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Top thirty under thirty: Raring to go, agents of change snow the way

punjab Updated: Nov 21, 2015 11:47 IST
Top thirty under thirty

From (L-R): IAS officer Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan;Squash player Harinder Pal Sandhu; Actor-singer Yuvraj Hans; Wrestler Sakshi Malik; Inline skater Chandeep Singh.

In the second part of HT’s annual celebration of youth excellence today, meet another set of go-getters who believe that a young India is an India of possibilities. The achievers, ranging from the youngest IAS officer in Kashmir to the gritty boxing girls.

Skating past the odds

Chandeep Singh

16, Jammu, Inline skater

Chandeep Singh.

This spunky teenager is a double amputee skater. He used to be an avid footballer till 2011 but an accidental contact with a high-tension wire running above his house led to his getting electrocuted. He lost both his arms in the incident but that didn’t keep him away from sports. He chose skating and four years down the line, he is a national-level skater in inline. He has competed with able-bodied skaters, showing that grit is all one needs to beat the odds.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Hard work and dedication to the sport are a must. but I think the biggest secret of my success has been the unflinching support of my family and friends. My father Surinder Singh, who works in the state electricity department, and my elder sister kept me motivated. My teachers also played a major role in helping me achieve success. They pushed me to excel.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

Legendary athlete Milkha Singh is my inspiration. Despite all the struggles, Milkhaji won so many accolades for the country. Through sheer hard work, he transformed himself into an ace athlete. My brother, Shoni, is a javelin thrower. I saw how he struggled before emerging a champion. Their success spurred me on to reach here. Earlier, I used to play football but after the electrocution incident, I switched to skating and learnt to balance myself well.

What is your next goal?

In sports, I am aiming to represent India in the para-Olympics. As far as academics go, I would like to attempt the civil services. It will give me the opportunity to serve my nation and make a difference.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

Yes, it’s a good time to be young. We are well connected like never before but it’s also a challenging time for us. We have access to the latest facilities and gadgets but we also face a tougher competition today. I believe with hard work and focus, there is nothing we can’t achieve.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

Sports can play a key role in keeping youth on the right track. In fact, introducing youngsters to sports can keep them away from bad company and motivated to excel. It is the answer to the drug problem in Punjab. Besides, a healthy and fit youth is a nation’s asset. The youth can help change the mindset of people and sensitise them to the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

13 years on, she wrestles her way to top

Sakshi Malik

22, Rohtak, wrestler

Sakshi started wrestling in 2002 when she was 10. The wrestler won the silver medal in the freestyle category in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. She is a regular member of the Indian squad. In May this year, she won a bronze medal in the Senior Asian Wrestling Championship in Doha. At present, she is pursuing a post-graduate degree in physical education from Rohtak’s Maharishi Dayanand University.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Sakshi’s mantra is simple: Sincerity coupled with hard work and dedication.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

Many people have inspired me at different stages of life and different points of my wrestling career. I took up wrestling after seeing a photograph of a senior player in the newspaper. I told my parents that I wanted to be a wrestler. They were supportive as they had spotted the fighting spirit in me.

What is your next goal?

My immediate goal is to win a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. I have also set my sights on the 2018 Asian and Commonwealth Games.

Is this the best time to be young in India?

I think it is because of the range of opportunities the players are getting nowadays. Girls are finally being treated at par with boys, especially in sports.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

Today’s youth is full of energy and has innovative ideas. Both these qualities are a must to be a change-maker. The youth can be frontrunners in introducing positive changes in society.

Catalyst of change

Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan

22, J&K, Youngest IAS officer

Athar Aamir-ul Shafi Khan. (Ravi Choudhary/ HT)

Ten candidates from Jammu and Kashmir cracked the prestigious civil services exam to join the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) this year. Of them, Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan stands out by being the youngest from the Kashmir Valley to become an IAS officer. Khan is a graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh. He cracked the civil services exam at 22, the year he completed his B Tech. Though a few offers from prestigious multi-national companies did come his way, Khan chose the IAS instead because he wanted to change lives of people.

From a modest village in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, Khan has the distinction of cracking all professional exams that he took whether it was the All-India Engineering Entrance Exam or the pre-medical entrance tests. Before taking admission in IIT, Khan had even joined a medical college for a while. Though he cracked the IAS exam in the first attempt, he plans to give it another try for a better rank.

