Pranab da on “Nation, Nationalism, Patriotism” : ‘Let’s work for Peace, Harmony and Happiness’ ! Jai Hind!

SPEECH OF SHRI PRANAB MUKHERJEE, FORMER PRESIDENT OF INDIA AT THE CONCLUDING FUNCTION OF THE THIRD YEAR ANNUAL TRAINING CAMP OF RASHTRIYA SWAYAMEVAK SANGH AT RESHIMBAGH GROUND TODAY

Nation, Nationalism and Patriotism

Greetings,

Sarsanghchalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat Ji, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Today, I’m here to share with you my understanding of the concepts of Nation, Nationalism and Patriotism in the context of India, that is Bharat. These three concepts are so closely intertwined that it is difficult to discuss any one of them in isolation.

2. Let us make a beginning by understanding the dictionary meaning of these three words. Nation is defined as ‘a large group of people sharing the same culture, language or history and inhabiting a particular state or area’. Nationalism is defined as ‘identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests especially to the exclusion of interests of other nations’. Patriotism is defined as ‘devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country’.

3. Let us look at our roots,
India was an open society, globally connected along the Silk and Spice Routes. These busy highways of commerce and conquest witnessed a free exchange of culture, faith and invention as merchants, scholars and sages traversed mountain and desert and sailed the oceans. Buddhism reached Central Asia, China and Southeast Asia together with Hindu influences . Ancient travelers like Megasthenes in the 4th century B.C., Fa Hien in the 5th century A.D. and Hiuen Tsang in the 7th century AD; when they came to India, wrote about the efficient administrative systems with planned settlements and good infrastructure. Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramashila, Valabhi, Somapura and Odantapuri comprised the ancient university system that dominated the world for 1,800 years beginning the sixth century BCE. They were magnets for the finest minds and scholars in the world. In the liberal environment of these institutions creativity found full form and art, literature, and scholarship flourished. Chanakya’s Arthashastra, an authoritative text on state-craft was also written during this period.

4. India was a state long before the concept of the European Nation State gained ground after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. This model- of a defined territory, a single language, shared religion and a common enemy- is the model which led to the formation of various nation states in Europe. On the other hand Indian Nationalism emanated from “Universalism” the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम) and Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Sarve Santu Niramayah. We see the whole world as one family and pray for the happiness and good health of all. Our national identity has emerged through a long drawn process of confluence, assimilation, and co-existence. The multiplicity in culture, faith and language is what makes India special. We derive our strength from tolerance. We accept and respect our pluralism. We celebrate our diversity. These have been a part of our collective consciousness for centuries. Any attempt at defining our nationhood in terms of dogmas and identities of religion, region, hatred and intolerance will only lead to dilution of our national identity. Any differences that may appear are only on the surface but we remain a distinct cultural unit with a common history, a common literature and a common civilization . In the words of the eminent historian Vincent Smith, “India beyond all doubt possesses a deep underlying fundamental unity, far more profound than that produced either by geographical isolation or by political superiority. That unity transcends the innumerable diversities of blood, colour, language, dress, manners, and sect” .

5. If we take a quick look at history the emergence of the Indian State can be traced back to the sixteen Mahajanapadas mostly spread across Northern India in the 6th century BC. In the 4th century BC, Chandragupta Maurya defeated the Greeks to build a powerful empire comprising of North-Western and Northern India. Emperor Ashoka was the most illustrious ruler of this dynasty. After the collapse of the Mauryan Dynasty, the empire broke into small kingdoms around 185 BC. Gupta Dynasty again created a vast empire which collapsed around 550 AD. Many dynasties ruled till 12th century, when Muslim invaders captured Delhi and successive dynasties ruled for the next 300 years. Babur defeated the last Lodhi King in 1526 at the First Battle of Panipat and firmly established Mughal rule which continued for 300 years. The East India Company after winning the Battle of Plassey in 1757, and the Three Battles of Arcot (1746-63) brought a vast territory in East and South of India under its control. A large part of western region was also annexed to the company’s territory and to administer these territories, a modern form of government was established in 1774. To administer these territories, the office of Governor General at fort William, Calcutta and two sub-ordinate governors at Madras and Bombay were created. For nearly 140 years, Calcutta was the centre of British Authority in India. However, the responsibility of administration was taken away from the East India Company in 1858 and the Secretary of State for India was appointed in the British Cabinet to super intend the Indian Administration.

