Conventions define me as a Social worker, Teacher and Educator. I define myself as a foster mum, dancing diva, and chocoholic. In an alternate life, I’d be a dive instructor living by the sea with my dogs. On a more serious note, I work for an NGO, Yein Udaan, through which we hope to bridge the opportunity gap that exists in society. In the near future, I hope to have the expertise and resources to open a free school, run by the community for the community.
Currently, Vedika is also the School Coordinator at SVA School for Girls in Madurai, where she develops curriculums and trains 8 teachers, thereby impacting 200 girls in grades 1 to 5.
What inspires you?
I’m going to take the liberty to extend this question to two parts, what inspires me and what drives me, as I believe I can’t answer one without the other.
What inspires me are the small efforts towards change I see around me every day. Be it from my students, their volunteer teachers, strangers or TED speakers.
What drives me is the inequity I see around me every day. Some people close to me say the work I do has left me jaded. But I believe this (hyper) awareness of unfairness in the World, keeps me going. It reminds me: if not me, then who?
How has what you do made an impact on your life?
Oh my, where do I even begin… The VERY first example that came to my mind was that my work made me a soccer mom at 23. I remember having to wake up at 5 AM to drive some of our boys for soccer try outs, always keeping handy bananas, glucose and Band-Aids!
But beyond this, my work has turned my heart to mush while making me resilient. It has helped me understand that not everyone is made to give back while making me believe in the power of a collective. It has defined my awareness and caution around “big dreams” while also constantly proving to me that anything is possible.
My work, to me, is pandemonium and yet, it is where I find my solace.
What is the greatest challenge you have faced getting to where you are today? How has that shaped you?
So far, I’ve faced three “great” challenges – all three internal. Strange right, given the patriarchal World we live in? I think I’ve never truly understood feminism because of this…
Nonetheless, these internal struggles, namely - lack of courage, self-doubt and need for perfection - have succeeded in creating an anarchy in my mind, many a time. Growing up, I was privy to a lot of “bad” things around me. This made me aware of the injustices in the World. But not having seen enough people stand up to this injustice, led to my lack of courage, when it was my turn to try and bring about change. This lack of courage still holds me back from reaching my full potential. The self-doubt comes from my inability to see the impact I’m having. Because I look at my work as my responsibility, I often fail to see the positive change we’re making through the NGO. My attitude to most things good that happens is, “that was the intended outcome. Let’s focus on xyz that went wrong”. Which, of course, ties in perfectly to my need for things to be perfect.
I’m BIG on sustainability. Especially because of the field I’m in and the work I’ve done with multiple NGOs, who eventually struggle because of their focus on quantity over quality. When people ask me for impact in terms of numbers, it REALLY puts me off. Sometimes I wish I had the superpower to change this longstanding mindset and encourage people to believe in the immense potential of changing one life, one family, one community wholly, instead of a 100 partially.
What did you want to be when you grew up? What options seemed open or closed to you, if any?
I wanted to be a hotshot investment banker! I loved (still do) Economics as a subject - I even topped my school in the 12th board exams! I studied Econ in college, too. But when I started volunteering while in college, my whole life changed. And there was no looking back. I’ve been blessed with the most supportive parents in the World, so I knew I could study or work in whatever field I wanted. Thus, switching from a business-oriented mindset to social work was a seamless endeavour, in terms of the external support I needed.
Who is your role model?
I’ve never actually had a role model growing up. So many people, especially my kids (students), ask me this question, and I’m always left wondering. I look up to many people in my life, and this list keeps growing. I believe that tiny actions can change lives, so everyone trying to make a difference, is a role model to me. I don’t mean or intend to sound cheesy, but it is true. I make mental notes of the smallest acts of kindness and those people stay in my heart and mind forever. I can never be grateful enough. Only time will tell if that’s a virtue or vice. :)
What in life has brought you the greatest satisfaction?
Considering I’m only 25, I’m not sure how to answer this question. But, I can say, for my life thus far, my greatest satisfaction has been having found my calling and having had the means to pursue it.
At my age, it is the norm for people to be confused about what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Having gained that self-awareness at 22 was the best thing that could have happened to me. And having the financial, emotional and mental support to be able to pursue this path can only be described as the cherry on top. So many passionate people are stuck in the rat race because their livelihood depends on it. I am very aware of my luck and fortune and this awareness shapes the way I live my life.
One piece of advice to women everywhere.
This may sound vague but it’s something I constantly tell myself – do it not because you were told you can’t but because you told yourself you would. It’s very personal and may not make sense to everybody. But when it clicks and your perspective changes, you’ll know what I mean. ;)
Facebook professional: @yeinudaan
Facebook personal: @vedikaagarwal93
Instagram professional: @yeinudaan