Crossing over …

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost


This Jan 27th, it will be 9 years since I wrote that resignation email, and more importantly sent it out, with mixed emotions – couple of doubts, some hindrance, all of it overrriden by a lot of hope, and the urge to give more time to the society.

It was not an easy decision, but I just made it very quick, thanks especially to Su, and a couple of friends, who made it easy to do so. We had just spent the Republic Day volunteeering, and watching movies like LOC Kargil, Swades, which probably made it easier to shoot out that email, without any more thought.

Working in the development sector was considered to be something you did post retirment, if you couldn’t handle the ‘stress’ in the IT world, or if you just wanted to do something lighter! Most of us fall into none of those categories.  Let’s just say that we found something we loved more, and which required more of our time.

Anyway, this post is for a couple of folks who ask me what does crossing over look/ feel like. I will try and answer a few of those questions as briefly as possible. 🙂

Again, I am not saying that my way is the highway! No! We all play different roles for the society, and each of them are as important as the other, as long as we give back in whatever way we can, and so desire.  Only, it’s great that this path has evolved much more now, and people are more open to explore opportunities and choose this alternate career path, if I may call it that. 🙂

Just linking a few earlier posts, in case someone wants to go through those train of thoughts along the journey: 

I had blogged my experiences on my last day at work (in the IT world)! I cried my heart out. 

My experiences two months hence. 

More a journey of self-transformation. 

Coming back to the present, here we go:

What to expect?

Move into unknown/ unexplored territory – Even after all these years, we learn and are surpised by so many things. It’s new, fresh, challenging, interesting, and much more. Be ready for the roller-coaster ride. 🙂 It’s a vast landscape afterall! 

Lifestyle changes – Does it call for lifestyle changes? Ofcourse it does! Starting from the simple thing that weekends are very different – direct welfare like taking care of children/ elderly, distributing food can’t stop on weekends, and most working people prefer (rather have to) to volunteer/ give time on weekends only, when it comes to projects like cleanathons etc…

Also, it does call for some altruism. You still can strike that perfect work-life balance as they call it, so no worries. It’s just different, but you will work it out. 

Do some perks vanish – Ofcourse they do! But you stop paying heed in some time. 

I am worried!

What will the work be like? – Depends on the kind of role you take up (Direct Welfare, Collaboration, Systemic Change, so on), and the area you choose to work in (Education, Health, Elder care, Veteran welfare, Children and women support, etc..). In summary, it’s different, but also making use of all those skills you learnt. Yes, it needs the professional touch of the outside world, but also needs you to explore and experiment it’s applicability – not one size fits all, or plug-and-play.

What will people say? – This is one of the most common questions, worries, but also the one we need to pay least attention to. More than me, my parents faced this oh so much! Like choosing to be different was a sin. However, people sometimes are also genuinely interested in knowing since it’s not very common. Take time to tell them in brief and invite them to visit and see for themselves. 

What would be different?

Work environment, infrastructure with make shift facilities and shared resources, less support staff in most of the cases, this is how it is. Though I have heard and seen a few,  large organizations on par with the external world. We are here to craft change, and it begins with us. This never proves to be a deterrent; only takes some time to get used to.

Very many stakeholders – You are meeting a school teacher one day, the Block Education Officer the next, some large-hearted philanthropist on another. 

No/ little benchmarking and standards – Evolving, remember? Though it’s much better than a decade ago. 

Pay Structure 🙂

What does it take?

No stress, but ofcourse hardwork – Very common question. There’s ofcourse no stress, unless you yield to difference in circumstances. But there is ofcourse loads of work, contrary to usual belief. You are trying to change the society, the nation, the world, one step at a time. 🙂

Openness to learn – sometimes people younger than you, those at the grassroots (may not be as educated as we are as per societal norms, but are the best at what they do!)

Willingness to unlearn – Most important. 🙂 

Passion – This underlies it all. You will do it! 🙂

Why crossover?

Circle of concern to circle of influence – What’s that one thing/ one cause which appeals to you the most, and would love to contribute to?

