On The Mahatma’s Trail — Leaving A Bank In The UK To Work In the Development Sector

January 6, 2017
By Rang De Team
Rohit visited Charaka, a Rang De field partner in North Karnataka

My day begins at five in the morning with a couple of glasses of warm water with lime, neem, mint and flax seeds followed by a session of yoga or exercise in the park. I then have my breakfast which is split into three parts: one immediately after I wake up, one before I leave for work and the third at my workplace and I eat regular small meals throughout the day instead of having three large meals as less food, and consequently less resources, is consumed this way. I also avoid rice (a very water-intensive crop) and wheat and prefer millet (especially those grown locally) because it has a lighter carbon footprint.

I drink soya milk of regular milk. With the animal husbandry sector contributing over 20% to global warming, I really feel this is the most powerful way I can contribute to a healthier environment.

I also take public transport (I am planning to invest in a bicycle). I am making an honest attempt to become self-sufficient and reduce my carbon footprint — from cleaning the house, rinsing my clothes, washing the dishes, I do all my chores and avoid hiring help. Over time, I have also avoided using plastic all but eliminating its use. A small clay composting unit takes care of the waste I generate which I intend to use for gardening.

I plan to use a charkha and spin my own clothes in time as well. (The average pair of jeans takes a minimum of 2000–9000 litres of water to produce).

Why am I telling you this? Because I strongly believe that our actions, the resources we use and consume, have an environmental cost. I am a vegan not just because it’s a healthy way to live and is the best way to save the planet but because the vegan lifestyle is one that is least cruel to animals.

I didn’t always live like this.

In my previous job working in a bank in London, I was dissatisfied. I felt that I wasn’t creating value. Sure, I was earning money which was great as it helped me repay my loans but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the work I was doing primarily helped the rich get richer. The more I worked, the more I realised that very few people identify their passion in life and fewer people have the courage, circumstance and conviction to follow through.

A lot of my personal philosophy is inspired from the Gita and the Quran, particularly the idea of service. I believe that true happiness comes from a deep place within everybody and for me, it comes through service. I serve myself and my family but I wanted to move onto serving others.

I came across Rang De and started volunteering for the UK chapter. I loved the fact that the little work I was doing was impacting the lives of people back home. I had made a small social investment and I asked if I could talk to the borrower I had lent money to (you can also sign up for an audio evaluation).

Rohit (left) alongside a micro-entrepreneur who received a Rang De loan in Bangalore

I heard a story I will never forget. A widow, this lady had a vegetable stall that she ran with her son and daughter-in-law. She had borrowed money from a local money lender at an exorbitant 150% per annum. She was caught in a vicious cycle of debt and almost all the money she earned from the stall along with the intermittent wages she received as a labourer working for the NREGA program went towards her loans. The loan that I had facilitated through Rang De at a flat rate of 8.5% per annum helped her get out of the debt trap and increased her savings.

When I spoke to the woman, she was grateful for the small difference that I had made in her life.

And then I went on a field trip to meet women in Bangalore supported by Hasiru Dala, an organisation that works with waste pickers in Bengaluru, a visit that really opened my eyes. One of the borrowers told me how the unsegregated waste from households contains sharp objects or broken glass which leads to gashes on their hands. With limited access to basic first aid, such waste can cause wounds that can get infected.

These interactions led to deep introspection.

Without knowing it, was I contributing to such problems through my actions? Was I doing anything to be a part of the solution? How many wounds had I inadvertently inflicted through a seemingly innocuous action like throwing away a piece of glass?

All of these experiences prompted me to change my lifestyle. Rang De has helped me connect with myself and with the people around me and has set me off on a new journey.

Rohit Parakh is now a Rang De team member and works on helping the organisation reach deeper communities across India. Do check www.rangde.org/career if you are interested in working with a team committed to fighting poverty across India.

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