Generally, IITians are expected to have an intern of huge paychecks in world’s leading technical firms but my internship was different. It neither provided me a stipend nor had anyone in my college heard of it before. But it was an experience that compelled me to have my thinking caps on all the time. It provided me an experience that brought me closer to life.
The ‘Researching Reality’ internship at Centre for Civil Society, New Delhi provided a transformative learning experience to 25 young and vibrant fellows from different educational backgrounds studying in colleges all across the country and abroad. The internship began with a four-day long residential program called ‘ipolicy for Young Leaders’ for all the interns. It had seminars, debates, creative games and presentations which compelled us to think analytically over the most serious public policy issues of our country. We were a collection of future leaders, economists, engineers, lawyers, writers, psychologists, photographers, painters and the CCS experts who were bringing a completely new thought to the table while discussing India’s socio-economic problems. From policies related to livelihood freedom of rickshaw pullers to the current education system of India, we analyzed everything to the core. Moreover, it all happened at one of the most naturally beautiful and serene place in NCR – Zorba, the Buddha, an eco-lifestyle village that celebrates life to its colours. Sitting near a pond with the brightest minds of country and sharing life experiences till the dawn gave some memories that we will cherish all our life.
As the workshop ended, I knew that I will have the best summers of my life. But there was more to it. In the first few days, we had to choose a topic of our interest on which we had to research for the next 40 days. I along with my research partner, Simrat from Ramjas College, chose to research on two issues: ‘Sex Workers on G.B. Road’ and ‘Accessibility of Central Government offices in Delhi’. After a first few days of background research, we decided to narrow down our topics of research. We focused on economic aspects of sex workers in brothels of G.B. Road and checked the improvement madein the accessibility standards of Central Government buildings in past four years.
Then started our daily field visits to find the truth. We interviewed officials from various NGOs and National Commission of Women to know more about the government policies related to sex workers. The government officials made no comments over their stand on condition of sex workers in India and didn’t answer our questions. It was difficult to research on such a grey issue but we were up for the challenge. To know how the brothels run, we interviewed brothel managers and sex workers of five brothels on G.B. Road. Initially, we were a bit uncomfortable while talking to them because of the preconceived notions we had in our mind about the sex workers. But the hesitation was soon overpowered by their friendly nature and we were freely discussing their problems and working lifestyle.
Those talks showed me the true picture of sex workers living in brothels. We portray them as immoral, unchaste or obscene but the reality is different. The problem lies in our society who forces them to live such a life. They talked about their past, sex work as a profession, their families, difficulties that they face and the little hopes they have in their lives for the future. It showed us the brutal and dark side of this world where the persons living are not as lucky as we are.
In the other research project, we faced all the difficulties that one can think of while extracting information from the government officials. Apart from few of them, everyone just asked us to visit another department or the ministry to find the relevant data. After inspection of 3 Government buildings and series of ‘No’ and ‘I don’t know’ by officials of various departments of CPWD & Ministry of Urban Development, we did manage to find the fault in the huge government system.
It was truly an internship where I researched the reality. Along with my own research project, I got some close view of the 24 other problems through the research projects of fellow interns. The experience I had helped me become a better person and showed me the stark reality of life.
Those were the most life-changing 40-days of my life. The summer with Center for Civil Society!
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