Name of the intern: – Uttara
Institute: – Jawaharlal Nehru University
Organization interned with: – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan
In the summer of 2011, my friends and I decided to intern with Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, an NGO in Araria, Bihar. The work involved conducting social audits for the NREGS and ICDS schemes of the government in various villages in order to expose the rampant corruption in these schemes.
However, I can more aptly describe the internship period as a journey – both outer and inner. Outwardly, I journeyed to a hitherto unheard of place and lived in a previously un-experienced environment, which in itself was quite memorable. But much more precious was the introduction to new ideas and experiences which helped me journey inwards and grow personally. The work was challenging and involved going door to door; collecting information about the implementation on the schemes. This was an exciting experience, since it allowed intimate interaction with the village and its workings – the daily ritual of people going to work in the fields in the early morning hours, the gathering of people in the evenings in the village compound, and the meetings under the bamboo groves were all new experiences that touched the heart.
However, what made this internship truly unique was the way it changed my outlook towards many things. It brought home the reality of the extreme poverty faced by many Indians. It also showed how, despite these odds, the people in the villages continue to live their lives with a spirit of generosity and optimism. A particular instance stands out. While conducting audits one day, it began to rain heavily and hence, we took shelter in a village house. Since it was already late noon, we asked our host if we could get something to eat. He just waved his hand and we, seeing this as a sign of dismissal, left it at that. However, within minutes, his wife brought us not only food, but a veritable feast, complete with mangoes from their family tree! This may not seem like much, but to me, it was a study; the contrast between the attitude towards strangers in urban and rural India. That’s when I understood the relevance of ‘Atithi Devo Bhavah’ in the Indian culture!
The internship also gave me the opportunity to meet some of the most interesting people who live their lives not as society expects them to, but as they wish to, even if that means living with fewer luxuries or as one volunteer put it, it’s liberating to have fewer needs. Hence, the internship proved to be a particularly memorable experience for me because, though I worked in an environment completely out of my comfort zone, but I had so much fun in the process! Yes, the internship gave me a valuable certificate too, to add to the CV, but more importantly, it gave me an experience that is much more important than the certificate itself.
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