Will-o’-the wisp Part I

I have started a new series of posts called: Will-o’-the wisp, which loosely translates to Foolish Fire. Also it is a song from an Opeth album, Sorceresss. Do give it a listen, it will fill your heart! In this series, I will publish interviews of people who dared to leave the mainstream and listened to their hearts. The point is to get to know the person behind the interesting work and challenges associated with their job. I believe if they disclose their humane side, maybe more of us will be encouraged to pursue our own wills.
For the first interview, I had the opportunity to engage in conversation with the co-founder of People for Parity, Aditya Gupta and boy! did I grasp my own ignorance on gender based human rights violations.
Engineering in CS at IIT Delhi, a high paying consulting job, a higher paying job that took him out of the country – he ticked every check box on the great Indian dream. But you know the good thing about dreams? If the reality is not as dazzling as the dream, you can go to sleep and try it all over again the next night. And so, he did. When he realized he no longer cared for the work that was taking up half of his life, he quit his job and set out on a bag packing trip across Europe. (The beginning of a perfect Broadway musical right here, I know right!)
Do you have this dread that the technology around us has disconnected people from reality and they have forgotten that everyone in the world is a human, just like the rest of us? Aditya realized during his travels, how emboldening the feeling can be when you are in the middle of a place where no one knows you and how inconsequential your actions can be. This helped him get in touch with his humane side. He returned with the seeds of PFP in his mind and is now helping India get in touch with its own.
India is one of the world leaders in terms of gender based violence. Here, it doesn’t matter whether you are a woman or a man with feminine inclinations or even gender queer, you will feel threatened by the very society you were born in, if you do not abide by the doctrines mandated by this society.
People for Parity is a social enterprise co-founded by Aditya Gupta to promote a culture of gender peace in India. A major aim of PFP is to engage the youth by challenging their notions of gender stereotypes, empower them to question the accepted patriarchal norms and stand up against gender based discrimination and harassment. PFP seeks to do this though interactive learning programs, six months long fellowships and comprehensive workshops. Other PFP initiatives include collaboration with for-profit organisations in sectors of education, health etc for development projects, promoting social inclusion for all genders and providing healing spaces for survivors of gender based violence (GBV).

Project Photo_Workshop on Creating Safe Spaces in New Delhi, India
Now getting to know a little bit about the person behind the wheel, here’s an excerpt from an honest conversation as refreshing as the tea I had ordered (chamomile and honey) 😀
D: Was it scary? Just leaving a job with no future plans and building something non-profitable from ground up?
A: No actually, the scary part was working at my previous job. I had been working mindlessly for so long for something I didn’t care at all for and the thought that this was supposed to be the rest of my life, prompted me to give it up and go explore.
D: Which project has been toughest to implement so far?
A: Rajasthan. Women as well as little girls in here live according to the propositions set by the men of their society and they were very dogmatic. PFP’s intervention was initially met with the questions: Who are these urban people? They do not belong here. Why are they trying to change our ways of life? Of course over time our efforts bore fruit and we saw inner transformations happening and that felt like a huge victory.
To that I say : You go create a stir PFP, if you need to! You need to inconvenience people. Because when have the obedient ever started a revolution?
D: When you are constantly in the eye of the public, do you ever fear failure?
A: Yes I actually do, because a small failure for me is a bigger let down for what PFP is working towards. But this fear also motivates me to constantly be on my toes. Also, when I am in the public eye, I feel the need to make sure my actions are resonant with the principles I am promoting. This feeling can be a little overwhelming sometimes.
D: You often interact with the victims of GBV. Listening to hundreds of such stories on a daily basis, does it make you insensitive to people’s suffering? As in one small crime seems to pale in comparison with another, bigger story?
A: While it is true that I come across stories of victims of GBV everyday, it doesn’t make me insensitive. Every story provides a new perspective on the violence-free world we are aspiring towards. A major aim of PFP is to promote empathetic leadership among the youth. That being said, my job is to solve the problem. Yes I do empathize while listening but while taking action, one can’t be blinded by emotions.
D: The Ashoka affiliate fellowship is a great feat. It must have being a major milestone for PFP?
A: Yes, definitely it helped in making PFP’s work noticeable immensely. But fellowships are better seen as platforms for learning and growth, rather than achievements. The focus continues to stay on what we’re building.
Throughout the interview the young, social entrepreneur was brimming with enthusiasm and the positivism filled me with the hope that even though the Indian gender picture is still bleak, there is a rising sun on the horizon.
If you enjoyed this piece, to know more about People for Parity or contribute to the cause, click here .

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