India, can you make room for one more?

As long as my return to India was an abstract plan in my head, it was the most exciting thing in the world! Now that it’s reality, I am somewhat anxious. I know a little of what to expect in Bangalore and in India, but a lot of it escapes my imagination. In the US, I’m used to being the different one and answering questions that force me to speak on behalf of an entire country. And though I often end up speaking for Americans too, it’s going to be a novel experience to navigate both identities for ten whole months in India.

There is a lot I hope to gain from the Fellowship, but little of it is concrete and much of it sounds contradictory: confidence and humility, independence and community, questioning and understanding. I want to take advantage of every opportunity to learn from AIF, from Janaagraha, from my fellow Fellows, and from India. I hope to complete a project at Janaagraha that produces positive and lasting change, however small or invisible it may be. I want to share my work and life through good photos, conscientious writing, and thoughtful conversations.

Thankfully, I’m still able to sleep at night even as this unimaginable journey fast approaches. I’ve had my share of moving over the years, but I don’t think I’ll ever be good at it (especially the packing). I feel lost when I arrive and I feel torn when I leave, but no matter where I go, I always find remarkable people who make it all worth it.

Having spent half her life in India and the other half in the United States, Swathi gained a unique perspective on inequality that sparked her interest in understanding and combating poverty in its various forms. After six years of college at a stretch, Swathi is eager to balance the academic knowledge with practical experience in the field. She is looking forward to the rewards and challenges of rediscovering her drastically transformed hometown of Bangalore. Most recently, Swathi worked at the NGO Entreculturas in Madrid, Spain, to support education programs all over Africa, and to develop a global advocacy network on the right to education. She speaks four languages and is trying to decide on a fifth.

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