The 5th Space


As we move into the second phase of unManifesto, a program designed to create India’s first youth powered manifesto, with a coalition of over 30 NGOs, we want to know from you the top 3 promises out of the following 10 that came out as the premier demands of young people in the first phase of the unManifesto program (here’s a look at phase 1).

Your promises that you vote for here will be presented to an audience and panel of some of India’s most prominent decision makers and leaders at the India Non Fiction Festival, being organized on the 30th of November and the 1st of December, with speakers such as Rajmohan Gandhi, Gen. V.P. Malik, Indrajit Hazra among many others (see full speaker list here).

Select any three promises below, which you think are a priority for you, and hit the vote button now! Be bold, stay real!

The unManifesto campaign was led by ComMutiny Youth Collective, in collaboration with Youth Ki Awaaz and the following organizations: Kaivalya Education Foundation, Patang, Pravah Jaipur Inititaive, ALFA, Audacious Dreams, Milaan, Bosco Inst 1, Bosco Inst 2, SEEDS, Pravah Anhad, Saher, Yeh Ek Soch Foundation, Synergy Sansthan, Pravah Delhi, Youth Alliance, Ekta Parishad, Jagori, Lalit, Bharat Calling, Pranthakatha, BASF, Sauhard, Reap Benefit, Agrini, Diksha Foundation, Pravah Pahal, Kat-Katha, Satark Nagarik Sanghatan, Halabol, GotStared.At, Vishwa Yuvak Kendra, WNTA, PRS


By Pooja Malhotra:

Today’s generation of youth has an unprecedented potential to improve the well-being of the entire human family. Yet with growing rates of youth unemployment, finding fulfilling work is the toughest challenge that young people, all around the globe, are facing. Thus, an estimated 27 million young people worldwide, including many who are highly educated, often migrate in search of better opportunities, better education and a better way of life. A large number of these young migrants have no immediate prospects and often land up in unacceptable situations and run the risk of exploitation, abuse & discrimination.


In recognition of the issues that are affecting our young population, the UN has designated 12th August as International Youth Day and this year’s theme was declared as Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward. The reason behind the theme is easy to understand -the idea is to support the 27 million young brave-hearts, who muster up the courage to leave their family & friends behind, and move to a new country in search for newer avenues.

Given the scarcity of employment opportunities, higher youth unemployment shouldn’t come as a surprise; neither should higher immigration rates. Youth unemployment in India, like most countries, has consistently been above the national average. In fact recent figures indicate that youth unemployment is soaring and is now virtually 50% more than the national average. The latest World Development Report by the World Bank states that India’s youth unemployment – as a percentage of the youth work force – was 9.9% for males and 11.3% for females in 2010.

The focus on youth migration is bound to increase awareness of opportunities as well as the associated risks of migration. This in-turn will help young people to make the right choice and take a well-informed decision to successfully resolve the issue of unemployment. However, in my opinion, encouraging young people to shift base to a new country in search of work may not be a long term solution.

Our governing bodies, institutions and organizations, need to fore-see the long term repercussions of this ongoing ‘brain drain’ of young talent. It could exacerbate to further talent shortage in our country and thus, hamper our economic growth. I strongly believe that employers, government, educators and young people need to work together to create a sustainable talent pipeline.

On the occasion of International Youth Day, let us all urge our government and our businesses & educational institutions to focus on working together to address youth unemployment. Let us take collaborative actions to help change the employment landscape for our youth. Living and working in another country can provide fantastic opportunities, better lifestyle and experiential learning for a young person. At the same time it also exposes us to greater risks, including racism, abuse, xenophobia, discrimination and human rights violations. So in order to make a real and lasting impact in addressing youth unemployment, we must look at the systemic issues causing joblessness and address these at country level. Without urgent measures, we risk creating a “lost generation” of squandered talent and dreams.

Young men and women are not passive beneficiaries; we are equal and effective partners.

Is it possible to change the employment landscape of our country, without being uprooted from our motherland?

Is it possible to develop ourselves as responsible participants in democracy?

Can the upcoming elections be seen as a space or young people to engage meaningfully and build themselves while engaging in nation building?

How can we make this happen?

On behalf of ComMutiny – the Youth Collective and Pravah, we are happy to invite you for My Space: My Unmanifesto — An event being held on 19th August, 2013, Monday from 5:00 PM to 8:30 PM at Vishwa Yuva Kendra, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi.

The event is aimed at bringing together facilitators/educationalists/professionals working with young people to bring their experiences and engage in a dialogue with them.

Through workshops and online dialogues that were initiated in an event in Feb, 2013, we have been collecting thousands of voices of young people. They have spoken clearly and emphatically about what they would like political parties to promise in the coming Delhi elections and next year in the Lok Sabha elections if they want to secure their votes.

I take this opportunity to invite all of you to be the real voice in shaping the policies that shape our lives. It’s time our political leaders listen to us and engage with us, young people. The time has come to integrate youth voices more meaningfully into decision-making processes at all levels… on various issues — corruption, women’s safety, education system, poverty…and many more. For creating a more effective and stronger mechanism let us all get together and ensure that our voice is heard!

You can determine whether the upcoming election takes us towards a greater peril or a brighter tomorrow!

vox pop

It’s always easy to judge, blame and form opinions, but is that all what is required to bring about a change? Is corruption really a synonym to Politics?

In this Vox pop, ‘Known But Untold‘ let’s see what Jaipur youth has to say about Politics. Young Facilitators Shivangi and Gaurav, who are currently working with Pravah Jaipur Initiative-a youth development organization, have tried to demystify the perception which young people have about Politics.

“My Space: My Unmanifesto” campaign is a process that can become a metaphor for youth to learn about and participate actively in all the chapters of the political process, a way of experiencing the entire book of democracy and be politically active throughout the year and not only on the day of election.

politics for money

By Shivangi Dadhich:

It was so interesting to hear Meenakshi, a 33-year-old currently working with young people saying, how boring and monotonous life would become if there wasn’t an age interval of 18-25. It would be equal to not living but only imagining about-a great amount of first time experiences, energy, risk, freshness, vulnerability, vigour and spirit. Though these distinct traits of youth could be boon as well as bane for the society, isn’t it?

Also in an enriching discussion with Mr. Jaibodh Pandey, a 52-year-old foreign language teacher, it was very appealing to see how realities have been changing over time. During the era of independence, aspiration of people falling in this age bracket was so different from what it is now. 1940’s was the time for everyone to achieve that one goal of making India an independent nation, and nowadays each one has got all their energies focused on individual growth and gain.

politics for money

Likewise the understanding and association of young people with governance and politics is also not the same anymore, it is a very different ball game altogether now. It would be half true to say youth does not involve in politics at all. There are different buckets that exist in the system today varying on the basis of interests, drive, situations, and backgrounds.

Amitesh, a 32-year-old film maker feels, one has to have desperate circumstances in order to feel the need of being in politics; parallels can be drawn with Naxalism wherein the urge to fight comes from a very personal space. In the same pace, Pragya, a 20-year-old aspiring CA says, today’s youth is occupied in enriching their job profiles/career and hence there is no time for getting involved in politics.

It wouldn’t be correct to generalize that urban youth is either ignorant or indifferent towards Politics. Rohitash, a graduate from Hans Raj College, DU sees himself as a known politician 5 years from now. The interesting fact here is the driving force behind this involvement…which he says is the excitement of having power and lots of money.

It’s funny to see how there is a vicious circle that goes about in the system. It is felt that we can’t change things unless we have the power, and history reveals that absolute power corrupts absolutely, so where is that gap? And going forward, where is that lever?

