Tata Social Experience

Sabrina Lu University of California, Berkeley

 

Flying paper airplanes through window slits, shooting rocks into hollow bricks, riding scooters and motorcycles, getting henna tattoos, sipping endless cups of chai, and being opening batswoman and wicketkeeper for the women’s team in Mithapur’s Premier Cricket League, were unanticipated experiences which I am grateful to have had. Tata Social Internship is indeed a socially integrative and culturally immersive program, as my fellow coworkers and newly acquired friends here in Mithapur have proven. For the past two weeks, I have taken day trips into villages where I visited schools, self-help groups (SHGs), farmer groups, training clusters, and handicraft production centers – all within and beyond Okhamandal block’s 42 villages. I even made business travels to Dwarka, a popular religious pilgrimage location, and to Jamnagar, a nearby thriving urban city. Journeying to a rural site with language unfamiliarity and vague cultural and historic knowledge was intimidating and nerve-racking; but because of Mithapur’s cordial welcoming and warmth, I grew comfortable and fitting in their community fairly quickly. Working alongside TCSRD (Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development) in their education department, I have witnessed TCSRD’s ambition, passion, and successes in acquiring a sustainable, socioeconomically developed, and culturally integrative community.

Each day I gain novel, adventurous learning experiences. When visiting villages, I sat in SHG meetings, where rural women are taught book-keeping and budgeting. I came across many children and would smile and wave, but communicated mainly through playing games: we would fold paper airplanes and fly them, play basketball by shooting rocks into holes, or play catch. I visited Bhimaran Primary School for Shala Proveshutsav, a large celebration where students performed songs and dances as TCSRD and its partners distributed books, supplies, and 1800 educational kits. The festival concluded with a tree plantation ceremony, and we visited classrooms before leaving. A few schoolgirls were drawing hennas, and I sat down next to them, pointed at their pen, and then pointed at my arm. I left there with a beautiful henna on my hand and a big smile on my face, as the girls waved goodbye and encouraged me to come again. My smile persists daily, as I meet new people, expand my perspectives, and learn. Whether I am on-site observing production, formulating reports, or having lunch with friends, playing cricket with coworkers, every experience provides me with new knowledge in which I am excited to share and incorporate in my project with TCSRD.