By now, you've probably heard the news: in Ratna's-gap-year fashion, I've taken a plunge and moved to Mumbai for a one-year consultancy with Aangan Trust, a nonprofit that works to make sure that even the most vulnerable child has the right to a childhood free from trafficking, child marriage, child labor, and abuse.
Part of what has made the transition tricky is a stream of (well-intentioned) questions that sometimes make me feel like I have to justify why I made the choice to be here. These can be hard for me because sometimes, the answer is that I just don't know! But I've taken a few moments to lay down the answers to some of the questions I've received, for anyone who is interested:
Why did you decide to move to India?
I've always thought about working in India in the long run, because it has all the development challenges and opportunities of a swiftly growing economy and I feel a lot of promise in terms of what I can contribute here. In the shorter term, I visited in February and had such a blast with my grandparents that I felt I just had to be back!
Why would someone who grew up in America want to move to India for a job?
I want to work on international development in the long run, and it's irresponsible to do so without experience working internationally. The issues I’m passionate about (human rights, poverty alleviation, environmental conservation, etc.) are very pressing in India, so having the opportunity to work on these issues on the ground in a place like this is a dream come true.
What will you be working on?
My time will be split approximately 80 percent on Aangan's Bharosa initiative (working with local government officials to advocate for promising practices in child protection based on community input) and 20 percent on working with Suparna Gupta, the Founder/CEO of Aangan, on research and writing.
How did you become interested in this work?
I have always cared deeply about children's rights, because I think if we can improve the experiences that little humans have, we can ensure a lot more happy, fulfilled, and stable adults running around this world. The barrage of #MeToo news lately has been sickening to me and kept me up at night, and it's even more heartbreaking to think about instances of abuse and assault affecting children, who often have even fewer outlets to advocate for themselves than other survivors. While it will be extremely difficult, this is an area I am passionate about learning about to be able to make a difference to people's lives, however small.
How has your education prepared you for this work?
Throughout our time at Harvard, the administration and professors stressed that our college experience was supposed to build leaders who would contribute to bettering society. If I feel that I am not taking enough risk in my work and properly using my privilege to fight on behalf of those who have not been born into as much luck as I have, I think I am doing an injustice to my education. So in a way, "social work" is the only work I have ever considered doing, and what I learned through my study of Development Economics certainly applies to the challenges I'm looking to work on, every day.
How long will you be here?
My contract right now is for 11 months, but I also want to be open to where this new experience takes me. Uncertainty is one of the things that causes me the most anxiety (so it would be easiest to know for sure that I'm leaving in a year), but I don't want to limit my life experiences with a rigid plan or based on anyone else's construct of what the timeline of a life should look like. I also believe that the age I'm at now is a perfect one to jump into new and "risky" career experiences before having to settle into a career and other responsibilities.
I hope these answers are helpful! I am equal parts excited and nervous, and I can't wait to look back on this transition phase and think, "Look how much I've learned since then."