Dr Akkai Padmashali is a famed transgender rights activist from Karnataka and known for her bold and passionate voice in campaigning against Section 377, which criminalizes sexual minorities in India.
When Obama was recently in India, Akkai was present at the Obama Foundation Townhall to interact with the former President, where she raised a question about how she should raise her voice against this criminalization. She also asked him how the LGBTQ community should go about their movement since all they wanted was love and acceptance.
Obama, being the great leader he is, went on to answer this passionately without commenting on the legislature of the country. He did not refrain from telling her how to find her voice and to ensure that their voices are heard by the authorities. He stressed on the importance of sharing and spreading her experiences and her story. He went on to give examples of how the Black community have also faced similar situations in the past, and how art forms can also play a big role in changing the outlook of the majority towards such sensitive issues.
Akkai’s story is one filled with struggle. Having been forced to work as a sex worker, having to resort to begging to stay alive, Akkai was rejected by all layers of society because of her gender and sexuality. She highlights that all the LGBTQ community wants is peace and harmony. Akkai raises a very important question to the Indian government when she questions Section 377 and how ‘legal’ it truly is.
More power to you Akkai, we the people of India are with you!
A self-made aviation entrepreneur and cancer survivor, Kanika Tekriwal launched JetSetGo in 2013. JetSetGo is an exciting venture that has revolutionised the private aviation industry and put India on the global map.
What Is Life If Not An Adventure?
Kanika started working at the age of 17 against the wishes of her conservative Bhopal-based Marwari family, who wanted to get her married soon after she graduated from college. When she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 21, she realised that she had to live to please herself by living life on her terms. “It was indeed a blow. But I refused to give up. It took nine months of rigorous treatment with the help of chemotherapy that cured me. Yes, that time was tough, but the best part of that time was that on the one hand, it tested me beyond my limits, on the other hand, it gave me time to think about what I have to with my life because I knew I wouldn’t surrender and recover from this phase.”
Watch the video below as Kanika reveals what inspired her to venture into the aviation sector post an exhausting battle with cancer.
“Many customers asked why a trip should cost them as much as a Rolex,” Kanika remarks in the video. Such queries sowed the seed of an idea in her head to offer a service for booking chartered flights. Thus, JetSetGo aka ‘the Uber of the Indian skies’ was born. Eighteen months down the line, the company has 77 aircraft on offer and last month, and it recorded a 100% growth in revenue. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that JetSetGo has completely re-defined the experience for private charter customers in a span of merely four years.
Using Her Setbacks As Stepping Stones
Traditionally dominated by men, the aviation sector is not an easy place to break into. Kanika reveals that she faced sexism at her workplace. “The clients are aghast when I am introduced as the CEO. I receive remarks such as ‘you should take up baking cupcakes’ and the likes. Sometimes when I am assertive, I am considered arrogant whereas a man being more assertive than me is considered passionate. It has been a task, but I have taken it in my stride. I believe girls can make it happen.”
Her Winning Mantra Revealed
The taskmaster who made it to the Forbes’ Under 30 list last year, gives a very strong and clear message. “I think having faith in yourself, having courage, believing in yourself is 99% of the game when you’re starting anything. The 1% can be luck, chance, and knowledge. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, why will the world believe in you?”
Kanika’s story proves the age-old adage – where there’s will; there’s truly a way.
I recall reading a play in Class 12 titled “On The Face Of It” by Susan Hill. It revolved around a character named Mr Lamb, an army veteran who lost one leg in a war. The tragic mishap did not shake his unwavering courage and positivism. Instead of focusing on what he could not do, he shifted his attention to what he could do but never found the time to – reading and making jams. And that, by his admission, was one of his most fulfilling life experiences.
Devendra Jhajharia’s narrative bears some semblance to Mr Lamb’s. Born in Churu district in Rajasthan, Jhajharia was the victim of an unfortunate accident when he was merely eight years old. He lost his left arm after being electrocuted by a live wire of 11,000 volts while attempting to climb a tree. Ironically enough, his village then was among the 18,000 Indian villages that were electrified but had no electricity. The near-fatal injury forced the doctors to amputate his left hand right away.
