“It has left me a changed person”: Inspiring TEDxperience at TEDx Chennai


Chinmayi, the playback singer, at the end of the day of TEDx Chennai felt that it left her a “changed person”. None of the 240+ people who attended TEDx Chennai would disagree. To top it up, she says: “Words in any language are insufficient to explain the emotions that you experience sometimes.” Following TED India at Mysore after the organizer and long-time friend Kiruba Shankar initiated her to TED, she played the co-host, a role that she usually does with elegance. She found “honest earnestness” visible in speakers and also complimented organizers for choosing speakers who are capable of changing and affecting people.[Although she is generous in her praise for TEDx, she is not playing favorites with songs she has sung so far and modest to admit that her best is yet come. Of late, she has done numbers in Tamil films Aadhavan, Sidhu, a couple of films, and Kaavalar Kudiyiruppu, a Tamil and Kannada bilingual.]

This one impression that she gave about TEDx Chennai is a testimony and certification (that could not be translated into adjectives) to Kiruba Shankar and his organizing team’s efforts to put this event together in the past four months. TEDx is the only event that is capable of bringing music and musicians’ voice [Anil Srinivasan (Western piano artist) and Sikkil Gurucharan (Carnatic vocal singer)], social entrepreneur [Krupalatha Martin Doss, founder of Sukrupa, an organization for serving underprivileged children], filmmaker [Sharadha Ramanathan], herpetologist [Romulus Earl Whitaker], agriculture innovator [R. Madhavan, IITian turned agriculturist], entrepreneur with a mission for social transformation [GRK Reddy, MD, MARG], respected bureaucrat [N. Vittal, IAS, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner], transformer-bureaucrat [Dr. Santhosh Babu, IAS, Chairman, ELCOT], music professional with an inspirational story [Kavita Baliga, faculty member of A.R. Rahman Music Conservatory], a yogi and follower of Sri Sri Ravishankar [Khurshed Batliwala, director of World Alliance for Youth Transformation], international professional storyteller [Jeeva Raghunath], and acclaimed mountaineer [Satyabrada Dam] under one platform to convey their inspiring stories.

One of the participants…already transformed by religion…finds inspiration… has come for TEDxperience

The day started with the pleasant “East is West and West is East” [Anil Srinivasan’s rebuttal to “East is East and West is West” quote of Rudyard Kipling] fusion of piano and classical music by Anil Srinivasan and Sikkil Gurucharan. Sharadha Ramanathan presented an eye-opening visuals-based demo of “cultural shift” towards westernization of Indian cinema. GRK Reddy explained his dream of using entrepreneurship as a tool to enable social transformation and reach interiors of the country for locating MARG’s projects. MARG’s infrastructure projects like Karaikal port and Bijapur airport contribute to the development of the nation. While the other prelunch sessions fed intellectual fodder to the audience that left them awe-struck at the kind of transformation that Romulus Whitaker, Krupalatha Martin Doss, and Madhavan are enabling through their unconventional initiatives, the postlunch sessions touched a chord with the audience starting from the story of Kavitha Baliga’s battle against cancer at a young age. N. Vittal combined humor with life’s learnings and left it to the audience to decide about adopting the Judo technique to root out corruption. If you thought government breeds inefficiency and wakes up to technology late, better change your perception. Santhosh Babu, Chairman, ELCOT, has proved what government can do for basic education and social development in rural areas if a bureaucrat like him channelizes authority and thinking toward progress.After Santhosh Babu took the audience through the back2school initiative and how he enabled basic education to deprived children in Krishnagiri district in Tamil Nadu, Khurshed Batliwala let audience experience Rajas (action) through a nine-minute meditation involving the audience. Jeeva Raghunath helped discover the child in the audience by asking them to repeat her story with hands going up and down, legs shaking, and body moving back and forth. She closed with an amusing story that can go in cycles. Finally, it was Satyabrada Dam who took the audience through some breathtaking visuals and his messages with mountaineering experiences, which was as inspiring as his closing statement: stay at the top.

Quotable Quotes



Anil Srinivasan

East is West, West is East. Who cares about Kipling?

Krupalatha Martin Doss

When I was driving from Jersey to Pennsylvania, my inner voice said: “You had education and have come this far. What about children on the street?”

Sharadha Ramanathan

The chairman of the jury of selection of Indian films at the Goa film festival on selection of films: “Predominantly among the films that we got most of them were culturally lost. Culturally disconnected from themselves.”


Mahatma Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi need the grassroots to reach out to them. That’s how they engage with the grass roots. That’s where genius lies.

GRK Reddy

There is nothing on the outside. It is what is inside that makes us…

Romulus Whitaker

Life is much like a river and it picks up and carries you along…


I want you to suspend the negative feelings you have for animals I like…

R. Madhavan

When you say you are a farmer, you are looked down. But all of us want to eat.

Kavitha Baliga

There is so much I want to do and so much that needs to be done. I haven’t made my mark (while undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma)


It is amazing what you can do when you know you are running out of time. I started painting, I started experimenting with photography, I started playing guitar, I started composing classical music…

N. Vittal

Diabetes is similar to corruption. You can control it but cannot eliminate it!


Judo technique is using the enemy’s strengths to go against him

Santhosh Babu

Grassroots can be changed with a little initiative from our side

Khurshed Batliwala

What is the use of reforming a drunkard? You have to prevent him from reaching that state…

Jeeva Raghunath

There are stories for everyone…

Satyabrata Dam

Stay on top


TED is all about experience. Soon, the organizers of TEDx Chennai will put up videos for free on their website www.tedxchennai.com. Please watch out the website for videos and get TEDxperience and inspiration.

We also spoke to Kiruba Shankar, the brain behind TEDx Chennai, on what TEDx is all about and how he finally made TEDx Chennai happen. Ram Sahasranam, one of the key pillars of TED India, explained to us how Lakshmi brought TED to India. TED India at Mysore (visit www.tedindia.com for videos and reports) was a mindblowing experience even to people who watched its live streaming on the Internet. Ram also shares his views on TED and tells us how TEDx is going to reach other cities in India (in another post).

You will be hearing voices from TEDx Chennai: what the organizers, sponsors, and audience felt about TEDx Chennai (in yet another post).

Keep watching this space for more on TEDx Chennai.

Covered by Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy at Chennai


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