By now we must’ve understood that the argument is not only about whether youth should be given that space/opportunity of getting involved in politics or not (as this won’t solve the purpose, individual interests would continue to prevail) but it’s about how to build that ownership, and social bent of mind-set so that they start participating actively from current positions in order to achieve the bigger intent of win-win solutions. The difference can only be brought when the focus shifts from grabbing position and perks for personal interests to the holistic progress (overall development).

In this context, Ashish, 23-year-old suggested and implied the fact that there needs to be enough open forums wherein discussions, asking questions and challenging stories are the very basis. This will help unravel the truth and create understanding about systems not merely at the surface level but somewhere closer to reality. It’s high time we start looking beyond the information which media splashes.

Also, when I came across Noam Chomsky’s quote-“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within the spectrum”, I strongly felt that there is a need to do something even bigger and deeper.

The 5th space-which facilitate young people to expand beyond the typical 4 spaces of career-education, family, friends and leisure by exploring a journey from self to society and back… calls for a need.
Need to develop the buy-in towards social and political system through education,
Need to reflect and ask questions not just at the level of society but also at self,
Need to participate proactively and consciously, rather than waiting for the 5 years tenure to end,
Need to leave behind the individualistic approach and look at the invisible interdependence,

In a nutshell, need to restructure the social DNA, as 5th space makes the other 4 really count.

Pericles rightly quoted “Just because you do not take interest in politics, does not mean politics won’t take interest in you”. So, let’s not allow our ignorance to become someone else’s power.


By Pooja Malhotra:

The political season has arrived and political parties in our country are gearing up to adorn the ‘janta ka neta’ cap again. Soon party manifestos aimed at impressing the aam adami will be announced and election campaigns will begin, when party candidates (with a ‘clean’ public image) will finally pay a visit to their respective constituencies.


Some of us define politics as ‘active engagement with government and the policy making process of the country’. Others call it ‘the ability to influence the decision of a group or organization’ with words like ‘tactful’, ‘shrewd’ or ‘manipulative’ thrown in for good measure! As silent spectators, we try to decipher the relevance of all the various platforms and so-called ‘promises’ of our netas in our lives, but how many of us have ever considered ourselves to be “politicians”?

Unless most of us have been living in seclusion during our lifetime, we have consciously or unconsciously been actively involved in politics in our everyday lives. In my opinion, we are all politicians actively playing our ‘little mind games’ at our work place, with our friends and even within the confines of our own homes.

Here are some reasons that validate my opinion that ‘I am a Politician’:

1. If I’ve ever managed my relationships (at home/workplace/college) well by speaking or behaving in a manner that helps to strengthen the bond and create a better understanding or win-win dynamics, I am a politician.

2. If my sister has been denied permission to go for a vacation/ a late night party with friends, while I’ve been allowed to do the same and I choose to voice my concern & try to convince my parents to allow her as well, I am a politician.

3. If I’ve been instrumental in defusing tension or resolving conflicts that inevitably emerge in a group of people, coming from different backgrounds, different temperaments and agenda, I am a politician.

4. If I’ve underplayed my friend’s academic achievements/career developments in front of my parents and tried to save my skin, I am a politician.

5. If I work towards motivating and inspiring my colleagues with the intention of enhancing everyone’s productivity & creativity, I am a politician.

6. If I work ethically to enhance my reputation or that of my team/company/family by balancing co-operation and competition, I am a politician.

7. If my colleague is instigating my boss against me by highlighting my weaker traits and I get involved to protect my turf, I am a politician.

8. If a friend seeks my advice/opinion on a matter, and I choose to be “tactful” & not tell him/her the “real truth” because I do not wish to offend them, I am a politician.

9. If a friend asks for help and claims to be in ‘genuine trouble’, but I ‘manipulate’ the situation and give ‘genuine reasons’ for not being able to help him/ her, I am a politician.

10. If I’ve been involved in youth activities or a noble cause and tried to convince other people to support my efforts, I am a politician.

During the next few months, the media will be filled with political points made by the various candidates and the political environment of our country will be all charged up. One might consider, viewing ‘our netas’ only as “fellow politicians” who are merely announced candidates of political parties… viewing ourselves as “politicians”, whether or not we consider ourselves to be “one of them”.

And now that I can admit and acknowledge that I am a politician, I wonder why I can’t consider being more actively involved in the electoral process, to be an active ‘politician’ and help create a win-win dynamics in our country?

As Letty Cottin, rightly puts it in Family and Politics, “If the family were a boat, it would be a canoe that makes no progress unless everyone paddles”. Well, I pledge to paddle!


By Lata Jha:

Tradition binds you, spirit sets you free. In a society where norms matter tremendously, The Ocean in a Drop is a burst of questioning spirit. It introduces us to a world, possibly within ourselves, of questions, of great introspection, of analysis, of reasoning. Penned together by Ashraf Patel, Meenu Venkateswaran, Kamini Prakash and Arjun Shekhar in collaboration with Commutiny and Oxfam India, the book encourages you to find a lot of answers for yourself.

The authors, first and foremost, introduce to us the key concept of the 5th Space. Having always been confined to the tried and tested boundaries of family, friends, work and leisure, you realise that the 5th space encourages you to think beyond, learn, do and be more. The focus is on active youth citizenship, where people like us can give back to the society. This of course is also linked to the development of the self through understanding, creating meaningful relationships and being able to impact society.


Through illustrations and anecdotes, they tell us important truisms. Many of these are quite the need of the hour. For instance, there is the description of the archaic concept of the classroom. And the fact that parents should look beyond these conventions and also encourage their children to find their own voice away from these spaces.

Then there is the call for youth leadership. Only 6.3% of the Lok Sabha today is composed of people between the ages of 25 and 40, whereas 50% of our population belongs to that age category. Somewhere in scoffing at people who don’t understand the needs and concerns of our generation, we’ve forgotten our own responsibilities towards the nation. We don’t need to literally take to active politics to make a difference, there is a lot we can do through civil society, by taking a stand on issues that bother us, by resisting and protesting.

A very interesting part of the book is the description of some major youth organisations across the country. These are inspirational in their working and goals, and a must read for the youth who hope to make their voice and presence count.

The book ends with some remarkably detailed, concise and concrete points. The last chapter lists actual design principles to create a dynamic 5th space in our lives. It makes you feel like you can do it, these are simple long term goals you just need to set for yourself.

The Ocean in a Drop, is quite literally a drop in the ocean of efforts a lot of us are making towards awakening the youth and helping them feel empowered. Let’s just hope it counts.


By Pooja Malhotra:

Some find it murky; others call it a mystery…
Some feel it’s synonymous with scandals; others think it’s all about power…
Some call it corrupt; others call it democratic…
Some strongly believe that it’s for oldies; others feel there’s no room for the young.

Yes, you guessed right — we’re talking about Politics – the one word that evokes such varied responses that we, at 5th Space (an initiative by Pravah and Community Youth Collective), were curious to unravel as to what comes to your mind when you see/read the word politics. Most people don’t seem to have a great view of ‘Politics’, so we invited young people to share their views and how it was formed — was it through personal experiences or are we getting swayed by the media perception?

Ambika Puri, a young participant, feels that politics definitely is a word she’d love to ignore because it’s one thing she hates. She says, “Politics is actually suppose to be good for the country, but sadly the opposite happens in India.


