Hi guys, My name is Archana. I am transitioning into the field of design from a career in the technology industry as a software engineer. In my essay, I have essentially written about the phases of my life in India- how I have come to develop a passion for design and what I am looking to learn at the graduate program. Any pointers and feedback to help me improve will be highly appreciated. Thanks!
I have always been a storyteller. I believe that everything around us has a story to tell. From the screen that I am typing into, which has undergone a series of transformations to be part of a shiny laptop to the coffee on my left, the brewed beans of which were perhaps collected by a young girl working at a plantation instead of being at school - a misfortune experienced by several girls in my country. This is a story about the three phases of my life that have defined who I am and my inspiration to study <program> at <School>
I was born into a traditional south Indian family. Like most south Indian families, dance, yoga and music are part of growing up. It is almost like a curriculum to be followed. It is believed to help the child develop acumen and composure on entering the real world as an adult. I learnt Bharatanatyam, a traditional Indian dance form and Carnatic classical music for nine years. Bharatanatyam (Bha - emotion, ra- music, ta- rhythm and natyam-dance), a form of Indian Classical dance that evolved in the 19th century AD, has always been close to my heart. It usually starts with a prayer and tells stories about love or the longing for a lover with a lot of grace, poise and sculpturesque poses. Carnatic music is a divine, ancient form of music that is believed to unite the body, mind and soul. Growing up performing narratives of ancient India, through these art forms, gave me the opportunity to understand, appreciate and spread the culture of that era. It was through these art forms, I began volunteering with a non-governmental organization called youth for seva (service) scripting street plays and musicals for underprivileged children and young adults to spread awareness about child labor, education for women, AIDS, girl child infanticide -series of stubborn tribulations affecting India today. This experience kindled my passion for communication through art as I recognized the power of storytelling to make a meaningful impact that could propagate the right ideologies.
I feel privileged to be born into a family that understands the importance of education and despite their limited earnings, my parents supported me through it. They also respected my opinion and encouraged me to take my own decisions. This is not common for a young girl in India. Being born into a middle-income family, taking up arts professionally was not an option for me. This was in early 2000, during which time India went through a transformation through the technology boom with many well-paying jobs for computer science graduates. I enrolled into Manipal Institute of technology, one of the prestigious universities in southern India. At University, I earned an internship at VMware where my tryst with technology began. I realized how pervasive technology (computer, internet etc.) could be and the role it can play for any cause to have a global impact. VMware also gave me the financial freedom to travel across the country to present my work as a musician. My claim to fame is the two-minute humiliation telecast on national television on Indian Idol, where, in short, the judge asked me to pursue music full time and not as a hobby. Although that moment bruised my ego, the bigger lesson I learnt was that I was having a tough time juggling between my two passions - music and technology. I had to find a middle ground and this quest lead me to the third phase of my life.
India being the 10th largest economy in the world serves as a great paradox as it houses 40% of the world's poor, largest number of female feticides in the world and the literacy rate of women is a mere 24.8%. Atrocities towards the girl child came as a stark reality to me while working with Youth for seva, where I discovered the ill fate meted out to girl children. Girls born into low income families are usually murdered, abandoned or sold (eventually trafficked to cities where they end up in flesh trade), as she becomes a liability due to the common practice of dowry which is prevalent in several parts of India. This is the patent reality of one of the fastest growing nations in the world. The root cause for these practices is the lack of education and the growing apathy of the government to address these issues. I believe there is an urgent need to transform the methods of education and find better use of technology to empower the underprivileged.
India passed the Right to education (for all) Act in 2009 through which the government hopes to achieve one of the Millennium development goals, postulated by the United Nations, to eradicate illiteracy by the year 2015. Although there are established policies and financial resources have been earmarked, there is an urgent need for systems and processes to improve access to information or unit level implementation or monitoring and evaluation. In addition, there is a wide gap between the government, the educational institutions and underprivileged families. I want to use art, technology and social media to establish effective communication processes to bridge this gap.
To enable myself to engage my passion for art and technology in a meaningful way, I enrolled in an art institute to learn the tools needed for effective visual communication. Actively working on the issues such as waste segregation, recycle and disposal and energy efficient product labeling through social media has given me the opportunity to interact with the government officials and local citizens.
At <SCHOOL>, I am primarily interested in the social design program. The courses at <SCHOOL> like design culture, visual communication and image etc. will be useful in developing a prototype model for an effective visual communication program which could be incorporated on field in India.
The model will establish a communication experience that makes a positive social impact engaging visual, interactive and behavioral designs in the field of elementary education. This will take into account the ground realities of things that can work and that don't. I aim to build a replicable and scalable model, which makes an attempt to improve the Human Development Index of India by engaging principles of sustainable practices. The model could serve as a prototype, which is easy to use and economical to develop, to design programs on different social issues affecting India.