The difficult part for me of not being able to write on your laptop is much beyond the unfamiliarity of the keypad. It is also extremely difficult to think and write in an unfamiliar language. (The laptop that I have borrowed from Abhishek doesn't have a Hindi typepad). But I shall still try to juggle with the semantics nonetheless with a hope that most of my feelings do get expressed even when I am trying too hard!
I am sitting in the newly built convention centre of JNU to attend the Young India Fellowship Programme's founding batch convocation. I shouldn't have been here. I am not a parent. I am not a fellow. I am not a faculty either. In fact, YIFP was a client, and I still haven't overcome the fact that I couldn't deliever here, at least not like I would have wanted to. But you either accept your failures gracefully, face them head on and learn from them, or you don't accept them at all. I accept where I have gone wrong, and I want to mend it. That's why I am in this hall, struggling with the fancy Kantha saree and self doubt, both in one go.
The bright young faces come to the stage, one after the other, to collect their certificates. They also have to present a 30-sec 'thank you' speech. Now that could bore you to death. I mean, how will one speech be different from the other? They will thank their parents and faculty and friends, and they will 'look forward' to being in the big bad world and the next fifty students will continue to yap the same thing incessantly.
So why am I here in the first place?!
"Thank you for making us unemployable", says one.
"I was confused when I came here last year. I am all the more confused when I graduate, and I have realised it's a good thing", says the other.
Yet another quotes Van Gogh and the other one some other fancy name I don't remember.
But by now I am soaking into the vibes that are percolating through the auditorium. These vibes are full of courage and belief. They are so youthful they fill you with energy. You are not the only mad one in this big bad world, I tell myself. It is alright to take the less traveled path, and it is perfectly alright to make mistakes as long as you have the inclination to learn from them.
The Dean, Pramath Raj Sinha, takes over the podium to conclude to the ceremony, and he is as candid and informal as one can be. Young India Fellowship was born out of a conversation that he had with his two friends. (Pramath was the Founding Dean of Indian School of Business, Hyderabad and heads 9 dot 9.) The conversation revolved around how there was no liberal arts based higher education system in India, and how higher education only meant 'employablity'. They all shared a dream, and they all believed in it.
It took five long years to get UPenn to support their crazy idea of creating a fellowship on the lines of Rhodes Scholarship, which would create a multi-disciplinary learning environment for young minds fresh out of college. It took five long years of self-doubt, hard work and sleepless nights to see this dream turn into reality. It took five long years to accumulate endowments and sponsorship. (Each fellow receives Rs 8 lakh to support the fellowship, and this money comes from sponsors).
And it will take much longer to even make that one bit of difference in the higher education system in India; where education will mean beyond degrees and certificates, when education will mean a learning experience that leaves you inquisitive and leaves you with a desire to contribute to the society. It will take really long to hone the young minds in a way that they begin to think beyond jobs with fat salaries; where they will first think of being a citizen, and then an individual.
It may take really long, but it may not be impossible to achieve for we have dreamers sitting right next to us. I hope their courage and belief becomes contagious and it spreads far and wide. For now I can only wish luck to the designer who will paint to express himself; the occupational therapist who will work in Orissa and the philanthropists who will go on to build a world class liberal arts based university soon in Haryana. (And it's not a scam, if I may quote one of the fellows who candidly told his parents from the stage!)
For now, I have a live example of thinking the impossible, taking baby steps towards it and falling flat on the ground, only to rise again. For now, I will believe that it is good to believe, and hope is the only good thing that happened to this world. For now, I will dream and get more confused, for confusion is a good state of mind to be in.
And here is what I will remember for the rest of my life. Thank you for sharing this quote, Young Fellow.
"Zindagi ek muslasal safar hai/manzilein paate rahe, manzilein badhaate rahe."
(Life is a journey in continuum. I kept reaching my goals, and I kept pushing them further.)