On the same note, Shreyanjana Bhattacherjee believes that politicians are a group of power hungry folks engaging in a battle of elimination where loss of a way of life or ‘life’ itself are just another form of ‘collateral damage‘. Harsh Gupta agrees, “Politics is a system…a system with power, power to rule…rule to suppress. Most Political leaders in India, with their cunning methods have surpassed every limit. As a result young people in India have developed an indifference to politics resulting in further prejudices; we choose to contempt by ignoring it.” The egalitarian view shared by most young people like Kais Bar and Sulochana Thapa is that politics is a loose administration run by oldies, with little or no opportunity for youth and the underprivileged. As Malavika Pavamani puts it ‘Politics is highly disconnect from issues/concerns of the people that it seeks to represent!’

Our concern over the present state of politics in our country – its tensions, disparities, absence of goodness, violations — fosters many of us with an uneasy combination of two sensations: those of urgency and powerlessness. We feel an inherent need to do something before it is too late, but we have little idea of what we as individuals, or as a family or a group of friends, could possibly do to steer the system towards a win-win dynamics.

The 5th Space tries to explore the choices we, as the youth of the country, have. It stimulates young minds to consider the options for civil society and instils the confidence that solution lies in our own hands — all we need to do is – simply rethink the choices we make on a day-to-day basis, of the ways we use our time, of the family lives we live, of the sorts of goods and services we consume, of the quality of democracy we are able to exercise. Whether our views about politics being dirty, dishonest, derailed…etc. stem from our personal experiences or have been influenced by media perceptions, the fact remains that politics shapes our daily lives and the dynamics of our political system will define the quality of our lives. The individual, the local, and the global are inextricably intertwined, in positive as well as negative ways. Passivity and indifference at the individual level contribute greatly to collective dismay at the condition of our world. With the election season round the corner, it’s time to reflect to on our values and principles and to be effectively involved in the decision-making process – exploring the power to exercise our rights and be actively involved in changing our communities for the better.


By Neeraj Toor:

The youth of this country is useless — or that’s what the ‘grown-ups‘ say. But why are the youth cynical, and uninterested? Or how about asking them why they don’t care? While we’re actually the youngest country with over 50% young people, we have the oldest cabinet in the world. Watch this fun film to understand the 5th Space, and what it takes to create such spaces for young people!

Posted by Lata Jha in Change


By Lata Jha:

Some lessons can’t be taught in those moral science classes. For those lessons, you only have life and its experiences to lean on. For everything that goes wrong today, those moral scriptures told us, we have tomorrow to bounce back with a vengeance, work on and correct them. What however we learnt all by ourselves over the course of time was that for tomorrow to be as glorious as we wished and envisioned it to be, it is today that we have in hand to take the initiative and begin working towards.

leaderEvery single day, life teaches us the importance of living in the present. Of working for the task that we have on hand today. If exams are round the corner, one needs to begin preparing today instead of wasting one’s time cribbing. If there are issues troubling us, voice needs to be raised today and now. What we have with us are only our principles, beliefs and our initiatives.
The 5th Space reiterates that very thought of foregrounding the now, not the future. Of creating leaders out of people today and not waiting for them to enlighten themselves with time.

In the context of everything going on in the country at present, the issue of foregrounding the present acquires even more relevance. The rape of the five year old is something we should immediately retaliate against, and not think about and wait for others to show us the way. It’s ridiculous to try and justify the fact that these things happen in remote, obscure parts of our cities. No, they shouldn’t be happening. We can’t let them happen. And if those we’ve elected and bestowed with the power to straighten things up can’t do so, we shouldn’t be taking it lying down. We have a system in place that isn’t held accountable enough. We have people responsible who aren’t doing their jobs well, of taking to task those people born deranged. We just need to figure out the form and pattern of our leadership and initiative. Leadership needs to be not just spirited, but also rational in seizing the moment.

Our ideas of being active participants and leaders may differ, but it is important that we act in time. You may want to be present at the ITO protests and live tweet, while I could be at a press conference. A third person might follow up on other such cases that probably haven’t garnered even a fraction of public attention. Whatever the form might be, what’s important is that we learn to act and lead today. Reaction is not what is needed, response is. Instant, active and empathetic responses. It is necessary that we ask the important, uncomfortable questions. It is necessary that we hold informed views. It is necessary that when we exercise our rights to vote next year, we do so knowing whether whom we’re reposing faith in deserve it.

Leaders aren’t born out of convenience. They are born out of initiative and spirit. The 5th Space envisions that very space where people look beyond themselves as soon as they come across issues that bother them.

The violation of our rights is just among the many things that sadden us. But it shouldn’t be that way. It should galvanize us to take a stand and demand a stop to all this. There are people who say that actions, not words matter. And instead of criticizing the country and its policies, one should grow up to do something for it. But that’s looking way too far. The country requires each one of us now, contributing in whatever little way we can. It requires a certain leadership and spirit of us. This is why we shouldn’t wait to get our degrees and have our lives in order till our conscience awakens. It has to come from us now. Change doesn’t look for the right hour or an opportune moment to manifest itself. And the time to bring about a change cannot be debated and deliberated upon. It might just be too late by then.


By Pooja Malhotra: 

One of the easily forgotten themes of debates, that have surrounded the upcoming elections, is the lack of youth participation and absence of genuine representatives in the Parliament. Indian history has witnessed many young people leading the country towards independence; both Gandhi and Nehru became politically active at a young age. However, over the last few decades, our enthusiasm seems to have been muted, arguably due to deep rooted corruption and government insensitivity towards various social issues. Although it is true that the biggest success of our democracy is attributed to its representative character, the striking absence of the youth in the political arena has been largely overlooked. A youth representation (age group 25-40 years) of only 6.3 percent in the current Lok Sabha, even though 50 percent of the population lies in that age bracket, can’t be called parliamentary presence? Can it?

The Ocean in a Drop is an attempt to explore how young people have contributed significantly to society in the past, and suggests ways in which they can take centre stage again. This recently published book on youth-centric development is creating a buzz among those working with young people. It has raised a number of questions regarding youth leadership and active citizenship and argues that the answer lies in facilitating young people to be at the forefront of nation building again. On the same note, a panel discussion is being held at Casuarine Hall, India habitat Centre, Lodhi Road on 26th April, Time: 6.30 — 8.30 PM. The discussion is an attempt to seek answers to relevant questions, including:

Why are some young people fired with passion and others remain passive?
Why do some young people take responsibility and ownership while others are disinterested and detached?
Why are some young people happy to stay in their comfort zone while others are willing to take risks?
How can we systemically instil passion, ownership and risk taking abilities in young people? Is there a way we can create such a space? Is there a method in the madness?

ocean in a drop

In my opinion, there are many factors that could have contributed to low participation by youth. There is a sense of growing alienation among young people. The scandals and scams that have hounded the political scenario of our country in the past several decades have engendered a cynicism that has led to a decrease in political interest, particularly among the nation’s young population. Youth power has been unintentionally blunted and a feeling of being politically diminished & electorally insignificant seems to have given an edge to the fulmination of our old and experienced politicos. Many of us remain passive because we feel unrepresented and are losing faith in the political system as a whole.

There exists a certain sense of reluctance – to step out of our comfort zones and bring about social transformation. This seems to have taken its toll on our willingness to participate in community projects, attend political meetings, or contact their government representatives directly. Participation has considerably reduced in terms of young people joining a political party, working on a campaign or devoting time towards a cause. How many of us have the drive or passion to form action groups, draw up petitions or create a dialogue with our representatives? Youth participation has been gradually declining and most avenues of participation are narrowing down.

Though there is a palpable sense of frustration, there are young people who undertake that journey from self to society and search for solutions. They strongly believe that the only yardstick for participation cannot be representation alone. For them it’s not about who gets elected and how, but about actions that are taken on behalf of our people and for the people. It is as if they instinctively understand that their elected representatives have no major role to play, other than smiling through billboards that greet us on festivals. The idea of actually taking a stand, fighting for a social cause and taking concrete action may be less prevalent among ‘self absorbed youth’ of our country, but there are some self motivated individuals whose passion and drive cannot be restricted by reasons. The book conveys that if we want to bring about sustainable change and create a generation of active, committed and empathetic individuals deeply connected to society we need to work with young people and build youth leadership.

