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'My feet are a canvas, and I’m an artist': Youth walks across India to bring mental health curriculum in schools

Despite blisters and corns, Ronit Ranjan who is in Hyderabad now wants to complete his 4,000 km walk with a petition to Ministry of Education to include mental health in schools 

Published: 07th January 2021 08:13 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th January 2021 08:13 AM   |  A+A-

Ronit Ranjan

Ronit Ranjan

Express News Service

HYDERABAD:  Ronit Ranjan, all of 23 years, who is literally ‘walking the talk’ says, my feet are a canvas, and I’m an artist.” Ronit is solo-walking from Kanyakumari (since November 16, 2019) to Ladakh (4,000 km, which he aims to reach on May 31, 2020) with a petition asking the Ministry of Education to incorporate mandatory mental health curriculum in Indian schools for Classes IX to XII.

Currently in Hyderabad (1,250 km) from December 30 until January 8, this Ranchi-born life coach, fitness coach, author, and speaker is meeting different dignitaries in the City of Pearls, “aiming at more outreach, contacts in the government, collaborations, and petition signatures.” Walking at an average of 40 km per day, Ronit walks from 4 am till 2 pm and then spends the rest of the day talking to people about his campaign. His other pit-stops have been across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.

He says, “I walk alone, so I stick to the National Highways. I enter inside roads to find shelter and food on the days I don’t find a town-ish area to crash.” Financing his six-month mission, some with his own savings and the rest through crowdfunding via ketto.org, in his backpack are essentials such as clothes, footwear, phone, power bank, medicines, knife, map, and petition copies. Battling multiple foot blisters, sores, and corns, It must get tiring and lonely while walking.

How does he stay mentally strong? “I keep reminding myself why I’m doing this,” comments he. And what are his reasons? He shares: “Growing up, I never heard terms such as depression, anxiety, mental health; just the occasional ‘suicides’ reported in the news channels. I always thought that something must be wrong with youngsters who choose to take their lives until I faced a similar situation in 2017 when I decided to take mine due to a spine injury that ended my career in the Armed Forces (National Defence Academy). I was diagnosed with depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and found myself flailing in the ocean of helplessness and silence.

I thought I was the only one who was going through this, but when I looked around there were so many.”
What should be included in the curriculum? He comments: “The curriculum (non-graded) is not about adding more syllabus, but rather educating and sensitising the students through dialogues, discussions, activities, feedbacks, exercises, skill training, etc.” His online petition on change.org reads, ‘Incorporate Mandatory Mental Health Curriculum in Schools - #mentalhealthinschools’.

He currently has 19,895 signatories to his petition and aims to get 1,00,000 signatures. “There are good days and bad days, but it’s important to remind yourself that some things in life are bigger than you,” states the man on a mission.

Just met @mustang_rranjan, a man on a mission to raise awareness of mental health in India & seek its inclusion in the national curriculum. He is walking 4,000 KM from Kanyakumari to Leh (sic) Andrew Fleming , British Deputy High Commissioner to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

— Tamanna S Mehdi tamanna@newindianexpress.com @tamannamehdi



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