Rachel’s Fellowship is made possible by the Rural India Supporting Trust.
When I receive the confirmation email from AIF about my acceptance into the AIF Clinton Fellowship program and my placement in Chhattisgarh, I was very excited at the same time I was nervous. Nervous because I have never been to Raipur, Chhattisgarh, prior to the Fellowship and I was placed there for the next 10 months. I had no knowledge about the culture, people or place which made me even more nervous. Also, the culture of Northeast India is very different from the rest of the country, so I was worried about how I would adapt. The initial days after I first reached my host organization, they made an arrangement for me to stay in the office. When the weekends came in the first week, the two colleagues who stayed with me went home so my supervisor offered me to stay with her family during the weekend. I was nervous and worried about how I will blend in with them and their family. However, the warmth and love I received from their family made me feel home during my initial days in the Fellowship.
Slowly things progressed at my host organization and small activities like bonding during lunch, tea breaks, celebrating birthdays in the office together made me very comfortable and accepted in my host organization. And slowly months passed by and Christmas was just around the corner. Deep down I felt that this year would be the loneliest Christmas because I was away from my family and it was an important day in my life. However, the trustee of the organization invited me to celebrate Christmas with their family so my day was not alone anymore. I shared sweet moments with their family which I will cherish it for life as they were so welcoming. Later just when the day were getting over, my supervisor along with her mother surprised me at my home with a box of chocolates and at that moment I felt home.
From getting packed non-veg lunches from my colleague and my project supervisor, to my daily small but yet warm conversations with the vegetable vendor and grocery shopkeepers near my house, to afternoon tea break with my project supervisor where we talked about everything under the sun, to my colleagues after a long day in office offering to help out repairing my cooler to the greetings from the children in the society with their biggest smile, to the daily scolding from the didis in the office though they don’t mean it in any negative way, to my supervisor always mentioning my weight gain in the Fellowship, were all moments I felt home in a place far away from my home with people who were complete strangers before the Fellowship began. Little did I know that home was never about the four walls or a roof above your head. It was always about the relationship and the people around you that make you feel that you belong with them. Without any conditions; they accept you for who you are and inspire you to be the best version of yourself.
My journey in the AIF Fellowship has given me hope – hope that there is a greater purpose of life and that it is a passion that is required to contribute my part in society. This Fellowship has given me the opportunity to experience relationships across cultures and communities and the feeling of belonging despite the difference and barriers in a diversified society that India is. It has given me the platform to be the bridge that gap the age, long distances, and difference maintain by the people of Northeast India and the rest of the country. And truly I can say that Raipur, Chhattisgarh, is my home away from home.