Young Achievers of Uttarakhand

Hope is not lost yet in the flood-ravaged Uttarakhand as thousands of youth volunteers of the Art of Living join hands for path breaking action. Their steely resolve to bring about an effective change, exemplifies their indomitable human spirit.

They are the new heroes of Uttarakhand, raring to go, with a never-say-die mantra on their lips. Yes, armed with courage and talent, these youngsters are ruling the roost, ever since tragedy struck in the abode of Gods. Theirstories are not only inspiring but heartening too, as they go about crossing mountains, dodging landslides and facing near-death situations to offer respite to the needy. Says Shashank Paliwal, electric engineer and art of living volunteer from Dehradun, “When I saw people crying for help on television, I could not resist myself. I dropped everything and rushed to the spot to rescue the victims.”

Putting the best foot forward

Shashank landed in Guptkashi, with a team of volunteers almost immediately after tragedy struck and thereafter visited badly-hit areas like Triyuginarayan, Toshi and Badasu. “We conducted a detailed survey from door-to-door and learnt that there were more than 90 casualties in Badasu village itself, while entire familes were wiped away in the other two areas. People were in a terrible state. They were steeped in shock and unable to express themselves. After long hours of counseling and conversing with them, we managed to break the ice and provide them with ration, tents and other essentials.” Shashank was frantically hunting for a job, before the Uttarakhand episode happened, but now wants to postpone his career plans and focus on rehabilitating people. “Jobs will come and go, but not always can you get an opportunity of doing noble service,” he adds.

Surmounting all odds

Like Shashank, youths in large numbers are thronging to Uttarakhand almost everyday.Under the aegis of Volunteer For A Better India, (VBI) an initiative undertaken by the Art of living, young enthusiasts are striving hard to empower the lesser privileged in the disaster-struck areas. While quite a few have put their career on hold, some have been quit their jobs to dedicate their time for relief work. What is it that is driving these youths to step out of their comfort zones? “For me, it was a spontaneous decision,” says Gujan Wadhwa, manager with TCS Faridabad. “I browsed the net and learnt that volunteers were required for odd jobs. I knew I had to be there and stepped out of my home, without the slightest hesitation.” Gutsy Gunjan traveled all alone to Srinagar in Uttarakhand and dug debris from roads, so that people could come back and reside in their homes. “Yes initially, I did worry a little, when I travelled through bad roads, in an unknown place that was surrounded by strangers all the time. But slowly everything fell in place and I got support in the nick of time. I did not inform my home or office about the problems I faced. I understand that when you care for others, nature takes care of you.”

Working towards a goal

Interestingly, most of these youth volunteers are reluctant to return home. They want to stay for longer periods and works towards rehabilitating the ruined state. “Of course, we intend to stay for three years in these areas,” say Sanjay Walia, Parmananda Bahuguna, and Vijay Soni in unison. “We are dedicated volunteers for the organisation and cannot leave our job half -done. In fact, our hearts go out to the people in Chaumasi village. As many as three women have been widowed in a single family. They are barely 17 or 18 years old. I am planning to take their responsibility and equip them with some skills, so that they can fend for themselves,” reveals Sanjay.

Overcoming challenges

How do these youths feel to go without food, water or bathing for days together? “Well, pizzas and pastas are passé for us now, we want to look size zero,” remarks Maninder Singh in a light banter. “C’mon, we are here to serve people. Forget eating or bathing,we just want to work in the right spirit. It makes me cry when I see people plucking leaves from the jungle and munching them to satiate their hunger.” Maninder, a young engineering student from Punjab, trekked across the most dangerous jungles of Devalgaon village on the mountain terrains. “We have been through places, where tigers were lurking in the bushes. There were poisonous plants all along,but we were determined.We have managed to bring relief to more than eight families and we are feeling content from within,” chip in youngsters, Vasu and Harshit.

Rekindling a forgotten smile

Young Sushant Singh from Chattisgarh has been living in the most difficult conditions in Badasu. “ But it doesn’t matter when I see people smiling after attending our shibirs and doing our stress-elimination programs. More than 1000 people have benefited from our camps and the numbers are only increasing by the day,” he says.

Indeed these young dynamos have tremendous potential to make a difference to society. Otherwise what do we say about volunteers Ali, Rahul and Vasu who walked 40 kms from Rudraprayag to Guptkashi through rain, slurry and debris and almost lost their lives? Or the little Jitender, Amit, Naresh and others who took the arduous climb to Kalimath mountains with backpacks of 35 kg relief material? Says Namita Nainani, a young art of living teacher from Delhi, “Come what may, but we shall walk the extra mile and work towards reviving Uttarakhand.

True Namita, with the youth power rising, life too is certainly looking up for people in Uttarakhand.

Story credit : Art of Living Bureau of Communication

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