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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Converge 2015, The Meet To Raise Your Voice, And Be Assured To Be Heard: A Youth Ki Awaaz And Unicef's Presentation

Sofia Ashraf at Converge 2015

Converge 2015, an event brought up by the Youth Ki Awaaz (YKA) and Unicef, saw discussions streaming amongst the youngsters on various themes and concerns. From giving goosebumps, to describing how important service to the community was – Converge 2015, will always be remembered for its diversity in reaching out to the youth of today and questioning the stereotypes prevailing in the society.

The panel brought distinguished speakers, who not only enraptured and brought a clearer picture of what they experienced happening around them; but also kept to the particular theme of the event #RaiseYourVoice. Sofia Ashraf of the "Kodaikanal Won't" fame; said that, it was very important for her to feel strongly about some issue, that she would push her artistic abilities, to make music by which she could stand by! Performing her raps for the audience, left them spellbound and energetic—to cheer up Converge 2015 further. 

The afternoon began with an opening address by the CEO and Founder of Youth Ki Awaaz, Anshul Tiwari. He explained how the online portal which raises everyday issues started in the year 2008 from a personal blog where Anshul wrote on the pressing issues of society. He is well known as a social entrepreneur, who also added that for the last almost 8 years, YKA has published 30,000-40,000 articles by people—a greater way of crowdsourcing. As a team of 20 full time employees, YKA has excellently stood to its name by striking eyeballs, and pushing the mainstream media to focus on the wider issues, that it might be overlooking. Having led campaigns, such as the recent campaign brought forward through an open letter, which caught wider attention of media with the hashtag #HappyToBleed after Sabarimala board's comment on machine to scan menstruating women. It personified how big a revolution social media is and can be in the times to come.

Converge 2015 was a second of its kind event, the first being organised last year. After the opening remarks, a talk by Robin Chaurasiya, gave the audience a comprehensive insight into how she did not want to keep mum about her identity. She is a lesbian, and there is nothing to hide or fear from anyone in this regard. Her invincible attitude made her quit the U.S. Air Force, and come to India to work for uplifting the children of sex workers in India. Farah Shaikh was the next speaker, who is a survivor of female foeticide— she narrated her life story on how—in brutal desire to have a son, her mother had wanted to abandon her life, but was fortunately saved because a nurse in the hospital found her. 

Robin has helped Farah through her NGO and at the age of 21 Farah teaches 93 children in a Mumbai Slum. She might be having many reasons to accept defeat from life, when she was not considered as important as a son—but surely, she has strong commandments in life, in her words,"Tumhari Kamzori Hi Tumhari Himmat Hai." She had the strength to share her story with over 200 people sitting and watching her; Farah is truly an inspiration for youngsters, to teach them not to accept defeat even when the toughest circumstances test a person. 

She termed this deed by her mother as the first education given to her by her own family. Another education which she said to have taken was from how, on the basis of religion people fight in India—having been closely affected by the Gujarat riots, she expressed that it happened at so many places on the basis of—RELIGION. Another lesson she received was of physical assaults, when one of her uncles harassed both her sister and her. The Indian Education System is funny she said, "Ratta Maar Aur Paas Ho Ja."

The next speaker for Converge was filmmaker Abhay Kumar, who shared the first hand experiences of working on his documentary film 'Placebo', which has received a resounding response since its release at the Film Festivals. A question which Abhay asked in the beginning of his session was, "How many of you have seen someone and wondered about yourself, that why is this person so happy?" Most of the people raised their hands on this, and the ones who did not, were referred as the people living in denial, and had a laugh. It was a cheerful start to make the audience comfortable with the speaker.

He spoke about Depression and how much he was ambiguous about it, from the reasons behind why people took big steps of suicides—in the Question & Answer round, one lady shared how much terrified she was when one of her friends committed suicide, and for three days she was keeping mum, while on the 5th day there was a grand birthday party where she was invited—and she felt lesser pain in her heart then. Such responses formed the discussions which Abhay carried, showing how much he was confused on hearing them—one thing which he can never forget was said by the father of a boy who had committed suicide. It was when Abhay had enquired about, what could be the reason for such a step taken by his son? The father had without any second thought said, "Beta, koi buri nazar lag gayi yogi usse." It emphasised on how a logical explanation or enquiry wasn't necessitated, but merely superstitious thought was given value; as the family watched Comedy Nights With Kapil when he had entered their room. 

People in attendance got to introspect about themselves, and would keep thinking over the theme which Abhay discussed upon. His talk was moving, and would trigger discussions in future as well. While a lady stood up to say, that one should spend time with oneself when in depression, and one person said—there is a dire need of more counsellors in India, but the counselling fee is very high. 

