The Fu­ture at Play

ICONIC ACHIEV­ERS AND AN IN­SPIRED AU­DI­ENCE MAKE THE IN­DIA TO­DAY YOUTH SUM MIT A FES­TI­VAL OF THE MIND

India Today - - INSIDE - By Jayant Sri­ram REUBEN SINGH, VIKRAM SHARMA, RAJWANTRAWAT, M. ZHAZO, CHANDRADEEP KU­MAR, PANKAJ NAN­GIA, RAMESH SHARMA/ Photographs by www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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

REUBEN SINGH, VIKRAM SHARMA, RAJWANTRAWAT, M. ZHAZO, CHAND Photographs by

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

so­cial ac­tivist

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,

Ac­tor, dancer

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,

Ya­tra. com

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