Prelude - “Why don’t you visit the Youth Tech Hub and help them re-imagine the space” was what Rahul was asked.
Visit to Youth tech Hub
Rahul - This was my second visit to YTH (Youth Tech Hub) and first interaction with youth of that area.
This YTH in Karol bagh, New Delhi is located in the center of a ‘Valmiki’ neighbourhood. Valmiki caste is called "bhangi" in a derogatory manner under the Hindu cast system and assigned the cleaning task under the caste system. . YTH is a community lead organization (CLO) that offers youth from marginalized community a space to connect, dialogue, learn and experience new possibilities.
I had a look at the walls. It was so dirty. I thought a bit about what is possible.
I had a brief discussion with Vijay (who leads YTH) and Gurinder (who co-ordinate the space as a member of CSEI team) about how we can make this a more attractive space. Then I came back to office to give an indent and requisition.
Though was a little hesitant as I had never done this before but in my mind my plan was clear.
Me: Why did you take on such a challenge when you had never done this before?
Rahul: If somebody tells me to do something and I hear politeness and affection in the tone. I go out of my way to take on that job: whatever it may be. For the same reason I took this challenge. I saw some of the pictures on facebook that you shared and that inspired me too.
I went back to YTH with a bag of colors, brushes, handmade paper and chart sheets ....I had never met these youth before. I had divided the session into 2 parts in my mind. First part - I will talk to the youth about the mission and dream and the second part was implementation of what they talk about.
"AAp ko apne YTH ko kaisa dekna chate ho?" (How would you like to see your YTH?)- I asked youth.
There was silence for some time. I waited for something to come out from them. When a co-ordinator jumped in with suggestions I was a bit disappointed. I wanted to hold that space in silence for something to come out!
Eventually the process of began: each one chose their corner. Some started on chart sheets and some on walls. Some sketched and some painted. Many had music in their cell phones so we had continuous music and discussions while colors would flow.
It cost us 2,600 Rs. I think if we had called professional painters to paint walls it would have cost us 15000 Rs.
My role was that of an anchor and to co-ordinate as walls got life.
Me:Do you know what you have done is sensational? You have transformed a space?
Rahul: really? Is it big?
Some stories from YTH when the youth from the community were translating their vision to walls
-Mussarat said give me a wall, I will make my own design. Nobody should touch. She used threads to create design. In her absence somebody put borders on her painting. Mussarat got very upset and emotional. She re-started her work on charts and did everything all over again the next day.
-I asked for 3 volunteers who would take care of the most challenging corner of YTH-in the toilet area. I observed that Khemu took his role very seriously. He would not get distracted and continue to play with colors. He has great potential.
Born - December 21’ 1990
I was a spoilt brat being the 6th sibling after birth of 5 sisters. I could bunk school anytime. Parents would never force me for anything.
I had already left 2-3 schools as a kid. One of the schools had mats to sit which I didn't like. I wanted to go to a school which had chairs and table.
I failed in math in 7th grade, scored 15 out of 100. Subsequently failed in compartmental. I was already older in the class so I was shy to sit in 7th grade again. I thought I will clear 10th grade through NIOS and come to the level of my age appropriate class. This was in 2008.
Experience as a Dalit boy(out of many through the childhood till now)
One day a friend of mine asked me which caste I belong to. I told her I was "Bhangi", “Valmiki caste”. She insisted I was lying for a long time. She would not believe it. She would say that I don't look like one.
On way back from computer class I asked her-"shall I come home?" she said, "NO”. I asked her “why”, she said “her grandmother would change her bed sheets and would be very angry”.
It was for the first time that somebody told me on the face that, “I belong to a lower caste”, it was very derogatory
My mother used to do the job of garbage picker-”kuda saaf karne wali”...She would collect garbage from each home and throw it in the bigger bin at the edge of the basti. I would go along with her during holidays. I was about 6-7 year old… In 2008 for 6 months I too did this job. I started doing this as my family insisted. I had to pull the garbage in sacks. I didn't have any cart or wheelbarrow.
Though I would pick garbage from each home but somehow I would rush out of that street. I would feel embarrassed and ashamed of doing this. Now when I think of those days I wonder how managed to do it for 6 months.
I remember that in 6th grade my teacher would ask all the SC children to stand and come to a side of the class room. Then each one would be asked about caste certificate etc while rest of the children would watch us. I felt humiliated.
Life after leaving school:
I started doing housekeeping job in udyog bhavan canteen and then in ICICI bank, Delhi press, Delhi Sachivalay etc. I used to get about three to four thousand Rs per month. At some places I worked only for a week. Sometimes I didn't like the attitude of people and sometimes I didn't like the work condition. In all I did 7-8 jobs till I came to CSEI.
I joined the Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion (CSEI works to promote equity and social inclusion for the socially excluded communities to build a more just and inclusive society) in 2010. My cousin worked in the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR – is a campaign to protect and promote Dalit rights towards building a more just society). He helped me get a job here. What kept me in CSEI is the job profile. I got a sense of respect in CSEI. It was no more a cleaner's job. I would do bank jobs as well here.
Life began to change:
I would over hear conversations in office. They would talk in English. I decided to pick up 1 or 2 words that they would speak most frequently and would find out meaning of that on google using office computer. Everyone in the office would ask me about my dreams, my aspirations. I would just wonder. All encouraged me to complete my studies and last year I completed my school studies too.
Honestly speaking when I attended the training of ‘Khel Se Mel’ (a Play for Peace initiative in India) in May 2014, I realised that my life is changing now and shifting to another role - I seriously started thinking about all the issues of equity-inclusion and started putting an effort in learning.
When I was asked to join the training team of Play for Peace- to go to Lucknow, I thought it’s a good opportunity to travel and know the world. I said yes. I could not believe that seriously somebody else would be appointed for my post and I would shift to program department.
I would visit different CLO's and facilitate PFP process and role model so they can understand how to facilitate. I would be excited to go and enjoyed the new role and position.
This change in my work profile is like a new platform for me and I see many possibilities of growth in me.
My family finds changes in me? They complain that I don't have time for them anymore. I am more busy now and travel too much. May be after few months they will see more value in the work that I am doing and understand the depth too.
I dream that “I am working with youth as a facilitator. I am flying to different places and my family is travelling with me!!
(Rahul was working as a office assistance in Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion(CSEI). Annie Namala, Executive Director and Co-Founder of CSEI in conversation shared with me about the potential he has and it would be great if he finds his calling. When Rahul joined in the Play for Peace Training for CSEI partner organizations in New Delhi, within the first hour of participation we couldn't help but notice how Rahul participated, what he spoke. I was convinced and so were my colleagues that Rahul needs to be part of our team.....since that day Rahul has been part of Play for Peace training team and has also started helping Partners in Delhi share Play for Peace with children in various slums of Delhi - Swati, Play for Peace Mentor, Facilitator and Certified Trainer)