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Top thirty under thirty: Meet tomorrow’s heroes today

In the run-up to its fifth edition of Top 30 Under 30, Hindustan Times introduces 30 young achievers from the region who will be felicitated at its annual flagship event on November 23. Today, we feature 11 achievers, under the age of 30, from the grassroots across fields ranging from skiing to singing, writing to wrestling, and beyond.

punjab Updated: Nov 20, 2015 11:15 IST
Top thirty under thirty

(From L-R): Writer Sumrit Shahi; Singer Alamgir Khan; Skiier Himanshu Thakur; Shooter Anjum Moudgil; Jr Hockey capt Harjeet Singh and Asian Games Walker Khushbir Kaur.

In the run-up to its fifth edition of Top 30 Under 30, Hindustan Times introduces 30 young achievers from the region who will be felicitated at its annual flagship event on November 23. Today, we feature 11 achievers, under the age of 30, from the grassroots across fields ranging from skiing to singing, writing to wrestling, and beyond. The focus is on unsung heroes who have overcome the odds and have the potential to usher in a change in society. Like they say, you’re never too young to be a role model. Over to the role models of tomorrow.

Skiing to success

Himanshu Thakur
21, Manali, Skiier

Himanshu Thakur and his younger sister Anchal, 17, were part of the Indian skiing team for the 2015 World Championship. Himanshu competed in the Winter Olympics in Sochi last year, while his sister represented India in the Youth Olympics in 2012.

What did it take to be an achiever?

I started young. I was around six years old when I took to skiing. I got acquainted with this sport because of my father, Roshan Lal Thakur. Of course, it took lots of hard work and focus to reach this far but it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my family.

Who is your inspiration and why?

My heroes are American skiiers Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin. Ligety is an alpine ski racer and two-time Olympic gold medallist. He won the combined event at the 2006 Olympics in Turin and the giant slalom race at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Shiffrin is the reigning Olympic, World Cup, and world champion in slalom.

What is your next goal?

I am aiming at qualifying for the 2018 winter Olympics and am also preparing for the 2017 Asian Games.

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

Yes, now is a great time to be young in India because we have got facilities to achieve our goals. I think as youth we should make the most of these opportunities.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth are powerful when united. They can bring change in society because they are in a position to build the future.

Taking on the world

Anchal Thakur

17, Manali, Skiier

Like her elder brother Himanshu, Anchal was part of the Indian skiing team for the 2015 World Championship. She represented India in the Youth Olympics in 2012.

What did it take to be an achiever?

I think the biggest pillar of my success has been my family and more so my father, Roshan Lal Thakur, who is a skier. He was passionate about skiing and it got me interested in the sport. I didn’t feel any burden of expectation but my passion pushed me to work hard and stay focused.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

My father is my inspiration but I also admire American skiier Ted Ligety.

What is your next goal?

I am looking to qualifying for the 2018 winter Olympics to be held in South Korea.

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

Traditionally in India, the family unit is well-knit. Family support is crucial for anyone to be successful. If one has that backing, one can take on the world. Being young today, we have access to all modern amenities and are well connected. A youth in India can take on the world today. There is nothing lacking.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth has to be a role model. We are the upcoming generation and our achievements, which will be result of both our successes and failures, will shape the future of the world. We have a big responsibility to shoulder.

Captain aims for change

Harjeet Singh

19, SAS Nagar, Jr hockey capt

Harjeet captained India in the Junior Asian Championship and also led the India Under-21 team for the eight-nation tournament held in Holland this year. The striker from Kurali is a regular face in the junior circuit and also in the senior’s squad. The midfielder, who was also named the most promising player at the Sultan of Johor Cup Under-21 hockey tournament in 2013, is leading India in the 8th Junior Men’s Asia Cup hockey tournament being held at Kuantan in Malaysia at present. On Thursday, India thrashed Oman 9-0 to enter the semifinals. Harjeet started playing hockey in 2004 at the stadium in Kurali, his hometown, before shifting base to the Surjeet Hockey stadium in Jalandhar in 2008.

What did it take to be an achiever?

My mantra has been simple: dedication, discipline and hard work.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

Freedom fighter Bhagat Singh has always been an inspiration. He sacrificed his life for the country at an age when most youngsters are still dependent on their parents. He has left an ever-lasting impact. His ideology will remain an inspiration for generations to come.

What is your next goal?

I am practising hard to do India proud in next year’s Rio Olympics. My immediate goal, however, is to do well in the junior Asia Cup. I have been handed a huge responsibility of leading the side and am geared up for it.

