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Rohini Nilekani’s address: Wonder Girls Fellowship

Active Citizenship | Nov 29, 2021

Rohini’s Module on ‘Social Consciousness’ @ Wonder Girls Student Leaders Fellowship

Video unavailable as the fellows are minors.


0:00:12.1 Speaker 1: Okay I think we can start. Yamini. Yeah, great. Thank you. So welcome, everyone. We hope that you had a great time yesterday and that you’re all set for today. We have some amazing speakers today starting with Shaheen here. So switch on your cameras, have your questions ready and just be present in the session. Today, we have with us, Neeta, who’s gonna moderate Shaheen’s session. Some of you might have already met her, she heads HR at Oracle Cloud globally and has been supporting us ever since the start. So thank you so much. Neeta, over to you.

0:00:46.1 Speaker 2: Thank you so much, Mansi and Versha for the introduction and this opportunity. It’s my pleasure to be hosting Shaheen Mistri, for these 46 high potential and bright adolescent girls from IB, ICSE and CBSE schools from diverse parts of India, studying in grades 8 to grade 12, these young fellows have been selected through two rounds of competitive selection. These highly accomplished girls come from 10 different parts of India, including Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Lucknow, Ajmer, Ujjain and Jaipur. They are well equipped with digital skills, this includes audio editing, video editing, graphic design, digital marketing, and many of them are passionate leaders and writers. Some of them are already pursuing internships and projects in the skill areas.

0:01:35.1 S2: These Wonder Girls fellows are extremely passionate about inclusion, environment, sustainability, equality and gender, and have worked on projects pursuing these passion at the school level, and even in some cases, at city levels. Some of them have actually started small businesses during the lockdown to raise money for varied causes, while some are active activists spreading messages of gender equality, openness to different sexual preferences and menstrual hygiene among other topics. Social consciousness is clearly a way of being for them, and it’s a little wonder then Shaheen that they’re excited to meet and learn from you. I now would like to welcome a special guest, Shaheen Mistri. Shaheen grew up in five countries around the world and returned to India when she was 18 to start Akanksha. 1999, 1991, and for 17 years, she worked with teachers and students building Akanksha to provide children from low income communities, the kind of education that would maximize their greatest potential. I’m proud to declare that I was among the volunteers at Saint Xavier’s College that work with Akanksha to serve the slum children in and around Bombay city. Currently, Akanksha serves 9,300 children through their school projects and after-school centers in Mumbai and Pune.

0:02:58.3 S2: In 2008, Shaheen founded Teach for India with an audacious vision of providing excellent education to all children across India through building the pipeline of leaders committed to ending educational inequity in India. Today, Teach for India directly impacts approximately 32,000 children across seven regions in India. Shaheen has also created projects like the Maya Musical and the kids education revolution, which explores student leadership, creating platform for student voice and partnership and TFIx, which is a year-long incubator program for passionate entrepreneurs who are willing to adapt Teach for India’s model to their context and region in rural areas.

0:03:44.7 S2: Shaheen serves on the boards of Akanksha Foundation and Simple Education Foundation. Shaheen has been in Ashoka Fellow, a global leader for tomorrow at the World Economic Forum and an Asia Society 21 Leader. She is the author of Redrawing India and the Miss Muglee children’s book. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from St. Xavier’s College, our alma mater and a Master’s Degree from the University of Manchester. Thank you for being with us today, Shaheen and over to you.

0:04:17.1 Speaker 3: Thanks so much, Neeta for that kind introduction and good morning girls. It’s incredible to see so much energy on a Sunday morning, so thank you for that, you could have chosen to do a lot of other things with your Sunday, so really, really value and appreciate you all being here. I’m gonna share my… Oh, may I share my screen please, Neeta? Thank you.

0:04:49.1 S3: So I’m actually feeling… Seeing everyone on the call that I wish I just had the opportunity to dive a little bit more into what you all are passionate about and what you are already doing, maybe I’ll request a follow-up session just to do the opposite and actually listen to all of you. But I’m just gonna take a few minutes to talk a little bit about my journey… More than my journey, some of what I’ve come to believe is possible with young people, and then really open us up to your questions. So as I’m speaking, please feel free to use the chat box, even if I don’t look at it right away, I’ll look at it as soon as we open up for questions, feel absolutely free to put whatever you want in there, so if you wanna challenge something, you have a question, you have an idea, just keep putting it in the chat box as well. And my hope is that this is a really open and honest discussion after that. So with that, I’ll jump into a few minutes of speaking and then open up.

0:06:00.4 S3: Social consciousness. Interestingly, when I was sent the topic, I sort of assumed I knew what it was, I thought it was just like, Well, it’s just being conscious socially. And then somewhere along the line of prepping, I said, Maybe I should actually look up the definition because I don’t use this word a lot myself, and I realised that there were actually layers and nuances to that word, so very grateful to have had the opportunity to explore that a little bit myself also as I prepared for today. But I’m gonna really talk a little bit about the importance of leadership in shaping our country today, and I’ll start with my own story, which I often sum up in this one image, so I lived for many years of my life outside of India.

0:06:54.4 S3: And I remember flying back every year to Bombay to visit grandparents, and every time the flight would almost land in Bombay, I would look out of the window and something would feel not right inside of me, because I would see… As you can see in this image, literally, you can see the inequity there, you see the high-rise buildings and you see the slums sort of touching. And for many years of my life, I asked myself why? Why is it that I happened to be born in one of those high-rise buildings, and the child next to me was born in that slum community? And how did just that act of being born makes such a massive difference? And over time, really, I began to answer that question of, Why? With this image in my own head, a coin. I said Somewhere, somebody flipped a coin and I got lucky.

0:08:01.4 S3: And that’s the honest truth, like, I am where I am today, not really because of what I’ve done, that’s a small… It’s an important part, but it’s a small part of it. I am where I am because of my privilege and because I got lucky and for other people to reach where I am is much, much, much tougher because the starting point just isn’t equal, and so that was my most honest answer to why I was born where I was born. And when I started thinking about the responsibility that that privilege then carries… Right, and I’m sure many of you ask yourselves, Well, what can I do? The question in my mind and this goes back 30 years, right, so I’ve been doing this work for a long time now, the question I started with was, but where do I start? There’s so many problems in the world.

0:08:58.2 S3: There’s so many problems in India. Like in India that the reality as you walk down one street block and you could literally stop 50 times to help people, in one block, like that’s the kind of need. And so when I kept asking like, Where do I start? Where do I start? I came back to this idea of education because I felt like education can’t solve everything, but it’s so connected to so many other things, right? An educated girl will be a more empowered girl, an educated child will know how to eat in a way that is more nutritious. An educated person will know how to find the answers that they need to problems, and so really this idea of education very early on felt like, well, if we can get that right, we can actually solve so many of India’s problems. And so like Neeta kindly explained in the introduction, I set up two organisations; The first one was called Akanksha and I often tell myself, This is where I grew up, because I started when I was 18 and I knew nothing about anything. I didn’t know how to teach, I didn’t know how to run an organisation. I didn’t know how to raise money, I just knew that I loved kids, and I knew that kids were really, really precious.

0:10:19.5 S3: And not kids as an aggregate, but every single child. And I was fascinated by this idea that like what if we’re able to unleash the potential of every child in the country, like, Where will our country be? And so I spent 17 years teaching children, working with teachers, running after school centers, working with the government to actually set up schools, really growing up myself at Akanksha and what I realised was we all know that education is powerful, but when you’re actually a part of a child’s journey, a child who’s living in poverty who has so many odds against them, and yet because of education, comes through it, not just strong enough to go to a good college and get a good job of their own, but comes through it with a commitment to make the world better, like you realise how powerful education is.

0:11:22.2 S3: And so I did that for 17 years, and then I, again, went back to the drawing board and I said, Oh, but Akanksha is only reaching 4000 children at that time. 17 years into my work, and I said, I’ve spent 17 years and it’s just 4000 children and India has 320 million. And so how do you do… How do you have that kind of impact that we were seeing at Akanksha, but at scale and that led me to start Teach for India, which was not a new original idea, it was an idea that had started in the US 20 years before, but it was a beautiful idea. The idea was that leadership is what we need to change this problem, like if people today in influence from our Prime Minister all the way down, really cared about giving an excellent education to all kids, they would have it today.

0:12:18.0 S3: And so really, we thought about this idea of leadership. And what I wanna leave you with is, it doesn’t matter if your heart is in environment or education or gender, but this idea that human talent, where there is a strong leader, change will happen. And where there is an average leader, average change will happen. And where there is an unethical or a poor or an ineffective leader, negative change will happen. And so leadership really, really matters. And yet, generally speaking, when we think of leaders, here are the people we think of. And we think of these great icons. They are people who are older, wiser, have led huge movements, who are known, who are are famous. But I wanna tell you a story of a little leader who I know. This is Rehan on the right and Basit on the left. And that is where they live. So their home is in the middle of literally eight mountains of garbage. This is in Ahmedabad, in an area of the city populated by largely Muslim refugees and an area of the city that is not even serviced by the Ahmedabad municipality. It’s forgotten. And so, Rehan, when he was 10 years old, he said, “I live in eight mountains of garbage.” And you can imagine the levels of poison in the water over there. You can imagine the stench. You can imagine the quality of life.

0:13:58.9 S3: He said, at 10 years old, “I’m gonna do something about it.” And what he did was he scaled that mountain of garbage himself. He climbed to the top. He took samples. He sent them to the newspapers. He mobilized the government. He actually convinced the Ahmedabad government to start coming in and clearing that garbage. And then he said, “That’s not enough as well.” He noticed that children, younger children in the community were not going to school. So he said, “I will set up learning centers.” And so he set up 20 learning centers, each one of them with a teacher who was between 10 and 12 years old. And then he said, “That’s not enough as well because there’s no greenery in my community.” So he started a nursery in the community. And then he said, “That’s not enough as well because children outside my school are buying really unhealthy junk food by this little guy who comes and sells chips and fried stuff outside. So we’re gonna start a project where we mobilize the mothers in the community to create healthy snacks for kids.” He was 10 years old. He is today 13 years old. He’s now in a great school in Ahmedabad called Riverside School. But he’s still doing this work. He’s formalized it as an NGO called Pencilbricks. So I wanna leave you with that story to share, sort of two insights over my 30 years.

0:15:24.5 S3: One is that we keep saying, “Our children are our future. Our children are our future.” But no, our children are not our future. Our children are our present. What you do in this moment to demonstrate leadership really, really, really matters. And the second idea is we sort of hear stories like Rehan. And all of us can probably name a couple of outlier stories like that, wonder girls. Also equally, the outliers, the kids who’ve been highly selected, they’re the brightest ones. But my learning is also this. It’s not that some people can be leaders. It’s that we, you and I, the lucky ones, we can be ladders so that all people can be leaders. And what does that mean to think of yourselves not as a leader, but as a ladder, as someone who’s gonna hold that base and actually define your own success as the number of other people you have helped to rise, you have helped to lead. And so then if we take that down a notch and we look at young people who have actually been not just leaders, but ladders. On the top left, that’s Alex. And Alex, when she was seven years old, had already been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Seven years old. And most kids battling with cancer would have been the recipient of a lot of care, a lot of support, a lot of love, a lot of sympathy. Alex decided she didn’t want that. She wanted to help other kids with cancer.

0:17:15.8 S3: And so she started a very simple lemonade stand where she made lemonade and she sold it. And the proceeds from that lemonade glass by glass, she would donate to other children who weren’t fortunate enough to get the same kind of treatment for cancer that she was. Alex passed away a few years after that. But still today across the US, there is a movement of lemonade stands. And millions of dollars have been raised because of those small acts of courage and compassion that she started. Look at how she’s been a ladder for so many people to today raise money for cancer. On the top right, you may recognise Emma who stood up when there was a school shooting in her school. And she said, “Enough. We have to end gun violence in America.” And that started a wave, again, of so many young people saying, “We don’t want to be scared when we go to school.” Again, she became a ladder for so many young people to speak up. Bottom left, Greta needs no introduction. How many of us today care about the environment and fight for the environment because of the example of that single Swedish girl sitting by herself protesting and what that led to. And of course the bottom right, Malala and how much he’s pushed us to fight so many of us for girls’ education.

0:18:50.5 S3: So what does it mean for all of us to think of ourselves as ladders, for all of us to know that we can create opportunities for even the most unlikely people around us, the most struggling people around us, to actually lead. The last two years, I think a lot, what a horrible time for children with school closure, and I’ve listed some of the many things. I think for many, many, many children in this country, it’s gonna take them a decade to catch up. And so a challenge for all of you as a question in my mind, I keep thinking, why in the last two years didn’t a Greta emerge in India for education? What stopped our children from standing up and saying, No? We’re not gonna live through 19 months of school closure, how is that gonna impact our lives?

0:19:48.7 S3: And I often think about what kind of education do we need to give our children so that they can stand up, they can raise their voice, they are aware of what situations are doing to them. And so that brings me to one program that I wanna tell you a little bit about, it’s called the Kids Education Revolution, and it was a program started to say, “Education doesn’t need to be fixed by adults, education needs to be fixed by students and educators together.” We need to be asking our kids, why do you wanna be educated? What kind of education do you want, and how do you wanna be educated? Because ultimately it is all of you who are the recipients of the school system. And so I’m gonna show you a video that illustrates what we’re trying to do and the kind of education we believe needs to happen in the country.


