Yes, I know, the first thing that might come to your mind after reading the title – Banker to the Poor is Dr. Yunus. Banker to the Poor is the autobiography of 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Grameen Bank founder Dr. Muhammad Yunus. In it, he describes how he pioneered the concept of micro-loans and micro-finance in Bangladesh, and how it changed the way we think of poverty eradication and traditional forms of banking. He was the one because of whom I was inspired to quit my corporate job and join this fellowship. I wanted to practically learn his model in depth on the ground at grassroots level, since I already got a glimpse of it in my previous job as a bank officer, and I had been very much inspired by this model.
It was somewhere during mid-June this year, an email popped up from AIF about my selection as a fellow, and that too for my desired project. It was late night and I had to make a difficult decision of life, to join or not to join the fellowship, leaving another opportunity to directly work under chief minister of Haryana state as associate. I could hear the mild sound of the clock ticking, the ceiling fan rotating, and my heart rate jumping. I had already quit my bank job to step into the development sector. But still, on one side, there were different advantages for being a chief minister’s associate and all the privileges and facilities that a 24-year-old youth would want in this era of unemployment and distress in our developing country. On the other side, there was the opportunity to contribute my part personally at grassroots level to make India a developed country, by forfeiting the luxury of my life and overcoming friends and family pressure.
Yes, I took a difficult decision and joined this fellowship to begin a new journey from here. After the Fellowship Orientation in New Delhi in September, I joined Lok Sahbhagi Sansthan situated in Khoraladkhani village in Jaipur district of Rajasthan. It is a very small NGO founded in 2010 by collaboration of three persons, one from the U.S. and the other two being native village development workers. Although I had done my previous job in a remote rural village, I had never lived there but used to transit from the nearest urban place to that village for work. This was the testing time for me. Even though in my previous job, the bank was situated in a village since it was a public sector bank, it was more like a corporate office with all facilities inside, including clean toilets, filtered water, fully furnished office, cameras, security etc. Also since childhood, I always grew up in an urban environment. In fact, I am the only one in my whole family to chose the agriculture stream for under graduation even though we never had any farm lands nor did any work related to farming. So here I was, far away from my home and family in this remote rural village of Rajasthan, coping with poor living conditions, like a very small partitioned room, broken toilet, no water filter and so many other challenges. For a moment I wondered why I had decided to come here!
But then came the twist, which I will be discussing in my next blog.
So, stay tuned to read my journey of what made me stay to do the wonderful work this NGO is doing and how I have started contributing to it!
Yunus, Muhammad, and Alan Jolis. Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle against World Poverty. 1st ed. 1999. New York, NY: Public Affairs, 2003.