Abhishek recently acquired a postgraduate degree in Applied Economics from the Centre for Development Studies. Born and raised in Delhi, he has also lived in Bangalore, Madurai and Kochi which have together sustained his fascination with the urban. His time at the Centre motivated him deeply to cultivate interdisciplinarity in thought while addressing multilayered issues as the cities of India undergo an unprecendented transition into crowded metropoles and peripheries stricken with poverty and rampant inequality. His postgraduate thesis was centred around probing the multiple mechanisms which shape labour agency among migrant labourers in Thiruvananthapuram city. He is currently interested in studying the complex networks and intersections between labour, capital and the state in urban India which have manifold implications. He also seeks to explore the gender politics at “workplaces” especially under the emerging forms of production relations and organizational structures in order to expose the continued disadvantage of gender and sexual minorities in India.
He is a co-author in a paper that explores the politics of governmentality of the body in queer social media spaces as it gets shaped by the bourgeoning Malayali middle class in Kerala. His research interests cover a broad range of topics concerning the role of technology, media, labour and gender relations in shaping the urban geographies of capitalism in India.
Aila Bandagi Kandlakunta
Aila has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences majoring in sociology, psychology and economics and a specialisation in post reform transformations in India. She has a master’s degree in Development Studies with a specialization in Urban Studies and Conflict Studies. Wanting to find her passion, she has taken up research projects in the fields of handloom weaving in B.A and conditional cash transfer schemes in M.A at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad. Having lived in a city which was described as world class but could not survive a summer without deaths and monsoon without houses flooding, she decided to do whatever she can, to improve the cities of the world. Having interned with a variety of NGOs, government departments, corporates and research organisations, she identifies action based research as her strong suit. Being a cultural enthusiast, she believes in using creative mediums such as theatre, dance and films as tools for social change. While being a passionate writer and avid reader, she also deeply enjoys travelling and food.
Aishwarya K S
Aishwarya was born and brought up in Bhubaneswar but went on to pursue higher studies and work opportunities in other cities. She is a passionate environmentalist who believes in the importance of integrating environmental sustainability while addressing issues in every sector. She completed her Master’s degree from TERI University, New Delhi and went on to work in an environmental NGO in Mumbai. She is an avid reader, extremely fond of animals and a keen learner who is always up to explore new avenues.
Anahita is a graduate of Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Contemporary Art Practice. She likes thinking/talking about art history, cinema, cultural narratives, ethnography, spirituality, gender identity and intersectional feminist thought. She is currently trying to think of ways to convert to an organic and sustainable way of life.
Ananya graduated from Presidency College, Kolkata with Sociology Honours in 2013. She then moved to Mumbai to complete her Master’s from the University of Mumbai. Thanks to Shantaram! She was associated with the Public Systems Group at IIM Ahmedabad for two years as an Academic Associate. She is enthusiastic about cities, culture and people. She is specifically interested in ‘adda’ (a social gathering unique to Kolkata for discussing current affairs especially after work) and sexuality through the lens of what Habermas called ‘public sphere’. A theatre, film, fashion and politics enthusiast, Ananya loves to understand Southern cities, Urban Politics and Urban fashion through these modes of practices. Ghatak’s films on Partition and trauma drew her to study Global Cities in the wake of new immigration policies, neo-international boundaries. Kamaladevi’s works taught her resilience and how strength can weave beauty in a seemingly unjust world and need not be masculine at the same time. Finally, IIHS inspired and helped her put together all of these through a spatial story perspective.
Graduated from Presidency College, Kolkata, Ananya moved to Mumbai to complete her Master’s in Sociology from the University of Mumbai. Thanks to Shantaram! She was then associated with the Public Systems Group at IIM Ahmedabad for two years. Enthusiastic about cities, culture and people, she is glad to have herself landed in UFP. She is interested in handlooms, handicrafts and livelihoods – the second largest provider of livelihoods in country. But what bothers her is the politics and a certain kind of Urban Dream which has unfortunately forced the sector into being called the ‘sunset industry’. Thus she would want to work at the sector through a more policy level intervention and will continue working till she sees the ‘sunrise’.
Ananya sought to pursue a career as an architect and received her Bachelor Degree in Architecture from RV College of Architecture. Training and working as a professional, highlighted the niche clientele of architects. This drove her to condition herself to work in co-operation and collaboration with the various stakeholders of our living environment. She completed a dual-master programme at the Bauhaus University Weimar and CAUP, Tongji University Shanghai, gaining experience in urban planning and research.
A Bangalore local and brought up with an armed forces background, Ananya travelled across the country absorbing the diversities and complexities of the Indian context. Living abroad for her masters, was a learning experience beyond academics. The systemic processes of cities, governance and administration, citizen engagement, partnership between academia-research-practice, implementation and enforcement strategies, were among other aspects that she observed first hand. Through UFP, she would like to gain the skills to apply these lessons to the local context. Her research interests include urban governance and its socio-spatial manifestations, urban mobility including pedestrianisation and intermediate public transport, role of land markets and real estate in urban growth and collaborative planning. In addition to her academic pursuits, Ananya is a Bharatanatyam dancer and Carnatic Classical singer.
Anish did his Bachelors in Civil Engineering and Masters in Chemistry as part of a dual degree programme from BITS Pilani. During his civil services exam preparation, he realized that interdisciplinary approach is needed to solve the current challenges faced by humanity. His major focus is on resources management which is interlinked with Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Development. With training in technical background and interdisciplinary knowledge from sectors of Law, Humanities, Governance, Economics he believes several issues could be solved with appropriate research, data analysis and implementation.
Anubhav Pradhan is a doctoral candidate working on colonial ethnography and the British imagination of India under the supervision of Prof Baran Farooqi in the Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia. He has served Primus Books as its Senior Marketing Editor, and the Department of English, Bharati College, University of Delhi as an Assistant Professor. His M.Phil dissertation, on articulations of space and denial in contemporary Delhi, was under the supervision of Prof Simi Malhotra: he continues to engage with various aspects of Delhi’s convoluted urbanisms. He enjoys walking, reading, writing, and armchair debating; is interested in the conception, production, and dissemination of cultural artefacts; and is a strong votary of sustainable development and the preservation of Delhi’s (in)tangible heritage from ruthless development. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
Apoorva’s experience of studying architecture in CEPT University, opened up many layers of the city for her. She did her training in Shanghai and exchange at TU Delft. She has traveled across Asia and Europe, and loves discovering places on foot and recording her experiences through sketching and writing. She believes creative processes have the potential to transform our cities through exploring alternative futures. In this regard, she has worked with ‘People in Centre’ to prepare a training program for rural construction workers. She also co-mentored and/or assisted workshops on design thinking. Her current work interest is on repair and retrofit of buildings and the embedded processes involved.
Bhargav was born and brought up in Rajkot, Gujarat. While pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Honours) from Ahmedabad University; he participated in extra-curriculars like skit, mime, creative writing competitions, elocution and extempore, he headed the editorial team of the college’s wall and print magazine – Drishti and was part of the college’s Event Management Team; and developed perspective and confidence to face future uncertainties. He also participated in a social science research project on Dalit atrocities in the Kheda and Anand districts of Gujarat. He has written and presented papers at national and international conferences. In 2014 he joined M.A. in Society and Culture programme in IIT Gandhinagar which promised an inter- disciplinary approach to knowledge. He worked on his writing skills and continued presenting papers at conferences. His dissertation was on ‘Role of caste and class in shaping up urban neighbourhoods of Chandkheda and Ranip in Ahmedabad’. Some of the courses like Paradox of Indian Democracy; History of Dissent; Humanism, posthumanism and anti-humanism; etc helped him build a foundation in social sciences as well as expanded his interest areas into diverse
disciplines like political theory, history and philosophy.
His internship project was tiltled ‘Financialisation of domestic economies’. He joined Unnati – Organisation for Development Research, as a Programme Associate and worked on a project titled: “Ensuring Nutrition Security and Buliding Resilience amongst Dalit and Tribal Communities in the Thar Desert”. He feels that Urban Fellows Programme at IIHS is a good opportunity for him to return back to his selfcommitment to academics.
Divya hails from the city of Nagpur in Maharashtra and studied architecture at the School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi.
As an architecture student, many of her initial projects focussed on urban areas to document and analyse them, with much work done in the walled city of Old Delhi. Her academic dissertation dealt with the perception of cities (Shahjahanabad in particular) shaped by the written word, specifically travel-writing over the centuries. Other projects in the urban context dealt with designing high density environments and studying the impact of large scale urban construction environments on the city. She was involved in organising a few events and heritage walks in Delhi while studying architecture.
In 2016, she interned at Wonder Grass Initiative in Nagpur and worked hands-on with bamboo to design affordable and eco-friendly, prefabricated cottages and sanitation units. Her architectural thesis was the proposal of a Cultural Centre and Tourist Retreat in the fringes of Aizawl city in Mizoram, which is an exploration of sustainable Bamboo-construction technologies that would be relevant in an urban scenario.
She loves to walk in the city, read about new places and explore them, write and photograph. She enjoys creating things and her intent is to work towards understanding the complexities and heterogeneity of neighbourhoods in Indian cities and arrive at agreeable solutions to steer urbanisation in a positive direction.
Edwin Thomas is from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Growing up as a proud Malayali belonging to a middle class family in the Middle East helped him understand how extreme class inequality and modern slavery operate in the backyard of glitzy development. Furthermore, his interest in issues like gender and sexuality, HIV/AIDS activism, American politics and international relations led him to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, English Studies and Psychology from Christ University, Bengaluru. Since then he has worked as a Sub-Editor and contributor for Youth Ki Awaaz in New Delhi and as an Editorial Assistant for Raintree Media. During his tenure at YKA, he helped bring to national spotlight a sexual harassment scandal at his alma mater. Currently, his bias towards translating larger human rights issues into parts like access to healthcare, basic government services and equitable allocation of resources has put him on a path to a career in human rights advocacy. However, his inability as a trained journalist to understand key issues in more complex terms led to an interest in subjects like urban policy and eventually, the UFP.
Evita Das is a development studies graduate from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Her previous research was on Looking Back “Secularism” and “Democracy” in Muqaddimah. She has always been inquisitive in history of discourses, spaces and the evolution of it. Currently working with Jan Sahas in a rural area on caste and religion, she thinks it is very important to understand the right to city in the urban spaces through the caste and religion lenses.
Like in most Indian households, Karthik was encouraged to run the traditional rat race of doing an engineering and landing a job. After his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from NITK Surathkal, he ended up as a business analyst with Capital One. During the one year at capital one, he took a step back and tried to understand the reasons for running this race and whether this is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. This line of introspection lead him to abandon the lucrative corporate career and explore the expanses of knowledge this world has to offer. The Young India Fellowship offered him an ideal foundation to discover his true passions which was urban sustainabilty. After the fellowship, he worked with the Indian Institute for Human Settlements exploring and understanding the city of Bangalore. He is a self proclaimed “lifelong student” and a nostalgic Bangalorean. He aims to learn urban sustainabilty in ways he can apply to truly make urban spaces more sustainable from the ground level. His hobbies are centered around adventure sports and travel. He practices an ancient form for marital arts called “Sailum”. He is a certified open water scuba diver and a biker.
Originally from Mangalore, Leona has lived between the Middle East, Bangalore and Mumbai where she graduated from St. Xavier’s College. While in college, she studied English Literature and Anthropology, focusing on narratives of the city, globalization and identity. Later she went on to wander through the corporate world for a few years working as a writer, only to find her way back to those subjects and themes from her academic days. Growing up in a single parent household, Leona’s interest in women’s issues is of special importance and through the fellowship she hopes to tackle the questions of equal access, self-empowerment and marginalization.
Malavika holds a post-graduate degree in Political Science from Delhi University. She was born in Kerala and did most of her schooling from Rishi Valley in Andhra Pradesh. During her five years as a student in Delhi, she was associated with the Peoples Union for Democratic Rights which introduced her to the practical real-time operations of power and sharpened the theoretical perspectives learnt in class. A starker picture of the failings and shortcomings of democratic citizenship ironically strengthened also belief in it as a system capable of realising and sustaining a more equal and just society. Her interest now is to practically orient her ideals by acquiring a technical training geared towards effective intervention in social problems. Since research and writing is what she enjoys the most, she hopes to use this as the key mode of practice to engage from the field, and develop a more grounded knowledge base which can later enable policy work.
Neha was born and brought up in Delhi and completed her Masters in Sociology from Delhi University (D.U.). With interests ranging from urban history, spatial practices to issues of governance and sustainability, she completed her M.Phil from Delhi School of Economics at D.U on urban aesthetics and policy planning in millennial Delhi. She loves to read on and walk through cities and wishes to work within the intersections of urban practices and policy regimes. She has earlier worked on research projects and documentaries on Delhi’s urban history and contemporary challenges with themes like urban housing and design, gentrification in urban spaces, wall art, river ecologies and land use.
Nirupama M Vidyarthi
Nirupama M Vidyarthi, is a fresher architect from Bangalore. One of her first introductions to urban study was while working on an architectural competition in her 2nd year of architecture, she has since then explored this interest through courses, competitions and voluntary work. Cities are our points of impact where we can affect a positive transformation and being passionate about environmental activism right from school. She looks forward to bringing about a change in society especially by addressing environmental concerns. Through her experience of working in landscape firms, she has been introduced to aspects of ecological planning, and hopes to understand other facets like that of sociology, culture, human-development, economics and policy through the course of the Urban Fellow Programme.
Nooreen comes from a humble family in Allahabad. She is an architecture graduate from Faculty of Architecture & Ekistics, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and recently finished her Masters in Urban Design from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.
In her 7 years of academic experience she engaged herself in multiple urban research and design projects that led her to analyse the socio-cultural, economic and political context of habitable settings in India, made her connect with people and understand the challenges faced in an everyday Indian city. Her post-graduate research work ‘Perception of Sex Workers in Khidki Village’, ‘Social value of urban spaces: Case of Anupam Market and Saket District Centre’ and ‘Is this a city? Case of Khidki Village’ led her to understand the unjust, highly prejudiced and complex socio-political landscape of Indian cities and motivated her to voice these urban conditions to bring a change in the status quo.
During her work as an architect, she engaged in multiple community driven architectural projects such as primary school, artisan centre, mosque etc located in villages outside the city limits.
Her research interest lies in spatial injustice, politics of space, informal system of governance in Indian cities, socio-spatial patterns etc. She is an active researcher, travel enthusiast and likes to keep a travel journal. She also finds her interest in urban sketching and abstract portraits.
Pallab was born in Silchar, Assam, where he stayed till he completed his 10+2 level education. After spending a year in Guwahati, he joined B.A. English (Honours) course at Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, and then changed tracks to do his Masters in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics. While he had always been interested in the urban and how identity politics get mapped onto the geography of the city, the Urban Sociology and Symbolism papers during his masters course helped him hone his ideas. To this end, Pallab has been part of two research projects; one looked at the interplay of the urban space and context-specific performances of cultural artefacts, while the other looked at the role of time and space in the formation of identities by looking at the identitarian politics and problems of self-perception within the Sylheti community in Barak Valley, southern Assam. He hopes that the Urban Fellows Programme will help him gear his theoretical interests towards more practice-oriented outcomes through its inter-disciplinary course structure.
The two words that are sure to lure Pragya into any learning adventure are ‘inter-disciplinary’ and ‘problem-solving’. Pragya studied visual communication at NIFT Bangalore and took her graduate project about menstrual health awareness and sustainable menstrual practices into villages surrounding the Auroville bio-region, while working with multiple NGOs in Auroville for a year. Before UFP, Pragya was working as a researcher with a design thinking and business innovation firm in Pune, specializing in megatrends-forecasting and ethnographic storytelling. She has also had a brief stint with The Hindu, with bylines ranging from cultural narratives to fashion forecasts.
A self-proclaimed ‘people-nerd’, Pragya likes studying people, communities & cultures and creating smart design strategies for them. She also takes keen interest in mental health awareness, development led displacement, systems thinking and social design.
Though a Garhwali by descent, Pragya is a child of multiple migrations- including her own- in search of education, experiences and jobsstarting from Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh to multiple cities including Bangalore, Chennai, Auroville & Pune. She takes pride in her eclectic aesthetics, cross-cultural exposure and in her voracious appetite for knowledge.
Being born and brought up in a village of Sivasagar district in Assam, Priyakshi did her graduation in economics from Guwahati University. Having been part of a student political organization since school days, she had a continuing wish to work in the social sector and so joined the NGO Society for Social Transformation and Environmental Protection. For the next three years, her work was mainly with street vendors which allowed her to get a grounded perspective on the problems faced by informal workers and other livelihood issues in urban areas. She also worked on the issue of women and child health among tea garden workers. To further consolidate her knowledge to work in this sector, she did a masters in social work through a distance learning program. Through this fellowship, she hopes to bring together her theoretical and practical insights, and polish her skills to better contribute to more equitable development practices.
Sabika is a performative poet who is the founder of an initiative called Sar-e-rahguzar: Poetry on the streets. She has been a student of history and conflict studies. She is deeply influenced by the feminist and queer rights movement. She also works as an alternative educator and aims to start her own alternative school.
Sabika is from Delhi and has completed her higher education there as well. Her degree in Architecture from Jamia Millia Islamia, taught her valuable design skills and also instilled a consciousness to observe and question status quo around her. She has worked on several academic and professional research-oriented projects which gave her the opportunity to comprehend a range of issues faced by people living in urban settlements across North India. As an architect and urban practitioner, she looks critically at ideas that strive to achieve universal welfare in the context of Indian cities. With a belief that targeted welfare programmes can achieve higher levels of inclusion and equity, she wishes to learn to sensitively approach the various complex and layered situations of the urbanizing centers of India.
Sachin has done under-graduation in Criminology, Political Science and Kannada Literature from Karnataka College Dharwad. Recently, he completed a master’s in Public Policy and Governance from Azim Premji University, Bengaluru. During his two years at Azim Premji University, he has been exposed to interdisciplinary, systematic empirical research methodology, which has given a meaningful direction to his interests. He has worked as an intern with WRI-India and Indian Housing Federation, Bengaluru. He has undertaken an independent field study on ‘Drink and Drive’ in Bengaluru. He has also explored his interest in cricket, athletics, theatre and story-telling adherent to human life. Apart from this he is also active cadet of NCC. He participated in the ‘Thal Sainik Camp’, New Delhi and was awarded for excellency in the firing competition. He comes from a rural, Kannada background, which he uses as his strength rather than weakness.
Sarat graduated as an architect from the School of Architecture and Planning, Chennai in 2016. He became interested in archaeology and then history during the final year thesis, which subsequently led to reading up on sociology, political science and economics. Uncertain about taking up a career in architectural practice, he wishes to take forward his interests in the social sciences for real world applications. He has volunteered for the 2016 edition of the Kochi Muziris Biennale, a contemporary art exhibition in Kochi and also helped as a research assistant for an impact assessment report of the same. He believes in the power of design thinking to solve the world’s problems. He also occasionally writes for ArchiBlab, an architecture student blog.
Satya Oza was born and brought up in the UNESCO Heritage City of Ahmedabad. His parents- social workers- and grandparents- academicians-inspired him to take the field of humanities. Thus, he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad and post-graduate degree in Development Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He was exposed to urban issues in Ahmedabad at a young age when he volunteered for rehabilitation of the displaced people of Sabarmati Riverfront project in 2007. His mother’s work with the 2002 Godhra riots survivors also impacted him deeply and he chose the issue of the rehabilitation of the survivors as his dissertation topic. He then worked with Aajeevika Bureau in Surat and Mumbai on another urban issue- migration. Here, he tried to improve the living and working conditions of migrants from Odisha and Uttar Pradesh through worker-led collectives. Based on his experiences with a variety of urban issues, he wants to explore the possibility of a community-driven approach as an important factor in
sustainable and equitable urban development and planning.
Shruti is an economist by training, a language and food history enthusiast, and a traveler by design and default. She grew up all over India and had the opportunity of calling many of its cities, home. Each city was a case study on the survival of societies at the confluence and sometimes intersections of social norms, political climates and institutional strength. How individuals viewed their place in the system in the sense of entitlements, duties, and ownership also varied. These individuals have always been the focus of her interests, particularly new entrants like herself. Subsequently, as part of the MGG Academy, Advanced Professional Training Programme, with the German Development Institute, she studied the idea of migration. She interacted with several people, many who identified themselves as migrants, expats or refugees, to understand the basis of the sense of association with a place or city and the delicate balance between an incumbent’s desire to protect the original colours of the social-cultural fabric and the entrants need to lend newer hues to it. Urbanization as a process is also at the heart of this question. Through this fellowship, she hopes to build on her learning and contribute to a pool of actionable solutions towards sustainable and equitable living spaces.
While Siddhant should have been a practicing Chartered Accountant today, well into his 5th year of professional career he took a decision back in 2011 to retreat. Starting another innings from scratch he lived what he calls now ‘a year of many things’. That year he wanted to serve in the Army, join the IAS, be a journalist, rescue stray animals, do fashion modeling, work in a youth NGO, align to political activism and study linguistics. By the end of this churn however, he signed up for Graduate School in Bangalore to study Development.
Two years at Azim Premji University gave him a chance to experiment with his interests, develop academic perspective and get ready to confidently research and interact with his subjects. His academic interests lie in forest governance, water policy & urban environment. Some of his residual interests are in livestock, handicrafts, non-Abrahamic religions and cinema. He manages a small firm that works with art direction teams to source and create studio & outdoor sets for movies. Besides, he is now looking to develop a research platform called Buffer Areas Research that would subsume and institutionalize all his academic work. At UFP, he hopes to be taking up questions in urban ecology & sustainability where he will try to collaborate with other disciplines, like engineering, ecology and history to devise useful methodology or find comprehensive solutions for one of the many problems that our cities face today.
Sophia Thomas is a public health professional from Bangalore. She is a dentist by training and has completed her Master of Public Health (MPH) from Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu. In the course of her public health training, she had the opportunity to work and understand public health problems in different settings – tribal, rural and urban. During this time, her research interests were: child and adolescent health, HIV/AIDS affected communities, urban health, dental public health, gender disparities in health and the health policies governing these issues. After completing her public health training, she worked at the Institute of Public Health, Bangalore in two projects – Emerging Voices for Global Health Program and Urban Health Action Research Project. In the urban health project, she was introduced to the multi-factorial problems affecting the urban poor suffering from noncommunicable diseases. Poor social determinants of health, often led them to prioritize better housing, higher employment opportunities, ease of availability of social security schemes, above their health and wellbeing. She believes that improving the social determinants of health with collaborative efforts between the health and non-health sectors can alleviate poverty and improve overall health and well-being of the urban poor communities. She hopes to work towards improving the health conditions of migrant workers in the cities, especially women and children by generating evidence through research studies, which can help in formulating migrant friendly health policies. She derives strength and support from her family & friends, who continue to inspire her in endeavors for social justice.
