TED meet offers emotional connect for participants

Ajay Sreevatsan

What would you do if you were given 18 minutes to explain your life’s work? Would you choke with emotions, miss out on details or relive nostalgic moments for everyone to see?

All that and more happens at TED conferences, and the TEDx event held at IIT Madras on Sunday was no different.

If you ever thought that it is impossible to form deep emotional bond with someone just 18 after seeing them, well it happens at TED – most times.

The day started off with a moving fusion of western classical and Carnatic music by pianist Anil Srinivasan and vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan. Music does not have boundaries and that beauty transcends barriers proved by the duo.

During her session on Indian cinema, Sharada Ramanathan, film director and writer said that most Bollywood movies today have lost their cultural and merely ape western cinema. “Today, one can hardly spot any difference between a Hollywood starlet and her Bollywood counterpart. A seminal work is about working from a blank canvas and Indian cinema has trouble with it because of our past colonial rule.” She added that Indian cinema will be appreciated globally only if concepts arise out of grassroots.

Next were two interesting men who could be examples for anyone who wants to chart their own path and head into the unknown. Romulus Earl Whitaker, herpotologist and wildlife conservationist first caught a snake when he was six years old. He now runs the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station in Western Ghats where he involves local communities in conservation efforts.

As for the other, R Madhavan, a former IITian turned farmer, he quit his job with ONGC to follow his heart. He said that while everyone keeps talking about rural prosperity, nothing much is happening.

“If you are a farmer, you are looked down upon. But everyone wants to eat. Food Corporation of India godowns are full, but still 46 percent of our children under three are malnourished.”

He added that improving productivity was a key challenge because there is a deep disconnect between the farmer and our agricultural universities.

There was an opera performance by Kavita Baliga, faculty member at Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory, who spoke about her fight against cancer and how it drove her to do something for which she will be remembered.

The floor was then left open for the bureaucrats, N Vittal, former Central Vigilance Commissioner and Santhosh Babu, Director of the state’s egovernance project. Mr Vittal shared with remarkable candour and humour some of the everyday difficulties that IAS officers face. “My daughter once asked me how I became the Secretary to the Department of Telecommunications without even knowing how to operate a VCR. We are not experts in any field, but a lot of responsibility is placed on us and we learn on our jobs.”

The final talk was given by Satyabrata Dam, explorer and mountaineer. He took the audience all over the world through stunning photographs taken during his expeditions.

What TED proves is that though our personal histories and backgrounds might be singular, our experiences are shared. With different people talking about different subjects and no common theme, TED should not work. But it does, emphasising that all knowledge is connected.

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