0:21:10.4 Speaker 4: We have imaginary education because our Indian education system is not good enough and we want to change it.

0:21:17.2 Speaker 5: It’s like a movement of kids re-imagining education.

0:21:20.6 Speaker 6: It’s about equal contribution between adults and us as kids. Adults are not getting educated… We are getting educated. It should be in our hands, what we want to learn.

0:21:30.6 Speaker 7: I’m so excited to be here, meeting a 101 student leaders. I was just like, wow. There are kids from almost seven cities and there are a few kids from outside the country, they have different stories, they have different life journey, they have different backgrounds. All 101 leaders are sitting together and framing the National Summit and what it is for us.

0:21:53.2 Speaker 8: Students voice matters, and it is important for us to be equal partners in education system.

0:21:57.7 Speaker 9: This is the biggest platform for kids like me to get up, raise our voice and actually do something for the betterment of our future.

0:22:06.4 Speaker 10: I ask why do I not have a choice to learn what I want to? And why do I have this restrictions and no place for my own dreams.

0:22:17.9 Speaker 11: What I feel is a problem for me right now, you don’t get that much respect if you don’t get 99%. Marks will decide, what our gifts are going to be. Marks are going to decide, what our future is going to be. And what about experience?

0:22:33.3 Speaker 12: When we step out of 10th standard we’re lost… We’re lost with no experience no exposure about, what’s life gonna be ahead.

0:22:40.6 Speaker 13: Teachers don’t realise how important it is for them to listen what their students want to say.

0:22:46.2 Speaker 14: Now we know, leaders did a lot of sacrifice. But have we supported enough? So I will rise. We will rise, we will rise.

0:22:56.6 Speaker 15: Finally I am at the National Summit today. I and my friends, we are taking a Slam-O-cloud sessions, which was based on poetry. Actually before that I was run now because they are adults and we are kids. And this was the first experience to teach adults and it was an awesome experience for me.

0:23:14.4 Speaker 16: Honestly, I’m just blown away by the students, because it was absolutely remarkable, the ownership, the leadership, the confidence, it’s like you’re maximizing their potential.

0:23:26.3 Speaker 17: Kids can take ownership and kids can play the role of a leader for their own sake. That’s where it starts.

0:23:33.3 Speaker 18: Teamwork, relationships, empathy, emotions and such things. You can apply it to your subjects as well, the conversation becomes richer, the development of the child becomes much more holistic. Even for the growth of the professional development for the teacher, it is really beneficial if the child is giving something to them, it really can’t be one way.

[background conversation]

0:24:00.2 S1: It gives us a lot to think about it, of where we can get students to become more involved, be more participative, get the management to be more open about accepting students opinion.

0:24:19.4 Speaker 19: One thing that they will definitely I think take away is having a students picture in their mind not underestimating children, because now they have seen how much we can do if we are getting the right support, so I think just picture or just a story that they have heard from a student, how have that story on that child, shifted their thinking.

0:24:40.1 Speaker 20: If the educators really listen to us and learn from us and do want to make change, that’s gonna be a huge, huge, huge, leap in the educational sector.

0:24:50.1 Speaker 21: There’s always a big thing in a revolution, and I believe that Kids Education Revolution is what we need to change society.


0:25:25.8 S3: Okay, so really, really quickly, how do you empower students like that, and hopefully there are some sparks that go off as I share just two more slides and then open it up. The first is, we need to redefine the purpose of education, you see education traditionally has been very self-centered, it’s about me, my marks, my college, my job, and of course that does matter, but it’s one part of education, it’s the self-part. Education also needs to be about the other, how do I learn how to respect, how to embrace another opinion? My voice matters, but how open am I to listening to a contrary voice as well, so how do I learn to interact with humans in the world, and finally, how do I learn to change the country, to identify the things that really bother me, little things, big things, and to take them on systematically? Whether I’m able to change it or not is sort of secondary, but do I have the orientation to keep trying?

0:26:38.7 S3: I often say when we ask children, why do you come to school? Most of them say my friends or because of my math test or, but if kids actually said, “I come to school to change the world, to build the mindsets and the skills to change the world,” wouldn’t everything actually change? So how do we as people that have had a very privileged education go out and champion this idea that education is not just about foundational literacy and numeracy, education is much, much more beautiful? The second is three principles we’ve seen are absolutely critical to unleashing each of our potential. One is feeling safe. Can I feel safe enough to raise my voice to be myself, to be different?

0:27:25.1 S3: Do I feel I need to be like everybody else or can I be different? The second is, am I treated like a partner? Are people asking for my opinion, and do I feel I can give it to them? And the third is, do I see myself again as a leader, a ladder, a change maker, not in the future, but today. And we talk at TFI and at the kids education revolution, about eight little characters, we call them the eight Cs, and we say really, if the practice is about actions linked to these, this is what will fully unleash our power.

0:28:06.6 S3: Are we conscious? Are we compassionate? Are we creative? Do we ask questions? Are we curious? Do we push ourselves to speak up? Do we show courage, do we learn communication? These Cs become really, really critical. And so if you go back to Rehan’s story, look at how many of those ideas played out. You see him thinking of himself as a partner, you see him safe enough to stand up in a very conservative community and speak up, you see courage, you see tremendous compassion for others around him, you see his ability to bring people together and collaborate for change. So he’s practicing the small steps of the Cs and the principles, and what it’s doing is, even though he’s sort of… His intention is to serve his community, what he’s actually doing is growing tremendously as a leader himself, and so that’s been one of my big learnings on the journey, actually, if you wanna grow, don’t care too much about yourself.

0:29:14.0 S3: The more you care about others and something larger than yourself, the more you will grow yourself. And so many things that you can do, right? You can run a project yourself, you can join programs that allow you to unleash your potential, you can speak up when you see other students mistreated, but don’t limit yourself. Like you should be on the national news talking about your ideas, you should be at conferences. I was on a TV channel yesterday, and I said the same thing, I said, “Why is it that we who have 30 years into this work keep getting called and we’re never seeing kids on these platforms? We need to be having kids on these platforms.” So many, many things that you can do, you just need to sort of embrace it and Neeta, you started by introducing the girls so beautifully. But I think that the really important thing that matters is not how smart you are and how much you’ve been selected, what really matters is what you do with all of that, and how much you use that to really transform the world. And so, with that, I will stop and hand back to you.

0:30:41.0 Speaker 22: Okay, Neeta, can I come in? Yeah. Okay, yeah, so Shaheen, I actually have a personal story with you which I wanted to share, and I don’t even think you’ll remember this, so when I actually published my book Wonder Girls, so somebody introduced us. So I think Shalab introduced us. And you had immediately responded and introduced me to a few people from Akanksha and iTeach, etcetera, and then it sort of became this ground-up movement where everybody kind of got interested and started teaching Wonder Girls in classrooms, and that also happened extensively with TFI classrooms and then it spread out to 250 classrooms that we work with.

0:31:18.7 S2: So in a way, I don’t think you realize what kind of an impact you had on my own journey. For me, all of this wouldn’t have been possible if not for you, so I personally wanted to thank you for that. And I had interacted with so many Teach For India fellows in the last couple of years that I had learned so much from what you’ve created, and your speech as always chokes up people, thank you so much for everything that you do.

0:31:43.6 S3: Thank you Varsha, so lovely to hear that.

0:31:48.2 S2: Okay. I think we can open up a Q&A. Okay. Shaheen, would you also like to hear from a couple of students on what they’ve been doing?

0:31:57.9 S3: I would love to. Yeah, I would love to.

0:32:01.2 S2: So how do we do this folks? Do we go… Do you wanna kind of raise your hands up like you always do and get started? Anisha is vigorously nodding her head. Okay, let’s go. That’s it, let’s go. You can tell Shaheen about your projects, about the work that you’re doing, and then ask her a question. The folks that don’t generally ask questions feel free to ask questions. Shaheen are you there? Oh she’s there, yeah. Who wants to go? Asha do you want to go? Asha we can’t hear you. Should we come back to you? Will you fix that or… Yeah, we’ll come back to you. Okay Anisha wants to go. Yeah.

0:32:55.9 Speaker 23: Thank you. I was so excited for this session because it’s super close to my heart and I know that in the future, I want to be working directly with you know like education and children and really just creating an impact, and I love the work that TFI does. So just a little bit about me. I actually work with this organisation that collaborated with Teach For India for a project once, they’re called the [0:33:25.6] ____ society.

0:33:28.2 S2: We work in educating different communities, rural communities about menstruation, kind of like removing the stigma around menstruation, talking about menses and distributing standard procedure products [0:33:39.9] ____. And that’s something that obviously like women empowerment and gender sensitivity is something that I’m personally really, really passionate about. I love the work that you’ve done and I think like my massive question was, I think social work and really just working on ground at a point can also take a lot out of you. So where do you find that balance? Because you know that’s your lifes work, so where do you find the balance where you can continue doing that every single day but also recharge your own battery and keep going, you know? Because sometimes there are situations that are really tough to know about, to handle and how do you kind of take that with you and deal with the emotional baggage that comes with it?

0:34:33.7 S3: Yeah Anisha that’s such a beautiful question, and I’m probably the wrong person to ask answer that question because I’ve often been, you know, criticized for being a very imbalanced person, and I look back often and wonder whether I could have had more balance through my journey. I think where I am now, and you know the whole world is obviously having this dialogue around well-being and the great resignation and all of this is happening. I really believe that managing your energy and understanding what fuels your energy is really, really important, and I think that’s different for all of us, but to know what really refuels your soul, your energy, who are those people that give you positive energy?

0:35:29.2 S3: What are those things outside of your core work that give you that energy and then really being disciplined enough to schedule those things into your day, your week, your month. I think that really matters. At the same time, at the risk of sounding sort of politically incorrect. I just think if you wanna do something really impactful in the world, it does take sacrifice, and it is difficult, and you need to just face that and you need to want to do that, and you need to be okay being a little bit of an outlier. I raised two children for most of my life, largely as a single mother, it was always difficult, it was always difficult. I always at work felt I wasn’t doing enough at home, at home I always felt I wasn’t doing enough at work, but you learn, if you’re committed enough to what you want to shift in the world and you understand why you’re able… You’re able to do that. Yeah.

0:36:33.7 S2: Okay, perfect. There are too many hands, so I think I’m just gonna go one by one. Sara do you wanna go next?

0:36:41.2 Speaker 24: Yeah, sure, so I really loved this session, I really loved the entire idea about the children becoming the leaders of the day, in fact shaping education, which is something that I believe in and I’ve been working on it at my school with some of my friends. And some other things I do is that I founded Zenerations Mumbai with my friend Anushka Sonawala and it’s basically for all the topics of India Mumbai that need shaping.

0:37:08.6 S2: So we talk about the LGBTQ community, we talk about the breast cancer and all those things. And we host events. And I also have set up the AXF [0:37:20.7] ____ branch, you can say. So it’s basically… I think it’s quite similar to Teach For India Akanksha where teachers come in with students or English teachers and they teach these poor children.

0:37:35.3 S2: So my question to you is because I’m working for this… So we have to reach out to many people, and at the beginning, when you just start, not many people know about your initiative, so how do you get people, people of big communities to know about your organisation, but also share it with others, so it’s not only you sharing but it becomes like this network of people that are talking about your organisation, so it gets the recognition, so you can make an impact.

0:38:04.2 S3: Yeah, yeah, thanks for that Sara. I feel like it’s a little bit easier today ’cause you have this tremendous social digital media at your fingertips to be able to do that. But I would say, like, my advice would be like go really slow in the beginning, to go fast later. Like really be true to the work and the impact that you wanna have with the kids that you’re working with and so, when I started my work I never thought about building an organization, I never thought about building a brand. I just said like my job is to do right by kids. And until I’m really confident about what I’m doing, I’m not even gonna worry about the other stuff.

0:38:50.5 S3: In fact, many years later, I met… There’s this incredible kid called Vicky Roy, who grew up on the streets. Look him up after this if you can. But he grew up on the streets and one day someone gave him a camera and he started taking pictures. And over time today he’s a world famous photographer, and I met him after he had had his first big exhibition. And I said, Vicky, I said, “You know, what was the secret to like literally grew up sleeping on railway tracks to being a world famous photographer?” And he said, “You know, I had a mentor when I first started taking pictures who told me the most powerful thing. He said for five years, Vicky, don’t expect to be good, don’t look for praise, don’t look for validation, don’t look for anyone to care about what you’re doing, just learn to take good pictures.”

0:39:49.2 S3: And I think in today’s world, I don’t know how much we actually focus on mastery and doing things really, really well. We’re generations now, young generations that love breadth, we love learning, we love jumping to a 100 things, like if you look at people’s ability to stay in a job also it’s not for very long. But I think the world needs us to be really good at something and to go really deep. And so I would think a little bit about that as well. But otherwise, I would say, learn to be a good storyteller, stay really proximate to the ground. I think the more you have your own stories, the more compelling they are for people to listen to, storytelling is a very powerful tool, photography is a very powerful tool. And be creative in the way that you share what you’re doing because there’s so much out there that you’ll need to find a slightly different way of communicating what you’re doing.

