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BITSAA Makes Dreams Happen - Alumnus BITS Pilani Proud to be BITSian Divya Nawale Antarctic Odyssey
Some of the greatest stories of modern exploration are those of attempts to reach the White Continent and South Pole which is an incredible journey that few have had the privilege to experience.
Divya Nawale's story starts in the Lecture Theater Complex (LTC) that opened in Pilani in 2003. She was a part of the first ever batch to experience sitting in those large gallery classrooms! However, she was a lost soul at BITS. She didn't want to do engineering but ended up at the then top ranking institute in the country for mechanical engineering somehow. Yet, going to Pilani has also been her life's biggest blessing. She is indeed proud to be a BITSian and it has been her identity no matter where in the world she has been.
It was at BITS Pilani that she found her greatest passion for dancing as a Dance clubber and her biggest mission in life- to help make the world a better place, while working with the construction workers and teaching the local kids through the on-campus clubs like the National Service Scheme (NSS) and My India (later re-named to Nirmaan). She learnt more about practicing resilience, building self-esteem, developing confidence, and making real friends than she ever did in her entire life.
It was her third year at Pilani during 2006, when one of the alumni SJR Silver jubilee Reunions that brought back alumni from different parts of the world to their Alma mater 25 years later, took place on campus. On a fine Sunday morning, she went to attend a guest lecture in the LTC of a particular alumnus who was visiting for his reunion, Mr. K.C. Ramakrishnan of the 1976 batch, who worked for BHEL and had been on a mission to Antarctica testing non-conventional energy sources (solar panels!!) at the Indian polar station Dakshin Gangotri, carrying out research there in 1988.
That presentation inspired her to write down three dreams for life: to visit Antarctica someday, to work for renewable energy / sustainability to make the world a better place, and come back to Pilani someday with an inspiring story like that during her silver jubilee reunion.
She just didn't know that one of those dreams would come true only 3 years later in November of 2009. In the summer of that year, she was working on a story for publicizing the global event called 'Earth Hour' in The Hindu new paper Young World section, as a freelance features editor. During her research, she stumbled upon the website 2041 dot com which looked too good to be true.She applied and she got selected. Sir Robert Swan OBE, who is the first person in history to walk unassisted to both the South and North Poles and the Guinness record holder of this feat, somehow thought that a young 22-year old girl from India had the potential to change the world.
While BITS made her dream this dream, it was the indomitable BITS Alumni Association BITSAA who helped her make this dream truly come true! Earlier that year, she had helped BITSAA with a bit of media and outreach for the projects they were working on (again this was for The Hindu; some of these articles are available online). When she had to raise funds for her own expedition, she wondered if BITSAA would help her as a recent graduate.
Divya got in touch with Mr. Viggy Mokkarala, who was the Chapter leader for BITSAA Silicon Valley chapter back then. She had worked with closely over the summer for the outreach bit so she hoped that Viggy would see she was credible enough and that she imbibed the "Never Say Die" BITSian spirit. He immediately agreed to help and in coordination with Mr. Kartik Bandhuvula who was the Fundraising coordinator for BITSAA back then, she was provided funds to travel to Antarctica (covering my flights, gear and insurance). Dream no. 1 achieved.
Going to Antarctica changed her life. She came back with the clear purpose and idea to work in the sustainability space and embrace eco-friendly living. While she already knew she wanted this, the expedition gave her a sense of direction and provided her with resources and a network. She was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, to engage with 2041 Foundation in 2010/11 and got the opportunity to work for them in India for multiple projects.
Once again, BITSAA recognized this during 2012 in the form of a 30-Under-30 Award for Divya Nawale under the category "Social Entrepreneurship and community building". This way she kept pursuing relentlessly for Dream no. 2, which she continues to do today and is her life's mission.
In 2014, a version of dream no. 3 came true when BITSAA approached her again- this time to speak and share her Antarctic story at the BGM BITSAA Global Meet taking place at the BITS Hyderabad campus. Dream no.3 will become a true reality when she goes back to Pilani for her silver jubilee reunion.
Divya's inspiring story deserves to be published as a book and hence it is befitting that this newswire appears on 23 Apr 2018 which coincides with World Book & Copyright Day
For more details see https://www.bitsaa.org/
Prof BR Natarajan, BITS Pilani Alumnus
Pilani Rajasthan India 333031