Before my arrival at YIF I knew one name in particular.
It turned out, I wasn’t the only one. In a batch of 285 fellows, it is hard to stand out and gain recognition. He wasn’t a Bollywood movie star and he hadn’t committed any heinous crime that would garner international attention (as far as I’m aware). So what had he done? And how did we all know his name?
In this global world, Shardul had reached out to people before the programme began and connected with them over social media. It was effective. When he arrived on campus, everyone knew who he was.
This is what I wanted to find out.
I asked Shardul how exactly he went about this. He told me that after participating in the Jagriti Yatra Fellowship in December, he had realized the value of connecting people. Finding himself with some time on his hands post-graduation and before YIF began, he decided to try to connect in advance. His modus operandi was such: the YIF admin created an official Facebook page and invited the prospectus fellows to join, Shardul reached out to them individually, often sending personalized messages asking them about their backgrounds/interests etc. As I was living in Paris at the time, he had sent me a message asking me my thoughts about Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. I thanked him for making the e-acquaintance and then asked him if he was always in the habit of asking such hard-hitting conversation starters – but the name stuck. As people got to know him, he was put in touch with more fellows and then took it upon himself to establish the infamous WhatsApp group, which the majority of the batch are included in, for fellows to ask all the questions they wanted to and get some peer-to-peer answers.
So, what was the expected outcome when he started off connecting the fellows? He replied that he never embarked on this to put his name on the map but to help other fellows and facilitate exchange of information. His notoriety was a bi-product of helping others with questions they had about YIF. What about the human cost to this? What about the investment of time and energy? Shardul, who considers himself an introvert/ambivert by nature, said that this project did take a lot of time and commitment but that he got a sense of satisfaction from helping other fellows. I asked him if he was to go back in time, what would he have done differently? He said that he would have established a messaging group firstly on the less-known app, Telegram, rather than Whatsapp. Whatsapp puts a cap on the number of people who can be in a group and some students had been unfortunately left out of it, causing them to feel isolated and out of the loop.
What Shardul did is take initiative and coupled with the noble reasons for his endeavour, this project paid off. Two weeks’ in to term, the student committee elections were held. Out of 285 students, having the majority of the students already knowing your name equals leverage. Shardul incorporated this in to his election slogan, “50+ hours helping students” and unsurprisingly, was elected to the Alumni Relations’ Committee. Shardul had already proven his commitment to helping connect people and this did not go unnoticed.
Shardul himself said that he did not receive any negative response from this. I am unsure. By the sole virtue of putting oneself out there in the public domain and therefore for public appraisal and condemnation, there must be some people out there that reserve their own opinion about the way he went about this.
As Juliet cried in Romeo and Juliet “What does a name mean? The thing we call a rose would smell just as sweet if we called it by any other name.” Apparently, there is a lot in a name.
A name has power.