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Equidistant from potentiality and vulnerability| What does it mean to be young

There is nothing that we don’t celebrate in India. Few things are harder to innovate than to declare the birthdays of great leaders as this day and that day. There is absolutely nothing wrong in the practice itself. However, history is brimming with a sense of the guilt of the futility of recurring grandiose national celebrations that produce no results on the ground. Every celebration is typically marked by high sounding speeches and pompous resolutions which die off effectively with the vote of thanks.
India, with the world’s largest-ever adolescent and youth population, has been celebrating National Youth Day since 1984. We are a country where over 54% of the total population is below 25 years of age.

However, our boasting ends there. Only 2% of the workforce is skilled. Juxtapose that with 96% in South Korea, 74 % in Germany 45% in China and 55% in the USA.

Llack of skills and escalating joblessness, which is at the highest level in 45 years, has caused a tremendous burden upon Indian youth. There is an increasing sense of frustration, disappointment and anger among them. However, our leaders never admit this failure and shamelessly say in their speeches, ‘India will be the most skilled country in the world soon’ with no clear guidance and policies to back up that claim. Gire to gire phir bhi tang upar.

Much as we love ridiculing our underperforming politicians, the fact remains that we have our portion to do other than blindly supporting or angrily opposing them. Life, albeit short, is too vast to keep it fully rested on politicians’ promises. Much of what we get in life is what we deserve by way of our conduct, behaviour and commitment – or the lack thereof. Here are my thoughts on being young. Not that I am an achiever or a leader. I am only sharing my lessons gained through personal experience and observation.

Being young is not an extraordinary thing because you didn’t earn it and yet it is an extraordinary thing because it is the prime of your life in some senses.

There is so much hype about youthfulness these days and there is so little serious conversation about it. We have been habituated to live under a fog of hype with so dim a light to show us direction. In general, we are so inebriated by puffery that sobriety seems absurd.

The world has been witness to how politics pampers precious youthfulness for exploitation, entertainment industries merchandise it for profit-making, religions indoctrinate it for deception, and academia often educates it for self-glorification.

Youthfulness is not the surety of a wonderful life. Every bumbling older person who messed up his or her life had once been a young person like you. In fact, it could often be the springboard to ruination. Be warned that there is a very thin line of distinction between youthful exuberance and stupidity; youthful adventure and recklessness. Every youth in his immaturity is positioned equidistant from tremendous possibilities of victory and defeat, triumph and failure, rise and destruction. In other words, youthfulness is just as much pregnant with creative potential as it is incarcerated by a vulnerability to destructive instincts.

Being young is much more than having a good head of hair, tireless energy, glowing countenance and blossoming physicality. Being young is not being noisy, reckless, impatient, care-free and so on.

Being young is about reaching a significant stage in the life of learning and serving. It is the best stage for learning because you can see both ways – your past childhood and your future advancing years. You can de-learn old harmful lessons and re-learn better lessons. It is the best time to learn because you have grown mature enough to see the needs around you and sensitive enough to reach out to make a difference.

Mind you, the world doesn’t need every one of us to summit the climax of success and make a colossal difference. There is a skewed priority thrust upon mankind to be in front of everybody else. There is an unfair universal call to reach the pinnacle. Excellence is not necessarily being the best, or the foremost or the most superior all the time. The world is not a Disneyland of undying excitements and climactic performances. It is a real-world where everybody, irrespective of academic excellence, physical prowess, economical success, intellectual distinction, social status, political clout, individual advantages or privileges, will have to so live that our abilities are utilized to make a difference for the long term collective happiness.

Simply put, the world is complicated enough to need the most successful (whatever that means) as much as it needs the less successful. What existential relevance would a cricket match have if the stadium was filled with 50 thousand plus Sachin Tendulkars! Our callings are different – so are our capabilities. No matter how much we dislike saying this – the time tested reality is ‘being first or being best’ never answers what it means to be human. There is another landscape of excellence where sincerity, honesty, humility, lowliness and servitude co-dwell. These virtues will not necessarily take you to the pinnacle of success – of being the foremost, the richest, the best and so forth. But people with these virtues make a difference to mankind in a manner that the world’s richest, best and the foremost cannot in a million years.

If the prime of life is all about leveraging it to the fullest for self-seeking, then youthfulness is the biggest curse on humanity.
Finally, understand that youthfulness is as fleeting as any phase of life. As Emily Dickinson said, “Old age comes on suddenly, and not gradually as is thought”. They say “Jawani Fir Na Aaye”. One hundred per cent true. There are fundamentally two ways to hear the call of this message. You can either say that “Jawani Fir Na Aaye” (Youthfulness is fleeting and doesn’t return) – therefore it is a call to a desperate hedonistic pursuit of nihilism or you can say it is a call to the urgency of making the best of life’s prime to make a meaningful and long term difference to oneself and others.

And even those, who are very young, know that each day passes you by without promising to return again.

I know I am being too preachy and annoying. But that doesn’t bother me because I have decided it is better to be annoyingly caring about others than to be amusingly careless about them.

Happy Belated Youth Day!

“Every youth in his immaturity is positioned equidistant from tremendous possibilities of victory and defeat, triumph and failure, rise and destruction. In other words, youthfulness is just as much pregnant with creative potential as it is incarcerated by a vulnerability to destructive instincts.”

By Jiwan Rai, the author can be contacted at

NB: Views/Opinions expressed in the article or write up is purely of the author or writer and not of the Sikkim Chronicle. For any queries or contradictions, the author can be contacted in his/her email id.

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