Pratik Dave - Nagpur, Maharashtra


I come from a bhramin orthodox family. I was always expected to be someone who would make the family proud by studying in the best institution in the country. And then, make a fortune out of it, marry someone pretty (of same caste), make kids and live happily ever after. Sounds familiar? But as usual, nothing of sort happened. Rather I turned out to be someone rebellious about the superstitions which family imposed and did everything that my parents didn’t want me to do.

I loved everything that teenage offered apart from studies. I loved the rush of dopamine more than my responsibilities towards my parents, my siblings and my country. Fortunately, these things took its toll and I found myself searching for a meaning to everything. So I decided to explore other opportunities during the year-back from my college. I decided to attend National Youth Conference after my friend introduced me to it. He knew what I was going through and till date I am grateful to that friend. First youth conference I attended introduced me to the values of Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness and Love. It showed me a harsh reality about the kind of person I was. I remember crying while thinking about the way I treated my parents. I ran away from all the responsibilities while fighting with my identity.

I learned to accept my imperfections while I heard stories of other people. I made friends who knew me and accepted me the way I was. But the most important thing the conference instilled in me was my role as a citizen of this country and my responsibility towards the world at large. I thought I’ll change myself and once I was back, within a few days I started living the way I was before. The only thought that stayed with me was respecting my parents and an urge to contribute to our country. After a few months I received a letter that I wrote to myself making promises about how I’ll change as a person. I couldn’t stand up to 80% of what I wrote and so I decided to attend the conference again. The next year was pretty tough for me. I felt the sense of guilt and disparity. I didn’t speak to many people then. I didn’t understand where I went wrong and I believed I cannot change. But, there were questions that stayed with me which I eventually found the answers to. After the second youth conference in 2013, I joined Make A Difference where I volunteered to teach shelter home kids as a part of me wanted to contribute to this society.

My work with kids made me feel content and slowly this drifted me away from my engineering to go for a career in social work. As soon as I completed my engineering, I joined Gandhi Fellowship. Here, I worked in rural Rajasthan to improve the leadership of headmasters and teachers and improve the learning of children coming from marginalized communities. During my fellowship, I learned about the importance of introspection. Introspection was something that was introduced to me during the youth conference but the real essence of it was felt during the fellowship. Working with the marginalized community and living with them made me understand what the youth conference was talking about. My notions about discrimination at its extinction and equality among citizens broke. I understood why it was important to work for the people in need. At many instances while working with the kids, I remembered my childhood and that made me more aware about myself. Suddenly everything that was said in the youth conference made sense as I went through the course of fellowship.

I heard stories of people who were not given their basic rights, saw children who were treated badly due to their caste and I saw girls getting married against their will. Patriarchy is deep rooted in this country and it was affecting a large proportion of this society. I was shattered, again. I started losing hope but the conditions of people and children kept me going. I realised that change is a slow process and it will take its time to get problems solved. It was clear to me now  why I felt the way I did when I was trying too hard to change fast. I learned that everything we are taught comes to us in the time of need. The youth conference I attended was a turning point in my life. Now, as my fellowship is about to end I am certain that I will continue my journey towards contributing to this country and world at large. And I am grateful to all the people who were a part of this youth conference. In the long run I am sure it can reach out to most of the young minds in this country and make them feel the way I feel today.

Stories of Change