It’s been three weeks since I officially finished my six weeks of Youth for Sewa. And what a six weeks it’s been! Two days after I finished YFS I headed to Nagpur for a two week varg (camp). I could go on for hours about all the inspiring, hardworking karyakartas I’ve met, about the wonderful girls from the vastis who have made me feel like part of their own family and about the overall experience of being in Bharat.
Living the Bharatiya (Indian) lifestyle for six weeks has been many thing – fun, exciting, comforting, eye-opening, at times challenging and many more. Of course I’ve loved and cherished every moment of it, but undoubtedly I have come across situations which have led me to have a deep think about our society and its people.
There is an idea that I have come across and fully adopted it into my personal philosophy which I think is very pertinent. The idea is this – as long as basic attitudes and mind-sets don’t change, it will be impossible to effect change in society. Money, facilities and schemes are completely futile if the accompanying mind-set of the individual who is given all of these things is not correct. Hence, working at grassroots levels to develop future samaj karyakartas (workers of the society) is so important. If their characters and mind-sets are developed in such a way that they have their citizens’ and nation’s best interest at heart then there’s no limit to the issues we can solve in Bharat.
Ultimately if the people who we provide these facilities to do not care to use them then it will be a) a waste of money and resources and b) it won’t have resolved anything. People’s mind-sets, in Bharat especially, need to slowly change. I’ll give you two obvious examples of this.
- One evening I was on my way back from the Surajya office. When the auto rickshaw was stopped at the traffic light I noticed a highly amusing yet ultimately saddening sight. There are many public toilet facilities dotted around in Bharat on the roadside. A man was relieving himself outside on a wall. The wall was of a public toilet facility. Now at first sight it was perhaps slightly amusing, one of those classic “only in India” moments. But as I pondered on it more and more, it really frustrated me. The toilets were no more than two metres away from the guy, it would have taken him approximately five more seconds to relieve himself in the urinals there. But no. He chose specifically to urinate outside, despite having the knowledge that the toilets were right there.
- Whilst Modi’s Swacch Bharat campaign (which is still relatively new) has definitely gone a long way in reducing the amount of rubbish around, it’s still a highly prevalent problem. There have been many occasions when people around me have ignored the very nearby rubbish bin and just thrown their litter on the floor. The classic line “people will never change, it’s not worth the hassle” is an excuse thrown around to justify degrading our land.
Whilst these may seem like trivial things, when 1.3 billion people do them it’s far from trivial. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that people simply don’t care. They don’t care that their actions have wider consequences. They don’t care that their actions are influencing the next generation to make the same mistakes. As the two examples I outlined above show (especially the first one) it’s not a lack of money or facilities that’s necessarily the problem. Of course many suffer from poverty and lack of basic amenities and that’s a problem that needs to be addressed too. But all the money and facilities in the world won’t solve the issue of apathetic individuals.
To come up with a solution to this is tough. This isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s a way of life that’s existed for generations. We the samaj karyakartas can’t backslide into throwing around the ubiquitous phrase “people won’t change, it’s not worth the hassle”. It’s absolutely worth the hassle. Anything that uplifts a person, a community, a society, a nation, is worth the hassle. A good place to start when tackling this problem is the new generation. It has been evident through my work here in Pune that with every new generation comes a new more open minded attitude. Women who I spoke to around ages 30 – 35 who themselves have children up to aged 17 or 18 are so radically different in their approach to their children than their parents were to them. Many of them were just about allowed an education till the age of 14 then it was straight off to be married. Now those very women whose education was cut short too soon are insistent that their daughters obtain an education at least till the age of 18 and then marriage will come after. Already the change is in motion. That which was difficult to achieve with one generation can manifest itself in the next.
Hence youth leadership activities and activities in that realm that teach kids to be on the right path, to be responsible, organised, compassionate, respectful, hard-working and unwavering in their determination to make a change for the better, are so crucial. Such initiatives are being readily taken in many schools and youth groups here in Bharat, which is very promising.
Inculcating such values goes a huge way in creating an aware and determined generation, a generation with a mind-set that understands the need for change to start from the individual. A generation that doesn’t take each other, their community, their society, their nation or the earth for granted. The only way to develop a society is to develop one’s own mind set beforehand.