“Kya aapke toothpaste mein namak hai?” (Hindi for “Do you have salt in your toothpaste?”)

I was thinking of how to start this blog and it struck me – what I am trying to say is exactly what Colgate tried to tell the world with this simple question. They asked everyone, “do you have active salt in your toothpaste?” which immediately had everyone questioning their toothpaste.

A sketch of a girl asking her toothpaste if it has active salt while the toothpaste looks on with terror.
A sad attempt by Prakriti at a sketch of a girl asking her toothpaste if it has active salt while the toothpaste looks on with terror.


This is not a blog about toothpaste or salt though, I am simply trying to share with you what it takes to be an AIF Fellow through a fun illustration. Just like the active salt is essential to toothpaste to ensure proper cleaning, these things are essential for your path to serve, learn and lead as an AIF Fellow. I had the idea to illustrate this for a while and let it marinate for a few months before I actually started drawing. I’m happy to share that this is THE first illustration I have ever drawn. Hopefully, it gives you a sense of comfort after you visualize it and reflect on what you have and what you require. These are, however, not the only things that you will need on your journey, but having them makes it a little easier to grow in your journey for the time you serve as a fellow at AIF.

A collage of various objects that are found in the bag of an AIF Fellow.
Illustration by ©Prakriti Chawla














Now the question is – 

“Kya aapke bag mein ye sab hai?” (Hindi for “Do you have all these things in your bag?”)

You might say, “I have everything that you have mentioned, what’s so new about this?”

I agree! This is not about showing you unexplored things that you would have never heard of or things that might make you feel bad. I actually wanted to tell you that you have what it takes and you CAN do this. If you have been selected as a fellow, I guarantee that your bag is already full of all this and many more items! If you are an aspiring fellow, try to gather these things before you start applying and show the fellowship team how you use all of them. 

I had a very positive experience during my interview with AIF’s Fellowship Team. The team was extremely sweet and encouraging which enabled me to be okay with my feelings and express them. There was a point in the interview when I was asked a question that completely stumped me. I immediately started panicking but remembered to put on my invisible zen headset and asked for a few minutes to gather my thoughts. They obliged and I was able to calm down and answer with clarity. This is just one example of where I have used my zen headset even before I became a fellow. During the past few months of the fellowship, there have been many instances where I have felt overwhelmed or overstimulated due to work but I always remember to ground myself and take in the experience as it is. 

When the fellowship had just begun and the orientation was going on, there were many activities and group sessions which helped me shine my perspective and sensitivity glasses. This, in turn, has helped me a lot in my work at my host organization, as a researcher and designer. I was able to see things from the perspective of my stakeholders with ease while making sure I don’t offend their sensitivities with my processes and designs. As a fellow, you are expected to perform multiple roles, different hats come in handy during these situations. In my journey, I have donned the hat to play the role of a student, teacher, designer, user, researcher, writer, artist, and so much more. 

Another important thing is the empath gel, which you will definitely need. The work you will do will involve a lot of people and being respectful of their contexts and realities. I had to conduct a lot of interviews as part of my project with women in rural villages of Rajasthan over the phone. There were days when out of 40 women on my list, 39 would not respond to my calls or pick up and brush me off. I had to constantly remind myself of the reasons why they could not pick up the phone or talk to me. The team at my host organization also prepared me for it, they informed me of the timings I should call them and how I should start the conversation so they become interested immediately. 

Some other things mentioned in the illustration and what they mean…

  • Hydration Container – To keep yourself hydrated and high on joyous spirit.
  • Super Stationery – To jot down all the notes and doodles you will make to keep yourself engaged.
  • Book of Motivation – For all the times your will is lowered and you need a pick-me-up (Psst… this is also known as the AIF team! They are your cheerleaders at every step!)
  • Ideas Journals – To record all your awesome ideas and thoughts in one place so you have them ready to go whenever required.
  • Best Friend <3 – The laptop which will help you through all the good times and the bad (Netflix is on this too…)
  • Lots of Snax! (snacks) – For all the nourishment, energy and sugar rush you need to power through days that seem endless.
  • Super Assistant – The phone which will assist you at every step by helping you stay connected, complete your tasks, attend meetings and document your journey.
  • Take-a-break Mask – To take the much-needed breaks from all your senses, especially those tired eyes from looking at screens all the time.
  • Nap Pillow – The perfect travel companion when you go on the field and need to fit in the much-needed sleep.

That brings us to the end of the list of things you will find in the bag of an AIF Fellow! As mentioned above, this is not an exhaustive list, you can add more knick knacks along your way. Maybe a kaleidoscope of memories, bracelets of friendships you make through the fellowship, a mirror of reflection for times when you need to look within or possibly a foldable fan to fan all your troubles away always be with you.

Let me know in the comments what all objects you can add to your bag as an AIF fellow!

PS: I enjoyed drawing this illustration a lot and hope to bring more such illustrations your way. Wishing you all the best for your fun-filled journey!

Prakriti is a Social Designer and has spent most of her childhood on the campus of Muskaan, a world-renowned skilling institute for persons with intellectual disability (PwIDs) in India. Over the past four years, she has worked towards the inclusion of marginalized people in the mainstream workforce through multiple path-breaking projects through partnerships with governments and non-profits. Prakriti completed her Master’s in Social Design from Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University Delhi, where she led various projects on migration, disabilities, gender, self-advocacy, and education. She has a certification on disability livelihoods from EnAble India. She has had on-ground experience in the mainstream hospitality industry and has worked with Lemon Tree Hotels, one of the first companies to hire people with disabilities at a large scale.
While there, she directly worked with the Head of Diversity & Inclusion to help develop inclusive policies for the national chain of hotels. Along with India's Skill Council for Persons with Disability (SCPwD) and Muskaan, she has also helped in the creation of a standardized curriculum on vocational training of PwIDs for national dissemination. In her most recent project with Muskaan, she conducted a research study on the experiences of family members of people with intellectual disabilities. A continuous learner, Prakriti believes in expanding her horizons and therefore has learned basic sign language and is also a budding clay artist. In 2019, Prakriti was recognized as a Rising Star by Wedu Global.

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