SoLo Changers – The Social Local Changers of Bengal 1st meet-up

We often discuss social and economic issues, challenges of startup ecosystems and various other serious problems that are gradually taking a toll on our minds, our society, our very own surrounding.  But, what if, for a change we no more discuss issues, and try to hunt for a solution?

You just cannot hack your way to a social change. So what can be done about it?

You need to take a plunge, dive into the pool of talented people, create an army of changers and together make a better world.

We have a lot of talented people around us – people whose work impact others in many magnitude. But we have no idea of what their niche interest areas are, where lie their domain knowledge, whom to connect with when the right time comes? So, why can’t we bring together all these talented people (as many as we can) and build a community of changers – the “SoLo Changers”.

Thus evolved the idea of forming “SoLo Changers” – a brainchild of Aninda Das, B. Arvind, Surmi Roy and Myself – an initiative to bring together all those who are Social Local Changers.

The first meet-up of “SoLo Changers” took place at Wise Owl with 14 Changers (on a special invitation basis) on March 1, 2014.  Aninda, the moderator of the session, explained “SoLo Changers” through a welcome note. The format of the session was planned keeping in mind Kolkata’s very own ‘adda’ culture.

SoLo Changers 1st Meet-up

SoLo Changers 1st Meet-up

Aninda began with asking the youngest member, Arpan Kumar Mukherjee, a 3rd year engineering student, about his journey and challenges. Arpan talked about some of the most common challenge faced by engineering students. Placement is a big concern and often the students struggle to even connect with the right companies.

As Arpan mentioned that it is very important to become an Engineer in order to be successful in life, the focus shifted to young and talented Pankaj Kumar, who is a college dropout, has no formal IT training, yet runs an IT company offering employment to around 10 people for the past 5 years. Pankaj talked about his struggle to make ends meet when he came to Kolkata for the first time in search of a job. There were days, when he had to survive on a single piece of bread, but he never lost hope. A self-learner, Pankaj, believes it is more important to have a will to go with your passion than getting a formal degree.

What is most important to become a change agent? Vijaya Das, a graphics designer by profession gave her vote to talent and skills. She, like almost every other kid, would someday want to be a superhero and a hip-hop star some other day. Pressure from the home made her sit for engineering entrance exams, although she hardly had any interest in it. It was one day she saw an advertisement of a design school and was determined to become a graphics designer. Her passion for painting since her childhood helped her to learn quicker than the rest. Today, this young talented lady runs her own design company.

A child prodigy, the young and talented Samantak Sinha is much loved by the Bengali music lovers. He was sensational for the young with “Bandh Bhenge Dao”, his very first playback in popular TV serial Gaaner Opare. His “not-an-usual-voice-for-Rabindrasangeet” has made him a household name.  Like every other kid, Samantak too would live in his own fantasy world. One day, he shared, he saw a band party in his neighborhood hired to some wedding. Their fully ornamented clothes, and the rhythmic music the band played, attracted him so much that he wanted to grew up and have his own band. He would whine much the next pujo to have a band party attire. Today his dream to form a band has come true with “Samantak and Mates”. It was not an easy journey for him. Finding a suitable rehearsal space, visiting recording studios, keeping all night awake to get that perfect tune to a new song he wrote…all were a part of his daily routine. The struggle towards perfection is endless the singer believes. Learning and improvement is a continuous process.

Picking a queue from Samantak, Aninda introduced Anirban Saha, a Tagore enthusiast. Like many other Bengalis he would quote Tagore while chatting with friends or on Facebook wall. He would find many (surprisingly the “many” also included many Bengalis) would ask him to define it in simpler words or translate those poetic creations in English. This drove the passion young Anirban to build and launch “Tagore Quotes”, an application that translates the verses of Tagore. Anirban, besides being a software developer from TCS, is also known for being a fantastic photographer, blogger and social media reputation management speaker.

The conversation gradually panned towards Sheikh Sadaquat Hossain – a very enthusiastic fellow completely driven by his passion. What do you do, when you are in England, graduating from an elite college, yet do not feel motivated? You simply follow your heart, like Sadaquat, and do what you really want to do. Sadaquat came back to India from England to start his own venture, Stylish Yarn – a lifestyle designer brand. One must follow his dreams and never stop exploring, is the secret mantra shared by his young entrepreneur.

Although Tanay Ghoshal runs an IT company, I prefer calling him a social entrepreneur.  Tanay is always brimming with ideas – ideas that can bring a benefit to the society. Unlike most of the IT startups, Tanay does not only hunt for foreign clients and dollar earnings. He keeps developing web and mobile based social apps. Currently Tanay is closely working with Kolkata Police to develop a mobile app to report accident cases.

A PhD dropout, voracious reader, gifted writer, first from India to reach 1lac tweets….all these and more is Agnivo Niogi. People know him for his extraordinary write-ups on Bengal. His job takes him to places and gives him an opportunity to connect with the grass root people. Agnivo believes it is for his deep and intangible roots in Bengal that give life to his write-ups. Be it Bengali food or music Agnivo is always immersed in anything that is even remotely connected with Bengal. He rightly says, it is easy to criticize from a distance, but when you are into the system, you know what the real things are. And the fact is that a lot of progressive work is taking place in rural Bengal.

A social communicator, an RJ and above all a retro music curator. That’s what defines Arvind the best. A Tamil Brahmin, born and brought up in Kolkata, he generated a love for music since a very young age. Bengal has music in the air, Arvind would say. He is an ocean of knowledge when it comes to the Indian retro music. The scintillating cabarets, the light fitted jackets, glamorous ladies, and charming men defines Bollywood’s retro era. But, it all sounds pale without a mention of Pancham da and Kishore Da, adds Arvind.

It is not difficult to find talents in Bengal. If you have a musician sitting on your left, you may very likely find a reciter to your right. Surmi Roy, a PhD student, specializing in Liver Cancer, is a reciter too. She, along with two other girls, have formed a recitation band. When asked – why a recitation troupe during an era of music bands, Surmi said, it all starts with poetry. You first write a poetry and then fill it with music, so it becomes a song. Surmi, not only finds time out for poetry, but also for a number of social service starting from organizing blood donation camps to sit and draw competitions. She also gives free tuition to a few kids over the weekend.

The last one to talk on the day was Steve Capell, an American learning Bengali for the past 9 years. While learning the language, he was faced with difficulty in not just understanding several words but also pronouncing many many more. A PhD in Computer Science, Steve then decided to make a tool to make Bangla learning easier for others. His initiative Bangla Tangla is a result of this.

It was mind refreshing, great learning and above all an extremely motivating experience for all. Thanks to Tanay, CEO and Founder of  Honcho Commercial Pvt. Ltd. for sponsoring coffees and snacks for all of us.

SoLo Changers aims to meet newer people and let the community grow. Our next meet-up will be announced soon.

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