Monday, November 30, 2009

TEDx Chennai

I'm glad that Abhinav pushed me into attending TED. Initially, I had no inclination to attend it because I just couldn't stand the idea of sitting and listening to people talk from morning 8.00am to evening 6.00pm! I just don't have that kind of patience, nor did I think that my body would allow me to do so. After all, I'm the guy who dozed off during a 1:1 with my research professor! (and oh believe me, that's not the only time I've fallen asleep while spending 1:1 time with someone else). But, finally, I did sign up for it. Got my passes.

At the end of the day, I was glad I attended it. I didn't sleep for 1 second. I didn't even feel drowsy. I did feel bored during a couple of people's talks, but that was about it. You can find the list of speakers here. If I were to order the speakers/performers according to my favourites, the list would look like the following
1) N. Vittal
2) R. Madhavan
3) Romulus Whitaker
4) Anil Srinivasan & Sikkil Gurucharan
5) Dr. Santhosh Babu
6) Satyabrata Dam
7) Sharada Ramanathan
8) Kavita Baliga (amazing Opera piece demonstration by her.. but the talk wasn't as good)
9) Khurshet Batliwala (only 'cause I've already attended the Art of Living course and so there wasn't much value add for me)
10) Jeeva Raghunathan
11) Krupalatha Martin Doss
12) GRK Reddy

My biggest problem with the bottom few speakers was that they did not understand the concept of TED. TED is a forum where some inspirational people who have achieved something, come and mention a few things about what they've done, and more importantly share how others can achieve what seems to be impossible. There have to be tangible take-aways from every take away. It is NOT a forum for advertising their companies or their achievements... but rather a place to highlight / show other people how to achieve them. If a talk made me think about somethings I haven't already, then it
Ever since I got back from the talk, there have been flashes in my head.. certain lines that some of the speakers said. That should tell you how good an event was. Some of the lines which made me think are listed below. I don't remember the exact lines, but these are my take-aways..

1) N. Vittal - It's always a challenge for an IAS officer because he is given the authority to change things without having any idea of what he's dealing with. So, what Vittal did was send out questionaires to every member of the organization asking a few particulars about the individuals, their function, and the challenges they faced, and what could be done to make their jobs easier. Vittal's take was that you can't always be the one coming up with all the ideas. If you're a good leader, you can enable others' ideas to come forward and blossom and importantly, you will credit them for it!

2) N. Vittal - How do we use the Judo technique (make the opponent's strength useless by your offense) to disrupt the money power of politicans in an election. This incredible money power and spends during elections is the start of the vicious cycle of corruption in India. Eg. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose tried to take the British on their own strength.. but was vanquished. Gandhiji used other methods like Ahimsa, Non-cooperation, etc to really get the Britishers out of India.. no amount of army power, money power, or authority that the British had could do anything against it

3) N. Vittal - Great leaders find a way to simplify complex problems into a simple concept/solution, exaggerate it effectively to make the masses understand / embrace the solution, and mobilize the masses to the cause! Perfect example was the Salt Sathyagraha. The complex problem of the Indian's suffering under the British, the British Oppressive rule, and the great loss of India's heritage was all summarized as: a common man cannot even have a pinch of salt without paying taxes. He made the Dandhi march to exaggerate the concept and make a point. And sure enough, the masses all around India rallied behind him. Non-cooperation!

4) Khurshed Batliwala - Problem with organizations and NGOs that address Alcoholics, drug addicts, etc.. is that you don't address the root cause. Not many people in the world know how to handle the ups and downs of life. They are mentally / physically weak and hence adopt other means to cope-up.. "It's almost like I have to either become an alcoholic / drug-addict before I can get some help and attention!". The Art of Living is one of the many ways that teaches the common man how to strengthen himself/herself through breathing techniques and other concepts.
I thought he nailed the problem statement atleast..

5) R. Madhavan - India is an 80% agricultural country, and if we have to import staple food.. its a shame. The problem is not the capability, but the yield. India probably has the worst yields per acre farmed. It's however easy to fix it. It's harder to go from 90% efficiency to 95%. However, in our case, it's so much easier to go up from 20% yield. Any educated changes we make, dramatically increases our yield!

6) R. Madhavan - Young entrepreneurs should look at agriculture (through engineering) as an opportunity. There's a lot of money to be made in this space!

7) R. Madhavan - A human being's brain capability is severely stunted if there is malnourishment in the first 3 years of his life in this world.

8) Satyabrata Dam - Whenever your life seems to complicated, head to the mountains.. They will give you clarity.
I tend to agree with this one. I've felt the same! Boy do I miss Boulder / Colorado!

9) Romulus Whitaker - I can't get over the name Madras. Why did they have to go change it to Chennai? What does Chennai mean?? Red-dog?? :-P

10) N. Vittal - Diabetes and corruption are similar in a large sense. Both can be controlled but not eliminated.. (thanks Janani for reminding me about this gem)

That's all I remember now. Will add more later as I remember..

You should be able to watch the videos which will be made free in 2 weeks on TED website (


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