“Fear is the most crippling factor we can experience. It is also the main reason why Indians are afraid to speak up against corruption.”
Over 700 students listened in rapt attention to journalist, publisher and novelist Tarun Tejpal, as he responded to questions about his tumultuous journey as Editor, Tehelka.
The inspirational lecture series “Power of Inspiration” was launched at Gitam University, Vizag, on 28th August to a packed auditorium, with two inspirational figures, Tarun Tejpal and Sowmya Kidambi, Director, Society for Social Audit, Accountability and Transparency.
In conversation with Puneeta Roy, Executive Director, The Tehelka Foundation, Tarun shared his aspirations as a journalist of the 80’s dominated by issues like Operation Bluestar, Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination, the anti-Sikh riots, amongst others. It was a time whenIndiamedia was hard edged and gritty, deeply welded to the idea of Indian democracy. The 1990’s was a time of “coping out” – when commercialization swept in and business interests over ruled the search for Truth.
When the Tehelka story began in March 2000, it was an attempt to fuse together both editorial as well as commercial interests without compromising on either side. “I took the risk of becoming an entrepreneur and publisher so that the distinction between the impulses collapse”. Tehelka’s
Track record of hard nosed, cutting edge journalism over the past few years is testimony to this commitment to ensure that the marginalized and powerless have a platform to voice their story, to demand justice.
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 ofIndia, Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and urged the students to read all they could on the freedom struggle to understand the impulses of these visionary leaders.
The receptive audience flooded Tarun with questions on the imbalanced reporting in media these days, on why so much attention was being given to film gossip instead of focusing on the myriad social and economic issues the country is battling at the moment. Tarun’s reply put the onus back on the students to be sensitive to the huge inequalities in our society that are widening rapidly and to do their small bit to make a difference.
A refrain that was echoed by Sowmya Kidambi as she spoke of herself as a child of the Emergency, born in 1975! An unconventional childhood, an exposure to Human Rights at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences was followed by a transformational 8 years with Aruna Roy at the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, “where I moved from being this introverted young person, 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 MGNREGA scheme, Sowmya urged the young students to begin at home, to not discriminate between the servant’s child and your own, but to start treat all as human beings. And that would be the beginning of the change we wish to see.
It was excited group of students who surrounded both Tarun and Sowmya after the lecture, charged by what they had heard, eager to know the way ahead. A counter outside the hall distributed a booklet celebrating ground warriors, as a take away for them.
The Power of Inspiration is a lecture series aimed at stimulating and motivating the young towards idealism and community participation. This initiative by Tehelka will visit 25 Universities across the country, to begin conversations with youth on the roles they can play, the projects they can pioneer and nurture, to bring about positive social change in the country.
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