For Wanterki, a 19-year-old student from Shillong, it was his life’s first travel beyond his home. He, along with selected National Service Scheme volunteers from Meghalaya, traveled more than 2600 kilometers to Sriperumpudur in Tamil Nadu to be amidst 400 other young brigades at the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute for Youth Development (RGNIYD).
56 hours of journey from the chilly environs of his hillocky hamlet in Meghalaya to the tropical environs of Sriperumbudur – it was a traverse worth venturing for Wanterki. “Here I have come across many youngsters of my age group…they are from different states of India with varied cultural background…and I am excited and enjoying being amidst them”, he said. The institute, at Sriperumpudur turned a mini young India as the volunteers converged there to attend the 12-day-long mega summer camp.
The camp, conceived under the 100-day agenda of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, was jointly organized by NSS and Rajiv Gandhi National Institute for Youth Development at Sriperumpudur. Dr.M.S. Gill, Minister for Youth Affairs & Sports avowed his Ministry’s youth-centric vision when he said at the inauguration that while west and rest of Asia would be graying, India would continue to be young for the next three decades given its youthful population and hence there is need for building leadership qualities in young generation.
It was this challenge that NSS and RGNIYD took on with true spirit. Shri G. Rajasekaran, Director of RGNIYD, said that the mega NSS summer camp, first such one in the country, was aimed at sensitising the young minds on the issues and situations that our country is currently facing. “We are attempting to sensitize and equip them to take on the challenges. We provided multi-lingual environment to the volunteers and brought in specialists drawn from various parts of the country to guide them.”
Overall personality development with a clear focus on developing voluntarism was the focus during the first week of the camp, which was devised into three major input divisions. The first one was on imparting the knowledge. Six different classes on six different topics – Environment, voluntarism, citizenship, Rural Development, Adolescent and Career Development, and Employability were devised for this, Dr. A. Radhakrishnan, co-ordinator and Faculty Head of RGNIYD said.
The second input division was orientation to Indian culture. In this, prominent performing artistes led the way by lectures and live demonstrations.
Giving orientation on physical exercise, yoga and meditation was the third input during the camp period.
One week of camp life at RGNIYD was followed by a five day long educational tour aimed at exposing the volunteers to the essence of wide spectrum of Indian identity. The volunteers traveled from Sriperumpudur to Tiruchirappally, Madurai, Coimbatore, Cochin and Thiruvananthapuram. The highpoint of the crisscross by more than 400 volunteers through two different routes – one through Coimbatore and Cochin and other through Madurai and Thiruvananthapuram – was their congregation at Gandhi Mandapam at Kanyakumari where they took a pledge that eloquently expressed their resolve to strive for a better tomorrow and better India.
“We the youth of this country with nerves of steel, muscles of iron and minds like thunder bolt resolve ourselves to transform our motherland into a developed nation by participating in all process of development. We further resolve to strive for national integrity and unity and promote secularism, pluralism, democratic values and responsible citizenship. We pledge to devote our heart and soul to one principal duty – the duty of raising the masses of India, awakening them and uniting them”
For the volunteers that attended the camp, it was an event that helped shape their minds and thoughts. Few volunteers like Biakhmingthanga, an 18 year old plus two student from Aizawl, said they were fairly apprehensive in the beginning. He was venturing into a part of India that was unfamiliar, a part of culture that he wasn’t quite aware of. “But my apprehensions lasted only for few minutes of my arrival at the Institute in Sriperumbudur”, he said. “Such was the warmth and inclusiveness that I encountered at the camp”, Biakhmingthanga said.
“The biggest realization that I had during the camp was the role that the youth can play in improving the society, the process that begins by correcting oneself”, said Narinder Singh Saini a third year degree student from Chandigarh.
While Ramyaraj, a degree student from Punalur in Kerala, was quite excited to have, for the first time in her life, met her peers from the north eastern region, for Shilpa Gupta, from Jammu, the camp was nothing less than own home. But she certainly had a grievance – the food. ‘Of course we are served north-Indian dishes like rajma dal but it had south Indian flavour’, she said with a bit of regret.
However those who devised the camp need not regret. Bringing together more than 400 young minds to a single platform and making them understand and appreciate each other-a momentous task successfully carried out.
Rajma dal with Sambar flavour … perhaps that symbolises the essence of Indianness!