0:40:49.1 S2: Perfect. Suhani, do you wanna go next?

0:40:54.8 Speaker 25: So first of all, thank you so much for today’s session. It was really interesting and I was looking forward to this. So basically, what I’ve been doing is that over the pandemic I have been teaching at the school for underprivileged children who didn’t have teachers, who had left during COVID. And so everyday after school and before school, I used to spend an hour teaching them. And it was really impactful, ’cause you get to know them and their backgrounds, their stories. And most of them used to work before they could attend school. And just learning about those people, it just really makes a difference that makes you want to do something to change their life. So my question to you is, how do you do something and ensure that your contribution actually makes a difference in their life and it’s not just a temporary service?

0:41:39.0 S3: Yeah, I love that question. I often say Suhani, there’s a very big difference between wanting to do good and actually doing good. And I think the answer is like really upskilling yourself to know how to do it really well. Like with Teach for India, for example, we run a very selective process, probably quite similar to the process you all went through to become part of this fellowship. And so we select only five to 7% of people that apply to the fellowship. And they come in to teach full-time for two years. And I think many of them come in thinking, we’ve been highly selected, like we’ve been really successful in our jobs, how difficult is it to teach Grade three, Grade four, Grade five? And they realise that actually teaching is not just an art, it’s a science, it’s really hard to be a good teacher. And I think that’s true with any kind of social change.

0:42:38.5 S3: And so I would say like whatever you wanna zero in on, like really learn how to do it well. Like look at best in-class examples from around the world, learn the theory behind it, look at what the research is saying and then measure and track your progress. So that you’re sure that what you’re setting out to do, you’re actually doing. And I think if you’re able to do that, I would worry less about the sustainability, I would worry more about what is the impact you’re having today. Like what I found is people’s lives can change even in a single interaction. They can change with a single idea, and so of course, it’s ideal if when you leave, another volunteer comes in that may or may not be in your control, you try to do whatever you can. But I think the bigger thing to ask is, in this moment, in this interaction, am I adding my maximum value? And am I upskilling myself to be able to do that?

0:43:42.6 S2: Perfect.

0:43:43.2 S2: Thank you.

0:43:43.4 S2: Perfect. Smriti, do you wanna ask your question?

0:43:46.2 Speaker 26: Yeah, so first about me. I teach little kids drama, I teach them theater, they’re about seven or… They’re from the age group six to eight. So I do that and I’m also working with… I am one of the original members of Artists Fraternity. We target youth, not kids but like you know the kind of teenage-youth age group. And especially underprivileged, just and give them a stage, a space where they can perform even when they are amateur artists, we try to give them training. And then the pandemic happened, so we kind of went on live shows and Instagram Live. So my question to you is, with especially younger children, how do you make yourself relatable to them, so that they can find a way to connect with you and understand where you’re coming from, and just make yourself a good way to… Where they understand where you’re coming from. And so you can have a conversation with them and… Yeah.

0:44:46.9 S3: Yeah, it’s a beautiful question. I think you’ve hit on… I say that there are really five things that great teachers do, and I think you’ve hit on the most important, which is an ability to connect, you have to really know a child to be able to have that child really learn anything at all, and I think the… Sorry, I think the answer is a common sense one, Smriti. I think you just need to spend time, you need to ask questions with genuine curiosity about that child. I think spending time in the child’s home environment makes a huge difference. Get to know their family, celebrate festivals with them, tell them about yourself. Share your background, even if it’s very different. I found that our kids are amazing in their ability to accept and feel genuine gratitude that I had opportunities perhaps that they didn’t have. They’re remarkable in that way. So honesty, real conversations, and I think it’s so beautiful that you’re doing theatre by the way, I’m just working on another musical myself, so very excited to hear that you’re doing that. I think the arts is one of the single most powerful ways to help people connect and to unleash expression, and so I think any kind of theatre games, art, and performing art, visual arts, music, all of those pieces I have found over the years to be really powerful in connecting to children.

0:46:30.5 S2: Perfect, perfect. Tia, do you wanna go next?

0:46:34.6 Speaker 27: Yeah, so, hi. I really liked listening to your module because it’s really relatable to me and what I’ve been doing. So just really briefly, me and a group of my friends last year, we started a project called The Light Bulb where we installed solar panels…

0:46:52.5 S3: I can’t hear you.

0:46:54.1 S2: Sorry, can you hear me now?

0:46:55.3 S3: Now I can, yes.

0:46:56.7 S2: Sorry, where did I cut out? Or did you not hear anything?

0:47:00.4 S3: No, just the last sentence.

0:47:01.4 S2: Okay, so me and my friends, we’ve started a project called The Light Bulb where we install solar panels for a school, like a village school, around the Pune district where we live. And we’re doing this by asking people to save their own electricity by turning off their lights and fans and the money that they save on their electricity bills, that’s the money they donate to us. So they don’t have to donate any of their hard-earned money. So my question to you is, since you’ve done Teach for India… So what do you think are some external factors such as family and quality of living that impact the education system?

0:47:49.8 S3: These are all such good questions. They all deserve like two hours of thought before responding, but the education system is broken because of… You start to see that it is a systemic problem, so fixing education is not as simple as fixing the teacher or fixing the curriculum. We think of the education system as a giant jigsaw puzzle, and what we need, we believe, is leadership in each of those puzzle pieces, but then we also need a puzzle for them to be working together. And so I see parents as a very integral part of that puzzle. Very, very, very important, especially for low-income and disadvantaged children because if you increase the child’s aspiration levels and their skill levels, but their parents are not going to give them the freedom to do what they want with their lives, you, in some ways, do an even bigger disservice.

0:48:52.6 S3: So I think for those of us working with disadvantaged kids, working with their families as a unit becomes really, really important. But again, I think if you zoom out and look at the education sector, I just think everything needs to be fixed. Yes, India’s made tremendous progress, if you looked at the number of kids in school, if you look at infrastructure, the increases in infrastructure. If you look at the NEP as a document, as a guiding sort of star, we’ve made progress. But still, when you walk into a government school on an average day, kids are learning nothing. In fact, in some ways they’re going backwards, and so that is very worrying. And I do think building a citizen’s movement and getting parents to really have the voice and agency to stand up and say, “It’s really not okay what my kid is getting.” That is going to actually make a huge difference.

0:49:54.7 S2: Thank you. I just wanted your permission if you… Do you mind if we quote you on that when we’re doing a blog post or something.

0:50:00.9 S3: Absolutely, you can quote me on anything.

0:50:02.8 S2: Thank you.

0:50:06.8 S2: Shaheen…

[overlapping conversation]

0:50:09.5 S2: Students… Sorry. We have time for two questions and then we’ll probably wrap up. It’ll just be the right time.

0:50:14.9 S2: Yeah, yeah, okay. And the ones who are not getting a chance now, we’ll pick you first in the next session. Or, maybe Shaheen, we request you for 20-30 minutes more, whenever it works for you.

0:50:25.3 S3: I would love to. Yeah, would love to.

0:50:28.6 S2: Perfect. We’ll do that then. Anagha, do you quickly wanna ask your question?

0:50:32.9 Speaker 28: Yeah. Really quickly… I had a question on one of your content. You talked about the education and I think something that I loved was when you said that the people, I think, in New Zealand build a house throughout the year, and that’s how they learn. And you talked about the math and the science and etcetera, that you can learn through that project. But I was just wondering if we do adapt that to the education system today, how do we make that acceptable. As in, today the acceptable way of learning is going to school, learning math, science, getting a degree, passing out your exams. But if we were to learn using this way, how do you make that acceptable and how do you make that a way that you can get a job and you can build life on that basis of education and not just marks because it’s a beautiful way of learning. It’s just that we learn this way because that’s the only way you can get in to college and then get a job and then… Yeah.

0:51:21.1 S3: Totally. I mean this is the ultimate question, right, and the really difficult answer, and this is why I say the solution needs to come from folks like you, right? That you need to have the courage to say, the existing system just doesn’t work anymore, right? Now we need to re-imagine a new system, maybe that system like extends learning time beyond school hours, right? Like why do we even think that learning it needs to be limited to school, as you said that that new system needs to be project-based, there are incredible experiments in the US right now happening Anagha, around these ideas where kids are learning in co-working spaces instead of schools, kids are running a bike shop and learning through the running of a bike shop, like all kinds of things, kids are running their own school with adults sort of playing as a secondary role.

0:52:22.0 S3: So I think what needs to happen in India is we need a lot of brave people to start experimenting with small pilots like this and showing that it works. So for example, nine years ago, I worked on a musical called Maya. Through the arts and through integrating values, we were able to show through data, like much higher academic results with that group of children, even though we weren’t doing academics with them, right? And so… And today, those kids have graduated from college and are all doing really well and are contributing, so I think small experiments where we’re tracking data and showing results of alternative ways of learning is the way of the future, and my hope is that if enough of these experiments happen, and we’re able to show that there is an alternative, that’s when we start then getting together and lobbying for changes within the mainstream system. So that’s one way. The second way is to take a more cautious approach through the system itself, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with a program called Design For Change, for example, but if you look it up, it’s a really simple four-step design thinking process where kids can find projects and go out and essentially solve them.

0:53:44.0 S3: And so the other way to do it is to say while kids are in this terrible school system, luckily, they’re not spending that much time in school, so an average kid in a government school only has about three to four hours of instructional time, so they have a lot of their day free, can we create sort of after-school programs that are very, very different to build those skills? Yeah, thanks Manasi, for putting that there.

0:54:09.3 S2: Thank you.

0:54:10.7 S2: Perfect. Neeta, should we conclude? We’ll request Shaheen’s time a few weeks from now again? Yeah.

0:54:17.1 S2: Absolutely. Shaheen, again, thank you so much for this wonderful session. Again, like Varsha said, every time I’ve heard you before I’ve heard you as a young girl myself, and every time we hear you there is something new there’s something inspiring, and there’s something exciting that you probably plant a thought, and that’s probably the root for the various ideas that you have created yourself and the way these those ideas have that people have actually built on, right?

0:54:42.9 S2: Thank you, and for this session specifically, I think what I take away personally, and I think what a lot of these girls take away is reimagining education through the equal partnership that you talked about, the need for children to be revolutionary, try and, like you said that you push for change either from within or from outside, you choose. That’s the second one, and the story telling, I think what we also take away is the impact that stories have, the Rehan, for example, the kid that you talked about, I think each one of us take away those elements of what you have done personally and what you have probably gotten thousands of volunteers across this country to take forward. Thank you so much for your time and like Varsha said, we look forward to another session where we probably spend more time asking you more questions.

0:55:31.5 S3: Thank you so much. Thank you, girls. It’s just incredible to see your passion and energy, I hope to see all of you one day in the Teach For India fellowship, working alongside us, re-imagining education and again, happy to spend more time. Thanks so much for the opportunity, and I’m sorry I didn’t get to answer all the questions. Bye bye. Have a good…

0:55:53.3 S2: Bye Shaheen, bye.

0:55:55.2 S2: Bye.

0:55:55.7 S2: Bye, take care. Rohini is already here. Hi Rohini. Hi Sahana.

0:56:07.0 Speaker 29: Hi. Hi Varsha. I think we’ll just give Rohini a few minutes.

0:56:21.0 S2: Is everybody excited for Rohini’s session? Can somebody mute and then talk about why you folks are looking forward to Rohini’s session, anybody wants to go? Anisha, do you wanna go?

0:56:34.2 S2: Of course.

0:56:36.1 S2: Oh Kavisha raised her hand, yeah.

0:56:42.4 S2: Kavisha, you wanna say?

0:56:46.7 S2: Oh no, I think Anisha wants to go, yeah.

0:56:50.4 Speaker 30: Okay.

0:56:50.9 Speaker 31: Hello everybody.

0:56:52.2 S2: Hi, hi, Rohini.

0:56:53.3 S3: We have one minute left. Just wanted to grab a cup of tea and come in like half a minute.

0:57:09.2 S2: Oh sure.


0:57:14.2 S2: Anisha, do you wanna tell us, how you’re excited?


0:58:28.9 S2: Okay. Hi Rohini, should we start?

0:58:32.7 S3: Yes, I’m ready.

0:58:33.7 S2: Perfect. Nita, do you want to introduce Rohini to everybody?

0:58:38.1 S2: Absolutely Varsha. Good afternoon everyone, and right again no breaks but a great session and looking forward to another one. It’s my pleasure to be hosting Rohini Nilekani, to the 46 high potential and bright adolescent girls that you are, as part of the Wonder Girls Fellows. Rohini Nilekani is the Chairperson of Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies and Co-founder and Director of EkStep, a non-profit education platform. She is also the Founder and Former Chairperson of Arghyam, a foundation she set up in 2001 for sustainable water and sanitation, which funds initiatives all across India.

