Top thirty under thirty: Today’s youth leads the change India wants

  • Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Nov 22, 2015 12:58 IST
(From L-R): Entrepreneur Maninder Singh Bajwa, Capt Jasmine Kaushik, hockey player Dharamvir Singh, cricketer Sushma Verma and graphic artist Anamika Gupta (HT Photo)

In the final part of this year’s Youth Forum roll of honour, meet young achievers chosen to follow their passion to success, and how. The message is clear: Today’s youth dreams big and knows what it takes to live it. An encouraging sign is the desire to serve the nation and change the social mindset. The question is: Are we ready?

Be the change you want to see

Lt Ramandeep Kaur

27, Bathinda, Army officer

Lieutenant Ramandeep Kaur (Sanjeev Kumar/HT Photo)

Lieutenant Ramandeep Kaur was the only woman from Punjab to have been selected in the judge advocate general branch of the Indian Army through a tough competition. Six women and 10 men from across the country made it to the JAG department in August last year. Lt Ramandeep graduated in law from Panjab University and did her postgraduation from Jaipur in Rajasthan before attempting the JAG entrance exam.

What did it take to be an achiever?

A disciplined study schedule, but not an exhaustive one, and commitment towards the goal were the keys to my success.

Who is your inspiration and why?

My mother, Paramjit Kaur, has been my inspiration. She is a housewife and taught me that whatever you do in life, do it with utmost dedication. My father, assistant sub inspector Bhupinder Singh, also encouraged me to work hard.

What’s your next goal?

My goal is to serve my country and establish myself well in my career by working hard. I want to keep upgrading my skills too.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

Today in India, one can pursue a profession with basic educational qualification and technical training. I don’t think a youth who wants to work will have to remain jobless as there is no dearth of opportunities.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth in India can be a change-maker by leading the change. If the youth start implementing things they preach and expect others to follow, it will lead to a big change in our country.

Wrestler who never let go of her dream


21, Rohtak, Wrestler

Wrestler Neetu with her husband Sanjay and twin sons Prince and Ayush. (Sanjeev Sharma/HT Photo)

At 13, she got married and by 14 she was a mother. Still Neetu wrestled her way to glory. Amid the turmoil, she kept her dream of becoming an international wrestler alive. The desire stayed with her but she took to the sport seriously only at 17. Initially, village elders opposed her entering the male-dominated akharas, but she persisted, and by 19, she was a national-level medallist in the senior category. Her toil bore fruit this August when the 21-year-old represented the country at the Junior World Championships in Brazil.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Hard work, dedication and discipline. I have never shied away from sweating it out to achieve my goal. I did not let go of my dream to represent India in the international arena even when I had to do odd jobs to make ends meet. From working in shops to tilling land, adversity has only made me tougher.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

Sardar Milkha Singh’s life is an inspiration for me. The way he overcame the odds and became a world-famous athlete has always motivated me. Whenever I feel low or am tired, I watch ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’.

What is your next goal?

To win the gold medal in the upcoming national championship and to make it to the podium at the 2018 Commonwealth and Asian Games.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

I think if you believe in yourself and follow your passion then anything is possible. Yes, we youngsters are fortunate that more opportunity has started coming our way now.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth can bring about positive change in society and motivate others. All it takes is initiative and persistence. Gradually, India will change for the better.

Learner for life, from plumbing to sculpting

Harpal Shekhupuria

30, Chandigarh, Sculptor

Sculptor Harpal Shekhupuria (HT Photo)

This Haryana lad from Shekhupur village near Sirsa was born to an artisan family. He did a course in plumbing and then studied to become an art and craft teacher till his talent and application brought him to the Chandigarh College of Art where he did his bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Then with a master’s degree from Santiniketan, today he is a sculptor to look out for and a recipient of this year’s scholarship from the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi besides several other awards.

What did it take to be an achiever?

I came from a ‘vishwakarma’ family that was traditionally into carpentry. I was fond of drawing and making small toys from wood and stone. But I had no idea that I would one day be an artist. The road was long and I’ve worked hard. I was not afraid of learning because I had started out quite naïve and picked up much as I moved along.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

The first person to spot some artistic talent in me was my older brother, who was a school teacher. He inspired me to train as an art and craft teacher. I did the course in Jind and two of my teachers, Rajesh Chauhan and Malkit Singh, told me about the college of art at Chandigarh. I owe much to my teachers there and at Santiniketan.

What’s your next goal?

The scholarship is a help. Along with a few friends, I have set up a studio on Siswan road. I want to experiment further in sculpture using varied materials like metal, wood and stone. I want to develop my own artistic language and do some good work.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

There are many choices available to the youth in the country today. If they work hard, they are bound to succeed.