Pravah and Commutiny — the Youth Collective invite you to be a part of the panel discussion on The Ocean in a Drop: Inside-Out Youth Leadership (Sage Publications, 2013). Let’s delve into how we can facilitate young people to connect with society and empower them to impact the world around them.


5th space is that part of our lives where rules are made by every individual, and not just obeyed. A space where there is equal freedom to feel and express.  It’s a space where learning becomes fun, learners become teachers, attitudes are non judgmental and reflections turn into actions. Most importantly, its a sensitive space. A space where humans are seen as fellow beings and not as strangers. A live, throbbing and creatively growing example of all this is, Manzil.

Manzil is a non-profit organization providing a community and resources for local youth from low-income backgrounds to learn, teach, be creative, and see the world in a new ways. Manzil is also a school where young people take charge of their own schooling and learning! Learning from peers is the most lucrative form of gaining knowledge. A teacher entering the class and taking a lesson without any connection to what’s actually going on in the pupils’ minds and lives is not even half as productive as a group of friends discussing the same lesson in the company of someone they trust with regards to the subject. Watch these young people in action while they make music part of their everyday life.

must bol

By Pooja Malhotra:

Commutiny — the Youth collective has been facilitating an online and offline campaign exploring the realities of how dominant gender norms create restrictive situations in our lives. Called MustBol, the campaign is a call to young people to examine violence in their lives and speak out against it. To recognize it, to talk about it and to address it.

Soumya Tejas, an active volunteer and member of the core group which co-leads MustBol, feels that the campaign has been successfully exploring and leveraging the power of social media for social change. Though it came as a shock to people around her, Soumya quit her job as a software engineer at HCL to join MustBol. Defying all norms, she has set a new stage for herself and MustBol has been the wind below her wings. She shares that she loves being a part of this collaborative and co creative space and has recently shot a short film titled ‘In The name of Love’. In a tête-à-tête with Pooja Malhotra, Soumya Tejas talks about her journey, her views and concerns, her experiences and her latest film.

must bol

PM: What is it that inspired you to be a part of the ‘Must Bol’ campaign?

ST: It was the harm our society and its values had been doing to my friends which stirred me the most. I always wanted to do something but never understood how. Then I came across the MustBol Campaign and realized that it was looking for volunteers. I simply jumped into it…didn’t even give it second thoughts before applying…and since then, there has been no looking back!

PM: Please share in detail about your journey as a MustBol volunteer.

ST: I was working as a Software Engineer when I first dropped in for a meet-up for MustBol volunteering. I have always been pretty ‘anti-system’. I hadn’t realized how I became a part of what I was against and left my passion somewhere behind.
I chose to drop my job, be a part of this journey, and simultaneously explore life and what I want to do with it.

It became a circle of great trust and self-exploration for me, especially with activities like ‘Identity mapping‘ and ‘Get Real’ at the initial stages. More than being able to open up, it was the genuine intention to deeply look into personal/individual experiences these people had had, that really attached me to this campaign. We were a group of around 30 people, 33 including our facilitators, who jot-down a list of agreements like – being non-judgmental, understanding, trusting confidentiality – for all the conversations, we would have under the MustBol umbrella.

It was beautiful to see how I was talking about things that I had earlier started hiding/stop-from-expressing to the circle that has been closest to me – my friends.
More than talking about others’ and their issues, it became a journey on talking about ‘ourselves’ and how ‘I connect to issues’.
After spending a good amount of time in exploring aspects like – power, sexuality, love relationships, we sat down and zeroed in on the issues that we want to talk about to people in our MustBol journey…issues that we could really connect with.
I had a personal connection with all the themes that we chose for our campaign. These were –
– Violence in Intimate Relationships
– Bystander intervention in sexual harassment at public places
– Communication with parents around issues of GBV (Gender-Based Violence).

PM: So how did the idea of ‘Film making’ come up?

ST: I was actively involved in the campaign and at the same time, I was also in contact with one of my friends, who was feeling a lot of pressure from her partner to exchange photographs that she did not want to. I could relate to her helplessness as well as feel the lack of places where people could talk about such things and take a stand around issues of violence/harassment in intimate relationships.
There was a need to break the taboo – where women could easily talk about their desires, their problems, and also take leadership in tackling the same. I felt that a lot of people will be able to connect to this.

And so we also started exploring ‘Film-making‘ at Must Bol. It came across to me as a very powerful tool with which we can communicate with and reach out to the public. My first film titled ‘In the name of Love’ revolves around this pressure faced by women in intimate relationships to exchange their nude photographs/videos. I, along with six other team members, made this short film wherein we wanted to convey that when you force your partner to do something that they are uncomfortable with, it is ‘violence’. I think it is very important to talk about that thin line which separates love from violence. While all this happened, film-making also clicked to me as something I felt very passionate about; adding to the content I felt while campaigning with MustBol.

PM: What else are you doing to spread the message further?

ST: Must Bol has been going to different colleges to talk about violence in intimate relationships and one of the most common question that has come out is – “How do you understand whether it is love or it has become abuse?“…. A question with which probably all of us can connect.

PM: Tell us how all this has affected you as a person.

ST: In the initial days of my college, I was very good with my verbal-communication, public dialogue, and was taking lead with a lot of things. Then I had this series of events in my life and there was a huge depression phase. With it I lost my interest, my self confidence, and that ‘charisma’ to speak out.

At MustBol when I started participating in various ‘on-ground’ activities, wherein I had to go to different places and actually speak to people and also take on active leadership; I took it as an opportunity to fight with myself and be the same person I was then. There have been instances when I did it well, other instances where I failed badly but I think if I keep trying things will eventually get better and better… The battle is still on but I think it would have been very difficult, in fact next to impossible for me to even think of it if MustBol wouldn’t have happened.

PM: How have you lived 5th space?

ST: MustBol has been that 5th space for me where I meet up with other members and can just talk about things, express myself without the sense of being judged.
Though I have been able to live a lot of it in my peer group, where I actually share a judgment-free and understanding bonding with my friends, but one difference which was very important to me was – friends tend to get biased towards you at times, because they have this soft corner for you, but in my 5th space, the views and responses were unbiased. This really helped me grow as I could realize where I was going wrong or needed to rectify myself.
In a campaign where we talk about Gender-Based Violence issues with other people, I think it is very important to first be sorted out with them in our lives. I cannot imagine how I could have done that if I wouldn’t have been living the 5th space at MustBol.
It was beautiful to look inside ourselves collectively, understand the self plus the society in a better manner, and change myself where needed.

PM: Further, how do you think we can create 5th space among family and friends?

ST: I think what we need most importantly is good communication. It all starts there.
Once we start communicating instead of hiding/suppressing how we feel about things like – what bothers me or wish things were the other way, we give the space to the other person to be able to understand and connect with us better.
It also somewhere encourages the other person to share the same with us. This is how I believe we can include a 5th space into our family and friend circles. It encourages trust in a fun, joyful, transformatory way. The culture of the 5th Space attracts young people by encouraging trust and openness and by creating opportunities for young people to take on leadership roles, so they can experiment without fear, make mistakes, and learn in the presence of experienced facilitators and supportive peers.

trust fall

Trust is a wonderful thing. It gives you more lessons than anything else in the world, some harsh, some not as much. “Trust Fall” sessions are meant to instil in young minds the ability to trust and believe, to hold on to others and make bonds. Here is a personalised account from one of the volunteers, Allison Horton.