What did it take to be an achiever?

The desire to do better in life, the will to work hard and the support of my parents have helped me achieve my aim. My father is a lecturer and my mother a homemaker. I am grateful to my teachers and friends for their guidance and support.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

My biggest inspiration is my grandfather. His hard work, passion and enthusiasm have been a great source of motivation for me.

What’s your next goal?

I will keep working hard and serve the country to the best of my ability as a civil servant. In the last year of my BTech, I was very clear that this is what I wanted to do. I would have been paid better in an MNC but money is the last motivation for me. The IAS comes with roles and responsibilities that can actually change the lives of people.

Why is it the best time to be young in India?

India today is an India of possibilities. Being young today means being a part of the huge transformation that this country is going through.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth are the heart and soul of a nation. With their energy and vigour, they can act as catalysts of change and bring in a long-lasting transformation that has more impact.

Star for a cause

Yuvraj Hans

28, Jalandhar, Singer & actor

Yuvraj started his career with a hit, Yaar Anmulle, and has held his own in the resurgent Punjabi film industry ever since. Being the son of noted Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans, Yuvraj has tough standards to measure up to though he says he never planned to become an actor. He always wanted to be a singer like his father. His recent release, Munde Kamal De, won him accolades as he played a mute lover. Though he played a sensible and sweet guy in ‘Yaar Anmulle’, Yuvraj says in real life he is totally opposite to the character he played. Revealing his versatile streak, he says now he wants to play the role of a gangster or a negative role in films.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Besides lots of hard work, the most important thing is to be yourself and remain down to earth. Staying rooted or grounded even after finding success helps one achieve a lot.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

My father, Hans Raj Hans, has always been my inspiration. I am here today just because of him. I have learnt a lot from him. He is my role model.

What is your next goal?

I don’t plan anything but I will be releasing a music album soon and want it to be a big hit. I have a deep desire to become an established actor. Today, I have everything but I know that in the film Industry, the moment you stop getting films, everything changes. I want to keep working in films. I don’t want to be a lost actor. My dream role would be to play the one superstar Amitabh Bachchan played in ‘Sharaabi’ though I’m not into any kind of addiction (winks and laughs).

How can the youth be a change-maker?

Youngsters in our country are full of energy, all they need is to put their energy to right use. The drug problem has gained root in Punjab. I would like to take this opportunity to send out a message: If anyone comes in contact with anyone who is into drugs, do not leave him/her but help the person to come out of the problem.

Haryana woman boxer knocks down stereotypes

Sakshi Dhanana

15, Bhiwani, Boxer

A trainee at the Bhiwani Boxing Club (BBC) that has given the country Olympians such as Vijender Singh, Sakshi shot into the limelight by winning the gold medal in the 54-kg category at the International Boxing Association’s women world junior boxing championships held in Taipei this year. Despite the gender stereotypes that plague Haryana’s hinterland, Sakshi managed to live her dream and achieve her goal.

She won the silver medal in the 7th sub-junior women Haryana state boxing championships in 2012 and went on to clinch the gold medal in the 8th and 9th editions of the event in subsequent years.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Follow your dream with the sole aim of giving it your 100%. That has been the key to my success. A person should be ready to back efforts with courage and fight against the odds to succeed.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

Olympian Vijender Singh has been my inspiration. He is from the Bhiwani Boxing Club where I’m a trainee. His success both while representing the country and now as a professional boxer have motivated me to work harder. Vijender has changed the face of Indian boxing.

What is your next goal?

My goal is to make a mark in the 2020 Olympics. Once I make the cut for the Olympics, my focus will be to work for a podium finish. A medal for India is my ultimate goal.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

Never before have so many sportswomen from India made a name for themselves in the international arena. I am grateful that my parents recognised my talent and encouraged me to follow my dream. Families in traditional areas are opening up to the idea of sending their daughters to pursue a career in sports such as boxing. Boxing is liberating and empowering.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth is the backbone of any country. With such a huge population of youth, India can achieve anything it decides to.

