The Optimist Citizen

FIRST-HAND: First-hand testimonial of Priya whose efforts changed the face of her rural neighbourhood


First-Hand testimonials, showcasing what it takes to drive change, with resilience

I was never interested in politics. But, a road and a series of civic tasks changed me. Our village, Anpoondi, has almost 200 girls with more than 50 of them living in my neighbourhood – The palla street. But, it is a far fetched attempt to call the 1 kilometre long stretch of land, that connects our neighbourhood to the village, a road or a street. Barely 4 feet in width, the road is completely made out of mud and hardly 2 bicycles can go simultaneously on that. Often, the girls here don’t venture out beyond their homes because they couldn’t see the road in the evening. I remember various instances when it was acutely difficult to even take pregnant ladies for hospital visits in times of need. Many of us approached officials, wrote letters, lodged a demand letter signed by 100 villagers to the MLA, but to no avail. It was repaired a bit but never built up from scratch. And if it rains, the road immerses in the water and it is hardly visible.

This scenario of my locality pained me a lot, especially when our calls for repairs were obliquely unheeded by most. It was during this intermingling time of distress that I came across some social action tasks partaken by many of my friends in college. I was intrigued and some magnetism led to me contribute too. I remember visiting various religious places – something that was earlier difficult because of my conservative upbringing. We worked in a hospital, cooked for those with nothing at all, and also helped break some caste barriers by admitting and caring for our neighbour for a week in a hospital. Growing up in a conservative family with 3 sisters, I would have never imagined doing all that I did. The final lap came in when I got in touch with Dinesh from Audacious Dreams. His experience of working with the youth, that initially started with his work as a Sarpanch was revelatory. He is hardly a few years older than us and grew up in the same place that we did, but still created impact through both action and good governance. That was the day I decided that I too would contest in the upcoming panchayat elections. I know I hated politics, but I see the tepid response from everyone about the road, the actions that I took with the civic tasks as part of this game that we played called Be a Jagrik on our rights and duties, I see things in a new light. Although my parents probably wouldn’t allow me to contest, I wouldn’t lose hope. Whatever happens, I will not leave the path to mend that road and engage with social and civic action.

Priya Subramaniam is a 19-year old from Anpoondi village and studies Hospital Administration at Auxilium College, Vellore. She was part of the Be a Jagrik public initiative run by Commutiny – The Youth Collective, in support with local partner Audacious Dreams Foundation. The initiative aims to enable young, aware, and active citizens or Jagriks live and experience the SDGs and also rights and duties enshrined in the Indian Constitution. As the Jagriks undertake exciting self and community action projects on-ground, they also take their powerful voice for change into the world.


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