Sania Mirza: An inspiration on the court
By Sachin Tendulkar
The Mirzas probably knew what the future held for their daughter. Her name, Sania, means brilliant.
I first heard about Sania Mirza back in 2005, when she became the first Indian to win a Women’s Tennis Association event. In 2008 I saw her play in the third round of the Australian Open against Venus Williams. Though she lost, I believed she had the potential to be a star.
When Sania’s singles career was cut short by wrist injuries, she, through dedication and willpower, reinvented herself fully as a doubles player. Today Sania and her partner on court, Martina Hingis, are No. 1 in doubles and utterly dominant—they have taken the past three Grand Slam events.
Sania’s confidence, strength and resilience reach beyond tennis. She has inspired a generation of Indians to pursue their dreams—and to realize that they can also be the best.
Tendulkar is one of the greatest cricketers of all time
Sundar Pichai: The Internet’s chief engineer
By Bill Nye
Sundar Pichai has helped change the world. Last summer he became the CEO of Google. You can look him up, er, I mean, you can Google him. He was the head guy on Google Drive. That’s the original term for “the cloud.” He worked on Google Chrome, Gmail and Android phones. A great many of us can’t tell which side of a street we’re on without checking Google Maps. He was born in Chennai, India, to a middle-class family, and discovered an aptitude for numbers when his family got its first telephone, a rotary, when he was 12.
He is an engineer. So is his wife. Engineers use science to solve problems and make things. Engineering applies a combination of logic and intuition to problem solving. It’s a way of thinking that leaves one well suited to run a company. We are all watching for what he produces next.
Nye is a science educator and the author of Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World
Priyanka Chopra on Breaking Out of the Bollywood Stereotype
Priyanka Chopra has already accomplished a lot in her acting career, with some 50 films to her credit, and she’s only on the up-and-up. The actress and TIME 100 honoree stars in the hit show Quantico on ABC and will appear in the the upcoming movie reboot of Baywatch.
But she’s had to work hard to get where she is. In an interview with TIME, Chopra explained that as a young actress, she was treated as a dime a dozen. “When I was very young, I was 19 and I was doing the first few movies, I remember that my dates weren’t working out. My scheduling wasn’t working out for a movie with a very big actor. And the producer said, ‘Well, she can’t work it out, it’s fine, we’ll just cast someone else. Or, you know what? I’ll launch a new girl because girls are replaceable.’ I didn’t understand it then. But I think subconsciously it really worked on my mind, and I started picking up parts which were strong, which were not just the damsel in distress waiting for someone to rescue me. As much as I like being rescued. Every girl does … Now 13, 15 years later, whatever, I think that the movies that I do, I’m irreplaceable and the boys are replaceable.”
Aziz Ansari: TV’s new romantic
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson
As people who shoot in New York, we know there’s no way to have an on-location show there that’s generic. It always ends up becoming specific. And on Netflix’s Master of None, you see New York through Aziz Ansari’s eyes. Each episode is its own little experience: the way Aziz talks about his ethnicity and career is so interesting, and the entertainment-industry world he writes about is hysterical and on point.
Our shows are really different; Aziz shows people in a slightly more settled phase of life. As Dev, an aspiring actor, Aziz is looking for love in a more openly sentimental way than we usually see on TV. It’s inspiring to see him experiment and break the mold. The episode “Mornings,” a time lapse of days Aziz’s character spends with his girlfriend, felt different from anything on TV; so did “Nashville,” where his foodie character missed a flight because he was buying barbecue sauce.
Aziz is obsessed with food too. When we went to Mission Chinese Food with him, we just let him order. We knew it would be good—and it was amazing.
Glazer and Jacobson are the creators and stars of Broad City
Sunita Narain: Clearing the air
Sunita Narain’s ideas have shaped some of the key debates of our time. A paper that she co-authored in 1991 remains to this day the foundational charter of the global climate-justice movement.
As an activist, Narain is a pioneer. She and the organization that she heads, the New Delhi–based Centre for Science and Environment, have been campaigning to reduce the Indian capital’s dangerous air-pollution levels for almost two decades. Despite resistance from many quarters, some of their key recommendations have been embraced by the courts.
Narain has also consistently opposed the kind of elite conservationism that blames environmental problems on the poor. Instead she has advocated policies that recognize India’s forest dwellers and indigenous peoples as essential custodians of their environments. Hers is a voice that urgently needs to be heard in this era of climate change.
Ghosh’s most recent novel is Flood of Fire
Nadia Murad: A witness for war’s victims
By Eve Ensler
Nadia Murad stands in a long, invisible history of fierce, indomitable women who rise from the scorched earth of rape during war to break the odious silence and demand justice and freedom for their sisters. At 19 she lost her home, her country, her culture, her mother to murder; witnessed male members of her family murdered in mass killings; and was kidnapped, sold and endlessly raped by members of ISIS. She now travels the world speaking out on the genocide being inflicted on her Yezidi people and demanding release for the more than 3,000 women still held in bondage.
As Europe closes its borders to terrorized refugees in Greece and the U.S. turns its back on the suffering, Nadia is a beacon of light and truth—a reminder that it was the American-led war in Iraq that laid the path for ISIS, that U.S. arms left behind on the battlefield fell into the hands of ISIS and that the U.S. waited too long to intervene in the mass killing and enslavement of the Yezidi people. At 23, Nadia Murad is risking everything to awaken us. I hope we are listening, because we too are responsible.
Ensler is a playwright and the founder of V-Day, a movement to end violence against women and girls
Raj Panjabi: Health care hero
By Bill Clinton
To spend time with Raj Panjabi is to see up close what happens when someone with uncommon courage and compassion puts himself on the front lines of the world’s most complex challenges.
I know. I visited Liberia last spring five days before it was first declared Ebola free, and the heroic work Raj and his organization Last Mile Health did to train 1,300 community health workers was critical in helping the government contain the epidemic.
The outbreak in West Africa has been a tragic and cautionary tale about what can happen if we don’t invest in the human resources to stop epidemics before they begin—and why Raj’s mission to put a health care worker within reach of everyone everywhere is so critical. I was proud to present Raj with our 2015 Clinton Global Citizen Award for his part in the massive, coordinated response that brought a halt to this terrible disease.
We will always face challenges, but we’re all better off because there are people like Raj who are visionary, caring and determined enough to meet them.
Clinton is the founder of the Clinton Foundation and the 42nd President of the United States