6. Throughout this period of 2500 years of changing political fortunes and conquests, the 5000 year old civilizational continuity remained unbroken. In fact, each conqueror and each foreign element had been absorbed to form a new synthesis and unity . Tagore in his poem ‘Bharat Teertha’ says and I quote “……No one knows at whose beckoning call how many streams, of humanity came in indomitable waves from all over the world, over the millennia and mingled like rivers, into this vast ocean and created an individual soul, that is called Bharat”.

7. The concept of Modern Indian State found frequent articulation by various Indian organizations including the Indian National Congress towards the end of nineteenth century. Starting with Shri Surendranath Banerjee in 1895 at Pune, all Congress Presidents gave a call for an Indian Nation comprising the territorial areas of British India and the territories of 565 princely states. When Bal Gangadhar Tilak gave voice to the phrase coined by Barrister Joseph Baptista “Swaraj is my Birthright and I shall have it”, he referred to Swaraj for the Indian People – encompassing various castes, creeds, and religions, spread across British India, and Princely States. This Nation and Nationalism was not bound by geography, language, religion, or race. As Gandhiji explained Indian nationalism was not exclusive, nor aggressive, nor destructive. It was this Nationalism that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru so vividly expressed in the ‘Discovery of India’, and I quote, “I am convinced that Nationalism can only come out of the ideological fusion of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and other groups in India. That does not mean that extinction of any real culture of any group, but it does mean a common national outlook, to which other matters are subordinated”. In the process of our movement against British Rule, the various anti-colonial, anti-British and mostly progressive movements across the length and breadth of the country were unified into a cohesive national struggle for freedom, keeping the feeling of patriotism above their individual, ideological and political leanings.

8. We won independence in 1947. Thanks to the efforts of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Princely States merged leading to the consolidation of India. The complete integration of Provincial and Princely States took place after the formation of states on the recommendation of States Re-organisation Commission.

9. On 26 January 1950, the Constitution of India came into effect. In a remarkable display of idealism and courage, we the people of India gave to ourselves a sovereign democratic republic to secure for all its citizens justice, liberty, and equality. We undertook to promote among all citizens fraternity, the dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation. These ideals became the lodestar of the modern Indian State. Democracy became our most precious guide towards peace and regeneration from the swamp of poverty created by centuries of colonial rule. For us, Democracy is not a gift, but a sacred trust. The Indian Constitution, consisting of 395 articles and 12 schedules, is not merely a legal document but a Magna Carta of socio-economic transformation of the country. It represents the hopes and aspirations of the billion plus Indians. From our constitution flows our nationalism. The construct of Indian nationalism is ‘Constitutional Patriotism’, which consists of an appreciation of our inherited and shared diversity; a readiness to enact one’s citizenship at different levels; the ability to self correct and learn from others .

Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to share with you some truths that I have internalized during my fifty year long public life, as a Parliamentarian and Administrator.
10. The soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance. This plurality of our society has come through assimilation of ideas over centuries. Secularism and inclusion are a matter of faith for us. It is our composite culture which makes us into one nation. India’s Nationhood is not one language, one religion, one enemy. It is the ‘Perennial Universalism’ of 1.3 billion people who use more than 122 languages and 1600 dialects in their everyday lives, practice 7 major religions, belong to 3 major ethnic groups- Aryans, Mongoloids, and Dravidians live under one system, one flag and one identity of being ‘Bhartiya’ and have ‘No Enemies’. That is what makes Bharat a diverse and united nation.

11. In a democracy, informed and reasoned public engagement on all issues of national importance is essential. A dialogue is necessary not only to balance the competing interests but also to reconcile them. Divergent strands in public discourse have to be recognized. We may argue, we may agree, or we may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Only through a dialogue can we develop the understanding to solve complex problems without an unhealthy strife within our polity.

12. Peaceful co-existence, compassion, respect for life, and harmony with nature form the foundation of our civilization. Every time a child or woman is brutalized, the soul of India is wounded. Manifestations of rage are tearing our social fabric. Every day, we see increased violence around us. At the heart of this violence is darkness, fear, and mistrust. We must free our public discourse from all forms of violence, physical as well as verbal. Only a non-violent society can ensure the participation of all sections of people in the democratic process, especially the marginalized and the dispossessed. We must move from anger, violence, and conflict to peace, harmony, and happiness.

