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We are the world, we are the children

Hiya Chowdhury | Updated on January 02, 2020 Published on January 02, 2020

Hope: Bengaluru students offer roses to the police during a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019   -  PTI/ SHAILENDRA BHOJAK

A first-time voter on the power of idealism

Last week I turned 18. I have for long nursed this fascination about becoming an adult; entertained hopeful fantasies of feeling independent and gaining all this wisdom that I never knew I was capable of. But, most of all, while my friends were excited about driving a car or finally escaping the clutches of their parents, I wanted to vote. I’ve carried that wish with me for years — every time my parents came back with a black mark on their fingers, every time our family sat agape in front of a news channel broadcasting election results, and every time my political science class broke out into passionate debate over the electoral politics in our country.

But now the very act of casting a vote has crossed the boundaries of my childlike fascination and turned into a necessity. When we ring in the new decade, I will go into 2020 knowing that I have an immense responsibility on my shoulders. And by virtue of that, there is a lot I feel the need to say.

In the years to come, I want to see more idealism. People say that idealism gets lost in a world that only cares about where you come from and what you do, rather than who you are and what you stand for. “Stop thinking that you can change the world,” people say, as though the ideal is unattainable. But if our idealism is faulty, so are our history books. It is from those who secured our independence, and those who wrote our Constitution, that young people learn idealism. It is from them that we learn that equality, justice and peace are all possible. I want each citizen of this world to believe that changing the world is possible, and imperative. That their voice counts, especially if they speak together to create positive change.

I want to see lawmakers, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, politicians — and everyone else who holds even a semblance of power in society — care. There needs to be a deep and resounding humanity that dictates our political actions and opinions. I want to see humanity for the rainforests, a chance for them to breathe free, sheltered from the fangs of commercial politics. I want heads of states to pay heed to the science that has been telling us for so long that the planet is in danger. I want that very science permeating into every part of our lives, bringing curiosity and rationality in its tow.

I want to see every house help using the same utensils that we do, sitting at the same table with us for dinner. I want to see classes on entrepreneurship in college being taken by the man who sells paranthas in Chandni Chowk. I want to see the girls who sell peanuts on the side of the road and the boys who deliver our groceries study in our schools. I want to see our healthcare systems catering to those who cannot afford it rather than only those who can.

I want to see a woman leading the US. I want to see hundreds of girls wanting to be Malala Yousafzai or Hima Das or Greta Thunberg — and I want to see a system that fights to protect them, not one that they have to fight against. I want to see homes being built for children in Syria, Kashmir, Yemen, Delhi, New York, Paris and everywhere else for violence affects the whole world and leaves children the worst-off.

I want to see members of the LGBTQ+ community holding seats in Parliament. I want to hear the stories of the so-called ‘outsiders’, not by snatching their narrative from them but by using our privilege to make space in society for them to tell their own stories.

I want to see adults learning from the young, and not always the other way around. For if you come to any one of our classes in school, or even if you eavesdrop on our private conversations, you would know that we are not silenced easily. We learn quickly, we feel deeply, we maintain hope, and we act. We turn our idealism into action and, yes, we change the world.

When I cast my first vote, this is what I will be voting for. This is what dictates the votes of thousands of young people across the world. This is what dictates the protests and agitations of millions who cannot vote in countries that do not grant them that right. But, most of all, I do not want to lose faith. I never want to stop hoping for better things. I never want to stop being 18 and excited about voting. And, somewhere in the next decade, I want all the adults in the world to remember the 18th year of their lives, to recover their faith in a better world, to rediscover the optimism they had when they were young, and fight for it to remain alive.

Hiya Chowdhury is a school student in New Delhi

Published on January 02, 2020

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