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

Today, we youngsters have ample opportunity to showcase our talent and the freedom to pursue our dreams.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

Feeling inspired is empowering. The youth can bring about positive reforms in society and can motivate others too. Like they say, be the change you want to see in the world. Things will change in India but it will happen gradually.

Confident shot at fame

Shubham Jaglan

11, Panipat, Golfer

Shubam Jaglan.

This golf prodigy hails from Israna, a small village in Panipat known for wrestlers. Shubham shot to fame by winning two junior world golf championships this year, including the event at San Diego, US. Shubham chose golf over wrestling and took to practising golf at a small course built in his backyard. Ishwar Singh Jaglan, Shubham’s grandfather, sensed his passion for golf and went against the wishes of his family to get him enrolled at the academy. Shubham never looked back after that. His big break came when he was selected by NGO Golf Foundation that helped him pursue his dreams of becoming an international golfer.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Hard work has been the key for me. One cannot depend only on talent to succeed. It’s the sweat that makes one a winner. Talent alone can’t lead one anywhere.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

My coach, Nonita Lall Qureshi, has been my biggest inspiration. She is the best coach in the world. I also look up to top golfers Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler.

What is your next goal?

This year, I could not win all three world championships so I am practising hard to win them next year.

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

India has a lot of young people and I believe if one wants to bring about a change, it is best to involve them. The youth are full of energy and can act as a catalyst for change.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The future is in the hands of young people. The youth can work hard, devote time and achieve everything because they have the ability to do anything. I am confident that today’s youth will build a stronger India.

Singer who grabbed his ‘mauka’

Alamgir Khan

22, Nabha (Patiala), Sing er

Bollywood Sufi Singer Alamgir Khan. (Hindustan Times)

Alamgir Khan has sung 20 Bollywood hits in two years but his claim to fame was the “Mauka Mauka” cricket World Cup jingle. At present, he is in Mumbai, working with music directors Himesh Reshammiya and AR Rahman on film songs. Because of his name, he is often mistaken for being a Pakistani Sufi singer; but his music flows from the Patiala Gharana. At 14, he started classical singing training under the guidance of his father (Ustad Murli Khan), grandfather (Ustad Idu Sharif Khan), and great grandfather (Ustad Karamdeen Khan), all known singers. For someone who got his first break in Salman Khan-starrer ‘Bodyguard’, surprisingly it wasn’t the love of India’s favourite game that made him take up the ‘Mauka’ project. The fact is he has never been a cricket buff.

What did it take to be an achiever?

I am here because of my classical music and Sufi singing talent. Due to my solid grounding in music, I was selected to sing for Bollywood movies such as ‘Bodyguard’ (‘Desi beat’), ‘Khiladi 786’ (‘Title song’), ‘Shaadi Ke Side Effects (‘Tauba main vyah karke pachhtaya’) and ‘Welcome 2 Karachi’ (‘Mera yaar fantastic’); and because of that I have survived in tinsel town for two years.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

I belong to a family of Sufi singers who taught and inspired me with their talent. My grandfather, Ustad Idu Sharif Khan, promoted Sufi singing to save the traditional culture of Punjab. His recent hit is ‘Das kitey gaya ve tera pyaar dholla’, sung in Punjabi Sufi style.

What’s your next goal?

I look forward to the releasing of the film song I am working on with Himesh Reshammiya. Besides, I have nearly 30 Bollywood assignments with music directors, including Pritam Chakraborty, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and AR Rahman. I am also going to release my first Punjabi song, ‘Saadi pagg nu slama hundia, te tere suit nu salut vajde’, directed by Davvy Singh, in Punjab this month.

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

The social media and internet along with society are supportive for budding singers. Today, one can launch a career simply by posting recordings on Facebook, YouTube or WhatsApp, and get noticed. People support and respect talent.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth can become a change-maker only if they know their potential. Rather than swooning over lewd rap songs and aping singers blindly, the youth should understand and respect their own culture first. Punjab has a rich singing tradition and the youth should use their talent to promote it worldwide.

Walking to win

Khushbir Kaur

22, Amritsar, Asian Games walker

Khushbir Kaur.

Khushbir won the silver medal in the 20-km walk at the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon in South Korea. She became the first Indian woman to achieve the feat. She has also dominated the junior domestic circuit and in 2010, won a silver medal at the Asian Junior Championships followed by a bronze at the Junior Asian Games in Sri Lanka in 2012.

What did it take to be an achiever?

My mother, Jasveer Kaur, would drag me to various athletics camps. To start with, I used to be reluctant about taking up sports but it was my mother’s love for sports that prevailed. So it’s her dream that I am fulfilling today. I will give my 100% to do India proud at the 2016 Olympics.

