A full time social worker from a very young age, Tauseef Rahman’s journey has truly been a roller coaster ride. Most people turn to their social duties once they are done with the usual chores of life; but this young gun of Kolkata took to social welfare right from the beginning of his career.
Read on as our Sub-editor got into a rather serious conversation with him about the dynamics of the youth in our city over a cup of tea.
Q. You have been a very proactive person as far as working for a change in the society is concerned, and the underlying reason has to be in your upbringing− tells us about your childhood experiences that ingrained in you a sense of altruism.
A. I belong from a middle class family and the society/area where I have lived and grown up, I’ve never seen it clean or being in an orderly state and as student from a catholic school I could discern a glaring difference between the surrounding in my school and back at home. So it always hit my sub-conscience that there has to be someone who needs to do something about it, better still I’ll be that person. Also, my elder brother was always a proactive person when it came to assisting people in need, and I grew up seeing him help people in distress. He was, and still is my inspiration to do what I’m doing right now.
Q. Can you highlight some of the milestones achieved by you in your field of work?
A. Firstly, I’d like to mention about this particular slum in Rajabazaar from where about 2300 kids have been put in various schools with the help of some of the NGOs I have been associated with it. Of course this is not my doing all by myself, but yes, I took the initiative to do so. I deal with these people on a daily basis, and one can say that I have more friends in these slums then elsewhere. Last year, after the Muzzaffarnagar riots in UP took place, I along with a team of four people had gone to the inception point of the riot. We gathered funds and donated LPGs, Plastic Khatiyas and material for makeshift house to the riot affected people. And to stay in that place for 14 days, where an imminent sense of violence prevailed even after the riots were over, I believe is an enormous achievement in itself. The experience was unreal.
Q. What is a day in the life of a social worker like?
A. Well it’s just hectic to say the least. You’re awakened by calls from various people for blood card, or school fees, or just someone in some distress or the other. But the downside is that sometimes these people tend to take you for granted and a lot of it tends to be a sham. And I’m for educational upliftment of the needy. One has to forget the luxuries of life, I am closely associated with an NGO, Tiljala SHED, which works for the rehabilitation and upliftment of rag pickers in Bengal.
Q. As far as the average youth goes, there is a stark disconnect between the society they live in and their personal lives, how do you bridge this gap and promote love for one’s society?
A. In the times we live, the youth has more to complain about how things are and how they ought to be. But have you ever come out and voiced your opinion to the concerned authorities, filed an RTI or a PIL to bring about the changes one broods about everyday. You don’t have to be politically affiliated, all that you need to do is instead of discussing it over an adda session, discuss it with your local councillor.
Q. What do you think has been a persistent issue in Bengal/Kolkata ever since you started off as a social worker?
A. Development. There are no proper industries here, and it is a major impediment to the stability of things around here. And why am I, an independent social worker, talking about industries instead of helping someone open up a tea shop? Well, that would do no good− as in it will work in a singular beneficiary way; what we need here is a holistic solution. Unless there are industries, and in turn jobs for the ever anxious youth, there is no reason for one to be optimistic about our futures.
Q. What tips would you give to a regular Kolkata youth to begin making a change to the society in their everyday life?
A. START WORKING. It saddens me to say so, but it is the harsh reality. Instead of sitting around and indulging in someone’s else’s business, if they start working, they themselves will realise that there’s no better way to contribute back to the society than being busy with work and adding to the economy.
Q. How does a self-less profession like this permit a social worker to survive?
A. Frankly speaking, this is not my bread & butter, I do it because it is my passion. I ‘want’ to help people, I don’t need to have an ulterior motive in doing so. And it has been possible because we have a running business and that suffices in making the ends meet. The fact that I’m being able to help someone in distress is enough to keep myself motivated.
Q. Lastly, what message do you want to give to the youth of Kolkata who, if channelized in the right way, have an unimaginable potential?
A. My simple and only message to the youth is, start asking. Ask your local leaders, the authorities and whoever concerned− probe deeper into the matter and don’t fear to do so. Asking itself will root out majority of the issues.