Wealth and power are no indicators of a life well lived, says social worker N. Nithyanandam on the eve of his departure to take part in the Youth Assembly at the United Nations
N. Nithyanandam believes he can make the world a better place. He has been working on that for many years now. The development goals he has set and achieved have won him an invitation to participate in the 12th Youth Assembly at the United Nations, in New York on August 7, 8 and 9. Just over a year ago, he visited Washington to take part in the International AIDS conference.
“I am tenth class fail,” says the 40-year-old. “I am not proud of this, but despite my bad showing in school, I have come this far. My aim is to tell the youth that if they want something badly enough they can achieve it.”
In the wake of the recent spate of suicides amongst students when they failed their exams, Nithyanandam was invited for a radio interview, where he spoke of his own poor marks and how he never allowed that to come in the way of his goals. He was surprised at the response. “Nearly 70 parents called me to say they would not pressurise their kids any more about marks. Many students also told me that they now felt differently about things.”
Nithyanandam who worked as a labourer after he dropped out of school founded a social service outfit called Dhiyana Podhusevai Maiyam.
Social service is his calling. In 2001 he volunteered for six months in Bhuj after the earthquake. Post Tsunami he provided medical, legal and rehabilitation help to the victims. He worked with the handicapped, set up nearly 1,000 self help groups and held medical camps in villages across Tamil Nadu. He trained villagers in disaster management. He works tirelessly for the environment and creates green spaces. He has worked with Panchayat leaders, cleared poromboke land and persuaded villagers to grow trees on them. But it is his grassroots work with 440 villages in Coimbatore district, where he went from house to house spreading awareness about AIDS that won him a membership with the International AIDS society and made him a U.N volunteer.
Nithyanandam is looking forward to the Youth Assembly. “I hope to spread the word about how the youth can bring about positive change. I also hope to learn from people in the other parts of the world about programmes and initiatives that can help our society.” He cites the example of two Americans, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates. One was the representative of a super power and the other was super rich. But now they find fulfilment in bettering human lives. “Every human being should account for something good in the intervening years between birth and death. That is the only reality,” concludes Nithyanandam.