India Today - - GOOD NEWS - By Kaveree Bamzai

Do-good­ers, self-starters, game-chang­ers. Twenty-one men and women who have bro­ken the rules to make a dif­fer­ence to their own lives and those of oth­ers.

Agroup of young­sters who com­bated state ap­a­thy and sear­ing con­flict to win big at a mar­tial arts con­test in Bhutan. A young woman who gave up a ca­reer in soft­ware to pro­vide a low-cost funeral ser­vice for dig­nity in death. An heir to a health­care em­pire who wants to be a cat­a­lyst in re-learn­ing an­cient In­dian wis­dom. A young tea-seller in the Dooars who funds and coaches a foot­ball team be­cause few things gen­er­ate as much con­fi­dence as bril­liance at a sport.

In a world be­set with dark­ness, the few sources of light need to nur­tured. The special is­sue of in­dia to­day, filled with sto­ries of those who have com­bated the odds, is a trib­ute to the hu­man spirit of en­durance, ex­cel­lence and en­deav­our. It cel­e­brates al­tru­ism, the art of giv­ing away. It marks em­pa­thy, the abil­ity to feel the pain of oth­ers. It hon­ours kind­ness, the qual­ity of mercy that is in­creas­ingly lost in us.

Think of the men and women in the next few pages as par­tic­i­pants in The Hap­pi­ness Project. It is the per­fect an­ti­dote to the Age of Anx­i­ety we live in now, full of self­help man­u­als and bet­ter-life coaches. These men and women have some­times tri­umphed in chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances, to achieve seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble goals. Their story can be com­pelling and in­spir­ing. Then there are oth­ers, who go be­yond their brief, to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for oth­ers. These are not just the Bill Gates and the Azim Premjis. It could be the young sin­gle man who fought the sys­tem to be al­lowed to give an or­phaned, men­tally chal­lenged child a home. It could be an IAS of­fi­cer who of­fers sub­sidised meals to starv­ing mi­grant labour­ers. They are the dis­pellers of dark­ness, the har­bin­gers of hope, the coun­ters to cyn­i­cism.

Yet in a post-truth world, their im­por­tance is not merely that their ex­is­tence makes us feel good. As the world moves to­wards in­creas­ingly re­spon­sive lead­er­ship, the kind that can har­ness disruptive tech­nolo­gies and re­cal­ci­trant hu­mans, it is clear that new skills will be called for—among them cre­ativ­ity and peo­ple man­age­ment. The 21 do-good­ers and self-starters did not wait for the gun to go off to race to­wards their goal. They of­ten cre­ated their own. In a cul­ture that tells them who they are, they are their own story.

In do­ing so, they have set a new bench­mark for in­di­vid­ual ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and civic evan­ge­lism. Their causes, says Veer Singh, one of the young men quoted in the fol­low­ing pages, are not one-night stands, but long-term re­la­tion­ships. Their work doesn’t find it­self in the spot­light or in neon on the mar­quee, but it does make our democ­racy richer and our uni­verse more soul­ful. Com­plete en­gage­ment in democ­racy needs us to be fully in­volved in the lives we and our fel­low cit­i­zens lead. Be­cause as the late great Leonard Co­hen wrote in the iconic An­them: “There is a crack in ev­ery­thing, that’s how the light gets in.”

Torch­bear­ers in the Age of Anx­i­ety, they em­body in­di­vid­ual ex­cel­lence and col­lec­tive gen­eros­ity. They are the light that gets in through the cracks.

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