WHERE HAVE ALL THE POSITIVE STORIES GONE?

Author: 

Shoma A. Chatterji

While it is true that the country is spilling over with astounding stories on scams, murders, corruption, electoral hooliganism, communal conflicts and food censorship that find headline space in all newspapers everywhere, somewhere down the line, positive stories have become an invisible entity. One hardly comes across positive stories of people involved in doing good to others or people engaged in larger concerns to better the lives of everyone around. These stories could provide that much-needed beacon of light in an otherwise darkening world. But the national dailies reserve just a little space in two or three paragraphs of a single column hidden somewhere in the inside pagers the lay reader might very well miss out on. Few journalists who actually feel starved of positive news stories and stories built around invisible do-gooders of the nation find it difficult to find space in the national dailies. Within this darkening ambience of journalism, online magazines can be credited with stories of sustainable development and stories of positive individuals we know little or nothing about which can go a long way is shaping the future of the younger generation to let it move in the right direction. 
In this scenario, Karan Singh of The Daily Express and Aparajita Mishra of Puri Dunia wrote about the incredibly tragic story of Kamal Kumar Valmiki, former national level boxer, who claims to have won three district-level gold medals in early ’90s, who is is now managing to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence by working as a garbage collector. 
He was not allowed for a 4th class job also even after winning a gold medal on a national level. The reason is his caste. He is a Dalit. Can or should this be a reason for a national level sportsperson to make a living out of collecting garbage? He has a family who is dependent on him, and therefore, he had to resort to collecting garbage. His son is also a national level boxer. This is not a positive story. But the postscript to this story after it flashed across newspapers does have a strong positive aura. Sangram Singh, the wrestler who won the 2015 Commonwealth Heavy weight championship, announced financial support for Kamal Kumar and got him a job on a Rs.15,000 monthly salary as coach in an institution Sangram Singh has founded. 
In collaboration with Sangram Singh, the Sunshine Group Chairman launched the country’s first naturopathy center  in Noida focused on helping needy and retired national players, who can come back to the health and fitness field through this noble initiative meant to bring respectability back to being a sports-person. Sangram Singh wishes that initiatives of this kind reach every small town where he wishes to provide motivation, health support and fitness training to the rural youth, who are future icons of our country.
Sangram Singh himself is the fairy-tale hero of his own struggles to come back to sport and to winning a championship. Sangram was paralysed and confined to chair for 8 years due to rheumatoid arthritis, but his willpower to recover and determination brought him out as a complete winner.. He has been working selflessly towards the betterment of the society in general and weaker sportspersons who have fallen on bad days in particular. 
“Ajoy Mondal, the chemistry honours student who lost his books and the cash he had saved for his higher education in a fire that destroyed his one-room shanty near Shyambazar last month, has been flooded with calls offering help ever since Telegraph Metro highlighted his plight. Among those moved by the 19-year-old’s story was Assembly Speaker Biman Bandopadhyay, who called to ask whether the boy could meet him in his office on Monday. Metro escorted Ajoy to the Assembly and then a College Street bookstore to buy the textbooks that would bring back the smile on his face after four days.” 
This forms the opening paragraph of a very positive story jointly worked out by Rith Basu and Arnab Ganguly of The Telegraph, Kolkata on September 15 this year. Basu and Ganguly have chased the story from the day Ajoy’s shanty was reduced to ashes on September 10 till his dreams of an education and also for a roof over his family’s head came true thanks to their continuous persistence on giving prime space to Ajoy’s sad story.  Ajoy reportedly received a cheque for Rs 10,000 from his landlord Kalyan Kundu. Assembly Speaker Biman Bandopadhyay, who had given Ajoy an envelope containing Rs 20,000 earlier to buy the textbooks he had lost in the fire, apparently got landlord Kundu to help the boy rebuild the one-room shanty on Nilambar Mukherjee Street where he lived with his parents. . The 19-year-old, who also lost the Rs 8,000 he had saved for his higher education, went straight to College Street and bought textbooks on chemistry, physics, mathematics, English and Bengali.
Ajoy’s story has a trickle down effect because it has helped residents and children of other shanties that were destroyed in the same fire. A woman’s organization has provided textbooks to the other students in the neighbourhood. The local club provided food to the families that lost their shanties in the blaze for around a week or so till they were able to feed themselves on their own.  A 13-year-old boy who was moved by Ajoy’s story after having read it in Telegraph Metro, handed over his piggy bank to Ajoy who was moved to tears by this gesture. “I don’t even know his name,” cries Ajoy.
Atisha Jain of The Hindustan Times filed a powerful story of inspiration and motivation on September 14. Under the headline - The tough get going: 5 Indians who studied their way to success, she painstakingly digs up the stranger-than-fiction human interest stories of five young men and women across the countries who have braved every odd to realise their dreams of becoming someone significant in life. “They rose above their grim financial circumstances, overcame all sorts of odds and defied stereotypes to top exams, get into IIMs and even pursue a PhD at 15!  Here are their incredible stories: of unrelenting struggle and hard work,” writes Jain.
Let us get a bit closer to know who they are and what they have achieved. Shiva Kumar used to sell newspapers before he got into IIM Calcutta. Shalini Arnugam, 17, works as a domestic help and is also studying to be an engineer. She was the school topper in class 10 and scored 84.8 per cent in class 12. But while students took breaks from their exam routine, Shalini shuttled between houses, doing household chores to keep her family afloat. 
Barnita Mandal is doing her first year of B. Tech. Bernita’s father is an auto-rickshaw driver and her mother a homemaker. They moved out of a small town in West Bengal to settle in Bengaluru when she was a little girl. “Both my parents are illiterate. Perhaps that’s why they’ve always encouraged me to study,” says Bernita. Her immediate aim is to get the gold medal that is given to rank-holders in her college every semester. After her engineering course, Bernita hopes to go abroad for an MTech. “A scholarship would be great. But if I don’t get one, I hope to get a job and relieve my father of the family’s financial burden.”
28-year-old IIM Lucknow student Yogendra Singh is the son of a rickshaw puller. He belongs to a village called Daltongunge in Jharkhand. “My father was a rickshaw-puller and my mother a homemaker. But they never had to pay for my education,” he says proudly. Yogendra became famous for his educational achievements in his village and to solve all his problems, his would-be-father-in-law offered to fund his education provided he married his daughter.  Sushma Verma is pursuing her Ph.D. in Microbiology from the Babasaheb Ambedkar University in Lucknow. And she is only 15 years old. In June 2007, Sushma created history. Limca Book of Records recognised her as the youngest student, aged 7 years, 3 months and 28 days, to pass the class 10 Board exam in the country. “At the time, I didn’t even understand the significance of Board exams. This was only the second time in my entire life that I was taking an exam!”
Sushma’s father was a daily-wage labourer, and mother, a homemaker. “Our home comprised of a single room with a leaking ceiling. The main thought in my mind then was that all I have are my brother’s books. So I have to study with his support.” Her achievements are very special when one looks at the rise in the family’s fortunes courtesy her own rise. Her father was appointed as a sanitation assistant at the same university she graduated from. Besides, just by being around the Verma siblings while they study, her mother today can read basic Hindi and English.
But these stories hardly make it to the front page of national newspapers or even in the op-ed pages or grace the prestigious editorials. Considering that India is the largest democracy in the world which constitutionally rights every citizen the right to freedom of expression, how can this happen and why? Think about it.