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India of the future, from young eyes

Last updated on: March 11, 2004 21:34 IST

One of fashion world's brightest star Sabyasachi Mukherjee promises never to shift out of Kolkota; tennis sensation Sania Mirza speaks of her dream to win the senior's title in Wimbeldon and young politician Sachin Pilot dreams of India that would be the destination for overseas Indians.

As a gathering of young Indians sat listening to the stars with rapt attention the three young people spoke of their Vision for India while addressing the Young Indians Summit -- Unleashing the India Opportunity organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Admitting his stage fright, Sabyasachi was candid as he narrated his middle-class upbringing in Kolkota as "a shy introverted Indian, scared to express" his desires. He ended up becoming a fashion designer ignoring almost everyone around.

"A lot of us here have a lot of dreams," Sabyasachi said, pointing out that the drive and passion to achieve things in life are prevented by Indian inability to express oneself. "Our biggest problem is that we are embarrassed about who we are and our roots," Sabyasachi, who was noticed by India's fashion pandits only after the international media celebrated him, said.

He said it is important "to acknowledge the Indians in us," because "we can be our biggest enemies", trying to pull each other down. For centuries Indians have let the "West discover India and then we follow like a fad." That has to change, said the designer who has left a trail in the fashion world with his deep Indian touch in his works.

Sabyasachi told the audience that he would never leave Kolkota, the city that gave him his sensibilities, because "if you have a good product then people will find the way to your house." The young fashion designer is a major craze in Bollywood and a large number of his clients are in Mumbai.

While criticising those who migrated to the West or flashier places, Sabyasachi admitted that there was nothing wrong with traveling overseas to learn something new as long as they returned to their roots.

Sania Mirza, the junior Wimbledon girl's champion, addressed the gathering after taking a short break from her 12th class exam. Despite India's remarkable progress, Sania said, a great amount of work is yet to be done.

She identified population as a great burden on India and hoped that there would be a "systematic decline in population". Spread of education, freedom from hunger, equality for women and respect for girl children, and affordable healthcare were among Mirza's agenda for India of the future.

As the first ambassador for girl child under the ministry of health and family welfare, Sania has been exposed to horrendous tales and figures of India's high female feticide and infanticide. "Dowry system is playing havoc with the girl child," she said. "Let us educate people, let us punish the guilty and work to change the society," Sania added.

Sania recalled how three years back she went to Wimbeldon without her coach because she couldn't afford to take him along. And at Wimbledon she couldn't find any girl to practice along because there was no such provision for an Indian woman player. For the past 50 years no Indian woman had played at Wimbledon. The organisers had also put up the wrong national flag when she appeared at the Wimbledon the first time.

Sania said her dream was now to win the senior's Wimbledon title for India.

Sachin Pilot, son of late Rajesh Pilot and a recent entrant to the Congress party, said youngsters from various field have to get their act together as tremendous amount of work needs to be done to build a stronger India. The country cannot hope to be a progressed nation by compromising on secularism and its plurality, he argued.

Of the eight Indians who were with him in his MBA class in the US, he was the only to return to India, Sachin pointed out. He argued that it was necessary for young Indians to come back to India and serve the nation. Pointing out that the lure of the West was a cultural aspect, Sachin said, "some feel intimidated by the West."

The youngsters need to feel confident of their country and it is the responsibility of the young Indians to "show that we can do it."

By Josy Joseph in New Delhi