0:59:15.4 S2: Between 2004 and 2014, she was Founder-Chairperson and chief funder of Pratham Books, a non-profit children’s publisher that reached millions of children and especially during her tenure. She is on the Board of Trustees at ATREE, an environmental think tank. In the past, she has served on the Audit Advisory Board of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and on the Eminent Persons Advisory Group of the Competition Commission of India. A former journalist, she has written for many leading publications including Times of India, India Today, Mint. And Penguin Books India published her first book, a medical thriller called Stillborn, and her second non-fiction book, ‘Uncommon Ground’, based on a similar sounding TV show. She has written several books for young children, published by Pratham Books including the very popular “Annual Haircut Day”. In 2017, she was inducted as Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. And she is a member of the Board of Science Gallery Bengaluru and the Advisory Board of the Well Being Project from 2019. It’s a pleasure today to meet and learn from you Rohini, over to you.

1:00:34.9 S3: Thank you so much, and thank you so much Varsha for this opportunity. And I thought we were going to have a five minutes of moderated discussion, I’m just so pleased, I cannot tell you, to be here with all your fellows, your wonderful girls. I’ve read up all about you guys and looking forward to our session. Over to you Varsha, who is the moderator today.

1:01:04.5 S2: But I think Rohini, what we will do is that we will ask one of the fellows to kind of volunteer themselves and talk about why they’re excited for this session. So does anybody want to kind of lift up their hand and talk about what you’re looking forward to learning from this session?

1:01:19.3 S2: Okay, we’ve got two hands up. Anisha has raised her hand up. Anisha, do you want to go?

1:01:27.9 S2: Yes. Hi, I’m so excited for today’s session. So I read through the bio and everything that we were sent and listened to all the docs and all of that, and your interviews, and I think the work that you do is amazing, especially because I’m really passionate about working with marginalised communities and just uplifting people who are not heard, and I think the work that you do very directly impacts that because resources are something that so many people do not have access to, and using like Pratham Books, the way you’re providing resources and really connecting and uniting people is something that I think is absolutely fantastic, and I really wanna hear more about your journey because you know, you’ve done it for so long now, and I think when… You know like a lot of…

1:02:20.4 S3: Are you saying I am very old.

1:02:24.5 S2: No, no, no.

1:02:25.0 S3: I’m just joking but I am old, can’t be helped.

1:02:28.2 S2: Yes. I mean you are not old but I think for kids, the thing is, our main question is how can you do this for a long time? Because when you start off, it’s so fast and so good on social media, but beyond that where can you take our work and really make that impact? And I think that’s what I’m most excited to learn… That’s what I’m most excited to learn from you today.

1:02:54.5 S2: Rohini, I think Ananya also has her hand up, can we also hear from her?

1:02:58.8 Speaker 32: So, obviously, when I found todays session when I saw your name, I was just so excited because you know, I have read so much about your work and I’ve watched so many of your lectures and interviews, and my mom was sitting right next to me, and she also got so excited saying, ” Oh my god, Rohini Nilekani is coming for your talk, that’s so amazing”. And I’m really excited for that because you’ve achieved so much and it’s almost unreal to be able to talk with you today because you are such a role model for so many of us, who are interested in like non-profits and giving back to the community, so… Yeah, I’m just really excited because I really see you as a really big role model for me because I’m really inspired by all your work.

1:03:43.2 S3: Thank You so much Ananya and Anisha.

1:03:46.8 S2: We have two more hands up, and I think Rohini, we’ll also hear from them and then we’ll hand over the stage to you, right?

1:03:52.9 S3: Sure. Absolutely.

1:03:53.7 S2: Anvi and Kavisha and Tammana I saw three hands go up. Anvi, do you want to start?

1:04:01.2 Speaker 33: I was really excited because when I read up, and I saw the name Pratham Books, I just remember this one thing that we had started this initiative One Story, One Day. I took part on that and so I was so excited, I finally get to meet her.

1:04:20.4 S2: That’s amazing. Kavisha you wanna add to it? Okay, I don’t know what’s going on there. Kavisha, are you there? Okay. Tamanna, are you there? Do you want to add to it?

1:04:37.6 Speaker 34: Yeah, so I’m really excited that you are here today because… So there was this podcast that I was interning for, and I think you were a guest on the podcast, so I got the chance to edit your episode and I wrote the entire bio about you, and then because I was just writing what I was given about you, so then I’m interested to know more about what I wrote, so all about your non-profit organisations and all of those things. Really excited.

1:05:10.5 S3: Thank you so much. Thank you.

1:05:12.8 S2: Perfect. Okay, Rohini, should we get started then? Do you wanna tell us why you are excited to be here, and then tell us about all your impactful stories like you always do?

1:05:24.1 S3: So do I go into my full speech now? Do I go into my 15-minute speech now?

1:05:33.8 S2: Rohini, I think…

1:05:34.7 S2: Yeah, yeah, yeah, Rohini, that’s right, yes.

1:05:37.1 S3: Okay, great. Well, of course, I’m very excited because you know, it really always gives me pleasure to talk to young people because I learn so much from all of you each time, and it refreshes me each time because I feel that the younger generations get smarter and smarter and smarter and put all of us oldies in the shade every time, and they have such a fresh way of thinking, especially in this new century, that every time I walk away from a conversation with young people, years drop off my life, I feel, so it’s very selfishly, I want to talk to all of you, but seriously to learn from you, so that’s why I’m excited, and I think it’s a great program and Varsha’s enthusiasm has enthused me also. And after reading about all of you, I’m really pretty gobsmack impressed, okay? So I’m looking forward to our interaction together, but I was asked to speak to you and address you first, so I’m going to do that. Varsha, if I go on for too long, just wave at me to stop, okay? Alright, here goes.

1:06:43.6 S2: Sure, sure, but I don’t think we can stop you, Rohini, you are awesome, so… [chuckle]

1:06:48.2 S3: Thank you, thank you, Varsha. So anyway, here we go. Hello and namaste to all my amazing young friends and three cheers to all of you, because I hope I can get to know you better in this next one hour, and thank you Varsha again. You have all obviously been told a lot about me, so I hope I’m not gonna repeat what you already know, and really in the interaction, I think some of the better points will come forward, okay? So first thing I want to say to all of you young women, girls almost, girls becoming women, is that all of us, including me, we should never forget that we stand on the shoulders of many girls and women like us for hundreds of years, you know brave women around the world have challenged misogyny, patriarchy and the notion that only men have the right to power in society, that only men have the talent and skills to understand the mysterious workings of this world.

1:07:45.7 S3: So thanks to the women who have stood up to this sort of thinking, whether it is from Vedic times, we talk about Gargi and Maitreyi or we talk in the last two centuries from Europe, women like Simone de Beauvoir or Germaine Greer from the last century, or even we talk in our own country, women like Justice Leela Shet and the young people today, like Malala or Greta, and millions and millions of women like that, we are here today strong, confident, and able to express ourselves because of what they did, and I think from time to time, we need to remember that, otherwise we tend to take our freedoms for granted and freedoms can never ever be taken for granted, right? So that is the first thing I want to say to you, and we must also remember the men who have also fought against the patriarchal identities they have been trapped in, so that they can come out of that to support gender freedom and gender equity.

1:08:45.0 S3: So always first, every once in a while, check in with gratitude for all those before us, and then let me also ask you to join me in promising that we won’t take our freedoms for granted, because all around the world today, we are seeing trends where insecure and fearful regimes of men are trying to push women back again in the name of their own safety, in the name of religion, in the name of culture, and 100 other reasons, and freedoms must always be exercised. Just like our muscles have to be exercised, we have to exercise our freedoms so that they continue to remain the norm and not become the exception. So we have to find ways, however small, to exercise those freedoms when we can. I have read all your bios and your statements of interest, and I can see that all of you are trying your best to use your freedoms to serve purposes, larger than your own personal interests, and at such a young age too.

1:09:45.5 S3: It is truly impressive to read of your interests and activities from swimming and taekwondo and aerial… One aerialist we have who does gymnastics, music, dance, baking and so much more, it is genuinely impressive to read about your impatience to change the world. Like you I was a bit of an activist when I was around your age. I was really very lucky because I grew up in a family where women were respected, and I was also lucky to grow up in the city of Bombay, now called Mumbai, where the streets used to be safe. I was lucky to have been like you in good schools and colleges where our bodies and our minds were equally exercised. Above all, I was lucky, I think that my parents instilled values of service to society before service to self in me and my two sisters, they always told us stories of our grandparents and the work they did for philanthropy or for the freedom movement. My two grandmothers also, maybe yours are too, your own, my personal inspiration, and my mother was a very strong, intelligent, highly talented woman, she supported her three daughters very strongly. Unfortunately, she sacrificed her own career for us, I wish she hadn’t.

1:11:00.3 S3: But we hold her so close to… Our work is because of her. And my mother’s mother Seetha Karandikar and my father’s mother Godavari Soman, they were such different women and taught me so many different things, different things. I think we can learn from almost anybody who crosses our path. My mother’s mother was the most beautiful gentle soul. She was a marvelous homemaker and also very knowledgeable about ayurveda. You know, I interviewed her. I’m a journalist, so I interview everyone, I’m going to interview all of you all shortly too. I interviewed her a couple of years before she died, and she told me that even though she could never step out of the house to work, she was so glad that she got to witness a time when people like me, girls like me had such a strong future ahead. You live in good times, she told me, make the most of it.

1:11:50.4 S3: And my father’s mother, whom we called atya, we used to call the other one, vahini. Just remember, many women are only remembered by their relationships, not by the names given to them by their parents, which is not always right. So Godavari atya was also very special. She came from a very rich family, but she married into my grandfather’s modest home and made the best of it. At that time, everyone was infused with the spirit of fighting for the freedom for swarajya of this country. And she was also very much part of it and used to spin khadi, the finest muslin. And she was a big fighter and very strong woman, but she evolved into spirituality and in her 60s, at around my age, she decided to abandon the material world and she lived in one small room in Alandi near Pune, the home of sant Dnyaneshwar for the rest of her life. She took under… She took one warkari, those people who give their life up in faith for lord Vishnu. She took him under her wing and supported his education, and in turn, it was very reciprocal, he would fetch water for her, he would escort her to the temple. And atya taught me how to cope with life’s many changing situation.

1:13:08.3 S3: You can go from wealth to semi-poverty, you may have to fight for causes larger than your own families, and always life’s changing dimensions. How do we try to keep at least a steady ship and change with its demands, but remain rooted in ethical values? Those were the… I was lucky to have all these strong women surrounding me on all sides of the family, which made it easy to pursue my own interests and passions. You know, I told you I was a bit of an activist. I used to be… I must admit a bit judgmental and self-righteous, and some people would say I’m still like that, but maybe I took the wrong lessons from these wonderful woman around me. I would go around the street picking up other people’s garbage and I’d hate to see how we wouldn’t follow civic laws, and I would scowl at people and pick up their trash. And when I learned driving, I had a bit of road rage if people are going on the wrong side of the road.

1:14:03.8 S3: Well let me tell you, all that doesn’t work, all that aggression doesn’t work, all that judgmental-ism doesn’t work. So all of you, I would say, we have to learn how to control and direct our passions better. It took me a long time, I hope you learn faster. And then I decided, Alright, it’s time to do some Gandhigiri sometimes and not judge people. Do something without judging other people. And that worked better, to tell you honestly. And then I said, “Okay, let me channel all this into journalism, so I became a journalist after my post-graduation in mass comm. And I became a trainee at India’s first city magazine, it was called Bombay, it was great fun, and I was able to report on very diverse things like collapsing infrastructure in the city, political corruption, and of course, Bollywood. You can ask me about that later if you like.


1:14:57.4 S3: Even till today, I try to wield my pen rather than my anger to write about the things that concern me. And of course, to go into the rest of it, I was lucky to bump into a really smart and talented young man when I was in college, and I got to marry him when I was just 21, and I became a mother at 29 and again at 31. I could not imagine, young friends, what… How my life would take a turn when Infosys, which is the company my husband Nandan co-founded with six others, became incredibly successful. And the small investment of Rs. 10,000 I had put into that company suddenly made me a very wealthy woman, more than I could have ever, ever dreamt of. And I became very uncomfortable, to tell you the truth about it. I was very stressed out dealing with my new wealth, because until then I was, like many people do, looking very critically at India’s wealthy from the outside, okay, as a citizen, as a journalist, or even as a gossip magazine reader, sometimes.

1:16:00.8 S3: It was easy to deride the rich, to call them names, to laugh at them, and half with envy and half with something, about fairness and justice in society. And then suddenly I found myself on the other side and it took me years to finally understand, my friends, that wealth was a responsibility that I could use wisely, that wealth I could use to give forward, to practice trusteeship, to create a better society that I only had been dreaming of, speaking of and writing of for so many years. And so once I settled down, I was able to dive deep into my philanthropy, and today together with my team, a wonderful team across many institutions, we are able to work on several very deeply satisfying portfolios of work such as gender equity, which I know many of you are very concerned about.

1:16:44.2 S3: And you may be surprised to know that we work in gender equity on for young men and boys, because I see that as the root of many of our problems, and we can talk about that later in the interaction. We work on independent media, on access to justice, on water, on education, on governance, on environmental issues, and on active citizenship. What is active citizenship? In our active citizenship portfolio, we have some really marvelous organisations and we would be happy to send some of those names forward on to you, to Varsha and team if any of you want to learn more about them. I’ll give you just two examples. One is called Reap Benefit, Kuldeep Dantewadia set it up. And it activates young citizens like yourselves to solve their own locals local problems or bigger problems and leave a dent in their local communities. And you know the result of that work, there are 52,000, what they call, [1:17:45.0] ____ ninjas, like ninja warriors, like you wonder girls who want to solve problems.

