Oh my Josh!

What happens when a group of highly motivated people get together and decide to start something something to refresh the minds of thousands in a matter of hours! JoshTalks (read it as J”O”sh) was born as a platform to provide “Josh” (a Hindi word roughly translated as “excitement,ethusiasm”). People from various backgrounds like art, sports, entrepreneurship, social activism take the stage, and share their story of struggle and triumphs.

I chanced upon Josh Talks while I was glancing through the tweets. I was hooked immediately! I browsed and found out more about it. Josh Talks was founded by two young college kids – Shobith Banga and Supriya Paul from Delhi. Started in 2014, this was their first event in Bangalore! I was excited looking at the list of speakers!  I knew a couple and their work they do. So, I was more than  just excited.

Scheduled to begin at 2 pm on May 9, 2015, I chose to start 2 hours early. Geography is not my strong area. So, I lost my way a couple of times before I reached the placed. With the amount of a little online buzz, I did go with expectations – which weren’t high. I thought a few people might be in, but was surprised when there were more than few standing. In fact the queue was so long, there was barely space for any movement. Savoring a cup of chat, I networked around and met some really interesting chaps. I could feel that “Josh” was in the air. The hosts made sure to keep it throughout the event with their constant buzzing and howling and really creative activities.

Joshtalks

The event started at 3. The anchor for the first session was Vasanthi Hariprakash, a NDTV anchor. As Vasanthi introduced the first speaker in, my excitement shot up! He was the man who lived on Rs 32, a man I read in newspapers a couple of years ago! I remember clearly my feeling after reading that newspaper article even today!

Story #1: The story of Wall Street Investment Banker who lived on Rs 32/day

Tushar

Tushar Vashisht, son of an IPS officer, who often had to shift schools because of the nature of his fathers job. He joined Delhi College of Engineering to pursue higher education. When he was 18 years, his father left him to the streets (not literally) to figure out his means to live. He traveled in a public transport for the first time when he was 18 years and saw the world for what it was. It shook him but more than that, it changed his life. He started helping street children out and found joy in it! He got an opportunity to study at University of Pennsylvania! He was a DCE kid, in a jungle of highly accomplished UPenn Students. How could he differentiate  himself? It wasn’t easy. He had to sit through 140 interview to get his first job. He was slated to attend one last interview before he left America for ever! He went in with “nothing to lose” attitude and told the interviewer “The reason I am sitting here in front of you despite all the odds, is the reason you should hire me“. You know the result of the interview. Tushar was hired! 6 Months later, he got a job at Deutsche Bank, in Wall Street. Tushar believed that

Achieving 1% odds is possible if you try the game a 100 times

And that’s what has pushes him even now. After a short stint in the corporate life, he started realizing the real reason he was where he was at that point of his life. The reason was the children in the streets of Delhi. If not for them, neither would UPenn have happened nor this job. That moment, he decided to pack up his bags and head back to his roots. He worked for the Unique ID Project – Adhaar which was that time, headed by Nandan Nilekenni. Working under such stalwarts showed him a crystal clear view of the reality. He got to know that average income of India was 3000Rs a month. So he chose to try to live the life of an average Indian at Rs.100 a day. That was the time when Government had proclaimed a new poverty line which was Rs 32/person/day. So, in addition to living 3 weeks at Rs100/person/day (excluding rent), he also lived at Rs 32/person/day for a week. We all know Rs.32 isn’t enough, but getting there and actually identifying the problems is a whole another dimension. So he and his friend Mat, packed their bags and rented an apartment in Kerala.  Tushar recounted an experience when he had to walk for 4 hours (didn’t have money for transport) to meet the Chief Minister(CM) of Kerala and when he told his story to the CM he immediately got an appointment to talk about the issues. Something, that never happens in a Indian political scenario.  He survived the ordeal, PR loved his story. But he wanted to do something more. He lost weight which he gained in his short corporate stint. He was transformed literally and figuratively.

To become something you have to unbecome.

After having lived below poverty line, he got to see the problem from bottom up. And decided that the best way to give back is to “healthify” India. He started Healthifyme, an organization whose vision is to healthify every single Indian. That is what he has been doing for the past 3 years and will continue to do for the rest of his life!

Good Luck Tushar!

The next speaker deals everyday with the cause I hold most close to my heart – women (human) empowerment.

Story #2:Sound Engineer of a different Kind.

Josh talks justaparna shreena thakore

Shreena Thakur grew up in a conservative family. To them, the real purpose of life for a woman is to serve her husband. But to Shreena all this was just a noise. A noise that troubled many Indian women. A noise that shuts their spirit down. Of course, Shreena didn’t follow the path that was set for her. She made her own.

She went to London School of Economics. That’s where it all began. Shreena along with a colleague realized that women face a lot of issues every single day. Not all of it are shared. Of those shared, no all of it make the news and of those, some part of the story gets muted. That’s when they realized that in order to conceptualize the experience, they need a structure. The structure was provided by theories. They started looking for patterns in how stories are shared. Especially, the stories or part of the stories that was excluded. She called it the systemic exclusion. While a usual rape story is a rich girl getting raped by a poor man in middle of the night. But what is excluded here? Poor girl being raped by rich men? Marital rape, domestic violence, male sexual assault, two finger test, custodian, and many more. On top of that, the blame is being shifted to the victim as most of the news runs a passive headline which subjectify the object, in this case the victim. Try it out now,

Version 1: A woman is raped every 21 minutes
Version 2: A man rapes a woman every 21 minutes

You see the difference? First version doesn’t give you the complete picture. Does it?

She also spoke about stereotyping as well and how common phrases that we use everyday like “Boys will be boys” “Don’t cry like a girl” create gender policing. She ended her speech by stating that

Change is personal and it has to start here, now, everyday and in the mundane things. We have to change the ordinary and the fight begins at home.

She has now dedicated her life for this cause through the organization she founded called – No Country for Women . In short, they combat systemic gender-based discrimination through education, conversations and actions. I encourage you to go through their website, it’s really interesting!

Pictures Courtesy: Centhil and Albert Arul Prakash


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<Last edited:24 Sep,2015. Added Image Credit>