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Where Experience Met an Assemblage – TEDx ManipalUniversity

About a hundred people turned up at library auditorium on a Sunday morning knowing one thing for sure – they were going to get inspired. The TEDx ManipalUniversity logo greeted the enthusiastic arrivals. The Think Tank, a club formed with an aim to organize inspirational and motivational talks, organized their first TEDx event on the 29th of January. This was Manipal’s third time playing host to a TEDx event with it having taken place in 2010 and 2012 previously. The first University based TEDx event that had most of the crowd comprising of students or faculty of Manipal University, with a theme of E.D.G.E. (Explore, Discover, Grow, and Engage) showed all signs of being an event to remember. As the ecstatic audience took their seats they were greeted by The Think Tank, followed by a brief introduction to TEDx and how the day’s activities – a total of nine speakers were scheduled to deliver their talk with a short break after each group of three. Just after every break and as well as at the start of the event, clips from famous TED talks were shown.

Sanah Rizvi – On Success

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Sanah Rizvi‘s blithesome personality radiated joy and inspiration in the entire room. She convinced everyone that there is neither a short cut nor a potion for success. Her thought was that success is a result of everything around us, including our friends and family. Her influence was such that a brief interaction with her could render one with an impulsive desire to make something out of one’s life. After the joyful interaction, a huge round of applause acknowledged Sanah Rizvi – the first speaker of the event.

Dr. MS Valiathan – An Alternative to Expensive Medicines

The next speaker was one who was quite different from the others. His age and experience set him apart from everyone in the room. The cardiac surgeon who needs no introduction, Dr. M. S. Valiathan narrated his moving story – his vision of a bridge narrowing the gap between poverty and medicine. He did that by creating an affordable mechanical heart valve, the ‘Chitra’ Valve. He also spoke about determination and belief by narrating his own experience of how his product was rejected three times before becoming a commercial success.

Sabyasachi Sengupta – The Craft of Networking

Networking and Communication have proven to be one of the most important dimensions of our survival. To put forward new and innovative ideas to people, mastery of the art of communication needs to be done first as without convincing people, no one would be willing to pitch in. Social acceptance gives rise to a healthy boost in confidence. A jolly Sabyasachi convinced the audience the importance of networking and through his own journey from Kolkata to Amsterdam, narrated the qualities a good networker keeps in his mind – understanding one’s self-worth, making an impression, being a good listener and adamance for one’s own mistakes. Sabyasachi’s speech was a steady flow of words with sweetness all around which was the result of his networking skills he accumulated over the years. The man was highly amicable off-stage as well, where one of his advices to a student, when he opened up about his introvert nature, was to take videos of himself and look at them. Sabyasachi was confident that this method works very well for those with a fear of public speech as well.

What followed was a short break and the audience were given a chance to interact with the speakers – get to know them at a personal level, and ask them queries related to their topic.

Dwiref Oza – Art and Emotions Embrace Our Feelings As a Human 

The fourth speaker was a student of MIT, Dwiref Oza. His speech focused on art as a form of self-expression and its importance in modern society. He exuded charm as he spoke, saying that the purpose of art, through various mediums such as images, words and sounds, is to move people. He urged everyone to embrace their emotions, wander like children and to view the world through the lens of art. To quote him, “Art is humanity trying to understand itself and the world around us”.

Tushar Lall – There is Creativity in Everyone

The founder of The Indian Jam Project – whose aim is to knit classical Indian tones into western music, the fourth speaker of the day was Tushar Lall. A youth icon admired by people across the nation, he talked about his road to success as an artist. According to him, art is not limited to just painting or writing, every skill attained by a person is a form of art irrespective of the work they are doing. He emphasised on not thinking about the number of competitors – we can only see the path to victory if we eliminate the numbers. He ended by pointing that not stopping in life is a rarity and thus, only a handful succeed.

Avani Awasthee – To Dwindle Environmental Pollution

Next came Avani Awasthee, a student of School of Communication, Manipal University voicing her concerns for the environment. She narrated her journey to playing a part in saving the environment. She spoke of her efforts, from starting a ‘Cycle to Recycle’ initiative to clean up her hometown Pune, to being one of the lucky 150 students from around the world to travel to Antarctica. Cited as the best journey of her life, she met a number of environmental enthusiasts on her trip and learned a lot about the alarming threats to the environment which a lot of us are not aware of. She encouraged us to protect our environment, for the sake of the upcoming generations who, otherwise, would have to face numerous hardships.

