The Future at Play
ICONIC ACHIEVERS AND AN INSPIRED AUDIENCE MAKE THE INDIA TODAY YOUTH SUM MIT A FESTIVAL OF THE MIND
Iconic achievers and an inspired audience make the India Today Youth Summit a festival of the mind.
An inspirational speech. A crowd driven to a frenzy. A de- facto election rally. Lots of laughs. Some tears. Song, dance, and lines to learn by rote. These were the memories almost 2,000 young men and women— most of them between 16 and 25— took away from the India Today Mind Rocks Youth Summit 2013, held at New Delhi’s Siri Fort auditorium on September 21. A mix of iconic sportsmen, Bollywood superstars, firebrand politicians, best- selling authors, and edgy musicians came together to reveal the secret of their success: The only way to make a change is to believe that you can pioneer it.
Leander Paes, the oldest male tennis player to win a Grand Slam in the Open era with his doubles victory at the US Open on September 8, rubbed shoulders with international hip- hop star Hard Kaur and actor- activist Gul Panag away from prying eyes in the speakers’ room. Paes, who got a rapturous ovation when he stepped on stage to kick things off, joked about how he wouldn’t retire until he could hit 10 backhand top- spin winners in a row. “I haven’t satisfied my hunger to master the game of tennis. It’s my life’s passion,” he said, when asked what kept him going at 40. He told the audience that things would happen if they connected the mind, body and soul towards a single purpose. “We Indians have to believe that we can achieve anything… If you can handle triumph and disaster and treat both these imposters the same, then play the game of life, and play it hard.”
While Leander waxed eloquent on self- belief, rapper Taran Kaur Dhillon, aka Hard Kaur, decided to go lyrical. Switching registers between Punjabi and English, she broke into an impromptu rap as members of the audience beat- boxed to give her company. “Always walk the brave path/ never fear no soul… I seen too much hunger/ too much thirst… Sometimes I wonder how the hell am I still alive/ 84 was the year that changed my life… Already had my mind made up at the age of five/’ Cos I remember that’s the day that my daddy
died…” she sang from her new MTV Coke Studio song ‘ Kattey’. Hard Kaur’s father was killed in the 1984 Sikh riots.
Another session that found great resonance with the audience was when former supercop Kiran Bedi, Gul Panag and Observer Research Foundation’s Nishtha Gautam discussed the 2012 Delhi gang rape. With the only loose end in the case being the juvenile accused, who got a three- year sentence as opposed to death for the other convicts, they asked why those who commit “adult crimes” should not be handed “adult punishments”. In an atmosphere charged with emotion, the victim’s mother unveiled the new INDIA TODAY youth campaign— Crime, Not Age— that seeks amendments in the law for harsher punishments to juveniles in extreme cases. “I am satisfied now, and we are finally at peace. They ( the accused) have been given the punishment that they truly deserved,” the victim’s mother said, even as tears welled up in the eyes of several members of the audience and the panel.
The next session focused on what the first- time voters— like the majority in the audience— want from their leaders in the forthcoming elections. The loudest cheers were reserved for Aam Aadmi Party ( AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, who received a rockstar welcome replete with cat calls and slogans. Though there were preliminary exchanges between Congress MP Deepender Hooda and BJP spokesperson Sanjay Kaul, there was only one winner in the end. “The Congress and BJP do not do politics, they do dalali ( wheeling- dealing),” Kejriwal said to thunderous applause.
With political skirmishes over, the post- lunch sessions raised the entertainment quotient and, proportionally, amplified the crowd’s volume. Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa winner, actor Salman Yusuff Khan, and finalist Lauren Gottlieb’s attempts to speak about their careers became a mere formality because of constant demands from the crowd asking them to dance. Both were more than happy to oblige, with Gottlieb even kicking off her shoes and breaking into a jig. Displaying no inhibitions whatsoever, various members of the audience jumped onto the stage to join them.
The volume reached a crescendo when cricketer Virat Kohli walked on stage a few minutes later to talk about the ‘ DNA of a Winner’. For 10 minutes, the Indian vice- captain stood bemused, shaking his head in disbelief as the noise made it impossible for him to begin his speech. “No one is born perfect. I learnt from my mistakes,” Kohli said when the crowd had quietened down, admitting he had lost focus after his first IPL
and the glamour as well as after- parties that came with it. “That was when I decided to get away from everything for oneand- a- half years, just focus on cricket and claw my way back into the team. If I could make it, you can too. Fairytales do come true,” he said. Perhaps taking it as a cue, a young woman from the audience dashed onto the stage to show Kohli a tattoo of his name on her arm.
As if the response to the cricketer’s session wasn’t wild enough, the energy levels at the auditorium shot through the roof during actor Farhan Akhtar’s session, where he grooved to his smash hit ‘ Pichle Saat Dinon Mein’ from the film Rock On ( 2008). Speaking about his eclectic career as an actor, director, singer and producer, Akhtar said he never tried to define himself as one or the other. “I believe every
single person has it in him or her to achieve the impossible. The problem is that most people, on most occasions, feel it is easier to give up than ride through the tough times,” he said, before picking up the guitar to sing a cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘ Wish You Were Here’.
There was a final treat in store for the audience— Hard Kaur was back. Armed with a DJ and a bevy of dancers, she brought the curtains down on a long and eventful day. Too thrilled even to speak, many in the audience could be heard leaving the arena chanting “mind rocks, mind rocks”, as they disappeared into the night.
Follow the writer on Twitter@ jayantsriram
I lost focus around the t played my first IPL. The glam after- parties got to me. That’s whe get away from everything and c
back into the Indian tea
VIRAT KOHLI, Crickete
When you try to be better than others, you end up competing, and eventually trying to put others
down. That’s no good.
FARHAN AKHTAR, Actor
I lost focus around the time I played my first IPL. The glamour and after- parties got to me. That’s when I decided to get away from everything and claw my way
back into the Indian team.
VIRAT KOHLI, Cricketer
Kohli got such a raucous reception
that proceedings were delayed for 10 minutes.
It doesn’t matter if your daddy is a CEO or has pots of money. If you have talent and you are ready to work,
you will succeed.
HARD KAUR, Rapper
STARFEVER A responsive young crowd ( above and below) danced with enthusiasm, gave standing ovations, sang a song or two, and couldn’t get enough of the stars
If you are old enough to commit a heinous crime, you are old
enough to face its consequences. KIRAN BEDI, Former IPS officer and
The justice system and laws must be gender- blind. When India’s laws are patriarchal and misogynist,
where is the hope?
GUL PANAG, Actor and activist
We should not deny women, even in professions such as prostitu
tion, respect and a right to dignity. NISHTHA GAUTAM, Associate Fellow,
Observer Research Foundation
All the blood, sweat and tears actually make your journey
all the more sweeter. LAUREN GOTTLIEB,
Love is not overrated. Love is life, it makes the world go around, it’s
an overwhelming feeling.
ADITI RAO HYDARI, Actor
Entrepreneurship is a state of mind. You can be an entrepreneur even
when you are working for others. DHRUV SHRINGI, Co- Founder & CEO,