I think i was in 5th or 6th grade. I vaguely remembered my class leader suggested my name for some inter school singing competition. Don’t ask me why my name was suggested. I had no idea and I don’t even remember now. I didn’t care then, but the day of the competition, when it was my turn to sing the song, I stood infront of everybody and said something like , “My name is Suresh from …. and will be singing Tum Se Acha Kaun Hain”. Everyone was staring at me, waiting to hear what I had to sing. And I froze. Completely, like a statue. Didn’t say a word for the next 10 – 15 seconds. Somehow, I mustered some strength and all I could say was “Sorry” and I left with my head down.
The point I’m trying to say is it’s tough to stand in front of everyone and speak , it’s tough. No matter how young or old you are, if you hadn’t had the exposure before, it’s tough.
For the students of 12 colleges in Ongole, the opportunity came knocking on their doors, when PFL ( People For LokSatta ) launched a series of debates on anti corruption across 12 colleges spanning almost 1000 students, all in less than 2 months. There was a lot that went into pulling these events together, which I will come to in a bit, but the experience the students had was incredible.
There were those who participated the debates and then there were those who witnessed some of their own standing infront of everyone debating the corruption issues. Needless to say the principals, teaching staff were extremely proud of their students as well because they were showing interest in current affairs along with their academics. How do I know all this, well I had the opportunity to speak to a few students who took part in the debates. And when I called them to express gratitude on behalf of PFL, some of the responses took me by surprise. They were very enthusiastic about these debates and were enquiring about when there would be a similar opportunity. Since the team had also recorded all the conversations that transpired between the students, I could see a similar trend.
Most of the students would never have had such an opportunity in their academic life to discuss or debate a non academic related subject at least I never had this. But the students in Ongole grabbed this opportunity with both their hands and made the most of this. Over 1000 students participated across the 12 debates. And that my friend is a very strong statement. There is no celebrity, this is no cricket game, this was an anti corruption debate in a college. Unless the students were not curious, unless they were not enthusiastic, unless they were not concerned about their society, their community, such a participation is not possible. So hats off to the students in Ongole.
And it would be completely unfair if i didn’t mention about the effort that went into organizing these debates, the relentless efforts, the long hours, the frustrations of rejections, the lack of support. But despite everything the team went through with this idea of conducting debates and here we are , after 2 months, the team is gearing up for a mega debate, a debate amongst all the 12 colleges.
Thanks to those who got this idea, who believed in this and who carried this forward and also to all the students in Ongole.