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Dreams do come true

2016-08-21         SHUKLAB

I was invited to speak at the TED conference in 2009. It was obviously a humbling experience to be chosen to speak at a conference where the best speak. I was overwhelmed and terribly nervous. Since then I have spoken at many conferences in Taiwan, Brazil, Madrid, Frankfurt, US, Kuala Lumpur and several places in India and while each conference has been a great learning experience, speaking at TED is an unforgettable experience. This piece I am writing is not about my speeches per se but about reflections of how things have changed since I last said something. At TED 2009 I had showed a video ( where I had captured a little girl Shalini, a student of Parikrma, who had just attended a Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP) program at IIM Ahmedabad. For a girl who lived in the slums, whose father was a cook and mother a maid with a total household income around Rs 5000 per month, a train travel to Ahmedabad and staying at the IIM campus was something her dreams were made of. The TED viewers saw an excited Shalini talking about how great it was to be served by waiters at the dining table. Her animated description of the food she was served touched many a people. Maybe she was the reason that I got a standing ovation for my talk that day. I shared with 3000 plus audience that Shalini was interested in Science and wanted to be a neurologist. Bangalore 2015. I met Shalini yesterday at Manipal Hospital where a close friend of mine is hospitalized. I have been meeting her at least a few times a year these last few years but it was special meeting her yesterday. Since my TED talk Shalini has completed school with 61%. Indeed she pursued Science in the Parikrma Junior College and got 69%. She sat for her CET exam but did not qualify to study medicine. She was disappointed but we persuaded her not to give up her dream to be a neurologist entirely. I went around looking for sponsorship to send her for higher studies. I am very grateful to Mohandas Pai and Abhay Jain who believed in me and my appeal that Shalini could make a break in life. Manipal Foundation exempted Parikrma from the admission fees and gave us subsidized costs right through her education. Shalini completed her BSc Nursing from Manipal Nursing College with a first class and today she is working at Manipal Hospital. She is the first generation school goer from her family and the slum she comes from and the only one with a professional degree and a respectable permanent job. Yesterday at the Manipal Hospital, Shalini came to see me. She still has the same brilliant toothy smile. But she looks so different and grown up in the nurses’ uniform!! She hugged me and said, “Akka, I am a nurse in the neurology department.” If you dream, the apple does not fall too far from the tree…

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