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From Partnerships to Panchkula: Mukul’s discovery of ‘soul’ in Govt offices amid their ‘ebb and flow’

5th June 2020 | Mukul S Gulati

From Partnerships to Panchkula: Mukul’s discovery of ‘soul’ in Govt offices amid their ‘ebb and flow’

Following is an excerpt from Tactical Reflection Sheet dated June 04, 2020. This was Mukul S Gulati’s last reflection at Indus Action. All the actioners reflect on the week that went by every Thursday in the Tactical Reflection Sheet and it is sacrosanct to us. Every week there are different sets of questions but the objective remains the same: reflection and deep-diving into the week that went by. It also gives us the opportunity to share all the opportunities and obstacles in the past week and a platform for everyone to support each other.

To start with, I have a feeling of relief and privilege that I experienced a year of my life at Indus Action(IA). There are also some apprehensions about the future but at this time it is universal.

Well, I was not in much favour of writing about the year gone by but Satyam (co-fellow) asked me to put down my thoughts about the journey here.  I started thinking about it and felt that writing reflections is one of the habits which I would always owe to IA.

This is my last reflection as a Policy Action Fellow(PAF) and I am feeling privileged that I was part of this wonderful journey.  The fellowship talks started in December 2018 when the Teach For India (TFI) fellowship was nearing completion.  I heard about IA a lot and went through the selection process in anticipation of having enriching experiences.  Fellowship started in June 2019 with a week-long induction process along with three other fellows.  It all began with a lot of enthusiasm.  TFI taught me a lot of jargons, but here I learnt that there’s more to it as IA has its own language which is suave and trendy. 

As a PAF, my work was cut out to perform in ~100, 200, and then 100 days’ stints.  My first 100 odd days were like a roller coaster. It started with understanding the organization, its ethos, culture, values, and operating principles which included a big focus on our psychological selves which explain what, why and how of whatever is being done.  One of the structures, I liked the most here, was deliberating on changes for the betterment of the organization by practicing Adaptive Leadership techniques. Also, there were some things worth mentioning like the practice of institutionalizing and documenting weekly reflections. I think it helped me immensely to reflect and question myself regularly along with getting a sense of what is going around in the organization.  I also liked the openness and acceptance in sharing those reflections and people used to check and comment on the reflections to support and know more about those reflections, which I liked the most.

During the first 100 odd days, I worked on building partnerships with other organizations, and in the process, it helped me bring clarity of what IA was actually doing.  In the second stint, I was supposed to make a breakthrough with the Punjab Government in implementing the provisions of the Right to Education sec 12(1)(c).  I must say that although I worked in a corporate setup long enough but travelling for work was one thing which I learnt here.  Travelling for work was a good learning experience as it made me more independent in terms of staying alone, although Gautam and his family in Panchkula was a saviour, which always gave me a feeling of home away from home.

  

In Picture: Mukul eating lunch with Education Department officials, Panchkula, Haryana.Dated February 28, 2020.

 

At the same time, Haryana operations also started to build up and as there was not much traction in Punjab, my focus shifted to Haryana.  This was one of the best experiences, in terms of learning and relationship building while working with the education department in Haryana.  It was a firsthand experience of how things move in a government department.  Here I experienced that in the government office also there are souls who are working their hearts out to improve the system and government offices have an ebb and flow like any other organization.

During the past 2-3 months, while the Haryana admission process was stalled due to covid pandemic, I also tried my hands at calling operations in different states as IA rapidly shifted focus to calling campaigns related to scarcity of food, medicines and also follow-up calls to citizens to check whether they got what they were entitled for.  There were difficult times when I was not able to wholeheartedly contribute in the process of collecting information from the citizens because I could not empathize with them and at times became mechanical in collecting data.  I know for the fact that data is the backbone of highlighting progress, but I somehow struggled to fulfill my needs for efficacy/ effectiveness, hope, learning, meaning, participation, and purpose.

I have always believed and experienced that present prepares us for the future.  Going forward, I think this is the best period of my life, where I will be able to pause and feel the humor of this situation, it is like when you’re stuck on a creative problem and you’re tempted to work hard on it, often the best thing to do is nothing.  And yes, the day before yesterday, I also got the news that I was selected for a one year, non-residential, PGD in Facilitating Governance Reforms by TISS and Barefoot College.  I am excited to go back to college to upskill and hope to unlearn. 

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