There is no such thing as a normal day for Sudhi Kaushik. One day, he’ll be organizing a protest, the next he’ll be organizing content for an online literary magazine. In fact, the only static element of his daily schedule begins at 11 p.m., when he starts placing calls to run his nonprofit organization halfway around the world in India.
From talking to him, it’s hard to tell that Kaushik has founded several nonprofit organizations, created a newspaper distributed among public school children in India and just finished production of a documentary set to premiere at the New York Indian Film Festival. The Gallatin junior is from Birmingham, Alabama, enjoys sweet coffee drinks and says he imagines his life as a sequence of Bollywood music numbers. But more than anything else, Kaushik is driven by the desire to improve the lives of others.
CAS junior Danish Aamir, who co-founded a South Asian literary magazine called Qissa Bazaar with Kaushik, said that while his resume and accomplishments might make him seem unapproachable, he actually found him to be very down to earth.
“The Sudhi that you meet in person will never talk about [his achievements],” Aamir said. “He wouldn’t talk about it in person just in case on the off chance he comes off as full of himself or proud or arrogant.”
His first experience in the nonprofit sector was in high school when he founded LoveLiveHope, a small nonprofit that provided people in India three meals for every dollar donated. Originally a pre-med student, Kaushik spent two years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham before being drawn to NYU’s international relations program.
“I decided I wanted to do more policy work,” Kaushik said. “I was more interested in the upliftment of society rather than individuals. There are themes across the world where you see a lot of societies whether it’s caste, creed, race, culture that are completely undermined by their state government or powerful actors and those are the people that I want to help.”
During his last year at University of Alabama, Kaushik pitched an idea for a new nonprofit called Equality Initiative to Clinton Global University. Instead of dealing with food insecurity like he did with LoveLiveHope, Kaushik focused his attention to education and illiteracy in India.
“There was a huge distance problem, there was a huge need for community based education rather than going somewhere,” Kaushik said. “So people would have to travel a kilometer or two, people weren’t comfortable sending their children there. So what we decided to do is completely change the system — send the teacher to the students.”
Equality Initiative, or EqIn, was showcased at CGU last year and has since taught more than 500 students in rural communities in India. The program sponsors teachers who go directly to the communities and teach English, math and a local language to children and adults alike.
“The idea is not to give them an Ivy League education,” Kaushik said. “It’s basically to raise their standard of living. People have come in earning less than 75 cents a day and they graduate through taking two or three months of classes.”
That same year, he also founded the Maverick, a free newspaper distributed to public school students that gave them access to a basic English language newspaper with local and global current events.
For EqIn, each night, teachers and local managers report back to Kaushik, hence the late night phone calls and text messages. Each teacher is given a photo-capable cell phone and takes a picture each class to mark attendance and to help Kaushik track data such as gender ratios among students. Although the work is ultimately rewarding, he admits that the workload of being a full-time student and running EqIn from another country can be straining.
“There are a lot of things that you have to sacrifice,” Kaushik said. “It’s not my work, it’s not my ambition, it’s the simple idea of being there for someone that takes priority over a social scene, over going to a party.“
CAS junior Simran Parmar, who is on the Multifaith Advisory Council alongside Kaushik, said his passion for human rights is always apparent, even when he doesn’t set out to be an activist.
“When I first met Sudhi in Abu Dhabi, he would randomly approach local migrant workers and greet them with a warm smile and speak to them in their native languages,” Parmar said. “While the rest of us on the trip were obsessing over the country’s luxuries, Sudhi was genuinely interested in trying to learn about the working conditions in the country.”
Although it might be easy to put Kaushik up on a pedestal for his altruism, he constantly stresses that he is simply doing what makes him happy.
“If I see that I have the potential and ability to help, there’s no goddamn way I’m not going to do so, whether [it’s] sacrificing my grades — which I have, [or] whether [it’s] sacrificing my social life — which I have,” Kaushik said. “But that’s what gives me joy, and I enjoy what I’m doing right now.”
Read about more of this year’s Up-and-Comers here.