Penning a compelling narrative on the ‘future’ leaders of India, the 22-year-old social activist captures the essence of country’s politics, a leader’s anxiety, agony, demands, and ideas — some of which India really needs.
By Vaishali Dar
“A shocking revelation that followed me to write the book depicting the fact that there are many young people out there on the streets, six hundred and seventy million to be precise, there aren’t enough in our Parliament, assemblies or Panchayats. I found myself amidst people holding powerful positions with long designations, longer introductions and the longest amount of time spent under the label ‘youth leader’ when in reality they were anything but young,” writes Gurmehar Kaur in the introduction of her book The Young And The Restless, Youth And Politics In India.
Penning a compelling narrative on the ‘future’ leaders of India, the 22-year-old social activist captures the essence of country’s politics, a leader’s anxiety, agony, demands, and ideas — some of which India really needs. Kaur has described the journey of eight youth leaders spread over eight chapters. The leaders — Omar Abdullah, Sachin Pilot, Sowmya Reddy, Jignesh Mevani, Shehla Rashid, Aaditya Thackeray, Madhukeshwar Desai and Raghav Chadha— talk about their diverse fields and ideologies. Every chapter is a tale of incidents in the lives of these leaders interspersed with the author’s brave new take on individualism. By way of conversation with the leaders, some anecdotes in the book are informative and historic. Some even suggest their dynamic and progressive leadership qualities, aspirations for the country’s youth, for themselves and, most importantly, for the nation.
Kaur strings together the many facets of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections that saw the involvement of India’s youth like never before. The endless debates, street dharnas and social media conversations did have a major influence on the elections. About 150 million young voters, which includes the highest number of first-time voters in India, voted with great enthusiasm. And yet, the average age of our parliamentarians is 63. Our leaders are almost four decades older than the average 25-year-olds. There’s lack of representation of young people in politics, and especially when 60% of Indians are under the age of 35.
“I wanted to write a book on politics that I, as a young adult in this country and reader, could relate to and call my own. We are a largely ignored demographic but we are slowly coming up and making our mark everywhere. I wanted to document a part of this change,” says the author, talking with FE.
Simple and everyday life instances have been detailed and some of them have affected the author or the leaders or have accounted for change in the political or social scenario. For instance, Sachin Pilot questions the choices people make in their adulthood, how these leaders have been raised at home and the environment they grew up in. Or the mention of technology and social media in our everyday lives and how the boom in technology has made way to newer ideas.
Aaditya Thackeray speaks about the times when he felt the Hindus were in danger or the Maharashtrians were in danger and he needed to take strong steps. The narrative is clear and crisp. The book is a speedy read in straightforward language. The writing comes from the heart, and the leaders in the book have great similarities with young and restless India. “The leaders are not jaded as opposed to the older generation of politicians who seem to have reached a saturation point, I love that our ideas are fresh and we’re all equally excited about it,” she says.
Criticised as anti-national for her stand on war with Pakistan, Kaur is certain about the change in people’s mindset. “People in their blind ultra-nationalistic rage have forgotten what wars are and the distraction they create. I live with the reality of it every day and witness it in the ever-present emptiness of my own life. I’m certain this will change. It just isn’t a good time in the world for those of us who believe in the need for peace over conflict,” she explains.
Kaur has been inspired by the journey of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an American politician who serves as the US Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district. “She speaks the language that my activist heart relates to and has the mind of a policy maker. I quite like her,” she adds.
As an individual, Kaur would like to focus on issues such as jobs, food and shelter as opposed to propagating hate and agendas that polarise people to further their political careers, “I’m not implying one party does it, everyone has done it. It would be great if we had leadership that focused on policies that truly change lives,” she remarks.