Having an inspiring role model during formative years can have a great impact on young adults. Be it for career, a refreshing take on life, pathbreaking decisions or relatable struggles—a great role model can steer teens in a particular direction and be a guiding force later too!
SEEMA brings you some personal favourites!
By Akhila Jagan
Ishita Malaviya was exposed to surfing and the ocean at a young age, living in a coastal city. As a child, she dreamed of learning to surf, lacked the resources to do so. She went on not only to fulfill her childhood dream, but also became India’s first female surfer. Malaviya, who is on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for sports and entertainment, has studied journalism while surfing part-time, has moved to a small fishing village to co-found the Shaka Surf Club on the Konkan coast of India with her partner Tushar.
I met Malaviya through the Wonder Girls fellowship program, where she was a guest speaker. She spoke about her journey to success and the process of gaining her title, including lessons that she learned along the way. I chose Malaviya as my role model not because I am interested in surfing as a career, but because I am inspired by the journey she took, to reach her success while following her passion. Malaviya not only followed through with her dream while having minimal resources, but stuck with it to become one of the most successful people in her field.
Malaviya said she and Tushar had to sell many personal belongings to buy their first surf board. They took turns using the board and watched and learned from each other. At the time, few people surfed in India, rendering the task harder. Malaviya’s commitment to her passion is something that many people can learn from. At 22, Malaviya continued to practice surfing along with her classes and work.
Finally, her passion led her to the small fishing village where she and Tushar have started the surf school. Surrounding herself with people that supported her and loved her made it easier for her to achieve her dreams. This is another lesson that I took away from Malaviya’s story.
An extremely skillful and talented surfer, Malaviya has set a great example for me and many other young girls. To sum up, the qualities that I admire in Malaviya is her commitment, drive, discipline, persistence, and passion. These are attributes I would like in myself so as not to give up on my dreams, no matter the adversities, to be ambitious and to remain dedicated to my dream of becoming a journalist.
Her story has kept me motivated to keep learning more about journalism and finding different ways to practice it. She has inspired me to stay committed and be disciplined in my school work. However, unlike Malaviya, I do not have a clear plan or one particular passion, so while I am not only focused on one path, I stay committed to many of my passions in a balanced manner.
By Aaliyah Mehra
One of the most inspiring women I have interacted with has to be Rohini Nilekani. She is the chairperson of Rohini Nilekani philanthropies and the co-founder and director of Ekstep, a non-profit education platform. She is also the founder and former chairperson of Arghyam, a foundation set up by her for sustainable water and sanitation. She also sits on the Board of Trustees of Atree, an environmental think tank. A former journalist, she has written for many leading publications and has published several books, such as the medical thriller “Stillborn.”
I am grateful that I met her through the Wonder Girls program. She was one of my favorite speakers and is my role model. A few things that really stayed with me later is her gratitude for all the incredible women who came to speak before her. She spoke about how she looks up to them, doesn’t matter if they were homemakers or famous women. She spoke of them with so much gratitude and adoration that I really was captivated. She implored us to show gratitude for our freedom, our privilege, and said we should make the most of the time we live in.
One thing that really struck a chord in me was what Nilekani said about listening to your body and mind. She spoke with passion about the importance of being connected to nature, which helps soothe your body and mind. She told us about how to embrace ourselves, which helps to build our self-confidence and mental strength by starting to love ourselves. This can be challenging in these times, especially with social media playing such a big part in how one views themselves. Nilekani gave us tips on listening to your body, all the signs that your body gives, what to do when your body is saying something! She spoke about her experience with such raw honesty and really opened up to us about her emotions and what she had learned.
I think I have tried to implement everything Nilekani said somewhere in my life in some way. I’ve been way more grateful about different things. I think about what I’m receiving and think how lucky I am. I feel like this actually helps me stay grounded. I am judging less just based on the outward behavior of people. I have been trying to understand their point of view, their logic behind certain actions that perhaps I don’t agree. I feel that acknowledging other people’s perspective has made me think differently, with a more open-minded approach.
Nilekani also spoke about ecological importance, something I have always been passionate about, too. Her advice and thoughts just gave me a new perspective, and I am now more conscious about the environment. I now try to educate myself and others on how to preserve it and be more careful with our resources.
