‘Yuvaa’ – a platform for youngsters, has been travelling to colleges in different states to understand students’ stories. NT KURIOCITY spoke to co-founder Nikhil Taneja to know more
RAMANDEEP KAUR | NT KURIOCITY
About a month ago, Nikhil Taneja, Anand Tiwari and Amritpal Bindra launched Yuvaa – a platform that listens to, engages with, and shares stories that bring young India together to create a community of empowered youth.
“The platform was titled Yuvaa because it is a platform of, for and by the youth of India,” says Taneja.
And now as part of their project to create and curate original, accessible, and entertaining stories of, for and by the youth of India across genres of non-fiction and fiction web series, docu-series, talk shows, podcasts and short-format on all digital and social media, ‘Yuvaa’ is travelling across the country to meet youngsters in various colleges.
“Before we begin creating content, we need to understand the youth, and actually listen to what they want to speak about, and haven’t gotten an opportunity to. So we are going to 30 cities and 100 colleges across India to listen to the unheard stories of young people, Taneja who is the ex-development head and general manager at Y-Films –YRF.
So far the team has been to Pune and Nagpur (Maharashtra), Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar (Gujarat), Indore and Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Raipur (Chhattisgarh) and Goa, where Taneja has visited two colleges: BITS Pilani and Goa Engineering College.
In every college they visit, they conduct a workshop with students on why their stories matter. “We tell them how sharing their stories and listening to the stories of everyone around can be the most empowering and cathartic activity, because we have become a society where everyone wants to talk but there’s no one to listen. And that is causing the biggest mental health issues among young Indians,” explains Taneja.
And the team has heard many stories so far which are ‘heart-warming, heartbreaking, hopeful and empowering’. “We have heard many stories about sexual harassment, failure, struggles with sexuality, about not being accepted or loved by parents, pressure to succeed, pressure to be happy, self-worth struggles etc.,” he says, adding that the team has realised that ultimately, what young people really want comes down to some very basic human emotions: acceptance, love and the freedom to write their own stories.
He further says that they urge students’ to have conversations, lend a listening ear and tell their stories and let the world know who they are, so that there are others who will hear them and feel less alone. “In the process, we can create a community of empowered young Indians who are together in everything they go through.” They also have an open mic in every city after their college visits, where students come and share their stories, and empower each other.
Speaking of how this platform will benefit students, Taneja says that unfortunately, because of the internet and mobiles, the current generation is going through an incredible amount of mental health issues because everyone is spending time on their phones and are rarely actually talking to each other. “They are also going through so many things because of the society we live in, from depression to not being accepted to struggles with sexuality to sexual harassment and assault, but they are not able to put this out there, because there’s no one to listen, and there are hardly any safe spaces in our country,” he says.
He adds that on the mobile, emotions are reduced to emojis, and before someone can feel something, they post it online. “But no one’s saying anything real because of the fear of being judged. Everyone wants to talk: but there’s no one to listen. We are a platform that listens. We care about young people, we care about their mental health, and we believe listening and sharing our stories can result in catharsis, empowerment and creating a community that’s there for each other. We are trying to create safe spaces online and on ground, so young people can help each other, and feel less alone.”
Across its pan-India road show, Yuvaa will also be doing a quantitative survey which is also aimed at listening to young Indians. “We want to understand young people better so we can understand their challenges, and then, as a media company, find a way to empower them through the content we make,” he says.
They are also shooting a documentary on young Indians born in a world post-technology, and the mental health and identity issues they face. The documentary is partly funded by an award and grant they won by the Goalkeepers Youth Action Accelerator that’s giving money to youth organisations across the world who are trying to achieve the United Nations’ Global Goals. National Award winning director (for his short film, Seher), Manas Shashidharan Jacob is directing it.
The documentary will be realised in July or August online for free. Taneja hopes to take it to various educational institutes, mental health organisations, students, teachers and parents, so that there is a genuine understanding of what young Indians want, need, struggles with and aspire to. “Only if we listen to young India, will we be able to understand their challenges. And only once we understand their challenges, will we be able to find ways to overcome them. 65 per cent of our country is under 35, but we hardly listen to them. Yuvaa is here to listen,” he concludes.