“This is the first time I came across a youth bulletin which is so different. Most other bulletins for youth cover issues like fashion, film, modern living, etc. What we really need is that youth try to understand their own importance and plan their life accordingly. I feel Yuva Hlachal will provide a direction for this.”
-Kamlesh Sharma, Student
Badagaon, Udaipur, Rajasthan
Yuva Halchal is a monthly publication of youth ideas, reflections and perspectives developed and produced by youth through Shikshantar. It is a medium for encouraging, envisioning, creating and nurturing self-awareness through expression born of personal experiences and discovery. It is a venue for dialogue, writing, critique, discussion and networking with other youth. The goal is to foster an organic, creative space for expression that grows as youth seek further conversations, dialogues, etc. among themselves and in Udaipur.
The name Yuva Halchal is significant in that it reflects the energy of change that the youth founders wanted to explore and advance. The purpose of a ‘commotion’ or ‘shake up’ was to challenge and inspire youth to look at the ways in which they were learning in school, to branch out and experiment with new ways of interacting and thinking and to see their actions as a larger process of change. YH participant, Dilip, explains from his perspective, “We wanted to do something new. When you do something new, you are automatically changing something. It is like tossing a stone into a pond – the ripples are inevitable.” Doing ‘something new’ also reflects the challenge of self-vision and -creation. Yuva Halchal defies a common ‘implementor’ mindset, in which youth join an activity or do a project but are still following the directions, ideas or paths set out by older ‘leaders’. Youth are in charge of all aspects of Yuva Halchal; it is based on their personal visions and grows with their own efforts.
As a monthly publication, Yuva Halchal has included topics of globalization, politics, resistance movements, nationalism, consumerism, etc. But the publication is not thematic; there is no superior force that dictates assignments. Youth chose a topic or experience and write about it – from their own perspective. In writing from personal experience, youth are developing their abilities to reflect on personal opinions and assumptions, rather than living by the word of outside mass-media or regurgitating sterile information. The meaning of ‘Personal Experience’ takes many forms – personal journeys or discoveries, burning questions, conversations, research, etc. What is important is that a person takes responsibility – to know what they believe, to stand for something, to see places in their life where they can change and grow. “If you are going to write about something in the media, put it into the context of your own life,” says Ajay, a YH youth and Shikshantar Learning Activist. “We need to have more faith in ourselves and less dependence on the information from TV, the news, etc.”
Contributing to YH is not limited to writing; there is an open invitation to share and discuss ideas and questions, create cartoons, songs and poems, edit and proofread articles, and research topics. Organized discussion groups have also been irregular and adjunct parts of YH. The point is for youth to get involved and intrinsically motivated through personal initiative – to talk to people, question, think, engage others – to make it a life-learning. YH does not seek to be a wide-spread ‘mega-magazine’, but rather a collection of highly motivated, local individuals who chose to take part. By sharing their work, they encourage people in other places to start their own local magazine or media project, in the context of their own visions and ideas. Youth have written from Kerala, Maharashtra and other parts of Rajasthan, to say that they are experimenting with their own youth projects, and have been inspired by Yuva Halchal.
Getting youth to participate (and continue to participate) is not an easy endeavor, however. In making the effort to transcend a school framework that has stifled their creativity and self-expression, youth come up against many challenges and frustrations that are directly linked to their experiences within this framework. They are accustomed to copying essays and other work, not writing original pieces or taking a personal stance. Disturbingly, many college graduates cannot formulate or express their ideas in writing. The concept and process of discussion, critique and revision can be intimidating. Many youth have an ego about revision; they may write a piece but refuse to discuss it further. Or they think that writing from an objective position, using big words and abstract ideas will ‘pass’, as though they are writing for teacher. Engaging in self-critique and reflection during the writing process is an important part of Yuva Halchal, as is learning to give constructive feedback to others. From these experiences and interactions, youth have the opportunity to develop their own style. Because of these challenges, YH participation fluctuates and evolves. It is a dynamic, self-organizing unit; sometimes there are 15 youth involved, sometimes only two.
YH is distributed in and around Udaipur and to approximately 40 organizations and youth movements throughout India. YH participants also experiment with personal distribution, in which each gives the publication to five people, with the expectation that they discuss it together later. In this way, there is a chance for true engagement about the work, further generation of ideas and feedback and an expanded space for realization of community expression and creative learning. The strength of Yuva Halchal lies in the direct, personal interactions and efforts of youth here in Udaipur now.
Yuva Halchal also finds inspiration through similar visions and youth actions in other places. One is with Qalb el-Umour, a youth publication through the Arab Education Forum. QU is a space for youth to express and reflect on their ideas, create networks, dialogue, learn – using material they already have: their own life experiences. The way in which the forum and publication work and the principles and values that they embrace, while specific in purpose, setting and experiences to the community from which it is created, are also closely in line with and have helped further the conceptualization process of Yuva Halchal.
By writing from self-experience and engaging in new forms of expression and engagement, youth are both participating in and creating a powerful, “new” process of thinking and space for learning. This provides stimulus for deeper questioning – about how we think, how we understand. This is a challenge for individuals – it requires going out on a limb, taking a stand, exposing personal values, making oneself vulnerable. On another level, by taking the challenge, youth are engaging in a process of “un-schooling” whereby they are breaking down an infiltrated factory school mind-frame. It is this mind-frame and through this model of schooling that such insecurity and paralysis surrounding personal expression is created. Most importantly, Ajay emphasizes, it is an opportunity to make the links between reflecting, writing and taking action. “Many people can talk about how the world should be better, but the point is to focus on doing, taking an active role.” Yuva Halchal provides a valuable space for getting motivated and breaking from the paralysis.
Working on Yuva Halchal is a forum for youth to discuss real-life experiences. It also creates opportunities for learning real life-skills. One skill is research. Youth explore their own experiences through writing, but also develop valuable interviewing skills (communication skills, interpersonal skills, synthesizing information). The interviewing process has been a good way for youth to gain diverse perspectives and deepen their understandings about many issues.
Another part of the writing process is learning to use the computer in a practical way. Expensive computer courses have become very popular in India, but the point of these classes has been limited to complex programming languages, without any focus on application. While youth can speak the complex programming jargon and memorize codes and equations, they cannot apply this information to their daily lives or use it in innovative ways. By learning to use the computer for writing and publishing as a part of Yuva Halchal, it becomes a real tool with a meaningful purpose.
 Yuva Halchal translates roughly into ‘Youth Commotion’. Halchal connotes a shake-up or movement.
 The Arab Education Forum is sponsered by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. For more details and elaboration, see Munir Fasheh’s article, ‘From the Soils of Culture: The Qalb el-Umour Project in the Arab World’, 2001, Vimukt Shiksha: Special Issue: Unfolding Learning Societies: Deepening the Dialogues, Shikshantar.
 Ibid: Taken from “Principles, Convictions and Values that Govern the Thinking and Work of Qual el-Umour”