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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.

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 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


Do you really believe that your father wants to hurt you when he disagrees with you? What is it that things which increases the distance between you and your family. Sagar asks a simple questions and finds the answers to everything else within himself  “Where can one buy relationships? Is there a shop that sells it?

You’ll find the answers here, and of course within you.


By Aparna Ravi:

It is very important to realise what you want to be in life, but also, isn’t it important to know that what ‘I’ want to do in life, makes me content and satisfied? Do you want to do what you are passionate about or do you just want a career? The answer to that question can change the way you look at your studies today…

Schooling is necessary; the place where we acquire the basic education and also are given the time to choose what we want to be. But at the same time its the place where we are asked these constant questions, what do you want to do? What stream you’re going to choose? What career options you have in mind? Have you prepared for the entrances? Have you checked with your friends what are they going to do? We expect you to score more than 80%…


Just a minute… Where am I? Where is my decision? Where is my choice? Why am I asked these questions? Weren’t the “toppers” of the class, teachers, parents and peers enough?

It starts with school when one gets the real taste of competency, when we really challenge ourselves. We go out and do anything and everything out of peer pressure.
It was difficult for me too, as a student to decide what I want to do. I was never able to easily decide what I want in life. The questions kept revolving throughout. There were times when I started questioning myself, am I sensible enough? Am I taking right decisions? Hope the marks I am scoring are enough? Do I have to study more, study hard?

I was quite good in sports and extracurricular activities. I debated well, I was out spoken, friends liked me, and teachers too appreciated me. But when it was exam time, especially the result time, I discovered myself getting stressed, tensed and a little ashamed. Why wasn’t I considered worth appreciation by teachers now? Or was it to do only with scoring high?

Forget about getting the name on the blackboard with the ranks and percentage… I wasn’t even close to the so called “toppers”. But I managed to score well and also performed brilliantly in extracurricular activities. I got the certificates too…but what about that? Weren’t they privileged to be mentioned on that blackboard? Why only discuss the core subjects written in the report card, which did not have much value for me? Debating, dancing, sports made me happy and content. But they were looked upon as only leisure activities. Weren’t the triumphs in sports and extra curricula’s a call for celebrations too?

The toppers kept calculating the point by point percentage and I started to dwindle on extracurricular activities. I had to buck up and was forced to concentrate only on studies. The parents teachers meetings were more like a court session where I was asked about my performance, not to mention, only about the core subjects.

But the grilling time is gone, now I am following my passion and I am happy doing that. I am working with young people and understanding their needs and where they want to engage themselves. Though the questions haven’t stopped yet… and I think, will not for a while. But the hope is still there that I will conquer my choice over the society’s.

Now I am on a quest to discover leisure… is it privileged to be earned or lost? Can I continue doing what I like or will I have to go back and answer all those questions again? Isn’t it imperative that at least now, the youth be given a wide range of opportunities for meaningful engagement? At least a space where they can speak out and do whatever they want. A space without any restrictions and limitations where they can perform and don’t have to think about the results.

Photo Credit: adarsh_antony via Compfight cc


By Lata Jha:

To begin with, for most of us, they might not have been much more than just places we dragged ourselves to each morning, either because attendance was compulsory or because we just couldn’t do without meeting our friends. But over time, schools and colleges ceased to exist solely in order to be able to earn a degree and get a job. As clichéd as it may sound, they were the proverbial temples of learning. And a lot of times, didn’t just teach you lessons out of textbooks for exams, but ones that you could cherish for life.


Not that we don’t understand that it takes more than just a good soul to run an institution. As noble as we may be, resources make an institution and build its image. Facilities, faculty (who do not come without the fat pay check), fancy infrastructure and other frills are what sell today. But what’s alarming is that the need has gone beyond maintenance. Running schools and colleges is a business that takes as much sharpness and acumen as any other to reap profits.

While certain engineering colleges tried to salvage things for themselves by bribing AICTE officials last year for not meeting the minimum criteria of accreditation, a dental college in Chennai was in the news for doing, what it probably thought was, the needful to please a member of the Dental Council of India.

While this may be one, yet another, even more horrific side of the story, awaits us. Institutions have been known to not just offer bribes, but unabashedly accept them, in what may be considered, blatantly contrary to the principles of an educated society that knows its rights and duties. Loving parents who dote upon their often dim-witted wards pay hefty amounts to gain admission for them in the city’s most elite and sophisticated schools and colleges. In races that are clearly and unfairly beyond them, children with weak economical backgrounds lag behind.

Schools are known to nab more than just a couple of lakhs for admission in the plus two section. These are children from affluent families who might have moved to a different city or if the child had failed classes in another school. While some of it may actually go into enhancing infrastructure and upping facilities for the benefit of students, one does realize sadly that the need of the hour is to maintain an image. You can’t rank high in the Top 10s of hep magazines by taking a couple of thousands every three months, and still managing to look all glossy and cool. You don’t go down well with parents seeking “good, clean” schools for their lily-livered babies.

But a lot of times, this is about more than just image building. People are treating this as a way to make money. Authorities in charge at these institutions make huge amounts by doing people such ‘favours’.

Till very recently, this was news to me. As kids, no matter which school we went to, we were taught to respect all institutions. Money was no part of the moral fabric of education as a whole, and of institutions, just as much. But who are we to talk, really? When these people didn’t spare the God they worshipped in the temple, or the woman they said they worshipped at home, education is, I guess, another one of those realms that invariably become a part of the ballgame. Like those kids at schools who sulk but ultimately join the game.

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc


The SMILE Program established in 1986, has changed the lives of many young people over the years creating volunteering opportunities for young people to explore and understand their own selves while understanding issues and the society around them. Take a sneak peek into the orientation camp before they immerse themselves for a 3-6 weeks in-‘turn’-ship in the rural hinterland.

the 5th space

Youth Ki Awaaz is proud to partner with Commutiny Youth Collective to launch a brand new section on YKA – The 5th Space.

How do young people spend their time? At home with family, hanging out with friends, in leisure or at college/workplace. Traditionally these four spaces make up their universe. In all these spaces, their worldview is derived from an already given legacy, through a lens which the society has donned for millennia. Beyond this received wisdom, don’t they need another space which allows them to create their own understanding of the world?

To understand themselves, develop, and grow?
To look at social issues from a systemic lens, and see how they are connected to them?
To deal with conflicts within and around them in society?
To take action that benefits them and the surroundings?

the 5th space

We call this the 5th space.
It is a space where young people develop a psycho-social worldview, which answers the question “Who are we?” (we as in humans – a social species) as opposed to “Who am I?”. This view allows young people to understand and define their connection to the world as it is. The 5th space makes the relationships in the other four spaces count by nourishing and enriching the capacities of young people to take effective and responsible action. The 5th space believes that self transformation is the first step towards creating change in our relationships and in society.

In the coming weeks, you will find special features, interviews and stories on how young people can be a part of this self transformation. Stay tuned!

CYC, in collaboration with Pravah, co-creates 5th Spaces and offers mentoring to youth engaging organizations across different sectors.


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