There is some stigma attached with the word Depression, that one can just sight Psychiatrists; and something parents feared from happening to their kid— but the parents would never give the freedom of communication to them, to share their griefs frankly, etc. 

The next talk was by Akkai Padmashali, a proud Karnataka Rajyotsava Awardee—who is a transwoman made the audience a part of her cause through her words which really made sense in a Nation where equal rights and an identity crisis still remains. She explained her story, her journey to fight for herself, for who she was within, for her peace, when she did not let the laws and rules of societal standards break her—from the time when her family declined her, to the time when her father called her in tears when she won the second highest civilian award of Karnataka State. A wick, a flame, a hope, a fire—she is all of them—seen life closely through harassment, discrimination, wreck—she is a leader for those who do not have a voice. Towards the end of her powerful talk, she sang a song written, composed by her—that gave goosebumps, and no eye could drop but witness the power of her persona. Midway her talk, she started trending on Twitter in India in the top 10 ten trends. Her voice had made a difference, with people discussing, sharing her lines. Well, is it not how revolutions are framed and the way Youth Ki Awaaz perfects its stand on the issues it feels strongly about? It is, indeed. Some of the tweets sharing her opinions and thoughts can be found below:
Listen to the audio, talk by Akkai Padmashali recorded.

What we can learn from her is, in her words— "Stop feeling guilty, live for yourself." 


The next speakers after the lunch were Sikha and Piyal Mazumdar. Ms. Mazumdar is the Director of Salt Lake City Prayasam, an NGO which works in providing skills in necessary fields like effective communication, standing against issues of discrimination, bullying—eyeing towards creating a power shift in society, with creative methods including the smooth run of a technological sound framework of film-making setup, which also teaches the youth to work towards the social issues—and highlight them, through realistic views and originality in ideas and creativity! Sikha is an 18 year old girl who has been working for the past 9 years with the NGO, and is currently the Child Advisor to it. She works with kids in Kolkata who collect health data from the community, to help in rallying information to make vaccines accordingly. She was interviewed by Melinda Gates at TED-X Talks in Seattle and Ms. Gates in her blogpost titled "Impatient Optimists" included Sikha's name in the 8 women from around the world who inspired her in the year 2013.

Sikha in her talk referred to how she got inspired from the NGO, when she questioned herself—whether she was satisfied with her society? She believed in herself that she could bring about the much needed change in the society. Her father was a rickshaw puller when she was 9 years old, and did not stop her from following her heart, of serving the society. She said, "do not become the product of the society, instead make society your product." She expressed on how, she would keep working towards empowerment of the youth, and the service of the community is her only goal. There was a good round of applause for the young girl, who had wisdom in her words.
Now it was time to listen to the young entrepreneur, Ritesh Agarwal who is building up the biggest hotel chain of India, OYO Rooms. At 22, he has been working with a smart team—whose 3 members including himself are college drop-outs—he is proud of it, because of his experience of not being able to attend college due to boredom. He wanted to create something different, of his own; and he shared stories of how he led that tryst to come alive. But needless to say, it was a long struggle after failures could no longer fail his determination. At 16, he would travel to Delhi to attend startup events where usually the ticket would cost some $100 dollars. It was then that he found a catch, that the people who did not wear the badges, were allowed the entries as presumably they were the VIP's. So, he did not have to worry for tickets any longer. Those in attendance enjoyed his talk thoroughly, and he answered the questions asked for him, wholeheartedly. As a lady asked him if she could expect "women only" hotels in all cities in India, so that they could travel all over India "On Your (their) Own"? Ritesh at this point brought fore his witty nature; by saying, that is why OYO name came into existence. He expressed how proud he was of his team, as I already wrote in the beginning; Ritesh also said that he was building this business for next 35 years in his mind—even if one of two years came in between as low periods, those would not affect his confidence in it. He further added that his idea was taken up by 22 new startups, and still counting. He is undoubtedly a youth icon, and hopefully will take OYO to greater heights and make India proud, the path it is on already.

The last session of the day was a discussion with Film Director Kanu Behl and Abhay Kumar. Abhay this time came with his funny and not so serious outlook—he was cracking jokes, and the people loved that. Other than the light moments, the discussion was very much insightful, where they discussed about the limitations of Independent Film Making. 

