For me, to be even writing this essay is a privilege that I never thought of getting while growing up. In a small town in India, my family was close to destitution when my father stopped providing any kind of funds to support his home-maker wife and the four children. Growing up with retired maternal grandparents, the dinner would be cooked with the money that my mum would bring at the end of her long working hours.
That was a day in the past, and then there is today. I am sitting on a comfortable chair in a foreign country with a MacBook being able to write English proficiently under a 24-hour running air-conditioner. What I have received is still a dream for numerous children around the world.
Our family would have never come out of poverty, if there was no third-party influence. This taught me not to take what I get for granted; therefore, I am on a mission to change the world where dreams become a reality.
My role model is my mum, who even in such harsh situations chose professions like teaching in schools or riding her second-hand Indian scooter to remote villages over 30 miles from our house to teach about family planning. This attitude of working for the society and giving back to the needy is what I inspire about her. I have been continuously trying to find methods where I can help the ones around me.
When I was in 11th grade, I made a promise to myself, maybe rather naively – whenever I would start earning money I would donate 10% of it. As a freshman, I was fortunate enough to get a job in the UWC (United World College) Scholars Office. It got harder to save these 10% but I remained dedicated. I even missed my doctor’s appointment many times to remain positive towards the goal. At the end of the year, I saved about US $150. This might not be a huge amount here but when I took it back to India, it was very substantial. For the first time, I could help others through my own earned resources. Also, I collected all the free T-shirts that I received from OU as a freshman – over 30 of them – and took them to India to distribute. This year, the amount I have saved is over $500 thus far.
Every morning, I would choose a random destination in my hometown and walk there. I would find people ranging from young to aged sleeping on plastic bags at the sides of the roads, and shirtless. I found numerous people who needed help and who definitely needed clothes. I helped some to buy food and some to buy medicines or spectacles. This experience made me realize that service should be done in an organized manner otherwise I would keep discovering more and more people who require an outsider’s (third party) help. This is why I recently created a page called ‘Money Spent Right’ where I encourage people to save a percentage of their salary and share their stories anonymously on how they spent it so others can be inspired by it. This whole community on Facebook who is joining will be willing to create a global change.
I realized that another method of contributing to the society is by getting involved in research and pursuing a profession in academia. I spoke to Professor Janet Allen and Farrokh Mistree and decided to get involved in their Systems Realization Laboratory under the mentorship of their PhD candidate, Anand Balu. I made an initiative to get to know more graduate students to be able to frame myself in that learner’s mindset. My perspective, since I made this change, has expanded in various dimensions. I have started off by discovering more about what the future of manufacturing industries will look like. The findings will be submitted in the form of an essay for NSF (National Science Foundation) Student Essay Competition, and after that, I plan to convert some of my findings into a journal paper. At the same time, we are applying this futuristic design method in a hot rod-rolling process to find satisficing grain growth parameters needed to meet the goals, on which I plan to publish a paper over the summer with Anand.
I have also been fortunate enough to have had professional badminton training my High School days in Singapore and have continued to play in the badminton club at OU. Given my skills, last semester I initiated a badminton training session every Saturday so that I can help people of different levels to become better players.
Overall, along with working hard towards my studies, I have been trying my best to lead people to become happier by getting them to involve in service while I do the same thing.