1:17:49.2 S3: They’ve had 94,000 civic actions, 5.6 lakh problem-solving hours have been put in, and many, many campaigns and 552 civic innovations so far and counting. And they have done really good work. They say they have 55 million liters of water has been saved, energy has been saved, lots and lots of work, and some of them have even now began begun to contest panchayat elections, because politics is a very important pathway for social change. I hope one of you in the future will become a good politician for our country. Then, I also support YuWaah, which is a UNICEF platform that allows young people like you… It gives you all the information and tools and networks that you can take, action for the causes that are meaningful to you.

1:18:40.6 S3: These are just two examples of so many that we support. So I would say, what is it, my young friends, what does it mean to be an active citizen to be part of a samaaj or a society or a community? I believe very strongly that if we want a good samaaj or a better balanced society, then we have to co-create it ourselves. Nobody is gonna hand it over to us and gift it to us in our hands. It doesn’t happen on its own. If we want good governance, we can’t just be consumers of governance, we have to co-create good governance. Okay? It’s not somebody else’s problem.

1:19:13.9 S3: Society is our problem. It’s not the problem of the state or the Sarkar. It is not the problem of the market or the Bazaar, it is fully the problem and responsibility of the Samaaj, that is all of us together. And it is a continuous job, it doesn’t finish. After we you wakeup, from seven to 10 and all your society has become good. No. It is a continuous job of creating the kind of society that we ourselves want to live in, that we ourselves will be happy to live in, a society that would will give us our freedoms, our rights, let us be our creative best.

1:19:46.6 S3: But that is a society which also allows others to do the same that we want for ourselves. Because it can never be just an elite project, and that’s why it takes so much continuous work because there are trade-offs to be made, there are sacrifices to be made, there are freedoms to be created. That is the work of all of us citizens or young nagriks like you. And one caution there, many people have become vigilantes in this process. You know what vigilantes are, right? They take on a cause and very righteously go and try to solve it, but in the process they create a lot of social discord, and disturb the balance of power in society. You know, Erica Chenoweth, you might want to read up about her, she is a political scientist at Harvard University, and in her extensive research she has found that non-violent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns, even if it takes time.

1:20:40.7 S3: And although the exact dynamics depend on many things, she shows that if 3.5% of the population actively participate in something they can ensure serious sociopolitical change. So just think, Can we be part of a 3.5% to create the change that we want to see? I see in all of you the flame is already lit to take up issues and participate in becoming part of the solution and not remaining part of the problem. Remember, however, that this is not a temporary project that will just look very nice on your CVs when you apply for college, okay. This is a project you will do for yourselves, not just for your careers but for yourselves, for the whole of your lives, so that you can connect with the world with your curiosity intact, your passion ignited, and your commitment cemented.

1:21:33.1 S3: To do all of this however, to be a life-long good citizen, we have to begin with ourselves. Many of you, I saw, have written about body positivity, against body shaming, against being excluded because of all our differences. I think it’s very important to acknowledge that we have to all do life-long work on our own self-esteem to give us the permission to love ourselves before we can love anybody else, and it’s a difficult process.

1:22:00.3 S3: I cannot say that even I have achieved it at my old age, yet. We have to keep doing it. My yoga guru, B. K. S. Iyengar used to say, My body is my temple and asanas are my prayer, which is such a beautiful thought, isn’t it? And many of you are practicing dance, gymnastic, some sports, well, those can be your prayers to your temple body, or your body temple. And when we do such things, it helps us focus mindful attention on the one thing in life that is really our own, which is our bodies. And if we listen very carefully, my young friends, to our bodies, we will find that it strikes up an amazing conversation with us. It tells us a lot about what we need to know to navigate not just our own health, our emotional health, our mental well-being, but also what we need to know to face the ordinary situations we that which keep coming up with, which we face day-to-day in our lives. We have to listen intentionally to our bodies. Because our bodies don’t lie, but our brain sometimes get confused with the signals that our bodies are giving, because we are a very brain-focused society. In the last several hundred years, humans have become very brain oriented. We have forgotten how to listen in to our bodies much more closely, and I think that is very, very important to develop this body intelligence.

1:23:22.7 S3: It is as great a tool that you can have for yourselves with the one possession that is truly your own, which is your body. It is crucial to our own emotional and mental well being. So do find that physical activity that you and your body really love, so that it helps you to listen deeply to this marvelous miracle that we occupy with our minds and hearts. Of course it took me a long time to learn all these things. They say that speakers often talk about the things that they themselves need to hear, so perhaps, I’m telling myself as much as I’m telling you. I use yoga, I use walking, a lot of walking in nature, and of course, watching wildlife. I think some of you might have heard that I really love wildlife. Which leads me to the other intelligence that we need to aim to acquire, and that is ecological intelligence. Somehow we humans have managed to separate ourselves so much from nature, and even environmentalists get confused and think nature is something higher than us, elevated, that we all need to aspire to protect. Well, actually that’s not true because we are so much part of nature.

1:24:31.8 S3: There’s a lot of work done on what is called the extended mind and even our thoughts, all our thoughts that we are thinking right now, are part of the process of evolution of nature and when we forget that it leads to disastrous consequences, and you all know that. Unfortunately, it is your generation… I’m so sorry, I apologise, that your generation will have to bear the brunt of how our generations have left the state of the world today, how we’re steadily in the middle of a sixth extinction and worse can happen if we don’t change. There’s always time to change and to imagine and to build that better future that we want, we need to have this, we need to really ramp up our ecological sensitivity and understand that everything is part of this complex and miraculous web of life, way, way beyond our own selves.

1:25:27.9 S3: So as I close this long speech of mine, can we learn to listen to our bodies, can we also learn to observe and listen to the sounds of the ecosystem we live in, urban or rural, can we open up our senses to witness all the wildlife around us, because believe me, even if you’re sitting right now in a flat in a city, there’s a lot of stuff around you from ants ad spiders and moths, lizard, butterflies and birds, no matter where you live, life is presenting itself with throbbing intensity, and it’s so much fun to keep on discovering what the world is made up of all the time, and you can use the natural sciences, the physical sciences, whatever you like to explore that marvelous world, and this is only the first step to a much deeper engagement with the problem that unfortunately, your generation will have to tackle. Climate change, loss of biodiversity, and the ensuing human tragedies that follow, which I’m sure you’re already reading about in the newspapers every day, and that’s why my last, last, last point before we open up into our interaction is this.

1:26:35.1 S3: My young friends, we need breakthrough thinking from you, you are already leaders, star leaders, girl women leaders, you have incredibly supportive families, I can see that. You are among the privilege of this land, you are digital citizens who can use the whole world as your canvas with your finger tips. Use these advantages to break open. The world genuinely needs very different sensitivities from your generation. We have all been too brain-led, as I said in the past few centuries. We need to combine our brain’s intelligence with our hearts and our guts, because they tell us a lot. Don’t allow yourselves, please, to be trapped in conventional notions of success. This planet, this earth, our species, it needs that breakthrough thinking that I was talking about, which is all-encompassing and empathetic about human nature and the torrent of diversity around us. Be bold, be creative, don’t be afraid to be different when the situation demands it, and above all, as you think about being all these things, remain true, all of you women friends, to the softer, more nurturing side of ourselves and our femininity, which Rajnish called the lunar energy. Let that be a gift that we really nurture. Hopefully then, my young friends, you will light yourselves up from inside and also cast a glow on the world around you. Good luck. Thank you. Namaste.

1:28:10.0 S2: Rohini, do you wanna ask the fellows some questions?

1:28:13.6 S3: Yeah, sure, do you want them to ask first or me to ask first, which one would you prefer?

1:28:19.7 S2: Alright, fellows, wanna go ask questions first? Should we do that? Okay, we have hands going up already.

1:28:26.5 S1: And they already started raising their hands.

1:28:28.0 S2: Yeah. So we start with that. Shloka, do you wanna go?

1:28:34.6 Speaker 35: Hi. Yeah, so thank you so much for the speech and I just have two questions. The first one is, what do you mean by exercise freedom, and the second one is, what do you personally mean by body intelligence?

1:28:49.0 S3: Okay, so I think when I mean exercise freedom… Sorry, I didn’t catch your name. Shloka, is it? Shloka, hi Shloka, what I mean by exercise your freedoms is, for example, don’t be afraid to speak out against injustice, right? Right now we have the freedom to speak out. We live in a democracy. We have to protect our democracy. So one small example, and don’t be afraid to have conversations. As I said, I learned to be less judgmental, I haven’t got there yet, but can be really without judgment, be able to talk across divides. You know how polarized, right, Shloka, the world has become? Either you’re with us or you’re against us, how can we be ambassadors of occupying the grey spaces between the blacks and the whites. I think of that itself as a small way to exercise the freedoms that we have. Is that a good example?

1:29:43.3 S3: Yes.

1:29:44.5 S3: And body intelligence really, even though I don’t always follow my body’s messages, I’m listening to them all the time. When it says don’t eat so much fats and sugars, I say, okay, I hear you, but how about I’ll start from tomorrow? Having said that really listening to your body, even the way you hold yourself, you can prevent injuries, if you listen. Your body is always giving you signals, and there’s a lot. We don’t have time to go into this, but do look at the work on the extended mind, there’s a lot of stuff you can find on how to listen to your own bodies with intelligence. Okay? So I do it by… You know, sometimes I do medication on pranayama or yoga helps me a lot. Yoga helped me a lot. I’ve been an intense practitioner and it really makes me understand my muscle system when a lot, much better than I would have otherwise, and that’s not the only pathway, there are many pathways to it, but I think it’s very critical for all of us, especially women, especially women.

1:30:44.4 S3: Thank you.

1:30:45.8 S3: Thank you Shloka.

1:30:46.6 S1: Nikita, do you wanna go next?

1:30:50.9 Speaker 36: Sure, so hi, I wanted to ask because you’ve done some really awe inspiring work, and you’ve been doing it for many years. What is something that you felt has taken it so far in the sense that you’re still doing it today? What was the driving passion or the grit for you?

1:31:10.2 S3: I think for me… Sorry, let me see your name, it’s Nikita. Hi Nikita. You know I think for me, it’s just… I just feel that there are so many things around me that are not as they should be, right? We can all see it, we see the inequity, we see all the misfortune of others, we see what’s happening to our planet. So I constantly want things to get better, and I want want to be a part of that process, and I know this is complex and it’s not gonna get solved so easily, but I always want to be part of the trying. Because I want to live in a better society which has more justice, more equity, much better care of nature, I want to see that, and therefore it keeps me and not just to keep going, even though it’s very hard work, Nikita. It’s not easy, but it’s also very satisfying. And in fact, there’s a lot of research that when young people get involved in problems that they want to solve, they in many, many ways benefit, so it’s not we benefit when we get involved with something outside us.

1:32:18.1 S3: Thank you.

1:32:20.3 S1: Thank you. Alpana, do you want to go next?

1:32:23.8 Speaker 37: Sure, first of all, thank you for the very inspirational speech, and my question to you is that you’ve started so many non-profits and have impacted so many people across India, so how would you say that your work has impacted you or has helped you grow as a person?

1:32:41.8 S3: Thank you, Arpita or Alpana? Alpana. Alpana, that’s a really good question. Yes, together with a 100 and nobody does anything alone, so I’ve had a lot of help in my last 30 years of working on civic issues. We have had some impact, I hope. But more than that, we have been able to also all learn in this journey, so you’re quite right to ask me how has it benefited me. It has benefited me immensely, it has helped me to see multiple realities, which we can’t see when we lock ourselves inside our own life, right. As soon as you step outside yourself, you begin to put yourself in other people’s shoes, you can practice empathy, you can learn that only what is going on in your head is not important, there are a million other heads with a million other ideas that you can learn from, that that is leadership everywhere, that that is moral imagination everywhere, and that you can be a part of that, and that is what every time… And you know this pandemic has got me all like this just like it has got all of you because I haven’t been able to go out into the field so much, because I always get my inspiration when I go out to see the work that we are having the privilege to support. So that’s it, listening and learning, and that keeps the inspiration growing and keeps the joy. Because there must be joy in your work.

1:34:06.1 S1: Alpana?

1:34:09.6 S3: Thank you so much for that, that helped a lot.

1:34:14.2 S3: Thank you Alpana. All the best.

1:34:16.9 S1: Thank you. Chinmai, do you want to go next?

1:34:21.1 Speaker 38: Thank you. Hello, this is Chinmai. First I’d like to say that I’m actually amazed by the step that you took in educating boys and men in this feminist issue, which is… I think that is actually a very good step. I don’t think anyone’s ever thought of that, ’cause everyone’s thought is about educating women about their rights and their feelings. So I did like that step. And my question to you is that when I looked at you, I saw the twinkle in your eyes, and I can’t just look beyond that. So you have come a long way and you’ve seen a lot. There are times where your steps and your things that you wanted to achieve in this society weren’t so successful. Thank you. Weren’t so successful. So how do you keep the twinkle alive in your eyes? ‘Cause I mean I think we all need that, that strength to keep our motive, whatever, yeah.