The session was called “Trust Fall”, which was a fitting name considering I found myself standing at the edge of stacked tables, hands tied together, with instructions to fall like a log onto a row of my peers’ arms. Trust was a tall order, one I wasn’t sure I could deliver.

I have to hand it to them; Pravah has a way to shove you out of your comfort zone and create the space for some truly fun experiences. I naively thought I could sneak out of doing the Trust Fall, because I was playing the role of participant and team member during the two day “Get Real” workshop, so people presumed I had done this session before. But as the number of those who had completed their Trust Fall session increased, my confidence that I could get out of my turn decreased.

trust fall

After encouraging everyone I could to go before me, I had no option but to go and begin my own climb up the stacked structure. Surprisingly, I was not the shaky-I’m-going-to-pee-my-pants nervous. Instead my nerves decided to manifest themselves through a fearful calm, similar to when I have to rip off a band-aid. I know I’m going to have to bite the bullet and do it, but it doesn’t stop me from dreading the inevitable. So as the mountaineering man-turned facilitator was wrapping my wrists together (this is a safety precaution, so your arms don’t flail and hurt someone on the receiving/catching side, but seemed eerily more like an initial step one undergoes before facing the electric chair) I knew I was going to do it- I was going to fall backwards with a leap of faith and a spoonful of trust.

I can hardly do justice trying to describe the feelings that flowed through me as I finally did let go and trust the fall. The feelings came in stages. First there’s the most nerve-wracking moment when you have to lean back until the point where you are going to fall and you have no control over the result. Then there is that brief moment when you are letting gravity do its thing, nothing is holding you and freedom becomes an action feeling. Finally, there is the volcano eruption of relief as 15 pairs of arms catch you in the best hug possible. Sure, it wasn’t the conventional arms wrapped around you kind of hug, but I have never felt so supported than I did in that moment of being caught after my trust fall.

As I teeter tottered between wanting to cry from happiness that I actually took the plunge and came out alive, and wanting to do it all over again (instant adrenaline addiction perhaps), I finally settled with an audible ‘thank you, thank you’ to everyone who just caught me.

The list is growing each and every day here of things I never imagined I would do— fall backwards from stacked tables, participate in national TV show recordings, march with 40,000 Indians for land reforms, the list could go on and on. That’s my favourite part about travelling out of one’s comfort zone. You never know what you’re in for, but you know the process and challenges you’ll face will be life-changing. Time is flying as I am almost halfway through the fellowship and I look forward to more surprises and challenges to come.

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By Malavika Pavamani:

Grace and Jerome have been two true ambassadors of 5th Space. These two young career counselors from the Bosco Institute in Jorhat, Assam in north east India joined the Ocean in a Drop learning journey (By Pravah) in March 2012. They expected that they would get a chance to discover more about who they are, as well as equip themselves with skills to work with young people in a more effective manner. The OID journey was indeed one that touched their lives in different ways.

This journey has been wonderful for me. It has really helped to discover the person inside me. I always had the interest of knowing myself in a deeper way but I did not know what it can do and how it can let us feel in life. Being a part of this journey helped me to understand its real value and importance.


This journey has given me a piece of reality about my life which was very much needed at this point of time. It is such a huge relief keeping in touch with myself, appreciating for the good things in me and also putting more efforts in the areas in which I need to improve. ~ Grace

Had it not been for this retreat I would be satisfied with what I am. This workshop has taught me importance of self-reflection, self-realization and to share my feelings with others. This has helped me to build better relationships with the people around me. The confidence level has increased since I am now able to know my strength and weakness which add more value to the work. ~ Jerome

Grace and Jerome felt that their journey of self discovery and connecting with the self was made special as the workshop created for them a Space that was safe, collaborative, joyful, as well as open to experiment and innovation. Apart from the traditional Spaces of family, leisure, career, and friends they experienced a new dimension of 5th Space, an integral part of their life as young people.

Their role at Bosco Institute as career counselors involves working with students who engage with various communities to bring about change. Through their journey, they realized that to help the students function effectively, they should encourage the students to know themselves, their struggles and identity and then connect with the society around them. This led them to decide on conducting a three day workshop with these students to share the core learning from their 5th space journey.

In the process of creating and building an understanding of the 5th Space concept of youth development for the students, Grace and Jerome were exploring their own 5th Space too. Together with 35 students from 17 different communities, they looked within to see the depth that each of them has and how they want to take their own life forward. The session around the 5th Space made the students reflect on their own potential as agents of change.

A participant, Rebek L. Khiangte at the workshop said, “These three days’ workshop helped me to know myself better and what I want to be in the future. The workshop has given me the chance to know about others and rebuild my relationship with my classmates. I was also able to let go of my bad habits and nature which was a hindrance to my becoming a better human being.”

The most interesting experience for Grace and Jerome as facilitators of this journey for other young people was that the 5th Space was one that had organic renewal as a key principle. This meant that young people were by virtue of the diversity within them and their own uniqueness, constantly adding to the Space. The greatest challenge for them was a limited experience of the 5th Space themselves and thus limited knowledge about it. However with time they realised that it was a collective Space of sharing, trusting and creating. Thus the facilitators’ openness and trust in the process enriched the 5th Space. By the end of the workshop they were convinced that they would like to incorporate the concept of 5th Space’ in the career counseling programs with schools.

A special thanks to Grace and Jerome with support from Fr. Jerry, the Director of BI for having experienced the 5th Space, believing in and now creating ripples of it in the North East region. Since February 2013, a large graffiti board installed at the Bosco Institute serves as a 5th Space for students to express their ideas and experiences.

Photo Credit: Andrew.Beebe via Compfight cc

Posted by Lata Jha in Chai


By Lata Jha:

One of the earliest memories I have of my childhood is that of enjoying biryani and sewai at a dear Muslim friend’s place every Eid and Bakrid. Her mother, an extremely affectionate lady, would feed us both equally fondly, and I remember partaking in the ritual for close to five years. As a child, I never understood why my parents were so glad I visited her each year and how extra happy they seemed when I would narrate my stories of all that we’d done and eaten during the day. For me, she was just another friend. Over the years, we kind of drifted apart but we’ve still kept in touch. She’s also studying in Delhi, and I try and wish her on birthdays, besides every year on Eid of course.


I’m curious about how often any of us gives a thought to the friends we make. To their backgrounds and affiliations. Maybe more importantly as kids, but even as adults. Does it even cross our minds that our friends might belong to different castes, or even different religions? More often than not, no. I’d like to think that our youth is not only progressive and broad minded but also that it thinks and acts completely from the heart when it comes to matters of friendship.
For most of us, our parents taught us to make friends, based on the kind of individuals they were. And we carry that lesson ahead in life as we take the opportunity and often make an effort to interact with people of backgrounds different from ours. To share thoughts, ideas, experiences.

An important principle of the 5th Space that we cover this week is that of engaging with peers beyond borders, of culture, upbringing and norms. To connect with them and in turn, build and enhance our own skills. It is a hang out zone that does not recognise boundaries.

As cynical as we may be about the world, bonds and friendship are not something we can scoff at even today. Friendship is still for life, and I’m happy about the fact that our educational institutions offer space for us to reach out to people, make friends and in the process, build our own character. In schools and colleges, we’re encouraged to embrace and be a part of the crowd. Each one out there is worth making friends with.

