My Experience at International Youth Day 2022

By Pragyan Swarnkar
Aug 19, 2022

“Ping” my phone vibrated, having no idea of me being mostly unbothered by any notifications other than a few applications but Calendar. Never in my life have I taken calendar notifications seriously, except that one time when I almost missed the concert, I had been saving money to buy a VVIP ticket and have a getaway from school to the city of Jaipur during Holi. I sat in my car and rode to my workplace, with a bag filled with unwanted sheets of papers and a ball pen which I detested, along with a diary clenched in the corner, besides my laptop charger, amnesic of the fact that I had gotten any sort of notification regarding something I cared the least about. But little did I know that this time, it wasn’t a reminder for an event I had put on, but something that comes every year, unnoticed by my encephalon; “International Youth Day”. Getting to work on time is the best feeling but reaching the workstation right before a minute to the end of your entrance buffer is superior. I felt it. The moment I put my bag on the floor with a sigh, Sushila, my colleague, stuttered “We have International Youth Day coming up this week, think of something”, it took me a couple of minutes to register the command, which deliberately took me back when my phone had pinged to give me the same information which I was highly ignorant of. I swiped through a couple of websites, and figured out IYD to be an event just a few years older to me. The United Nations had decided on a theme “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages” as their effort to raise awareness about cultural and legal issues related to the youth along with its endeavor of cease jeopardizing effects of the older generation’s growth to contribute to the community in the ways possible, paving the path to greatness. What would be a cut above activity other than bringing the two generations together and erasing the kshman rekha of ageism, but this time, there’s no Ravana to abduct Sita.

Such a loftier idea of bringing together the youth and the older generations together required an equivalent amount of effort to be put, to make this event a blast. Search for old age homes ready to accommodate the younger generations began gingerly, with just a detailed plan on paper yet to be formulated. Multiple hours of brainstorming fed the idea of integrating festivals into the event, since the day had a couple of jamborees lined up. To keep up with the esteem of Janai Purnima — a ritual in Nepal followed by the Brahmins where they change the holy thread ‘janeu’, and of the consecrated month of Shrawan, we incorporated an activity of putting mehendi on the palms of women in the ashram, which would fill them up with the sense of togetherness and make them believe that they are loved and not yet abandoned by the society. To bridge the gap between the young and the old is what we were there for, leaving abundant room for us to fit in more activities; nothing could be a better meritorious behavior than to serve food and have a meal together, which was supposed be nothing other than qwati — mixture of beans cooked together like a stew. A short meeting with the volunteers made us feel less like Joakim Noah and more like Micheal Jordan, so as to have a backbone to VFC, just the way Jordan had Phil Jackson. Money is a scarce resource when on a tight budget, and having to save a couple of thousands just makes stress wrinkles pass from sight. Our volunteers, the artistic ones perhaps, flaunting their creativity, have crafted rakhis ,since 12th of august had Raksha Bandhan on its list too. With a plan of selling, it at a price consumers decide on, it was definitely for a good cause. That generated a fraction of revenue and, as said, made the stress wrinkles fade into the smiles of merriment. To prepare qwati, it has some rules; rules that cannot be broken and hence need to get implemented with strict supervision of the experienced.

Paramountly, a set of beans are supposed to be kept in water overnight to tender themselves, and our shoulders had the responsibility to deliver the desired amount to the ashram a day prior to the event. Only Manish: The Youth Engagement Officer, holy spirits and I know the struggle of bearing 35 kilograms of beans, 10 liters of oil and 25 kilograms of flour on a bike for 10 whole minutes, uphill and down. It was the day of the event. Going through a gazillion speed breakers, our car had reached ‘Manav Sewa Ashram’. A clear view of the hills charged me with conviction, leaving much less room for the antipathetic. The ratio of women to men was almost balanced out, with women being more in number. Matching with the building and the surrounding itself, most females were wearing a green top, with polka dots on them, like a uniform, as their symbol of unity towards the society.

Just as planned, the mehendi activity started, which involved interaction of our volunteers with the members of the ashram. I had a conversation with various people in there, and everyone had their own hardships to deal with. A woman, her sons had left her in that ashram and flew to India, without letting her know of their current placement, leaving her in distress, which forced her to flee the place twice. Her cry to go back home was miserably melancholic, with gloominess failing to turn into serenity. Beside her sat another woman who we referred to as “ama”, which translated to ‘mother’ in Nepali. She had accepted her fate and was living with it, thinking this is what would be her comfort zone after her dark and humiliating past. I heard the jolly voice of an old woman who had a slight Indian accent incorporated into her speech. I turned around and I saw a woman sitting on a plastic chair, wearing a white salwar suit, trying to call a one year old near her to play. After a few minutes of talking to her, I must say that she was the most ecstatic soul in there. She said that she was from Bombay, the land of dreams, from where she came to Kathmandu as a part of her teerth yatra. She felt free to be in Kathmandu itself, amidst the hills and how she mentions it as “the land of bhole baba” referring to the glorious temple of Pashupatinath. We not only provided them with the ration but also cooked puri and qwati as a form of celebration. Nevertheless, it was an experience of a lifetime, I felt jubilant.

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