The Optimist Citizen
Samjo Toh Express (Representational Image). Image Courtesy : Debashis Biswas

When a Campaign changed religious differences to long lasting friendships

Inclusion, Peace, Harmony, Brotherhood – These words, when read in books and heard in public talks, indeed motivate us and present a beautiful picture of the world to us. But when we actually practice these, we realise that there are numerous social stigmas and stereotypes within us. We hesitate to take a step beyond those stereotypes because they are so deeply imbibed within us that they often show up involuntarily and resists us to think and act beyond. Nazar Alam, Moulik, Monika and her friends including Ramya were victims of the same stereotypes. Samjho Toh Express is an experiential journey that helps such a youth in reflecting and breaking the stereotypes

Why would a student studying in one of the most modish urban college go to a slum at a “Baksa wala’s” place and have a meal with his family? But Moulik did. The ‘Baksa wala’, Nazar Alam, became friends with Moulik during a campaign run by a non-for profit organisation, ‘YES Foundation’, in their city, Lucknow. After a few initial conflicts, both of them started mingling up. The interaction became so powerful that they ended up spending most of the time with each other during the campaign. Through various events like Chai Charcha, Youth Adda, friendship baithak and wall paintings during the event, they understood each other’s lifestyle deeply. To experience it, they went to each other’s houses, met and spent quality time with each other’s families and it ultimately resulted in a friendship that might have never formed otherwise. Nazar is a brilliant theatre artist and he exposed Moulik to this art. Together, they performed a Nukkad Natak during the campaign.

Another girl, Monika, residing in a deep rural pocket in Tamil Nadu, had her engagement ceremony. But unlike the usual ceremonies at her place, this one had huge number of guests and most of them were her newly formed friends from the city. To her surprise, all of them had turned up that day to celebrate the occasion with Monika. One of her friends, Ramya says, “Monika’s family is so warm and welcoming. We enjoyed so much that we did not realize that we are in a village. It was a fun filled day.” After her engagement ceremony, all of them went out for a movie and had lunch together. It was the first time when Monika and a few others from the village had watched a movie in a city theatre. It was a memorable day for all of them. Few months back, they had met at a campaign run by ‘Audacious Dreams’. During the one-month long campaign, they participated in the Gram Sabha, volunteered with rural schools, did beautiful wall paintings and carried on a Walkathon in the city. Through all these activities, they wanted to showcase the beauty and strength of their newly formed, unusual ‘friendship beyond labels’, labels of ‘class’ and ‘economic backgrounds’.

It was this campaign that had run in 14 states across the country, which helped youngsters like Moulik, Nazar, Monika and Ramya, coming from diverse backgrounds and regions, to cross their stereotypical borders and look at each other’s lives only from the lens of ‘love’ and ‘understanding’. All the youngsters across the country who had participated in the Samjho Toh Express indeed earned a true and long lasting friendship through their experiential and memorable express journey.     



Samjho Toh Express is an initiative by ComMutiny The Youth Collective which aims at cultivating cross border friendships through an experiential journey which will help the youth in reflecting and breaking the stereotypes that they hold for other communities, genders, castes, religions, ethnic backgrounds etc. A journey through this campaign will help in internalizing the need to understand the ‘other’. This article is an impact story of the campaign. 


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