TURNING POINT
Volume 14 Number 5
Unexpected Jobs
01 October 2001

Tania Chatterjee and Nabnita Jit first heard about Asia Plateau, the MRA centre in Panchgani, India, whilst studying for their Master's degrees in Social Work at Baroda University in Gujurat. Tania Chatterjee comes from the steel-making city of Durgapur in West Bengal. Nabnita was originally from the state of Orissa but her family now live in Baroda.

Tania Chatterjee and Nabnita Jit first heard about Asia Plateau, the MRA centre in Panchgani, India, whilst studying for their Master's degrees in Social Work at Baroda University in Gujurat. Tania Chatterjee comes from the steel-making city of Durgapur in West Bengal. Nabnita was originally from the state of Orissa but her family now live in Baroda.

In December 1999 their class went to do field-work in Pune. As Christmas Day was a holiday they went up to the hill villages of Mahableshwar and Panchgani. 'We called into Asia Plateau and were very inspired by all that we heard,' said Tania. Several of the students asked if they could work there, but were told that most of the work was voluntary.

About a month later, the dean of their faculty received a letter from Asia Plateau asking if interviews could be held for four posts. About 30 out of the 40 students asked to be interviewed, even though the salary on offer was low. Four of them were given posts, starting in May 2000. Tania was to help run the educational programmes at Asia Plateau and Nabnita was to work on the communications.

I asked them what they had learned over the past year.

'I have learned how to accept the other person,' said Tania. She said that she had always wanted others to do things her way and had never taken their ideas into consideration. 'I even thought that their ideas were inferior to mine,' she admitted. 'Now I try to use everyone's ideas. It has taught me to respect other people.'

They also spoke of the value of taking time to be quiet and listen to what Gandhi called 'the inner voice'. They found it gave them a chance to sort things out; to realize when something was wrong; and, sometimes, to know what to do. Tania told of a time when she was working in some schools in South India. One day she had the thought that the word 'transparency' should be among the list of values which the teachers she was working with that day would discuss and prioritize. It turned out that this word was discussed by the group for over an hour, as they had all put it at the bottom of their lists.

Tania and Nabnita spent three weeks at the Caux conferences this summer, heading service shifts. 'We have read about how reconciliation happens here,' said Nabnita, 'but it is amazing to have first-hand experience of it. I think in India we need to be more concerned about global issues, as well as those of personal responsibility, growth and change.'

Tania had learned more about forgiveness: 'I find it very hard to forgive my friends and family. Small things used to matter so much to me. Coming here I have seen people forgive those who have murdered their own brother or massacred their community.'

Whatever they do in the future, they say that what they have learned through working with MRA will stay with them for life.
Ann Rignall


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