Kanu Behl's recent film "Titli", was released on 250 screens whereas the film which came a week later, a Salman Khan flick, "Prem Ratan Dhan Payo" was released at 5,000 screens. This came even after the Kanu's film being produced by the biggest production house in India, the Yash Raj Films. People asked Abhay on why he did not put his film, "Placebo" on Youtube or online platforms for good reach? To this he answered that, the life of a film reduces if it gets online. Otherwise it stretches long. Kanu gave tips about screen writing to the budding writers, he said, "go by what I like to write."
This is even felt with the screenplay of Titli where at a point in the film, there is no music which otherwise could have been used to signal the audience that a frightening scene was in the frame; but there was no music used, to leave it open to varied interpretations. Kanu said, he had thought of working on Titli in 2011 but he kept saying himself, "not yet, not yet" (that it was not the right time), but finally he succeeded.  

It is important for a film-maker to realise why he/she decided to make films? "Why did I take this decision in my childhood? It was then, the reality hit me back and I realised that I had lost the plot; also some personal issues back home; but I had to find myself back." He said.

Converge 2015 concluded with this session, leaving the audience engrossed wanting for more. The speakers were really sweet to everyone who came up to them to have a chat after their talk got over. There were one to one sessions also, and the team of Youth Ki Awaaz took good care of everyone—bringing creative ideas of having frames with which people could pose and click pictures. I got a picture too with the Founder of YKA, who was proud of the event that his team had brought forward with him, and Unicef. He thanked the media partners including,! Also a chance to be a next speaker was given to every participant, who could fill the form with one's idea to bring about a social change— the form was called, TEST TUBE. Truly Converge 2015, came as a blessing to me; I look forward to Converge 2016.

The event cover was also published at the website of Youth Ki Awaaz. Follow this link, to read it, 

Thank you!

Read more about the event at,


Written by,
Gagandeep Singh Vaid

Monday, 14 December 2015

Light in you!

I wish to read,
I wish to write,
just the many facets
cling to me of life;
I wish to speak,
my confidence lacks,
I feel amiss,
Incomplete, yet some
work fills me.

I stare you in the face,
I find an innocent look,
Fulfilling me with
thoughts of love,
There is kindness,
while we find 
in ourselves our home.

I and you
find ourselves
through our light,
reflecting each other!

Gagandeep Singh Vaid

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Is OYO Rooms Really A Comfortable And Affordable Option? Find Out In This Blog

It is a matter of great prestige to site a fact that, the largest literature festival in terms of its scale is the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF). I had been hearing for a long while about the OYO Rooms, thanks to its massive publicity. This time I chose to stay at OYO Rooms, and the nearest one to the venue of JLF was DRS 8586 Haveli, in Adinath Nagar on the JLN Marg.

I was satisfied to hear the price to stay there for a day, which was a nominal Rs. 999. The room which I got was clean, with all requirements which a decent hotel would provide to its customer, plus its location was very posh. I liked the idea of the dining at its terrace, where I ate my breakfast daily! Students d o not miss the free meals, mind you. Haha!! The fresh chilly breeze of winters added to the excitement to visit the Festival venue as soon as possible every day. The best part was that there were choices the hotel gave us at 8am in the morning, starting from Poha, Maggie, Butter/Jam Bread with tea/coffee which made for a great start to the day. There were many other choices, but for those guests who would wait for the breakfast to get ready. I would anyhow ring the reception as early as I woke up— to inform them that I had to leave around 8am every morning, as I did not want to miss on to any sessions with my favourite speakers. The receptionist was kind enough to listen to me, and also sent newspapers to my room to read what they had to say about the big Festival making news in the Pink City!

About first entering my room, I remember how I found red colour pouches provided by OYO Rooms, which had all the necessities, including toothpaste, etc. To be honest, I kept it with me- asking the receptionist if I could, and he kept his smiling face on; while I took it a green signal and didn't ask him again. I could also ask them for help from the venue of the JLF, anytime and they were all ears to help me.

Moreover, the cab facility was provided by the hotel, and when I was about to check out on the 26th January, when the Festival was over; I ticked 5 stars at the cleanliness profile of the hotel. The dinner which I would eat there, had many varieties of vegetables to choose; Shahi Paneer being my favourite of them. I could not resist than ticking it 5 stars as well. I don't know why, but I wanted to come back again to OYO Rooms. I had agreed this to myself, that the next trip wherever I was planning in India, it had to be through this hotel chain only! Overall mine was a memorable trip, and I had long planned to pen down my experiences about Jaipur and without writing about my hotel, it could never be complete!

Here, I would love to share some pictures from the hotel with you. I suggest you to choose OYO as well, and I am sure, you will be happy about this decision.

