21-year-old Charu Sharma talks about her journey across the world that started because of her willingness to take a risk when she was younger
“How many of us have read in the news about women in India being attacked in public trains and buses?”, I asked. Everyone in the audience raised a hand, and I began my TED talk in California with my train robbery anecdote. Eleven years ago, couple thugs tried to rob my mother in a Mumbai local train, and my brother Chinmay and I fought back and chased them away. The Prime-Minister honoured us with the National Bravery Award, and the lesson that taking risks and speaking up for your rights pays off, changed the very course of my life. I became more open to risks – in big and small ways.
Three years ago, I gave up the tempting path to being an IITian, and took the risk to study abroad in the US. I knew that I had to leave the comfort of home, and see what the other end of the world was like, and this leap of faith changed my life. I took advantage of the liberal arts education system in the US, and enjoyed classes in Physics, Religion, Film Studies and Politics, before settling on double degrees in Economics and Astronomy. I wanted to explore different careers, so I pursued several projects and internships at Wall Street, with NASA scientists, on expedition to Antarctica, and exciting start-ups in Silicon Valley. I’ve been lucky to have visited all 7 continents and 43 countries now, and most importantly, I’ve grown to appreciate the joy of connecting with people.
It was discovering untold stories around the world that truly brought meaning to my life. The strangers I encountered have deeply touched my life-the fatherly Polish sailor who wrote poems only for my eyes; the 60 year old Tarot card reader in Australia who sincerely believes that we are soul mates; the Japanese masseuse who adopted me as her cultural daughter; the Turkish shopkeeper I now call Abi (Turkish for big brother); an elderly American bus driver who told me how he knew he would marry his wife the first time he saw her—he was 20, she was 17; the college student I slow danced with in an airplane from Buenos Aires to Texas.
Growing up in India, I would win trophies in academics, athletics and performing arts, but I was socially very shy and had no friends. Encountering profound moments of connection with strangers over and over again during my travels helped me open up and become comfortable with other people, and hence, with myself and my vulnerabilities.
This translated to feeling empowered and liberated, and I ended up writing a travel memoir ‘Far From Shore’, and founding start-ups that help people connect and collaborate. BizDevOutsourced.com connects technical cofounders to freelancers who can help position and sell their product, and Intervyou.me is an online platform for job-candidates to connect and practice mock interviews with each other. One thing led to another, and I started a blog on entrepreneurship with a friend I met during my time at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and I’m working on my second book, which is on entrepreneurship.
I could not have predicted any of it 3-4 years ago, but life has been full of serendipity, learning and love. Though, I know that the best is yet to come. The best is always yet to come. There are too many untold stories to discover, too many untraveled roads to walk on, too many people to meet and love.
Twitter handle: @charu1603
View the TEDx Talk below: