“Now it is all integrated, my work and my life,” Mannan Gupta told me. “What do you mean?” I asked him. In response, he spoke these words, touching a common core somewhere: “When I was working at a technology company as a newly-minted engineer, fresh out of college, I felt my personality had split into two. I was someone else at work. My interests and personality were irrelevant during office. I had a good package, but I felt numb.”
I first met 26-year-old Mannan at the Social Media for Empowerment (SM4E) award ceremony organised by the Digital Empowerment Foundation in Delhi this year. Along with Asha Gond, a 12-year-old Gond adivasi child from Janwaar, near Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, and Ulrike Reinhard, the German founder of the Janwaar Castle project, Mannan was here to receive an award for promoting social change through skateboarding in the ‘community mobilisation’ category. During a round-table discussion where the nominees and award-winners shared details of their work and dreams, Asha revealed she was on her way to London for a month where her hosts had volunteered to teach her English. Asha is the first adivasi child from her village to travel abroad.