Rowing to excellence

Swaran Singh Virk

25, Mansa, Rower

Rower Swaran Singh Virk (Sanjeev Kumar/HT Photo)

Till September 2009, Swaran had no idea what rowing was all about. When he heard about the sport for the first time, his immediate reaction was to find out more. Today, the 25-year-old is one of the best rowers in the country. He created history by becoming the first oarsman from India to make it to the semi-finals of the 2012 London Olympics. He went on to win the bronze medal in the 2014 Asian Games and this year he was conferred the Arjuna Award. He started rowing at the age of 18.

What did it take to be an achiever?

It’s passion that is foremost. That passion when blended with hard work and determination, turns you into an achiever.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

Senior rower and Asian Games medallist Bajrang Lal Thakur is my role model. It was only when I came across Thakur that I learnt about the sport and Olympics.

What is your next goal?

I am practising to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to compete with the best rowers from across the world.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

It is because of the opportunities we are getting now in any field. The country has facilities and infrastructure for all.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth can contribute new ideas and change old mindsets. With the energy they possess, the youth can execute development work.

Flag-bearer of women’s hockey

Deepika Thakur

28, Yamunanagar, Hockey

Hockey player Deepika Thakur (HT Photo)

A regular face in Indian women’s hockey for the past one decade, Deepika was a member of the team that created history this year by qualifying for the Olympics for the first time. The last time the Indian women’s team competed in the Olympics was in 1980 in Moscow as a wild card entry. The Yamunanagar girl has 157 international caps and plays at the crucial halfback position. She has scored 16 times for India and is employed by the Railways. Seeing India qualify for the Olympics, Deepika even shelved her marriage plans.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Consistent hard work and focus have got me this far. The goal is the only aim.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

My late father was and will always be my inspiration. He raised me as his son and kept me motivated. Whatever I am today is only because of him.

What is your next goal?

My immediate goal is a medal finish for India at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The women’s hockey team has been handed a unique chance of being flag-bearers for the country at such a big event. It has come after so much hard work. I will give more than 100% to make my country proud.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

Yes it is because of the opportunities we are getting. Girls are also proving their mettle in sports and are treated at par with boys.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

Today’s youth is empowered. They can even move mountains. They are full of energy and have innovative ideas, so they can be change-makers.

Upholding highest standard of forces

Capt Jasmine Kaushik

24, Gurgaon, Army officer

Captain Jasmine Kaushik (HT Photo)

Capt Jasmine Kaushik was the all-India topper in the service selection board merit list (women’s technical entry) of the Indian Army in 2013. She was commissioned with ‘top 10’ order of merit after the training at Officers’ Training Academy (OTA), Chennai, in 2014. She went on to be felicitated with the Northern Command army commander’s commendation card.

What did it take to be an achiever?

‘The game is not over until I win’ attitude has kept me going. Be sure about how you want to see yourself and then work towards that aim. Why not live the best version of your life?

Who is your inspiration, and why?

I want to be the lead in my life story because a supporting role is such a waste of time. I draw my inspiration from the success of people in different spheres. I am a dedicated reader and for me books are a wealth of wisdom. My father has been my guru.

What’s your next goal?

Goals are consequent results of sincere work at hand executed to quality outcomes with a sense of enthusiasm. I love what I do, I love where I am. I would say my next goal is to deliver my best to my organisation and uphold the highest standards of an Indian armed forces officer.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth is the game changer and holds the key to influence change with the vision of experienced heads. Youth is not merely confined to a particular age-bracket. It is a mindset.

Steve Jobs fan aims for education for all

Maninder Singh Bajwa

29, Mohali, Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Maninder Bajwa (Gurpreet Singh/HT Photo)

Bajwa is a first-generation entrepreneur who launched Espranza Innovations, which developed a self-learning platform for bringing digital education for children in urban and rural schools, in 2012. With an initial investment of Rs 50,000, Bajwa started his tech education company from a room in his house. Espranza’s iScuela K-12, the self-learning platform, has more than 1 lakh users across India today.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Apart from persistence and hard work, I feel passion and a sense of urgency to achieve, makes things happen. My team has often had its back to the wall but that has only helped us do better and made us more determined. I have been lucky to find my passion quite early in life.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

Professionally, Apple founder Steve Jobs has been an inspiration. His passion, fire, attention to detail and the pride he took in his work are inspiring. I have tried to imbibe as much of his work ethics in my work too. In fact, the ‘i’ in iScuela is dedicated to Jobs. On the personal level, my parents have been my role models.

What’s your next goal?