Vikas was born in a small village Barhetta, in the Aurangabad district of Bihar. He belongs to a family of migrant laborers. He and his family moved to Delhi (Rithala), about 13 years ago in search of livelihood. He studied in a government school and chose to pursue history for his advanced studies. He acquired Bachelors and Masters degrees in History from Hindu College, Delhi University. After having spent more than a decade in Delhi’s Rithala, Vikas has experienced problems like lack of proper housing facilities, prejudices and discrimination on the basis of region, exploitation and physical violence at several occasions perpetuated by the landlord and factory owners, who could be described as ‘petty bourgeoisie’. These prompted him to claim that urban spaces like Delhi are not a safe space for the migrant laborer and is full of difficulties and hardships. Already facing major disadvantages of being away from their homeland, migrant laborer families in Delhi go through problems like exploitation and physical violence. Besides doing petty jobs at various factories, Vikas also taught at a school in Amba, his native village town. There he endeavored to integrate lessons taught in schools and events of socio-economic and political importance that occurred outside the school, in society at the grass roots level. Having lived a life of a migrant laborer, he is inclined towards research in the studies of labour. He finds work on ‘subaltern histories’ fascinating. Watching movies and listening to music are his favourite hobbies, besides indulging in long gossip sessions with close friends.
The idea of bringing research and practice together has been at the core of Vrashali’s professional passion for development. While pursuing her Masters at Azim Premji University, she developed an immense interest in the domain of policy design. Her associations with Narmada Bachao Andolan, Public Affairs Center and the Government of Haryana enabled her to formulate a deeper understanding of governance & democracy and establish the linkages between design and implementation in a more nuanced manner.
The interdisciplinary nature of Urban Fellowship Program at IIHS has allowed her to attain the necessary skill set and vocabulary to communicate with multiple stakeholders from varied backgrounds. The fellowship has given her a way to move forward while acknowledging the complexity of meta-narratives that exists. In the process, she has picked up the invaluable lesson of holding on to hope.
Eight years ago, fresh out of engineering school, Ajai made a promise to his father. It was a promise that changed his life and gave him a career. He promised him that he will do science through journalism. That he would not just write about the truth – but show it, prove it. That he would bring the math and engineering he had learned into the world of words that he wanted to inhabit. It got him into journalism school and allowed him to pursue a dream. Talks of “becoming a writer” were far too revolutionary in his family. Like most Indian parents, his parents thought he’d end up as a doctor, engineer or a failure. And writing meant failure coupled with poverty. Number crunching and investigative grunt work was his savior. It was the only thing that sounded respectable to his family. They believed that he will write books on research methodologies one day.
During the initial three years he worked as an urban reporter for The Hindu in Chennai, he often thought about the promise he made to his father. He regularly used the power of numbers in his reporting to go beyond the rigid (but sometimes necessary) constraints of objectivity. He thought of his father when he won the McCormick Fellowship to report on national security issues out of Washington DC. Seven years, more than 600 news stories and a 9,000 mile trip to graduate school later, he thinks his father regrets the fact that he once placed conditions when Ajai asked him if he could follow his heart. But he did show faith. He believed in his choices. And him. The least Ajai could do in return is to do journalism that will make his father proud.
Ajai’s deep and abiding passion for investigative journalism and issues related to governance, thus, stems from the dreams of his father. And a promise that he has tried to keep. His experience documenting stories in both rural and urban India has taught him that India’s failings are primarily issues of governance, or the absence of it. In contrast to the encouragement of Panchayati Raj institutions at the rural level, urban India has no effective local governance mechanisms. He strongly feels that the current process of urbanisation in India cannot be equitable without strengthening participatory governance. He hopes that the skills and knowledge gained from the UFP will enable him to effectively intervene and advocate on behalf of those whose voices are not heard.
Ajeet was born and brought up in the very small village of Dihwa in Aurangabad District, Bihar. After his early education in the village school he moved to Gaya and then to Patna for high school. Although his parents are not educated, he completed his Bachelors of Commerce from Delhi University.
Here he found many opportunities to visit slum areas in Delhi like Jahangirpuri, Seemapuri and J.J.colony regularly. Every time he visited families in these places, he felt at home because of his own similar family background, far from the city lights of Delhi. Although his academic background is in Commerce and he was originally interested in a career in Business, he decided to move into the Development sector because of several incidents that moved him: the living condition of people who have migrated from Bihar in search of jobs and who live in very poor conditions in cities, which he has experienced first-hand; the condition of urban migrant labour that he saw during his industrial visits as part of his course; and the condition of his family and village, where people have high hopes on him. His current areas of interest are in urban settlements, livelihood creation and empowerment.
Aman recently graduated from Symbiosis Law School, Noida, with B.A.LLB (Hons.) and is presently interning with Youth for Seva, an NGO in Bangalore, where he teaches English to high school students at a government school. Born and brought up in Delhi, cultural and extra-curricular activities in school exposed him to the social and economic conditions in the country. Internships and research projects during law school gave him an opportunity to serve with leading advocates and NGOs working in the social sector. During one such internship he worked with the Narmada Bachao Andolan in Madhya Pradesh. Observing the condition of displaced people and selfless service of the activists, he was motivated to align his areas of study and research toward issues plaguing development policies. His association with a college aided research project on land acquisition laws acquainted him with the huge disconnect between the law and ground realities. On the basis of these and numerous similar experiences, he is inclined to study the relationship between various social and economic forces and the political process.
Apurva was born and brought up in Mumbai. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, and a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies from TISS Mumbai. She loves travelling, trekking, yoga and meditation. She has also worked as a student coordinator with the Photography Promotion Trust, Mumbai. She uses photography as a social medium, inspired by her father, Sudharak Olwe who has used photography to document the horrors faced by conservancy workers in Mumbai. She would like to use her education and experience to take his work forward. As a social work student, and a feminist, her larger goal is to change the condition of women in India and to empower people to help themselves.
Asaf Ali Lone
Asaf Ali Lone belongs to the Kashmir Valley. He has done his B.A. (Hons.) in Arabic from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has recently completed his M.A. in Society and Culture from IIT Gandhinagar. He is interested in interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge. As a student and a learner, he has tried to cross disciplinary boundaries to enhance his skills and learning. In the future, he aspires to pursue research, which will enable him to build new approaches towards interdisciplinary learning in the Social Sciences and Humanities. His research interests are Urban Studies, Intersectionality, Men and Masculinities, Memory and Violence, Kashmiri Music and Folk Literature, Protest Songs, Arabic Music, and Postcolonial Historiography.