Act and not crib – I have realized that cribbing drains us out, leaves us so full of pessimism. Trying to act, in whatever little way possible, leaves us rejuvenated and optimistic about the future.

In essence, change starts with just giving whatever time/ skills/ talent/ resources we could give, and not necessarily take the plunge full-time. So, any of the above should apply to volunteering too, and I have seem many people being great at it!  Just know that there is an option to choose the same as your full-time commitment, giving you more time and mindspace to invest. 🙂 

These are just my personal experiences, and in no way decisive statements. As a 20-something, I did not really make a very well-informed decision. It was more or almost fully from the heart. I do understand and agree that it takes more to take that decision much later in life, being prepared for all our commitments.

What kind of roles can we look at?

PR & Communications 

Organization Strategy

Project Management

Program design

Research and Resource Development

Monitoring and Evaluation

and many more.

Errr … money matters?

Ofcourse! There are now some experienced people who have done it personally, and can help you. Do consider:
our current commitments – EMIs, insurance etc….
Savings and major future commitments – Children’s education etc..
Investments to sustain your current/ closer to current lifestyle 

I truly wished there were more people we could talk to, experiences that we could read, to brainstorm and deep dive to find answers to the What, Why and the How too! Hence an attempt at this post. 🙂

“I know, and know for sure, that great things are done only by great sacrifices. I know for certain that India requires the sacrifice of her highest and best, and I sincerely hope that it will be your good fortune to be one of them.” – Swami Vivekananda


  1. Thank you for sharing this Swaram. It has come at a very very serendipitous moment for me. I am not making a switch but I am looking at an active role to play – moving to circle of influence. I had something going on in Singapore that I derived immense satisfaction from but it took me a year in the UK to start. But I also want to be more purposeful and organised and walk in informed with an understanding of how my efforts (if any) will contribute. Whether they are meaningful and how can I know? What is a place and purpose I want to invest time in. I want to know as much as I can being fully aware, I will still learn my lessons. Your experiences will be very helpful to people like me. It takes a certain generosity and dedication to share all this – thank you 🙂


    1. I am so glad. I was not sure of writing this out, or rather if anyone will read, but putting things down gives me clarity more than anything else, and so decided to do it.

      Good luck with everything, piyu. 🙂 That you are asking yourself the right questions is a huge score! Thank you for sharing this here. 🙂


  2. Thank you very much for posting this Swaram ! It gives a broad insight about Seva to me. I hopped over the links and read the article on Hyderabad rural schools and I was so touched by the hard-work and concern of the teachers in rural schools. It was very inspiring. We need a lot more people to consider Seva not only for the country’s sake, but for their own sake. Nothing can match the joy of selfless giving. Indeed, it is the highest form of religion and it releases the bondage of karma as you are not attached too much to the fruits of the effort ! Truly admire your courage to make the jump and it is truly worth the journey!


    1. Am so happy about the heartfelt comments you all are leaving on this post. So true about the karma thing – exactly why we are incorporating something called a Karma Profile in the Social Service app we are currently developing. Thank you for validating our thoughts and views. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 9 years!! I’ve been privy to little snippets that you share every now and then and am in awe of the places you’re going…literally!! 😀 (when i spoke to Uma a couple of months ago, we were joking about how you are in a different place every other day! of course we spoke about you!!)
    Coming to this post – good one…i’m sure it will help provide clarity to folks who are considering seva – full time or even part time..


  4. Awesome post! I have seen the transition and couldn’t be more proud! 🙂
    I was thinking of doing a similar post – about transitioning from working to stay-at-home to working again… your post is giving me ideas! 😀


    1. Awesome! Looking forward to reading your’s. We do need to talk about all kinds of transitions, and accept them as the norm. 🙂

      And the blog world was a part of the support system, so thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You have already begun the journey. 🙂 Am looking forward to the Nagapattinam project kicking off. LOL at Saravanan talking to RajeshJi all the time, and thinking that it was VijayJi. 😀


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