Who is your inspiration and why?

My mother is my biggest inspiration. I lost my father at an early age and have seen her struggle to raise five children. The hardships she has faced for our sake inspires me to give her all the happiness in the world.

What is your next goal?

I want to be in the top five in the world and win a medal in the 2016 Olympics.

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

With Indian sportspersons winning medals in the international arena, it is a matter of pride that the country is becoming a sports-loving nation.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

India is lucky to have such a huge youth population. All we need is right direction and support to nurture our talent.

Skating to excellence

Gaurav Kumar

16, Chandigarh, Skater

Gaurav took to skating five years ago when he was a student at the school run by the Society for Rehabilitation of Mentally Challenged (SOREM) in Chandigarh. He pursued his passion at Bhavan Vidyalaya and has not looked back ever since. The 16-year-old made the country proud by winning the gold at the 500m skating event in the Special Olympics held in the United States in July. Gaurav clocked 1:39.35s to clinch the top honours. A day before, he had finished fourth in 1000m race.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Gaurav’s father, Jatinder Singh, who spoke to HT on his behalf, shared the youngster’s success story. He said it was hard work and determination, in equal measure, that spurred him on.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

The entire family supported Gaurav’s passion and encouraged him to practice. His journey to the Special Olympics would not have been possible without coach Jaswinder Singh Goldi, who kept him motivated and focused.

What is your next goal?

Learning another sport in addition to skating is Gaurav’s aim. Though he is yet to decide on which sport he takes up but he is certain he will excel in it.

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

Gaurav’s father believes he is fortunate to have access to facilities for special children in Chandigarh. He says people have become more empathetic towards the needs of special children.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

Before having won the gold medal in July, few noticed the budding skater. But ever since his achievement, he has been getting 50-60 congratulatory messages daily. Gaurav’s father says the medal not only brought a wealth of self-confidence for his son but also helped in creating awareness that special children were just as gritty.

She marched into naval history

Lt Cdr Sandhya Chauhan

28, Rewari, Haryana, Naval aviator

The first woman to lead the navy’s marching contingent this Republic Day, lieutenant commander Sandhya Chauhan is the pride of both her country and her state, Haryana. Her poise before US President Barack Obama at Rajpath on a rainy January 26 morning was a sign of confidence that women are gaining in the country and the long strides they have taken in the armed forces though combat roles. She comes from one of the worst districts in terms of sex ratio. It was her father’s desire to see her in the armed forces. He passed away when she was in Class 12 but she made his dream come true. Her elder brother is an army officer. She is married in Gurgaon and her husband is also a naval officer. Lt Cdr Chauhan is an observer for Dornier 228 aircraft at the INS base in Visakhapatnam with nearly 1,000 hours of flying under her belt.

What did it take to be an achiever?

It is the realistic understanding of the difference between what I am and what I am capable of being. Channelising efforts helps us reach the desired state that we refer to as our goal. Understanding one’s capabilities, setting goals, and having aspirations are the stepping stones to being an achiever. Every great success starts with an inspiration but not every inspiration leads to success. That is where motivation, perseverance, adaptability, dedication to the vision, and support structure come in.

Who is your inspiration and why?

During the initial years, it was my father, who was a respected farmer with vision and dreams. His desire to see his daughter as a government officer with influential status, even though he lived in the backyards of a male-dominated society, was a motivating factor in itself. To get into the armed forces, I looked upon my brother as my inspiration. In service, I drew motivation from my own successes and failures. My husband, who is also a naval officer, is my inspiration now.

What’s your next goal?

It was my father’s desire that I serve the nation. After I complete my tenure in the navy, I’d like to serve the nation with the same zeal and dedication as I do while in uniform. I am yet to decide the specific field of service.

Why is it best time to be young in India?

Today, our country is poised to become an important player at the global level. The youth have an important role to play in India’s growth story as their brimming energy levels makes anything and everything achievable.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

Youth is a stage of faith, energy and ideas. India’s 65% population that is below 35 holds the energy to change things. Only this energy should be channelised in the right direction. Give your best, keeping personal and national interests in sync.

(As told to navy PRO Capt DK Sharma)

Write guy to read

Sumrit Shahi

22, Chandigarh, Writer

Sumrit Shahi.