Ashwathy is an architecture graduate from School of Planning & Architecture, Bhopal and is passionate about Urban Design and regeneration of Indian Cities. From Kerala but brought up in Delhi, she has always been drawn to the multitude of layers that lay hidden in our Indian cities waiting to be explored. Following this interest, she has collaborated on many papers, competitions and workshops focusing on Indian cities and particularly Bhopal. Earlier published papers have addressed the transformation of Indian cities in the new global economy and detailed the re-development of specific areas within the old city of Bhopal for its revitalization. On graduation, she has worked as an architect on the development of the City Heritage Plan for Mathura under the HRIDAY scheme, mainly focusing on the Heritage conservation of tangible and intangible assets along with gap assessment of existing urban infrastructure.
Chandni Arun N Parekh
Professionally trained as an architect, Chan completed a postgraduate degree in Visual Art from Ambedkar University, Delhi. Located at the intersection of critical study of space, politics of representation, and gender and sexuality, Chan is interested in researching how urban housing is understood and reproduced as a site that actively rehearses casteist-patriarchy in India; further, how these conceptions structure and inform spaces of habitation for students and alternate/non-families. Chan has just begun to explore archival theory and research methods as integral to their research inquiry in the study of feminist urban geographies of home. They are also interested in – and their own research-artworks often explore – abstract art, surrealism and psychoanalysis, and photography (especially, selfportraiture and transgender attentions with(in) urban settings) as a research methodological tool.
Chandrakanta is from Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering, and is now teaching civil service aspirants at an institute in Jabalpur. As an urban resident, she has been interested in the social causes and roots of begging as an urban phenomenon in Indian cities. She would like to understand further the reasons behind why people start to beg, and the relationship of their activity with urban unemployment, housing issues, discrimination, and migration. She feels that our understanding of urban issues has to move beyond a legalistic or planning-centred approach and towards a social and human-oriented perspective. She hopes that being part of the UFP will allow her to identify problems with greater sensitivity, which is the first step to arriving at solutions.
Haifa is a Development Studies graduate from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. She has gained an interdisciplinary learning experience in economics, political science, and sociology. Her research interests lie in themes of urban citizenship, informal economies, and everyday identities and urban marginalisation. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, her forays into contemporary political sociology have opened up wider questions of power and politics. A native of North Kerala, Haifa wrote about the complex operations of Hawala Networks in the Kerala Economy for her Master’s thesis. During her internship with Thomson Reuters, she conducted extensive research on the present legal and policy gaps in minority spaces in South Asia, which framed her insights on politics of policy governance. She had also worked in the capacity of Consultant- Editor for an upcoming book on governance. She hopes to work towards positive transitions in social and political space, both in the capacity of research through incorporating gender perspectives and on a personal level, by challenging conventions. Being an advocate of responsible travel, she respects the natural state and culture of each place she visits. She usually reads, and occasionally blogs.
Jayati is from Delhi, and completed much of her education in the city. After her Master’s degree in Sociology, she worked for a year at a public policy think tank in Kochi, Kerala on issues relating to urban governance and development. Through the course of her studies and work, she has had the opportunity to work on projects across a spectrum of issues, such as displacement & resettlement, the impact of landholding on the sex ratio, wall art & graffiti, the impact of urban growth around ancient monuments, and the challenges of urban governance. While she has been able to study and understand a range of issues, she has found herself most drawn towards questions relating to the affective qualities of physical space.
Kavina is from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and a recent graduate from CEPT University with a bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning. As an urban planner, participatory planning and governance are two aspects of planning that most interest her and that she wishes to study further. Her research focuses on the effectiveness of participatory local governance in Pune, Maharashtra. She was the co-founder of a start-up, which dealt with real time automation of traffic counting called ‘Transpose’. She plans to take forward her experience that she has gained with the start-up to explore other aspects of planning.
Md. Mahtab Alam
Mahtab is an activist and a writer and has been working on issues of human rights, minority rights, counter-terrorism, development and developmentinduced displacement for the last decade. From Supaul, a small town in northern Bihar, he moved to Delhi at the age of 14 to study further. His keen interest in issues of marginalization and justice made him take up activism, first as a student and later on as a human rights activist. He completed his graduation in Political Science from the School of Open Learning, Delhi University in 2014. He had earlier tried his hand at studying Commerce and Economics at Jamia Millia Islamia, but his activism got the better of him. Mahtab was most recently a senior campaigner with Amnesty International India, where he coordinated the Human Rights Defenders Project. He has also worked with various civil and human rights organizations, such as the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), the Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) and the Coalition for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (CPHRD). An avid reader and a bibliophile, he has extensively written on the issues of democracy, development, resistance, communalism, media and literature. In the long run, he plans to work in the urban space, and has founded Café SolidariTea, which is an initiative for Learning, Dialogue and Solidarity that is rooted in the Jamia Nagar locality of Delhi. He blogs at mahtabnama.wordpress.com and can be followed @MahtabNama
Nikhil completed a degree in Mechanical engineering and joined the Young India Fellowship to learn things that weren’t taught in the conventional curriculum. The liberal arts program helped him develop perspective and understand the power of questioning. He has worked with Flexing It as a Product Manager, designing and managing online products, and with Playment as a Program Manager. He likes to travel, trek and climb new peaks, exploring and learning about culture and nature.
