Seventeen, going on eighteen. The world is their oyster but India has a special place in their hearts. TEHELKA talks to ten Indians on the cusp of innocence and the grown-up challenges of life
DAUGHTER OF a domestic servant, of an agricultural labourers, of a doctor, of a businessman. The son of a handicraft dealer, of a caretaker. From Shillong and Siliguri to Srinagar and Kochi. Voices as gloriously diverse as India, who have their age in common, and the fact that they have dreams of shaping their destiny — and that of the nation and the planet they inhabit — when they take the first tentative steps towards adulthood in 2008. The year when they can cast a vote and, in case of girls, marry. Their hopes, frustrations, ambitions, likes and dislikes are varied but there is a harmony in their collective vision of tomorrow.
APRIL 18, 1990
``I WANT TO be a biotechnologist as I’ll be able to contribute to the betterment of society,” says TC Rejitha, the daughter of agricultural workers. Her aim is to get a PhD and then engage in research. “Various epidemics have surfaced even in hygienic Kerala, making a mockery of its public health credentials. I hope research in biotechnology will find solutions.” Rejitha is now at the end of her preuniversity course and is also undergoing a course set up by the SC/ST department of the Kerala government and IIM-Kozhikode to boost the potential of young talent.
Why are you so concerned about society, I ask. “From childhood, I’ve been watching how the meek in our society struggle to survive. I can say proudly that I belong to a segment that has faced discrimination because of caste and class. But I have always dreamt of an egalitarian society where everyone would have their share,’’ she says.
Rejitha is a close observer of the political system in India and is adamant about the need to change the course of students’ politics. “It must be free from the influence of self seeking and corrupt political leaders. Patronage must not be a criterion to choose student leaders.’’ She also wants an end to the commercialisation of education where only the children of the rich can study and prosper.
“The relationship between parents and children must be friendly and free from all kinds of force. Gone are the days when parents commanded and children just obeyed,’’ she opined.
Rejitha is ready to take any risk to help anyone with a genuine problem. “I hate inequality. In today’s India, the gap between the rich and poor is widening. Caste and income considerations are not allowing people with real potential to succeed. Caste is the number one enemy of our country.’’
Rejitha is worried about the fate of India. She is concerned about growing violence against women and the attack by upper castes on SCs and STs. She is also anxious about the growing clout of the US. “Imperialist hegemony, like in the case of Iraq, must not be repeated,’’ she says. In the meantime, she finds pleasure in witnessing India’s emergence as a world power. Another matter of pride is that India is still united despite sharp divisions of caste and community.
While upholding her strong leftist convictions, Rejitha is unhappy about the developments in Nandigram. “This is not the way to ensure industrialisation. Agriculture must be the foundation of any economy. Otherwise we would all starve,” she says. The carnage in Gujarat and the inability of the country to punish perpetrators like Modi is shocking. She’s also concerned about the number of sex scandals in Kerala and the delay on the part of authorities in arresting those responsible. “Our political system must be free from vested interests and corrupt elements,’’ she says.
Rejitha has extreme regard for Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy. The positive thing about her home city of Kochi is its readiness to accept different cultures and ways of life. “There is not much discrimination,” says she.
In the case of marriage, she feels it would be better if there is a consensus between the person and his or her parents. “Imposition of parental decisions is not right. The boy or girl must have a say.” In the case of inter-religious marriages, she wants protection for the right of the concerned individuals. She is against dowry and lavish weddings and maintains that girls ought be self-reliant. “A decent job is necessary.’’ Rejitha goes to both temples and churches. She has fear of god but no faith in rituals.