I want to make the most of this digital era to create a revolution in education. I want to deliver the best quality education and learning platforms to not only those who reside in cities but also to those in rural areas where teachers are virtually impossible to find.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

This is the most exciting time to be young in India. There are opportunities galore. It only boils down to ambition. India is young. Any change will need the youth’s support but the youth needs direction and energy. They need to be channelised. The American Dream is a story of the past. The Indian dream, which has a bigger potential, has to be shown to our youth, who can spur the nation to becoming a world leader.

Cricket her calling

Sushma Verma

23, Shimla, Cricketer

Cricketer Sushma Verma (HT Photo)

On November 16 last year when Sushma walked onto the field in Mysore against the South African women’s cricket team, the Shimla girl created history by becoming the first girl from Himachal Pradesh to feature in a Test match. The batswomen-wicketkeeper was selected in the Indian women’s team for the T20 home series against New Zealand in July this year. The middle-order player has been a regular member of the Himachal women’s team. Sushma was into various sports, including athletics, hockey, handball and volleyball before finally finding her calling in cricket. She has represented India Blue Women, India Women and Indian Board President’s Women XI playing one Test, three ODIs and five T20s. Under her captaincy, the Himachal team finished runner-up at the Under-19 all-India women’s tournament in 2011.

What did it take to be an achiever?

The sheer dedication to excel and be the best in what I do.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

I have always believed that inspiration is something that comes from inside. You don’t have to look for it in someone.

What is your next goal?

My aim is to constantly improve my skills to help Team India win more matches.

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

My generation is privileged as our nation is on the steady road to progress, offering us more opportunities to excel.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

Like technology, the youth should keep upgrading themselves. When young, the flexibility level is high so adapting to change is easy. The youth can lead the way to bring positive change in society.

Standing tall among NBA stars

Satnam Singh

20, Barnala, Basketballer

Basketball player Satnam Singh Bhamara (HT Photo)

At 7ft 2, the professional basketball player from Balloke village in Barnala stands tall in more ways than one. He created history by becoming the first Indian to be drafted in the National Basketball Association (NBA), the celebrated basketball league in North America. At present, he plays for the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League. He became the first player from India to be drafted into the NBA when the Dallas Mavericks chose him with the 52nd overall pick in the 2015 draft. He plays in centre position. He has attracted media attention ever since he was as young as 14 years old, and his career at IMG put him on the radar for the NBA teams.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Hard work was all it took. There is no substitute for it. The amount of time one puts in practice ultimately makes the difference between success and failure.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

My coach, the late S Subramanian, was, is and will be my biggest inspiration. Today, I am here only because of him. He taught me everything about basketball. He encouraged me at every step of this journey. My father, Balbir Singh, has done all he could to get me this far. Though I was introduced to the sport at my home in the village, finding the track to success was a big challenge. My father requested his friend Rajinder Singh to find a coaching centre where I could hone my basketball skills. Finally, I discovered the Punjab Basketball Association academy in Ludhiana and there’s been no looking back.

What is your next goal?

I want to make a name for myself and the country in NBA. My goal from Day 1 has been to make India, my state and family proud. This dream keeps me on my toes.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

Yes, it is because of the opportunities we are getting in the country today. We have all the help and necessary facilities besides the atmosphere to grow and be the best in the world. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to avail of these opportunities.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth is the backbone of any nation. Their positive contribution can bring a lot of changes in Indian society. They can change mindsets and show a new direction with their energy and enthusiasm.

Finding self through art

Anamika Gupta

25, Chandigarh, Graphic artist

Graphic artist Anamika Gupta (Sant Arora/HT Photo)

Fresh from the Chandigarh College of Art with a postgraduate degree in fine arts, Anamika Gupta has already made a place for herself as a graphic artist and printmaker of repute. Having participated in several exhibitions, she has also received many awards for her work. She has won the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi’s scholarship for young artists this year.

What did it take to be an achiever?

I would say it was the will to do what I enjoyed the most. I liked to draw and paint even as a child. After completing Class 10 from Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 16, Chandigarh, I joined the Bama Academy of Fine Arts in Panchkula to pursue my passion. I kept up with art right through Class 12, working hard to find my own individuality and expression.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

I was inspired by my teacher and academy founder Ram Kumar, who encouraged me to hone my skills and join the College of Art in Chandigarh. It was at the academy that I got exposure and saw works of other artists and decided that I wanted to be a graphic artist.

What’s your next goal?

