Words, Wars, and Vegan Cupcakes

Bleary-eyed. That’s the way I’d describe myself this morning. Yesterday’s Youth For Sewa orientation day was phenomenal but the 7 hour round trip to Loughborough and back has left my body yearning for a warm bed; not another day of exams!

My mind keeps coming back to the first orientation I had with Youth for Sewa one month ago. I remember all the interesting moral dilemmas we discusssed in the icebreaker session. Difficult questions like “Would you rather work a high paying job and donate money to a charitable cause or work a low paying job that directly helps people?” and more fun dilemmas like “Would you rather lose your sense of smell or sense of taste?” (Obviously I’d rather lose my sense of smell, I live for food!)

I remember the workshop we were given on writing engagingly. We took a (seemingly boring) walk around the Mandir and were told to write down everything we noticed with our five senses but when we came back and described the walk, I was blown away by how different our experiences were. We all wrote about completely different aspects of the same walk that we had all been on. I also remember the amazing TED talk by Greta Thunberg we watched at the end of the day. The way this one little girl so intellingently and bluntly laid out the facts about climate change and drew our attention to the impeding climate emergency really stuck with me. Overall, the orientation days were a great way for Meet and I, as interns, to learn more about YFS and for the mentors to learn about us.

In the US military, there’s a common pneumonic called the OODA loop. OODA stands for observe-orient-decide-act and its the thought process that is drilled into every soldier so that they can make quick, rational decisions in the field. Colonel John Boyd, who first came up with the OODA loop is known to have said that the second O, orient, is the most important part of loop because the way we orient and understand information shapes the way we observe the world, the decisions we make and the actions we take. This sort of explains why orientation days are so necessary.

In some ways, the YFS orientation days served 3 purposes. They let the mentors orient all the information they had about us interns, it let us orient the information we had about the Youth For Sewa project and its purpose, and, finally, it made us more vigilant about issues in the world around us. On the first orientation day, we were given various gifts like bamboo toothbrushes and shower timers. Items that would help us reduce our impact on the environments. Ever since then, whenever I’ve brushed my teeth or had a shower, I’ve remembered Youth for Sewa. I’ve been reminded of all the skills I learnt in those orientation days and, perhaps more importantly, I’ve been reminded of the fantastic people I’ve met.

Hiten, Hem, Bansri, Reena, Sagar, and Avnish, your workshops were well organised, your vegan cooking was amazing, and your mentorship will prove invaluable when I go out to Bharat. For now though, I have a maths paper to do, but rest assured that Hiten’s vegan cupcakes will still be in my thoughts.

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