A Year in India

March 25, 2009, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Indian Development | Tags: , ,

I recently received some noteworthy advice from Kshithij Urs, a friend who has worked in India’s development space for 15 + years. He’s currently Karnataka’s Regional Manager for Action Aid India, an anti-poverty agency. During a conversation about my experience as an American doing social work in India, he told me the following:

1. Unlearn what you’ve learnt. That is, don’t stick to the way you’ve been taught to understand society.

2. Do as much research as you can about India’s caste system. It deeply influences modern Indian culture.

3. Think about making media to mobilize communities. Documentaries are often made to raise awareness about social injustices but are targeted at audiences that are not undergoing these injustices. What if we were to make a documentary to raise awareness within a community undergoing an injustice? Could it inspire them to take ownership of their situation?

Thoughts to ponder.


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We are about a third of the way through Nandan Nilekani’s new book, “Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation.” Nandan provides an enlightening perspective on India’s history, the forces that have shaped it and the opportunities that lie ahead. He then charts a path forward. The book is full of facts, ideas, and opinions – woven together into an intricate but lucid narrative. After the “unlearning,” this may be a good place to start for the “new learning.” I am finding the book educational and inspiring!

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