Pollinate Energy is a social business which improves the lives of India’s urban poor while providing social entrepreneurship training and experiences to students from around the world. Our July fellowship program was sponsored by UTS:Insearch and the Australia India Youth Dialogue. Sagar Vinod has been awarded as the first Australia India Youth Dialogue fellow – representing the future of our two countries. This story is about his experience.
First, a preface of sorts – I would count the past few weeks among the most meaningful chapters in my life thus far. It has irrevocably changed me, in a series of defining moments that will shape much of my long journey ahead. I know that, when I set out in a month’s time to resume my formal education, everything will make a lot more sense. I also know that I am not alone in this – everyone in the summer fellowship program at Pollinate Energy, Australian or Indian, will leave with newfound perspective.
How could we not? Together, each day, we grappled with ideas and issues, big and small. We travelled the fringes of Bangalore city together, be it on two, three or four wheels. We spent countless hours in the wavering monsoon rain, often finding shelter under the comforting glow of a solar lamp. We had fascinating exchanges with the people we met on these daily visits, unmindful of the slush and haze of mosquitoes. Then we would return to The Hive, extremely satisfied with a day well spent and eager for tomorrow’s adventure. Most importantly, that each of this multitude of experiences occurred across cultures, transcending languages and worldviews to something fundamentally human, is what made it truly amazing.
I’m proud to be the Australia-India Youth Dialogue (AIYD) fellow because I have now seen, first-hand, what collaboration between the people of our two countries can achieve. The progress made every day at Pollinate Energy in fighting energy poverty is so inspiring because the happiness we create is very visible; you can easily see the smiles on everyone’s faces because the light is brighter and the air is clearer.
During my two months here, I have learned a great many things from the Australian folks at Pollinate Energy. Interestingly, my interaction with them has made me more aware of my own culture – it has led me to ponder India’s sociocultural structure, our people and food. In the slums, I have experienced a slice of my country that many of my fellow Indians are blissfully unaware of, and sadly, an even greater number are part of. And I am touched that the Australian fellows have come from halfway across the world to help. To be surrounded every day by people who care is a gift. I realize now how strong commitment and hard work will make a huge difference where earlier there was none – and that in everyone there is such potential. I also admire the depth of their knowledge of issues that are important to the health of this planet. It has spurred in me a new reading habit, and every day I find I am shaping my own convictions. And above all, it’s been so much fun!
Even as I write this, the many memorable moments of the fellowship come rushing back to me…
At the very beginning, as is tradition, our baptism in the fiery flavors of Udupi ‘Udoops’ Park. Our spirited game of street cricket – Australia vs. Rest of World – that, impossibly enough, finished in an exciting draw. Tom’s tall frame strolling through the slums, led by a host of eager children, counting tents in gleeful chorus. My conversations with Med on my rickety but dependable scooter in the chaotic Bangalore traffic. Indiana-Jonesing in the rain with Herb, Lukas and Fitz in search of a mysterious temple and a lost community, on a bellyful of fluffy puffs from local bakeries. Demonstrating our first solar fans in the slums with Rutuja and Rebecca. Career Day with Phil and Alex. Nitin’s birthday celebrations. The Ramadan Feast on Mosque Road. Shaking hands – hooves? – with a five legged cow. Go-karting with Chris, Abhay, Johnny and Naveen. Ping-pong with Brian. Football. Foosball. I could go on and on.
Personally, I think my favorite moment was when I realized that – I hadn’t given much thought to it until Med said it aloud – we aren’t really very different, are we? At Pollinate Energy, it can be hard to tell us apart. Both Indian and Australian fellows, when you get down to it, are just good people doing great work together. We have so much in common I cannot help but feel a single, absurdly large family lives at Number 4, Siloak Enclave. Everyone I’ve met here has a whopping big heart with the spirit to match – and maybe that’s all that matters.
I’ve had a ridiculously good time. And honestly, I can think of no better way to spend a summer – or a lifetime.