Wednesday, 20 June 2012


The Young Changemakers Conclave held by the UNIC (United Nations Information Centre for India and Bhutan) was a brilliant event!! When I had sent the cheque of 400 bucks a month back, little did I know that the speeches of some of these eminent individuals would be of so profound a nature, that it would get me thinking of WHY am I doing what I am doing and WHAT do I actually want to do. Some of them not only highlighted the work they had done in life, but also shed light on WHY they had done so and what was the motivation behind it. This was what made the speeches really classy and awe inspiring. I have tried to enlist the key points of all the speeches below and also my thoughts on the same:

  1. Shaheen Mistri (Teach for India President):
    This woman has been working for the cause relentlessly for the last 20 years. She is the founder of the organisation. In her speech, she gave 3 instances which exemplified the highest degree of giving. In one of them a boy at the age of 16 gave up his life to ensure that his grandfather didn’t have to go back to work again. He was suffering from an illness. The grandfather had given him 14000 rupees and told him to get himself treated in a private hospital. But he saved the money and went to a government hospital. Thereby, walking to his grave... The other important thing she said was about the WHY. She said that we need to forget about the WHAT, WHEN, HOW and focus on the WHY! If you are doing something WHY are you doing it? What is your prime motivator? What is it that keeps you awake at night? If you can answer these questions honestly the HOWS and WHENS will fall into place. If you ask me, it is like the CAUSE and EFFECT principle. If you totally believe in your cause, then you will find a way to implement it and ultimately effect a change.

  2. Sehul Seth (Counselage CEO – Consultancy firm):
     This guy totally killed it! He was so sardonic and satirical in his talk! Impressive! This is how he started, 
    “CHANGE??? Who needs change? Why people are putting their statues and other animal statues everywhere! Why, only yesterday a man was arrested for making a cartoon! Who needs change???”
    There was more. But unfortunately this is how much I remember. For people who didn’t get it, both comments allude to Mamata Banerjee, CM West Bengal. This way of talking about Change actually made an impact and made us ponder on the preposterous things that are happening around us.

  3. Shaina (Fashion Designer and Social Activist):
    She gave an instance in which she gathered some 10-12 teenagers and revamped the paediatric wards of government hospitals. She was persisting on the permissions issue. How it is so difficult to get permission from the government even if yours is a noble cause. She also put across a point that you don’t need to join an Activist group if you want to make a change. Just get 5-6 individuals who believe in your cause and get a movement going.

  4. Taufiq Quereshi (Lyricist and Classical Singer):
     He narrated an incident about his renowned brother, Zakir Hussain . They had gone overseas to perform at various places. The norm was that his brother used to start the performance and he used to provide the background effects later in the song. They did this for around 16 performances and it was routine now. At the start of the 17th concert, Mr. Zakir Hussain pushed him forward and told him to start the performance. He was totally taken by surprise but didn’t have much of a choice, did he? So Taufiq Quereshi started playing his music. The enthusiastic response of the crowd really got him going and he delivered a spectacular concert. He was really grateful to Mr. Zakir Hussain whom he considers his Godfather. He said that he had the knack of realising potential (not only his case, there were others too) and giving them an encouraging boost at the right time.

  5. Arnab Goswami (Senior Editor-in-Chief, Times Now)
     His speech by far, was the classiest! He spoke about the meretriciousness and shallowness of the people in power. He spoke about the battle he had to endure just to REPORT; just to remain true to his work. I would like to narrate both the incidents he mentioned:-
     In some secluded village in India, people were starving. There were some mango seeds dumped in the vicinity. So, they crushed the rotten mango seeds and made a puree out of them and consumed it. This resulted in the death of 25 villagers. When Arnab was out to cover the story he found it authentic. So he went for the Lok Sabha session to deliberate on the issue. In the session, one of the MPs passed a snide comment saying,
    “Tum reporters ka yahi problem hai. Itni badi aabadi me 20 log mar jaate hain aur tum log issue bana dete ho!”
     This is the kind of insensitivity-- or sensitivity, shall we say? --the leaders of the nation have towards the lives of their people. What more can be said... 

    The second incident revolves around the prime minister of the nation. During the phase of the scams (2G, 3G, CWG) the prime minister called a press conference to apparently answer the hundreds of questions which had cast a cloud of doubt over the minds of people in the credibility of his government. Mr. Goswami was amongst the 14 selected journalists who were selected for the press conference to be held in Delhi. The kinds of questions asked by some of the 13 editors were ridiculous to say the least! One of the questions was, “What do you think of Sachin Tendulkar’s batting, Mr. PM?” How the answer to this question unravels the mystery of the embezzlements happening in the nation still eludes me. On the contrary, Mr. Goswami was criticized when he got into a specific question regarding one of the scams. Nevertheless, Mr. Goswami put his question across the table awaiting a proper response. However, the Prime Minister of India, in response spoke about the various aspects of democracy that need to be worked upon! And he evaded the topic (not in a subtle way, I must say!). Way to go Mr. Prime Minister!!! 
    Mr. Goswami was despondent at the condition of the News Industry. He said that the day journalists start giving up their independent opinions it will be the end of the Industry. He also said that some of the news people in Delhi, if you ask them to bend they will crawl. Tragic, isn’t it?

