Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Kailash Satyarthi - The man who made a true difference

Although we are aware of Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, most people, including me, did not know another person also won it with her. His name is Kailash Satyarthi. Born in India, he was raised up as an average child. He went on to becoming an electrical engineer. However, this average man was the one who later led a major movement against child labor. In the process, he has saved more than 84,000 children from the harsh world of child labor and given them all a hopeful future.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University and former chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, wrote a book encompassing 30 years of research and interviews with internationally recognized creative individuals, on the complexities and characteristics of creative minds. His research resulted in ten pairs of dialectic traits present in creative individuals. As I was reading through his work, I was struck by how Satyarthi fits into each category, making him an extremely dedicated and creative individual. I would like to share Satyarthi’s story and life accomplishments while associating them with these ten creative traits of Csikszentmihalyi.

1)    Creative people have an immense physical energy, but they are frequently still, relaxed, and at peace.
Satyarthi has a great deal of physical energy as he has spent 34 years physically rescuing the children. He has requested and arranged for the Indian police to accompany him in weekly raids around factories and abandoned buildings. Most of the factories have gangs illegally conducted child labor, and those people will retaliate to cause physical harm to Satyarthi. On the contrary, Satyarthi is also known among his family and acquaintance for his humble and peaceful nature. He has found Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), in which he has built 350 whole villages and schools for the children he has saved. This is where they can learn and grow into adults with a hopeful future. In those villages, he has banned all forms of child labor and all children will get free education. Satyarthi also loves to spend time at the schools with the children, which is where he finds peace.
2)    Creative people tend to be smart and naïve at the same time
Since Satyrathi was an engineer, he is extremely smart at using his education to provide support to the school. He teaches the kids about the engineering concepts as well. He also used his education and knowledge to figure out unique ways to conduct the raids and to rescue more children. Satyrathi is also naïve because he used his education and knowledge to figure out unique ways to conduct the raids and to rescue more children. He is flexible and original when it comes to forming internationally recognized organizations, such as RugMark, Global Campaign for Education, and UNESCO High-Level Group on Education for All, to spread awareness of child labor around the world.

3)    Creative people combine playfulness and discipline
Satyarthi’s passion of protecting children’s human rights started when he formed a soccer club to raise money for the underprivileged students. He used the money he made for the club to also buy textbooks for those kids in need. In this way, he used playfulness to provide for a higher cause, which required discipline. He also plays with the kids in the villages to create a friendly environment for the children. At the same time, he makes sure the children are grown to have discipline so that they too can be strong citizens.

4)    Creative people alternate between imagination/fantasy and reality
Although he was leading a typical life of an engineer, he imagined a safe world for humans, especially where children can get their basic human rights. He saw how the children where getting sold when the parents could not pay off borrowed money for richer individuals. He recognized that child labor primarily had to do with poverty within the families. Instead of continuing his work, he decided to create a new reality for those children working all day. He created a world for them with free education and allowed them to be children for the first time. Although he is shooting for the ideal fantasy of a world with no child labor, he realizes that not all the children could be saved due to the human nature and condescending poverty.

5)    Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted
As mentioned before, he is extroverted by forming organizations to spread awareness of child labor. At the same time, he is introverted around family members. He is also does not crave for all media attention.

6)    Creative people are humble and proud at the same time
Although he is extremely proud for his achievements, including the Nobel Peace Prize, he makes sure that he is humble. He has kept a low profile and does not want to take credit for saving the children. He mentions at interviews that his goal is to only spread the awareness and create a positive life for the children, rather than taking the credit for the entire work. He also recognizes other members in the society also fighting for children’s rights. Satyarthi has not only saved the children from physical work, but he has also provided them with everything they need to become successful in life.

7)    Creative people escape rigid gender role stereotyping
Satyarthi has the strength of his own gender but also of the other gender. He has a strong manly side by physically saving the children and delegating their rights. He spent 34 years fighting companies, such as the carpet industry, to make sure that child labor diminishes fast. At the same time, he has a “feminine” side to him when he is nurturing and developing the children into wonderful human beings. For many of the children, he displays both the father’s protection and mother’s compassion.

    8)    Creative people are both rebellious and conservative
Satyarthi is rebellious in leaving this job and fighting the world against child labor. He has broken several parts of this body during attempts to rescues the children. He is conservative in that he embodies the values of Indian culture and teaches the children to be healthy individuals.

    9)    Creative people are both passionate and extremely objective about their work
While his passion is clear from the explanations above, it is also important to consider his objective life. He has detached from earning money and from having a normal Indian life. He wears simple clothes and has left all forms of leading an extravagant life.

10) Creative people’s openness and sensitivity often causes them pain but also enjoyment
It takes a great deal of energy and strength to continue building villages, provide education, manage all the organizations, teach the children, and manage his own family.  He has broke several bones in the process due to attacks by the enemies. He has spent years seeing some of his missions unsuccessful. He has seen the children die in front of his eyes. However, he has found the passion to proceed with the same energy and momentum. He has saved over 84,000 children so far. The list will continue to grow.

Here is a TED talk video by Kailash Satyarthi. Enjoy!

Works Cited:

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. "The Creative Personality." <i>Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention</i>. N.p.: Harper/Collins, 1996. 51-76. Print.


  1. This is a great post! I had heard much about Malala Yousafzai, but you're right, never anything about Kailash Satyarthi. I loved that you were able to analyze him through Csikszentmihalyi's ten traits because it helped me to think about whether all of those traits (or many of them) apply to all creative people. The one that struck me the most was "Creative people tend to be smart and naive at the same time." With Satyarthi's work, and the work of many others, I wonder if what the average person would call "naive," is just what it takes to give that creative person the extra courage to move easily past the inhibitions that the rest of us constrain ourselves with. It definitely gives me something to think about. Great post!

  2. Wow! Kailash Satyarthi is a true hero who deserves more public recognition. I can't believe I hadn't heard of him. I am amazed and impressed to hear about his accomplishments helping so many children to escape from labor and live happy lives. I like how you connected him to the traits of creative individuals.

  3. Thank you for this post! Like others I had also not heard of Kailash Satyarthi before, and enjoyed the model you used to analyse his creative personality. I was especially interested in how you described that he is passionate but also lives an objective life - which you described as "detached" and simple. I wonder if other creatives also live this way - especially those who have earned a great deal of fame and compensation for their creative product.

  4. I also found this post to be eye-opening and very interesting! The accomplishments of Kailash Satyarthi should not be overlooked and he is definitely a creative individual. His type of "creative" is not what would first come to mind for me when thinking of creative people, but as shown by your detailed outlining of how Satyarthi aligns with Csikszentmihalyi's ten traits of creative people. It no doubt takes a creative mind to help so many children escape such a serious problem!

    The one trait that caught my attention more than any other is that "creative people escape rigid gender role stereotyping." I find Satyarthi's "escape" from this to be of particular interest. You mentioned his "masculine" side of physically saving children and his "feminine" side of nurturing them. In healthcare, one can see this masculine versus feminine dichotomy of stereotypical doctor versus nurses play out in the clinical setting. I do hope to see more and more people adopt this creative blurring of rigid gender role stereotyping. I think so much good and creativity, in healthcare and elsewhere, can come from this blurring of the line between "masculine" and "feminine." Satyarthi is just one great example!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.