Monday, 3 September 2012

A day at TEDx Gurgaon

Picture courtesy - IILM Blog

Providence. On 31st August I googled ideas and events in the city and what did I find- TEDx Gurgaon on 1st September on the theme “Taking Road Less Travelled”, an event that happens once a year in the city! Hints like these just say out aloud that there are things outside the cause-n-effect loop, lying around you but playing a little hide-n-seek, waiting to be discovered. So I followed the white rabbit and registered for the event.

The next morning was a Saturday (sadly a work-day for me). I woke up at the same getting-ready time and drove off to IILM campus, the venue. Now it’s been a long haul since college. So every time I step into one, I get a kick of nostalgia and a wave erupts off the plain and placid self. And if you put a nice cloudy weather, heartily welcoming volunteers, a cheerful college crowd, open spaces between buildings for cultural activities, lawns, trees and a lively cafeteria in the canvas, one just can’t stay on foot. A lovely setting to explore the ideas and their power.

So I was escorted to the Auditorium, one with an optimal size to accommodate the audience and to support proper acoustics. I was an hour late but the event hadn’t kicked off yet. India! Be it TED or Metallica Concert, we always follow the great Indian tradition of “buffer time”. Hereby, I’m taking nothing away from the organizers, for the 9:30 time on a Saturday morning could be too much for some, including me :0.

I quickly grasped a comfortable seat in fourth row. It was my first attendance in TED, so I waited with closed hands and open mind. The anchor greeted the audience and made us aware of the agenda for the day. Following the tradition, the event kicked off with an audio-visual wherein Chris Anderson, the curator of TED conference explains – “Why TEDx and what it means”. In short, TEDx is an independently organized TED event, where eminent thinkers and doers of the society come and speak their mind for the greater good. Anyone licensed under TED can organize it.

Image courtesy - IILM

Soon after the AV, the first speaker, Abhinandan Chatterjee took stage with a slide in background – The road less taken. Abhinandan, who works as an iTrain consultant in the field of learning development is a great story teller. Every next sentence in his story reveals a bit and puzzles a bit. But this little speech was even special and more engrossing as it came straight from heart. He shared how a person who did splendid in his career, tumbled and lost the edge due to health problems, but kept toiling for a better life only to lose breath in the end; the person being his father. The event changed his outlook of life and guided him to a road of his own. He worked himself to identify his past accomplishments and to categorize them according to different parameters- easy, hard, common and unique. The “unique” ones, he said, defines you and is important part of self-assessment. The highlight of this speech was captured in this little story: A decent fisherman was advised by a fellow to go early in the morning to fish. Fisherman asked why? Fellow said to catch more fish. Why? You’ll buy more boats and more fishes. Then what? You’ll be rich. Then what? You’ll be able to relax and be happy. What do you think am I doing now? The message was: do unique and enjoy it RIGHT NOW. I took a note to thank him for this candid and moving speech during the tea break.

The breaks are an important part of TED. Students, entrepreneurs, corporate professionals, tech geeks, hackers and social enthusiasts all converse together on varied topics. For me that is the USP of this event. And yeah, unlimited snacks and coffee are also available.

Image courtesy - IILM

After another filler of TED video, arrived an ever-energetic Ashish Sachdeva, founder of Green Dream Foundation, who talked about “going green as a road less travelled”. He said it’s all there in the media and in our talks. But do we really understand and follow the concept? What forbids those who are not going green? He said some of us are so overwhelmed with environmental problems that we feel our efforts won’t contribute much. We need to change this feeling. He stressed upon changing our costly habits, which are costly to environment, to simpler, cleaner and cheaper habits. His green speech was centered upon getting the public aware about little things – switching off lights, using organic products, conserving water, taking a stroll to market etc. that contributes to a better environment, a better future.

The next presentation was from Abhijit Bhaduri, Chief Learning Officer of Wipro. He delivered a powerful presentation over how should one go about making choices- especially professional choices in life. According to him, it is very easy. Here goes the formula. Talent is the ability to CONSISTENTLY perform something at a competitive level. Now, one’s choices must lead one to identify and build upon one’s talent. If he is confused between something he enjoys and not very good at and something he is good at but doesn’t enjoy much, he must choose the former because skill is the easiest part to learn. “You first identify what you enjoy and then get trained in it.” And there is no age to this identification and changing the course of career. He remarked that he himself did it 3 or 4 times in his career. On first glimpse this idea seems too brave but if thought carefully, it seems more logical and ensures higher guarantee of success in the long run. He shared his story from childhood to present and boasts now of being “in love with what I do”. I thought “Did he just solve the most confusing problem of life”. Right after this speech, I ran up to him and thanked him for his insights.

