India is a young nation and that is without argument our biggest strength. This is a sentiment that is echoed by many, by political parties across the board, by the business community, by society in general. Question is, are we preparing this gigantic youth-force in the correct manner?

When I interact with students, kids, children of all ages, from primary school through to college; and I can speak with some authority at least in terms of upper middle to the well-to-do in urban centers – I find very few young people sensitive, aware, and engaged with society. Sure there’s the natural counter to this, why should kids be bothered with the harsh realities of the world and of life.. let kids be kids.. But my contention is that a young child, though needs to be protected from some disturbing truths about the world (terrorism for example) that might scar and disillusion him/her at a tender age; unless we inculcate some kind of basic morality and sensitivity in our children, how will they grow up to be aware of the things that matter, when they do come of age?

I am disenchanted with the way we are bringing up our youth. Fierce competition, one-upping each other, an unnecessarily tech-heavy and dependent age; with the essence of self-respect, self-discovery, awareness and regard for society, species, gender, people and planet, almost completely missing.

While most schools and educational institutions do espouse certain ideals, they tend to be perfunctory parts of the curriculum. A school I was teaching at was organizing an ‘environment’ festival in their Primary Sections. I was asked to make short videos about what the children had researched on various pressing climatic matters. I was worried when I learned through the course of my interaction with the various students, that they had merely ‘rutted’ up a text provided by the class teacher and spewed it on camera. They had NO idea what they were on about!

In my own modest way, I try to sensitize the youth at every opportunity I get. Be it through my Writing Workshops and Classes or my Identity Enhancement Sessions, or through my column ‘A Word To The Wise’ in the Times Of India’s NIE (Newspaper In Education); my own hidden agenda is to build an environment where students don’t feel the peer-pressure to be ‘cool’, which in my view is the biggest impediment to them being open to self-discovery and true learning. I use short films, stories from my own life, examples from my own experiences to tell them, in a funny and engaging way, about what all is wrong in and with the world today. To love animals, to be themselves, to not be wasteful, to respect the differently abled, to love every gender, to protect and nurture the environment…

I am happy to share that just yesterday I was asked to become a Member of the Executive Board of the Jaipur Youth Festival. The JYF, a young and enthusiastic platform that is led entirely by college students aims to mobilize the youth of India and engage them in an action-oriented dialogue on several pressing issues of the world. I am excited to do my part now in this forum. Because ultimately, if the young wake up to these realities and develop a permanent and emotionally perceptive approach to life, only then would we have prepared our nation’s youth to be FULLY able, and to make this world a better, safer, happier, more harmonious place.

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