Let’s talk about a guy who hails from a metropolitan city and had done his Bachelor’s from the Institute of Hotel Management (IHM). He was working with an international chain of hotels, and was earning a good salary.
However, with time, we find him singing baal-geet (songs for children) and playing with children in the tribal schools of the Chikhaldara block of Amravati district in Maharashtra, and staying in a secluded village for a month.
Being his friend, I was intrigued by the sudden change in his career. When I asked him, he simply stated: “It makes me happy when my actions put a smile on the faces of these small unprivileged kids.”
But, I had more questions: What exactly is he doing? How does his day look like? What he is going to get from this? Why did he quit such a lucrative career?
After a moment’s pause, he answered my questions. He said that he’s on a journey where to bridge the huge learning gap that affects the tribal children of Chikhaldara. For this, he has to engage with all members of the community, including parents, women, youth and elderly people.
Most of the villages in the block don’t have cellular network and face severe shortages in the supply of drinking water. Electricity cuts are quite prevalent in the region. Besides, the major source of income for the villagers is agriculture, which is seasonal and is hampered by lack of rainfall.
My friend was inspired to help and mobilise these people, when he witnessed the miserable conditions in which they lived. Besides, he recognised the many opportunities and avenues, which the villagers weren’t even aware of.
Most of the children, youth and women in the villages of Chikhaldara have a fear of interacting with outsiders. They lack confidence in themselves – only because they are less-exposed to the world outside.
These days, therefore, my friend is trying to build confidence in the children by initiating activity-based workshops on public speaking. He is bringing out the talents in these children by arranging intra-school drawing competitions, singing and dancing activities and initiating educational exhibitions where he encourages children to prepare educational or learning models.
He is motivating the village youths to think about self-development and of alternate means of livelihood and earnings. For this purpose, he is trying to create youth empowerment groups. Even though he is in his 20s, he is trying to negotiate with people double his age (especially, with the headmasters of the schools) to realise, accept, participate and initiate these small but valuable changes. After all, we all know that education is one of the keys to change India from a ‘developing’ nation to a ‘developed one’.
Many of us live in posh apartments, ride luxurious cars and earn good salaries. Consequently, most of us find it difficult to realise that many children in India may be starving for food, while we are dining in classy and luxurious restaurants. At the same time we are chatting on social media, there are numerous others who cannot even afford a smartphone, or think it to be a useless instrument in the absence of cellular network coverage.
Most importantly, while we keep earning our six digit salaries, there’s a sizeable portion of our society which only thinks of earning a bare minimum salary to keep their families running. Therefore, it’s high time that we rethink our ways of addressing these issues of social development.
My friend’s name is Pratim Chatterjee. He comes from Kolkata, and is currently engaged with the Gandhi Fellowship programme, which is now his alternate career. Such youths who are working for the nation’s development should be sufficiently praised.
These journeys help in the nation’s development and also aid the process of self-development. We can understand the true essence of learning only when we take a step out of our comfort zones, set targets for ourselves and achieve them.