“FEAR IS THE most crip­pling emo­tion we ex­pe­ri­ence. It is also the main rea­son why In­di­ans are afraid to speak up against cor­rup­tion.” Over 1,000 students lis­tened, in rapt at­ten­tion, to jour­nal­ist, pub­lisher and nov­el­ist Tarun J Te­j­pal, as he re­sponded to ques­tions about his tu­mul­tuous jour­ney as the Ed­i­tor of TE­HELKA.

The in­spi­ra­tional lec­ture se­ries Air­cel “The Power of In­spi­ra­tion” was launched at Gi­tam Univer­sity, Visakha­p­at­nam, on 28 Au­gust to a packed au­di­to­rium, with two in­spi­ra­tional fig­ures, Tarun Te­j­pal and Sowmya Ki­dambi, Di­rec­tor, So­ci­ety for So­cial Au­dit, Ac­count­abil­ity and Trans­parency.

The event be­gan with an au­dio-visual made by the Te­helka Foun­da­tion that cap­tured the essence of the need of the hour. It was a call to act, to make a dif­fer­ence in our own small way, to make a be­gin­ning in the be­lief that each one of us can make a dif­fer­ence.

Tarun spoke about his idea of In­dia. An In­dia with­out caste and re­li­gion. An In­dia with­out hunger and poverty. An In­dia where ev­ery­one has their rights. An In­dia free of cor­rup­tion. An In­dia that is real and not the ‘shin­ing’ In­dia we like to de­lude our­selves into be­liev­ing it is.

Tarun also ex­horted the students to ask ques­tions con­stantly, to build an at­ti­tude of cu­rios­ity, but not be dis­rup­tive. He shared the im­mense in­spi­ra­tion he had re­ceived from the vi­sion of the found­ing fathers of In­dia, Gandhi, Nehru, Pa­tel and urged the students to read, all they could, on the free­dom strug­gle to un­der­stand the im­pulses of these visionary lead­ers.

Then it was Sowmya who held the students’ riv­eted with her jour­ney from an in­flu­en­tial and priv­i­leged back­ground to liv­ing in a hut in the back of be­yond, with­out elec­tric­ity.

Sowmya spoke of her­self as a child of

A unique lec­ture se­ries, launched on 28 Au­gust, prom­ises to ig­nite young minds

the Emer­gency, born in 1975! An ex­po­sure to Hu­man Rights at the Tata In­sti­tute of So­cial Sciences was fol­lowed by a trans­for­ma­tional eight years with Aruna Roy at the Maz­door Kisan Shakti San­gathan, “where I moved from be­ing an in­tro­vert, to shout­ing slo­gans, do­ing street the­atre, tak­ing part in dhar­nas….I thor­oughly en­joyed my­self!”

Fre­quently slip­ping into Tel­ugu, as she shared her work with bat­tling cor­rup­tion in the MGNREGS scheme, Sowmya urged the young students to be­gin at home, by not dis­crim­i­nat­ing be­tween the ser­vant’s child and one’s own, to treat ev­ery one as hu­man be­ings – and that would be the be­gin­ning of the change we wish to see.

Mod­er­ated by Puneeta Roy, the founder-trustee of the Te­helka Foun­da­tion, the first lec­ture was a huge suc­cess. There was a buzz among the students and both speak­ers were sur­rounded by students who wanted to 'act' im­me­di­ately. Sowmya was es­corted to her car by the en­thu­si­as­tic hordes. Tarun was kept back in the hall an­swer­ing ques­tions posed by the me­dia for more than an hour af­ter the event had come to an end.

Air­cel’s The Power of In­spi­ra­tion books given out to each stu­dent was a run­away hit. Many of the students had their copies signed by the speak­ers. Over a thou­sand copies were dis­trib­uted.

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