In conversation with Yougan Tamang, the Global Youth Award winner from Sikkim

Yougan Tamang is a 29-year-old social entrepreneur from Jorethang in South Sikkim. He is a YouTuber, social content writer, singer and songwriter who is also a UGC Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Anthropology, University of North Bengal. His YouTube channel is called Yougan Tamang Channel. He is pursuing a Ph.D. on the Tamang tribes on Sikkim focusing on their culture and health. He was recently awarded the Global Youth Award which is given on the basis of quality of impact, level of innovation, achievements and quality of the evidence provided. Speaking to Shweta from TNT-The Northeast Today, Yougan talks about his achievement and what he hopes to do in the future.

TNT. What are your aspirations and long term goals?

YT. I always felt that I was born to serve society and humanity and contribute something back to the world which has given me so much in every aspect. My mind has never been static; I have been hopping from one thing to another since my childhood. I never wanted to pursue Botany but due to my parents extraordinary love for the subject (laughs) I had to compromise, but later I realized I must take on a discipline that would help me understand human, culture and social issues. Thus, I took up Anthropology as a discipline in my post-graduation and whatever I am and I am doing currently is due to anthropology. So, my aim in life is not just confined to myself but I want to do something in life that will help me stay happy and also help me make my surroundings happier. I aim to work for humanity and I aspire to be someone who can make the world a better place. I hope to research extensively on various human communities and population and issues. I want to continue to work extensively on various vital issues for the welfare of human society.

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TNT. You have written a paper on Religion and its impact on the Tamangs of Sikkim, please tell us about your findings.

YT. Ah, well I presented a paper entitled ‘Changes in Religion and its Impact on Health of Tamangs of Sikkim, India” at International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) World Congress 2013  at Manchester in the United Kingdom. The paper I presented highlighted how the Tamang tribe in Sikkim has undergone changes in their religion which was due to impact of the various historical forces in the past and how the changes in religion have affected their mode of treating diseases and illness. The act of different historical forces among the Tamangs have resulted in the syncretism of the culture and amalgamated religious beliefs (of Bonism, Hinduism and Buddhism) among the tribe which has controlled the health seeking behaviour of the community living in the areas of Sikkim.

TNT. Can you throw some light on iVolunteerYou NGO and how you came to win the Sikkim State Award.

YT. iVolunteerYOU is actually an online platform created to promote volunteerism with a tag line ‘Let’s Volunteer and Let’s Promote Volunteerism’. It has been created so that the team could highlight news and information about various social activities going on in and around the state, country and the world. We have created a Facebook page and a website (www.ivolunteeryou.org) where we try to upload news, stories, articles on social work, social issues and promote social campaigns. We also try to highlight various organizations who selflessly working for the society and also publish online the interviews of people and individuals who are engaged in various social activism and philanthropic activities, this is so we can share, encourage and motivate more people to volunteer for social causes and serve society and humanity.  We have asked people to register with us online, and we have got a good response, we then try to contact them individually and organize events accordingly. iVolunteerYOU has tried to bring hearts and minds together voluntarily to do something for society and make a difference.

Sikkim State Award (Sikkim Sewa Samman) was conferred to me on the occasion of State Day in the year 2013 by the Government of Sikkim for my academic and social contribution.  The Award was conferred to me by (Former) His Excellency the Governor of Sikkim, Balmiki Prasad Singh in the presence of Hon’ble Chief Minister of Sikkim, Pawan Kumar Chamling.

The award is given annually to outstanding individuals in the state of Sikkim on the occasion of State Day. So, I was selected by the Government of Sikkim for the award in the year 2013. The officials had a lot of information about my work which were published in local dailies and online sites. I feel I am blessed in everything I do! Glory to God!!

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TNT. Who has been your source of inspiration?

YT. Everyone and everything around me always inspires me. I always try to find the best aspects from everyone’s lives and try to apply it to my life as well. But to name a few, our Chief Minister, Pawan Kumar Chamling really inspires me for his relentless contribution in the field of literature, culture and tradition. I love the way he has been promoting culture, ethnicity and traditions of communities of Sikkim at this point in time where nothing remains without an effect due to the inevitable impact of globalization and modernization. He has taken culture very seriously and amalgamated it with tourism, making an outstanding contribution to the state and the country.

I’m deeply inspired by the works of many people in my state which include my parents and also Dr.Sudarshan Tamang, Assistant Professor, Chemistry, Sikkim University, Nirmal Mangar, Senior Journalist Sikkim, Suresh Lama, Social Entrepreneur.

I also follow the work of various leading social faces of the world like Malala Yousafzai, Robin Sharma (Author/Motivational Speaker) and Justin Trudeau (Canadian Prime Minister). I also follow many YouTubers as well like Troye Sivan, Tyler Oakley, Connor Franta, they inspire me to make a lot of videos.

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TNT. Please highlight some issues that you wish to address with respect to the region.

YT. In the state like Sikkim, I would really like to work on the issues of the youth and women empowerment. I want to work basically in the education sector. I want to encourage more young minds to go for higher studies and research and contribute to the state and the country. More research means more understanding of communities and the region and more solutions to many issues and problems.

TNT. With Northeast youth being rapidly engulfed into the trap of drug addiction, how do you think we can bridge the gap between instrumental youth and those who are in need of direction?

YT. The problem of drug addiction is not new to us or to the nation or the entire world. It has been the most prevalent problem among the youth. The encounter with addictive substances can be traced as early as high school. Many people go through years of hopelessness with no direction in life. Every person needs a second chance. We enjoy helping people because we believe that people have value. Helping people deal with one of the most devastating sicknesses of our time with a message of hope and a helping hand to overcome addiction.

Influential people are the source of inspiration. They can channel their potential to reach out to the people. Stigmatizing them is not a solution; they have to be brought to the main stream of life to realize their significance of being human. There is only one way we can fight drug addiction among youth. This is by removing the stigma from the life of an addict and giving them a new hope and inspiration. Society despises them, which then leads to suicide and chronic addiction. The problem is that our society is very busy congratulating the accomplished people rather than focusing on encouraging those who didn’t.

TNT. What implication do you think your work could bring especially for the Northeast Region and your future course of action on these lines?

YT. My area of concern is research on anthropological studies.  North East States in India needs strong, determined policies for its economic and social progress. I would like to be one of the contributors.

I want my work not just be an iota of accomplishment but an engine of inspiration and growth which may help in building a better society

TNT. What is your field of expertise?

YT. I am working under Medical Anthropology, researching on the culture and health of the tribal community in Sikkim, so I believe I can work in better understanding culture and relating it with health and work the holistic development of communities in Sikkim and the Northeast. I run online platforms to promote volunteerism, so I suppose I can publish more stories to encourage and motivate people. I like making motivational videos and motivating people so maybe I can use my oratory skills to help young people.

TNT. What message would you like to give to the readers, especially the people of the Northeast?

TY. With knowledge comes great power, with knowledge comes wisdom. My message to the readers would be to never cease learning. We, the Northeast people have a special quality of facing ours odds and challenges.Never give up and be confident in what you do. There may be tough times but the difficult times which you may face will make you more determined to achieve your objectives and to win against all odds.Let’s make our society a better place to live and together we can.
Lastly, follow your heart, not the crowd but make sure whatever you follow, it does benefit society.

TNT. Thank you Yougan for speaking to TNT-The Northeast Today. It was a pleasure talking to you. You have made the region very proud and we hope to continue to hear good things from you.

(By Shweta Raj Kanwar)

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