12 A. We have lived with pain and strife for long enough. You are young, disciplined, well trained and highly educated. Please wish for peace, harmony and happiness. Our Motherland is asking for that. Our Motherland deserves that.

13. Happiness is fundamental to the human experience of life. To lead healthy, happy, and productive lives is the basic right of our citizens. While we have done well on our economic growth indicators, we have fared poorly on the World Happiness Index. We rank 133 out of the 156 countries mapped in the World Happiness Report 2018. Kautilya’s Shloka from Arthashastra, inscribed near lift No. 6 in the Parliament House says:
प्रजासुखे सुखं राज्ञः प्रजानां च हिते हितम् ।
नात्मप्रियं हितं राज्ञः प्रजानां तु प्रियं हितम् ।।
In the happiness of the people lies the happiness of the king, their welfare is his welfare. He shall not consider as good only that which pleases him but treat as beneficial to him whatever causes happiness to all people. Kautilya points out in this shloka very succinctly that the State is for the people. People are at the centre of all activities of the state and nothing should be done to divide the people and create animosity amongst them. The aim of the state should be to galvanise them to fight a concerted war against poverty, disease and deprivation and to convert economic growth into real development. Let the objective of spreading Peace, Harmony and Happiness inform the formulation of our public policy and guide all the actions of our state and citizens in their everyday life. This and only this will be able to create a happy nation, where Nationalism flows automatically.
Thank You
*Jai Hind*

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Need to revisit the curriculum at design schools, including NIFT/NID : Be Entrepreneurial

It was a pleasure and privilege to be part of the Jury of the finals of the first All India #NIFT HG #business plan competition at @n.i.f.t national HQ in Delhi. It is indeed an honour and joy to start a new journey of contributing to the #design #education and fostering #entrepreneurship in design schools of the country.

Today, we have 16 NIFT campuses across the country. Five finalists emerged from the six month long competition that started from each of the 16 campuses. This initiative by #HarishGupta, an #NIFT alum of 1991 batch is praiseworthy and has the potential of #transforming the #design #education in #India.
In the pic include the visionaries who have given shape and are still giving to not only NIFT but also design as a edu-vertical and industry in the country. first DG Mrs Rathi (IAS) and current DG Mrs Sharda (IAS). Also seen are pioneer in #womenentrepreneurship @cwei Mrs Shashi, the founding CEO of Lacoste in India, Jayant, Harish Gupta of fashion learning, Praveen of Pincap fintech and other eminent roleholders in the NIFT fraternity Prof Sibichan, Prof Prabir, Prof Sudha, Prof Sohail…

The Jury was chaired by Mr Ganesh Natarajan, now an entrepreneurial mentor and investor, who has been known for spearheading Aptech at one point of time.

My few take aways from being part of the Jury..

A. The students taken in by the NIFT/NIDs may be creative, but the institutions need to invest in their personality transformation. You can present yourselves, create opportunities and clinch deals only if you are articulate and are convincing.

B. There is a dire need for instittutions to create a larger vision for themselves that can impact society in various ways, not limited to churning graduates. The four years of education needs to integrate with the external world. Break the insulated existence.

C. Then comes the need facilitate students to create their vision for life. Greater the integration with the external world through excercises of bringing outside world into classrooms and taking classrooms to the outsideworld, higher will be facilitation of students to have a better vision.

D. Need to foster entrepreneurial mindset as part of evolution of a student during the four years. This happens only when the institution is entrepreneurial, faculty is entrepreneurial, the processes are entrepreneurial. The institution should think of a few challenges/problems in its city as projects that could add immense value to the society, and solve them through their expertise; bring in relevant corporates to sponsor (csr), integrate these projects with the curriculum, at least in the 3rd and 4th year. Initiate the students into a structured entrepreneurial curriculum in the second year.

E. Of course embrace and institutionalize the competitions like NIFT HG business plan competition to help students participate, validate their ideas, create incubation possibilities. The funds will pour in. I am sure there are many investors like me who want to bet on the horses with potential.

F. The institutions need to tell themselves that they will incubate half a dozen endeavours/companies every year.

A stitch in time saves nine, as they say. It is time for NIFTs and NIDs to restitch in time to infuse energies.

Time to take off.

#careerlauncher

Where is that imaginative, creative, energetic, vivacious child lost?

