Stuti Gurtoo, Delhi, 14 January 2011
As the scheduled time drew closer, people trickled in and gathered in front of the Sem Hall entrance, wondering in quiet contemplation why the company presenting inside was trying so hard and for so long (especially with an audience of half a dozen people) to do something. The sportsperson in Krishna, that gives him his jumpy, zealous nature, finally grew impatient and he started addressing the group assembled outside Sem Hall. When it was time to enter, it was surprising how quickly an eager group of people can squeeze through a tiny door and spread out in a large hall.
“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” The quote by Lily Tomlin goes with the agenda of education and the launch. We had plenty to take home to mull over (apart from the food).
All of us have someone we look up to, sometimes without that person’s knowledge. What he or she says and does usually leaves us awestruck and inspired. Mr. James Abraham, our first speaker, ran us through his life and the various mentors who helped mould the person he is today. Mr. Abraham is currently the MD and CEO of Sunborne Energy and has over 20 years of experience as a management leader. In the past, he has been a Senior Partner and MD at BCG and Director at Bell Canada International. His uncle inculcated in him the love for math and encouraged him to take up engineering. His seniors at BCG Canada changed his perception about leadership and he recalled one instance where during a meeting, a senior slipped him a note that read, “I know you are bored. Just take notes so that it looks like you are interested.”
Inspiration and mentorship can come in unexpected forms and at times when you are least expecting it. While studying at Wharton in Philadelphia, Mr. Abraham was walking back home late one night through a dark, lonely neighbourhood when a homeless man approached him for some spare change. Upon his hesitation, the homeless man said, “No problem man. Not everyone is like you. So study hard and change the world.” And those unexpected words from a stranger left him thinking for life.
Our next speaker, Mr. Vivek Sharma, seemed to have tried it all in life – journalism, IT, sports, failing the first year at college three times and finally went into the field of education. As Program Director with Pratham, a leading NGO, from 2004-2009, Mr. Sharma was instrumental in creating Pratham’s footprint in the northern states. He currently runs the Gandhi Fellowship Program at Kaivalya Education Foundation, a full-time, residential, two-year leadership program for the youth. He is a vivacious orator who stirred the audience into taking time out to consider where it is we are headed, what it is we want, and how we could give back a part of what we have been blessed with. He went onto appreciate the efforts of organisations like Sunborne Energy and Avanti Fellows.
Krishna briefed everyone about the history and objective of Avanti Fellows – how it began as a simple notion in the mind of Akshay Saxena and snowballed into the endeavour that it is today, amassing youth from various IITs and winning the Stanford BASES Social Entrepreneurship Challenge in May 2010. He then answered a few questions before leaving the stage for a portly Aritra (who seems to be growing an afro) and a somber Swetabh – the IIT Delhi Avanti Core Team directors – who droned on for quite some time about Avanti’s expectations from students and how the program would benefit them – both mentors and fellows alike.
With that, and the ever luring temptation of packaged food lingering in the air, the session was concluded – leaving us all with nuggets of wisdom (and some food) to take back home and ponder over.