Thursday, March 21, 2013

Head, Heart & Hand

“Practice what you preach”, was taught to me when I was a kid but then I did not
understand the importance and meaning of this phrase. It was really hard for me to
find someone who followed it. It was when I became a teacher as a Teach For India
Fellow that I understood the importance of this phrase. Being a teacher you have to
follow what you say. If I ask my kids to reach school at 7am then I have to be there at
6:45am. These small things became the basis of small change that started in me.

When I became a TFI Fellow and started working with 52 third grader kids, all my
philosophy and principles were at stake. I believe being a teacher is one of the most
difficult jobs one can have. My kids kept a check on my patience, my commitment,
integrity and all this way it was really difficult to deliver but a constant self-vigil
and reflection helped me a lot. My class acted as an experimental lab for me, I was
growing each day as a person, as a human being.

I used to read a passage from a book “Gandhi-The Man” by “Eknath Easwaran”
everyday to my kids. It was this time of the day which was most awaited in my class.
I strongly believe that his philosophy is very relevant even today. My kids learned a
lot from him, I witnessed how they used to relate incidents from their life with that of
Gandhi ji’s. Two years in the classroom gave me the strength to move forward and
do something for the society, something beyond the self.

When I see at India’s myriad challenges I see only one way to find a solution to all
these problems and this is by empowering youth of our country. Keeping this in mind
we started Youth Alliance with a vision to connect each youth with a cause. It aims to
build a movement of young leaders equipped to meet India’s problems by designing
processes to identify young individuals with a spark to think innovatively for the
larger social good. We do this by conducting programs where they get experiential
exposure in both urban and rural space to identify their passion.

The journey with Youth Alliance has been equally challenging but the strong
conviction that change is possible drives me to work hard. Change of heart is the
core philosophy of our work and this is possible only when you lose yourself in the
service of others. In last one year we have helped in nurturing 8 new enterprises,
connected 12 individuals to full time development space and all this gives us hope.

Over the years, Gandhi ji’s message of, “Be the Change” has got deep rooted in my
heart. He was a big supporter of youth power. He used to say that youth should be
self-reliant and self-supporting. He talked about an education system where head,
heart and hand are developed simultaneously but over the years our education system
has failed to do so.

Today if I reflect on the work that I am doing at Youth Alliance I feel it is nearly
the same as Gandhi ji wanted. We are trying to nurture youth to be self-reliant,
entrepreneurial, social role models and connect them with rural India, the villages
where Gandhi ji’s heart was.

I don’t know how far will I go, how many young people will Youth Alliance reach
but I am sure where ever we go, how big we become the most important reason of our
being is Gandhi ji and his philosophy of life.

Note: I wrote this article for the annual journal, "Satya". The journal carries articles on a wide variety of subjects – society, politics, economics – anything that is centred on Gandhian thought and practice.