Interview by Akanksha Sharma, Transcription by Nisha Dhawan
Indspire Me brings to you an interview with a woman who is so inspiring, that you will feel yourself being uplifted as you read her thoughts. You’ll want to share awareness about the amazing foundation that is the Vahani Scholarship by sharing this article on your social media. The work being done by this organization, funded by the generous Misra family, is so impactful that you’ll be eager to tell more Class 12 students about it. Indeed, the foundation and its Managing Director, Rashmani Puri Singh, are changing changing lives. Let’s find out how!
Thank you for taking the time out to speak with us, Rashmani. Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thank you Akanksha. I am very happy to be interviewed by you because you yourself are such a young person but yet doing an amazing job and I would be happy to contribute to Indspire Me and reach out to your readers and hopefully inspire them to serve the community.
To get back to myself, my name is Rashmani Puri Singh. My background is that I went to Welham Girls’ School, to which I am very proud to belong. I attribute a lot of my identity to that school and in turn I have to thank my parents, who chose Welham, a boarding school, at a time when girls were actually pretty much protected and kept at home.
Then I went on to Lady Shri Ram College for Women, where I did my B.A. in English Honours. For my graduation present, I was sent to a holiday in Europe because my parents thought that was an education in itself. So, the two of us friends set off on a budget and did Europe by Eurorail. I still hold that journey very dear to me and it’s still very fresh in my mind as if it just happened yesterday.
Once I graduated, I explored different things. I did a bit of French, I did music, a typing course and I did all the things that a young girl would do before she was supposed to get married. I did work a little even though others thought that girls from our background shouldn’t really be working. My dad encouraged my wish to work.
Eventually, I got married and I have a son who is a journalist and I am very proud of him as well. To get back to me, and who I am today, I have been given the lovely platform, Vahani, which is like a baby to me. My life has taken another direction and I am leading a very rewarding, meaningful life and that’s thanks to Vahani.
You mentioned that Vahani is as precious as a baby to you, so could you please tell us a little bit more about Vahani and what is the kind of work that it does?
Vahani was a very well thought out idea which the Misra family had. Thanks to the Welham alumni network, they found me and asked me if I would be happy to do this and I replied in the affirmative and so Vahani evolved, into the Vahani Scholarship, which is today a foundation.
We are three years old and we are all very proud of this organization which is an amazing thought by a philanthropist, Mr. Rajeev Misra and spearheaded today by his daughter, Reeva Misra.
I am the one man army, I would say, in India handling this with support from our board as advisors and mentors. So Vahani really reaches out to every part of the country and to different schools in order to let students know about this wonderful opportunity. Vahani’s mission is to send Indian students who come from extenuating circumstances to the top universities across India. We offer two types of assistance: full financial support combined with on-going personal mentorship.
Could you please share some of the success stories that have arisen out of Vahani?
I think we are too young to give you success stories as yet because the children are just in first and second year but having said that I can see the change. The success stories would be that I find that these children are all ready to give back; they are all ready to help the next generation. We have seen how the second year students have helped the first year.
Several of the Vahani Scholars who are at second year, who had done internships have all been offered jobs and today they are all working even though they are in second year, with the institutions that had given them internships over the summer.
So, several of them are working today in journalism, in the finance world, and in their colleges too. Their teachers, their employers have seen something in them. It is that spark that we saw in them when we chose them as Vahani Scholars. They are all hardworking, young, energetic, good human beings, generous with their time, generous with their minds, generous to help, ever ready to help anybody in the time of need.
I have just lost my mother, and all my scholars reached out to me, the Vahani family reached out to me. Some of the messages that were sent out to me and notes that the scholars sent out to me showed their sensitive minds. They have been very warm very courageous in lending me support, despite the activities and challenges going on in their own lives.
I can see that the future holds an amazing pot of gold where they will reach once they climb the rainbow of hard work.
I think that this spirit of ‘giving back’ which has been inculcated in the Vahani Scholars is like a ripple effect. As a result of this spirit, everything around the scholars will change. They will become role models in the future. So what is the vision of Vahani in terms of the future?
The future goal that Vahani has is that our reach would be far greater. We have reached out to several institutions but we haven’t really got back the hoped for response. However, I’m hoping that the scholars will in turn help to reach out to different schools in their area, the government schools, and other institutions like Himjyoti, Purkal in Dehradun .
We are hoping to reach and trickle down to every little area, we are trickling down as little streams, we are hoping to become rivers and then we are hoping to become the ocean where the river will reach.
Engaging with the community is also a very important part of reaching out and expanding. What is the kind of support that the organisation is currently looking for? How can people associate with the organisation and how can they actually lend their support, be it of any kind, to the foundation?
So, Vahani Scholarship looks to the community to support in any which way that they can in time, becoming mentors, providing internships to our students, giving in the way of kind where it could be clothing, where it could be computers, where it could be telephones, where it could be healthcare.
This is something that is actually a thought arisen in my mind most recently that I would like to hold a health camp for our scholars, so in that way doctors can reach out to us, younger people can lend their time to us.
We are not looking for any financial help currently as we don’t want to dilute our quality of the scholarship wherein we are giving a lot of time, we are giving a lot of energy, and we are giving a lot of ourselves to Vahani Scholarship. Funds would have to come with meaningful relationships, meaningful bonding with our scholars, meaningful connection.
So, I would like the community to help further our reach where many more scholars, schools and institutions learn about Vahani Scholarship. We at Vahani Scholarship believe that if you educate one life you are actually changing a life because education is something that nobody can ever take from you.
We are happy to have many helping hands because the more hands there are, the more will Vahani grow. In turn I hope that Vahani can inspire several members of the community where they learn to give, to be generous and to help in any which way they can.
So, we are hoping that people can change mind-sets where several young girls come out and get educated. And as the reach of Indspire Me is typically the younger generation, the next generation, I am hoping that the idea of Vahani Scholarship will enthuse several other young minds and younger people where they will reach out to us and help us and be there as advisors, mentors, and create job opportunities for our children. I would love for members of the community to come and join us at our workshops and help in any which way they can. Thank you.