“YIF gave me the chance to believe in my abilities,” says Natasha Zarine, Young India Fellow, Class of 2013.
May 2018: My learning started on a farm in a village called Rye, Maharashtra, where I spent my childhood years. From wandering the landscapes with my friends – the children of the farm staff, learning about snails and sea creatures, seeing gender violence first hand, experiencing the pain of having my four legged companion euthanized and everything in-between, I learned a lot.
Then, we moved to Mumbai and things changed. I went to a ‘convent school’ and stayed in a ‘parsi’ colony. At these spaces I learned the importance given to religion, class and consumption, and how none of it moved me, but rather left me exasperated.
I went on to study Psychology. During this time, I had the chance to intern at a drug rehab treatment center and at a psychiatric ward of a hospital. After I completed my undergraduate degree, I left for the Andaman Islands to volunteer at the Andaman Nicobar Environment Team and worked at a leading ‘eco-resort’ as a resident naturalist. On working days, I took people kayaking, snorkeling and hiking. As if that wasn’t fun enough, I was permitted to go diving for free on my weekly off. Until, I quit my job because of workplace harassment.
This drove me back to Mumbai and straight into Law College. I really hoped to study further, to make something of my life, to build a career that I would love and to make an impact on society. I worked with a non-profit near Rye and even got married during my time at Law College. It wasn’t easy, and I had thoughts of quitting in the second year! I made it through Law College somehow, but it left me utterly confused and lost, with my self-esteem completely down in the dumps.
On the April 16, 2012, my 25th birthday, I got an email saying, “Congratulations, you have been selected to the second batch of the Young India Fellowship.” And since that day, I have been on a transformative journey of learning, empathy, action, and impact.
The Young India Fellowship opened up my mind and heart in ways I didn't know. I learned to read and articulate complex feelings and perceptions through Shakespere and the World. I was also deeply moved by the course titled Group Dynamics by Professor Dr. Kenwyn Smith. Science Po's Governing the Large Metropolis also inspired me in different ways.
From being mentored by some of the most inspiring and conscientious leaders in our country to being friends with a caring and powerful cohort, the Fellowship gave me the chance to explore and believe in my abilities to be an effective and empathetic leader.
After the Fellowship, I moved to Aurangabad and dived into building evidence-driven solutions and civic and environmental challenges of the city and beyond, with government and industry partners. What started as a two-person team with my co-founder Gauri and I pushing a garbage cart for waste collection at Sindhi Colony, has turned into a movement headed by our team of 56 individuals working in various cities to spearhead effective, equitable and sustainable solid waste management. We have composted over 44640 tons of organic waste, recycled over 1600 tons of recyclables, trained 2300 sanitation staff and generated employment from waste for 106 individuals.
Our organization, the Civic Response Team (CRT), also has verticals like CSR, Research and Advocacy and the third – Skills, Training and Education, through which we run multi-disciplinary education-based programmes spreading to eight districts of Maharashtra. We also generate data for the city and beyond. Together, we have been able to achieve a turnover of Rs 5 crore in three years while creating social impact. I could never have imagined doing this, had it not been for the fellowship and my immensely supportive and inspirational family and friends.
(Natasha along with students and teachers from 641 schools in Aurangabad District who participated in the Design for Change program executed by CRT)
The YIF experience gave me the belief and courage to strive to be the best that I can be, and do the best that I can do. Kindness, generosity and genuine care was invested in all the Fellows. All that I have gained through the fellowship, I hope to pass on to others.