1:35:14.1 S3: I think I’m reciprocating your twinkle, Chinmai, and really that’s how it is, we only reciprocate, it’s only like a mirror effect going back and forth from people in society, right. I am aware the twinkle in my eyes is always the highest, is when I see a child reading a book from Pratham Books. That gives me the biggestest joy of all, and also sometimes I get depressed and I read the newspapers and they only print bad news, right? And that gives you a bias as everything else in the world is going wrong, which is never, ever true, right.

1:35:48.2 S3: So I just need to step outside and meet people, you are of the marvelous things, the people we are supporting do unbelievable things, and that’s enough to restore your faith in everything and make you perfectly happy again. And of course, in my case, I just need to see one black panther, one tiger, one bird, one plant, and I’m perfectly happy for hours on end.

1:36:12.5 S3: Thank you. Actually you’ve given me a new perspective to life ’cause I always thought the world outside my house is dangerous, dark, but now I’m just gonna go and face it the way it is. I’m gonna be like, Yeah, this is not the way it is. You can always…

1:36:24.5 S3: No, it’s not. See I will tell you a true human history. We have evolved to first watch out for dangers so that we can protect ourselves, right. So that we can mitigate risk, and unfortunately, there is… I just heard of that… Oh God I’m getting old, I’ve forgotten his name, but there is a journalist who fights with other journalists to say, “Why do you only write bad stuff, why do we not report all the good things that are going on around?” And in fact, one of the things in our independent media portfolios site called Better India, where they publish a lot of the good stuff going around in India, which there are millions of great things going on, and we must balance what we read. We can’t keep on reading negative stuff. So I think we should also keep a mirror to make sure our twinkle is lit up. Okay, every few hours do a twinkle check. Alright.

1:37:16.4 S3: Thank you so much.

1:37:19.1 S1: Everyone’s smiling, Nia, would you like to go next?

1:37:22.9 Speaker 39: Yeah, thank you. Hello to everyone. Also, you had stated that being aggressive and being like judgmental doesn’t work, makes sense. But being aggressive doesn’t work, but sometimes when you’re explaining to let’s say someone, like a man or a boy or something that there are actual problems for females in society. They don’t see a problem because it’s like they don’t see the broken part of the system, so they think of it like why fix something that’s not broken for them. So sometimes you cannot peacefully or logically explain, so what do you think we should do?

1:37:58.2 S3: I agree with you. I agree with you that it is… You know we feel so angry at injustice, especially injustice done to us as girls and women because [1:38:07.6] ____… Just the other day I was in a jury and somebody said, “Oh, this woman should be given a good ranking, because you know, when she was in the board room, everybody said she’s the only man, real man in the room.” That made me so angry. I said, “As soon as you men stop talking like this, the world will become a better place, in seconds.”

1:38:33.3 S3: Okay, so I’ll tell you what I mean by that is you can’t stop getting angry, it’s very difficult, we are not Buddhas. But use aggression, learn to use aggression better, okay. Use it as a tool where you are in control of it, it is not in control of you. And it takes a long time, and I’ve still not achieved it, so don’t think, I’m not claiming to have, but I know this to be true. That in the few occasions when I managed to be in control of the aggression rather than letting the anger being be in control of me, I can tell you for sure I have been more efficacious.

1:39:07.2 S3: And sometimes remember, you can make a strong statement and then withdraw, and believe me those statements marinate like pickles in other people’s minds and something changes in them over time. But if you go like a fighting, sort of bulldog, at people then they push, move back. If you say it strongly, firmly but with a little control, their antenna go up to listen. And that moment they may be defensive, but something sticks in their minds, that’s what I have learned.

1:39:42.2 S3: Okay, also…

1:39:44.2 S3: And I like your name Nia, I love that name. I’m gonna use it somewhere.

1:39:48.0 S3: Thank you. Can I ask another question, if that’s okay?

1:39:52.2 S3: Sure. Please.

1:39:53.5 S3: So, you’ve been working on a lot of things, is there something that you wanted to work on but you just couldn’t, or is it like as you’ve gone on, you’ve tried to accomplish all projects and…

1:40:02.5 S3: Oh God, I’ll need to live a million lives for that, but you’re right. Some of the things that I haven’t managed yet to accomplish or well not accomplished, but even start working on is disabilities. You know in India, there is so much need to look, to do real empowering work for differently-abled citizens and the problem seems so big that somehow, even though it’s so needed, one hasn’t been able to do anything. On mental health, which is such a huge issue in the country, we have just taken very baby steps. And one of the big things that really bothered me since I was your age, is waste management. So I’ve become very clever, I’ve empowered my husband and delegated it to him saying, since you are so good at so many things, you handle the waste management in the next few years, let’s set up some work on that. So for my 60th birthday, that’s the gift I asked from my husband. That he will work with me on waste management, so let’s see what happens.

1:41:03.8 S3: Okay, that’s great, thank you.

1:41:04.6 S1: Thank you. Alia, do you want to go next?

1:41:11.1 Speaker 40: Yeah, hi. So, first of all I’d like to say that I absolutely loved all the things you told us, they were all like really, really specific, but they really made… You spoke about specific things, but I feel like they can be applied everywhere, so thank you so much for that. I think my question would be, so like you spoke about body positivity and stuff like that, that you need to listen to your own body and stuff like that, but also I feel like to a certain point nowadays, everyone has such high standards for… Like typical beauty standards, society’s beauty standards. And to a certain point there is a stigma around how bodies should look a certain way, and basically stigma in society, it’s around body. So I just wanna ask, in between all of that, how would you consciously listen to your body if you get what I’m saying? And how would you break the stigma around your typical body is as like, at our level, what we can do? So yeah…

1:42:20.5 S3: Yeah. No, it’s a great question, and I know it’s one of the most difficult things of teenage… I remember that, all those pimples or whatever, every single thing seemed wrong. One extra hair on the face was a disaster of epic proportions. But you get over that, of course, but since you are still young, my one thing is I stay away from social media. But I bet many of you are on social media, in fact you listed it in your bios, don’t… That seems to me like a very dangerous thing now, and you all must figure out together, you know, take help from each other. How are you not going to let social media’s din and noise dominate your thinking, right? How are you going to be… Take time for yourselves, a little away from it, so that there’s not a false reality always grabbing you, like lots of bees buzzing around, I think this that conscious distancing from the judgementalism of social media, together you’ll have to make a plan.

1:43:24.4 S3: And your teachers and supporters like Varsha and everyone, you’ll have to actually start building pathways for yourselves for that, that is one thing I would say… That’s not a problem we had. We didn’t even have televisions, phones, nothing. We had landline which sometimes worked. [chuckle] They couldn’t shame us much. Certainly we didn’t have the pressures of Instagram and TikTok and all the other things, I’m still probably using old terms, sorry, whatever is the latest. But be careful about that, and otherwise, you may have to go through this feeling when you look in the mirror you want to be, I don’t know, Aishwarya Rai or something like that. It’s not unnatural. First of all, don’t… Stop blaming yourself, if you’re feeling bad about your body, that can set off other problems, other ripples. Okay. And talk to people about it. I’m feeling fat today, I’m feeling thin today, I’m feeling bent out of shape today, I’m having a bad hair day. It’s okay to allow yourself to feel bad about your body sometimes, but by no means all the time. Again… Again, sometimes it’s just a self obsession, it’s just our own vanity. Can we at least see that? Can we at least see ourselves seeing ourselves. That helps many times.

1:44:36.4 S4: Right. Thank you so much.

1:44:42.2 S3: Thank you Alia. Good luck with that, I know it’s one of the hard things for you people, I know that, probably still hard for me, I’m feeling very fat and I put on so much weight. And then I said… My mother always used to say fat is beautiful because she was nice and chubby, so she told us we were crazy to try and constantly slim down. She said, I’m healthier than all of you and she was right.


1:45:04.8 S1: Rohini, do you think we can give everyone a chance, whose hand is up?

1:45:08.3 S3: Yes, yes. You know, we can go till 1 o’clock.

1:45:11.8 S1: Okay, great. Thank you so much.

1:45:13.1 S3: But I want 15 minutes to ask them questions, so we have 15 minutes for them to pound me.

1:45:16.1 S1: Done, done.

1:45:19.0 S3: Then I’m going to start.


1:45:21.3 S1: Yes, Ira, do you want to go next?

1:45:24.6 Speaker 41: Yeah, so I totally agree with what Chinmai said with the twinkle in your eyes and I can see the passion sort of coming out of you when you speak, but what I want to ask you is that I’ve been wanting to start a project, but I don’t know how to start? How do you like plant that first seed? So I wanted to ask you, what do you need to do in order to start something like you started Pratham Books and many other organisations. So what do you need to do to start those organisations?

1:46:00.6 S3: Well, Ira, right.

1:46:03.8 S4: Yeah.

1:46:04.4 S3: Yeah, Ira, I mean you all are still young. Okay, don’t think you need to do everything now because…

1:46:08.9 S4: Yeah…

1:46:08.9 S3: Already you seem to all be doing a lot. Okay, so don’t put too much pressure on yourselves. However, it’s easy to start something small wherever you are with the band of people around you who have similar interests. Right. And instead of saying, “Oh, this is the way to do something.” I would say, “Let me start something small and learn from it”, the minute… You will probably fail one or two times, which is perfectly okay, or you won’t achieve as much success, for example, even when the children were so small and I couldn’t do very much all of us young mothers got together and started a newsletter, it worked very well for about seven, eight months, and we thought we were really great editors and writers and it was great fun, but then it collapsed after a while and we didn’t let that bring us down. We thought of doing something else, so that’s when we were young mothers.

1:46:56.6 S3: But at your age, again, we used to do, I’m sorry… But in those days we used to do a bit [1:47:04.2] ____, but now I think you’ll have many more resources and tools. I know some of you are already doing internships at organisations, so one is, I would say to you, Ira, look around you for like-minded people and start something small, it will teach you huge lessons immediately, even if you fail, then you will yourself know the next thing to do. And otherwise, look around you for institutions, and I’m sure people like Varsha can help who are willing to let you do a small internships so that you can learn more and develop your ideas better. And of course, keep reading about the kind of people who inspire you to see what did they do. But I would say any small first step, any small first action, especially with other people, will be a great thing to start on, even if it is small, it will become big on its own.

1:47:53.3 S4: Thank you.

1:47:53.7 S3: There is no handbook there for this. You just have to jump into the pool.

1:47:58.2 S4: Thank you so much. Can you…

1:48:00.1 S3: What would you like to do to do Ira? Tell me quickly, what would you like to do?

1:48:03.0 S4: Well, I have been very into educating, like girls education and of course education in general, and I’ve done multiple projects on it, but you know with school and everything, it’s very difficult for me to manage everything, so how do I… Do you know, something small that can make, even if it’s a small impact, but just start something.

1:48:23.1 S3: You know, I don’t know if you people, honestly, with all your activities, extra-curricular that you’re already doing, again, I would repeat, Ira, don’t put too much pressure on yourself right now, you have your whole life ahead of you. You seem to be doing a lot, that sounds good to me already, but you can even just tutoring one other person on their homework, something as small as that, it makes a huge difference to their self-esteem and sense of competence, even that is good or you know offering, I know digitally, you can offer some services to one or two people, but only if you have time, you don’t have to win the Nobel Prize next year. Give yourself time and space. Okay. I’m sure you are going to do well anyway even if it’s a little later. Okay. Be kind to yourself.

1:49:08.7 S4: Thank you so much.

1:49:10.2 S3: Thank you, Ira.

1:49:12.0 S1: Thank you. Yashasvi, do you want to go next?

1:49:15.8 Speaker 42: Yeah, first of all, let me just start by saying, your speech and you speaking with us, just felt so inspiring and bowing. So thank you for that. I have two to three questions. The first one is, how do you keep a balance between personal care and caring for yourself and caring for others, and serving yourself and serving others, how do you keep a balance?

1:49:38.0 S3: That’s a fantastic question. I think many wise people of the world are still trying to answer that one. I’ll give it my small shot. I think all of us know, okay, when we are too much obsessed with ourselves, I think that point we actually know. Okay, so I would say you have to start, as I said, by first respecting yourself because unless we respect ourselves we won’t do the right things, right. So first, we have to love and respect ourselves, and that’s also sometimes very hard, given all the prevailing culture around us, for women especially, it can be pretty hard when other people are telling you not to respect yourself, you have to find that space to respect yourself and then you have to do the things, you have to learn more about the things that you like and do them well, so that is…

1:50:31.0 S3: You have to keep doing that up to that point for yourself, ’cause if you don’t do that much, you can’t do much for others in any case but after that if you’re still not opening yourself out to doing something beyond what you do for yourself, and it can be the smallest thing, like helping your brother with his homework, helping your mother with or your father with their cooking, it could be as small as that or much larger which I’ve seen all of you doing, see I’ve written all the notes about what all you girls are doing.

1:51:01.5 S3: But believe me if we really listen to ourselves, and I hope all of you take time to check in with yourself, how am I doing, I do that a lot. How am I doing and say, “Oh, oh, I’m not doing that well, really, I should do better. I shouldn’t have done this, I should have done this”, that check in with ourselves tells us when we’ve gone too far on the selfish side, and there’s no again pat answer for this, you will know when you’ve begun to obsess only about yourselves, because you know what, when you do that, I’m 100% sure you will also be unhappy, so when you’re trying to do things for yourself and you are still unhappy, that is a great clue, that the balance is off, yeah.

