What we want to inherit from you

We wrote this for a talk to trigger tonight’s panel discussion on Individual Responsibility towards Coimbatore, organized by CATS (Coimbatore Arts and Theatrical Society). Do you agree with this, youth of Coimbatore?

Rajendra Chozha was one of the greatest conquerors of India. Under him, the Chola influence reached up to the Ganges, in Bengal and right across the ocean to Singapore and Indonesia. Although his achievements were many, they were still built on the empire that his father Raja Raja Chozha had built from scratch. Motilal Nehru’s idea of modern education shaped Jawaharlal Nehru, and I daresay we attribute our freedom to that man. Shekhar’s idea of introducing technology to the music industry came to us through Dileep Kumar, better known as A R Rahman.

What’s beautiful is that all through history, one generation had the determination to rise, and the following generations only went forward. As I stand here representing all of us eager youth, I hope you’ll be the generation — and I quote Al Gore here — “the generation about which, a thousand years from now, philharmonic orchestras and poets and singers will celebrate by saying, they were the ones that found it within themselves to solve this crisis…”

Now the crisis Al Gore is talking of is not just the ice caps that are melting — the crisis is the power shortage and water shortage in Coimbatore. We don’t expect a sparkling green city when we grow up – but we want you to begin the process of undoing the harm. We’re eager to be a part of this action, now! – take us with you to the clean the lake and let’s take a nice walk instead of driving to some place. Talk to us about our rights, and together let’s proactively fulfil our duties. Inform us, involve us, inspire us. You need to be models for us dear adults, because we’re so good at imitating! The values that parents want to teach pass down so effortlessly when they practice what they preach. We want your values – to build our dreams. Our own dreams.

And the dreams might not be engineering and medicine. 70% of the people who take these courses don’t become engineers because they find their calling somewhere else. Why then, do they take so many years to start working on their dreams? Because there are not enough choices in school, and not enough freedom to make their own choices. I say, bring into school the opportunity to pursue all the things that we pursue in the real world. Academics, entrepreneurship, arts, community service… You say “Why…it’s all going fine only…” and I say WHY NOT? Two things are very clear: First, that each child comes with unique interests and energies. And second, that the world has opened up immensely. There are professions and activities and movements that you wouldn’t have imagined 10 years ago.

Let’s bring schools out of isolation and create a an environment where students engage with this exciting world. They’ll pick up things before you can figure how to use a touch screen phone. They’ll astound you with the way they sell things, build things, find solutions, improve lives and build a better world. And to guide them and facilitate their journey, let’s create  empowered teachers. Teachers who are eager to share their knowledge. Teachers who will  begin to take pride in their jobs and themselves. In the current system, there is a certain lack of self-respect – in teachers as well as students. And this is simply because not everybody can score centums! Just imagine the low self esteem of children who are just NOT built for the system – the teachers who spend all their energy trying to make it happen. Epic fail, from the start.

If we could draw on the immense power of schools, and turn even a small part of the collective energy into making Coimbatore a better place – we’d see nothing short of a miracle. Come on, make *us* a part of building *our* future. The process of inheritance begins now. I urge one school to use their power to start such a social drive – with kids and teachers and parents – and I guarantee that we’ll meet our targets with ease.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. There are tens of thousands of dreamers in this city, raring to go and eager to do. They are this optimistic city’s children. Catch them while they’re young and hot!

Thank you.


World Do-your-bit-and-green-it Day

June 5, 2012 – World Environment Day

The school calendar (of all things!) reminded me of the occasion just a day earlier. I contemplated reaching out to Green Print and Street Cause EForce, but realized there wasn’t much time. Perhaps you could reach out to them, reader, and maybe I will, sometime in the future.

But thank God inspiration was on my bedside table – I picked up my big Change the World Guidebook , gathered some stationery and got down to greening the world with Mom.

Easy tips and cartoons to bribe them into helping the world

We came up with these colourful posters and baby-steps to coax people into doing their bit (yes, they are like blissfully unaware kids who need to be bribed). One of them, along with the You are a Super Power intro of the book, was put on the notice board of our apartment and accordingly a “Super Power” meeting was scheduled for 4 pm.

4:30 pm, and there were only five of us in place of the estimated 20 kids. My ex-school friends who come to the apartment for tutions saw how the carpets were still empty and I read a “Unschooling and changing the world it seems…hmph!” expression on their face. Not done. Not done at all. Resorting to desperation, I put on my adorable expression and excitedly pleaded (!) with all the kids on the block to come to my SuperPower meeting. Turns out that they were old enough to stop believing in such fallacies but I managed to drag them anyway. With the number at 15 we began. And it was a hit.

Turns out that my suspicions were right. Kids are kind, thoughtful and sensitive, but with the people and environment around they get conditioned to the comfort and thoughtlessness that comes with a carbon-heavy lifestyle. My mom told them, “Yes, we parents are selfish – we want lots of water to clean the vessels and a car to go even till the next lane. But you have to stop us from polluting and wasting things, just like myy daughter does.” *Beautiful moment* Then the kids went on to identify and make small doable commitments to make life a little more eco-friendly. Madhurya promised to make do with half a bucket of water (“except on Sundays Akka. I have to wash my hair no?”). Mehul said he’d give up riding his dad’s scooter because it was polluting (and illegal, since Mehul is just 12) Liya said she’d eat when her mom called so as to avoid re-heating on the gas or in the oven. And with that, we concluded our first Super Power meeting.

My successful Super Power gathering!

Then came the part of reaching out to the adults. The big, responsible ones who drive fancy cars and frequent expensive stores. The ones who think its their right to exploit and dirty the earth. Armed with the colourful posters, a pretty friend came along with me to stick them on the walls and windows of R.S.Puram.

I don’t know how many gave an eye or brought this to their life, but I was glad to start off somewhere. The energy never gets lost – it’s out there, working it’s magic in ways we can’t see. Let the universe work its mystery.