The Unexpected

They told us that time would fly after midpoint. I badly wanted it to be true, because by the end of January, I was exhausted, burnt out, and ready to pack up and go home. After a lovely midpoint conference in Rajasthan, I expected to feel refreshed and rejuvenated and full of energy to get back to the project. Instead, I felt like everything was a mess and I didn’t know where to start cleaning up. Luckily this passed, and now we’re sputtering on towards that ever-elusive finish line (for me, the glorious end of ground survey).

It’s getting very hot in Bangalore (…It’s still the best weather anyone could hope for in urban India). For the first time in 15 years, I’ve had no winter. Temperate and comfortable has gone straight to sticky, prickly heat. I have just over 3 months left here, and it’s already time to unfold the map and see where my finger lands next.

I started this fellowship selfishly. What will I get out of it? What will Janaagraha contribute to my career? What will this experience teach me? I was so fixated on the idea of a fellowship and the title and role of a fellow. Only lately have I begun to realize that as a fellow: first, I am whatever the organization needs me to be, and second, I decide exactly how much I want to give.

There are nights when I’m at work well past the 10-hour mark and I think—No more, this is ridiculous, I’m going home! Then I remember…no one asked me to work till 8 PM. I never expected this from myself. This fellowship and this project have stretched me straight out of my limits, and I’m very grateful and only a little sore.

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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