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They say the future of any nation lies in the hands of its youth. The younger the population, the better off the nation. In India, where more than 65% of us are below the age of 35, one would think that we are making tremendous progress. Sadly, this is not the case.

The growth we are seeing is highly uneven: while the upper and middle class are enjoying an upwardly first world lifestyle, not much has changed for the underprivileged. Worse, when I say first world lifestyle, I only mean that we are now monetarily richer. Mentally and spiritually speaking, we still have a lot of growing up to do. So while we live in plush homes, speak good English, and have enough money to cover frivolous expenses, we still speak the language of sexism, racism, and of course, religious intolerance. We still have a long way to go before we call ourselves citizens of a country we are proud of.

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On International Youth Day today, let’s take a look at what you and I can do to build a better India.

1. Use the internet to better society

India is host to various social problems and some of them such as crimes against women and widespread unemployment are tearing our country apart. It sounds like something the government ought to take care of, but is it really? As active members of society, we too can and should contribute. And it isn’t as daunting as it sounds – you can start small and from the comfort of your home. All you have to do is use the internet (which you probably use daily anyway). Divert some of your entertainment time to internet activism. Talk about social issues you feel strongly about, interact with like-minded people, support changemaking individuals and communities. It seems small, but it is a start, and sometimes, the smallest things have the greatest impact. You will feel better just by trying to make a difference…I know I do. (Also Read: What You Can Do To Stop Child Labour In Your City)

2. Create mental health awareness across all levels of society

In recent years, mental health is finally getting acknowledged around the world. The change has percolated here as well, but it has impacted only the educated, that too in a very subtle manner. Like in the past, social stigma towards it is still going strong. So although you will see people talking about it in the virtual world, very few of them are declaring their relationship with it. And the number of people having such conversations in the real world is even fewer. We need to get vocal and now!

Software engineer Lubna agrees. She says, “We tend to use the word pagal (crazy) a lot, often in casual situations that do not even call for it. Even little kids learn to use it as an insult. From a tender age, we are raised to think that having a mental health issue or ‘being crazy’ is shamefully undesirable. Something we should never admit to having, no matter how bad our issue gets. After all, it’s all in our mind, right? Hint: not at all. Just like physical fitness, knowledge about mental wellbeing needs to be taught in schools too. While it could be some time till that happens, it is upto us young people to educate anybody who is clueless or misinformed about mental health. When I face someone who is ignorant or judgmental, I try my best to interact with them calmly yet firmly to create awareness. It’s hard, but sometimes, the facts do win and they finally get it.”

3. Embrace diversity to attain peace

We can only be a peaceful nation when we celebrate our diversity in religion, appearance, class, etc. Even if we don’t agree with something, violence and aggression should stop being our go-to response. It’s a universal rule: tolerance is key to a peaceful, even happy coexistence.

In keeping with the peace theme of today, writer Maria talks about how we as individuals can reduce the unrest. “We live in a beautiful world with endless diversity. If we can appreciate and accept the nature with all its beauty, why can’t we do the same when it comes to our own fellow beings? Why we do hate anybody who is even a little different from us? As a democratic country, we need to put our right to freedom to good use. Take for instance, the whole beef ban situation. From the ban to the killings, nothing makes any sense when you think about it, does it? It is fine if we choose to stop eating it as individuals, but why should there be a blanket ban for everyone? This mentality extends to so many issues. Let’s live and let live. That’s what I believe in and live by. At social gatherings, I come across casual acquaintances and strangers who drink and smoke heavily, something I strongly do not endorse. But I don’t go and lecture them endlessly. At most, I express my views without passing judgment. If each one of us applies this  principle everywhere, we can move towards becoming a peaceful nation, and ultimately, a peaceful world.

As millennials, we need to take charge of moulding our country into one we truly love. Let’s get started. Who knows, we might just end up inspiring the world.

Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar

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