19-year-old Soham, currently pursuing B.Tech+M.Tech in Biotechnology and in his third year, makes a good impact on everyone living around him. He is passionate about his work and surpasses any goal that he sets. He believes in the idiom "action speaks louder than words". Soham loves to draw, listen to music, and although hard to believe, he can spend all day binge-watching a show. He is indulgent in social working and also believes that "knowledge shared is power multiplied."
What is something adults do not understand about youth? What is a common misconception they have about young people?
Adults still do not understand that the youth are a very important part of today’s society, as they are more influential. Youth can make informed decisions that are much more relevant and effective in contemporary situations because they are much more familiar with the current progress than adults, who have witnessed a rapid change from the time when they grew up. Many adults feel that as long as the youth are not earning members, they should not be “free”.
A common misconception adults have about young people is that they also need privacy, they can also have ideas that can work out, they can lead something, and that they can also have issues like anxiety, depression. Most adults feel that the youth don’t face these issues, and so they don’t need to worry much, but such problems are more among the youth than among adults.
What was the first moment of enlightenment that encouraged you to take action for the society you live in?
I have been closely associated with the NGO, DIKSHA, from a very young age of 4. Since then, I have been seeing how DIKSHA strongly believes in youth empowerment and how the organisation encourages the youth to take their own decisions, as well as speak freely without judgment. One thing that struck me was that DIKSHA gives equal importance to all age groups and listens to the opinions and ideas of everyone before coming to a conclusion. Around 4 years ago, an incident occurred at school and that is when I realized that very few students actually got to know the importance of youth empowerment in the way that I did. Most of them do not even believe that they can voice their opinions but go on blindly obeying what they are being instructed to do.
What were the difficulties you faced at the beginning of everything? How did you overcome them?
I faced most of the difficulties at my school. Being someone who is not good at sports, I was mostly secluded and excluded from most of the discussions, or even making friends. Not only did I face this only for being poor at sports but also I have faced some serious body shaming which contributed to a major trauma in my life. The saddest part was, whenever I wanted to open up and speak about this with someone who could help me in school, I was not even listened to properly, except for once, during my last year of high school. Being the younger sibling of the family, I was often compared to my brother, surprisingly not by parents, but by relatives.
Overcoming these challenges was a bit difficult, but I never felt like giving up at any stage because of the immense support from my parents and maternal grandparents. They never interfered directly in any problem but always guided me to do the right thing, supported me through everything, and above all, believed in me. This, over the years, led me to believe that I can voice my opinions, I can lead and I am not “unproductive”.
How would you like adults to help you in your initiative?
Adults should be encouraging the youth in whatever they want to pursue and whatever they are good at, instead of following the societal rules and just focussing on how good they are scoring in their subjects. What matters is their desire to learn more and become what they dream to be. Youth should be allowed to take their own decisions, rather than adults taking the decisions for them. Last but not least, youth should not be judged for their choices, or their opinions.
What is your advice for young people who want to make a positive impact? How should they begin?
My advice to aspiring youth would be to follow their own passions and do what they want to do. Question the laid-down rules of life and write your own life scripts. Don’t care much about “what people will say,” because some will always criticize and judge youth.
Conditions and situations vary in everyone’s life and so do the targets and upper limits. Everyone faces different types of challenges and some of them do not always have the resources or support to start what they want to. However, what everyone must know is they should speak up for their own and should not give much ear to what others are saying. It is their life and it’s up to them to enjoy it and live it the way that they want to.
(Photo courtesy: Soham Pal; copyright: Soham Pal)