The journey through arts is slow and steady. There is nothing like instant fame and one cannot rest on one’s laurels. I want to work along with some other artists who have set up a graphic studio in Mohali. One day, I would like to be the foremost printmaker.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

It certainly is the best time to be young in India because there are so many avenues open to the youth today. One does not have to be a doddering grey head to achieve recognition: thus one finds the young trailblazers surging ahead in different fields.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth can be a change-maker by working hard to realise one’s dreams in an innovative manner. It is important to assess one’s talent and then work in that direction, along with that it’s also important to have an aim and not try too many things. Stay focused.

Gravity-defying goalkeeper

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

23, Mohali, Footballer

Football player Gurpreet Singh (Keshav Singh/HT Photo)

Strong, confident and a safe bet under the bar, the Mohali goalkeeper has emerged as one of the most exciting talents in the country. His gravity-defying saves and his ability to keep cool under pressure have earned him a lucrative contract with Norwegian club Stabaek FC, thus becoming only the fifth Indian ever to sign for a European club. Gurpreet, however, wanted more and became the first Indian ever to make it to the playing eleven of the team early this year. Gurpreet has been part of the Indian team for the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers. He has risen through the ranks and established himself as the number one keeper in the country. His club recently qualified for the Europa League, which is second only to the UEFA Champions League.

What did it take to be an achiever?

Belief, hard work and patience are my three ingredients for success. They are interlinked, one can’t do without the other.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

It is failure that inspires me. I want to see Indian football where it should be and the current state motivates me to work harder.

What is your next goal?

I want to move up to a higher level and put myself on a par with other world-class players.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

There is huge scope for youngsters to excel today. The best thing is that the country now has facilities that it didn’t till a few years ago.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

The youth should believe in what they are doing. Follow your dreams and never be afraid of failure.

Making music for peace

Siddharth, aka Dub Sharma

26, Chandigarh, Music composer & producer

Music composer and producer Dub Sharma (Ravi Kumar/HT Photo)

Chandigarh’s very own munda Dub Sharma has produced the music for Bollywood movies like ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, ‘Cocktail’ and ‘David’. He recently produced a single called ‘White blood’ for Abhay Kumar’s film ‘Placebo’. He holds an Australian certification in audio engineering and has studied music production, sound design and social psychology. Along with a few musicians, he has started Ruff Sound System in Chandigarh to promote independent music.

What did it take to be an achiever?

I can’t say if I am an achiever yet. But I believe in persistence. This is precisely what’s helped me reach here.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

My father, Ashok Sharma, who has retired from Punjabi journalism, has been my inspiration and my family has been my strength. My father sings but only as a hobby. When I expressed the desire to study audio engineering in Mumbai and pursue music after Class 12, my family believed in me. I struggled from 2010 till Wasseypur happened in 2012.

What’s your next goal?

I believe in living in the present and giving it my all. I don’t know and can’t predict the future. My present goal is to spread the message of peace.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

We are all well connected. If you make music or any kind of art or if you have an opinion that you want to express, you can do it easily now.

How can the youth be a change-maker?

If you have an idea that can help bring about a positive change, step out and try to find people who share your concern. But if you don’t, lead. Sometimes you need to make it happen yourself.

Readying to restore hockey’s past glory

Dharamvir Singh

25, Mohali, Hockey

Hockey player Dharamvir Singh (HT Photo)

Dharamvir was part of the team that won the gold in the 2014 Asian Games. The feat helped India qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. He has won medals in both the Commonwealth and Asian Games in 2010 and 2014. He started playing hockey at the state-run Chandigarh Hockey Academy in Sector 42 before shifting base to Punjab. A talented forward, Dharamvir has 117 international caps and has scored 31 goals. He joined the Chandigarh academy in 2002 and made his junior India debut in 2008. He was inspired to take up hockey after seeing his elder brother, Kulwinder, who played for the army.

What did it take to be an achiever?

I believe in following one’s dreams and consistent hard work as one never knows when the breakthrough comes. I keep trying to improve my level of competence. In life, opportunities are hard to come by so it’s best to be prepared.

Who is your inspiration, and why?

My parents are my inspiration. I come from a middle-class family that dreams big. My parents motivated me to pursue a career in hockey.

What is your next goal?

To help the team win a medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics. India’s rich past in hockey motivates me to help restore the game to its former glory.

Is it the best time to be young in India?

The opportunities and fair chance that today’s youth are getting to pursue their dreams make it the best time to be young in India.

How can the youth be a changemaker?

Sports and youth go hand in hand. If the government is ready to give more thrust to sports, the problem of drugs can be solved.

(Text: Nirupama Dutt, Saurabh Duggal, Ashutosh Sharma, Shailee Dogra, Kamesh Chawlla, Neeraj Mohan and Sachin Sharma. Photos: Sanjeev Sharma, Gurpreet Singh, Ravi Kumar, Gurminder Singh and Keshav Singh)

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

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

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