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.

Experiment: Gandhigiri ’12

I’m halfway through Gandhiji’s My Experiments with Truth. It’s had an impact on me in no small measure. The man who always felt so big and chaste was an experimenter. Very, very human. Before reached this pedestal of truth, his journey was littered with cigarettes, meat, Westernism, dancing (!) and a lot of court cases. He made mistakes, turned them into stepping stones and became a source of light for so many people. Not surprisingly, his quotes are used, overused and abused. Most noteworthy in this category being “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

But there’s a reason for its overwhelming relevance. In very simple terms this one sentence solves the complex relationship between problems, responsibility and solutions. And so the last few weeks I’ve been dreaming, thinking and acting.. and with Ashutosh, I came up with the plan for what might turn out to be the largest youth movement in Coimbatore.

                                        Experiment: Gandhigiri ’12

Hello all,

Here’s how we’re going to drive change in Coimbatore, on one day. There are activities under five broad causes and we’re going to execute them in different places in the city. Read on, speak up, do your bit.

For the environment: In association with an NGO, planting trees and cleaning the tanks in the city.

Hope for our public spaces: “Saying that Indian are dirty and we are like that only is cute, but doesn’t do anything to solve the problem. Meet The Ugly Indians!  become one, and change Coimbatore’s public spaces (almost) overnight. Open dumps, cigarette littering, paan stains, public urination… it’s absolutely cleanable.

Vegetarianism drive: Apart from abstaining from meat ourselves, lets make an effort to request hotels, homes, broilers and butchers to help reduce meat consumption on this day. Not impossible. And if you’re wondering why non-vegetarianism is such bad deal, read this: Top 10 reasons not to eat meat.

Celebrating India: A few years down the line Indians are going to be indistinguishable from the Westerners – progress isn’t a bad thing but the word is a bit misused in this context. It isn’t about aping the West but about how we can bring riches form our past in a present-day context.  It’s about Kalamkari, Kalari and Kozhukottai, and you’d better be ashamed if you don’t know what these are. Bring on the Art and Culture – in dress, speech, thought, expression…

Serving the lesser privileged: Collecting blankets for night shelters, cleaning up the places where they stay, getting food and medicines, crowd-sourcing funds etc. In a country like India, there’s no dearth of opportunities to serve people who were born less fortunate than us (sunny side of widespread poverty 🙂 )

ANYBODY in Coimbatore can join this. While there are no restrictions on age, this one’s aimed at youth (and, like the oldies like to say, for “the young at heart”!)  School goers, unschoolers , colleges or working people… if you are ready to give in selfless service for just one day (it happens to be a holiday too, YAY! 😀 ) then it matters not. This movement is starting with one person, and can accomodate hundreds – no amount of service is too small or, too big.

Pick your area of interest and message me/write on my wall, and soon we will create an open group to keep you posted on all the details such as location, time, course of action etc!

On Gandhiji:

He was more than a freedom fighter and is a lot more than the face on our currency. Truth and God went deep with this man, and applied to almost every area of thought. This year we celebrate some things that he believed in, which are more relevant today than ever: vegetarianism, environmentalism, service, simplicity, and his beloved motherland – Bharat.

Bapu said, Be the change you want to see in the world. Abused as this quote is, it hasn’t lost the relevance with the relationship of problems > solutions > changing.

We take responsibility for our Coimbatore on his birthday this year, and he’s going to smile a lovely smile when he sees! 🙂

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I posted this as a note on Facebook a few hours ago and the response has been fantastic. Which goes on to say, to all the stinking pessimists, that there are good people who want to serve and make a difference. I’ve spoken to some NGO’s and big social workers, including Siruthuli and Shanti Ashram, and the next two weeks seem to be promising. I only hope Bapu is watching. 🙂