I remember my super seniors in high school were a very responsible lot. And I don’t just mean academically; they were socially proactive. They taught one of the cleaning staff English. I don’t remember her name or my seniors’ even. But I’ll never forget how diligent they were with teaching her every Saturday, after school hours. Today, that cleaner is a kindergarten teacher at my old school.
I never gave it much thought back then. But now that I think about it, I realise my seniors were exemplary citizens long before they were adults. There are many more youths like them. And the more I look for them, the more they seem to be all around us. There are college students who collectively donate money to educate underprivileged kids and even keep track of their progress. There are youngsters who petition for plastic-free school and college campuses. There are teenagers who teach children of their domestic help math and science.
Take Youth For Parivarthan (YFP), for instance. The youth volunteers of this organisation have cleaned and painted at least four walls and flyovers on the route I take to office. They’ve done this across several localities in Bengaluru city. They do this in the hope that people will stop dirtying the city, and I must say it has worked surprisingly well. Amith Amarnath, 24, founder of YFP, explains, “A children’s playground near my home used to be filled with garbage, making it inaccessible to the kids. So, a couple of my friends and I cleaned up the space and painted the benches in there. In the following days, we noticed people were hesitant to dirty such a clean place. That’s when we decided to do this in as many places as possible.”
Youngsters like Amith are so driven to be responsible even before they’ve experienced adulthood in all its facets. According to sociologist Dr Malathi Venugopal, 16-25 is an age group that’s easy to influence and mould. “Individuals this age are very impressionable. So, it’s easy to bring them into an ideology. And if such youngsters find meaning in it, there’s a very good possibility they will carry on such initiatives later in life as well,” she says.