INK2016 Day 1, Session 4: Silver Lining

Akshay Nanavati

After the loss of two of his friends to drugs, Akshay Nanavati decided it was time to pick himself up. He then joined the Marines and was posted in Iraq. Losing yet another friend during the war left him with crippling PTSD and he was neck deep in survivor’s guilt. Alcohol and drugs became an escape- the easiest escape. Realising he was down that slippery slope to that dark place again, he started spending time reading up on neuroscience trying to understand the mind. He soon realised that avoiding fear is not the solution to a happy life. Thus, Fearvana was born to help people shatter their limitations and find purpose.

A voluntary effort to engage your fear could mean doing anything- climbing mountains, scuba diving in a frozen lake, or starting a business. Plunging yourself into your fear is a worthy struggle. “Fear is a gift that unleashes our greatness”, he said wondering why it has a bad reputation. Fear isn’t the hindrance. It is how we respond to fear. Adversity isn’t the enemy. Adversity is desirable. Turning it into an ally, and up the ladder of fear you will go. When you stand at the top of the ladder, you will see the world around you through a different lens. Akshay urges that love and fear can co-exist and choosing how you respond to that voice of fear in your head will define your life.

Mahesh Jadav

Mahesh, like most young people, started out with an aim of becoming a software engineer. Today, he stands on the INKconference stage talking about the Mahesh Foundation which houses 55 HIV+ infected children, benefits 1,600 children through educational & nutritional support, and positively impacting over 28,000 HIV+ infected people through various programs & 60+ full time employees.

His story started when he met Rupesh, a HIV+ child. With a limited knowledge of HIV, he believed the social stigma about it. But,he wondered how a child could have contracted it. On reading more and more about it, he started questioning this absurd social stigma surrounding it and decided to do something about this. He noticed that there were many kids around the hospital who didn’t have homes. Orphanages would not take them in because they were HIV+. Being the child of parents who believed that charity begins at home, he decided to care for them at his own home. This story attracted the press from everywhere and this led to more kids showing up at his house. He started a new shelter and a hostel for the kids. It is amazing to know that the life expectancy of all these kids increased exponentially and the Mahesh Foundation has not lost a single life to HIV+. He hopes to help children have a long life without being shunned by the society.

Heather Blair

Heather is a recent graduate of The Green School in Bali. She prides herself on being a human rights activist, actress, screenwriter and feminist.

At the age of 12, Heather asked her parents “What is sex?”. She found at what it really was at the age of 13 and at 15, she learnt about sexual assault. That moment redefined everything she thought she knew about the world. She discovered that people who have been sexually assaulted are not just scared and traumatized, but are ashamed. They are ashamed about something that was forced upon them. It is We live in a world that says “Don’t get raped” instead of saying “Don’t rape”. Why this is a continuing problem is baffling. The reason is silence. Silence on the victim’s part, the law, the survivors and the people.

These perpetrators aren’t the unknown monsters, but might be someone related to you or you know. During her time in Bali, she found that people wanted to tell their stories but they have been silenced. “Silence debilitates”She found the power of social media to foster sharing and started the #BreakingTheSilence campaign. People who wanted to tell their stories finally found a platform to speak up. People wanted to be heard but very few were listening. She urged the audience that listening to them is crucial because this is not a legacy anyone wants to leave.

Sandya Goli

Sandya is an internationally rated chess player with a number of medals to her name. Her current rating is 1737 – she needs just 563 points more to be defined as a Woman Grand Master! Chess was also her ticket to feed that innate wanderlust everyone has in them.

Hailing from a small town, she stands on the stage today sharing her experience with us. With relentless support from her mother who pushed her into trying several things, she found her catharsis at the chess board. Her story began with being inquisitive about chess. Her father learnt this game and taught her how to play it. And since then she has played several tournaments of chess. She finished her studies but all she could think about was chess. Sandya said the reason behind her incessant determination is that she wants to win for her parents rather than for herself.

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