We are, We aren’t… The Youth of the Nation

“Hesitating to act because the whole vision might not be achieved or because others do not yet share it is an attitude that hinders progress.” – Ashutosh Gowarikar
When the Mumbai terror attacks happened, there were varying degrees of stunned disbelief, absolute fear and helplessness on the streets as the 62 hour battle ensued. In Pune, I noticed the people walk a little straighter, ready to run; a little sharper, watching every deserted car; and a little paler, wondering what’s next. The carnage took 183 innocent lives; foreigners and Indians. But somewhere amongst the bloodshed, the youth of the nation came together and said, “Enough!” It’s been almost two months now and the noise has already died down.


I remember my friends from college sitting together at the canteen after college every day long before 26/11, talking about everything ranging from pre-marital sex, HIV/AIDS and movies to the economy, politics and law. Some of the views that were brought to light, made me think who said ours is the generation of fast food and fast bucks? These guys are all geniuses who haven’t been given their due.


“The Government has no right to dictate what goes on inside our bedrooms. Down with 377 – it’s such a medieval law anyway!” “Why do all the contraceptives advertisements that come on televisions talk about prevention of HIV/AIDS, but there is no sex education in the school curriculum?” “If half of India doesn’t know how to count beyond four, why is education up to class eight or ten not made compulsory?”


Our cutting edge technology ensures that we can access global news in a matter of a few clicks. Our awareness of the world means that we can form a well rounded opinion on the matters plaguing humanity today. The fact that we think differently and at least ten steps ahead, tells me that if we channel our efforts in the right direction, we can change how this country functions.


In a country with almost 40 percent of its people between the ages of 15-35 years, how many of us have foisted off our problems on the system? How many of us have said that one person isn’t enough to change a thing? How many of us have actually registered ourselves to vote?


Talking about the system, the politicians ensure that the much needed changes that the people want in the governing of this country get shelved or buried under petty political games. The bureaucrats and red tape ensure that even the simplest things take months to get done. Sure, a passport might take anywhere between a month and a year and a half to reach you. A voters ID might take longer. But is it right to just give up and blame the system?


I walked out of the Pune airport a few months back and watched the crowd around baggage claim move aside in a hurry, as a man wearing a black t-shirt with “HIV Positive” emblazoned in bright red, bold lettering across his chest strode ahead to collect his luggage. Is it really true that one man/woman cannot make a difference?


I sat in a class while a guest lecturer raged around us about a lack of civil responsibility; someone protested about generalising but when asked, how many of us had voters ID cards. No one raised their hands. Not even me. And I thought to myself, do we really care?


Hard on the heels of that thought came “How long before we stop living in denial of how much power we hold in our hands?”


The break-neck pace of life today and the rat race that we are all caught up in ensures that we grow up before our time and provide our characters with an edge of cynicism. It’s very easy to lose focus of what’s important and concentrate on the foreign-degree and money-minting MNC managerial job. We want all the privileges of youth, but what happens to the duties that come with it? We need to look beyond finding the easiest way out, instead of sitting and complaining.


The youth – people like you and me – have tremendous potential which we need to utilize. We need to become a part of politics and be willing to get our hands dirty, to be able to clean up the system. Join the IAS. Start a youth party at the local level and start campaigning through the local dailies and magazines. Sign up with NGO’s and research Government programmes and volunteer for drives against illiteracy, child labour, HIV/AIDS, etc. Report any illegal or unethical activity at Government offices and police stations to the media, if nothing else. Use the Right to Information Act to its full advantage. If we’ve given up on the Government, why not do something simple like voting and have our say? There are so many ways in which we can make a dent in what happens in this country. It’s always the first step of the journey that is the hardest.


So when do we decide that we will be the change and make ourselves count? The time is now and it is running out on us. What are we going to do about it?

Manita Deo

[Image source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelhays/1606105753/]