Still Rooted as One

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” – Kahlil Gibran

Trees of Dharamshala: Two strong, tall beautiful trees standing next to each other in a grass-field with the blue sky and snow clad mountains in the backdrop
Trees of Dharamshala: Two strong, tall beautiful trees standing next to each other in a grass-field with the blue sky and snow clad mountains in the backdrop

I have always been fascinated by trees and their shapes. It feels as if they are extending their hands in their effort to touch the sky. Trees lush with green leaves swaying in abandon as the wind blows, trees standing bare having shed all their leaves waiting for the spring to come, trees standing tall as if in attention or trees with branches spreading in every direction as if a dancer in a  pose. A line of trees next to each other or a solitary tree looking a little out of place.

Seems like every tree has a story to tell, having to spend their entire life rooted in one place. I wonder what all they would share if they could talk!

Coming together for the Midpoint Conference as one cohort five months after Orientation was an emotional experience. The joy of meeting everyone again after what seemed like ages, but felt like only yesterday when everyone got talking. Also, there was a reminder of the time we have left in the fellowship. The feeling of anxiety, nervousness, and excitement for the future was there but different from Orientation, when the journey of the Fellowship had just begun!

The Fellowship sometimes feels like a tree with all of us the Fellows its branches, spreading out in different directions trying to reach the sky, but still rooted as one. Each branch different, each branch unique, each branch no matter how far but still connected to the tree. Our roots being our passion for contributing to the society in our own ways, the love and respect for each other and the humanity as a whole.

I went to Dharamshala for the Thematic Conference, and the trees with different shapes and sizes against the backdrop of snow clad mountains were a treat for the eyes.

“A woman is a tree of life;

the heavens know her grace.

In her is found an essence that

eclipses time and space.”- by Susan Noyes Anderson

Trees of Dharamshala: A solitary tree standing in the corner of an isolated road with its branches spread all directions,
Trees of Dharamshala: A solitary tree standing in the corner of an isolated road with its branches spread all directions.

While writing about trees, it struck me how nature has always been feminized. Traditionally, the role of women has been that of a nurturer and provider.  And just like nature, has borne the brunt of patriarchy for years and years. Abha Bhaiya, the founder of Jagori Rural Charitable Trust, that very nicely phrased during our interaction with her, that the relationship of society with women and land has always been extractive and exploitative.

Nestled in the hills in Sidhbari, Jagori Rural Charitable Trust, the organization we visited during our Thematic Conference aims to eradicate all forms of discrimination and build a just and equitable society. It is a feminist organization working towards achieving its goals in harmony with nature.

They are promoting youth leadership- especially among women- through their initiatives. We were able to meet and interact with their women collectives who are working relentlessly to make health, legal, social, political rights accessible to women in their area. We were able to meet the Jagori team, Health Sakhi (Friend), women’s collective and an adolescent girls group. We also met and interacted with farmers including women farmers engaged in organic farming.

To hear stories of women advocating for their own rights was awe-inspiring. We heard individual stories of women who fought to shut down the local liquor shop, confronted eve-teasers, took part in the election and were elected as the Mayor.  Alongside these stories they passionately discussed their right to work along with fulfilling their household duties, and open-heartedly shared their strategies to build rapport with women in the community towards building a relationship of trust with them, and using that rapport to raise awareness on how to resolve their own family situation. The interaction with the adolescent girls was the highlight of the visit! These girls were bright and aware; these energetic girls are the sabla (empowered) women and the leaders of the future. What was truly spectacular was to see their mothers in the background encouraging them to participate!

In its truest sense, the experience at the organization was to witness change by the women and for the women.

Trees of Dharamshala: Group of trees with the sun setting down for the day in the backdrop

The following lines from the song, with which we were welcomed by the Jagori team on our first day of visit, still reverberate with me. To me they signify the need to never give up, as no struggle is difficult if we are in it together.

Thus, reinforcing the importance of collective action and community, which the fellowship also believes in through its motto of Serve, Learn, Lead.

Hamare caravan ko manzilon ka intezaar hai,
ye aandhiyon, ye bijaliyon ki peeth par sawar hai.
tu aa kadam mila ke chal, chalenge ek saath hum,
agar kahin hai swarg to utaar la zameen par, T
u zinda hai…

(English Translation:

Our caravan is awaiting destination

while it rides on storms and lightning.

Come, walk in the step with us, we’ll walk together

If there are heavens somewhere, bring them down to the earth.)




Deepika, born and brought up in the city of New Delhi, graduated from University of Delhi and then pursued M.A. in Social Work from TISS, Mumbai. After the completion of her post graduation, she has been working in the development sector, which has helped her gain an understanding of various dimensions of her interest areas which are mainly health, disability, advocacy, and women’s rights. Most recently, she was associated with a start-up working to provide accessible travel solutions to persons with disabilities, where some of her responsibilities included exploring and pursuing advocacy and collaboration opportunities with government and non-government agencies, curation of international and national alliances and media interfacing and communications. Deepika believes that her education in social work has guided her to understand that service to others is not just charity. Deepika believes service is about by pushing forward the agenda for inclusion and rights of people. Her professional experience has further strengthened this philosophy. Her motivation is the hope and belief that we can bring about changes irrespective of how huge or small they are. Deepika was a participant of the Summer School for Future International Development Leaders 2017, a program organized by IIM Udaipur and Duke University.

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