The 12th lecture of the Aircel Power of Inspiration series was organised at Sastra University, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, in an attempt by TEHELKA to engage with the students and encourage them into a more active citizenship.
The lecture, a part of an ongoing process of community engagement, began with a short introduction by Puneeta Roy, trustee of the TEHELKA Foundation, about the concept of Ground Warriors, via a TEHELKA Foundation audiovisual. This was followed by a short address by Sheik Uduman, Aircel’s Head of Distribution, Tamil Nadu, on the company’s vision and presence in the country.
The first speaker, widely acclaimed conservationist and environmental filmmaker, Shekar Dattatri, spoke on ‘Why Nature Matters’, with a few clips of his documentary showcasing the vast diversity of life in the Western Ghats, one of the world’s 25 most important biodiversity hotspots, and a place he has been in love with since the age of 10.
Having dedicated the recent years of his life to making films on environmental advocacy, Dattatri emphasised the need for each one of us to take ownership of our natural resources, and not to abdicate our responsibilities to a select few. His film highlighted the plentiful resources and the genetic treasures found in the Western Ghats, which were being sacrificed at the hands of shortsighted policies and vested interests of a few.
He shared his personal journey with the students, from being a student volunteer at the Snake Garden in Chennai, to going into the jungles of the Western Ghats as a teenager for days on a stretch, to finally making a pro bono campaign film. This film, titled Mindless Mining: The Tragedy of Kudremukh, was submitted as evidence to the Supreme Court in a public interest case, resulting in the closure of the iron ore mining operation. As a message to the students, he encouraged them to be conscious as citizens, to avoid over-consumption of resources, and to believe in the power of one.
Next up was a moving performance by theatre educationist Maya Krishna Rao, titled ‘The Walk’, an impromptu piece performed by her on the eve of 31 December 2012, as part of an effort by university students to commemorate the Delhi gangrape incident. Rao credited Kathakali with being her source of inspiration, and with giving her the rich imagination that she now employs in her performances.
She emphasised the importance of being aware of oneself, of “being able to knit one’s heart, head and body into one being”. She further spoke about drama as a tool for learning and how it can help dissolve differences and personal issues by finding parallel situations and enabling people to empathise.
The lecture was wrapped up with the release of the Aircel Power of Inspiration books, which were later distributed among those present.