Today, India is a country brimming with bright young minds. However, it still struggles with poverty and illiteracy issues, despite having some of the world’s greatest minds. Can the disconnect be due to our aging fleet of politicians? The stats speak for themselves: 50% of Indian population is under 25 and more than 70% under 40. But the average age of Indian cabinet ministers in India is 65 creating a four decade thought gap between the bulk of the population and the people who govern them.
The alarming part of Indian politics is the mentality that’s stuck in a bygone age, and you clearly see it in the way some politicians reacted to the recent rape cases that shook our nation. You also see it in the recent overturning of the anti gay laws by the Supreme Court. The approach a young citizen would take on our current issues might be very different from the way an older politician would tackle it. Politicians today appear quick to pounce on blaming the girls for dressing inappropriately and attracting rapists. Clearly, it’s time for these politicians to step aside and open up the stage for younger generation. No, I am not talking or supporting Rahul Gandhi here. (That’s just an example of how we believe that political/entertainment/business power can be inherited and not necessarily earned in our country). Some even see upcoming elections as merely a repetitive display of preexisting farce to entertain an audience of 1.2 billion while the others hope for a more effective government. Only time will tell.
On the positive side, our young population today is successfully stepping into a variety of different platforms: 23 of the 450 achievers in the reckoning for the 30 under 30 Forbes list are of Indian origin. The young generations in India is globalized and is forward thinking, and are able to grab the open market economies by the horns. It’s both a fantastic and a frustrating time to be young in India- fantastic because everything is possible, the options are limitless, market is open and the economy is booming, and it’s frustrating because of the jaded hierarchy and pointless bureaucracy that we have come to accept. Still, you often see the youth taking matters into their own hand and they have seized the right to do so. Such is the story of Shlok.
Shlok took roots when Ashwin Natarajan, a Marketing manager who regularly crossed a government School in one of the busiest areas of Bangalore, was determined to do something meaningful for the little students he saw frolicking on the playgrounds. He posted a rough plan in the internal community website of his company and waited for like minded folks to reply. Darshan Yadunath, another employee who shared the same interests replied and the two teamed up to make a small difference in one school. Going to this school made them realize the gaps in the system and the injustice you are subjected to when you go to government schools as compared to private schools in India. Economic disparity is a very evident thing in India and you become blinded to it if you have grown up in India. Often times, the rich go about demanding and enjoying luxuries and the poor try their best to make their ends meet, very minimal constructive interaction happens between the two. But to actually meet these kids and know their stories is an exhausting, emotionally draining experience and you are charged with a will to do something meaningful. This has only encouraged our team to try to even the playing fields for kids from Government schools, give them a better chance at life because everyone deserves one. A few key members like Tanya Bakshi, Shwetha Reddy and 3 years later, Shlok has its wings spread to 6 schools (in Puttenhalli, Konanakunte, KR Puram, Koramangala and Nagawara in Bangalore and in Ramapuram in Chennai) 3 different states and with volunteer movements on 2 different continents.
More than 60 volunteers have joined hands to make a difference in the lives of about a 1000 kids. The driving factor was the satisfaction and experience they achieved spending time with these kids, and a self promise to do something better for the world, to bring justice to the less fortunate in their own small way. Volunteers pulled out money from their own pockets to meet minor needs and requirements. Today, we are ready to launch the Sugata Mitra model in Puttenhalli School and are raring to go to others. We had our first fundraising event in New York last month where the outpour of support and enthusiasm was overwhelming. The funds raised will go towards installation of broadband, purchasing thin clients and general infrastructure costs for the Sugata Mitra model. Having been a part of Shlok since its inception and having fought various battles along with the team, it’s been a journey of a hard working utopian world where dreams are possible and change is inevitable.
We at Shlok stand in front of the world for you to show that change is possible with one tiny step. If you have the will and courage to stand up to yours beliefs, you are bound to make an impact. Everyone deserves a chance in their life, an equal opportunity and right to achieve the basic necessities.
If you are interested in volunteering, leading a chapter or collaborating with us on any issues, please get in touch and come join us at Shlok to Imagine, Impart and Inspire.
Head of Shlok US chapter.