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Starting Young

Starting Young

The story of transformation of Ishmeet Singh Madan, a former student of St. Jude’s School Khargone, Madhya Pradesh, is not only inspiring but also trendsetting to many young people of our country. Universal Solidarity Movement (USM) of Value Education for Peace believes that the youth is not only the future but also the present. Through its various trainings and the “ Youth Action” magazine, it motivates the students to take charge now, instead of waiting till they enter into various professions. Ishmeet is an illustrious example of “taking charge now”.

It was in 2014 that Ishmeet along with other students of his school participated in the one week ‘Enlightened Leadership’ training at USM. The dynamics of the leadership training included a session on vision formulation and an exposure visit to one of the slums of Indore city, followed by a visit to one of the biggest malls of Indore in order to see and experience the two faces of India, the stinking and the shining. The students were made to understand the difference between a visionary person and an ambitious person through a short movie, “Do Kalakar”. A visionary person is altruistic, spiritual and inclusive whereas an ambitious person is self-centred, egoistic and exclusive. The session on vision formulation, along with the exposure visit, bring about a radical change in the mindset and thinking of many students who undergo the ‘Enlightened Leadership’ training. Sensitivity to the poor and the needy and an intense desire to make a contribution in order to bring about change in their life situation is one of the significant results of the ‘Enlightened Leadership’ training. This life-changing transformation is seen vividly in Ishmeet.

Another idea instilled in the students through the ‘Enlightened Leadership’ training is that nothing is impossible for human beings because the all-powerful God is present in every human person. Often human beings are not aware of the divine power within them. Hence one has to ‘maximize’ the divine within him/her. The conviction that God is within a person gives him/her the courage to take initiative and experiment something that nobody has done so far. This is what happened in the case of Ishmeet. “Before being a USM member, I did not have any concern towards the society; I was not aware of the GOD within me. After undergoing the ‘Enlightened Leadership’ training and becoming part of USM, I realized that I have the capabilities to bring out the hidden talents within me. I also understood the purpose of my life and what I should stand for in my life. I got the power of decision making and I made a decision to be an entrepreneur and to start my own philanthropy with the money generated through my own business. The vision of my life is to become a philanthropist cum entrepreneur.”

Once he got clarity about the goal of his life, immediate action followed. After passing class X examination under the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), he decided to quit school and appear for the class XII examination as a private student under the Madhya Pradesh Board of Secondary Education. He joined his father’s business to learn the business techniques. It was a difficult decision, but he did it because he remembered what USM taught him, “DO IT NOW”. He also started his own online business. He passed class XII examination with First Class under the MP Board. From August 2015, from the money generated from his business he started contributing Rs. 1,000/- per month for the running of the non-formal education centres set up under the auspices of USM for working children living in the slums of Indore. When he attended the Annual General Body meeting of USM, the audited statement of account of USM was presented at the meeting. He came to know that USM is struggling to meet the both ends meet. That is why he decided to donate to USM Rs. 1,000/- per month.

Ishmeet started tuition classes in his house for about 30 poor children. He motivated his friends to help him. After doing online business for about four years, he realized that he needed professional training to expand the business. He started a graduation course in Travel and Tourism from IPS Academy Indore in July 2017 and is also attending a course in digital marketing. He and five of his friends have started adult education class for illiterate youth at three centres in three slums of Indore city from December 2017. He and his friends take classes for two hours on Sundays. Two other projects Ishmeet is planning to launch are a campaign for blood donation and another campaign for cleaning up the vegetable market in Choithram, the biggest vegetable market in Indore.  

While many young people continue their studies aimlessly one course after another, Ishmeet is very focused because he has a vision in life. He is doing his online business and earning about Rs. 25,000/- per month. Simultaneously, he is enhancing the knowledge and skills needed for expanding his business through professional studies. He meets all expenses of his studies from the money he earns from his business and contributes Rs. 1000/- per month to USM. He gives the balance amount to his father as loan. Additionally, he finds time to teach illiterate adults on Sundays and is extraordinarily generous in providing his service to USM. During the Knit India 2017, from December 27 to 31, he played a crucial role in the organisation as a core team member.

After completing his professional studies, he is planning to expand his business. When enough money is generated through the business, he will start working on his dream philanthropic project, a good-quality school for poor children. 

Ishmeet is a wonderful example for ‘maximizing’ the divine within him. He is creative and sensitive to the disadvantaged sections of the society. Instead of waiting to have wealth for helping the poor and the needy, he uses his creativity to generate his own resources and makes use of his time to respond to the needs of the people. For him, philanthropy is not a by-product, but the very purpose of his life. He is determined to do philanthropy by generating money through business. He does not want to beg in front of others for supporting the poor and the needy, but depends on himself.

There could be thousands of Ishmeets in the schools and colleges of India, but they may be at a dormant stage. What they need is an opportunity to ignite the fire of compassion and sensitivity hidden in them. It is the responsibility of the principals and managers of thousands of schools and colleges spread out in India to instil in the students the values of sensitivity and compassion by providing them opportunities to see and experience the life situation of the disadvantaged sections of the society. An education focused only on career orientation will naturally intensify cut-throat competition, individualism, hatred and consumerism. At a time when divisive and pseudo-nationalist forces are bent upon spreading a culture of hatred and exclusion in India, the educational institutions have a greater responsibility to build a civilisation of love by motivating the young people to become ambassadors of compassion and love.

(Published on 15th January 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 03)