Palakh Khanna is a 20-year-old Social Entrepreneur, Public Speaker, Mentor, teacher and Environmentalist. She is recognised as Asia’s 100 Women Power Leaders, BW Wellbeing’s 30 Under 30, and India’s 20 Under 20. She is also the former Regional Officer for Asia Pacific at SDSN Youth. Featured on LinkedIn News twice, she has also been featured at The Times Square, US Times Now, The Hindu, Global Indian, TOI, DU Today, and Official Humans of Delhi amongst others! She was also announced as one of India’s Top 75 Education and Career Influencers 2023. Palakh has spoken in over 30+ talks across universities and institutes including Google, G20 events, and IITs, she has also been on the judging panel for various competitions and events including Bits Pilani, NIIT, NASSCOM, Solving for Humanity (supported by UNDP experts), and many colleges across DU.
You name it, and Palakh will be on her way to achieve it. She is currently a student at Gargi College, Delhi University, and is pursuing English honors. She somehow manages to do everything by herself. Her drive to bring social impact is truly commendable, she is the founder of her youth-run organization, Break.the.ice, which is an award-winning, Harvard accelerated international youth organization working towards an open discussion on taboo topics including mental health, gender equality, climate change etc. amongst young people, making individuals aware of these topics and having an open conversation about it.
She is someone we all can look up to, she radiates so much positivity that will motivate you to do something for society as well. Palakh is a true example of managing to do it all at such a young age.
We got the opportunity to get to know the story of Palakh Khanna, her journey till now, how she managed to take up college and her organization together and so much more.
Q1. How would you describe your journey till now? And what have been your highlights?
I believe my journey has been quite interesting, to say the least! It has had its own ups and downs, with so many learnings and so much fun as well. Growing up, I was an introvert by nature. I was always scared about other people’s judgments, and their ideas about me, and I usually was a part of small friend groups. From that to becoming a speaker now, it has been quite the journey. Honestly, there are many highlights but something that would remain close to my heart is being featured in The Hindu, and Times Square and making it to some incredible lists amongst many other things is something I will take back with me forever!
Q2. What clicked your mind to finally start with your own organization Break the Ice, at such a young age?
I started Break.The.Ice when I overheard this conversation between my mom and my domestic helper. She had had her periods at our place but she was quite uncomfortable asking for pads. This was during the pandemic and I realized that we, as educated people need to stop these stigmas from getting pushed ahead. That is when I started Break.The.Ice is a platform to talk about important topics, that often get ignored including menstruation, gender equality, and much more.
Q3. People your age still struggle to manage college with society, how do you manage to handle your organization break the ice, and other activities?
I have my moments of struggle as well! I try to make sure that I manage my time well so that I can prioritize whatever needs my attention at the moment. Personally, setting up time for important items as well as making sure I take breaks in the middle is something that works well for me. Along with that, I make sure I take daily personal breaks as well, where I do nothing or only listen to music and enjoy.
Q4. You are pursuing English honors, which is an extensive course in itself, how do you manage to handle both your studies and your organization?
Honestly, I am a massive believer in good education as well. For me, I try to manage my studies and work by making small efforts daily. English Honors is quite an intensive course but I do enjoy learning more and more about literature, about the way that the world works, and about the way writers express themselves. But yes, I do try to manage both aspects of my life by maintaining to-do lists, they work well for me, personally.
Q5. How has your experience been in Gargi till now? What is the one thing you love about being in college?
My experience with Gargi and college in general has been amazing! It is a whole new world from school, to say the least. The vibes and the people as well as the professors are really good and I genuinely feel at home! My experience with college life though has been a rollercoaster. When I entered college, I felt nervous, and almost not good enough. But, entering my 3rd year now, as a confident, independent, and determined student and changemaker.
Q6. You are also LinkedIn’s top communication voice and are also frequent in posting your thoughts online, how do you feel when people your age and younger than you see you as a role model?
That is such a sweet question! Honestly, for everyone who has supported me and is inspired by me, truly grateful. But I always tell everyone who is just getting started, to stop comparing yourself to other people, take a few risks, and do not give up! I also questioned my worth and my abilities for the longest time, and I regret doing that. I hope to connect with more and more people, motivate them, and help them get started.
Q7. You have been awarded Asia’s 100 women power leaders, got featured on Times Square, been to Josh talk and so much more, what advice will you give to college students who want to build confidence and start following their goals?
As I mentioned earlier, do not compare yourself to others, also take risks and get out of your comfort zone! Everything I have done has always happened outside my comfort zone, which was honestly my biggest learning. As an introvert turned ambivert, I have realized that we often explore things that we are either comfortable with or feel like cannot go beyond, and that needs to change. Take that leap of faith, and this might sound philosophical but honestly, it works.
Q8. You have also served as the Regional Officer for Asia Pacific in your previous role. How was your experience working in that?
Yes, in 2021-22, I served as the Regional Officer for Asia Pacific, with an International Youth organization. Honestly, the learnings were insane and the exposure and networking skills I took back from that were amazing! Along with that, working closely on the SDGs and understanding more about them in real, practical work has been quite a learning. Leading the projects as the Regional Officer for the entire Asia Pacific region was quite challenging, but truly engaging.
Q9. What is one lesson in your life that you have learned the hard way?
I guess that would be something around not taking a break! For the longest time, I used to value work so much that I did not focus on taking a break, whenever I needed it. That is something you should never do. Learned this the hard way, but you need to take a break or your body will force you to take one. Be conscious of this and make sure you take daily, weekly, or bi-weekly breaks, whatever works best for you.
Q10. What is one social taboo that you feel will take years to be eradicated from our society?
I think it would be mental health! I hope we are able to remove the stigma faster, but there is a lot of stigmatization around mental health, in every aspect. People are either not talking about mental health, or simply ignoring it, and we need to find the right balance as well as remove the stigma around seeking professional help as well to break the ice! Understanding mental health, mental health disorders, the symptoms, your causes, your reactions, when you feel like you need professional help, or how to seek that professional help is super important.
Q11. If you were to write your own autobiography, what would you name it? And what will be the 3 major takeaways for the audience?
I will name it something along the lines of creating change, from the real-life story of an introvert to a confident changemaker. The book would leave the audience with 3 takeaways- Get started, get out of your comfort zone, and stop doubting yourself.
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