TEDxChennai on 10.10.10 was based on the theme Do! The end of the day mood among the audience was upbeat and the whole TEDx Chennai organizing team deserves all credit for trying out new things and succeeding this year.Kiruba Shankar betted the day on diverse set of speakers and an "underrated audience" just before the start. Milind Rau, debutant Tamil director whose film is yet to release, came with an open mind and was looking forward to an exciting day after he had watched a few TED videos. Sudha from the marketing team of ClearTrip, the travel partner for TEDxChennai, was expecting to learn something new from the event. Pravin Shekar, member of the organizing team, explained the agenda of having four sessions comprising speakers who have been there and done that and three TED videos. He said that the event will be signed off with a high-performance speaker who will inspire the audience to just go there and do it keeping the hunger sustaining – Rasmus Ankersen.
Direct from TED headquarters
TEDx Licencing Director Lara Stein started the proceedings with her talk on what TED and TEDx is all about and how TED has evolved to become one of the iconic brands, much sought after by audience all over the world. She was elated over the growth of TEDx events, which are counting 1400 in 95 countries as of now.
Masters of craft
Guitarist Prasanna first explained his 'do' part -- his mission through music. What the audience lost was his master craft. He was able to play only one piece in the time left. A middle school teacher from Kerala G. Rajendran delivered his clocklike precision speech in Tamil. He was cohesive, engaging, and witty at times. His 18-minute walkthough was an eye opener on how our educational system is ineffective to answer to children's curiosity.
Overcoming disease and disability
Cerebral palsy "conqueror" G. J. Siddharth dwelt upon the Can-Do spirit. With most of anecdotes from his real life capable of bringing you to tears, he simply was not willing to give up whenever his disease stood on his way. The most touching was how he wrote an examination with an assistant for four hours. The sad part was that the person writing his dictation did not know English. He had to dictate the answers word by word. But he rounded off saying he wondered at the end of it if he had a bit of English left in him. This kind of humor was visible throughout his touching rendition of real life with a debilitating disease.
Classical dancer Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant, an ardent exponent of South Indian classical dance, first explained how our litany of excuses prevent us from achieving what we want and how she overcame excuses to finally become an acclaimed dancer. She used her craft dance to overcome breast cancer, with which she was diagnosed two years back. This sober moment was soon converted into a beautiful display of her art for a small piece.
Wildlife photographer Shekar Dattatri narrated the insensitiveness of so-called "development" to nature. With stunning visuals and short video clips, he explained how interdependent the species were on each other and how our ruthless ways are causing harm to those species. He particularly was annoyed at the use of modern boats to kill Oliver Ridely turtles in Orissa. He also explained how he had moved from capturing fascinating nature to showcasing how we are destroying nature. A 14-year court battle led to the shutting of an open cast mine that was causing erosion in the Thungabadra river in Karnataka.
Blue Cross of India founder Chinny Krishna deserves our fullest appreciation for his fight for animal rights. He simply eliminated killing of street dogs through ABC (Animal Birth Control), a legitimate way to reduce their population, thereby bringing down the rabies cases to nil in Chennai and Jaipur. He narrated his battle with policymakers to make the change in their mindset and the eventual adoption of ABC by WHO.
If revolution is possible through individuals who act as change agents, these two individuals represent the epitome of fighting against odds and unfavorable circumstances in delivering what they intended.
The two speeches postlunch was more of life's lessons. Corporate trainer CK (T Chendil Kumar), a Toastmaster, had the audience in splits and explained how presentations can be combined effectively with sensible humour. His delivery of jokes cannot be put down in words. It is an experience to laugh when he cracks them. For example, his wife threatened to divorce him three days after his wedding. The reason – he promised to take his wife to an exotic destination for honeymoon but ended up taking her to graveyard. He further added fuel to the fire when his wife asked him about his enraging choice by saying "people are dying to come here." She did not take the joke lightly and complained to CK's father. Then things were sorted out amicably.
The most inspiring joke was delivered when he was wheeled into the operating theatre for his 98%, 99%, and 100% blocks in the heart. His friend asked him to crack a joke as he went in for the operation. He quoted the figures and said he never obtained such marks in his school but got them now.
Lakshmi Prathury took the audience through lessons from failure. She explained that you should look for lure out of failure instead of repenting for it. She also explained her father's supporting role during her tough times and how Andy Grove, CEO of Intel, where she worked, took ownership for a failure and commanded towering respect from his men and women. According to her, success is the accumulation of failures dealt with gracefully.
Converting a difficult situation into opportunity
Madura Microfinance founder Dr. Tara Thiagarajan started off by saying when she took over Madura, an official from ICICI met her to tell her that she has to take care of NPAs. She googled to find that NPA stood for National Psychologists Association. From such poor knowledge of financial sector and the business she inherited from her father, who died quite unexpectedly, she combined her knowledge of brain (neuroscience) to make a difference to rural lives. Explaining how her connecting initiatives are taking shape to expand rural outlook of business, she said that microentrepreneurs in rural areas are living for sustenance and are not looking for scale beyond their familiar radius. She is using cutting edge technology to assess how rural markets can be connected.
The "outside view"
The final session was devoted first to Chennai Trekking Club founder Peter Van Geit, a native of Belgium and peak performance coach and author Rasmus Ankersen, a native of Denmark. Peter converted his boredom into adventurous experience of trekking in various forms -- women only, kids, and senior citizens. Then he used the community of 8000 CTC members to initiate some social changes like taking orphanage children for trekking and cleaning up the coast from Marina to Injambakkam in Chennai.
Rasmus explained his world tour in search of what facilitates superlative performance from seemingly unusual locations. For example, runners from a particular lesser known town of Ethiopia consistently win 4 to 5 golds in Olympics. Later he found that training in natural circumstances with emphasis on hardwork and one practicing the art without conscious application resulted in superior performances. Well-built facilities in developed countries like US and Europe do not seem to result in peak performance.
To bring in more diversity, Hip Hop Tamizha, a Tamil pop group, gave a performance.
Right from stage preparation to other components of the event, TEDxChennai has delivered on the TED promise of great experience without compromising TED DNA and principles, which are crucial in Lara Stein's view.
-- Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, chief evangelist, reports from Chennai