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  • Today, I am going to talk about anger.

  • When I was 11,

  • seeing some of my friends leaving the school

  • because their parents could not afford textbooks

  • made me angry.

  • When I was 27,

  • hearing the plight of a desperate slave father

  • whose daughter was about to be sold to a brothel

  • made me angry.

  • At the age of 50,

  • lying on the street, in a pool of blood,

  • along with my own son,

  • made me angry.

  • Dear friends, for centuries we were taught anger is bad.

  • Our parents, teachers, priests --

  • everyone taught us how to control and suppress our anger.

  • But I ask why?

  • Why can't we convert our anger for the larger good of society?

  • Why can't we use our anger

  • to challenge and change the evils of the world?

  • That I tried to do.

  • Friends,

  • most of the brightest ideas came to my mind out of anger.

  • Like when I was 35 and sat in a locked-up, tiny prison.

  • The whole night, I was angry.

  • But it has given birth to a new idea.

  • But I will come to that later on.

  • Let me begin with the story of how I got a name for myself.

  • I had been a big admirer of Mahatma Gandhi since my childhood.

  • Gandhi fought and lead India's freedom movement.

  • But more importantly,

  • he taught us how to treat the most vulnerable sections,

  • the most deprived people, with dignity and respect.

  • And so, when India was celebrating

  • Mahatma Gandhi's birth centenary in 1969 --

  • at that time I was 15 --

  • an idea came to my mind.

  • Why can't we celebrate it differently?

  • I knew, as perhaps many of you might know,

  • that in India, a large number of people are born in the lowest segment of caste.

  • And they are treated as untouchables.

  • These are the people --

  • forget about allowing them to go to the temples,

  • they cannot even go into the houses and shops of high-caste people.

  • So I was very impressed with the leaders of my town

  • who were speaking very highly against the caste system and untouchability

  • and talking of Gandhian ideals.

  • So inspired by that, I thought, let us set an example

  • by inviting these people to eat food cooked and served

  • by the untouchable community.

  • I went to some low-caste, so-called untouchable, people,

  • tried to convince them, but it was unthinkable for them.

  • They told me, "No, no. It's not possible. It never happened."

  • I said, "Look at these leaders,

  • they are so great, they are against untouchability.

  • They will come. If nobody comes, we can set an example."

  • These people thought that I was too naive.

  • Finally, they were convinced.

  • My friends and I took our bicycles and invited political leaders.

  • And I was so thrilled, rather, empowered

  • to see that each one of them agreed to come.

  • I thought, "Great idea. We can set an example.

  • We can bring about change in the society."

  • The day has come.

  • All these untouchables, three women and two men,

  • they agreed to come.

  • I could recall that they had used the best of their clothes.

  • They brought new utensils.

  • They had taken baths hundreds of times

  • because it was unthinkable for them to do.

  • It was the moment of change.

  • They gathered. Food was cooked.

  • It was 7 o'clock.

  • By 8 o'clock, we kept on waiting,

  • because it's not very uncommon that the leaders become late,

  • for an hour or so.

  • So after 8 o'clock, we took our bicycles and went to these leaders' homes,

  • just to remind them.

  • One of the leader's wives told me,

  • "Sorry, he is having some headache, perhaps he cannot come."

  • I went to another leader

  • and his wife told me, "Okay, you go, he will definitely join."

  • So I thought that the dinner will take place,

  • though not at that large a scale.

  • I went back to the venue, which was a newly built Mahatma Gandhi Park.

  • It was 10 o'clock.

  • None of the leaders showed up.

  • That made me angry.

  • I was standing, leaning against Mahatma Gandhi's statue.

  • I was emotionally drained, rather exhausted.

  • Then I sat down where the food was lying.

  • I kept my emotions on hold.

  • But then, when I took the first bite,

  • I broke down in tears.

  • And suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder.

  • And it was the healing, motherly touch of an untouchable woman.

  • And she told me, "Kailash, why are you crying?

  • You have done your bit.

  • You have eaten the food cooked by untouchables,

  • which has never happened in our memory."

  • She said, "You won today."

  • And my friends, she was right.

  • I came back home, a little after midnight,

  • shocked to see that several high-caste elderly people

  • were sitting in my courtyard.

  • I saw my mother and elderly women were crying

  • and they were pleading to these elderly people

  • because they had threatened to outcaste my whole family.

  • And you know, outcasting the family is the biggest social punishment

  • one can think of.

  • Somehow they agreed to punish only me, and the punishment was purification.

  • That means I had to go 600 miles away from my hometown

  • to the River Ganges to take a holy dip.

  • And after that, I should organize a feast for priests, 101 priests,

  • wash their feet and drink that water.

  • It was total nonsense,

  • and I refused to accept that punishment.

  • How did they punish me?

  • I was barred from entering into my own kitchen and my own dining room,

  • my utensils were separated.

  • But the night when I was angry, they wanted to outcaste me.

  • But I decided to outcaste the entire caste system.

  • (Applause)

  • And that was possible because the beginning would have been

  • to change the family name, or surname,

  • because in India, most of the family names are caste names.

  • So I decided to drop my name.

  • And then, later on, I gave a new name to myself: Satyarthi,

  • that means, "seeker of truth."

  • (Applause)

  • And that was the beginning of my transformative anger.

  • Friends, maybe one of you can tell me,

  • what was I doing before becoming a children's rights activist?

  • Does anybody know?

  • No.

  • I was an engineer, an electrical engineer.

  • And then I learned how the energy

  • of burning fire, coal,

  • the nuclear blast inside the chambers,

  • raging river currents,

  • fierce winds,

  • could be converted into the light and lives of millions.

  • I also learned how the most uncontrollable form of energy

  • could be harnessed for good and making society better.

  • So I'll come back to the story of when I was caught in the prison:

  • I was very happy freeing a dozen children from slavery,

  • handing them over to their parents.

  • I cannot explain my joy when I free a child.

  • I was so happy.

  • But when I was waiting for my train to come back to my hometown, Delhi,

  • I saw that dozens of children were arriving;

  • they were being trafficked by someone.

  • I stopped them, those people.

  • I complained to the police.

  • So the policemen, instead of helping me,

  • they threw me in this small, tiny shell, like an animal.

  • And that was the night of anger

  • when one of the brightest and biggest ideas was born.

  • I thought that if I keep on freeing 10 children, and 50 more will join,

  • that's not done.

  • And I believed in the power of consumers,

  • and let me tell you that this was the first time

  • when a campaign was launched by me or anywhere in the world,

  • to educate and sensitize the consumers

  • to create a demand for child-labor-free rugs.

  • In Europe and America, we have been successful.

  • And it has resulted in a fall in child labor

  • in South Asian countries by 80 percent.

  • (Applause)

  • Not only that, but this first-ever consumer's power, or consumer's campaign

  • has grown in other countries and other industries,

  • maybe chocolate, maybe apparel, maybe shoes -- it has gone beyond.

  • My anger at the age of 11,

  • when I realized how important education is for every child,

  • I got an idea to collect used books and help the poorest children.

  • I created a book bank at the age of 11.