“Through the fellowship, I realised that my idea of self is greatly impacted by my background, past experiences, and the people I surround myself with. I have come to understand the idea of self and identity as a process, rather than an unchanging, permanent thing.”
— Aman, Youth-n-Democracy Fellow, 2019-20
When Aman first joined the Youth-n-Democracy fellowship, he was unsure of whether this was the right choice for him. While he took his time to connect with the other fellows, he soon found a sense of belonging and comfort with them. A student at Delhi University, Aman chose to study economics because of the broad range of avenues the subject would open up for him later. He soon realised that it was something he was genuinely passionate about, and decided to bring this into his social action project on financial literacy.
Before Aman could start implementing his social action project, he knew he had to first understand his own self, identity and his motivations better. This would help him leverage his strengths and seek support wherever needed and run a successful project. He recalls one session in particular, which completely changed how he viewed himself and the world around him. The activity required the fellows to decorate their given masks with words that best describe their inner and outer selves.
Reflecting on the activity, he says, “This helped me understand how we present ourselves differently, according to the scenario or the people around. Who we are changes according to our experiences.” This prompted Aman to consider others’ circumstances more holistically and become more tolerant of different behaviours. He realised that people act the way they do due to their past and present experiences, and he chose to be more empathetic from then on. He also recognised that not everyone has the same upbringing and opportunities, and so it is essential to practice active listening and inclusion.
The sessions on ‘self’ helped Aman see a flip-side of this story as well. He realised how similar people are in certain ways, despite the apparent differences, and that others also felt the same way as he does about issues such as mental health. As part of the fellowship, he got a chance to interact with the organisation It’s Okay to Talk, which had a significant impact on him. He says, “This session made me realise that it was okay not to feel okay. This fellowship is helping me accept who I am, and also accept how others are.”
This realisation of how vastly different people’s lives worked, coupled with his interest in economics, made him observant of how his peers spend their money regularly. He noticed that some of his friends were spending money everyday after their classes. He decided to take the opportunity of the social action project to build financial awareness and influence people to save money for future. Pairing up with Navya, another YnD fellow, they decided to conduct interactive workshops on this topic in their university. They saw the issue of student debt across the country among young people and wanted to do something to change the situation.
Aman also saw this as an opportunity to learn new skills such as investing, so that he could start investing himself, as well as share the information with his peers. As they moved their programme online, they set up social media pages that received over 100 likes. Their posts on savings and investments managed to reach a wide audience. Aman felt especially happy when a friend of his, inspired by his posts, reached out to discuss finances with him. He hopes to increase such engagement through social media as their page gains traction.
Aman, being the observant person he is, noticed that people in a village close to his hometown of Rudrapur were moving without masks, and were unaware of social distancing or good hygiene practices with respect to Covid-19. He decided to visit the village regularly, providing masks and urging the community to follow social distancing norms. However, he soon realised the negative consequences of his movement as a potential virus carrier to the village, and immediately ceased his visits. This critical thinking and respect for the community were cultivated in Aman through his experience in the fellowship.
The fellowship provided Aman the tools to reflect on his identity and understand how others, who may be seemingly very different, face issues similar to him. For Aman, the journey of exploring his passions has just started, and he can’t wait to experience the ups and downs that are in store for him, armed with tools of compassion and critical thinking.