Smita, a teacher from one of the sought after schools in Dwarka, N K Bagrodia public school, has been chasing me for the last couple of months to visit her school. She confessed that, ever since she heard me speak at an education leaders conference conducted by ITIHAAS, she wanted to invite me to her school. She would call me to grace one function or other, as a guest. Most of the times, I was on the move. One thing about Smita I always felt when she spoke to me, is her energy and enthusiasm; that transcended the medium of phone. Last week when she called, I acquiesced to be the guest for their annual festival of creativity – Trishna, wherein about 30+ schools from across Delhi were participating.

The real pleasure being in a school lies in the children’s space.  On arrival, I was ushered into the Principal, Dr. Rajee N, Kumar’s room to meet her and a few more school leaders were called too. Dr. Rajee was sharing her experience of watching the children pushing boundaries since morning, in one creative activity or the other. Here I was, so keen to see the children in action, more than distributing the prizes, I was feeling incarcerated, though the interaction with the leadership was invaluable. The real learning is in experiencing the process, not in seeing the final product. I insisted on watching the children in action. The principal was graceful in facilitating me to watch a couple of activities.

Albeit it was at the fag end of the day, I could experience the theatre / acting performance, wherein the students were given 30 minutes to conjure a scene, write a script, select the performers, prepare and present. The students were from classes 7-9 and it was a delight to watch how they went about presenting. Children observe everything, absorb like a sponge and synthesize making meaning out of every action around them. This activity gave me one more opportunity to watch their thought process; how well they could project their learning. Needless to say, I really enjoyed every presentation, reinforcing my beliefs about children and their infinite capabilities.

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Post the event, I was now keen to interact with the school leadership. Thanks to Dr. Rajee, she too was keen to. I was sharing that the ingenuity of children that we witnessed in the activities of the event can be stoked every day, in every class and home; and who are we to restrict to one event or two in a year.

Very unfortunate that in most of the schools in India, in general, the child comes last. Schools need to exist for the child; she must be the center of all activities that schools plan. It is far from being so, the way we operate – the curriculum designed, the courses offered, the syllabus, the pedagogy, the planning to finish syllabus….. the list is endless. Everything is designed to help the school and the teachers to have peace of mind and to enable ease of execution. An imaginative, creative, energetic, vivacious child, bubbling with ideas ends up being a morose, thoughtless, aimless, fearful youth devoid of confidence and self-belief by the time he or she ends schooling.

If only each one of us, every adult – teachers, parents, schools, universities, educational leaders – can believe in every child, put the child first, acknowledge the needs of the child, really bring the openness to create exciting learning environments at schools, universities and home, I think the world will be a far, far better place to live in. The children and youth will be keen to solve the problems that the society in their neighborhood is facing. Every education institution can be at the fore-front of transformation of the society. Alas!

I am a culprit too. It takes immense effort to be open and facilitating. I am trying and have been on that journey for quite some time. Still short-comings come to the fore. I still need to keep my EGO aside. Working on being humble, pleasant, purposeful is still a huge ask, even with all good intentions and awareness of the outcomes.

My personal endeavour has been to be conscious and work towards making every child’s space an exciting one. To this effect, we, leadership at CL Educate, have been proactive to work with schools, institutions, universities to stoke jigyasa (curiosity, inquisitiveness) among children and youth; create an environment to help them explore, research in areas or subjects of their interest; have belief in their capabilities. Over the years the outcomes have been rewarding as we see the Ananda (joy) among children and youth. This facilitates the institutions and families to also realize where the inclinations of the child is and this has lead to remarkable breakthroughs for the progress of children and youth ahead in their careers and life. Many a child has presented his research and innovations in the global conferences, got her work published in prestigious journals; has had confidence to present oneself for an interview to reach the portals of a world class institution or university. The quest is to enable every child, irrespective of the outcome, gain a great deal of belief in oneself for one’s life. The process makes them so.

I welcome anyone who is keen to facilitate his child or children in schools, and youth in college, to write to me. We will be more than happy to facilitate.

As we let our own light shine, we give others permission to do the same….

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

This inspiring quote by Marianne Williamson is from her book, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3 (Pg. 190-191).

This quote was used by Late Dr. Nelson Mandela, at the inaugural of his presidency of South Africa, after over 25 years of incarceration under Apartheid.

Each one of us is a prisoner of our thought process and most of the humanity never takes that step towards what they really want to be. This quote is always in my thought process and I use this to keep pushing myself to push my boundaries and this helps me to push others too.

