Second Chances, Second Glances

In fall 2013, I showed up in Delhi with a suitcase and an address for my new job, knowing zero people and zero places in India’s biggest metropolis. One year later, I am joining AIF and my new placement with SightLife for a second stint in Delhi. On a day to day level, the contrast couldn’t be greater. I now come equipped with mental maps, networks of friends, regular haunts and hangouts, a trusted tailor, and a whole list of favorite Old Delhi eateries – the small details that turn daily needs into a lifestyle. This existing familiarity has made my first month on the Fellowship relatively easy, allowing me to bypass much of the adjustment that occurs with any big move.

I hadn’t intended to return to the same city when I applied for the Clinton Fellowship – it would be, I thought, a great chance to see a different side of India, perhaps somewhere rural or a lower-tier city. An interesting conversation with my potential mentors made me reconsider staying in Delhi for the sake of a good organization, and I’m now enjoying the chance to take a second look at this city.

It’s a unique opportunity, in a way. No matter how many times I examine my surroundings here, there is always more to see, to puzzle over, to learn.  In a city that is as huge, as historical, as paradoxical, and as complicated as Delhi, I appreciate the chance to be a step ahead. If I learned what a Delhi Development Authority (DDA) flat was last year, I’m now hearing about the pros and cons of the DDA housing scheme. If someone talks about the skyrocketing onion prices last Diwali, I can nod knowledgeably. And it helps with humor, too — that most difficult thing to grasp when learning a new language — since I can better pick up references to top Bollywood songs or Arvind Kejriwal’s short-lived tenure as Chief Minister. Of course, even if I were to live here for twenty years, I doubt that my familiarity would ever turn into complete understanding, but it’s a good feeling to add layers to what I learned last time, to dig a little deeper rather than rebuild a new base of knowledge.

And of course, having a new work environment lends new eyes to my experience – quite literally, in my case. Have you ever heard of corneal donation or thought about eye banks before? I have, but only because I am conducting research with SightLife, a U.S.-based nonprofit that works to eliminate corneal blindness globally. Here in India, SightLife partners with existing eye banks to provide second chances for sight to patients around the country.

I have a lot of respect for the organization and my coworkers, and I love their model of applying a goal-driven, data-driven, self-driven mentality to a social cause. In fact, the whole atmosphere reminds me much more of a tech start-up than a stereotypical nonprofit. As expected, there has been a steep learning curve, but I’m enjoying my efforts to integrate what I know about research study design with the field of eye donation, social marketing frameworks, and a very particular Indian cultural context.

Updates to come!

As an undergraduate, Indu's dual interests in the biological and social sciences led to a natural focus on public health, which she further explored through volunteer work and research conducted with different low-income clinics. Interested in learning more about how health issues vary on a global scale, Indu participated in a semester-long study abroad program that compared public health systems and challenges in India, Argentina, and South Africa, providing her first critical look at development issues in India. Following graduation, Indu spent the 2013-2014 academic year working at a Delhi-based research and consulting company that focused on health and development issues in South Asia.

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2 thoughts on “Second Chances, Second Glances

  1. Indu
    I have recently reflected on the question of which of my ‘senses’ I would miss most if I had to lose one . I am certain that it will be the sense of sight. So applaud all efforts to preserve and/or gift it .
    Loss of sight is not just a theoretical issue for me. My niece lost her right eye to retinal blastoma when she was just 5 year old . She has bravely borne the trauma and has not allowed that to limit her life and movement in any way. For the last two weeks we have had a totally blind friend stay with us in our home in the US. He was able to see once which must make it even more difficult to lose it .While he stayed with us I would occasionally close my eyes to simulate his condition and could not cope even to keep my balance. Dave on the other hand goes about life with a passion for it which is a joy to watch and be around. Finally my mother donated her eyes to one of the eye banks to which you refer and other members of the family also carry a donor card .

    So thanks to you and SightLife for what you do.

    Best
    Sridar

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