We started work on the fifth edition of the Changemaker awards, styled 23 to Watch in 2023, as far back as five months ago. We received a record 500 nominations, and the internal team whittled away at this list over three rounds of discussion, taking a 360-degree view of each. For, there were no bad candidates -- all were remarkable in their own way -- but some were more relevant to these awards in terms of circumstances, impact and sheer excellence in a given field.
Then the external jury -- theatre stalwart Arundhati Nag, social anthropologist A R Vasavi, budget aviation pioneer Capt GR Gopinath and renowned author Rahamat Tarikere -- were given a list of 60 to work with. We were struck by the dedication and rigour they brought to the table over several weeks, and when they presented us with their final choices, we knew the best in the business had been chosen: Changemakers in the truest sense, people who stood up to challenges, barriers and backlashes, and people who furthered their chosen fields through sheer, devoted dedication. It would be no exaggeration to say that they lit up the world around them.
Since we started these awards in 2019, we're fortunate to have identified some truly remarkable people, many of whom have gone on to great things. This year, the youngest is a 20-year-old maker of low-cost learning apps; we have inspiring stories from deep tech, transgender activism, sport, social work, afforestation and folk art, among many others. Many of these stories were sparked by a single incident, be it a theatre artiste denied entry into a village canteen, a fact-checker aghast at a tide of lies, or a big-hearted activist witnessing the stigma faced by kids with HIV. What's important is not just the sensitivity of these noble souls, but their iron determination not to condone injustice or even to just go with the flow; these are people made of sterner stuff.
Each of their tales could fill a volume, fully told; do read the short profiles published today and view the videos of each Changemaker's life which will be released over the next three weeks. These are truly stories we can tell our children in the hope of sparking something in those forming minds; after all, these are still young steps for a nation marked by exhilarating potential and tragic inequality.
Sitaraman Shankar, Editor