In the last fortnight, I came across two youngsters who accosted me at different places on my travels, to confess that they have been through a session or two of mine in different locations at different times, and these sessions have impacted their thoughts and actions. And that they did take the leap of faith and chose their own path in life, during the interim period; and are well on their way to realize their inner sheen, as they are letting their own light shine others in their lives….

I am glad Sachin and Nikhil accosted me to reinforce my purpose of life. Thanks to scores of youth who have made me resolve steadfastly to undertake more such journeys in life….

———— April 20th, 2018 ———–

Sachin Jha

I was on my way back after addressing a very large gathering of about 2000 parents, on “Enabling children in this era of disruption” at DPS, Ranchi. As always, I was on a high, since I get to learn as much in these sessions, as I part with. So ideas were running in my head when I heard someone calling my name at a food point where, I was just trying to grab a sandwich before I boarded the flight.

Sachin comes from behind at Birsa Munda Airport, Ranchi and asks, “Are you Sreeni?”. I smiled. Sachin continues, “I could figure out from distance, but had some hesitation, when I came near, saw the CL logo on your laptop bag and that confirmed that you are. Still..” and laughed.

I was glad, #Inspiring #SachinJha of #IIML @iimlucknowdiaries accosted me at #Ranchi #Airport to tell me that he was in a class of mine in 2012 in #Kolkatta. and felt good that Sachin chose to take the path less trodden! #Sustainability #SDG which will be the mantra in the future.

He is currently doing his work with a foundation of TATA steel in the space of #education during the summers. Delighted that he is working with #policymakers #IAS decision makers in #Jharkhand!! Choose the less trodden path to progress faster, by exciting and enthusing others!! I am sure he will be in the @UN soon!

I commented that we both are in complete contrast(look at the photo) in the way we were looking that day! and we had a good laugh!!

#education #educator #mentor #learner #student #changemaker #travel #parenting #workshop #career #careerchoices #careercoaching #Lifecoach #coach

————- April 27th, 2018 ————-

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#Electrifying day it was; #TEDx style keynote on #Creating #Innovation #Ecosystem in Institutions to enable learners for the future;

@ #Vision2030EduConference @MMUMullana over 100 leaders of schools, colleges, universities participated,

Also I was on a panel that was discussing #TEACHERSofFUTURE

After my panel discussion, at my table I was observing an engrossed 4 year-old child sketching, oblivious to the happenings in the conference. Just then I felt a tap on my shoulder. Apologetically asks, whether he can talk to me.

@NikhilSheavaramani shared that he was wondering how to talk to me and that it took him some self-talk to talk to me. “I was in the first row in your 2011 session on #Entrepreneurship in #Varanasi; Inspired, wondered how? Today I am one, in Bhatinda.

I run an education institution in Bhatinda along with my wife helping many a class 8-12 children. She is missing meeting you as I have come alone, and will be delighted when I share about this meeting. Never thought you will be here.”

Feel blessed, for such moments. Each change-maker an inspiration. Life is Fruitful; It has a way of giving back! That’s what keeps one going – one spark ignited in a large gathering is good enough to set a community, town or a city on fire.

#education #educator #mentor #learner #student #changemaker #travel #Educational #Leadership #Transformational #workshop #Learning #Courage #Humility #career #careerchoices #careercoaching #Lifecoach #coach #Dynamism

@career_launcher @CLEducate @careerlaunchervns #SCBagla @satyaumanandu
———

Insights into Legal Education, Profession and CLAT : with Sachin Malhan (Founder LST)

I have had the honor of moderating an interactive and engaging session with Law School Aspirants featuring the Legal Education Expert Mr. Sachin Malhan. Sachin is an alum of NLSIU; Founder LST, Rainmaker and Inclusive planet – each a path breaking effort in their respective spaces of legal education, professional facilitation and social inclusion; Sachin is the Executive Director (world wide), of Ashoka Changemakers one of the initiatives of Ashoka, a top-5 non-governmental organization in the world.

About the interactive session.

Sachin Malhan, a luminary in legal education, engages the Law Schools Aspirants in his inimitable style. Sachin shares rare insights into legal profession and its immense possibilities.

The interaction encompasses all of the following –

· Sachin talks about law school experience as a student at NLSIU

· “MY JOURNEY” – Sachin talking about his journey of life – as an aspirant of law and law professional

· Secrets to do well in CLAT

· How to become better in Verbal section of CLAT?

· How to overcome fear? How to believe and succeed?

· How National Law Schools differ from other law schools?

