Volunteer Den – Gogul Pathmanabhan

Gogul has been a Bhumian, as well as a Gandhi fellow. Read further to learn more about his experiences at both Bhumi, as well as the Gandhi Fellowship (click here to know more about the fellowship).

This little girl made rotis for Gogul!

Tell us a little about yourself!

In any Letter of Intent, the first thing I tell about myself is that I’m a Chennai boy at heart. It has been the core of my personality and I derive my passion from that aspect of my life. I completed my engineering before I figured out what I wanted to do in life. Now, as a Strategic Consultant in Kaivalya Education Foundation, I enjoy solving problems daily with the team in Delhi. Living alone in Delhi is a challenge, especially as a momma’s boy, with the daily rigors that come along with it. However, I try to find time to read and write when I’m not on Netflix, which is always!

How did volunteering with Bhumi happen?

I volunteered with a few organisations before I found Bhumi in 2014. At a time when I was balancing my college and competitions, Bhumi took priority. During the orientation, I was sold seeing the volunteers sell each of their projects, making me want to join them as well. That sense of belonging has been the benchmark for culture I look for in organisations I join. Besides that, Bhumi’s work was a salve to the burning feeling that my education had not been worthwhile.

How did the Gandhi fellowship happen? Was there a trigger?

As a Bhumi volunteer, I was involved in a few projects with my major work being designing the Science curriculum. That, as I later learned, was not simple. I joined the fellowship out of curiosity and a need to get out of my comfort zone. I realise in retrospect that I was just beginning to discover the knots and branches of the education system, which I still do today, two years later.

How did the volunteering experience at Bhumi help you stand out as a Gandhi fellow?

Bhumi was a thoroughly collaborative experience, that transformed me into a Team Player. In my fellowship in Rajasthan, in a strange town where I knew only my team, that came handy. As a fellow, I took the tonnes of activities I learnt at Bhumi to school, where knowing how to engage my kids took the pressure of not knowing the language off me, slightly.

Share an interesting experience each at Bhumi & Gandhi fellowship.

One of my most cherished experiences while working with kids at the CMS centre in Kilpauk repeated itself in the schools of Rajasthan. At Bhumi, we play with the children a lot and the kids loved to climb all over my huge frame, grabbing my legs, using my hands for branches and sitting on my head and shoulders. I loved that I could just carry five of those munchkins and get them to listen to me. The same happened with my Elementary kids in a village called Naraniya; we played and then they listened. But I didn’t understand what they were saying to each other, just that they laughed hard, and I later found out that they were teasing me about my size. Not cool, it’s not my fault the local people were less well-built!

What change did these experiences bring in your life? How has Bhumi / the Gandhi Fellowship altered you, personally?

Taking stock, at 23, 4 years in the Education sector and an Engineering degree makes me feel I did well. Looking back, Bhumi was the launchpad to what I went through in the fellowship and the transformative experience that the fellowship brings with processes like Bootcamps and Vipassana, coupled with the rigorous reflection forges everyone in unique ways. I was looking to go through this and change for the better at the start of the fellowship. I just hadn’t figured out what to change. Do I change my bad traits so that I turn into a holistically better person? If so, how? By learning something new? By not doing things I want to? But whatever I did, I didn’t seem to find happiness or peace. I told myself, I’m only 23. In fact, everyone told me that and that made sense because, I saw a lot of things change without ever trying and some unchanged despite trying.

Change is subjective and imminent. Understanding this has been my journey. What brought me peace was acceptance. Acceptance that I’m huge and that’s okay; that I don’t want to eat healthy because taste is more important right now; that I’m good at visualising, so that needs to be my career; that my parents may say something stupid, but that they still love me; that I’m still learning and I’m going to fail a lot and give up a lot; that in the end I’ll do what it takes to get what I want.

Any specific, special moment with kids or volunteers you would like to share with us?

Yes. Shout out to people who really drove my formative years – Agni, Yuva, Arvind and Siva. We volunteered together for 2 years and it was time spent then that made me choose a career in the social sector. I was the youngest in the group and people were anywhere between 3-9 years older than me. I learnt to be energetic and we had such good fun that age hasn’t mattered ever since. I remember them whenever I wear our Science t-shirt and hoodies. “Keep calm and let the Science guys handle it”

A message to every Bhumi volunteer:

You guys make volunteering fun.

You guys make kids lucky.

You guys make Bhumi, Bhumi.

Keep trying to make it better

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