  6. Niladri Kumar (Sitar player)
     His speech was very touching, you know. I didn’t know it was so difficult to play the Sitar. When he travels by train, people ask him questions about his instrument and his profession. I would like to highlight one of his typical conversations:
    Q1] Ye cheez kya hai (referring to his instrument) aur aap kya karte ho? When he answers this question, this is the question which follows,
    Q2] Music toh theek hai, magar aap kaam kya karte ho?
    Q3] Isme kaam chal jaata hai?
     Basically, the point he was trying to make that Classical musical, which is so much tougher than Western and all the more beautiful is barely listened to and appreciated. One short piece of a guitar becomes famous overnight. Whereas, 20 thousand such pieces are played during a 2 hour Classical session.

  7. Masaba Gupta (Fashion Designer)
     She basically spoke about how fashion is as much about art as about business. I mean you cannot just think about making an artistically aesthetic product. Ultimately it has to sell. She also spoke about the changing trend of making fashion accessible to the common man.

  8. Sanjay Nirupam (He looked like a politician and spoke like one)
     Beating around the bush was what his speech was all about. It was the usual sad diplomatic talk lacking any firm basis. He repeated the point that the youth should vote and also get into politics around 7-8 times in his speech. In fact he also publicized about his party when he wasn’t supposed to. He realized later and he abruptly changed the topic, but it was too late. The audience had already exchanged bewildered looks.
    This might sound rude but it is only the truth: The scene was a paradox… A person was talking you into politics and if you carefully listened to his speech, you would definitely say to yourself, This is the reason I DON’T want to get into Politics!.

    However, the highlight of his speech was the joke he tried to crack. It wasn’t spontaneous. He had prepared it in advance it seemed. He said that Politics can’t be taught (Don’t worry, this is not the joke). He then locked eyes with the respectable Leander Paes and uttered, “It is not like tennis!” Oh my goodness! That was an embarrassing scene for everyone in the crowd I guess! On top of that he started laughing man! My first reaction to the girl beside me was, “Did he just do that?!!”

  9. Nitin Paranjpe (CEO, Hindustan Unilever)
     Outstanding speech man! Learnt the most out of it! He spoke about the essential qualities that are required in a leader. 
    He started with IQ (Intelligence Quotient). He said that a decent level of IQ is necessary to ensure that the person analyses and understands the case at hand. But only having a high IQ is not in the least sufficient. One needs to understand PEOPLE at the base of it. An understanding of how people think and what exactly they want is very important. EQ (Emotional Quotient) is the way to express how much you understand people. So now if you think about it, a good IQ and EQ should be sufficient, right?
     This is where he took me by surprise. He said that there have been many cases where people with an impeccable IQ and an outstanding EQ have failed and it has resulted not only in the downfall of the company but also a reduction in the economy of the nation. I couldn’t think what else could possibly be required??
     He replied saying that the JUDGEMENT to take decisions is what even the most experienced people still find it difficult. It is the Acumen --this word is really classy (the ability to take quick decisions and to make good judgements) -- that counts. This is so true man! And lastly I would like to conclude with one of his lines, 
    “The test of a good leader is humility in success and courage in failure.” 
    And our own Mr. Paranjpe exemplifies humility in success (I wouldn’t call Mr. Nitin “our own”, would I?! :D).

  10. Leander Paes (Needs no intro)
     Honestly, I didn’t expect much from him. But I was in for a complete shocker, because his was the most awe-inspiring speech!
     I must say that he was the most down to earth guy (being the most successful I must say) amongst the other speakers. You know there was humility in his voice. He narrated his life story. His main sport was football (he still thinks he’s better at football than tennis). He was exceptionally good. I’m not saying this because I’ve seen him play but he was selected by the Barcelona Team at the age of 12 to come to Spain and be a part of their team. However, there was one catch. He had to get himself a Spanish passport and become a citizen of Spain (They wanted him to play for Spain when he turned 19! Ya dude, he was that good!!!). But this was unacceptable to him. At the tender age of 12 he said no to the offer. He is proud to be an Indian and he wanted to play for the country. Then he eventually found his vocation with tennis and at the age of 16 he was convinced that he wants to take up Tennis as a profession. Don’t think he was a natural at the sport. He slogged his ass out to become even competent at it. On the contrary, he used to be defeated by many players when he started his career. It is only through relentless hours of practice that he’s achieved the pinnacle of success in the sport.

I have given an account of 10 speeches. I’ve covered all the major ones. There were 9 more (2-3 were noteworthy) but it is too much of an effort to write further with such precision and finesse (I think that I need a lesson in humility from “our own” Mr. Paranjpe :D). But on a serious note, it is important to understand what is common to the success of all these speakers. What is that thing which is their prime motivator? It is the belief in their cause that was the driving force. They truly believed in their WHYs! So this might sound like a cliché but I would like to end with asking you to think about what is it that really motivates you? If you are able to answer this simple question, believe me you, you shall find your true vocation…

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