Mumbai: Do you know how the surname ‘Satyarthi’ came to be suffixed to Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s name?
All this and more came to light during the ABP Network’s ‘Ideas of India’ summit on Friday where he was invited for a freewheeling conversation with Sumit Awasthi, Vice President (News & Programming) at ABP Network. Little known stories about his life, his struggles and vision for a world where every child is free to be a child, came alive during the tete-a-tete.
“I was born in a Brahmin family which believed in the concept of ‘untouchability’. I was influenced by Gandhi Ji’s efforts against untouchability. When I was 15, I heard the speeches of some leaders against untouchability. I came up with the idea that I should invite these leaders to a feast where the food would be cooked by ‘untouchable’ people. The leaders agreed to come, but no one showed up. I was hurt and broke down. It was then that one of the mothers who cooked the food came to me and told me that I should not cry as I have done my bit.”
“When I reached home, there was a big crowd of villagers and relatives there. My ‘punishment’ was being decided – whether I would be expelled from my caste, or I would be sent to Haridwar for ‘purification’. This made me even more furious. It was decided that I would be given a separate room and I would be treated like an untouchable. I stayed there for many years in that room, and my mom used to cry while giving me food from a distance. I gathered strength with a lot of difficulty. I then decided that who are they to expel me? I set myself free from the shackles of caste and changed my surname.”
Asked as to whether his dream could still come true amid a surge in trafficking and exploitation of children in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which has left many children orphaned, Mr Satyarthi said, “When a dream is coupled with determination, then we can achieve anything. I believe India is the only nation which is not known for its problems, but for its solutions. It is the land of Gandhi and Buddha. If there are a hundred crore problems here, then there are over a hundred crore solutions, we all are the solutions.”
Mr Satyarthi got emotional while talking about the most painful incident of his life in which one of the volunteers of Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation’s sister organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan‘s, Dhoom Das, was martyred. “We were attacked by a mob when we were holding a demonstration near some sand quarries in Faridabad for getting a Supreme Court order implemented. I found one of my volunteers, Dhoom Das lying in a pool of blood. I took him to the hospital while praying for his life, but the doctors informed us that he was no more. Carrying his body on my shoulders and placing it in my car was the most horrifying moment of my life.”
On a lighter note, ABP’s Sumit Awasthi popped a personal question to Mr Satyarthi asking him about his culinary skills. “We are pure vegetarian, and there is one dish that my wife really appreciates – stuffed tomatoes. I had made this dish for Sumedha Ji before we got married; I think it helped in influencing her decision to get married to me,” Mr Satyarthi said as the audience broke out into peals of laughter.
The theme of ‘Ideas Of India‘ summit was ‘Open-Minds Open Minds’.