What’s your hashtag?

Date : Apr 17 , 2019 | Alumni

ILSS alumna Vyjayanthi Mala, who now leads the Open Judicial Data Platform initiative at Vayam, writes about her journey of self-discovery at the ILSS Leadership Program.

This is about the inward journey of a person who grew up in a moderately conservative lower middle-class family, knew nothing better than to treat academics as the reason to live until “settling” in a job in the corporate world. A person who, despite being insulated from the real world, dabbled in some individual and corporate social responsibility to “give back” to society in a rather egoistical way. And how one fine summer, a “nine-day program” turned out to be a journey as profound as traversing the nine layers of Earth right through to the inner core. This is about me, and the shades of me in each one of you.

I sometimes wonder how, in our pursuit of that elusive ‘cosy corner’ in life, we keep getting disconnected from everything natural in and around us, only to walk back to the same fork in the path where we parted from our true selves. Sooner or later, everyone reaches a point when one asks: “What is the purpose of my life?”

Last summer, I found myself at a juncture in my life when I had “retired” from an overall satisfying corporate career with a rich chest of experiences and learnings. I tried my hand at a venture with a social angle and was learning a great deal from it. However, I realised that I had only touched the tip of the iceberg called the development sector. I wanted to learn more. The student in me got curious.  That’s when India Leaders for Social Sector (ILSS) happened.

The journey, not the destination

ILSS turned out to be a life-changing experience. It is unbelievable how nine days can impact a person so deeply and how people can get transformed, if they go with an open mind, ready to unlearn and learn at the same time. It also showed me how the world that I had imagined needs us, is not even a fraction of the world that actually needs us.

The program has been envisioned, designed and implemented as a fast, action-packed ride into the development sector. The great line-up of speakers—experts from various fields —are truly invested in imparting as much wisdom as possible in the limited time available. The diversity of the cohort makes the experience interesting and enriching. The fact that the cohort is intentionally kept small, allows deeper interactions, while the “immersive learning” design enables participants to be unpretentious and uninhibited, understand everyone’s perspective, respect and accept each other for life. 

A big highlight of the program was the day-long field visit, where we experienced various aspects of the development sector first-hand. It was yet another reminder that it is not just the end goal but the journey that matters, and every small step makes a difference.

At the Ashoka University campus—with its sports complex, gym, running and walking tracks, library, and the charming dhaba—we relived our college days and felt like a bunch of teenagers at the end of the program. Rejuvenated to do our bit to make the world a better place.

The power of the self and the collective

Boond boond se sagar — how true it is of ILSS, which carefully collects the droplets capable of transforming Self and others, equips them and leaves them in the ocean, with the potential to create a beautiful ripple effect. At the end of the program, some may decide to take the plunge into the social sector, some may just want to continue to do what they are doing.  Whatever may be the case, there has already been a transformation at a personal as well as professional level. 

Unlike any other executive/ management workshop I have attended, ILSS nudged me to question things that I had never questioned before: my actions, reactions, how I handle situations, how I take certain things for granted. Unique sessions helped me discover my inner values and what I stand for! ILSS triggers the inner questioning that bring you close to yourself:

“I was here”

“I am Vyjayanthi Mala.

“I stand for Energy, Inspiration and Love” 


What’s your hashtag?

Vyjayanthi Mala currently leads the Open Judicial Data Platform initiative at Vayam, a Bengaluru-based non-profit that works in the ‘access to justice’ space. She is an ILSS alumna from the April 2018 batch. Prior to signing up for the ILSS Leadership Program, she was a social entrepreneur promoting a ridesharing app for social causes. Before that, she has worked predominantly in the IT industry, including Genpact and Accenture for around 18 years.

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