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Today is a special day, for it marks the birth of the great human rights activist, Nelson Mandela. Even though he passed away in 2013, he will forever remain an inspirational figure to nations around the world. In fact there’s a lot that young India can learn from him. Let’s explore some of his ideologies:

1. Practice Religious Tolerance

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Nelson Mandela

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Officially, India  calls itself a secular country. But as citizens, we are well aware of how the smallest difference of opinion can cause communal clashes. In fact, according to a recent analysis by Pew Research centre, India ranks number 4 on the list of countries worst affected by religious violence. It’s high time we accept that we are all different and that is perfectly okay. Even if we do not like or see eye to eye with somebody of another caste, religion or even socio-economic status, we must learn to coexist peacefully. And once we do that, we can truly open our hearts to the beauty of our diversity.

2. Help those less fortunate than you

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” Nelson Mandela

Inspite of our immense economic growth,30 percent of our population lives below the poverty line. And this makes us the country with the highest number of poor people in the world. So while you and I fret about how slow our internet connection gets from time to time, some of our countrymen are struggling to get three square meals a day. Doesn’t this make it our moral responsibility to help ensure that at the very least, their basic needs are met?

With just some compassion and time, each one of us can make a difference. Handing out food instead of money to beggars at traffic signals, donating old possessions to an orphanage or shelter, volunteering at an NGO – the possibilities of contributing to the society are endless. Your generosity will not only uplift the needy, it will also make you happier and healthier.

3. Treat everybody equally

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” ―Nelson Mandela

Since patriarchy and racism are so ingrained and normalised in older generations, it is upto us to eradicate them. Advocating equal pay for men and women, combatting casual and everyday sexism, shutting down rape culture, embracing people of all race and colour – these are some of the hot button issues we all need to start taking seriously. Avoiding them will only make our society increasingly dysfunctional and barbaric, both, for us and the rest of the world.

4. Live in the present

“We don’t have to be victims of our past, that we can let go of our bitterness, and that all of us can achieve greatness.” — Nelson Mandela

When we are young, it seems like the problems in our life are insurmountable, they are never going to go away. Over time, a lot of us realise that good or bad, nothing lasts forever. However, few of us are able to let go of our past. We let our past define us, and this seems true in case of India as a nation too. It’s been 70 years since the India-Pakistan partition, but issues of the past continue to haunt and agitate us till date. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from Mandela. Just as he didn’t let his 27 years of imprisonment drag him down, we too need to let go of adverse circumstances and differences that plagued us yesterday–only then can we work towards a better today.

Nelson Mandela  gave his whole life to serving humanity. The least we can do to commemorate him is to honour his legacy.

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