Stages of a Storm: Life-Cycle of the Commitment to Serve as a Fellow in Times of the Pandemic

As I was looking over the past year that has gone by, the unfortunate outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, thinking about navigating these unprecedented times, against which the battle seems unending – there were contrasting feelings that I experienced in the endeavour to understand how I would encapsulate it. On one hand, it seemed like the year had gone by in a flurry- leaving me with the exhaustion that comes with watching an emotional, unexpected and scary movie, when one just cannot grasp how the movie went by, but always assumes that it is never over. On the other, I could string it together like a chain of pearls – slowly, moment by moment, gently cradling each pearl to feel its uniqueness and rarity, in all its glory.

Soon I realised that how I interpret the pandemic and the impact it had on me is akin to a storm and what a storm often leaves in its aftermath. One can never fully wrap their head around how the storm went by, it is always a flurry. Yet each frame of the storm, each experience, each realisation, each pearl – every squeal of joy and every tear of grief – is etched in the memory forever. The journey of this storm is closely knit with the journey and life-cycle of my commitment to serve as an AIF Clinton Fellow. It started from a point of unawareness, from a point of assuming that all of us, humanity as a whole, suffers equally – then moving on to the point of self-reflection and introspection as I watched the invisibilized inequalities of the world unfold, and finally landing and culminating into the determination of serving as a Fellow.

Hoping to capture the same in words, I am sharing a poem that I penned down on a cold winter morning, tasting the end of the year, sitting in a pool of thoughts and emotions as I’m starting my fellowship journey.

 

The calm before the storm and a presumptuous belief:

Each fighter rows a mighty boat just the same,

Winds fly rooftops away just the same,

Water scarily seeps into the ceilings just the same,

You and I

You and I and us

All stand equally together – just the same.

 

The fierce onset of the storm and a tumultuous realisation:

The invisible inequality wildly apparent, all the chains and shackles rightly defied,

Millions swimming against raging tides to migrate back home – coming up for air – sans the privilege of a mighty boat enjoyed,

Thousands looking for shade in the scorching heat, sans the protection of a rooftop to reside,

Hundreds falling onto the street, sans a ceiling to lean by.

 

The illusionary passing of the storm and a birthing resolve:

To find mighty boats for some, if not all, to sail through,

To build houses of stones, if not bricks,  for a few to find shelter in as the gale brews,

To walk out of the solace of painted ceilings slowly, if not all at once, and shed comfortable skin to start anew.

 

The calm before the reviving storm and a hopeful belief:Mehar wearing a mask which has "Perseverance" and "Compassion" written on it.

To strive to persevere with compassion,

so that someday,

Each mighty boat shall keep all the fighters afloat just the same,

All in unison shall hold up their rooftops just the same,

The ceilings shall echo the joy of freedom, equality and dignity of life, just the same,

You and I

You and I and us

One day, all stand equally together – just the same.

 

Mehar is serving as an American India Foundation (AIF) Clinton Fellow with Sustainable Communities India Private Limited in Pune, Maharashtra. For her fellowship project, she is developing innovative business models for accelerating the adoption of energy efficient technologies in India as well as South-East Asian countries. Growing up in various locations across India and exploring diverse cultures, Mehar believes in the importance of communication and adaptability for understanding the needs of different groups and strengthening them through sharing ideas, knowledge and creating cooperative communities. Through her interactions with vulnerable groups in conflict regions, she recognises the value of empowering communities and building their resilience to adversity by developing systems for sustainable livelihoods. Mehar began her career as a Policy Analyst at Swaniti Initiative with a focus on bridging the gap between the community, civil society organisations and parliamentarians, as well as delivering development solutions to strengthen democratic institutions. Over the past year, she has facilitated the policy engagement efforts of a network of grass-root organisations across India on issues surrounding human trafficking and protection of migrant workers. She has also conducted capacity building workshops for women artisans in North India with an aim to increase their market linkages. Her recent project gave her the opportunity to assist the State Government of Jharkhand to strengthen climate change resilience within the state and assess the absorption of returning migrant workers into large-scale employment programs such as MGNREGA. Serving as an AIF Clinton Fellow, Mehar endeavours to build her experience in the development sector as well as understand the nuances of designing and implementing scalable and sustainable projects that drive social impact. She is keen to learn and foster innovative approaches that create synergies between the goals of economic growth and environmental preservation. An avid reader, she is fond of writing poetry and enjoys playing the guitar.

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One thought on “Stages of a Storm: Life-Cycle of the Commitment to Serve as a Fellow in Times of the Pandemic

  1. Loved reading young AIF Clinton Fellow, Ms Meher Jauhar’s comments, including a sensitive poetic expression of how one feels in these terrible times of Covid 19.
    I would also like to draw your attention to the plight of certain people on the margins, highly vulnerable populations of our near extinct tribes of the A & N islands. Precious little is done on these tribes which have barely 50 to 500 surviving members in each tribe, and if they are lost it will be a huge loss of ancient cultures and civilizations they represent in todays times.

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