“If You Really Want Something, Then It’s Achievable”

Devi Nair is a Veterinary Doctor, based in London. While London is her home currently, she sees herself more as a citizen of the world, having been born in India, brought up in South Africa, and having lived in the UK for the last 14 years. For her, it is vital to work in a capacity where she can positively make a difference in this world, while also challenging herself personally, hence her career choices in the medical sciences, and now also in International Development. Devi Nair's mentor is John Kittmer.

Q: Tell us a few things about your country, and also your life's story! 

A: So I will say a few thing about my countries!!!  I live London, a fantastic, vibrant and cosmopolitan city, but I grew up in South Africa, which is an interesting, beautiful and multicultural country. I was however born in India, which I have visited a few times. India is complex, but at the same time fascinating, beautiful, and diverse, with much cultural and spiritual heritage. So I am now pretty multinational, with an Indian, South African and British citizenship! 

I moved to the UK for my undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in the magical Scottish capital. I have since worked all over the UK, but have been settled in London for the last 8 years. I am now completing my masters in Development Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science, which I am doing alongside my job as a veterinary doctor.

Q: What is your view of the world as it is today? And how do you define the concept of a better world?

A: The world has improved in several ways over time, we are more aware, and moving towards a more equal world. However there is still a long way to go, and I keep striving to contribute towards making this a more compassionate, kind, and equal world for all the living beings in it. Respect, kindness and compassion is key, and if everyone did their bit, this world would be a much better place already.

Q: What are some of the key challenges in your society?

A: Being more aware, and not so self-centered is increasingly difficult in modern western society. Awareness is the key to bringing about social change.

Q: As a woman what are a few of the hurdles that you had to overcome up until today?

A: I grew up in a traditional society, so I resented some of the restrictions put upon me. I do feel that women have more restrictions placed upon them in all societies, however in some places much worse than others. It is also often so ingrained that it can be difficult to appreciate these restrictions and barriers. However things are changing for the better, and I hope this continues until we have a truly equal and free society without gender bias.

Q: Why is the role of a mentor important for you?

A: It is helpful to talk to someone with more and different life experiences, which can help me navigate the path ahead. It is also always valuable to learn from others, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there, which we are lucky to receive, and equally, share with others.

Q: Do you have a lesson that life has taught you and you would like to share?

A: Never give up, if you think you can do something, and you really want it, then it's achievable. 

It was deemed impossible for someone from high school in South Africa to get into an undergraduate degree in the UK, especially for veterinary medicine, in one of the most prestigious universities in the UK. But I had a dream and I persevered despite a few rejections, and I was then the first person from abroad (without A levels) to get admission into veterinary medicine at Edinburgh, moreover, I got direct entry into 3rd year, which had never been done before. I never gave up and got to live my dream. Know your strengths, work on them and believe in yourself, also take feedback from others and use them positively to better yourself.

Q: Name a project, a foundation or a person in your country that you think is doing great work in helping improve other people's lives!

A: I got a scholarship from the Ackerman foundation in South Africa, which helped me cover some of my university fees at Edinburgh. Without this scholarship, I wouldn't have been able to realise my dream. This foundation helps many deserving and talented students from South Africa, as well as undertaking many more charitable deeds.

Q: Share with us a phrase, a poem or a story that you love or you find interesting!

A: 1.) "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated" - Mahatma Gandhi

2.) "If you think we can't change the world. It just means you're not one of those who will" - Jacque Fresco

3.) Ahimsa: (in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist tradition) - the principle of nonviolence toward all living beings.

Q: Tell us one thing that you have learned from your mentor.  

A: That it’s ok not to know exactly what you want to do, or should do. This is the case for many people, even highly successful people like himself. Like me, he had many interests and abilities,  and life led him down many different paths, with interesting and fulfilling career choices along the way. He also recommended the book: "Strengths Finder", which was very useful.