Shaily Gupta is a Rang De social investor based in US. On a recent trip to Calcutta, she teamed up with the Rang De team for a field visit. Here’s what Shaily has to say about her experience.
The sun was about to set on a typical humid day over the bustling suburbs of Calcutta and traffic on the side streets seems to be moving at its usual pace; but this was not a usual day for me — there are few days in our lives which enrich life with real community experiences as today did. As I looked out of the window at the usual scarlet sky on this rather unusual day in Calcutta, I asked myself a question “Is this what I had expected from my visit to our field partners?” — It was a difficult question to answer and I decided to put my math brain to test and write out my experience.
It was a sunny Tuesday morning in March — I had made up my mind that I would not let any business deter me from my resolve of meeting Rang De’s field partner, KSDF in Calcutta. The KSDF team had planned to take us to the Jute craft training centre which had taken a Rang De loan few months ago. I was thrilled by the prospect of visiting a micro venture site and to get an idea of what goes through the minds of the women who get trained there and attain a skill which will enable them to break free from the clutches of poverty. To be a part of the lives of their lives, even if only for a few hours, and to learn about what motivates them to reach their goals, and what their aspirations are. Before meeting the women I wanted to give them hope and optimism for their future, not knowing that I will learn a bigger lesson from them in turn. Albeit I would like to believe that the experience was symbiotic; each one of us came out of it a little more happy 🙂 and grateful.
The training centre in Thakurpukur, Calcutta trains women in the handicraft skills and also pays a stipend to them at the time of training. This training then enables them with skills as well as confidence to venture out in the world and have a chance at an improved life style.
The most gratifying experience for me during the day was when I asked the women how did they like it there and was the training centre helping them come closer to their goals. All my Didis (aka sisters in colloquial Bengali) and yes, they had become my Didis by then, had very unique answers and reactions; some were shy of the camera and others were charmed by it :). There was one recurring theme; they all believed that women play a very important role in uplifting the society. Every woman, by earning and learning to manage her respective capital, believed that she could provide a better life for the family; help her children get a better education and in turn help other women in their community understand the value of being enterprising. All of them were already ‘entrepreneurs at heart’. They mentioned the SELF HELP GROUPS where they foster discussion, educate their friends and instill in each other the courage to venture out. They even went to the point of linking all of this and saying by improving one family at a time our village will be more progressive and we can be part of the nation’s hope and optimism. That was the moment I hugged them tightly and told them that even if we do not have a lot of things in common this is the common thread that binds us. They made me realize that our little investment can have such a domino effect and can empower so many. This is the lesson I learnt from them that each one of us have the power to give and by reaching out to help someone we are sending out the ripples of positive change.
A huge shout out to Rang De who is providing this platform to the under-served so that they can dream of a better life and hope to achieve their goals. We, as responsible investors, should come together to help as much as we can as without our support this divide between the rich and poor in our country will be extremely hard to bridge. We have a responsibility to give them a chance and create a somewhat level playing field.
So that brings me to the conclusion that the trip exceeded my expectations. If I gave them hope and optimism for their future and rallied my support for them, then they also gave me a life lesson, that enriched me on more fronts than one. At the core of our hearts, we want a good life and an honest chance at it. About time we spared a little thought and start this cycle of optimism?
Thank You Rang De, KSDF staff members and my endearing Didis for making my visit so special and gratifying!