Image courtesy - IILM

Image courtesy - TEDx

With that we left for lunch in the college’s canteen. The food was too good. I reserved myself to a light and talkative lunch with few friends that I made on that day. Soon after the lunch all TEDers assembled in the lawn in the T-E-D formation posing for the overhead cameras. [Anyone who has these pictures of better quality please notify in comments]

Image courtesy - IILM

On the way back to auditorium, someone told me that next presentation was the most special. It was from the “Tiger Woman of India”. Blessed with a voice full of sympathy, touch, affection and humility, Dr.Latika Rana narrated her story of tiger conservation. At the start, I must confess, I didn’t understand her passion and perspective. I’ve been inquisitive towards few pet dogs but rarely felt a CONNECTION with animals. On the contrary I’ve felt anger towards some as monkeys pestered me a lot during childhood. I understand now that I greatly misunderstood them. She started by showing several snapshots of jungles, tigers and their habitat which were collected over a long period in her research. Tigers like to assemble in groups and socialize, she said, removing the anti-social tag associated with them. Everything from how cubs play, cuddle, tease, compete, and get trained by their mothers showed they are not so solitary predators. They are exquisitely beautiful, definitely important for the ecosystem and India must be proud of this elegant animal. Then came a slide with numbers. The number of tigers in India has decreased from 40,000 in 1947 to just 1700 in 2012. I felt the pain and agony in her voice when she said “….and no one is bothered”. She says we all talk about tiger conservation like it’s a rocket science but it is not. They just need their habitat as it is and be left aloof and nature will take care of their growth. Caging them is not the solution as that way we would be losing the WILD tigers. She detailed how poachers and nearby tribes are killing them illegally just for money. There is just not enough law enforcement in place. She, through her foundation, took steps in coherence with government to rebuild the lost habitat, to provide employment and health facilities to nearby tribes etc. She is still delivering for the cause. I’m certain everyone present in the audi felt a trickle of unformed tears for the condition of our national animal. A stunned silence was followed by a congratulating applause.

Image courtesy - IILM

The last speech was an overwhelming surprise. No, it was not a speech embellished with profoundness but a simple talk that percolates your heart. The anchor called upon Vicky Roy and all eyes set upon a humble boy may be in his early 20s who took stage with deep eyes and greeted all with a Namaste. He delivered in Hindi, the struggling story of his lifetime. When he was very young, his parents couldn’t afford keep him. Vicky fled away from his grandmother’s home who put him to strenuous work when he should have held a copy and pencil. He roamed around railway stations in Delhi and was caught by a social service community. Again, he was captivated and again he fled. He stumbled places to places, did nightmarish work for a boy of his age- picking bottles and doing construction jobs. As fate took a turn he hooked onto a job of assistant to a cameraman. He learnt camera-skills and some English too. He beautifully amalgamated this serious story with humor and made us laugh. In next few years he had clicked numerous photographs that depicted his past life. And were they admired! His efforts saw him host his first photo galleria for public and it was very successful “kyunki papa bhi dekhne aaye the. Unka ladka ghar se bhag ke bigda nahi tha.” said an emotinal Vicky and all TEDers erupted with an emotional applause. Vicky was one of the four international photographers who were called to shoot the Ground Zero and was the only such Indian. He was even summoned for a lunch with Prince Harry! Phew. Indeed the story is a Bollywood flick and Vicky an instant hero. Junta rushed to pose with him!

Image courtesy - IILM

Next were entertainment sessions - first was an awesome performance by the lovely Jasleen Royal, semi finalist of India’s got talent and the second was a Bhangra Dance. I’ll upload the videos that I captured though the quality is not that good.

Later the young junta (including me) joined the Bhangra dancers on stage just like college and danced like mads :) After we drenched ourselves we assembled to cut the TED cake. We even had a B’day boy who held the knife to celebrate his most memorable birthday.

Yeah, the memorabilia was pretty and useful for lately I’ve turned into a coffee addict. Thank you organizers!!

Waiting for the next TEDx !!

For more pictures visit - this page and this page. And if anyone has my pic please share especially while I was dancing :P

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