She also mentioned breakthrough thinking and how it was okay to seek help from others. Nilekani described how people refrain from asking for help just because they fear rejection or being seen as weak, but told us it actually makes you seem more normal. She explained how no one can actually do anything alone and how it’s essential to ask for help. Overall, I was amazed at her attitude and how she spoke about all of her projects with so much passion and interest.
“Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating.” ~ John Wooden.
I agree with this statement because I’ve been through many schools and education systems, but my experiences have taught me more than any school system ever has. That’s why I think that it is important for people of any age to have a role model; someone to look up to and seek advice from. My current role model is my cousin, Aarsheya Hooda.
Born and brought up in an Indian household in Pennsylvania, Hooda graduated from Wharton Business School and joined the U.S. army immediately after. Why would she do such a thing if she had already interned at Johnson & Johnson and was all set to pursue a successful career in business? She wanted something more challenging in life. Hooda wasn’t always completely like that, though.
In the 10th grade, she did an exchange year in South Korea. Just 15, she traveled to a foreign city 6,671 miles away all by herself. It was difficult for her because she had to learn many new subjects at a higher level (Grade 10) when she’d never even studied or heard of them before.
She lived in a foreign country with a culture that she didn’t fully understand. This made her homesick on numerous occasions, but she persevered and ultimately learned to like living in Korea. Living apart from family for so long was definitely not easy, but it was just the beginning for Hooda.
While she was there, she lost her father in a car accident. She could not come back home in time. She felt lost and off-balance because her father was her biggest anchor in life. With him gone, she became demotivated and lost the will to do much. She was able to pull herself out of that and keep moving forward because she figured that no matter who she lost, she would always have herself to lean on, and that was more than enough.
She felt there was no greater challenge than her father’s death. Losing someone you love very much and at a young age is extremely painful. It took her a while, but when she was finally ready to get back on her feet again, she realized that the biggest challenge in life was now behind her.
Life at Wharton was super-competitive, demanding and stressful. However, Hooda made it seem easy. Her taking an extra semester to finish university helped me realize that you need not go through life exactly like everyone else; you can do it at your own pace. You can always slow down if things get to be too much.
Corporate life, in which she had to sell the same things to the same types of people over and over, bored her.
It took a summer volunteering to help underprivileged children in Peru for her to arrive at her second big realization. Hooda realized she that she was still young and could end up spending her old age doing some desk job. But for now she wanted to do something outdoors that made an impact. She decided on the army because not only did it fit all the criteria, it was also a major physical as well as a mental challenge.
I look up to Hooda not only because of all she has accomplished at such a young age, but also because of all the lessons she has taught me and how much she inspires me every day. As an indecisive person still unsure of what career to take up, for me, her story reiterates the message that it’s never too late to change your mind or your career.
By Sarah Kapadia
My role model, Shaheen Mistri revolutionized Indian education and helped millions of underprivileged students reach their goals. She was raised in five countries before returning to India at the age of 18 to start building Akanksha.
She spent 17 years establishing Akanksha with help from instructors and children to provide low-income children with the kind of education that would allow them to attain their full potential. Akanksha today serves 9,300 students in Mumbai and Pune through its school project and after-school centers.
Mistri founded Teach For India in 2008 to provide a great education to all Indian children by creating a pipeline of leaders committed to tackling educational disparities. Teach For India has now had a direct impact on around 32,000 students in India. She has also created other projects, such as the Maya Musical and the Kid’s Education Revolution, which explore student leadership and create platforms for students’ voice and collaboration. She has also set up TFIx, a year-long incubator program for passionate entrepreneurs who want to adapt Teach For India’s model to their context and region in rural areas.
Mistri was a World Economic Forum Global Leader for Tomorrow, an Ashoka Fellow, and an Asia Society 21 Leader. Miss Muglee Children’s Books and the book Redrawing India are her works.
The first time I saw Mistri was in a video about the need to change the education system. She was on stage as she addressed thousands of children and volunteers at one of Akanksha’s outreach programs in 2018. She spoke about her journey and how she envisions for the future. Hearing her confident voice, we students were instantaneously fueled with determination and energy. Since that day I knew I wanted to have the sparkle that she could produce. I was able to have a closer interaction with her through the Wonder Girls program. This time she was speaking to 40 young girls about her accomplishments and how she got to the position she is in today. I could still see that special, unique and distinctive element in her.