Nikhila has been working in the media industry for the past five years in TV and advertising in London (UK), Casablanca (Morocco), and currently in Bombay. Among the various media projects she has been part of, the most influential has been factual TV documentaries on mental health issues for the BBC. Being inspired by narrative-driven storytelling in the non-fiction genre, she worked on few documentary short films during volunteering stints in organizations in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. Recent fieldwork with All India Union of Forest Working People, as part of a workshop on contemporary social issues with Sambhaavnaa Institute in Palampur, exposed her to various developmental issues in some of the forest regions in India. Drawing parallels from this experience, she has developed an interest in urban issues related to sustainable and inclusive development. Nikhila’s research interests are in public transport services, urban agriculture and affordable housing projects in cities. She is a graduate of Miranda House, Delhi University and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. She enjoys Asian cinema, traveling and learning languages.
Niyati graduated from Smith College with a BA in the History of Art and Architecture and has worked as a Research and Education Intern on a community based research project at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She is interested in thinking about cities holistically, as a set of socio-political, economic and social-ecological entities. Her particular focus is on understanding how the social and political implications of the built environment impact and mediate access to spaces and services for women and marginalized communities.
As a student of architecture for five years and a professional for two, Ooha has been biased towards the definition of spaces as inhabited and interacting entities, as opposed to purely independent built forms. The collectives of small identities representing a larger common identity, Indian cities have been central to her experiments and learning in this direction. Her limitations as an architect in understanding cities led to an interest in subjects like history, sociology, economics and philosophy. Added to this is the experience of living in three different cities in different phases of her life: Vijayawada on the banks of river Krishna, Bhopal and its beautiful lakes and Ahmedabad, have each been a rich and unique experience. They showed her how habits and rituals define and distinguish an environment as much as and sometimes even more than the physical entities do. She now intends to document and analyse cities as carriers of people, their daily lives and traditions along with the buildings, roads and bridges they occupy. Some distance into this assignment she also aspires to be equipped enough to be able to introduce such elements into these complex systems that can contribute to the design of a cultural progression.
Pawan graduated as a Mechanical Engineer and was attracted by the diversity that a career in the civil services provides. He firmly believes that the future of our cities is connected to our governance institutions at the local, state and national level and the human capital that these institutions possess. He finds the UFP to be a very promising program to gain experience and skills to engage with the major challenge of urban transition in India. He is particularly interested in understanding our institutional structure, as rooted in the constitution and the possible reforms that would enable them to function effectively under a dynamic environment while leveraging the resources and expertise in civil society and in citizens themselves. He is also curious to learn how policy decisions made by the government impacts the lives of people on the ground, and in the potential of our cities to effect social change. As a Bangalorean who has witnessed the city’s environment deteriorate under the crushing demands of economic growth, he would also like to contribute towards finding sustainable solutions to our urban problems.
Originally from Bangalore, Pranav moved to Mumbai to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from St. Xavier’s College. While in Mumbai, he took a keen interest in issues concerning urban development and human rights having been strongly influenced by the Ambedkarite movement in the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra. In college, he took up projects concerning the urban poor in the Greater Mumbai region and also took to teaching underprivileged children. On graduating, Pranav received the Abdul Ansari Memorial Prize for ranking first in the Bachelor’s of Journalism program, and was further selected for a yearlong exchange program at the Paris School of International Affairs in France. While in Paris, he broadly focused on human rights issues in the European context and was influenced by the ideas of European anti-racism movements as well as his professors like Christophe Jaffrelot and David Rieff. A journalist at heart, Pranav has previously worked with The Hindu and The Hindustan Times in Bangalore. He is fluent in English, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam, and is currently pursuing an advanced level in French. He wishes to further his understanding of development practice to sensitize and sharpen his writing and scholarship from a feminist and anti-caste perspective.
Priyanka comes from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. She completed her Bachelor’s in Engineering from the Institute of Engineering and Technology, Indore 2014. Priyanka chose to work in the social sector instead of the private sector, as she believes that this would be far more fulfilling for her. She has most recently worked as an IRC coordinator at Samhita Community Development Services in Bhopal, funded by UNDP. This project gave her an opportunity to work with people living in several slums in Bhopal and understand their background and daily challenges like education, livelihoods, and access to basic amenities. Priyanka’s role model is her mother. She believes in learning from people and circumstances at every step of her life. Her biggest strength is her positive attitude towards life.
Pushkal Shivam graduated with an Integrated Masters in Development Studies from IIT-Madras. He is mainly interested in urban transformation. His current research interests concern the politics of land, infrastructure and how they intersect with sacred spaces and has published his work in Economic and Political Weekly, The Hindu and The Times of India. As part of his most recent project, he is looking at the occupancy of ‘public land’ in the context of acute acquisition for industrial purposes. In his earlier role as a journalist, he mobilized the Right to Information Act in his reportage on urban politics. He has worked with organizations such as The Hindu and Transparency International.
Sai Ratna Chaitanya Gurugubelli
Sai Ratna Chaitanya graduated as an architect in 2015 from S.V.C.A Hyderabad. He worked as a Junior Architect with a design firm in Bangalore where he was part of teams working on preparing station accessibility plans for two metro stations in Bangalore, and vision documents for two prospective smart cities in Tamil Nadu. He also worked on small competitions where the team looked at place-making possibilities in the neighborhood of Domlur in Bangalore. Along with a few other regular contributors he writes on “loveofz”, a blog dedicated to the bus based public transport scene in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. He is currently working with the Hyderabad Urban Lab on a project to make sense of public transit data in Hyderabad.
Saubhagya belongs to a farmer family from a foothill hamlet in the central Himalayas. After studying at a residential school in Nainital, he completed a Bachelor’s in Architecture from Dehradun. He received professional training at Anangpur Building Centre, Faridabad (NCR) and Mozaic Design, Goa, where he was introduced to urban development methodologies. He has been practicing in the remote Himalayas, where his interests lie in issues relating to Ghost Villages and the migration/reverse-migration extensively happening in the central Himalayan region. Other than this, Saubhagya has been a part of developing AI & 3D for various computer games, with a special interest in the development of artificially intelligent frameworks. He is also an amateur documentary filmmaker. He finds the methodologies and ideas of modern India by Laurie Baker as one of his inspirations and influences, which, he believes, if combined with modern day technologies would definitely be a step forward towards building resilience.
