Madhu Sarin, one of this year’s honorary graduates, received an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law for her work in the field of development, specialising in poverty alleviation, housing and natural resource management. She has helped write many papers for the Development School here at UEA and has been a leading figure in the drafting and application of legislation in India, notably the Forest Rights Act of 2006. I am lucky enough to have been able to interview this remarkable woman after her graduation, so I took the opportunity to ask both personal questions, and questions that would inspire students. 

When asked about the inspiration and reasoning behind going into her field of work, Sarin strongly advocated that her desire to work has a deeper meaning, beyond simply following a career in what could have been a closed off industry, with little external and true worldly benefit. Sarin graduated from Punjab University in Chandigarh with a degree in Architecture, which could have led her in multiple directions in the field. Instead of designing buildings with little impact, Sarin directed her attention towards designing affordable housing which would improve the lives of many in India, especially those in poverty. 

Obviously, having inspired a lot of change over her career, I was keen to find out how young people could go about inspiring change themselves from Sarin who has done just that. Sarin believes that an awareness of one’s own context is critical, and we should all have an enhanced sensitivity to this. The issues we then decide require change or reform, will be easier having experienced them ourselves; therefore, we can apply more passion to the change we are trying to enforce. 

Lastly, Sarin’s main piece of advice to any graduate, whether having just graduated or due to graduate next year, like myself, is to “keep your mind open”. Sarin emphasises the potential importance of impulse decisions or drastic changes; as our choices and circumstances lead to the discovery of new directions, and paths previously unavailable or not considered by us. Madhu Sarin is an incredible woman who has a lot of valuable things to say and knowledge to share, and, naturally, I left this interview feeling immensely inspired.