1:51:44.0 S4: Yeah, thank you. And my second question was, you said that you hope that we all embrace our lunar energy. What did you mean by our lunar energy?

1:51:53.0 S3: So actually, I took it from Bhagwan Rajneesh, you know, the spiritual guru, his talks, I got that a long time ago. I don’t even know if I can find that quote again, but Yashasvi, I think I remember from that, suddenly it struck like a big thing, he talked about solar and lunar energy, see he felt that the solar energy was the more dominant male energy in the universe.

1:52:16.3 S3: And the lunar energy was the softer female energy of the universe and while all of us have both energies, he felt, and today, I feel very strongly that the Earth, the planet and our species needs the lunar energy to be a bit more predominant because the aggressive power of the solar energy, which is there in all of us, but very much in the regime of men is too dominant and is… That’s where the balance is off, so when I say our lunar energies, and I don’t think that, “Oh, women can only be nurturers, not like that, but there is a lunar energy as he calls it or a feminine energy or a softer, nurturing energy in us. Can we recognise it and not try to squash it by trying to be aggressive and powerful in the current paradigm of power? Can we be creative to find ways to be women and strong at the same time? Right, that’s what I meant.

1:53:14.0 S4: Yeah, thank you, that really brought clarity.

1:53:17.0 S3: We really need to change the way power is exercised in societies today, okay, this aggressive macho power, which is coming right back through a new kind of politics as people get more and more insecure about the fate of the world, we have to find it in ourselves to change that nature of power, that’s what I mean, can we bring in more lunar power, yeah. [1:53:46.8] ____.

1:53:48.0 S4: Thank you.

1:53:51.0 S1: Yeah. So guys we have four more minutes, we’ll try and take as many as possible but Tarashi do you wanna quickly go next.

1:54:02.5 Speaker 43: Yes. So I had a question that you said that we need a breakthrough from thinking. What did you mean by that, I wasn’t very clear.

1:54:16.3 S3: Yeah, thank you. Yeah, I’m sorry, I didn’t have time to develop that point, but what I mean is… See the kind of problems that have… Your generation is going to have to face, you know, they’re not what even my generation had to face, I mean climate change, look at what’s happening around us, right, that a new rise of a certain extremely polarised politics, these are things that will affect us even if we just stay within the four walls of our home. Okay, so what I mean is thinking as usual has not… That has brought us to this point.

1:54:51.3 S3: So if we want to move from this point to a better point, how can we think differently without fear, right? How can we not consider the same notions of success and power that my generation and others have? How can you people be more creative about how power operates in society? Can we be softer? Can we be less polarized? Can we be more nurturing of this planet? Can we think beyond conventional notions of success which come in certain positions in the corporate ladder with certain amounts of money, with the number of things that you own, right? Can we develop different notions of success together? Can you people do it, you young people, can you do it together? That’s what I mean by breakthrough thinking, because otherwise there is a linear path to really bad things, but the future is never baked, we have to co-create the future, there’s never any one bad future or one good future, which is guaranteed, right.

1:55:48.8 S3: So to co-create a better future, I think your generation will have to think differently because still then in the last three, 400 years, how we have all been thinking, what is so-called modern civilization has really brought us to the brink of many disasters which are only now coming to the forth, so all of you people come together, talk it out with each other, how can you be different from what my generation has been, how can we do things differently is the challenge for all you young women…

1:56:26.1 S1: Adashi?

1:56:29.1 S4: Thank you so much.

1:56:31.2 S1: Thank you. It’s a great challenge to have. Myra, do you want to go next?

1:56:35.3 Speaker 44: Yes, thank you. So my question was, “Being a journalist, you must be seeing and reading so much bad news about scandals and politics and many other things, so what motivates you to always look at the positive side, at the bright side of things?”

1:56:54.9 S3: Well I don’t always look at the bright side of things because I think, one thing I tell my husband often… He’s a real genuine optimist, okay. And I tell him sometimes, “Optimism can also be a form of denial,” like when you’re only looking at the bright side, it’s because you don’t want to look at the dark side. And when you’re looking only at the dark side, that kind of pessimism is because you don’t always engage only in creating the bright side. So there has to be a balance. So I would say for myself, I have an inate optimism because it’s… One of my friends Raginish said, “It’s too late for pessimism,” so…


1:57:29.7 S3: You know? If we want to keep doing things, we have to believe things are going to get better. So that’s where my optimism comes from. But I’m not in denial. I know things are not right. And that’s why I want to do things to change things right? So you have to be able to balance that there are bad things happening but that we will not get drowned by them. And that we will have an innate sense that people want to do things and how many times human beings have achieved so many incredible things. We can keep learning and doing better, and that’s where the positive energy must come from, for all of us, right? Don’t get too high on your optimism, and certainly don’t get drowned by your pessimism. Keep finding that balance. There will be days when you go under and there’ll be days when you soar too high. And then keep coming back.

1:58:27.0 S4: Thank you.

1:58:27.2 S3: Thank you.

1:58:27.2 S1: Rohini, maybe you can take two more questions.

1:58:29.7 S3: And then yes.

1:58:31.0 S1: Yeah. Great. Ashna?

1:58:32.6 Speaker 45: First of all, thank you so much for your talk. I mean, it was so inspiring and everything that you’ve said about listening to your body… I want to know. I have two questions. First of all, just I know you must’ve gotten a lot of push back because you’re trying to change things, and change is always met with negative responses. Also a lot positive, but you do see negativity around you. How do you deal with that pushback? How do you keep going?

1:59:04.3 S3: I think I answered that a little bit. Ashna, I don’t know if I have much more to say. I would just say, believe that the future is something that we can create. It’s not baked. Every morning, even when things go bad, we know by the end of the day that things have already changed. If you write, if you journal yesterday… Suppose even you had a bad day, by the end some good thing would have happened. Something would have changed.

1:59:30.2 S3: So always believe this too shall pass if it’s in a bad stage you’re in. And see the more we read, you know? The more people we meet and especially I believe in [1:59:37.7] ____, reaching out to people who are good, you know? If we get a choice, listening to people who have done things. I think that helps to keep us positive. And never forget, look at nature and her resilience. Nature is us only. There’s so much resilience. We are resilient, we are natural resilient beings. So, just stay in tune with that. And sing songs and dance about. That helps to…

2:00:03.3 S4: Yeah.

2:00:03.8 S3: Get all the endorphins going.

2:00:07.3 S4: My last question was… I personally, I push myself too much. I know I do, and I’ve been trying to find ways to stop. And what you’ve said about listening to your body, how do you know when you’ve gone too far? And how do you know when you need to pause for a bit?

2:00:24.5 S3: You know I want to share something with you. You know, perfectionism is kind of a thing that culturally is sanctioned and everyone wants to be their perfect selves. And I was just like that, and maybe I am a little like that now too but more conscious about it. When I was about a little older than you guys, I was like that you know, everything had to be perfect. I was afraid of things not being perfect, right? And in fact, my body… Because I didn’t listen enough to what my body was saying, I went into what is called as ‘panic disorder’. And that means I used to get panic attacks and I used to think that something will happen to my children or to me. And that used to paralyse me. And finally I got help for it.

2:01:03.5 S3: Thank heavens. Thank heavens to all those who helped me with it. I have been able to… I mean, it’s been decades now that I haven’t had a panic attack. But that’s because I was not listening. I was not listening when signals of stress were coming, and I was still trying to push for something that was not real. And so, when you see yourself do that, okay… Your body will tell you, you’ll be unhappy or your heart will race too much, or your feet will get cold and clammy. You’ll just be unhappy with yourself and your… Even though you’re trying hard, you’ll think something is wrong.

2:01:34.8 S3: That’s the time you must step back and never be ashamed to take help, okay? When you’re going under, we are all there for each other, right? We are all part of something together, and the pandemic showed us that so much. So don’t be afraid to reach out for help to a friend, to a parent, to an aunt, to anybody or to online resources. But don’t let perfection… Don’t let the great come in the way of the good. Don’t. None of us are perfect. Perfection is an absolute illusion. But the good isn’t, right? The nice isn’t. The better isn’t. So aim for that first. Don’t push for perfection, it really makes people unhappy because there’s no such thing as perfection, right? When you think you’re perfect, there’s something more beyond, there’s one more mountain to climb.

2:02:27.8 S4: Thank you so much.

2:02:28.2 S3: In that step you’re taking. Are you doing the best that you can do right now? That’s it. Dont… Girls, be kind to yourself. Please. I know how hard that is but it’s important to be kind to yourselves without being unkind to others, okay. Very important for you all. Very important.

2:02:49.3 S1: I’m really sorry. Sorry. I am sorry to everyone who couldn’t ask a question, but we should let Rohini ask the questions now.

2:03:00.6 S3: So my turn now. So how will you… [2:03:04.5] ____. Because there are so many of them, I can’t ask everybody to answer, I really want to know some of you who are doing such amazing things, what inspired you to do so much at such a young age?

2:03:18.3 S1: Anisha maybe you want to go?

2:03:23.8 S3: So at least two, three people giving quick answers, so we get a diversity of response.

2:03:30.3 S1: Yeah.

2:03:30.9 S2: Yes, I think for me, I don’t find school very fulfilling, and I don’t mean it in the sense that I don’t like school, I just don’t find fulfilling and I need to do something, right? For example yesterday my day started at 8:00 AM and ended at 12:00 and I had like half an hour break, like three half an hour breaks in total. And that was like a day that I loved because…

2:03:55.7 S3: Wait wait, 12:00 at what? 12:00 in the afternoon or 12:00 at night?

2:04:03.8 S2: Night. [chuckle]

2:04:04.1 S3: 12:00 at night! Ooh… Wow! And that was one of your good days?

2:04:07.1 S2: Exactly, so I can’t have those days all the time but I think that’s what inspires me to keep going, that it’s not [2:04:14.1] ____, it’s just that I feel good knowing that I was able to do this much and while I helped people, I also helped myself. Because like you said, there’s so much you can learn from others, right? And I love that. I love organising things, I love being able to get my hands on and work on things and really just be a part of that team, so I think that’s what really inspires me.

2:04:37.5 S3: Wonderful, Anisha thank you. Thank you so much. Yeah, yeah. Like those Eveready bat… You know they say they keep going on. That’s good. Very good. Very proud to have met you.

2:04:50.2 S1: Shloka do you want to answer too?

2:04:53.0 S3: Hi yes. I guess it’s nothing as such external because I do dance and I’m pursuing it professionally, so I feel it’s inspiration… It’s not a want like no one is forcing me to pursue career as a dance, because it’s not something which people often choose. So I guess it’s more of a need than a want for me, so if I don’t dance or if I don’t improve specifically in dance, it just doesn’t feel right, so it’s more of a need than a want, that’s it.

2:05:24.5 S3: Wonderful. You found your passion and you are committing to it and it is giving back to you. Wonderful. Thank you, thank you Shloka. Anyone else, what makes…

2:05:35.6 S1: Ananya.

2:05:37.6 S3: Yeah. So the thing that I, my passion as we said, the thing I love doing is like Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. One of the things that really… And obviously, I love doing it because since a small age I have always… Reason, I know it’s just always been so amazing to me that with the power, as Computer Sciences we have today. We have the power to change the world by just putting even a little bit of effort, like all the amazing inventions and what AI and machine learning can do for us today, and making things and like invention and engineering and science has always been like such a big part of my life because it just makes me feel so good that with such little, a little bit of effort we can make such a big change.

2:06:25.3 S3: And as also you spoke about that nowadays, women need to step up more because we have so much to contribute, so much to give back to the society, and that we’re getting new problems and that modern problems need modern solutions. So [2:06:39.0] ____ or I think even less than 20% of computer science professional are women. And I feel that if so many us… And it’s a very male dominated field in general, so that’s why I feel that if I can step up and I can make a change and just by… If I’m just doing what I love and I can make the change anyway, somehow I will just…

2:07:00.7 S3: Make me so happy and I can hope that I can some day, when I achieve lots of things in this field, I can just be a sort of inspiration for others to be able to join this field. Because I feel that women have so much to contribute and so much to… You know, so much they can contribute to making solutions for the problems that we have.

2:07:22.8 S3: Yeah, you know Ananya I think you have touched upon something very important. I think see all of you are digital citizens and how do we create a good digital society as well? I think the role you are playing is absolutely critical, because even in the digital society also, like you said, it’s very male-dominated, and we need to bring the female energies into it, so that the digital age is also more compassionate and empathic than it is today. Right, and more democratic and more inclusive, so I think the role you are playing is incredibly important, so thank you. You’re very inspirational for me.

2:08:03.4 S3: Thank you so much.

2:08:05.6 S1: Rohini, do you want to ask your second question?

2:08:07.4 S3: Yes, you know, now this you can decide how you want to answer it. I really want to ask you because I remember being your age a long time ago, I know, but I had a lot of fears and insecurities, right, at that time and didn’t always have the kind of resources that you people now have, because you have actually many structured resources, especially online, and also schools have so much more to offer etcetera. Can some of you share, if you want to, what are your biggest fears and insecurities? Because I think it’s important to understand them together like this. If you feel up to it, or you know, you could even tell me the fears and insecurities that somebody else has shared with you, without of course disclosing who.

