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“I felt great pride in being an Indian citizen”
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“I felt great pride in being an Indian citizen”

Mridul UpadhyaySigning up for a social service program started out as an extra-curricular activity, writes Mridul Upadhyay, 21, of New Delhi, India. It became a major time commitment that stretched his abilities and yielded rare opportunities.

After securing 80 per cent attendance and 80 per cent marks in the first two months of my enrolment in B.Tech., I judged that I had enough spare time to join in extra-curricular activities.

I found NSS (National Service Scheme), a Government of India program functioning in colleges and universities all over the country for ‘personality development through community service’. The motto is ‘Not Me but You’.

The prospect of social service, self-improvement by different managerial undertakings, a lot of fun opportunities and certificates turned out to be too tempting to refuse.

I got selected but on the flip side, I got to hear that I had to skip a prime Hindu festival for the camp, and sharing this news with my family was disappointing. As it turned out, I missed most festivals and holidays due to NSS. I could manage the eight-hour trip to my home just a handful of times in the subsequent three years. Yet being part of a seven-day overnight camp, meeting with social activists and theater artists, and being in the thick of the core management team gave me further inspiration to remain connected to NSS.

Hosting a huge gathering of a thousand people, including research scholars and distinguished speakers from all over the country, was my responsibility for the XXXII Indian Social Science Congress 2008. Camp-fire celebrations and team coordination kept me energetic, despite my not managing to sleep more than five hours a day for ten days. At the next camp, the National Integration Camp in December 2008, I got seven consecutive day and night duties out of ten days. That first year ended with my helping newcomers by answering admission-related queries in a University Admission Information camp for 15 days while I was managing my second Sem Exams in parallel. I used to get calls of enquiry while sleeping at night!

Cleaning the university campus, working in slums and with disabled people, volunteering for cleaning Indian rivers, interfaith summits, awareness campaigns, rallies, seminars and camps for health related issues like blood donation, HIV/AIDS, and Dengue, and working for flood relief, polio eradication, gender issues and homeless beggars were the prime and regular activities I enrolled with in NSS.  I serve my dues to society through being a regular blood donor.  My blood donation serviced many in need, including a one-year-old child from Pakistan admitted for heart surgery for a congenital hole in the heart. A cruel truth that I learnt was that most people didn’t understand the need for volunteer blood donation till their own family members were in urgent need of blood.

Going through a long selection procedure and camps, I was chosen for National Republic Day Parade Camp 2010, a month long day-night camp. That was the most important and most memorable camp of my life. A mere 200, evenly split between males and females, were selected NSS volunteers out of 32 lacks from all states of India. Gathered in Delhi, they lived, shared, learned, practiced daily rigorous parade drills lasting eight hours over 24 km, and enjoyed cultural evenings with a different state culture each day, all within fully closed and separated boundaries. We had to wake up before 4 am even on freezing January mornings. I was selected as host volunteer of the camp, so I was the busiest guy and had the least rest. I did not even have the time for the meal queues at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Instead, every day I preferred to take a spoon, meet and talk to other volunteers, solve their problems and satiate my hunger from their plates.

When we marched and gave our salute to the President of India on 26th January, 2010, I felt great pride in being an Indian citizen. The NSS contingent is the only civil marching contingent in the Republic Day Parade in Indian history. We marched as ‘White Commandos’, for peace and integration. Later, I met the Honorable President and Prime Minister of India Republic at their respective residences. I got a wonderful reward as a chance to represent India in the Indo- Korea Youth Delegation Exchange Program in 2012.

At the end of my four-year program, I had spent almost 30 per cent of my time in NSS and became what people know me now to be. I cannot show the proof of all the work I did, it is just a deep satisfaction in my heart. I owe a great deal to the NSS and would encourage youth to give National and International Social Service Programs a shot. It molds personalities and arms you with the tools to establish yourself as a distinguished contributor to society, a model citizen, if you will.                                                                                      

Photo: Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India

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About me:
A thinker, a social volunteer, a mechanical designer, a theater artist, a guitar player, a lyrics-writer, an amateur sketch artist, a cook, a traveler, a wannabe civil servant – there are many phrases I enjoy trying on me to describe what I see myself as.

 Currently I work for the Oil and Gas Pipeline refineries as a design engineer and am studying for Management in Business Administration. I aspire to enlighten society with the knowledge and experience I gain.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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