Mistri’s personality could be described as inspiring. From the things she does to the words she says, you can always take back something. She has lived the lives of these underprivileged individuals as a mother, sister, daughter and friend – earning their trust. Observing her impact motivates you to take action! It’s also important to recognize her motivation. She has been fighting the same cause with commitment and ambition since she was 18 years old. She has taught me to choose a course or career in which I am truly passionate and believe I can make a difference.
Mistri is always on the lookout for development. Despite her satisfaction with her program, she constantly reminds herself that she can inspire one more life. Her organizations evolved as a result. Mistri believes there is never a good time to stop; you must constantly move forward, adapting, and giving. This philosophy that she promotes motivates me to continually strive for growth and to help others to the best of my ability.
She manages to find time for relaxation while still hosting a variety of programs. I always assumed that successful people, especially overachievers like Mistri, would have little time to themselves. After hearing her tale, I made it a point to prioritize my mental health, and I’ve noticed a significant positive response. Her words have the power to influence people’s lives. Mistri radiates whenever she takes the stage. She possesses a distinct quality that instills optimism in her audience and leads them down a successful road.
Mistri has this powerful, yet gentle voice, yet demanding noble causes with simple words. Her speeches evoke strong emotions in the audience. She has more passion and love for her work than any other activist I’ve ever seen. I admire how she can change opinions, weave mindsets and curate change.
A single sentence transformed my perspective on any challenge the world was facing. She recalled asking herself, “Where is the Greta Thunberg of education?” I thought about this for days and tried to put it into practice. What did I want to be a Greta Thunberg of? I realized how concerned I was about COVID-19’s effects on the poor and its overall impact on mental health. Her words inspired me to establish a podcast about mental health and to use an online platform to teach mathematics to a youngster living in the slums.
By Syna Mehra
I have many role models, and one of them is Manisha Girotra, CEO of Moelis & Company. I got to know her through the wonder girls leadership program. Every weekend, we got to interact with 2-3 female role models, and got to know about the challenges they faced, how they overcame their failures, how they never got demotivated. During week 8 of the program, we got the chance to interact with Girotra.
I look up to her, not because I want to pursue the same career path, but because of the way she looked at life and never gives up. At first, I wasn’t very excited about her session because it had nothing to do with the career I wanted. Investment banking was the last thing I wanted to do.
As soon as Girotra started with her life story, I became a huge fan. She described her 27 years of work. She said that when she started working as an investment banker, the biggest and the toughest challenge was to make a place for herself, and for her to be taken seriously by others. Women then weren’t seen as investment bankers. The people at her company never took her seriously, assuming that she would work for 6 months or a year and then stop working, or that she would work till she got married had a baby.
Not being taken seriously can be demotivating; you begin doubting yourself and that impacts your self-esteem, she said. I could imagine myself in her position. Girotra told us about how she never let that affect her emotionally. She said that everything is possible if you believe in yourself. One life-changing thing that she said was that “When you girls get into your work space, don’t expect sympathy, love or tender care throughout. It is a very challenging place, don’t let yourself get emotionally weak. Fight it out, because at the end the rewards of your handwork will be there. Never be scared if you see someone in your company or college or school doing the same thing you’re doing differently; just believe in yourself. Most important, never in any circumstances compare yourself with others, because that will do nothing but demotivate you.”
Those words are stuck in my head. Whenever I feel like “Oh I can’t do this anymore, it’s enough, this is so exhausting, I have so much work to do.” I remember what she taught all of us wonder girls and my spirit is like “You can do this.”
Sometimes when one of my classmates does better than me in a subject, I do feel bad. But then I realize that instead of comparing myself to him or her, I should try to learn from him/her. One more thing that Girotra told us was that, when her daughter became 6 years old or so, people started judging her, saying that “The reason why you’re not having a second child is because you love your work more?”
Girotra said it was heartbreaking for her to hear people assume such things about her, but said she had a very supportive spouse, so she didn’t break down emotionally. She also taught us not to let people define us because we know the whole story and others don’t. Interacting with her has completely changed my life and the way I look at things now. A big thank you to her.