Deepa Dani (2003) is an Assistant Professor in India with a keen interest in the development sector. As an academician and economist, she reminisces about her time at Cambridge and the environment in Wolfson, and discusses her present activities.
As they say, there are institutions that people build and then there are institutions that build people. And Wolfson College has been instrumental in building people for 50 years. I clearly remember 6 October 2003, the day I stepped into its premises, enamoured by its openness, relaxed feel and warmth. The days ahead only got better.
I was from a small town in India. Having worked in the social sector in some of the most deprived parts of rural India, every moment in the new environment was a learning experience.
Wolfson provided a fertile setting which helped me to draw constructively on the collective intelligence in a multicultural environment. Dinners in Hall, conversations in the Combination Room; these were places to discuss and debate not only the latest in social sciences (my subject) but to be updated on the latest research in the sciences and technology. I retain fond memories of relaxed conversations over meals in the kitchen on books, authors and travel destinations with friends. Every bit of the time spent at Wolfson has shaped me as an individual.
I am an Assistant Professor in the Economics Department at a University affiliated College in Pune, India. My lectures reflect the richness which I owe to Cambridge, and to Wolfson in particular. I often talk to my students of my Cambridge days, teaching methodologies and the overall environment which nurtures learning naturally, as opposed to mere teaching. I am sure that in times to come there will be a number of my students whose lives will be enriched with a stint at this great institution.
Life has been kind. I am convinced that I was reborn after winning over prolonged illness. There wouldn’t have been a better way to celebrate this than to give back to society. Compassion became a passion, and I decided to dedicate some of my time to the development sector. Presently, I am a Consultant at the Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana, a flagship poverty reduction and women’s empowerment programme of the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust. This programme, which works in the poorest and most backward areas of Uttar Pradesh, India, centres around building and nurturing social capital and layering health and nutrition initiatives within communities. Through this productive engagement, I support their cause and am involved in developing and preparing evidence‑based monitoring tools.
I believe my journey has just begun. There is so much good work that needs to be done through me. As Robert Frost wrote in one of his poems, there are “... miles to go before I sleep.”