Sulagna Sarkar is a Gold Award participant of Sri Sri Academy, who sees her Award journey as a metamorphosis. Having gathered life-changing experiences, she recalls her journey, sharing insights on how personal growth came about for her.
The concept of the Award Programme is essentially that of individual challenge; giving young people a balanced, non-competitive programme of voluntary activities which encourage personal discovery and growth, self-reliance, perseverance, responsibility to themselves and service to their community. In this almost magical process of self-discovery, you encounter failures numerous times. The story of my Gold Award, too, is strewn with failures. However, it is through these failures that I have emerged successful. My failures attempted to hold me at the Bronze level but my desire to achieve the Gold Award kept me pushing through.
As part of the Adventurous Journey section of the Bronze level of the Award, I undertook an adventure trek with Juniper Wings to Panchalingeshwar, Odisha. Back then, the scorching heat and the barren lands made the trek to ShikharMinar seemed as harrowing as crossing the Sahara. While rappelling, I faced a crucial challenge when my shoes came off and socks tore midway up the rock but nonetheless, I managed to climb to the top barefoot. For my Service that year, we visited an old age home and interacted with its residents. Through my interaction with them in Bangla, my mother tongue, which I happen to be proficient in, I felt some latent treasures inside me being unearthed.
Signing up for the Silver level, even though most of my contemporaries were not, was challenging but totally worth the ride. So there I was, in Tumling, Nepal, with Juniper Wings again. The trek this time was actually much tougher than we could ever have envisaged. It was 12 kilometers from Manebhanjang and was situated at an altitude of 12000 ft. This time, we had some luck while bird watching in the Singalila National Park and on our trek to Tonglu. As part of the Service section that year, I took part in various cleanliness drives, anti-plastic campaigns, visited old age homes, taught underprivileged children near my community and helped spread awareness about waste segregation on a domestic level.
Making it to the Gold level of the Award Programme was like a far-fetched dream that miraculously came true. I had to undertake harder challenges and engage in doing service activities for a longer time while keeping track of my skills and activities. The final trip was to Uttarakhand with Trailblazers and was undebatably the best trip that I have ever had. Fifteen participants accompanied by two teachers were left to venture out in the wilderness of the Devbhumi. The activities that we engaged in like valley crossing, jummaring, rappelling, bridge slithering, stream walking, free floating, body surfing and kayaking were, simply put, spine-chilling. Our trainers took immense care of our safety when we were engrossed in having fun. For the Service part, we visited a local primary school in Jayalgarh and a village where we interacted with young brimming minds about their education and the residents about the hardships of their lives. However, the unique aspect of undertaking a residential project in the Gold level of the Award made me experience the true essence of the Award through living a controlled life in an unfamiliar environment.
The journey of my Award, which lasted for four years, has given me great experiences to recall and beautiful memories to cherish. I learnt to face my fears, push my limits and strengthen my will. Not only have I grown into a compassionate yet fearless human being, I have also felt the need to undertake challenges and move out of my comfort zone to achieve what I previously felt was unachievable. There is no mountain too high or a valley too deep or a river too wide or a storm too dark - it is just a matter of time and struggle that we emerge victorious. Gold is not the end for me; I have way more miles to walk. But it gives me immense pleasure to say that I am a component of the Award Programme who has had her teachers, parents, peers, juniors and the IAYP family walking that extra mile with her.