Nergish

Indian Delegation, 2001
Seeds of Peace Fellow, 2018

IMPACT: SOCIAL

Bringing attention to the marginalized in India through a podcast series.

How has Seeds of Peace had an impact on you?

Seeds of Peace taught me more about myself than it did about kids of other nationalities. At Camp, I learned that when people say things that I don’t agree with, I’m quick to anger. I learned that I have a confirmation bias. That I want to win arguments, and that it hurts—a dull kind of ache in my chest—when a foreigner criticizes my country. I was sad when I left Camp because I hadn’t won any arguments and I’d heard a lot of things about India that were hard to digest.

Seeds of Peace’s impact can be measured by the fact that I grew up to be a journalist. It’s now my job to find ways in which my government is failing its people and draw attention to the most neglected corners of the country. My proudest achievements are stories that lead to decisive action in underserved communities. Recent examples include a piece on child labor in illegal mica mines that led to a government investigation, and a piece on the isolation of border villages, which led to Prime Minister Narendra Modi championing the building of a road.

How are you impacting your community?

While writing a feature on child labor in India’s mica belt, I met a 16-year-old boy named Ranjit Kumar. He had spent most of his childhood in a dark pit, digging for mica. He told me about a nightmare he’s had since he was 8 years old, ever since the mine he was working in collapsed and he almost died. But because I had a strict word limit for my article, I had to crunch his story down to a few sentences.

That’s why I want to create a podcast to give stories like Ranjit’s the attention they deserve. Each episode will focus on just one person from a marginalized community so that my listeners—urban educated Indians—will hear a story, not just a sound bite. By telling stories embedded in the culture to which they belong and by capturing ambient sound to authentically capture my subjects’ voices and surroundings, I plan to draw parts of the country that require urgent attention into public consciousness.

Perhaps hearing Ranjit’s voice quiver as he describes how his father forced him to go back into the mine the day after the collapse will goad a government official to take action. But even if that doesn’t happen, simply profiling these communities the same way that we profile the rich and powerful—with humor, nuance, and empathy—is a step in the right direction.

My podcast matters because truth matters. Facts matter. Documentation matters. The reality of existence matters. People’s lives matter. Their stories matter. And taking the time to listen matters. I’m a storyteller. And this is the best way I know to create a more equal world.

“As a journalist, I see things that put the world in perspective. I choose a topic but not the adventure. I choose a place but not what I’ll find. Fortunately, I like the unpredictability. I like talking to strangers.”