. Once I crossed the age of fifty, I felt that I should be doing much more. I had to give back to society, even though my mind was not naturally inclined to help others.
This is when I applied for The Period Fellowship at Sukhibhava (now known as Uninhibited). After a lengthy selection process, all selected participants went through a month of intense training. We were a cohort of 16 women; most of the others were in their early twenties. The training prepared us to interact and work with underprivileged and marginalized communities. We were told that we should probe into local myths about menstruation and break the silence on this heretofore taboo subject, thereby normalizing the biological process of menstruation among adolescents and women.
During the fellowship I lived in a village in Rajasthan. I trained a team of tribal women to conduct awareness sessions in their region and to think critically of their health, hygiene and menstrual practices. Everyday my team and I visited a couple of tiny hamlets and villages and conducted awareness sessions for adolescents and women. Later, we expanded these sessions to include even boys and men. Every single day of my fellowship was one of bonding with locals, and heartfelt discussions about their lives, beliefs, and their health.
That year did not change my personality entirely. I did not transform into a caring and gentle person. But I learned how I could also plan and participate in social projects with care and gentleness. Since then, I have participated in awareness programmes on menstruation, gender, and other health issues.
Although the Pandemic has restricted field work to a large extent, the team of tribal and rural women in Rajasthan and Yadgir are still continuing to work in this area. This gives me the greatest satisfaction and motivation to learn more about doing such work.
My conclusion is, whatever be your personality, if you want to help, you can and you should!
Raji is a CSR consultant based in Bengaluru. You can reach her on LinkedIn.