· Is it worth dropping a year to prepare for CLAT?

· On RIGHT Hardwork and WRONG Hardwork

· Specializations a lawyer can pursue

· Career Perspectives and Opportunities as a lawyer

· Why Learner mindset is key to success

· Three values to inculcate – Learning, Courage and Humility

· Significance of General Awareness; importance in CLAT

· How to get insights into your readiness to crack the CLAT?

· Corporate Law and business; on private law schools

· Indian Law school education Vs Global Law Schools

· Is it worth to look at global law schools? Cost implications

· Criminology and prospects

· International Law and perspectives

· Media and Law

· Challenges in setting up one’s own practice; life in a law firm

· Is Law education of any value, if one doesn’t want to take up practice?

· How important is to remember the cases, articles etc that lawyers rattle out

· Difference between the regular 3 yr grad + LLB and Integrated Law programs

· Does legal education stoke creative capability

· A day in a National Law School

Kindly go through the entire interaction and also share your feedback here. Thanks

On AIR’s National Programme of Talks – Coping with Examinations

I had recorded for a program on #AIR, All India Radio/#Akashvani which was broadcast on the #National Program of Talks on 10th April at 9:30pm. – #Examinations and #stress among #children; How to alleviate? – What #schools, #educators can do? – #Mentalhealth, how to acknowledge and take #care! – Are examinations must, what other ways to #evaluate a #child? – #competition, good or bad – when to introduce competition – How to #enable #children to face life – #career choices – #realizing #potential
#education #society #expectations #socialpressures #parentaladvisory #dream #job #livlihood #facilitation …… The show was moderated by Sri Suchinto Chatterjee, a lawyer and radio fanatic, the co-panelits we’re Dr Meena Gupta, wellness counsellor and Therapist, Mrs Neelam Kumar, principal of a leading public school. Sri Naveen Gupta and Apoorva Jha coordinated from AIR

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Kindly click on the following link to listen to the entire show

IWSB Alum Sumit Gunjan, an inspiring changemaker, featured in Indian Express

Delighted to see #IWSB 2010-2012 PGP alum, @SumitGunjan, who anchored the school for children of construction workers in the evenings on campus, being featured in the Indian Express today.

IWSB - SEE : Mull-A-Cause launches library for childrenGUNJAN with friends facilitating children at the IWSB – SEE : Mull-A-Cause launches library for children

Sumit Gunjan has always been an epitome of empathy; a fine human being who always strived to create an impact wherever he was! Blessed to have such purposeful, passionate, persevering human beings who walked into life.

The above photograph is from the occasion of launch of the library for children at the evening school, when Indira and Mallika bought over 200 books for children from CBT and other sources. The evening saw story-telling and book reading sessions. More of the photos can be seen at the album Mull-A-Cause

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Here I am copying the Indian Express Story, as it appears on its website. I humbly thank IE.

In hostel for tribal children near Ranchi, lessons on how to stay close to roots

Two events, two years apart, were to set Sumit Gunjan on a journey that would not only change his life but that of scores of tribal children in ‘Bal Nivas’, a hostel he set up for them in Banta-Hajam, a village in Silli Block, 70 km from Ranchi.

The first was eight years ago, in 2010, when Gunjan, then a 20-year-old pursuing a post-graduate management programme in a Greater Noida institute, came across a group of children of construction workers at a plot near his college. He began engaging with them, holding informal classes for them with the help of his batchmates and a few professors.

The second “turning point” was in early 2012, when Gunjan, still with the Greater Noida institute, undertook a “research yatra” to Jharkhand for the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) in Ahmedabad to study medicinal herbs used by the tribals of Jharkhand.

The first time Gunjan, the youngest of three children of a district court lawyer in Jharkhand’s Giridih, visited Banta-Hajam, he stayed for five days. But he kept coming back to the village, fascinated by the tribal way of life, until he finally decided to stay on for good that April.

“Yahaan ka boli, yahaan ka chaal… hum sab kuchh sikhaya usko (I taught him our language, our practices… everything),” says Bhavani Patar Munda at whose mud house Gunjan began by imparting basic literacy lessons to children.

Gunjan also worked in the fields, did errands and lived like any other member of the Munda household. “From then until today, we have never discussed rent. I live with them, work with them, eat with them,” says Gunjan, who has a Bachelor’s degree in management from Durgapur, West Bengal.

