In Just 4 Hours, YKA’s Converge Smashed Stereotypes With 8 Path-Breaking Conversations

Posted on December 13, 2015 in Lists, Staff Picks

By Lipi Mehta

On December 12 this year, team YKA went offline (well, mostly) for Youth Ki Awaaz’s annual flagship event CONVERGE. Bringing together a cross-section of some incredible speakers sharing their experiences and work, this year’s theme brought together eight individuals who have, and continue to break, society’s stereotypes. A jam-packed Anti-Social in Delhi saw close to 200 specially selected attendees, engaging in a four-hour conversation, covering issues ranging from depression, education, healthcare, gender, sexuality, entrepreneurship, filmmaking, and socially conscious music!

If you missed out on CONVERGE this year, here are highlights of the event.

1. Robin Chaurasiya

“Why I Quit The U.S. Air Force To Work For Children From Red Light Areas In India”

Robin Chaurasiya is an activist and the Founder of Mumbai-based NGO Kranti that works with children from red light areas and persons from marginalised communities. Robin spoke about battling abuse and the possibilities of emerging as a survivor and changemaker from a being a victim. She left the audience with a powerful message of approaching activism and life with happiness instead of anger.

2. Farah Shaikh

“Why India’s Marginalized Youth Are Actually India’s Future Leaders”

Farah is one of the girls from Kranti whom Robin has helped. She shared her inspiring story of surviving female foeticide and growing up in a world where she realised early on that girls are less valued than boys. As a teacher today, she aims to empower her children and ensure that they never have to face what she had to.

3. Abhay Kumar

“What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Depression”

Abhay Kumar is a film-maker who recently made the acclaimed documentary ‘Placebo’, on the lives of 4 medical students, and started a conversation on students’ mental health, ragging and isolation. Abhay focused on how In India, we don’t even have the basic vocabulary to talk about depression or mental health, despite most families being close-knit. He concluded by talking about the need for more primary ways to address mental health in India.

Abhay’s talk garnered so much interest on Twitter that ‘Abhay Kumar’ became one of the top trends in India. We are glad that more and more people joined in to talk about the critical issue of mental health.
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4. Akkai Padmashali

“How I Discovered My Gender In A World That Forced Stereotypes”

Akkai is a transwoman and activist whose fight for gender equality has inspired thousands. She shared her personal life story of being born male but embracing her gender identity as female, and spoke about how she didn’t let societal norms cage her. She stressed on equal rights and the need for the regressive Section 377 to be scrapped from Indian law. The audience was hooked to Akkai’s talk from the word go as she put her views forth with courage and her unmistakable style of humour.

‘Akkai Padmashali’ also trended on Twitter in India. Her powerful statements on gender identity and equality resonated with hundreds.

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5. Sofia Ashraf

Singer and rap artist Sofia Ashraf of ‘Kodaikanal Won’t‘ fame performed 5 of her songs in what many from the audience described as one of the most powerful performances they had seen. Sofia spoke about using her art for a cause and the need for creating ‘conscientious music’.

6. Sikha

“Improving Public Health In India’s Marginalised Communities”

18-year-old Sikha is a community health worker who works with the NGO Prayasam. Called the ‘Vaccine Hero’, she spoke about how she realised that she needed to take charge of the health issues plaguing her community. Belittled as ‘just a child’ by neighbours, Sikha’s determination to improve public health systems ensured that she carried on with her work. She concluded by saying that each one of us has the power to change our destinies, regardless of where we come from or who our families are.

7. Ritesh Agarwal

“How I Built India’s Largest Hotel Chain At 21”

Ritesh Agarwal, Founder of OYO Rooms, shared his entrepreneurial journey with the audience, recounting the struggles he faced before OYO Rooms became the multi-million dollar company it is today. He spoke about experiential learning—he lived in various bed and breakfasts for 3.5 months to just learn—and his vision of making OYO Rooms the world’s largest hotel chain. Not to forget, Ritesh was mobbed by budding entrepreneurs during lunch, who wanted to share their ideas with him and get advice from him, and this was when he’d just arrived, even before his session started!


8. Kanu Behl

Q&A on: How Independent Cinema Is Breaking The Mainstream Stereotype

Filmmaker Kanu Behl is the director of the critically acclaimed film ‘Titli’ and the co-writer of ‘Love, Sex Aur Dhokha’. He was in conversation with filmmaker Abhay Kumar and answered questions from the audience as well. He spoke about how film-making is a personal journey that each person has to undertake on their own (“Equivalent to locking yourself up in a dark room”) and discussed writing, assisting other directors, and more.

We are glad that we could take socially relevant conversation offline and put together an event such as CONVERGE 2015. To those who give a damn, thank you for attending, we hope you had a great time! We definitely did, seeing you at our photo booth, taking photos with the speakers whose stories inspired you the most.

And that’s all for now. A sign off from Team Youth Ki Awaaz, until next time!