Book Review of Commutiny: Sparking an Inside-Out Youth Leadership Revolution by Arjun Shekhar and Mahamaya Navlakha
In today’s age of digital omnipresence, we often see vanity taking prominence. In attempt to attract more followers, individuals tend to glean over the true image and substitute it what they believe to be the best version of truth. But, there is no best version of truth. It is as is. So, it came as a gleeful respite when I started reading Commutiny: Sparking an Inside-out Youth Leadership Revolution, co-authored by Arjun Shekhar and Mahamaya Navlakha. Early on in the book, the authors explicitly proclaim, ‘This is not a fable, or a philosophical treatise. Neither it is an ideological manifesto, nor a map for the seeker. If you are looking for advice on curing the country’s problem, then this is the wrong place to find it. If you want quick tips on how to engage youth on your agendas, you won’t get them here. And if you want to know how to mobilise large numbers of young people for a campaign or even a revolution, you’d be better looking elsewhere.’
Not exactly a pitch for people – especially for youngsters who are often attracted to a how to version of life’s problems – to come and read your book. But, to say the least, I had underestimated the pitch. It was bang on what it wanted to say in the book. It just wanted to showcase the truth.
The book takes the help of Sambhav – a protagonist who is vulnerable, empathetic, but still a skeptic. A protagonist who is constantly having a skirmish with his own self, his sexual orientation, his family, who had lost ‘hope’ in favour of difficult circumstances, and has still a good fight left somewhere in the corner of his conscience to be ‘hopeful’ again.
And we are introduced to Sambhav’s story with a gamut of mistakes that he has done over the course of his learning. This approach taken up by authors made a case that this is not a ready reckoner. But, it lays down the fundamental brick of the ideology it propounds. We can only learn if we are open and claim our mistakes like badges of honour, by being vulnerable, and gladly accepting it to move forward.
Sambhav then guides us through his journey that has a similarity with what a contemporary youth goes through. We are given detailed glimpses of the ‘gilded cages’ of capitalism that young people often shove themselves in, without completely connecting the dots. How we often lose empathy as a new edifice of hope.
The book thus gives out a critical analysis of the prevalent and current socio-economic systems and how intertwined they are with our everyday lives. But, here is where the books stands apart. It does not just blatantly rip apart economic systems like capitalism for the larger motto. Instead it weaves an amicably empathetic path to understand systems utilizing logic and putting forth solutions of its own. Solutions that works alongside prevalent systems. Alongside, it presents situations of utmost dichotomy with a nimble touch of conviction.
Moreover, it beautifully enumerates the concept of something called the 5th space and how it underlays with the psycho-social solutions approach that can soothe numerous social problems. Although, the writing utilised to depict the narrative and the first person style of storytelling could have been more adept but the the no-frills take on today’s problems more than makes up for it. And as Sambhav’s journey comes to a new crescendo – with his mistakes and new learnings – the book does what it promises: promises to inspire socially responsible leaders by helping young people work on themselves as much as they intend to work for the real world.
AUTHORS NOTE: The Optimist Citizen is a media collaborator of Commutiny – The Youth Collective, but the book review has been independently taken up by us without any intervention from Commutiny.