By Akhil Kumar:
As we enter the New Year with renewed zeal, vigorously working on all those resolutions we set for ourselves, let’s take a little time out to reconsider our priorities in life. The year 2013 was one of immense hope and opportunities for me, both as an activist and a facilitator of youth opinions. It has helped me gain a fresh perspective in life and made me more focussed in setting my priorities straight for how I plan to make 2014 more fruitful and enriching. I am sharing my plans for the New Year and hope it helps the readers in redefining their priorities if they associate with any of these.
This tops the list of New Year resolution for most of us; we start with a firm determination and pile up the books we always wanted to read. The problem, however, is that most of those books remain untouched and add up to the growing pile. Hectic schedules and a crazy lifestyle often leave us fatigued and once the momentum is broken, it becomes really difficult to get yourself to read. The trick is to manage time, set a few hours aside to read every day and follow it religiously. Pick your favourite book and get started, once you are back in the company of your favourite writers, there’s really no greater joy in the world. Books are the best means of self-education, which is the only education there is, really. And all of us need to educate ourselves to understand ideas that govern our lives and make informed decisions.
Mark Twain sums up the value of travelling when he says “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”Â So, forget about those coveted travel bucket lists and travel for the sake of travelling. Visit new places, make friends with strangers and travel not with the intent of arriving but gaining life experiences from the journey. Travel like a curious researcher, you will be surprised with the amount of wisdom the world has to offer.
Taking active interest in politics
Politics is often seen as a dirty word, especially by the youth of our country. We need to deconstruct the popular definition of politics that has become synonymous with corruption, crime and malpractice. Politics affects all aspects of our lives and the rich and powerful would be more than happy to have the seats of power to themselves and continue reaping huge profits by looting the unaware citizen of the country. We need to reclaim democracy from the clutches of the ruling elite and participate actively if we hope for any change. The rise of the Aam Admi Party in Delhi is proof enough of what the collective power of the people can accomplish. Even though I personally have many differences with the party but the emergence of an alternative at a time when the powers that be were trying to limit the spectrum of political debate to just two polarities, one of the ‘secular’ Congress and the other riding on ‘good governance’ Modi led BJP has shown us that it isn’t impossible for the people to take back power into their own hands. When politics decides your future, decide what your politics should be!
This is the most important lesson that I have learned in the past year. Even though it seems clichÃ© and pretty much common sense but I was surprised by the sheer amount of things we take for granted. The inherent biases due to social conditioning limit our spectrum of imagination and critical thinking. From the very basic questions of religion and the concept of family to somewhat complex mechanisms that govern our choices, an inquisitive nature has led me to surprising realizations. We need to challenge all notions that contradict our reasoning and common sense, no matter how holy they have been projected to be. It is painful and uncomfortable to let of our prejudices but we cannot develop without that. We might suffer from pangs of cognitive dissonance but the truth shall always prevail, the sooner we realize it the better it is for us.
Participate in and help create peoples’ movements
The people are the primary stakeholder in a Democracy and since we love to call ourselves that, let’s work on giving power back to the people. Even though this is pretty much a sub category of point no. 3, I think it needs special mention. The people all over the country are being stripped of their basic human rights and while the underclass gets trampled over by the vested interests of criminal corporations working hand in glove with the policy makers, most of us sit in denial in our own comfort zones. The mainstream media is complicit in this as they are owned and influenced by them. The struggles in kudankulam, Niyamgiri, Jagatsingpur, Kashmir and many other places would jolt you out of your slumber had the media done justice to the oppressed people. It is very important for the students to work in unity with the working class and oppressed people everywhere. All oppression is connected and none of us is free until every one of us is. So, we all must start taking keen interest in these movements as those involved are also actual human beings and not just names, statistics and places to be reported in newspapers, read with sympathy (and apathy?), buried and forgotten.
That list can go on forever but I think I have summed up most of the things to start with, we can always keep adding to it. We must remember to be patient and willing to learn all the time, be tolerant and open to all discussions. It’s very important to entertain all kinds of ideas, even if we don’t accept them. All we have is one another and we must never forget that. We must not forget to love and care without expecting anything in return. For it is only together that we can build a better possible world. I wish all of you a very enriching new year.
NOTE: This article originally appeared as a guest post for ‘We Care’, a magazine published by Centre for Social Action, Christ University, Bangalore.
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