Besides, a lot of institutions even partner with NGOs or take their own small initiatives to reach out to people of diverse, and often, underprivileged backgrounds. Delhi University’s National Social Service Scheme is one example. As part of my NSS, I was required to visit the area near Nizammuddin in Delhi once, and sometimes, twice each week. Interacting with the children there, I realized how there was so little, and yet, so much we shared in common. Just like me, they were basically starry eyed kids waiting to take their flight. The only difference was that while I dream of high scores and a good job, they merely hope to be able to learn to read and write to fend for themselves. I want to one day visit exotic foreign locations while they’re okay with enjoying the Monday fair.

If the proverbial horizons in life can only be discovered by losing sight of those shores, there is little we can do by staying in our comfort zones. Travel and exploration are more than just about expensive holidays. Life is a journey in every sense of the term. And it is important to allow people to enrich you with their own varied experiences. Spaces like school, college, workplaces and the entire public domain, in general, exist for people to break boundaries and stereotypes. And we’re fortunate to have come a long way, at least in some sense, from archaic notions of purity and hierarchy.

The 5th Space is essentially that, a free zone where you meet and interact with people, sans rules, restrictions and encumbrances. It reinforces the belief that friendship knows no boundaries, and it is for life.


By Pooja Malhotra: 

The educational journey for any child must include opportunities for exploring and learning through planned outdoor experiences and practical exposure. Does the current education system in our country provide creative, inspiring and enriching practical knowledge? Or does it confine a child’s world view to information offered by textbooks within the classroom? Some educators see practical work carried out by students as an essential feature of education and learning. Others however, have raised questions about its effectiveness as a teaching and learning strategy.

Arguably, our modern system of education has been quiet successful in repressing the natural energies of children because it requires them to sit still in a disciplined manner, curbing their instincts to fidget or move about and focuses them to pay attention. It is commonly believed that only maintaining such a discipline can allow you to unravel the secret held within your books; secrets that might not reward you now but will supposedly prepare you for the future world of adulthood. Most educational institutions have closed off the realm of learning through practical experience in the urgency to open up our minds to the world of books.

Though some educators feel an inherent need for nurturing curiosity, spontaneity and playfulness in students through experiential learning, in practice most schools & institutions of learning continue to prepare them for the ‘real world’ within their four walls.

Defying these norms, Adharshila Learning Centre, an alternative school, situated in a tribal village in Madhya Pradesh firmly believes that art, craft and creativity is vital to their learning curriculum. The school has 150 children of which about 70 stay on the campus. They are gaining knowledge and learning concepts through craft, organic farming, theatre, singing and more. The children are enthusiastic about participating in agitations, going to villages around the centre, writing books, documenting local history and folk literature. It is a very lively school and the most unique feature is that the children help younger children to learn. The students of this unique institution have tried to explore the effectiveness of practical work by filming a short video about what makes their school so special and then, sharing it with teachers & students belonging to schools in urban areas and analyzing their response & feedback. You too could post your comments and give your valuable feedback about this unique ‘trikon khidki wala school’ after watching this wonderful film made by the students themselves, as a part of a workshop conducted by Kavita Das Gupta.

The video documents how teachers at Adharshila focus predominantly on developing students’ substantive scientific knowledge, rather than on simply memorizing facts listed out in textbooks. The methodology practiced here facilitates understanding of scientific enquiry procedures by moving beyond the four walls that enclose the blackboard, benches & desks. Practical work has been highly effective in getting students to do what is intended with physical objects, broadening their horizon and giving them the environment to develop their own unique way of thinking. Once exposed to a certain concept, the children are then motivated to use the intended scientific ideas and reflect upon the data or knowledge that they’ve collected. The students are free to learn and they easily overcome the cognitive challenge of linking observables to ideas; tasks are rarely incorporated explicit strategies to help students make such links…The ideas simply flow in this 5th Space that has been created within a centre for learning and it is this 5th space which initiates learning through experience.

At Adharshila, one of the prime features of education that set it apart from most other schools, is that it involves practical work–activities in which students manipulate and observe real objects and materials. ‘Seeing is believing’ is considered as being central to the appeal and effectiveness of education. It helps students to develop their understanding of the subject whether it is science, mathematics or history and enables them to appreciate that the concepts that they are learning are based on evidence and logical reasoning. Students are given the opportunity to do exciting and varied experimental and investigative work.

Most students and teachers (of urban schools) who watched the film were simply touched, moved and inspired by the video. “Your concept of ‘learning by doing’ is wonderful. The students are doing things and gaining hands on experience; there’s no better way of involving children in the process of learning. In our school, we verbally teach students that ‘this is a hibiscus tree or a banyan tree and the best a child, sitting in the classroom, can do is to imagine what it would look like. Our system of education fails to impart the kind of practical knowledge that a student could gain by moving beyond that boundary”, said an experienced teacher. “According to me, the highlight of this film is that it’s not about rural children or urban students; it’s about listening to your heart and having the freedom to do what it tells you…and that calls for courage & you have shown that courage!” shared another viewer. “This is not just a film; it’s a challenge to our education system. As I see it, children at Adharshila are not taught, they are left to learn, they are contemplating what they are doing. To introduce such a concept into the system is a challenge”, said another teacher. To know more about their response, and also to share your own view point, I invite you to watch the full documentary here.

The uniqueness of this ‘trikon khiki wala school’ lies in the fact that it is laying the foundation towards being ‘self motivated individuals whose actions are guided by their inner calling and conscience, rather than by what others say or do’. It is more than just another centre for learning; it’s an experiment in education, a children’s space beyond books…a 5th Space!


By Sakhi Nitin-Anita:

While reading about the concept of the 5th space, what appealed to me most was the process of bringing the 5th space into the other four spaces of our lives. As an only child being raised by a pair of very radical and nonconformist parents, it has been interesting to realize how we have been incorporating the 5th space into our family. I call myself a ‘walk out’. ‘Walking out’ essentially is being able to critically examining the conventions of society and its institutions, and rejecting those that are oppressive or discriminating. It is also about ‘walking on’ to create more egalitarian and inclusive alternatives, be that in relationships, learning, or living.

In my family, it begins with our names. My parents have different surnames and I have a last names comprised of my parents’ first names. We want to ‘walk out’ of the two major systems of oppression in India — patriarchy and caste, and ‘walk on’ to reclaim ‘family’ as a group of individuals connected by love, trust, and shared values rather than a common-named unit headed by a patriarch male.


This ‘walking out’ and ‘walking on’ extends to the other spaces too. In school, I was a ‘model’ student who scored good marks. But there came a point where I couldn’t help wondering what the point was to study all these subjects only for an examination, after which they would be forgotten. My father is a graduate in B.Sc Statistics but couldn’t help me in my calculations of the mean, median and mode! (Not doubting his intelligence!) To delve deeper into these questions, my parents and I decided that I would ‘walk-out’ (rather than ‘drop-out’) of school and begin my own journey of discovery and learning. In school, I was a passive receiver and memorizer of textbook knowledge. Out of school, I could take full responsibility of my learning, and thus, of my life!

What does taking ownership of one’s learning entail? In school, some higher authority who doesn’t even know me, decides what I should study and when I have studied ‘enough’ to be qualified with a certificate. But once I decide to take my learning into my own hands, I decide WHAT I want to learn, HOW I want to learn it and from WHOM. And I don’t need a degree or certificate to validate that I have learnt ‘enough’, as my learning will organically manifest in my work, in my life, and in who I am.

Taking ownership also means getting to know ourselves first, and learning according to our needs and contexts. It starts by asking a simple question, “What is it that I really care about?” It might be an idea, an art, or a skill, even a question we want to find the answer to. It might not be one thing, might be ten. Start from there. I believe all of us have the potential to do something great, as long as we’re truly passionate about it. Like Rancho says in 3 idiots, “Kamyabi ke peeche mat bhago. Kabil bano… Phir kamyabi to sali jhak maar ke peeche bhagegi.” (Don’t run after success, strive for excellence in whatever you do. Success will follow.)