A Rough Start
Jhajharia was devastated. “When I came from the hospital back to my village, the first thought that came to my mind was that now I won’t be able to go back and play with my friends. What will they say? Will they even include me in a game? Will they isolate me because I was weak? As a child, you fall prey to a lot of such thoughts,” he confesses. Watch the video below as Devendra further reveals the thoughts that kept him up night after night and at which point in his life did he decide that surrendering was not an option.
Staying true to his never-give-up attitude, Jhajharia pursued his passion for athletics unabashedly by taking up javelin throw at school. Since his family could not afford to buy him a javelin stick, the determined child used a bamboo stick and practised the sport in the fields surrounding his village. Nothing in the world could have prepared him, though, for what came next.
Fortune favours the brave
In 1997, he was spotted by Dronacharya Awardee coach Ripu Daman Singh while competing at a school sports day. Singh took him under his wings – introducing the athlete to the concept of para-sports in the country and guiding him on his early sporting endeavours at college and district level. From here on, there was no stopping the prodigy. “Since the other kids didn’t want to play with me considering me a liability, I decided to play a sport and be better at it than them,” Jhajharia says with a smile. At the Railway trials, he competed alongside able-bodied applicants to earn a job and upon winning served as Office Superintendent for 11 years.
Like any other para-athlete in the country, Jhajharia too has had his brush with struggles. His pleas for sponsorships from corporate houses did not yield any result and there was a time when even the government turned a blind eye.
Recognition Followed Suit
But all this changed when Jhajharia created history by becoming the first Indian to break his own record at the Rio Paralympics 2016, winning two gold medals. He won gold at Athens Paralympics in 2004 with a record javelin throw of 62.15 metres. At the Rio Paralympics, he broke the record throw with 63.97 metres. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a moment of immense pride took to Twitter to congratulate him after his Rio win. The PM’s words, “India is very proud of Devendra Jhajharia” were met with warmth and glee.
It is no more a fight to fit in for Jhajharia. His staggering achievements are the stuff that legends are made of. As his contribution to sports became more and more widely known, both Government and private sponsors approached him. He is currently supported by GoSports Foundation– a nonprofit venture working towards the development of India’s Paralympic athletes.
Apart from being India’s flag-bearer at the 2016 Paralympics, Jhajharia was awardedthe prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award this year. To this day, he remains the only Paralympian athlete to have been decorated with the revered Padma Shri, the nation’s fourth highest civilian award.
A Powerful Life Lesson
The 36-year-old champion has a message for all Indians – dream big and remain focused. “When I go to camps, I never leave my javelin in the storeroom. I always kept it in the room with me. It is because I should see my target 24 hours a day. The problem is we tend to get distracted by other things in life when our mind should actually be locked into our target,” Jhajharia advises. He makes a great point.
The biggest takeaway for me from Jhajharia’s and Mr Lamb’s accounts has been this – there are an enormous number of people in the world who get knocked down by life because of one reason or another. Not many of them fight back, admitting defeat. The ones who hustle hard, make history. The question that arises is, which one out of the two do you plan to be?
Why is history relevant? If we approach it from the vantage point of our need for survival, support and security than time, then history imparts a crucial lesson to every entrepreneur. This wise observation by historian and leadership development expert Pradeep Chakravarthy reveals the genius that he possesses.
Using traditional Indian philosophy, art and literature, Pradeep has significantly improved the revenues of McKinsey by a whopping ₹300 crores in two years. His key to understanding the present and future behaviour is by understanding the past.
Pradeep’s talk cannot be simply cast aside as that history lecture you couldn’t wait to escape back in school. Watch the video below as he reveals why every budding entrepreneur should take history lessons very seriously.
In the video, the expert on ancient temples of Tamil Nadu exclaims that these temples are unique. “The temples have over 50,000 inscriptions – economic and socio-political records, useful today if our entrepreneurs could read the words of wisdom on how to run a business.”
Pradeep stresses on the lessons imparted to entrepreneurs by the organisational structure and operation of these temples. “If we study temples as organisations that employ people, that attract customers and that generate revenue, then what we see is that if you want long-term impact, if you want financial sufficiency, it seems to make a lot more sense to look at how we can connect with people not so much from the mind but from the heart as well. When we work towards fulfilling the needs of others, we consequently fulfil ours. If we do this, we can leave the same impact that a 2000-year-old temple left upon everyone!”