Determined to box her way to success

Mandeep Kaur Sandhu

16, Ludhiana, Boxer

At 16, Mandeep is no ordinary Class 12 student of a village government school of Ludhiana district. In fact, she is a junior world boxing champ already and has set sights on bigger titles. Her love for boxing started when she wore the gloves for the first time at the age of seven. Her inspiration was her elder brother, who incidentally is also a Class 12 student at the Dr Bhag Singh Government Senior Secondary School, Chakar, in Jagraon tehsil of Ludhiana district. Mandeep diligently trained for seven hours a day to achieve success at world championships. This year, she won the gold medal in the junior world boxing championship held in Taipei. Earlier, she had won a gold medal from the 4 Nations Boxing Cup held in Serbia. She is a three-time national champion and over the years has won many accolades in Punjab boxing championships.

What did it take to be an achiever?

I used to spend more than seven hours training for competitions. Even on regular days, my practice lasts close to four hours. I want to fulfil the dreams of my parents. That is what motivates me to strive for perfection.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

My elder brother Jagminder Singh, who is a Class 12 student, has been my inspiration. After him, my parents motivated me to take up boxing as a career and bring laurels for the country. The coaches and staff at Sher-e-Punjab Sports Academy have been a big support in helping me realise my dreams.

What is your next goal?

My next goal is to win a gold medal for India in the 2020 Olympics. I want my parents and academy to be proud of me. I am determined to win the prize of `50 lakh announced by my academy for those who win gold at the Olympics.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

Today there are more opportunities for youngsters in sports than ever before. More and more girls are not just participating but also winning at international meets. Unlike the past, budding sportspersons have better international exposure.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth, particularly those in sports, can be role models for others but we need the government’s cooperation. Efforts are needed to channelise the energy of the youth in the right direction.

Medico who loves challenges

Vipul Garg

17, Jind, Haryana, AIPMT topper

Vipul Garg. (HT PHOTO)

This year’s All-India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) was not only an assessment of the aspirants’ knowledge but also a test of their nerves. Cancelled after the Supreme Court stepped in amid allegations of the question paper leak in Haryana in May, a retest was conducted in July. Vipul, a bright 17-year-old from Jind town, emerged the nationwide topper in the retest, scoring 695 out of 700 marks. The youngster fulfilled his and his family’s dream of studying medicine at Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Hard work and family support helped me succeed. Coaching institutes gave me confidence to face a competitive environment. I paid special attention to self study and would devote four hours daily to prepare for the medical entrance exams. My day would begin at 7am. On returning from school, I would head to coaching institutes and would be there from 4pm to 8pm. I would begin my four-hour self-study sessions from 10 pm daily. Playing cricket and going for walks in a nearby park helped beat the stress.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

Dr Suresh Jain, a relative who is a paediatrician in my home town, was the guiding force behind my opting for the medical profession. I was impressed by him as people respect him for being a professional with a humane touch.

What’s your next goal?

As of now, my aim is to excel in the MBBS course. I look forward to super-specialisation in neurosurgery or cardiology. They are both challenging healthcare options. With ample avenues in India, I don’t plan to go abroad for higher studies. I want to serve my country and work for making healthcare a priority.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

India is full of opportunities and several youth have emerged as role models. For medical professionals like me, Dr Naresh Trehan is the role model. He is among few doctors who are respected for their pioneering work in cardiology in India. I’m tech-savvy like the rest of my generation and use the latest tools for honing my academic skills. But it is equally important that mobile apps be used judiciously.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

If guided with a positive approach and if their energy is channelised right, the youth of India can shape the future of the world.

Boxer won’t settle for anything but the best

Savita Gothra

16, Bhiwani, Haryana, Boxer

Savita shot to fame when she won the gold medal in the Junior World Boxing Championship in Taipei this year. She is a trainee at Bhiwani Boxing Club and was part of the squad with Sakshi Dhanana and Soniya Gothra. The three are training under the club’s chief coach, Jagdish Singh. Savita competed in the 52-kg category and dreams of representing India in the senior category too.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Hard work and dedication are necessary to succeed. One also needs to be focused.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

Vijender Singh is an inspiration to all boxers at the Bhiwani club. He has changed the face of Indian boxing.

What is your next goal?

My long-term goal is to make it to the senior national squad and then work on becoming the best boxer in the country. I practise daily with these goals in mind. I won’t settle for anything but the best.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

Yes, I think young women boxers are getting opportunity and freedom to pursue their dreams. I don’t think we would be doing what we are doing now had we been born two decades earlier. I think girls should make the most of the opportunity they get.