Another important realization for me during the process of reclaiming my learning, which is also known as ‘self-designed learning,’ by the way, has been that everything is interconnected. Hence, we are not isolated individuals in this process but rather parts of a greater ‘self’ — the community, society, and the environment. Along with exploring and understanding ourselves then, another important aspect of learning is exploring and understanding the world — this larger self — and contextualizing our learning according to its needs.

Let me share a small story about my inner and outer journey of learning. I had gone to stay in a remote village in the forests of the Gadchiroli district in Eastern Maharashtra, as part of a youth social exposure programme that I was participating in. On the last day of my visit, I witnessed an act of domestic violence in the family I was staying with, which left me feeling utterly shocked and helpless. As I said, I had been raised in a gender non-discriminatory household and had never fully comprehended the exploitation that women in realities other than mine had to face. I realised that I was a woman too, and had I been born in different circumstances than my own, I, too, would have been subjected to this kind of oppression and violence just by virtue of being born with a female body. Trying to deal with and overcome this newly articulated fear, I resolved to learn about and contribute to a movement that was making an effort to change this attitude of discrimination and violence against women. And this too, started from looking within.

Beginning with our names, patriarchy and other forms of oppression have seeped into the core of our identities and relationships. My endeavour is to ‘walk out’ of them, and invite others to ‘walk on’ along with me.


By Pooja Malhotra: 

Traditionally we have occupied four spaces that have been sanctioned to us by our elders — family, career and institution/organization, friends, leisure & lifestyle. Adults largely govern these spaces and we, the young people of society, blindly follow the rules. At this stage in our lives, most of us aspire to create spaces that we can govern; a space wherein we are empowered to take our own decisions or at least a space which has an inclusive culture, where decision-making is a consensual process — a 5th Space!

Participating in workshops at Pravah and attending college at Jamia, gave Bidhan Singh Chandra a fresh perspective and he found himself relearning what society had taught him since childhood. His ‘self quest’ led him to reflect on ‘is this really my own view point or have I been conditioned, by my parents & schooling, to think this way?’

A 5th Space journey takes us through an understanding from what we know to what we don’t — exploring to understand ourselves better and discovering our true identities more than anything else. In the context of growing emphasis on individuality and differentiation, self exploration has arguably gained great importance.

When Chandra began his 5th space journey, he was a quiet person who chose to remain silent. He was grappled with a fear of ridicule and his fears were not completely unfounded. He felt that if he were to start speaking, people would know the background that he came from; they would know that he couldn’t even speak fluent Hindi. And then somewhere along the way, he discovered his true calling – theatre — a space that converted his silence into a fearless voice. From being a silent spectator to performing and singing folk songs in 12 Indian languages, Bidhan Singh Chandra has definitely come a long way. Embarking on a new ‘fearless’ journey, he has now been working with Greenpeace India for the last twelve years and has even been selected for Greenpeace’s future leadership program 2013-14 amongst 15 participants globally.

Similarly, IP Singh, who enrolled into the SMILE (Students Mobilization Initiative for Learning through Exposure) program in 1998, loved his experience because it provided him with the space to be himself and do what he wanted to do. He felt as if someone had stamped his passport with an entry that read ‘for any country, no visa required’. This new found freedom of thought, expression and action was so empowering for him that he longer desired to be manipulated like a ‘puppet’ in the hands of others. In fact, on his exposure trip to Tilonia, Rajasthan, he chose to be a puppeteer himself and joined the Communication Research Team of puppeteers. On returning to Delhi, IP knew he had found his true passion — Puppets! Today he firmly believes that life is not about money and how wealthy you are; it’s about how you have treated other people and what you feel about them. Using the skills that he imbibed from his exposure trip, meetings and SMILE orientation, he eventually organized a small festival in a school, where craft items made by children were displayed. Apart from being a senior producer and puppeteer at NDTV, IP is also a member of a Delhi based rock band — Menwhopause.

Thus, 5th space is not an exclusive domain to be constructed by development sector organizations, rather it is a realm that is co-created within any institution and built, brick by brick, by a community of young people. It provides a safe haven for us to grow and develop as individuals and facilitates our self exploration, enabling us to rediscover ourselves and build new relationships, while strengthening existing ones. It is a space that not only facilitates our personal transformation but also brings about social transformation, since we graduate to being active citizens, caring family members, sensitive friends, diligent students…and much more…a space that makes the other four count too.

Bidhan Singh Chandra and IP Singh are living examples of how young people, who successfully create a 5th Space in their lives, contribute to their communities and significantly impact other’s lives, while making a difference to their own!

Watch them talk about their journey:

Posted by Lata Jha in Chai

5th space

By Lata Jha:

We often take the world and our roles in it for granted. There is a certain way things have been, and that is exactly how they will always be. The idea of a revolution is extremely distant, and for most of us, unreal.

That is the mould 5th Space tries to break. We can start looking at the world differently in the ordinary, everyday things of life. In being true to oneself, yet changing for the better in relevant, drastic ways. This reflection that the 5th Space tries to engage the youth in is simple, yet effective and beautiful. By looking beyond the conventional spaces of the family, career, friends and leisure that we often restrict ourselves to, and yet reinforcing their indisputable importance, it creates that alternate space for giving back to oneself and to society. Through internships, field trips and other programmes, the youth gets an opportunity to break norms, question, debate, think and understand for itself.

5th space

In our current series of articles, beginning this week, we look at stories of individuals and how they’ve embraced the 5th Space in their lives, voluntarily and often in unconscious ways. In the varied attempts they’ve made to understand themselves and the world better, we underline ways and methods that are distinctly 5th Space.

The revolution doesn’t always have to come from that march you undertake with a lighted candle on the lonely road. It comes from evolution and sensitization in the simple deeds of everyday life. In the better understanding of issues, in the moulding of character, in the fact that you take a call for yourself. Not really as unreal as it would seem.


By Pooja Malhotra:

When I think about ‘True Friendship’, the picture of Jai and Veeru (legendary characters from the Bollywood blockbuster Sholay) singing ‘Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin Todenge’ instantly comes to my mind. I’m sure we can never forget this epitome of true on-screen friendship, but are examples of such immortalized ‘Jai- Veeru dosti’ or ‘Krishna Suduma’ friendship witnessed in the ‘real’ world too?

friendship_30_03_13Considering the redefined perspectives and fast-changing sensibilities of our generation, a poll, titled ‘I would you do anything for a friend. You think that’s true?’ was recently conducted on Youth Ki Awaaz and The 5th Space. The response was overwhelming, but the mandate was rather divided- 40% of the respondents agreed that they would go that extra mile for a friend, while 49.6% disagreed.

Going by the response, I was prompted towards some quiet introspection and I questioned myself — Can I boast of such superlative friendship or am I inadvertently drifting from ‘Har ek friend zaroori hota hai’ to ‘har ek friend kamina hota hai’? My instant reaction of going out of the way to help a friend stems from an innate desire to nurture that special bond which I share with my friend. But I soon find myself getting into an internal dialogue wherein I start weighing the pros and cons…and that includes thoughts about whether or not my friend will reciprocate my gesture. The debate goes on…

Is my initial reaction a part of the camaraderie that we enjoy or is it just sappy sentimentality? With a majority of respondents believing that there are so many things that fall under ‘Anything’ which can be detrimental to their own well being, the verdict is clear —most of us are anything but ‘sentimental’ fools! The poll results clearly indicate that absolutes can be dangerous to live by. Some responded by saying ‘without question’, others felt ‘within reason’ …whatever the response the fact remains that you’d never do anything to hurt your friend.