A couple of years ago, Gunjan, with help from villagers, friends and well-wishers, set up Bal Nivas, where 35 tribal children are imparted knowledge of traditional tribal languages, and trained in singing, dancing, classical music, computers and spoken English, besides vocational skills such as bee-keeping and knitting.

The children, all of them from the village, live in Bal Niwas, cooking their own food and cleaning their living quarters. While some children go to the primary school in the village and others to schools in Ranchi, they come back to the hostel, where they are encouraged to stay connected with the tribal way of life.

“At any given point, we teach around 35 children, of whom 25 are girls. They learn music, folk and classical, instruments such as the tabla, harmonium and even the tuila, a traditional tribal instrument on the verge of extinction, the do-tara and the mandolin,” says Gunjan.

When he arrived at Banta-Hajam village, Gunjan realised the children had limited language skills, and were not interested in studying. That’s when he came up with the Bal Nivas concept. “Initially, this was a place to give young children time after formal school where they learned basic things like mathematics and language through activities that were part of their own milieu like local games, which children don’t play these days,” he said.

At present, there are around 15 children, including seven girls, who live at the Bal Nivas. “Most of these children either do not have a father or a mother or are orphans. Also, we take children, who are generally dubbed failures by their own community or those who veer towards alcoholism and other vices at a young age,” he said.

The villagers donate rice every week, while the children have created a fund, donating Rs 2-3 a week. Gunjan also earns by teaching at two teachers’ training institutes in Koderma and Giridih.

Gunjan says he realised that to impart education to tribal children, he would have to first understand them better. “They ate rice three times a day. I started having the same diet and realised it was affecting my stamina. It then became easier for me to explain to them why having a balanced diet, especially for children, was necessary,” he says.

Some of his friends from NIF pushed Gunjan to introduce machines for sowing paddy. “But I decided to sow the saplings myself, along with the women. I then realised how it was also a place and platform for women to socialise. They would sing their traditional songs and come to know about each other’s lives. If we introduce machines, this beautiful thing would be lost. I am not against technology, but it has to be integrated with the milieu in which it is to be introduced,” he says.

Villagers are full of praise for Gunjan’s efforts. “Earlier, the only option for a young boy growing up in these parts was to migrate for work, or fall in bad company and take to liquor and other intoxicants. Gunjan has brought the focus back on all the good practices and traditions that we lived by but have now forgotten,” says Jogendra Gope, a folk singer, on whose land Gunjan set up the hostel. His daughter Sumati now learns classical and folk music at the hostel.

However, the journey wasn’t always smooth. “Last year, some people, upset with what Gunjan was doing, approached the panchayat. They wanted to know why so many girls were in the hostel and why they were being trained in music and dance. But, we stood our ground and, finally, they relented,” says Ramesh Chandra Kumhar, a lac businessman who lives opposite the hostel and who trains the children in vocational skills.

Kumhar says the reason why almost all villagers backed Gunjan was that the change he had brought about was for everyone to see.

Suraj Patar Munda, one of the students at Bal Nivas, says, “I had fallen into bad company and would take marijuana and never attend school. Now, I have left all that and I’m getting trained in music, besides English and computer,” says the teenager who is enrolled at the Ramakrishna Mission School in Ranchi.

Gunjan says he could win the trust of parents, especially of girl students at Bal Nivas, because he kept things transparent. “We would invite parents to live with us at Bal Nivas. When they saw for themselves how things were, they felt good about it and believed me,” he says.

The biggest certificate of their trust came in 2015 when he travelled with some of the children to Ahmedabad for the annual Satvik Food Festival of NIF. “For a village where girls are not supposed to go beyond Ranchi without men escorting them, it was a big thing,” says Gunjan.

One of those who made that trip to Ahmedabad was Ashtami Patar Munda, the 15-year-old daughter of Munda, at whose house Gunjan stayed when he first came to the village in 2012. “For the first time, I saw a world outside our village. Had it not been for Gunjan bhaiyya, it would have been unthinkable. I want to follow his footsteps,” she says.

Jharkhand’s Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairperson, Arti Kujur, who has attended a couple of cultural programmes organised by Gunjan’s students, says, “He got the artistes to perform to themes such as child marriages and human trafficking, which is a problem in these areas. Also, he has gained the confidence of the tribals. It’s not easy.”

But what really matters for Gunjan are lines like these, delivered with a warm smile. “For us, he is one of our own. He has changed our lives for the better,” says Alam Khan, a resident of Banta-Hajam.

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