Circa – 2010
A young gold medalist dentist fresh out of college, hopes that her dreams will find wings, she hopes her dreams will turn into passion and soon she will lead a life of impact. Little did she know about the ways of the world and how to truly build a life like that; life will first test her. Only after multiple trials and tribulations, she will be able to give wings to her dreams but that too will be short lived. Read on…
Circa late 2010
Right after my graduation from one of the best dental schools of India, I joined a reputed college in north India with a hope that as a teacher I will utilize my skills to not only impart knowledge but also to add value and sell dreams to young minds, that job and teaching was very transactional, something that wasn’t fulfilling for me at all.
I was on my way to TISS, to do my master’s in public health, but my life’s calling was elsewhere, it was in influencing young minds, in bringing about a change in how young kids are being taught and conditioned. It was with a heavy heart and under a lot of societal pressure that I set-off to Mumbai.
Just a few days before my departure to Mumbai, I discovered an institute by the name of Lakshya forum for competitions in Patiala. Much against the wishes of my parents, I was off to Patiala, gave my interview and voila got selected. It was an opportunity to bring about a change in the grassroots, something I have always wanted to do. It was massive in terms of the impact that I could have had in the hinterlands of the voluntary and it was an opportunity I was looking forward to.
I didn’t let it go. Much against the wishes of my parents I grabbed it with both my hands. I left TISS and came back to a small city like Patiala and began a journey, which in the next decade will impact millions.
Such is life, it not only showers rose petals on us but also throws curve balls and unripe lemons. All that you do is squeeze them, add some sugar and make lemonade.
The opportunity that came my way in Patiala was to teach Biology to premedical aspirants. From Patiala to an even smaller town Bhatinda, then to Devlali, Nashik in Maharashtra. I travelled the length and breadth of the country only to realize that problems and grassroots are still the same. There is a major infrastructure gap, the best teachers don’t want to come to the rural areas where the real unmet need is. In the agrarian landscapes exists the real India, the India with the maximum unmet potential and the biggest dreams and no one wants to move in here.
This sorry state of affairs opened up a pandora’s box of emotions for me. I thought how we can truly progress as a nation or for that matter as a civilization when we leave half the world behind. This inequality looked like injustice of the highest order to me, and I pledged that I would dedicate my life to bridge this gap.
You see what happens when you volunteer for a cause much bigger than you, the universe conspires, the universe then plants instruments in your hands to make sure that you truly herald a change; and that’s exactly what happened, let me tell you how.
So, I am a defense spouse, and I am constantly on the move and therefore my biggest challenge in life is to be constantly on the move with my combatant husband. All my life I have strived to be a woman who has been able to have it all, so that countless young girls in the subcontinent have the belief that they can dream big and achieve all that you wish to. They need to have role model closer home. This is something that drives me day in and out.
Till Nashik, I had been working for close to 6 years now and I had found my joi de vivre, I had found my purpose, I had found my passion, something that drives me day and night.
Just then my husband got transferred to a place which was in wilderness, I had no way that I could continue to work, the situation was very close to what the world experienced in pandemic, when suddenly your dreams come to a standstill, you are at loss and you just don’t know what to do and how to go about things, The founders of Vedantu with whom I had been closely working for close to ten years now, as they were the ones who started Lakshya, my first ever job. Now they had started Vedantu.
Circa 2016 – present
So when I shifted base to a small town in the Nilgiri mountains of Tamil Nādu, I joined forces with Vedantu. For me it was a respite from the continuous struggle of finding a job every 2 years and start the painful process of proving who I am every few years, I used to always get the feeling that I will never be able to leverage my work or all the hard work and focus I put into it. That’s not my case alone, it is the case of countless people like me who shift from one place to other, for some or the reason, there is no continuity, no benefits of serving for so long as in the end it will all be null and void. And therefore so many people drop out of work force. It was a precarious and a wrong situation which I feel corona corrected but the bigger question is why we needed a pandemic to show it to us.