But then, there are times when one is forced to choose personal interest or ego over a friend. Though I’d prefer not to go into the details of sharing one such incident, on second thoughts, I feel it might just help lighten my burden. One of my close friends recently lost her father. Since we were in the midst of our final assessments, I found it impossible to juggle studies with being ‘there for her’. I know I could’ve been that pillar of strength and made things easier for her by visiting her & communicating that I care, but I chose to stay with my books. She couldn’t appear for the exams and her empty chair, right in front of mine, in the examination hall, weighed heavy on mind all through out… yet I waited for my exams to get over, before I could pay her a visit. I could sense that she had felt intrigued and I know that I’ve lost a ‘good friend’ forever, but it was a deliberate choice that I had made and now I have to bear the consequences of my decision.

“We all have choices, you and I.
One is to laugh and one is to cry.
One is to be wrong, one is to be right.
One is to be peaceable, one is to fight.
One is to love, one is to hate.
One is to be early, one is to be late.
One is to be truthful, one is to lie.
One is to fail, one is to try.
One is to quit, or to follow things through.
The final choice is up to you.”

In fact I’ve realized that it’s less important to have more friends; it’s more important is to have ‘real friends’… and that it’s definitely easier to sing ‘yeh dosti hum nahin todenge’ than to actually be the ‘Jai’ to your ‘Veeru’!

Posted by Lata Jha in Churn


By Lata Jha: 

I don’t know if we give this a thought too often. And regardless of whether we accept it or not, it’s true that people’s perception of us as children is determined to a large extent by how we fare in our academics. Which college and consequently, what placements we manage to get for ourselves.
I was a motivated student in school. And part of the diligence came from the acknowledgement and the appreciation the good scores, when they came, brought me. Academic success, not to be confused with academic brilliance, is a big deal in our country. The school and region toppers are always the ‘best, brightest kids’, which is a really strange presumption, if one thinks about it.


While an important aspect of education and schooling is meeting and interacting with people, and often making friends for life, equally inevitable is the fact that one competes with those very people essentially in exams and later in life. I’m aware of how difficult it is for a ten year old kid who’s just begun to sense the competition around him, to deal with the fact that his best friend is getting better marks than him. Not just the teachers, but even his parents cite the friend as an example. It’s always about ‘You two spend so much time together. Why can’t you learn something from him?’ Which translates roughly into ‘Why can’t you get the kind of marks he does?’
So despite the fact that you share a lot else in common, you go home together, you spend your weekends at each other’s homes, you like the same video games, but you just don’t manage to get the same marks.

Life is strange and I now realize such things are inconsequential in the long run. But it’s hard for a teenager to accept and live with the idea that he’s just not as ‘bright’ as his best friend. It’s painful when your closest buddy is the class topper, the teacher’s pet, and you’re just part of the crowd. Or when he makes it to a top college and you don’t.

Especially since the exam season is on right now and very soon, it’ll be time for those traumatising entrances, students will find themselves measuring their chances and potential of ‘making it’ very often in terms of what their friends have done or will manage to do.

I have gone through the phase of wanting to be the best among my peers. And while even today, I don’t want to set mediocre standards for myself, I now believe in competing more with myself than with others. You gradually realize how much you can learn from your friends. They might be the same age as you but they can always provide so much inspiration.

With time, the first thing I’ve learnt is to take my course, not my marks, seriously. They say nothing about me. Secondly, and perhaps consequently, I’ve learnt to imbibe the best from my peers than wanting to outdo them.

Though I prefer to study by myself, a lot of great insights have come to me during interactions with friends, sometimes an hour before the exam. I’ve learnt styles of expression, methods of analysis, and sometimes, just ways of looking at things from them. So many times, they’ve been teachers, patiently explaining things to me that will help us both for exams whose results could determine a lot for us.

It’s often said that you’re born with family, but you choose your own friends. That you have the option to decide whether they are the right people to spend your time with. I completely disagree with that. I don’t think our youth weighs so many options before making friends. We might be rational, pragmatic people, but when it comes to friends, especially after a certain age, it’s heart over brain for most of us. They are people we can’t live without, and somewhere down the road, they become as much a support system as your family. Scattered in different parts of the country and world seeking education and jobs, you realize how ridiculous it was to have let barometers like scores and placements affect you. The bond is what matters, the lessons you learn from your time together is what you should carry home. That report card will rot away in some corner of the cupboard, but the memories will sustain themselves for a lifetime and even beyond.


By Monisha Vemavarapu:

‘Holi’ very fondly brings back memories of my childhood years – with a bucket bigger than my 8 year old self, trying to chase and drown a tall, burly boy in colour. Of course, never did I manage that, but over the years my ways of celebration and their meanings have changed. Holi, Diwali, New Years or just birthdays. My varied set of friends that have become my family away from my own, indulge in my ideas as much as theirs. And having been away eight years now, each festival seems to be adding to our ‘new family’ album of stories.

Festivals bring communities together. And probably that’s a reason many of us return home to celebrate, or use it as an excuse to bring together our other friends also living away from home. We might not believe in these rituals or know the stories behind them, but over the years they become our excuse to subconsciously build newer communities.


I left home too, many years ago, to pursue my studies in a city away from home. In hindsight, never then did I know that I was heading towards creating and discovering so many stories to my life. And what has facilitated the creation of these stories is that coming to a different city to start my life afresh, getting rid of everything that I had picked up over the growing up 17 years of my life, gave me the chance to create a new foundation. So I lay the groundwork enjoying my freedom thoroughly. Meeting new people, discovering new places and learning from my many blunders. I travelled, and explored a varied set of cultures, bringing many diverse lifestyles together to become my community.

Even while my college years went by in the haste of waiting for them to end; I often wondered how different my life would have been, if I was still living at home. I saw the dual life of my friends who travelled from all over NCR, to reach the campus in what is still one of my favourite locations in the city, Haus Khas. But living with friends, who then were people I had only just met, was very challenging. I couldn’t spend time with a bunch of people and then choose who I could live with, but was thrown in with two other roommates in a dingy room in a hostel in Vasant Kunj. We lived together, adapted, and grew. We then moved into a house that accommodated more, some left, some stayed, some hovered.

I’ve now lived with many different people, and in different localities in my oh-so-cool South Delhi, but my sense of ‘community’ has never been stronger. And this is how I visualize my life to be many years later too. Not in the physical capacity of my community, but more so the mindset. It is an open house. We invite friends, their friends, and travellers, to come in. So we have newer experiences everyday sitting at home. It’s almost like Tele-Shopping or Online-Shopping, but here I’m purchasing the intangible – experiences. And also learning a little bit more through the stories of the people that come in, while thoroughly enjoying the conversations, chai, and endless nibbles that someone always offers to cook up.

And every time a festival is around the corner the first thought, of course, is that it is a holiday! And once the initial excitement of the prospect of doing nothing passes over, the planning begins. This year for Holi, I’d like to experiment with making gujiyas at home. There won’t be any more running around with water and colour drowning out the neighbours. Even none of the ‘Hello Aunty, Mummy ne mithai bheji hai’ ritual. Perhaps I’ll just finish reading the book from last week.

I think, in my mind I see traditional festivals dying out. I could invite people at home on a workday weekday, and that could as well be a festive celebration. And because I have no rituals it is the same as celebrating Holi only because the calendar says so. I’m still trying to understand what makes communities – the idea of living together not just with your own people with similar backgrounds, but in harmony with the diversity of our friends.

Meanwhile, Happy Holi!

Photo Credit: chris.chabot via Compfight cc

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