Gaurav’s transition into adulthood was marked by confusion and a general sense of lack of direction. He tried and yet failed to become a doctor, engineer and a singer. Like Sulochana aka “Sulu,” Gaurav craved to be in the spotlight. Though his unusual antics didn’t help him secure a spot in a singing reality show, it was at this moment he realised that he had a personality which best suited a career in radio jockeying.
The similarities between RJ Gaurav and RJ Sulu do not end here. Both Gaurav and Sulu are obsessed with attention and drama. Their rich voices are a reservoir of immense possibilities. They came from humble backgrounds and weren’t afraid to dream big. Eventually, their can-do attitude helped them break into the radio-jockeying industry. The love of their listeners has since established them in the field.
RJ Gaurav absolutely loves being pretentious, but never in his wildest dreams did it occur to him that he could make a career out of it. His stance is clear – there is nothing wrong with being “extra.” The film “Tumhari Sulu” also advocates that it is okay to not conform to all the pressures and norms of society. Watch the video below as Gaurav reveals how he went from being a nobody to India’s most beloved RJ.
In the video, RJ Gaurav exclaims that he learned an important life lesson while working briefly as a call centre employee who sold credit cards. “Your most important sale in life is to sell yourself to yourself. At this point, you might be thinking that you would rather sneak into your office every morning without being noticed than market yourself. If so, you’re not alone. While some people are relatively comfortable talking about their own strengths and achievements, generally people don’t like doing so. But here is a healthy thing to remind yourself: Selling just means to communicate your value to others. Secondly, selling can be done in an honest and ethical way. And finally, you have a right to take up space in this world like everyone else.”
His overly-persuasive persona and exuberant personality landed him a role as an RJ on 92.7 BIG FM. In popular perception, an RJ is somebody who “gets paid to talk a lot and play trendy music.” Sulu and Gaurav together aim to fight that perception. “A lot of people feel miserable about their 9 to 5 job and complain about how they’re left with no time for themselves. I believe the real reason behind their complaints is that they are not in love with what they do. I’ve had to stay back in office several times until 3 or 4 in the morning. Take note that whether rain or sun, I reach my workplace every day at 6:30. I love doing what I do and I have never felt the need to grumble about it.”
So, there you have it. Do what you love to do and give it your best shot!
How many times have you started something and then given up because it’s too hard? In the year 2015, Ratnesh Pandey almost made it to the peak of Mount Everest before a devastating earthquake in Nepal cut short his journey. But instead of letting failure bog him down, he decided to face it head-on. Last year, he mustered up the courage to take over the world’s highest mountain again. The daredevil ended up not only winning over the mountains but also the hearts of every Indian – by becoming the first person to sing the National Anthem on the top of Everest.
A climber by passion, Ratnesh braved many hardships to fulfill his dream of scaling the Everest. From preparing for the climb to battling bad weather conditions, his journey up top was extremely treacherous. Watch the video to find out how Ratnesh overnight became the nation’s pride.
In the video, Ratnesh discusses his rigorous training. “I underwent a very tough practice of more than three months, which included 10 km running, 40 km cycling, half an hour swimming and yoga for 30 minutes, everyday.” In fact, singing the national anthem on the Everest’s peak was a cathartic experience for him. He claims that he immediately felt a lot more calmer and peaceful after crooning “Jan Gan Man”. It also pumped him up to take the journey back.
The mountaineer of Indian Mountaineering Institute dreams of creating awareness for youngsters to come ahead for taking new challenges and complete them. His life lesson is extremely inspiring- “Every mountain top is within reach if you keep climbing.”
When he realized his wife’s social work was in crisis because of sanitary waste disposal problems, Shyam Bedekar vowed to help her solve the problem of the pad. He created a machine named Ashudhdhinashak (an incinerator) to help women get rid of their sanitary napkins easily. His innovation has given millions of girls across the nation access to hygiene.
Sanitation remains a serious issue in rural India. Compared to 96% of women in Europe, only 6% Indian women use sanitary napkins. Shyam realized that there was a need to develop a low-cost incinerator for sanitary disposal, especially for rural areas where there is no system of garbage collection like in cities. If the disposal aspect was taken care of, it would become easier to convince women to use sanitary napkins. Watch the video below as the 55-year-old reveals the efficacy of his ingenious invention.