2:09:00.3 S1: Sara wants to go, I think.

2:09:01.3 S2: I think, this is personally for me, it’s not great, I know, but I have, not the fear of feeling, but the fear of starting something and it not working out. So we’re working, I’m working at an organisation right now, which is gonna be the second one I’ve founded, although like me and my friends, even they just fear of its failing because we work so hard, we’ve put in that much effort. We’ve been working all the way throughout our vacations etcetera, for it. And just like the fear of it then not working out, [2:09:34.2] ____, being able to impact people with it, is something that I think in my group, at least, we are scared about that.

2:09:42.0 S3: Okay. So fear of failure, would you say Sara? Yeah, fear of failure. That we are doing something, but what if it doesn’t work, right? So we all have this fear of failure, okay? I think that’s a very real thing for everybody, because we all want to succeed, right? And I don’t want to give too much Gyan, but Sara, you, yourself will learn that when you fail, it won’t be half as bad as you anticipate your anxiety about the failure. That’s what I have found. I was also afraid of failing, and then I found once I failed, actually it’s not that bad. We survive, we are resilient.

2:10:17.5 S3: What you should not… You should not have a moral failure, right? We should be afraid of a moral failure, which is in our hands, you keep your ethics strong and you keep trying and don’t be lazy. Honestly, the rest of it takes care of itself because there’s not only one definition of success, okay? So all the best to you and thank you so much for sharing that. That was powerful for me. Anyone else? Oh, I see some hands.

2:10:47.3 Speaker 46: Yeah, Ananya Sreenivasan.

2:10:49.5 S3: There are so many Ananyas that I think all your parents thought that was a fancy name to give at the time.

2:10:55.3 S4: No, ironically the name Ananya means unique and there’s so many… And it’s such a common name.

2:11:00.3 S3: Yeah, there are so many unique Ananyas here.

2:11:02.0 S1: We have four of them. Yeah.

2:11:06.8 S4: I think this is a little bit broad, but I feel like… I think, as you said, we have so many societal standards and also like everyone’s is doing really amazing things. I feel like it’s very easy for you to disappoint yourself. It’s like very similar to the fear of failure, but I feel like disappointment is also like a very real fear, because like I think often disappointment isn’t like a tangible thing, it’s not like, Oh, you know, this didn’t work. But this one is very abstract and I feel like so a solution for it also becomes really abstract, so I feel like that’s why I personally for me, I think disappointment is like a big fear.

2:11:46.0 S3: Ananya are we saying that there’s a kind of a fear of competition somewhere? Is it that when we are pitted against other people how will fair, is that…

2:11:56.3 S4: I think, yeah, I guess because I feel like… I feel like not competition, but I feel like because everyone is so amazing, it makes disappointment easier to achieve, if that makes sense.

2:12:08.5 S3: So it’s easier to fail because everyone seems to be better. Yeah?

2:12:14.2 S4: Exactly.

2:12:14.8 S3: Yeah, yeah, I can see that. I know like my husband Nandan used to say when he was in school in Dharwad, etecetera, he was like, top of the class, and he was so good at stuff, then he went to IIT, and everybody was super smart there, okay. And he said, Oops. And then he had to recalibrate what it meant to be among a team of really talented and diversely talented people, right Ananya? I’m sure that everybody in your city, in your peer group is not exactly the samely talented. Sorry, I’m dropping my grammar now, but, so in that sense, we can all be diversely talented and some may be much better. I mean, that’s how it is, right? Some people… There are gonna be lots of people better than us everywhere in life, but I’m glad that you are aware of it, that aware of it as something that worries you. I’m sure that awareness is going to help you, thank you for sharing.

2:13:12.5 S1: There are quite a few things that you know these girls…

2:13:21.3 S3: Do you want to club… Do you want to club a couple and bring them out, if they’re similar, ’cause I haven’t been able to look at the chat for a minute.

2:13:29.0 S1: Maybe I’ll just read out what’s in the chat box, yeah?

2:13:33.0 S3: Okay, that might be easier.

2:13:34.3 S1: Great, one second. Someone has said that she is afraid of my work not making enough and not being taken seriously. Someone’s afraid of what others think, and if she is good enough. Fear of not fulfilling my potential, fear of being completely destructed, for the lack of a better word, because I think [2:13:58.5] ____.

2:14:00.3 S3: Completely what? Sorry, completely what?

2:14:01.5 S1: Completely destructed for the lack of better word. Because I think with women, it’s like if you make a public mistake, your reputation can be gone. Also the fear of harassment.

2:14:12.8 S3: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. No, I really hear you, I hear you. It’s a really tough world out there. Harassment is a real fear. And especially online, you can get harassed, so… Yeah, I hear you is it is frightening and again, reach out. Reach out when you feel harassed by anyone, we reach out to people, okay? And about fear of failure. We have to go through it, you know? You can’t be born not being afraid of failure, right? Everyone’s afraid of failure, but just know this, that it gets better. Every time you fail, it gets better because failure is definitely not the end, right? And I want to say strike things like it’s the beginning of a new something and the other, but it’s just that we get better at…

2:15:03.7 S3: We get less and less afraid of failing as we fail, because we will fail in small, small things. So yes, but be aware of your fear of failure. When we are aware that we are afraid, then fear becomes not us, but something else that we can see from a distance. So watch your failure and accept it. Again, don’t push yourselves not to be… To be unafraid, nobody is so brave. Even I am afraid of so many things yet, but I try to be aware, “Oh yes, I’m afraid.” And one thing I know, and I have learned because of my… Partly because of my panic disorder, because a lot of our fear is only anticipatory anxiety of something that may never happen, right? So if you can just keep, keep once in a while, remind us, but just… Yes, I’m afraid of failure, but hey, failure may not happen, right? And if it does, I’ll look, I’ll handle it, because you will handle it. What else will you do? You have to handle it. So just be a little aware.

2:16:00.7 S1: Yeah. Rohini, do you want to ask your last question, maybe?

2:16:07.4 S3: Yeah. So, let’s see, my last question is, because it would have been fun to meet you all personally, but tell me… Apart from the, apart from the things that you all have written that you do, your dance, your sport, your music, etcetera, tell me what you love to do with your friends, or what are the things that you enjoy the most? And that you all say fatafat in chat also, right? One one sentence. Come on. Apart from the things that are your deep passions, like your dance, etcetera, is there anything else that you all do together or…

2:16:44.1 S1: Shloka’s written eating.

2:16:46.5 S3: Yes, yes, I’m with you. What is your favorite food, Shloka?

2:16:50.3 S3: Literally anything. I can just eat. [chuckle]

2:16:53.3 S3: Somebody said, what is your most favorite food? It’s panipuri. If I were to die and people were… Someone were to say, “You have your last meal coming to you”. I would say panipuri from my Bombay bhaiya, so I agree with you, eating, yes. What else?

2:17:09.1 S1: Yeah, someone has written walking in…

2:17:11.0 S3: Taking photographs of my friends, wow!

2:17:13.5 S1: Yeah. Walking in…

2:17:15.4 S3: I love hugging people. Yes to hugs, yes to hugs. Then? Listening to K-pop. Wow! Yeah, I just watched a couple of Korean serials and I’m fully hooked. Which one should I listen to Nikita? K-pop, one song you tell me.

2:17:31.4 S3: And any Black Pink song, I like Black Pink.

2:17:34.9 S3: Black Pink? Okay, after this, I’m gonna listen to some, I’m writing it down because I’m getting old. Black Pink, okay, done.

2:17:40.6 S1: You can maybe share the link in the chatbox with everyone. [chuckle]

2:17:45.3 S3: Then? Going out on trips. Wonderful. Traveling with my friends, playing the piano, traveling, watching movies. Me too. Listening to BTS. Okay, sketching, creating, keyboard, walking in nature. Nobody likes birds, is it? Okay, late night convos. Oh yes, yes, of course, that’s the correct thing to do at your age. Books! Having an adrenaline rush. How do you get that, Yashaswi?

2:18:16.0 Speaker 47: Mostly by doing adventurous things like… Well, I couldn’t do much due to the lockdown, but I always loved exploring and doing sports which are considered slightly dangerous and trying new things.

2:18:31.4 S3: Wonderful! Scuba diving, yay! Ocean. Ocean girl, yes, Niya is an ocean girl. Messing around. Having genuine fun, I like that. You know, we also have to learn the art of doing nothing. Okay, going for a round around the campus at night after dinner, ice cream, yay! My dog, yes, dogs are great. My dog who died, of course some time ago, was called Crackers and lovely, lovely, lovely things. So guys, it’s 1:06. Varsha, Manasi, if you think there is nothing else that you guys want to say, we can let everyone go for their lunch.

2:19:15.5 S2: Yes. Rohini, it’s been absolutely wonderful. My internet is terrible today, which is why I’m kind of staying quiet, but I’ll just let Manasi and Neeta take over and conclude, but it’s been a joy. Thank you so much for doing this for us.

2:19:29.4 S3: Thank you and thank all you wonder girls. [chuckle]

2:19:35.0 S1: Yeah, Neeta, do you want to go?

2:19:36.1 S2: Alright, super, absolutely. Rohini ma’am, really nice to meet you. I was telling Varsha that this is a fan girl moment for me as well. Again, I make my kids read Pratham Books and it’s really, really nice to meet you personally.

2:19:51.2 S3: Thank you, you’ve made my day, you’ve made my day.

2:19:52.8 S2: Thank you, Rohini. And more than anything, I think, what are the three, four lessons that I take away from this session, such a powerful session and what an array of ideas, but for me, the first thing that you talked about, body sensitivity, very, very important at this time and age, especially as teenagers, the second one is the role of politics, you absolutely want some of these girls to be politically active and what a role that plays in changing a society. I absolutely loved your introduction, we absolutely are worth, what we are today is what the older generation of women and men alike have provided for us, and I loved the story about your two grandmothers and your mum, that the amount of power that these women have given you. You know, absolutely some, and I really liked your idea of delegating it to your husband, you said that, you know the waste management, the role of delegation, a lot of times, I think you don’t know you’re thinking about the…

2:20:44.3 S3: No, I don’t call… I don’t call it delegation, I told him I’m empowering him. [chuckle]

2:20:47.6 S2: That’s even better. So there’s even more pressure on him, but absolutely wonderful ma’am to have met you and the kind of ideas that you have percolated amongst us, and especially as a journalist, you’ve done your bit and now you continue to spread the magic and you continue to plant that thought in us. Thank you for this wonderful, wonderful session.

2:21:09.7 S3: Thank you very much, all of you and keep going and the world is at your feet. Thank you all.

2:21:15.9 S2: Thank you Rohini.

2:21:16.9 S1: Thank you so much.

2:21:27.0 S2: Thank you so much.

2:21:27.8 S3: Thank you all.

2:21:27.9 S2: Bye, bye.

2:21:27.9 S3: Bye bye, namaste, bye bye.

[overlapping conversation]

2:21:28.0 S3: Have a great Sunday, bye.

2:21:27.5 S2: Bye bye.

2:21:27.6 S1: Thank you Sahana and Gautham too.

2:21:27.8 S2: Thank you Sahana, thank you Gautham.

2:21:28.0 S3: Oh, I didn’t even know they were here. Hi Sahana, Gautham. Bye Sahana, Gautham. [chuckle]

2:21:32.1 Speaker 48: Hi, Rohini.

2:21:32.8 S2: Bye.

2:21:33.1 S4: Bye, thank you, take care.

2:21:34.8 S2: Thank you, thank you. Bye.

2:21:41.5 S2: Do we have a session in a few minutes? What time do we log in for the next session?

2:21:48.3 S2: Can we… One second.

2:21:51.3 S1: Yeah, Varsha, we can hear you.

2:21:54.2 S2: Yeah, hi, Gautham. Oh!

2:21:58.0 S1: Varsha, when do we start the next session?

2:22:05.1 S2: I think can we circle back in 15 minutes? I’ll just text Shivangi that we’re running late. I’ve already texted her, she’s okay with it, but can we grab lunch quickly and come back in 15 minutes? Is that okay?

2:22:16.3 S1: Yeah, so 1:25 guys.

2:22:18.0 S2: Okay, cool.

2:22:19.0 S1: We’ll all meet there. And also, if you’ve noticed that someone is not here right now when we discussed the 1:25, can you please message them? I will send a message, but if you are in touch with people, please do that as well. Yeah? Thank you.

2:22:34.0 S2: Grab your lunch and come back, see you soon.

2:22:39.3 S2: Bye.

2:22:40.1 S1: Bye.

2:22:40.8 S2: Bye bye bye. Bye bye.

2:22:44.7 S3: Bye.

2:22:45.3 S2: Is it okay if I have my lunch when we do the session because I’m a very slow eater?

2:22:50.6 S1: Yeah, that’s fine. For the first 10 minutes, it’s gonna be interactive, so you have 35 minutes then, yes.

2:22:56.7 S2: Okay, yeah, I can do that. Thank you.

2:22:58.6 S1: Yeah, yeah, bye. Bye, everyone can log off. Bye guys. Sahana, I’m gonna end the call.

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