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Our Alumnus Arvinn E. Gadgil – Director of Partnerships and Policy, Norwegian Refugee Council

23rd Dec 2014 by admin - , (1) Comment

Arvinn E. Gadgil

“Whenever I meet fellow UWC Mahindra College alumni, we talk about how the experience may have shaped us. These chats are always fun, enlightening and reassuring. It seems to me however, that whoever I talk with, we always come up with the same set of conclusions. First, the experience was intense, and it touched and rocked the core of who we were – and who we are. Second, there is no point in trying to pinpoint how UWCMC affected us. The ways and profoundness of it varies greatly from person to person. Third, despite the fact that the experience actually meant very different things to different people, there is a bond that – perhaps bizarrely- is extremely strong. There was something uniting about those years on the hill, even though when summing it up individually, the narratives are very different.

For me, the two years on the hill put me on a path. I wouldn´t say a *specific* path, but a path nevertheless. I emerged, first devastated at the thought of living life without my friends, but at the same time in constant search for something equally good and meaningful. I chose to study Economics – purely because i was so inspired by my excellent UWC Mahindra College teacher, Aseem Shrivastava. And I chose to go to universities which offered an international crowd – again to find some sort of commonality with the hill. As the years went by, and I cannot pinpoint when exactly, I started to realise that of course there is not going to be another UWCMC experience.  But there were so many other ones to be had that could be equally good and inspiring. It was not that I let go of UWC Mahindra College as a reference point, it was rather that I decided to make my life exciting – not make the context of my life the determinant of whether I was excited! That´s when things sped up.

I have already had a wonderful career, within the NGO-sector, civil service, diplomacy and politics. It is almost frightening to look back, and then reminding myself that I am only 34 – it has only been 15 years since I left UWC Mahindra College. What has motivated my choices throughout was an idea that was present in me before UWCMC, but that UWCMC helped me place at the centre of my vision of how my life should be lived. The idea is – social justice is achievable.

After 15 years of charging ahead with this idea in mind, I am now taking a small break. My previous job was to be a Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway – in fact, I was the youngest ever Deputy Minister. It was an extremely intense job – and so infinitely privileged. I travelled all the time, and had a toolbox to ensure social justice, that I could only dream of 15 years ago. I met world leaders, and grassroot activist – every day. It was exhilarating. When I left the job at the end of 2013, I was overloaded with extraordinary job-offers. Anything from being an Assistant Secretary General at the United Nations to challenging leadership positions in the private sector. I could have chosen any of those paths and contented on the hectic quest. But I chose otherwise.

I believe that you can have careers, or careers can have you. If you keep charging ahead, you risk being “had”. Not stopping to breathe, reconnect and regroup your thoughts will at some point make you a constant runner, and in the end you collapse with exhaustion. I decided to stop and breathe. At the moment I am writing this while my 8 month old son, Edvin, is sleeping in the baby cot beside me. He is my job now. I have dedicated 6 months of my life to be a full-time dad. It is perhaps the most challenging job I have ever had, but it is truly inspiring. In a different way.

UWC Mahindra College taught me to value the warmth between humans. It also taught me that this warmth does not just appear, it requires effort. It requires presence, patience and willingness to let yourself be absorbed in others. I think my latest choice to be a full time dad was made possible partly because of this very important lesson from the hill. Whatever will happen after these 6 months? I learnt at UWC Mahindra College never to underestimate chance – so I will not guess. However what I do know is that the choice that I will make next in my life is in some way different to what it would have been had I never spent two years on the hill. The imprint of that experience is soul-deep.”

–  Arvinn E. Gadgil (Class of ‘99)


One thought on “Our Alumnus Arvinn E. Gadgil – Director of Partnerships and Policy, Norwegian Refugee Council”

  1. Aimable

    6:35PM on 3rd Jan 2015

    Well said Arvinn. Enjoy the 6 months.

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