Selfless Service: Lifelong Learning
Ranjodh Singh was always passionate about medicine, but it wasn't until he spent the year after college working at Mazil, a youth empowerment and learning center in India, that he became committed to it.
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As an Indicorps fellow, Singh, 24, worked with children in New Delhi where he experienced first-hand how vital basic human needs — food, shelter, clean water, education — are to maintaining a standard of health.
"I kept coming back to the idea that health is the central component," he said. "If you have malnourished children coming to a school, they aren't going to get educated. Their primary motive is to get food. They don't care about what you're going to teach them until you maintain a certain standard of health."
It was there that he understood the concept of public service on a personal level, and is now pursuing a commitment to live a life of public service as a first-year student at Weill Cornell Medical College.
|Weill Cornell Medical College first-year student Ranjodh Singh
Photo credit: Carlos Rene Perez
But as much as his experience in India merged his passion for medicine with a higher sense of commitment, it was Singh's mother who planted in him the seed of selfless service.
Born and raised in Punjab, India until he was 7-years-old, Singh watched his mother anchor their family during his father's struggles with bipolar disorder.
"Her commitment to our family in a very unconditional, selfless way planted the seed of service in me — though I didn't realize it until much later," he said.
Singh's mother also provided support to the homeless and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community — people who had been marginalized and discriminated against in India and who needed a safe place to go.
When the Singh family moved to the United States in 1997, to a mostly Caucasian community, it was they who became marginalized.
"There was a lot of racial discrimination," Singh said. "My brother wears a turban, my family is very traditional, so it was very tough. I always had a conflict with my Indian identity. It was something that, even though I embraced, I really pushed aside, because it was something that got me made fun of in school, got me bullied."
After he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where he majored in neuroscience, history and philosophy of science, he decided to tackle his identity issues and pursue an Indicorps fellowship.
"The experience was so profound that, rather than going with the idea of ‘helping others,' I think I really kind of began to understand myself, dig deeper within myself and begin on a journey of reflection," he said.
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others," he added, quoting Gandhi. "Through this experience, I was really able to go into myself — to lose myself in order to find myself."
His journey of reflection continues in New York City now, as he finds his voice in pursuit of selfless service and lifelong learning.