So, I continued to work for Vedantu, from Nilgiris we shifted to another really small and nondescript place, a sleepy border town of tea gardens on the Burma border called Lekhapani.
It was there that I learnt to not give up on my dreams. It’s here that I continued to remote work for Vedantu, the one I had continued in the Nilgiris, Yes it came with a constant feeling of losing out, of being alone and out of the bigger picture and a sense of resigning to your fate. I had never imagined that the world will feel the same in the next few years and a new order of normalcy shall rise.
I discovered working from home much before the world realized it and accepted it. I had no other option you see, Millions of us have no other option.
This pandemic was heartbreaking, soul scathing but to be honest, it was the darkest cloud with the brightest silver lining. The silver lining was that so many women continue to struggle to balance home and work and often leave out on work.
With aging parents in remote cities, millions shift back to their hometowns and settle for less, millions continue to lead unhappy and unfulfilling lives at metro cities, when their heart often pins for their hometown and closed ones.
The expense of living in a metro continues to add to the woes of millions, keeps the stress of living high in suburbs, adds to countless hours of travelling, further increasing the stress.
Why did a pandemic have to come to teach us all this, why did we not have the wisdom to realize that you don’t have to be physically present in a place to be able to contribute?
That physicality is a barrier, it’s the pandemic which had to come to break it, for us to see the benefits of remote working, for us to work from joyous comforts of our own homes.
My professional journey has been a testament to the fact that will to do well has nothing to do from where you operate, in fact you will be happier to work from wherever you are comfortable and that shall reflect in your work.
The biggest glories in my professional life came when I was not hustling in the by lanes of Bangalore or Mumbai but was sipping green tea, early in the morning in my garden with birds chirping in the background.
Working from home helped me find my ikigai, I hope you did too.
I just wish we didn’t have to learn this from a pandemic though.
About the Author
Dr. Vani Sud Dhindsa is a Director at Vedantu and was the ex-HOD of Biology at Vedantu. She received her Bachelors’ in dental surgery from SDMCDS Dharwad.
In her own words – “Born in a defence family, early on while traveling from one cantonment to another, I realized the geographical gap that India truly needed to plug in education. That big divide between the rural and urban needs to go away and now and it can truly happen through education. Impact and impact at scale have been my numero uno mission.
How children learn is the fundamental thing I need to work upon and that is something that drives me. Day in and night I obsess over making sure every child in this country has access to the best quality education.
After my graduation, I truly turned inwards and realized that one true passion I wanted to fuel, and that’s where my childhood conditioning took me, it was adding value to the life of those kids, I was one amongst them, a few years back. That’s where Lakshya came into my life around 2011, The first startup by the founders of Vedantu and my first job as well. That’s where I saw the power of education unfold in a semi-rural place and how it had the ability and propensity to dynamically change lives.
In the year 2013, Lakshya got acquired by Mt Educare and I changed base to interiors of Maharashtra, but that one thing remains unchanged and that was the biggest leveler must be education and that further strengthened my resolve to make sure that I make this the area of focus of my life.
It is my vision for all people to once again appreciate how education changes lives. As I moved ahead in my life and got married to an Army officer, I realized how very little has truly changed across geographies and how much needs to be done.
Around 2016, I joined forces back with Vedantu and life truly has never been the same again. From starting small with One-to-One classes, Moved onto One to a few, all the while when I was in the hinterlands of the country, names, and places of which you wouldn’t know, maybe the latitude and longitude of these would help you trace them.
Even then learning and teaching never stopped and then with the entire organization that I call mine working hard, we arrived and how.
From creating a category that never existed to affecting millions today, life has truly come a full circle. But I believe this is just the beginning, I need to make sure that every child in India gets a launchpad, every child gets the right to education as they truly deserve. It truly needs to be democratic. That’s my dream.”