How they inspired
A unique lecture series, launched on 28 August, promises to ignite young minds
“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 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.
Tarun exhorted the students to ask questions constantly, to be curious, but not disruptive
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.
For queries on the Aircel The Power of Inspiration Lecture Series, please contact Rimjhim Jha
at firstname.lastname@example.org or +91 9910153335.
Fighting for Tehelka and The Idea of India
To many, associating a fight for a magazine with a fight for the nation would be audacity.
To Tarun J Tejpal, founder and editor-in-chief of Tehelka, they’re inseparable.
When Tehelka was witch-hunted by the then government for Operation Westend, its staggering expose on corruption in the army on major arms deals, the fight for survival depended on one thing alone: the fundamental commitment of India and Indians to honesty, to its ideals, to a faith in what the nation was meant to be.
Without that faith, there would have been no strength to fight the bitter battles that still awaited him and the tiny team that stood by him. Without that underlying conviction in the Idea of India as a place where decency, virtue and truth are celebrated, there would have been no search for alternatives to keep going. Without the support of ordinary citizens who came forward to fund the rebirth of the magazine when the chips were down, there would be no Tehelka.
Without that Idea of India where anything can happen – however audacious your dream, however unlikely its chances of fruition – there would probably be no Tarun either. A man who dreamt against the tide a decade ago is still around, holding a copy of that dream every week in his hand, to tell the story of how the idea of India and the idea of Tehelka mirror each other.
The Power of One: A Journey in Search of a Transparent Democracy
Remarkable people don’t look or act or appear any different from anyone else. Their commitment, drive, abilities don’t appear like a halo around their heads. They don’t walk different or talk different.
But they do differently.
When Sowmya Kidambi was at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, a bright, urban student on the threshold of a great career, there was nothing to suggest that a few years later she would be living in a hamlet in Devdungri, a community of only 30-40 families where food is predominantly cooked on wood and water is carried in large jugs on the head.
It was the month she spent doing fieldwork at the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), a non-party people’s organization dedicated to the Right to Information, that altered her course irrevocably and .helped shape her into a one-woman army for social justice.
She couldn’t have asked for a better place to start. Sowmya worked with Aruna Roy, veteran chairperson of the MKSS on the demand for an Indian RTI act, a campaign they saw to successful completion. But they didn’t start top down: instead Sowmya has been involved at the grassroots level, with everything from transparency in panchayat elections to institutionalizing the process of social audits as part of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, to conducting training courses on expenditure tracking in social audits. Her single-minded focus: transparency, the only way to eliminate corruption, and the single route to strengthening democracy. Where others of her generation have chosen lucrative urban private sector jobs, Sowmya has chosen to be a change-maker, someone not content to hope for change but to drive it. Today, she travels around the country and the world, talking on transparency at a Mexico Right-to-Information forum; training activists in social auditing in Turkey, and closer home, working with the Andhra government on institutionalizing social audits.