Twenty-eight 14-year-olds, grouped together in random pairs, telling each other animatedly what they really think about themselves. About their strengths, their weaknesses, joys and fears. No inhibitions, no affectations, no embarrassment—just easy camaraderie and a free flow of expression. One has just been privy to the concluding session of a self-exploratory workshop at one of Delhi’s upmarket schools. There are more revelations in store: a whole range of such exercises—introspection, looking back and discussion—is part of the school’s curriculum, compulsory for students between 14 and 17.
Welcome to the Pravah-smile (Students Mobilisation Initiative for Learning through Exposure), an organisation which has reached out to over 30,000 students already in the Capital’s upmarket schools and colleges, helping them cope with life’s rigours. The prime mover behind this unique project is 34-year-old Ashraf Patel. Aided initially by a seven-member think-tank from the development and corporate arena, Patel has created a multifaceted curriculum that initiates urban Indian youth to practical decision-making within a complex context of social problems.