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Lets show some love

She loves to design cities

Simran Bansal is in love with cities and its design, but that does not mean she is not aware of what lies behind the facade of those big cities. Her heart beats for under-privileged kids and she does whatever it takes to find, harness and nurture them. Here she tells about urban designing, her experience in Zurich and her favorite Indian city.

It is not unusual to have your family choose your career path and brim you with their whimsical wishes many times. And, I was no different. Coming back home one day, I was asked to enroll in IIT-JEE coaching to pursue my career as an Engineer. My rejection to do the same stunned my family members and I must admit it was not a good place to be in. Being taunted for my choice of profession, and the low society set success rate further strengthened their argument with me. But I had to speak up. It was my life, and not theirs, to plan. It was hence against them that I pursued my dream and did not let go of my passion at any point. But, five years of bachelor life set in four walls was not challenging enough for me, and this pushed me to take up summer and winter internships in various offices. Although the tedious schedule was on the cards for most of my graduate life, it brimmed me with dreams for a successful future and fuelled my actions.

Finally completing my graduation, I was never so excited than that day to step into my first workplace- work as a professional. Struggle for the first job is indeed a template journey of most of the youths, but one thing to always remember is why you started. Nonetheless, this journey would not have been the way it is if not for my mother, and her strong support, which did craft me into a respectable, compassionate and committed human being!

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Albeit it may come across as sexist, but the field was and sadly currently is majorly male-dominated and it was not a cakewalk to set my mark. My job in India, for 3 long years did sharpen all my skills and pushed me into deep waters at every stage. The project I was enrolled in, won many national awards, which motivated me further. And it was posted working for 3 years in India, that I longed for an international experience and learn about different cultures and communities. Enrolling in ETH Zürich for Masters in urban design was, in fact, one of my finest decisions in life and this did change my life for the best. It was during this journey, that I participated in international competitions, and won accolades. After completion of my masters, I started yet another job hunt, this time in Zürich.

It was honestly easier thought than done, but I was not someone who would step back, after placing my eye on the goal. After two months of rigorous struggle and constant debates with family and friends, I finally got my job offer from an office in Zürich. While it is important to make your mark in the professional world, it is crucial to not turn into a rat in this race and keep the human in you alive. It was this emotion, which mobilized my idea of mentoring underprivileged kids in the country and together with my colleague, we started "The Human Bridge". This undeniably makes sure that while I am soaring high to reach the stars, I have a firm foot on the ground and to give back to society, in the best possible way.

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Tell us more about The Human Bridge project?

The Human Bridge project works on mentoring and guiding under-privileged kids in our country and being there for them through their sensitive phase changes in life. At Human Bridge Project, we believe that with the right guidance and support, no matter what background one has, he or she can achieve great heights.

You have written that you want to give something back to society. Yet is there any trigger for you to start such a project? Any personal experience?

Being brought up by a single parent myself, I found myself questioning the society-set standard of a family. And it was during that stage in my life, I was always taught to look at my silver lining and feel blessed. My mother was always around me, thanks to digital connectivity. And I have made sure, no matter what, I always felt blessed and gave back to society within my best limits. However, this project was conceptualized when I was unable to connect to my mother and realized the importance of having at least one person in your life one can look up to and discuss important matters. At one such occasion, waiting at the traffic signal, I looked around the number of helpless children begging, it filled me up with thoughts that who do these children have. This is when I wrote down this programme, where underprivileged kids would have access to at least one mentor who knows them and is there to support them.

Amid your hectic schedule, how do you devote time to such humanitarian projects? Also the finances?

Hectic schedule is inevitable, in these days of the rat race. But, I believe that as long as one has the will to do it, time can always be made. It is not about how much you contribute, but about contributing how much you can. Luckily, when the project had commenced, my co-founder and I, had enough finances for keeping this going. At times, we do reach out to our friends who assist us.

How has been your Zurich experience? Looking back how do you evaluate your international experience?

Zürich experience has been extremely diverse and an eye-opener. It is after coming here that I have begun to respect Indian culture more than ever. Also, communicating with professionals from different system of thoughts and learning about them is something I believe would be my major takeaway.

Tell us about your Masters in Urban Design? For an aspirant, what are the other similar courses you suggest? In India too?

The program I was enrolled in was one of a kind and was designed around getting practical exposure. Therefore, for each semester, a unique city was chosen with urban issue(s) and we stayed there for a week. Interacting with locals, bureaucrats, government officials and planners gave us deep insights and helped us give great solutions to address urban problems. In India we have similar degree programs, albeit the course structure is different. It is up to the individual to study not just about the university but also the course structure before finalizing the program they would like to pursue.

Your favorite designer/architect whose works you look up to?

Le Corbusier is the planner I look up to and his famous work we all in India have heard or experienced is Chandigarh city planning.

You must have been travelling and which city do you think is well designed. Cities that left you charmed.

According to me, a well-designed city is one where citizens are happy and feel safe. Also, one where traveling from one corner of the city to the other should not be a hassle. Keeping this in mind, I look up to the planning of many European cities: Barcelona, Zürich, Vienna. Also, from India, Chandigarh.

Finally, five habits of yours you are really proud of...

    I think looking at the silver lining in every situation is the habit I am proud of.
    Amongst others, it would be balancing personal and work life no matter the amount of stress on work front, ample physical exercise even it just means walking for 30 minutes a day, not being stuck to mobile screen for more than a certain time in a day and the fifth one would be always available for a person in need, and keep the humanity alive.
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