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The Dreamer With A Deadline – Bhagya Sivaraman

We initially reached out to Bhagya, the author of this post, to interview her as we heard she was up to some amazing work. It turns out that she was the best person to write her own story. Please read the post below and if this connects with you, do support her dream (details at the end of the article). She’s in the midst of achieving her next goal and could use some help.

At the very least, there’s a goldmine for you in this article and so much for all of us to learn. Go on and see what you could pick up for yourself. You won’t regret it. We didn’t.


What is a dream? Why do you dream? Who do you dream for?

Recently I was told to dream according to my status. This angered me. What are people trying to tell me? That I cannot dream beyond my reach and that dreaming big depends on my financial situation?

bhagya kidMy name is Bhagya Sivaraman. I am 24-years-old and I hail from Chennai. My mother is a home maker and my father is a purchase manager. I have a younger brother, who is 17 years old and learns his life lessons by closely watching other people’s mistakes and experiences. How very wise! We can save ourselves from half our fallacies if we observed and empathized a little more. As his elder sister, I realize through him I have so much to learn.

In my school days, I was a happy-go-lucky teenager who grabbed every opportunity that came my way. Juggling between basketball, athletics, carnatic music, and academics was a piece of cake until the time I failed in Chemistry in my ninth grade exams. Until then, I had a reputation amongst my peers and teachers for excelling in whatever I would choose. That definitely broke. I was ashamed. It was the first time I had failed.  All I knew after that day was that I was going to prove everyone wrong. I was seeking acceptance, and in the process I lost myself. I did make up for it by scoring a 96/100 from 16/100 in the next term. Little did I know that failure planted its seeds of fear deep inside me.

“Handling failure is easier than shame. You can work on your fears if you learn to still your mind”

Three years down the line, I did not know what I wanted from life. And then I had to make a choice of pursuing an under graduate degree. I thought to myself that being clueless was going to be my next biggest failure. I did not know what I wanted to do! I was looked down upon as if I was ignorant or less ambitious. Thank God, it worked the other way around for me. My pursuit of social work education was merely accidental. In retrospection, I can say with surety that nothing better could have happened in my life. I was hounded with all sorts of questions from my family and friends regarding my future. I stood by my decision, believing that this course was designed for me.

 “It’s okay to not know everything. Sometimes appearing confident helps you complete half your battle.”

I graduated from one of Asia’s premier social sciences institute as a gold medalist and was a recipient of the Ratan Tata Scholarship along with the Damodar Tilak Best Research Award. Apart from recieving academic accolades, I did eventually end up finding my niche, but what was my trigger to work with children?

Back in 2006, my first encounter with Rakesh, a 13-year-boy living with autism, left me feeling warm, acknowledged, and beautiful. I chanced upon an opportunity in 2011, where I was shortly employed for a CampRainbow Initiative in India by the SeriousFun Network. It was the first time I found myself lost in work. It is important to love what you do. How do you find that out? When you are lost in what you do. This is how I found my niche of working with young people. I found great satisfaction in inspiring and liberating them from their own self-doubt.

Self-doubt undermines the process of finding our gifts and sharing them with the world. Sharing our gifts and talents with the world is the most powerful source of connection with God. Using this for meaningful work takes a tremendous amount of commitment.

 “Don’t trade your authenticity for approval. Own your story.”– Brene Brown

I worked for NalandaWay Foundation, a non-profit organization that works for and with children to help them raise their concerns and issues through the medium of fine and performing arts. I was deeply engaged with one of their flagship programs called ‘Kanavu Pattarai’ which translates to ‘Dream Workshop’ in English. The main objective was to conduct residential camps for adolescents hailing from difficult socio-economic backgrounds subjected to depression, alcohol abuse, domestic violence etc., through the medium of arts to help improve their self-esteem. Yes, I said self-esteem. My work was to enable young people to identify their potential and help them realize their self-worth.

Is being successful only attributed to one’s academic performance or profession?

The answer, of course, is a resounding no. We have all forgotten about building our moral character and understanding the importance of self-awareness. How can we be steady in our journey if we aren’t aware of who we really are?

I personally spend 20 minutes for myself everyday wherever I am. It is not just about reflecting upon the day’s events or conversations, but just letting myself be. By this I mean, there is no scrutiny to any thought or self-blame or pride. Just staring into blank space and watching myself from a third perspective. Sometimes practicing this helps me understand the magnitude of situations that life throws at me and I can delegate my time accordingly. Most of us tend to see everything from zoom lenses. We all have the tendency to take things personally. Now, this is something we need to be careful about while driving your own personal journey. People come, people go. Value those who are with you in your lowest phase. In fact, I’m in one such phase right now.

Why did I just say that?

I have secured admission to study my MSc in Evidence Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation at the University of Oxford. Why do I want to study more? I want to use the available academic tools & practices and mingle with the leaders in this field to find out if the results of my interventions are attributed to the design itself. I want to start a venture where I can scale projects using evidence across cross cutting themes in the developing sector. But there is a small twist here. The program costs $50,000. I am in a position where I cannot fund my education. Scholarships and bank loans options are either exhausted for this year or have thrown limited options at me.

“How far can you go to achieve what you set out for?”

bhagya more kids

Just before I was about to give up, my friend Bharti Kannan exclaimed – “No, there is a way! If you are keen on making this happen, why not try to crowdfund your scholarship?”

I looked at her in a daze. It means I am going to be throwing myself out there, with the public eye staring at me. Where I am inviting criticisms and appreciations. I keep thinking I have a phobia for confrontations. But I seem to be doing pretty well for 8 days now! I have a small team of friends who have faith in me and have been working from different cities. We have managed to raise close to $13,000 in 10 days. We have 2 more days to go to raise $37,000. Are you shocked? Are you laughing already with cynicism?

Everyday people hound me with questions about this ambitious campaign. Although I dislike being confronted, I stay patient. Mary Daly, a theologian, writes, “Courage is like – it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by ‘couraging’.” My phenomenal learning has been to stand still and breathe through all the hardships life is throwing at me now. Every day I ask the universe to fill me with calm and composure.

I have learnt one important life lesson; don’t give up that easily. Nothing comes without struggle and hard work. Believe in your madness and society will gladly join you in your madness. How am I doing this? I told myself this: “Bhagya, imagine you have only 2 more days to live a life here. What would you do to make this happen?” My thought process shifted its perspective. I decided to give it my all and not worry about the outcome. Miracles don’t come with logical reasoning. 6 days ago I had $0. Who knew I would have 130 people believing me in a span of few days?

You have the ability to control your thoughts. Success does not come with the result of the journey, but in the efforts you’ve taken within the journey. Whether I am able to go to Oxford or not, I know I did it all!

Just dive in. Something so beautiful comes out of you – a shinier golden you!

If you are even relatively moved and inspired by my story, please go ahead and contribute and share widely the following for my crowdfunding before June 28th, 2015.

Click the link below if you’d  like to support my dream:

Much love and respect to you all.

Bhagya Sivaraman

Edit: Bhagya is going to Oxford and the money has been raised. Kudos to this Dreamer.
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