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It’s Simple, Josh Talks!

This morning as we walked the dogs, Che & I got talking, and out of the blue came the plan for me to accompany Che to a shoot he was doing in the afternoon. I’m super glad I said yes when he asked, for what followed was something else.

When I walked in tailing Che into the venue at ITC Fortune I didn’t know a thing about Josh Talks. I just walked around looking at the setup, taking a few customary pictures to say ‘I was there’, you know, it’s that social media thing we do. 😛

Then I met an old friend Umesh (we’ve worked together over 10 years ago!) and he gave me a little background. I got to know that this was a series of motivational speeches. He was inspired by the idea and was hence volunteering.

He told me a little bit about the speakers. There is a typist in the line up he said, but he added mysteriously, she isn’t just a typist, she is also a World Billiard Champion. I smiled and arched an eyebrow saying ‘and…’ He continued on to tell me about a paralympian and world travelled musician.

With that teaser I settled in and was happily surprised to find Vasanthi Hariprakash take the stage. Vasanthi is a dear friend and an excellent host. The afternoon was already looking better.

Before launching into the speakers list Vasanthi did quick introduction of herself, Josh talks and the minds behind Josh Talks. When we had walked in, we met quite a few people, but two people made a indelible impression. And it was a surprise to realise that two kids I met thinking ‘volunteer’ in my head were actually the brains behind Josh Talks. Supriya and Shobit, were such a pleasant surprise.

That set the tone for an afternoon filled with positivity, dreams, inner strength, and incredible spirit. There were 12 speakers and they were a varied set, ranging all the way from a typist to a Beatboxer.

The evening started with Tushar Vashisht sharing his story of how from an investment banker he become an Indian below the poverty line to understand what it really meant to be poor in India. His experiences and insight led him to start the Healthify Me project.

The next surprise of my evening was Shreena Thakore, who is a part of No Country For Women, a campaign that intents to change the attitude of India. I’ve posted about NCFW sometime back, and I think Shreena and Ria are doing awesome stuff, so you know why I was so excited. 😀

After Tushar and Shreena’s presentations, Malathi took stage. She wheeled in, adjusted the mike and launched into words. Malathi Krishnamurthy talked about her childhood, being paralysed neck down at the age of 1 due to polio, 33 surgeries in an attempt of correct her disability, and finding herself in it all.

The 389 time Wheel Chair Racing champion talked about being a bank manager, an activist and a para-athlete, and about Mathru, a foundation she started for disabled children. Today the shelter has over 16 children.

Shishir Belvi, the programme coordinator at GoSports then came on stage and introduced us to the organisation. Shishir did a good job but I’d have liked to have heard the story from Nandan Kamath, one of the founders of Go Sports.

And then came Benny. Benny Prasad isn’t a person, he is an experience. Constantly smiling Benny shared his story about his difficult childhood. His misdiagnosed asthma, the very many injections he took, the loss of 60% of his lungs, his depression and giving up.

Then there was the voice of Jesus that saved him. Benny today is the world record holder for travelling across 245 countries (that’s all the countries in the world) in 6 years 6 months and 22 days. Benny has 14 books in his passport and is also the only owner and player of the Harp/Bongo Guitar. A Guitar that has 2 Bongos, a 14 String Harp and 6 strings.

The last speaker of the first half Akkai Padmashali took my breath away with her story about struggling to just be. Akkai was born with a penis and she never felt like a boy. She got told off a lot for not conforming, for not being how a boy should be. The struggle led her be a sex worker for 4 years.

Out of all of this Akkai emerged, a stronger person for her struggles, a person actively fighting and working for the rights of transgenders, a person her family takes pride in and a woman who looks the world in the eye confidently and smiles.

In the coffee break I went about meeting the speakers. It was wonderful to shake hands with Shreena, give Akkai a big hug, get more words of wisdom from Malathi and a receive a warm handshake from Benny.

***Continued – Part 2

Photo Credit: Chenthil Mohan

P.S. – Day Five of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge.

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