The response of your columnist to the question “How are you?” usually ranged from “Dhuro” back in the teen years to more currently “Could be better”/“Couldn’t be better”/“Couldn’t have asked for more.”
Basically starting from my teen years’ frustration stemming from the inability to spot massive bundles of happiness down to this minute of having been pushed to live without people who I couldn’t imagine going through life without, life has happened. While we, the infantile egomaniacs, often don’t have the capacity to perceive the wholeness when and as we experience in our youth, and while our youth allows us to max with moping, grey hair can only make space for happiness.
Having greyed enough, I now confront darkness by being hopeful while the rays stream through my shutters at the crack of dawn. My awakenings sustain optimism. I am doubly awake when I sense youth and feel nature in the palm of my hands. And a combination of both gives me the compulsion to live life till the very last minute.
This week I am more alive than I ever was just because I was part of a youth assembly in Cox’s Bazar. These were young people who had nothing to earn materially; these were young people who just happened to be volunteering for JAAGO Foundation.
I met JAAGO way back in 2008. Back then Korvi Rakshand looked like a young man with an insatiable appetite to enrich impoverished kids through English-medium schooling, with the help of other young people from all backgrounds. After a decade, this young man and his young volunteers are still standing by the spirit of JAAGO. Many young people continue to be associated with this foundation with pride, in one way or another. All of them believe that giving is the only way to earn life.
Therefore, I salute Youth. I salute platforms like JAAGO that allow me the opportunity to look at two fifth graders (both are called Sumaiya) who have watched poor people die in want of medicine and who now dream of becoming doctors and owning hospitals where poor patients are to be treated at no cost. Kudos to the 10-year-old Yeasin, the fourth grader, who wants to be an engineer and build aircrafts; or the sixth grader Hanzala who spins his ball with passion and wants to be like the all-rounder Mashrafe Mortaza someday and is now applying to be included in the Kalabagan Sporting Club.
The parents of most of these kids are farmers, day labourers in construction sites, garment workers or shopkeepers. Earlier, the JAAGO children, almost in scripted formats, dreamt of becoming pilots and doctors. Notice how their narrative has evolved today. Instead of wanting to just become doctors, they now want to own hospitals; build aircrafts instead of just becoming pilots; and boldly bat and spin balls. With time and encouragement, their dreams have transitioned to the the next phase. That is where we come in. That is where we need to come in and live through their lives which otherwise will have little or no meaning.