Wrote first book at 17, TV scripts at 20 — Sumrit Shahi is among India’s youngest authors and TV scriptwriters. He has written three novels — ‘Just Friends’, ‘A Lot Like Love’, ‘Never Kiss Your Best Friend’ — and scripted more than 700 episodes for TV shows ‘Sadda Haq’, ‘Million Dollar Girl’, and ‘Boyz’. He published his first novel, ‘Just Friends’, when he was 17, and debuted as scriptwriter with ‘Sadda Haq’ at 20. His novels have been translated into Hindi as well. Sumrit was the youngest nominee in the best-storywriter category at the Indian Telly Awards in 2014 for ‘Sadda Haq’. He is also a motivational speaker and a national-level debater.

What did it take to be an achiever?

It took passion, a lot of passion besides of course a healthy streak of madness. It took a support system that kicks you in the butt if you try to act too cool about being an achiever. Also, it took a drive that never lets you be content.

Who is your inspiration and why?

My inspiration has to be my mother. She has a really difficult family to take care of and handles that challenge so well. She inspires me to make her proud.

What’s your next goal?

Since I’ve already written novels and done screenwriting, my next goal has to be writing the script for a film. I think I need to write a tragedy to help develop my art. That sounds fancy but I need to do it. And yes, I’d also like to take a year off after that and travel.

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

India is going YOLO (you only live once) like never before. The country, in terms of thought process and opportunity, has just hit adolescence; and adolescence, though a time of confusion, is the most exciting phase in life. Today, life is not about being just a doctor or an engineer; there’s much more exposure, besides the wonderland world of the internet and the opportunities it has to offer. It’s not about just being rich anymore either, or playing safe.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth can be a change-maker by educating themselves; and please don’t confuse that with academic schooling. Being non-judgmental, well-informed and accepting in all walks of life is the key.

Grappler makes an impact

Geetika Jakhar

30, Hisar, Haryana, Wrestler

The wrestler won the silver medal in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and went on to make it to a podium finish in the 2014 Asian Games too. She is a pioneer in Indian women’s wrestling and has become the first woman Arjuna awardee in the sport in 2006. She had also won a silver medal in the 2006 Asian Games. She won two gold medals and a silver medal in Commonwealth wrestling meets. In view of her achievements, Geetika has been appointed deputy superintendent of police (DSP) by the Haryana government. Besides winning accolades at the national level, she was conferred with the Haryana government’s Bhim award for outstanding sportspersons in 2003. Geetika was motivated to take up wrestling by his grandfather, Amarchand Jakhar, who was an accomplished wrestler.

What did it take to be an achiever?

For me, it was hard work, only hard work. In this competitive world, you get only one chance to succeed and make an impact. When that chance comes, you should be prepared.

Who is your inspiration and why?

My grandfather, Amarchand Jakhar, has been my inspiration. He introduced me to the sport and what I am today is only because of him. He retired as a block education officer, so from the start he stressed on the importance of academics and sports. Balance holds the key.

What is your next goal?

My immediate goal is to win a medal for India at the 2016 Rio Olympics. I want to be the best in my category and have been practising with the sole aim of bringing laurels to my country.

Why is it best time to be young in India?

This is the best time to be young in India because of the opportunities we are getting. Girls are being treated on a par with boys, particularly in sports.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

India is lucky to have such a huge of population of youngsters. If their energy is channelised in a proper way, nothing can stop us from becoming world beaters in every field.

Shooting star takes aim

Anjum Moudgil

21, Chandigarh, Shooter

Anjum Moudgil.

A winner of multiple medals at the national level, Anjum is a regular face in the Indian squad. She won the bronze medal in the Asian Championship in Kuwait recently. Last year too, she had won the bronze medal at the Asian meet.

What did it take to be an achiever?

For me, it has been determination and passion. One can excel if you love what you are doing. If you pursue something with passion, nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams.

Who is your inspiration and why?

No one in particular. I keep learning different things from different people. At different points of life, I have got motivated and inspired by different people.

What is your next goal?

My immediate goal is to practice and shoot a gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. I have also set my sights on winning medals in the 2018 Asian and Commonwealth Games.

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

This is the best time to be young in India because of the range of opportunities sportspersons are getting. There are ample choices to achieve and pursue our dreams.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth are full of energy. They come up with innovative ideas that can prove to be game-changers for all. The youth should be part of the solution rather than passive viewers of a problem. They shouldn’t turn cynics who believe in only criticising the system. Let’s take charge and usher in change.

(Text: Saurabh duggal, ashutosh sharma, tashi lundup, aneesha bedi, jatinder mahal and usmeet kaur. Photos: Sanjeev Sharma, Gurpreet Singh, Ravi Kumar, Gurminder Singh, Nitin Kanotra, Sameer Sehgal, Pramod Thakur and Keshav Singh)