I was once listening to a podcast on NPR by Sunil Yapa, author of Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (inspired by the WTO riots in Seattle in the late 1990s – a must read!) when he said something that has stuck with me till date: “Sometimes, empathy is a revolutionary act.”
The world for as long as I have known it has been characterized by conflict, in so many different forms. I used to think of “conflict” in a strictly physical, armed sense. I took a class on Conflict Resolution at the University of Maastricht during one of my semesters abroad, which significantly transformed my understanding of the world. I spent a lot of time working with Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Jordan, with many indigenous groups in Chile fighting a losing battle against big oil giants, and with several non-profits in Mumbai – my hometown – that assisted survivors of sexual abuse, rape and dowry violence. I studied at the Mahindra UWC and later attended Trinity College, CT, where I double majored in Human Rights and Film Studies. I now work full time as a canvasser and field manager for the Working Families Party in New York City and am beginning a part-time internship as a contributing writer to the Borgen Magazine. A majority of my research and intellectual curiosity is dedicated to understanding structures of conflict: What causes such deep-seated feelings of animosity that lets us “other” and dehumanize people with so much blind resolve? I would like to believe that loves does come more naturally to the human heart than hate, so what are the various social, political, economic factors that render whatever “innate humanity” we have useless? How have we so wholeheartedly embraced capitalism and a love of money to the point of becoming completely closed off to seeing its deeply disturbing fallout on the planet’s most vulnerable populations? On the planet itself?
I study and engage heavily with media and film because I believe in its potential to elicit attitudinal change; but like everything else in the world, these are complex and dense subjects that must be tackled with lots of nuance. I applied to SPP as a way of continuing to learn, mature my thinking and expand my knowledge of conflicts and their resolution. I am excited to work with local grassroots organizations and understand the ways in which they tackle the issues close to them – both for its didactic value as well as for the inspiration it is bound to give me. I see so much apathy, everywhere in the world, and my hopes with SPP is to dive right into understanding why that is so – why something that should be ubiquitous is something charged with being so revolutionary.