An Advice: If you are going next year in January'16 to attend JLF, then choosing this hotel would add on to your delight, because the concert and the author's ball is scheduled at Clarks Amer Hotel, which is at a walking distance from OYO Rooms and is on the same road, which is the JLN Marg in Jaipur. Otherwise the venue, Diggi Palace is 7-8 km's from here, which is convenient. You can stay late night at Clarks Amer, buying a ticket for yourself to enjoy the concert without worrying about returning to the hotel. Find the Festival details here, 

World Trade Park is a landmark building to find Adinath Nagar, and the JLN Marg is very famous stretch in itself. In addition, everyone knows Clarks Amer hotel which is on the same road, i.e, JLN Marg. So get ready, to explore, interact and live your dreams at the JLF 2016! Cheers!!

Nearby- Clarks Amer

View from the terrace of Haveli 8586 at night (OYO Rooms)

My room- the black spot  in the picture is my camera's defect :D The room was kept clean!



Gagandeep Singh Vaid

Monday, 7 December 2015

Under the light of my promises to you, oh guardian angels; accept my dreams!

Life, I see you grey,
Life, I see a ray.
Life, you wisdom personified,
Life, you a plight!

Many moments I wait,
Look at stars,
I find myself amongst them,
Shining, yet blinking!

I find myself so complete,
I find myself incomplete.
You, my hero,
My guardian angels!
I hope you know,
That everyday, I look up to you.

That everyday,
I smile, I weep, I gaze at you,
And finally I settle,
I embrace myself.
I know one day,
I shall meet you.

Dearest stars,
You who give me,
My identity,
I am definite,
I shall see you,
Very soon!

I cannot hide,
That I wish to be one of you.
Not only on this land,
From where I look at you.
But I want to stand,
Just next to you!

Your light,
Shall show me my path,
That I am to rightfully follow.
I promise,
I shall never,
Never leave you, hollow.

I shall spring as much joy,
I shall spring as much grief,
I shall try, to circumscribe,
To you the reality!
As the world is,
And you see it,
I promise you,
I shall make it, a better place,
A better place to live,
For all of us!

I will give you,
A good sight,
The light you give,
That light will shine.
I promise you,
Your lover!

Gagandeep Singh Vaid

Friday, 4 December 2015

She grew

The heart sank deeper
than the conclaves of her reach
deeply rooted to herself
she felt dispatched from the world

Now all it was she alone at one side
and the entire world at the other
unwrapping herself from the cultures
she withdrew for those days
and spent time with herself
the much needed break
needed for her to settle herself
in her new life


Thursday, 3 December 2015

Dear Diary 03/12/2015

Mind is at unrest, I do not know what is the right path for me. There are many thoughts rolling past, flashing by but I am stuck somewhere in a land unknown, trying to get out of it—yet I say, mind is at unrest.

There are situations which are easy to counter and which are difficult to counter, this situation of mine is difficult at the moment. I wish to breathe easy, and be like the dew in the morning and evening breeze. Now how cooler and satisfactory it would be I wonder and keep liking the very idea. It just makes me feel strong and yet again gives me flashbacks of how chiller the morning would be—when I would wait for my school bus at the bus stop. How the thought of cold water in the morning would send goosebumps, but I had to take a bath in the morning nevertheless. The very tinging memory of the winters is itself so victorious, as it also warms me up and cools me down.

I remember my friend Arjun, who would spend hours with me in the tennis courts—not playing tennis but discussing life, while we would relish the taste of our favourite ice cream from Kwality Walls, the Blue Grape Jelly. He was such a lover of that ice cream that in the recess time, he would often eat 2 of them, whereas I would be satisfied with only one. This is the memory of 8th standard, but later on I remember him discussing mobile games with others, as he had many friends when we were in 11th. But I knew, he always had me in the back of his mind, so I would be glad by his presence always!

Winters have magic, winters have that trust, but all that I say from my perspective as I remember the past winters. Otherwise I am a great fan of summer season as well, I often regard it as my favourite season. When others find it difficult to beat the heat, I again remember the Summer Cricket Camp which I would join every year near my home. I was so happy in the two months of my summer vacations. I would be the first kid to reach the nets and jog at the ground, and I played exceedingly well—but somewhere I could not perform very well, that I am here just typing down my childhood days. I had wanted to play all my life, the game of cricket; but as they say, one does not get all one dreams. So newer dreams come up, to catch up with the times. Whereas those past dreams hold a crucial space in our hearts that thinking about them, springs in the tinging effect as I just expressed.

This is the wonder of dreaming, that even if your mood is not right, even if you are passing through the most difficult phases of life, (oh, you never know which one is the most difficult one); you get to the tone of things—remembering your childhood dreams.

So, now I feel much better and would be able to complete an article I am trying to write for a long time now. Thanks, and catch you soon!