My first TEDx Hyderabad event..

While I’ve been a regular in watching/ learning from TEDX videos a long time now, I attended my first ‘live’ event yesterday, 20th September 2015. While I wasn’t sure what to expect, it turned out to be more interesting than I’d imagined — a houseful event, audience from diverse backgrounds, amazing speakers, and noteworthy ideas. I am not sure what resonates more — the spirit of what TED stands for, or what each speaker had to say.

A quick recap on each talk and my impressions on it — I am hoping this will serve as a reminder in the times to come, and when I need of fresh inspiration.

Manasi Prasad and her love for music helped her shape (along with a few other committed people) a first-of-its-kind music ‘experience’ school in Bangalore — http://indianmusicexperience.org/. The idea is to spread awareness about traditional Indian music and help today’s youngsters value Indian music.

My first glimpse of Armstrong Pame made me think he was a college kid in dress-up clothes! :) Never mind I’ve read about him and know of his ‘Miracle’. Down to earth, belying his age and Govt position, Pame spoke about the need for a 100km road in Manipur. Using crowd funding from poor villagers. Without Govt help. Using their hands and outdated tools.

He rounded off his talk by reaffirming core values as he saw them. No strings, integrity, good team and starting with the self. He reminded me so much of Metro man Sreedharan. Not once in describing that journey did he use ‘I’. And for that, he earned my respect.

Raman Roy, an old hand at talking and speeches, stuck to the most important points he felt helped in building trust and laying the foundation for the BPO business in India. His wit and articulate talk held our attention.

Sri Palam Kalyanasundaram wasn’t at the event as expected. However, the TEDx team took the pains to meet him in Chennai, record and translate the conversation with him. While the sound quality was not the best, it was plain to see how simple he was. His sense of humor shone through and reminded me of my high-school maths tuition master or my favorite uncle. If all of us could do a 100th of what he does, this world may be a better place.

Aside: I am not given to Sir, Madam, Mr/ Mrs due to many reasons. But here is a man I couldn’t just address by his name and is worthy of so much more respect.

The choices we make today certainly impact our future, and more importantly our children. Colleen Lightbody’s story in one such story. A young and ignorant Colleen drank into her pregnancy without realizing the impact it would have on her baby. Her first child was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome disorder. Entitled “Worrier to Warrior”, her session walked us through her personal journey, the choices she had to make and how she used that incident to work on preventing the same happening with someone else.

Another important aspect Colleen focused was how the brain functions; she emphasized that using the bran more strengthened it more. She spoke of focus, determination and will power. Colleen is a true example of that ideology herself — She has built a career, become an international speaker, trainer and mentor and topped it with participating in the Ironman Triathlon. So, time to get off the lazy thinking and grab those dumbbells, don’t you think?

Babu Gogineni’s talk highlighted all that’s not so great about our world today. His talk detailed a recent episode of an ‘untouchable’ old man being stoned to death. He also talked about how humanism and rationalism are the causalities to superstitions and incorrect beliefs. He reminded me so much of a younger Cho Ramasamy, a pragmatic and fearless crusader.

One specific image he used, “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” by Goya was so accurate and drove home his point beautifully.

Anshul Sinha, one of the younger speakers of the day spoke about using the simplest of ‘gadgets’ to make a big impact. A self-taught film-maker with his heart in the right place, Anshul creates documentaries of causes he supports and spread awareness on social media platforms, raise funds and help those in need.

One of his earliest initiatives was to collect just one rupee per day along with his classmates and donate that money to the needy. To ensure transparency, he and his team video tapped the donations using the simplest phones and spreading the word via social platforms. Many colleges in Hyderabad participated in that drive and it became an instant success. So much so that Anshul won 10+ awards for it. He ended his talk with an interesting question, “If I can do good things with one rupee and a small camera-phone, how much good can you all do?” Thought provoking, isn’t it?

It’s rather interesting to meet someone as old as your grandfather and has seen your adopted city grow from a sleepy town to a city. Lenny Emmanuel, Hyderabad’s grand old photographer has been there, seen it and shot it too. He impressed the audience with his stories of the city and some breathtaking photographs.

I’ve been in Hyderabad 15 years now and have seen it grow from a laid back town to a bustling technology hub. And to think, someone has spent time and energy documenting it over the decades… Amazing!

Joe Koster, a Swiss who moved to Hyderabad for the love of the city and music, had only one thing he wanted to do: pin Hyderabad as a ‘Symphony Orchestra’ destination on the world map. And he is well on his way in achieving that. He also talked about successful Indian and Swiss collaborations, most noted in the recent Tennis tournaments.

In talking about working in India, Joe had an interesting anecdote to share, (as said by an Indian to him) “You Swiss have all the watches, but we Indians have all the time!” :)

What does a predominantly-Indian audience that sees a video ending with a beautiful “Made in India” signage do? They stand up and clap. For a long time. That video showcased the product designed and produced by Kshitij Marwahand his team at Tesseract. Kshitij shared his story about moving back from the US to pursue his passion for photography and technology. Despite the odds (“making hardware in India shouldn’t be this hard, right?”), and exploring all possible ways, his team came up a working product, a better prototype and finally a winning product that has a Made in India tag. Curious? See http://360vr.tesseract.in/.

What do you say to someone who asks you if you know your food? If you have any idea what goes into producing it? Or just how much a farmer struggles to bring that food to your table? GV Ramanjeneyulu started his session with these hard hitting questions, and went on to detail the issues facing the farmers. He and his team at Sahaja Aharam are not only working towards pesticide free agriculture, but also on educating people to make the right food choices, activism and working with Government agencies as much as possible.

If Ritu Karidhal was technical writer looking for a job, I’d hire her right here. Good for us and India that she’s one of the scientists behind the Mars Orbiter Mission launched by the ISRO. She outlined the start of the mission, the possible glitches, the use of technology, and the planning that went into not only mitigating risks, but in ensuring 100% success of a mission that allowed .001% failure. At less cost than most developed nations planned. In lesser time. At first attempt.

She also talked about her humble beginnings, her family and specifically her father who encouraged her to work and explore new frontiers.

Aside: who can forget the collective elation of a nation that stood united in pride at the pictures of Kachivaram saree-clad, flowers-adorned women scientists at that momentous time? Not me! :)

The last, but possibly the most poignant talks of the day was by Zena El Khalil, an artist, writer, and activist from worn-torn Lebanon. Using childhood tragedy as a motivator, dealing with anger and dejection as allies rather than enemies, Zena has made a place for herself as an activist for Peace. Using blogs, paintings, sculptures to spread her message across the world, Zena played in spreading the message of love and peace wherever she goes.

A very impressive piece of art “A’salaam Alaykum Peace Be Upon You” is an installation in Beirut. Please spend a moment to read this and see this. The audience, along with me, was completely mesmerized by not just her talk and her story, but the very idea of using art to spread love and peace: “If you are dancing, you won’t be fighting.”

A word of thanks to the organizing team: I am sure there are many people involved in the process of not just planning, but putting it together, and seeing an event to completion. And I think the tired, but elated smiles at the end of Sunday spoke for your stamina, determination and intent. May your tribe increase. :)

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