This is perhaps the first time in the world that a Nobel Laureate and a Grammy Award-winning musician are collaborating together on a project. Social reformer and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi and three-time Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej have joined hands for the Satyarthi Movement for Global Compassion. (Also Read – Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej shares bad experience at Mumbai’s ‘budget hotel’: Cockroaches in room, dirty toilet drains)

Kailash Satyarthi and Ricky Kej come together for a noble cause

The first step in this is a series of concerts by Ricky Kej to raise awareness on this global movement for compassion. Following the first concert in Bengaluru, Kailash Satyarthi and Ricky Kej were in Chennai for the second one, before they headed to Jaipur and Udaipur for the remaining two concerts. They got chatting to Hindustan Times as to how the two – who are from such diverse fields – shared a common goal and came together.

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Decade since the Nobel Prize

When asked how much change and progress had been made on child rights’ issues since his Nobel Prize win a decade ago, Kailash Satyarthi told Hindustan Times, “It has become a global movement today. When I was being interviewed 30-40 minutes after the announcement of the Nobel Prize win, I realised that in terms of awareness about the issue of child slavery, what we could not achieve in 35 years or 40 years, was achieved in that 40 minutes! Because it had gone everywhere in the world, every channel and every newspaper and so on. That was great in terms of raising awareness. It was easy for me to bring my issues and the voices of the most voiceless and faceless children to the highest level with the presidents, prime ministers, heads of states, United Nations, agencies, and so on. The most significant thing in the 10 years was the inclusion of the issues of the most marginalised and most exploited children in the sustainable development goals (SDGs). I had been campaigning for it for many years as you cannot achieve most of the millenium development goals (MDGs), especially education and poverty eradication, without ending child labour, child slavery, child trafficking and so on. People said, oh yeah, good idea but nothing happened. When my Nobel Prize was announced, some of the world leaders including (US) President (Barack) Obama called me up to congratulate me and I said great, but I want to meet and talk to you on something as a fellow Nobel laureate. When President Obama came to India, he had two one-to-one meetings – one with PM Modi and one with me and my wife. I told him that I had been campaigning for quite some time for incorporating issues of eradication of child labour, slavery, trafficking in SDGs, and eventually, he supported this. I met the Pope and the Pope immediately agreed to it and so did many presidents and prime ministers during that time. And finally, this was brought into SDGs. I am saying this is important because I wanted to bring child labour and child slavery into the development domain, as there are funds to support these goals. The Nobel Prize was a kind of shot in the arm and this was finally incorporated.”

Compassion is the way forward

However, Kailash Satyarthi firmly believes that it’s not just him as an individual who has worked on child rights over the last 40 years but his organisations, his colleagues, and everyone who has been part of their journey. But can more be done by the government? “I can never even think that I have individually done all these things. It’s my organisations, my colleagues… in fact, three of my colleagues have sacrificed their life for this. Two of them were shot dead, one was beaten to death. They are sacrificing a million times or a billion times more than what I could for myself. There are also many other NGOs and politicians who have supported the cause. But it is true that much more has to be done in India and elsewhere in the world. I’m not fully satisfied about what we have achieved globally. And that is the reason I launched this new campaign to address the problem from the roots. The Satyarthi Movement for Global Compassion is the newest addition in all my work. Until and unless we feel that the children who are producing clothes or shoes or ornaments or footballs or chocolates, at the cost of their childhood and freedom are not our children, we cannot solve this problem. That deep connection, that deep feeling for their suffering has to be there. For 40 years, I have been asking that these children who are sold and bought like animals and sometimes at a lower price than animals, whose children are they? They are our children. Innocent children are being killed in Gaza, innocent children have been kidnapped by Hamas, whose children are they? Children are being killed every day or maimed in different parts of the world. Global warming is not just causing displacement of children, but it results in trafficking, slavery and exploitation. They are not responsible for climate crisis nor they are responsible for wars or violence. And I have been saying that these are our children. All children are our children and that sense has to prevail,” he emphasises.

A centre for the Satyarti Movement for Global Compassion is also being set up and the Nobel laureate reveals it will be opened in India, but a timeline has not been set yet. “We decided that if we have to globalise compassion, then we have to find ways and means by which we can inspire or ignite the spark of compassion and how we can enlarge the circles of compassion. All of us are compassionate but we are confined to ourselves with our own family and so on. We want to brings humans, animals, nature… everything in that. This is possible through experiential learning, training, exposure, volunteering and some other forms. And that is needed in all walks of life and at the top level and at the ground level also. We will start from India. Everybody says that India is the mother of democracy, India is the mother of peace and non-violence and great humanity and values. So India should be the mother of globalisation of compassion,” smiles the compassionate social reformer.

Kailaish Satyarthi defines compassion as ‘selfless problem solving’, while musician Ricky Kej agrees. He adds, “I would also define compassion as a whole lot of different qualities that should be inherent in a human being – empathy along with kindness, mindfulness, concern, problem-solving. All of these things together.” Satyarti states Ricky Kej is a ‘compassionate leader in the music world’ and Ricky reveals that as a musician and personally, he’s ‘trying to do as much as possible to spread the message of globalisation of compassion’.

Ask Ricky how this collaboration came about and he explains, “I did a series called Rhythm of the Earth for The Leela Hotels last year and this year they were planning it again and wanted to make it bigger. They mentioned that they worked with the Kailash Satyarthi Foundation and I immediately jumped at this. I have always admired his work. I was extremely excited but I didn’t expect him to physically attend the concerts! As an artist, you know, you crave to know what your audience thinks about your music, right? Sometimes there’s one person in the audience who you admire a lot and you are concentrating only on that one person while you are playing because you are like, I hope he/ she likes it.”

The Grammy Award winner and ardent environmentalist states that this journey he has started with Kailash Satyarthi is going to go beyond these four concerts and grow bigger. “I am going to compose an anthem for Satyarthi Movement for Global Compassion and play it at every single concert of mine to raise awareness. We’ll use visuals from their work while the song plays,” Ricky smiles excitedly. The musician reveals he has two more albums in the pipeline – one with Stuart Copeland (with whom he won the Grammy), which should release in October, and another releasing in July that’s thematic and is music for mental well-being.

As both Kailash Satyarthi and Ricky Kej sign off, they tell Hindustan Times, “Just be compassionate – to yourself, to people around you, to all living beings and nature. We need to learn from children – they are compassion in the purest form. We should have childlike compassion for the rest of our lives.”