It’s with a strange mixture of pride and humility that we unveil the fourth edition of the Deccan Herald Changemaker awards, styled this year as 22 to Watch in 2022.
Pride because of what we feel when we behold the glittering careers – some very young – of the awardees this year. And humility because their stories of determination, often against difficult odds, set in perspective the highs and lows of our everyday lives.
We’re recognising 19 individuals and three duos who have redeemed another difficult year for our state and indeed the country and the world, where Covid extracted a terrible cost and left us dreading to look at our television screens for fear of what we might see.
Pandemic or not, life has gone on, and the winners this year went about their tasks – in social work, education, sports, the arts, and in other fields -- with the kind of single-mindedness that convinced us, and our jury, that theirs were the stories to tell our readers.
For this year’s stories – like those that have gone before them in the three years since we instituted these awards – are deeply inspiring. Read about Asha, the social worker in Ramanagara who, starting at the age of 23, has helped bury nearly 5,000 unidentified bodies. Or Syed, whose paddy museum with 1,350 varieties draws visitors from as far away as Japan and contributes to conserving heirloom varieties. Or our youngest laureate yet, Rahul, a 14-year-old Carnatic music sensation.
You’ll find plenty to admire in Abhisheka, a science educator who will tell you ‘how to be a fig’, in Dayanand, who did the unthinkable and convinced villagers to use faecal sludge to generate electricity; in Rangaswamy, who was galvanised by personal tragedy to become a road safety crusader; and Maruti, who fights to revive traditional clam harvesting – and protecting the rights of clam digger families -- in Uttara Kannada.
The winners are diverse, but a single thread does run through their stories: A commitment to doing something truly outstanding, whether it be to excel for the sake of excellence, or to beat competition, or to make a big difference in the circumstances of those around them. That is why there is so much meaning for us in highlighting these remarkable lives.
It’s been our privilege and good fortune to have unearthed some real gems in our state since 2019, and we’re confident this year’s winners will go forth and blaze such a trail that we will be scrambling, with some pride, to track their exploits in the months and years ahead.