Clutching at Straws — A Rang De Writer’s Journey

July 5, 2016
By Rang De Team


You know that moment when you feel like everything is going wrong in your life? That moment when you feel like you’re drowning and clutching at straws.

Rang De was the straw I clutched at.

At 36, I had ticked none of the “boxes” that a woman my age should have ticked. I did not have any children. I did not have a job, leave alone a career and I had no clue where I was going.

I came to know about Rang De through the Facebook posts of a friend who had worked there for a short while. Impressed by the posts, I began following Rang De.

‘Wow! A non-profit, peer-to-peer lending platform that allows people like me to lend to those who have no chance of getting a bank loan. Impressive!’ I thought to myself.

From then on, I dutifully liked every Rang De post on Facebook for over a year. Never once did it strike me that I should invest in one of the hundreds of individuals looking for a Rang De loan to help them.

“‘Poverty is everywhere in India. We can’t really try to help everyone. Can we?” I would tell myself.

I had helped my mother’s old maid and that was enough, I though. My conscience could rest after that good deed as I became quickly satisfied that I had done my bit and I could carry on with my life.

But the problem was that I didn’t have much of a life to carry on with.

In the throes of an existential crisis, I found myself taking stock of my life. I found that the warehouse called life was pretty empty. The paint on the walls of this warehouse had faded and cracked in some places and it smelled musty from disuse.

It was then that I saw a post on Facebook that said Rang De was looking for Content Writers on a voluntary basis.

What did a drowning woman have to lose?

I went ahead and applied for this role and was pleasantly surprised to bag the position after a preliminary written exercise. As part of my orientation, I was asked to invest Rs 100 in a rural entrepreneur’s business and so I made my very first Rang De investment.

I invested not because I wanted to help a struggling grocery store owner feed her family. I invested selfishly because I wanted to understand what the role of a content writer was.

One of the 800 profiles written by the author of this post

As one of many content writers, my task was to create 150-word profiles for borrowers based on information collected by Rang De’s Impact partners.

To start with, I just focused on trying to weave words beautifully into a borrower profile. I focused on not breaking any rules of grammar.

I failed to realise back then that these borrowers were real people. That they too had fears, hopes and dreams. They were afraid that their children might starve that day. They hoped they could pull through the month. They dreamed of a better future, at least for their kids.

As the days passed, the reality of their situation seeped in. I began noticing things about these people. Like the couple that slaved on their half acre of land from sunrise to sunset and then used every remaining minute to roll beedis… just so that they could earn Rs 4,000 a month.

Like the waste-picker in Bengaluru who lived in a 100 sq ft, asbestos-roofed room along with her husband and four children.

At first, I thought I had read wrong. Or maybe the Impact partner had missed out a zero. But no! It was indeed 100 sq. ft. for a family of six.

Suddenly, my existential crisis paled in comparison.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs came to mind. I had the luxury of worrying about self-actualisation needs because in 36 years I had never once worried about basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.

Some of these people who live near the poverty line grapple with life every day. There are even others whose pursuit for the basic needs of food and safety has made them stronger. Their driving need to give their family one square meal a day has strengthened their relationships and helped them achieve their fullest potential despite the odds stacked against them.

Every day of their lives, these people prove Maslow wrong. Not because they want to create a psychological breakthrough but because they have a life to live and mouths to feed.

My admiration for the people I wrote about grew with each passing day. And so did my appreciation for all that I had been blessed with.

I still don’t have a job or kids but the borrowers I write about have given me the confidence to realise that what the society thinks of me doesn’t matter anymore.

What I thought was a straw was, in fact, a lifeline.

Today, I write borrower profiles because I believe my words can make a difference in the lives of borrowers. Today, I invest in Rang De loans because I feel that’s the least I can do for people with such indomitable courage and purposeful determination.

Poverty is still everywhere… but the borrowers I write about have shown me that if we all join together and try just a little more, we can wipe out poverty.

This post has been written by one of the 62 content writers that work for Rang De. If you would like to join us as a content writer, please write to thrishika@rangde.org