From maintaining the utilitarian website with lakhs views to becoming the National Social Service (NSS) & Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA), IIT Kanpur’s Student Coordinator, my life has been full of ups and downs and never short of a roller coaster ride.
I have been living in a hostel away from my family for the past 17 years, and as a consequence, I had a very unusual childhood. It is what made social service seem appealing to me in the first place. I was in class 3 when I was first admitted to a hostel. Soon after, I made an unsuccessful attempt at running away. When I was caught and brought back, I started submitting blank sheets in the exams and intentionally failed. My parents saw through my trick and asked me to repeat the same class until I passed. With no way of escape in sight, I started working on making my stay better. Ironically enough, studies quickly became my best companion.
However, I had limited academic guidance, and when I looked around, I found plenty like me. There are many with the talent to excel who suffer due to the lack of a guiding light. Many succumb to parental pressure while others remain ignorant of possible opportunities. While I was able to find my true calling, many of my friends were not as lucky. This reality became the seed of my helping nature. I believe that the first step to improving the lives of others is by improving oneself. So I concentrated on studying and cleared the JEE.
I came to IIT with the ambition of doing something remarkable in academics, having almost nil information about social service in IITK. But gradually, my dreams started to feel unattainable as I lost focus on my academics due to academic burnout during preparation days. On the bright side, the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development with IIT Delhi initiated the ‘Unnat Bharat Abhiyan’ program across various institutions at the end of my first year. We received a mail stating, “anyone interested in providing helping hands, can join us”. It allowed me to take my worrying mind off and work on something I love. The first meeting was a brainstorming session about ways to help the adopted villagers. I decided to take charge of making Baikunthpur, a nearby village, digitally literate.
With Prof. Sandeep Sangal & Ms. Rita Singh, I surveyed the village. I found that the majority of them had no idea about the various privileges and schemes offered to them by the government. I resolved to work on this issue, and the response we received was overwhelming. Soon there were two batches of 30 visiting the campus four times a week. My ‘students’ included people of all ages, from fresh graduates to a couple in their 60s. After the semester-long program, they were all able to do a variety of tasks like working with basic hardware, MS Office tools, checking their land registry, applying for correction in Aadhar details, applying for various governmental services – PAN cards, widow pension, divyang pension, old age pension, etc. I reran the program in my 4th semester, and we successfully completed our primary goal. Through these experiences, I gained valuable insights into their lives. I observed the existent political and religious barriers in the villages, and how a simple program like ours holds the potential to break these barriers and help unify people.
During my boring summer break, I tried to address a problem I had faced. I was seriously troubled collecting previous papers of specific courses in my first year. The content was still available but scattered in several small sites that had minimal reach. I had found an appropriate objective for my website. So I contacted all my seniors and batchmates for papers and course material. Many dropped exam papers in front of my door while others mailed me, and I reached the point where I had sufficient material. I honestly never expected it would reach many and initially, it didn’t. When the next batch arrived, there was the usual fear and confusion regarding MTH101 lectures and CHM101 reports. Someone must have shared my website link because overnight my mailbox was flooded with requests for study material of other subjects. I then realized that I needed to get serious about this little venture. I created my new domain and made it self-sustaining by allowing everyone to upload material directly. Since then, it has kept on growing.
This newfound passion in my work also helped me manage my academics more efficiently. Out of my several exciting experiences, one never fails to amuse me. In my 5th semester, I received a mail from the Dean of Academic Affairs (DoAA) office regarding some roll number mismatch in the mid-sem paper of the Quantum Physics course. As it turned out, a student had given the entire test during his free time and written my name and some random roll number as a joke. My work had made me a known figure and all I could think was, “Bhai, itna bhi naam nahi karna tha!”
Moving forward, I started engaging myself in other activities of UBA like providing technical expertise to Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE) in organizing camps of various government schemes. Prof. Sandeep Sangal & Ms. Rita Singh had the idea of structuring the networks of UBA, and multiple positions of responsibilities were allotted to different people. Being one of the active members, I was assigned the role of a Student Coordinator. To this day, I continue to manage all the activities – Citizen Science Experiments, Navodaya Teaching, Sports & Defence Coaching, while finding new ways through which I can contribute.
My life has had several lows and the only reason I could face them was my emotional stability. Academically, I did not have a comfortable start in IITK but now, I am content with everything I did because I could help and progress with my fellow mates. CPI undeniably plays an important role but life is a much bigger game. Reaching out to new people, learning about them and how they deal with various situations is one of the best ways to grow. Emotional and Technical Intelligence together pave the way to a happier life.