“The Young India Fellowship opened my eyes to multiplicity and a life beyond binaries,” says Ayush Prasad, Young India Fellow, Class of 2013
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” This quote appropriately encapsulates my journey.
As a child, my family was always moving, and so I studied in schools across Delhi, Karnataka and Australia. But no matter where I was, cricket always made me feel like home. After schooling, I followed the conventional trajectory of completing my engineering degree and finding employment as a research engineer in a corporate research lab. As my first job, it was a satisfying opportunity where I was able to extensively deploy my skills and knowledge as an engineer and was also involved in drafting four patents. However, I knew right then that this was not what I intended to do with my life, and I had a higher calling.
It was then that I joined the Young India Fellowship (YIF). It opened my eyes to multiplicity and to a life that went beyond binaries. I plunged head first into the Experiential Learning Module (ELM), where my team and I worked on rural livelihoods. We were involved in business consulting with Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and Farmer Producer Companies. The experience was life changing and thrilling, to say the least. Our efforts culminated into being recognised as the Outstanding ELM for that year.
During YIF, I had also simultaneously started to prepare for the civil services. While I was waitlisted the first time, I went on to clear the second attempt and was appointed as an IAS officer with the Maharastra cadre.
I found that being an IAS officer was very different from my previous banking and corporate jobs. An IAS officer is routinely transferred to different locations and different posts. The time that is available for an officer to blend in and interact with the local community to create impact is limited, and it is my experience at YIF that helped. Thanks to my diverse batchmates and friends, the process of assimilation and respecting one another was easier. I believe that my YIF experience has made me a much better officer.
I started as the Assistant Collector of Osmanabad, after which I was appointed as the Assistant Secretary with the Expenditure Department, Ministry of Finance. Currently, I am the Assistant Collector of Pune with the additional charge of Project Officer - Ghodegaon with the Tribal Development Department. To summarize the experiences, challenges and learnings that every role has offered me would take me another 4-5 pages! However, one intervention that is close to my heart has been making Osmanabad Open Defecation Free, seven years before the expected timeline. This was possible only because we mobilised the community into 429 SHGs, where both men and women were trained and employed to create functional and sustainable toilets. This ensured we created income generation and access to toilets even in the most remote areas. Currently, at Ghodegaon too, we have created a marketplace for women’s SHGs and CSR wings for companies such as Mahindra to sell night soil.
To see that my efforts play a small role in bettering the lives of people has been the most fulfilling aspect of my life.