The Optimist Citizen

While some fanatics are using religion break communities, a handful of youth are teaching how different religions can unite us together

“The wedding hall was all set. The shimmering lights and the glittering décor made the aura mesmerizing. It was my Appi’s Nikah. Amidst the hustle of the ongoing wedding preparations, I noticed someone whose presence at the Nikah was quite unexpected. It was Tanu.”

Being a Hindu, Tanu had never attended a Nikah before. Only after attending this one on Sidra’s invitation, did she realize that a ‘Muslim Nikah’ is no different than a ‘Hindu Shaadi’. It was the same, delightful Haldi Rasam that was going on at Sidra’s Appi’s Nikah that day. Feeling glad after attending the ceremony, Tanu called up Sidra that night to express the immense joy she experienced at the wedding. Sidra was equally elated by her unexpected presence. But things were not the same between them few months back. Although both of them had known each other for long, the only interaction they had, whenever they met, was just a ‘Hi’ or a ‘Hello’. It just took a month long campaign, for these formal musings to get converted into regular conversations over phone and texts and eventually into wedding invitation of Sidra’s sister.

This campaign, SAMJHO TOH EXPRESS, organised by Commutiny Youth Collective, took them through a thoughtful journey that made them realize that there is much more to learn about a person than his/her religious, social and economic backgrounds. A journey where they explored and understood each other’s lifestyles, cultures and traditions from a perspective beyond the stereotypes and conventional beliefs  that persisted in their minds earlier.

But the persistence of such stereotypes often remains unrealized and hence cannot be wiped out so easily until something breaks the ice. A Nukkad Natak presented by the team of YES Foundation, a partner organisation of CYC, caught the attention of numerous youngsters including Tanu and Sidra at Lucknow Mahotsva. Followed by the Nukkad Natak was another thrilling activity in which the participants started mingling with each other. This activity subtly enabled them to discover the various stereotypes that existed and the need to break those. This gave an energetic thrust to the participants to carry on the entire campaign. The understanding among them grew stronger with regular chai charchas, youth addas, friendship baithaks, wall paintings, visits to each others’ homes and religious places and a lot of fun and togetherness throughout the month.

On the other hand, the ‘SamjhoToh Express’ Campaign in Ahmadabad witnessed an unusual sight  at the IIM Ketley, a hub of tea stalls and fast food centers near IIM Ahmadabad. Dressed in the attires of a Christian Priest, a Muslim Maulana and a Hindu Pandit, three men sat at a tea stall, sipping tea, chatting and laughing. Astonishing by appearance, it caught the attention of the crowd at the hub. Over weeks, this unusual practice aroused an inevitable curiosity in the crowd who gathered in huge numbers and clicked pictures and videos. “While doing this activity, we did not call out or put up any slogans. We wanted to keep this act as subtle as possible. It made a huge impact on the crowd. It could break their religious stereotypes to a great extent. This was an exclusive activity of our campaign”, says Gaurang from Sauhard, the organization that ran the campaign in Gujarat.

This is how the Samjho Toh Express Campaign which ran across 14 states engaged youngsters from diverse social, religious and economic backgrounds in huge numbers and could successfully spark off a youth led creation of an inclusive and peaceful society by taking the foremost step- binding the very creators into an unbreakable bond of friendship beyond all borders.


The Samjho Toh Campaign has been conceived and conceptualised by CYC and Pravah

What is 5th Space – How do young people spend their time? At home with family, hanging out with friends, in leisure or at college / workplace. Traditionally these four spaces make up their universe. In all these spaces their worldview derives from an already given legacy, through a lens which society has donned for millenia. Beyond this received wisdom, don’t they need another space which allows them to create their own understanding of the world?

  • To understand themselves, develop, and grow?
  • To look at social issues from a sytemic lens, and see how they are connected to them?
  • To deal with conflicts within and around them in society?
  • To take action that benefits them and the surroundings?

We call this the 5th space. It is a space where young people develop a psycho-social worldview, which answers the question “Who are we?”(we as in humans – a social species) as opposed to “Who am I?” This view allows young people to understand and define their connection to the world as it is. The 5th space makes the relationships in the other four spaces count by nourishing and enriching the capacities of young people to take effective and responsible action. The 5th space believes that self transformation is the first step towards creating change in our relationships and in society.



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