How can youth be a change-maker?

Youth can bring about positive change in society and can motivate others. I am confident that they will spur a change for the better.

Corruption-free society is his bigger goal

Gurbaj Singh

27, Ferozepur, Hockey

Gurbaj Singh.

A gifted midfielder, he was part of the Indian hockey team which won medals in both the 2010 Asian and Commonwealth Games. Last year, he was part of the victorious 2014 Asian Games team and also won a medal in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. In recognition of his sporting achievements, he was appointed a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) in Punjab Police. Gurbaj made his India debut in 2006 at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. He was part of the squad that won the gold medal in the 2007 Chennai Asia Cup. He has 203 international caps so far and in domestic hockey, he represents Punjab Police (employers) and Punjab state in the nationals. His earlier club was Air India. He has represented Delhi Waveriders in the Hockey India League.

What did it take to be an achiever?

For me, being down to earth and humble means everything. You must not lose focus on what you want to achieve in life but remember to remain modest despite success.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

Freedom fighter Bhagat Singh. In his early twenties, Bhagat Singh had the courage to fight injustice and sacrificed his life for the country. His ideals make him a role model for youth even in the 21st century. He will continue to inspire future generations, such is his legacy.

What is your next goal?

India has a rich history in hockey and my focus at this point is to prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics. I will leave no stone unturned in reaching this goal and restore Indian hockey to its former glory.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

The scope of opportunities the youth of today gets is enough to leave a mark in any field. With such amenities at our disposal, we can take on the world in any discipline. Net connectivity has shrunk the world and now the world is literally in our hands.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

A youth has to be a role model. There are lots of examples wherein the youth have stepped in and brought about positive changes. For instance, by saying no to corruption, youth can bring about a huge change in the society. Our success and failure will shape the future of our country.

Bhiwani’s powerpuff girl punches it right

Soniya Gothra

16, Bhiwani, Haryana, Boxer

Soniya was all of 12 when she decided to become a boxer. A supportive family gave wing to her dreams and today at 16, she has not only made Haryana but the entire country proud in the international arena. Soniya won the silver medal in the 48-kg category at the Junior World Championship, Taipei, in May this year. She is also a trainee at the Bhiwani Boxing Club.

What did it take to be an achiever?

I believe in the 3 Ds: Discipline, dedication and determination. With discipline I mean being true to myself and my game. I can’t give up or cut corners when the going gets difficult.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

Vijender Singh. He is a superhero in Bhiwani. He motivated thousands of youngsters like me to take up the sport as a career.

What is your next goal?

After winning a medal in the junior world championship, my aim would be to do India proud in the senior’s world meet. For that to happen, I first need to get selected in the senior squad. So now its practice, practice and more practice.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

Society has understood the value of supporting the girl child and also the importance of sports. Nowadays, parents not only encourage their daughters to pursue a sport but also support them in making a career out of it. Yes, it’s time we girls showed our might to the world.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

With youth power any country can become a world power. The only concern is that the energy of youngsters should be channelised in the right direction.

Top squash player wants govt to promote sports

Harinder Pal Sandhu

26, Chandigarh, Squash

Squash player Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu. (HT PHOTO)

Harinder won the gold in the team category of the 2014 Asian Games. At present, he is the country’s number one squash player and is ranked 66th in the world. At the age of 14, he shifted base from Chandigarh to Chennai to pursue his dream of becoming a top-class squash player. Mission accomplished.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Hard work from Day 1 to the present and well into the future. Whatever you do, do it with dedication to achieve your goal.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

My parents have been my inspiration. I come from a middle-class family. Despite the hardships and sacrifices they had to make, my parents encouraged me to pursue sport as a career, which is an expensive proposition in our country. My parents have given wings to my dreams.

What is your next goal?

I am currently ranked 66th in the world. My goal is to be in the top 50 in the world.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

These are inspiring times for Indian sportspersons. Youngsters such as badminton champ Saina Nehwal and tennis ace Sania Mirza are doing well in their respective sports that they have given others the motivation and drive to follow their dreams.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

Sports and youth go hand-in-hand. I think if the government gives more thrust and emphasis on promoting sports, we will be able to wean youth away from the drug problem in Punjab. The youth can contribute in ushering in positive change by setting an example.

Read: Top thirty under thirty: Meet tomorrow’s heroes today

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