First-Hand testimonials, showcasing what it takes to drive change, with resilience
Growing up in Hyderabad, I vividly remember my first attempt to contribute for others. I was probably 4 or 5, and I had collected a sum of Rupees 152 for Help Age India. That is how everything started for me. I moved on to a bigger school and that propelled me onto another stage. New opportunities poured in, giving a new harbour for my aspirations. I started making short films on environmental conservation and Road Safety. While I was making films, I developed a strong intuitive sense towards technology. When I was 12, I became a microsoft certified professional developer and by the time I was 13, I had clocked in my first internship with Infosys. My interest in technology percolated in various kinds of projects and internships. I started volunteering with AIESEC Hyderabad and started developing grassroot projects.
When I was 17, I observed that there were numerous reports of freak accidents with agricultural equipment, resulting the mournful loss of many lives. The equipment that the farmers used was getting overheated and it often exploded. I programmed and developed a system, essentially based on Internet of Things, that if there is overheating, the system itself cuts the power supply off.
Since I was a kid, I had this innate itch to be different, to be better at what I do. And I feel this itch is what brought me closer to the Be a Jagrik – Samvidhan Live! It was at a conference discussing the methods of tackling Fake News that I came across Rubaroo, one of the members of Commutiny – The Youth Collective that organises Be A Jagrik nationwide.
In January 2019, I attended a two day workshop by Rubaroo and this is where I would truly say I came across our constitution. Before this the constitution, The Preamble, all of these were allocated chapters of my civics textbook. But, when you utilised them in your life to create change, sit in a room full of 25 diverse young people and empathise with what they have been through, that is when you feel what our preamble meant about unity and brotherhood. There were native Hindi, Telugu speakers, people with different views and from different faiths, and the reflections moulded my forthcoming 3 week Jagrik journey immaculately.
Over the course of these 3 weeks, I gave 6-7 sessions to more than 500 and collected more than 500 promises from students coming from underprivileged backgrounds. I did tasks to identify environmental violations, curated a painting competition on gender equality, and much more. But, one task stayed with me.
While collecting promises I came across a prominent economic minority in the old city area of Hyderabad, whose annual income in less than Rupees 200,000. As part of a task, I had to create a realistic 10-hour curriculum, spanning over a month, based on my favourite subject. The curriculum had to be delivered to at 20 least children from a minority children
After I got this task, I created a month long curriculum on learning English and I approached Telangana and approached Telangana Minority educational society and gave them an understanding that I wanted to deliver this curriculum. The move was widely appreciated by them and it injected me with a new zeal. I integrated more hands on, field based content. I used to take the children for a walk in the park, and have them identify at least 2 things that they didn’t know the English word for. In that way they used to learn 2 new words in just a span of 5 minutes.
I realised that even though, socially, there was a persistent distance of the minority community towards education, the children were enthusiastically open to it. By just giving 20 minutes every day, they were not just learning new words, they were developing a newfound fascination for studies.
The children are immensely curious, trying to speak their best English all the time. They have a culture of speaking it in their schools and that is marvelous. They tried and that was the best part. They were very expressive and outspoken. This made my job as a teacher so much easier and fun.
For me, this was like a new lease of life. I see a lot of help being done from the Be a Jagrik initiative. I have become more open minded, diverse in my thoughts. I would not say I was narrow minded, but this has surely opened up new dimensions for me. I was probably a bit wary of topics like religion and faith, but I am more open and empathetic about any community that I interact with and talk about. This is a strength that I would be taking back.
With all the experience in my pool, I feel I have found a new direction. I would now love to go beyond the convention, maybe try something. Take a break and explore my own venture. I am still not sure, but it is a start.
19-year Sumanth is from Hyderabad and is studying Electronics and Communications Engineering. He was part of the Be a Jagrik public initiative run by Commutiny – The Youth Collective and was participating in it on behalf of their Hyderabad partners Rubaroo . 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.