In the video, the innovator explains what inspired him to come up with Ashudhdhinashak. “Priced between ₹18,000 and ₹20,000, the electric incinerators that could help dispose of the used sanitary napkins were simply not affordable. So I designed a machine, keeping in mind that it should be easily acceptable in rural India, it should be cheap and it should be easy to operate.”
This was when Shyam came up with a practical solution: a terracotta incinerator, priced at one-tenth the cost. “You find terracotta pots in villages everywhere, so it does not even grab any attention. And it had to be easy to use because it would be used by women who mostly do household work. They all are comfortable with lighting a chulha. Starting a fire to burn the sanitary napkin inside the incinerator is as simple.”
Shyam has been able to install more than 2,000 such machines at universities, hostels, and schools that come under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. His one-of-a-kind invention has changed the face of rural India.
राजस्थान का पिपलांत्री गांव लड़की बचाओ और हरयाली बढ़ाओ का अपना ही एक नया सिद्धांत बनाकर संपूर्ण देश में एक नई मिसाल कायम कर रहा है।
अखबार में अक्सर ऐसी खबरें पढ़ने को मिलती हैं कि किसी लड़की का बलात्कार हुआ, तो कहीं यौन शोषण किया गया या फिर किसी लड़की या महिला की हत्या कर दी गई। लेकिन पिपलांत्री गांव के सरपंच श्याम सुंदर पालीवाल ने इस गांव का रुख ही बदल दिया। अपनी बेटी किरन की याद में श्याम सुंदर ने यह रीत चलाई कि, जब भी किसी लड़की का जन्म पिपलांत्री गांव में होगा, तो उसके नाम पर 111 पेड़ लगाए जाएंगे। वे सिर्फ पेड़ ही नहीं लगाते बल्कि इसका भी खास खयाल रखते हैं कि ये सारे पेड़ ज़िंदा भी रहें। पिछले 6 सालों में इस गांव ने नीम, शीशम, आम और आमला के लगभग 30 लाख से अधिक पेड़ लगाए हैं।
इस गांव की और यहां के सरपंच श्याम सुंदर पालीवाल की अदभुत कहानी सुनने के लिए देखें यह वीडियो।
एक ऐसा देश जहां हर दिन करीब
होती हैं और न जाने कितने ही पेड़ काट दिए जाते हैं। ऐसे देश में कुछ ऐसे लोग भी हैं जो इसे रोकने का प्रयास कर रहे हैं। राजस्थान के पिपलांत्री गांव के सरपंच श्याम सुंदर पालीवाल ऐसे ही लोगों में से एक हैं। उन्होंने एक गांव में ही सही लेकिन अनेकों कन्याओं को इस दुनिया में जन्म लेने दिया और उनके आने की ख़ुशी में 111 पेड़ भी लगवाना शुरू किया।
कुछ ही वर्ष पहले अपनी बेटी खो देने के बाद श्याम सुंदर ने अपने गांव में हर वर्ष लगभग 60 लड़कियों के जन्म लेने पर पेड़ लगाने की प्रथा शुरू करवाई। इस गांव में प्रत्येक लड़की के लिए गांव से 21,000 और लड़की के पिता से 10,000 रुपये लेकर, कुल 31,000 रुपये का फिक्स डिपाज़िट कराया जाता है। इतना ही नहीं लड़की के माता-पिता को सरकारी कागज़ों पर हस्ताक्षर भी करने होने होते हैं, जिन पर साफ़ लिखा होता है कि लड़की रोज़ स्कूल जाएगी, उसकी शादी कानूनी उम्र से पहले नहीं होगी और सारे पेड़ों का ध्यान उसके परिवार को ही रखना होगा।
संपूर्ण देश के लिए यह गांव और इसके सरपंच श्याम सुंदर पालीवाल एक मिसाल हैं, जो एक ऐसा काम कर रहे हैं जिससे भ्रूण हत्या तो कम होंगी ही साथ ही देश में हरयाली भी होगी। श्याम सुंदर के इस अनूठे प्रयास से सीख लेकर संपूर्ण देश के लोगों को देश के बेहतर कल के लिए आगे आना चाहिए।