Sindhuja is an architect based in Chennai. Her inclination to study and work on urban issues started during her undergraduate degree through her dissertation research on design as a mitigation tool for disaster-struck cities/towns, and also when she worked closely with a fishing community in North Chennai as part of her thesis. After her graduation, she volunteered in post- earthquake rehabilitation projects in Nepal such as transitional shelters and schools for remote villages. She has been working with Triple’O’studio in Chennai on a range of projects including the redesign of an iconic road junction, conducting heritage walks as part of conservation measures under “Houses of Mylapore”, and pro-bono projects such as redevelopment of government schools & village housing with the NGO ‘Bhoomika Trust’. She has also volunteered with the NGO ‘Make A Difference’ to create equitable outcomes for shelter home children. Her research interests lie in architecture, urban design & planning as key instruments to deal with environment, economic, and social challenges, leading to urban resiliency. She believes the approach to such complex problems is by harnessing the uniqueness of a community and moving towards “working with communities”, rather than “working for communities”.
Sonal is from in Delhi, and her higher education has been multidisciplinary in nature. During her Master’s in Development Studies, her internship and dissertation were based in Jharkhand, where she studied the mining induced displacement of Adivasis. In addition to urban displacement and resettlement, she has also found herself intrigued by surrogacy from a feminist advocacy standpoint. Her interests lie in environmental issues and international relations.
Sushil Kumar Bhagvanta Prasad
Sushil is from a small village in the Bhadohi (Sant Ravidas Nagar) district of Uttar Pradesh but has spent most of his childhood in a slum in Santa Cruz, Mumbai. He has completed a Bachelor’s degree in Media Studies from Allahabad University, a post-graduate diploma in advertising and public relations from IIMC, New Delhi and a certificate course in Health Journalism from UNICEF. He has interned as a reporter with Fast News in Allahabad, and with Scoopwhoop Media as a content writer.
The experience of growing up in a Mumbai slum shaped the questions he would like to deal with as part of the UFP: issues of urban sanitation and equitable access to housing. He is also interested in exploring the larger issues surrounding rural depopulation and the integration of rural migrants into the urban economy.
Swapnil is from Nagpur, Maharashtra and he has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History from Nagpur University. He has also developed a profound interest in politics, philosophy and religion. His social background and experiences helped him understand how the social structure of Indian society is deeply embedded in the power relations between caste, class and gender. His Master’s degree from TISS provided an opportunity to understand society holistically and supplemented his empirical knowledge with theoretical understanding. For his Master’s thesis, he worked on the issue of “Equity in 24/7 Urban water system at Nagpur” in the light of caste, class and gender. After graduation, he worked as a Programme Officer at National University Student Skill development programme (NUSSD), a TISS project. Both his study and work experiences have cultivated a deep interest in understanding urban issues especially policies and programmes regarding water sector and education.
A life-long nomad, Swati has lived and studied in half a dozen states of India and has been fortunate enough to travel through over a dozen others. As an undergraduate student, she studied Political Science at University of Delhi and was enthralled by the concept of city-states and Janapadas in Western and Indian Political Thought, respectively. This fascination was given a meaningful direction through her Master’s programme in Urban Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics. Her degree equipped her with a deep and critical understanding of different images of the city, but equally focused on everyday urban processes in the form of urban street cultures, aesthetics and architecture, violence and contested spaces, networks and neighbourhoods. This subsequently led her to undertake two short-term research projects where she carried out field-based interviews and surveys in a group. While one paper showed how poetry slam as an emerging urban phenomenon in Delhi captures an important social and political aspect of urban life, the other studied the complex landscape of Chandni Chowk as complex texts with meanings and tropes embedded in the process of naming of streets. Through the fellowship, she hopes to be able to put to use sociological thinking in creating livable and equitable cities.
Syeda Arshiya Sultana
Syeda Arshiya is from Hyderabad, where she finished her undergraduate degree in Architecture. She worked for almost 3 years before pursuing a postgraduate degree in Urban Design from SPA, Delhi. After returning to Hyderabad she worked in collaboration with architect-designers and independently on projects. She was also a visiting faculty for the Urban Design Studio at an architecture school for two semesters. She has a keen interest in learning about the city as it is understood through different fields. Her research interest includes the evolution of urban forms, and spatial inequalities.
TejInder is from Bathinda in Punjab. His research interests lie in the areas of culture, heritage and politics. He has had a range of work experiences from that of a trainee architect to managing electoral campaigns, participating in Model UN conferences, and documenting and archiving contemporary issues. In 2013, he worked for formulating the cultural heritage policy for the state of Punjab as part of a UNESCO initiative as well as for the Cultural Heritage Management & Tourism Development Plan for the Mughal Imperial Highway and The Grand Trunk Road in Punjab. TejInder recently covered Gaurav Gogoi’s electoral Campaign for the Assam elections and was also associated with covering the Occupy UGC movement. He played a pivotal role in the photo documentation of Swaraj Abhiyaan’s Jai Kisaan Andolan. Believing in the power of photographs, he has always been keen on using his skills as a photographer to reflect on society and has held several exhibitions as well. He is currently working to establish an artist’s residency in his village to bridge the gap between urbanisation and the culture of the people.
Vineet is from Dhanbad, Jharkhand. Despite his family’s hostility to the social sciences and humanities, he went on to complete his BA from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Tuljapur. While studying at TISS he had the opportunity to engage with varied disciplines like economics, political science, and research methods, through which he developed a keen interest on urbanization. His research and internship experiences were crucial in shaping his understanding of subject areas. His dissertation on “Urbanization of Jharia” under the supervision of Prof. Abdul Shaban helped him to understand the relationship between urbanization and the presence of natural resources like coal. This research also gave him an understanding of how a parallel economy functions in a region, and how illegal activities fuel local employment, giving him the much-needed skill to connect theoretical ideas to practical, real-life issues.