Shadows – Bhumi Fellowship


Author: Anjali Sarmah, Bhumi Fellow

As a new entrant to the social sector, the first two months of the fellowship were quite challenging. It took a lot of time and continuous reflection to be able to work without external factors getting in the way.

Social change is a marathon, not a sprint.

I was told this when I was getting discouraged by the slow progress I was making with my stakeholder engagement. We began our experience as fellows by calling the HM, teachers, and parents in our school. A simple task, one might think. But this took me over three weeks to accomplish. Looking back, I can understand why this was so difficult. We were working online and had not met anyone from school in person. It was presumptuous of me to think everyone would want to speak to a stranger they had never seen before. I also found it difficult not to compare the progress I was making with that of the other fellows. Each of us has very different journeys and challenges, but it was hard to keep this in mind back then.

This is one of many instances that came to mind. Each of them required immense patience and perseverance to overcome. I was able to do so with the support of the program team and my co-fellows. We had several reflection spaces as well as individual check-ins that helped me focus. At the end of the first year, I was in a much better space; on both professional and personal fronts.

At the beginning of our second year, an opportunity called Shadow Work came our way. Organised by the Blue Ribbon Movement founder, it was a 21-day program to explore parts of the self that one might have repressed or wasn’t aware of.  I signed up without any second thoughts and it was among the best decisions I made. This program and the people who were a part of it played an extremely important role in my personal development. It was the first time in my life that I was consciously setting aside time for myself. I found it to be a very confronting, yet cathartic experience. One quote from the program stayed with me.

Accept, don’t fix.”

This has greatly helped alter my perspective of how I view myself and the world around me. It made me think about whether I had also entered the fellowship with a bit of a savior complex. Is it possible to facilitate change, and is this change even necessary in the first place? These are some questions that I ask myself now. Incorporating simple practices like journaling have also been useful. 

Things are vastly different from the first two months now. Having moved to Chennai, I visit my school often and engage frequently with its stakeholders. However, there are still various challenges that I encounter daily. So what is the difference? I now choose to respond, rather than react. Especially to things that are out of my control.

Bhumi fellowship beckons young change-makers like you. Together let’s build better schools and help provide equal opportunities to all!

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