Geeve George – The Innovator With a Heart

The 16-year-old mastermind took the stage after Avani and blew everyone away when he said that he is an Intel Real Sense Challenge 2014 finalist. The boy-wonder, Geeve George, a student of Little Rock Indian School, Brahmavar won some tools and a 3D camera which he used to create a tool used by the visually impaired. The philanthropist in him came out when he had put the software for open sourcing – releasing it for other people to use it in their own ways for free. His exceptional decision came with the thought of making his device meet the requirements of people he himself would never have thought of. Furthermore, his research in the MIT Media Lab, Boston opened his eyes to another real world problem – the lack of proper science equipment in many schools around the country. His creative mind focused and using the wearable Google Cardboard (Google’s own Virtual Reality set) and a lens with a smartphone acting as the display device, he created the most readily accessible microscope ever built. His Magnum Opus bearing the name MagniWear has recently been open sourced as well to boost availability across Indian schools.

In the short break that followed, a gleeful Tushar Lall was seen signing autographs, giving advice and accepting countless requests for selfies. Geeve George had allowed everyone to take a look at MagniWear. Everyone was astonished as it seemed like their eyes started hovering over a sheet of cells. Never had anyone in the room looked at the microscopic world as vividly and comfortably as then.

Padmanabh Pandit – Art + Technology = Future

After the second break cum interactive session, the third and the final half of the day began. MIT’s Padmanabh Pandit talked about how current Indian society fails to realise the importance of art by comparing art with failure. To prove his point, he stated examples about the coexistence of art and technology. He gave the example of how a movie’s cinematic experience depends equally on the story and acting, as well as the cameras and CGI used. He also spoke about people pursuing science and art degrees simultaneously. According to him, art and science have always been intertwined and separating them would be a disrespect as well as a disaster to mankind.

Ganesh Nayak – MIT’s Very Own Daredevil

Then entered Ganesh Nayak who, without a brief introduction, emphasised on the day December 23, 2012. Although this is the day when the Mayans predicted to be our doomsday, it has a totally different meaning for the faculty member of MIT. Because this day is the reason for which his breathlessness when he climbed a staircase changed into a cry of ecstasy after cycling 40 km and a further 10 km uphill. Yes, this was indeed the time of his life when he made the greatest decision of his life – to quit smoking. His normal life took a cosmic turn to a one of adventure after he reached the apex of a hill in Agumbe, Karnataka. Embracing adventure as a part of his new life, he trained his body to a more daring one – to climb the Himalayas. For that, he saved money for a year, quit his job, took a bicycle and went to Srinagar with an iron will. His adventure had some lighter moments, including him eating too many apricots and having indigestion in the middle of nowhere not able to find a decent toilet to do his deeds. His search led him to a normal toilet which was nothing short of paradise to him. But the joy lasted a short time as an officer ranted on him for using an officer’s only toilet. His nerve-wracking moment came when he decided to take his bike to a ten-day journey across the sand valley instead of the bus. From battling a sandstorm to facing water shortages, he said he had never felt closer to death before. A shepherd then saw him and his companion stranded on the desert and saved them. According to him, adventure changes our perspective on things and makes the ordinary into extraordinary. When the shepherd gave him a bottle of water, the colourless liquid had a completely new meaning for him. Ending his speech, he said even if his adventure looks daunting and life-threatening, it was worth every bit. His next adventure you ask? Alaska!

Lohit Sahu – On Personalised Education

Last but most certainly not the least, Lohit Sahu talks about customisation. From our favourite suit to matrimonial sites which select a particular partner based on the information a user puts about himself, everything in the world is tending towards customisation – to connect with the user/audience in a way which never had been fathomed before. And then his question came, “Why not education?” To show the world that it’s possible, he founded Phyzok Learning Solutions which focussed on ‘flipping’ the current methods of teaching. But before that, he had to make sure that our current education system isn’t doing a good job for most of the students. He asked students in a beach in Mumbai about some simple scientific phenomenon like the reason waves are formed at the beach. To his surprise, most of them failed. He then tested his method by offering his system of personalised education to 300 underprivileged girls through his initiative – ‘Project Udaan’ in 2013 to clear IIT JEE 2014. And the audience had a heavy round of applause when he mentioned that only in a span of 5 months (the exam for which people prepare for 2-4 years), a staggering 143 of them cleared the test!

The 6 hours filled with motivation and inspiration thus came to an end. But to the audience’s surprise, The Think Tank organised a dinner party at Arte Central Park with the speakers. “We didn’t want anyone to go back without thinking that they couldn’t speak with a particular speaker,” said Abhay Sahni, Curator of the event. “We thought that after a talk anyone would want to discuss with the speakers about their ideas or various other topics and what better could be done than to organize a dinner and social spaces which break the barrier between the speaker and the attendee and there’s a smooth conversation without any formal appointments.” The unannounced event was well met with, as the experience of having dinner at the same table as someone who has achieved wonders in life and take their experience to fuel our own passion is one to be grabbed at all cost!

PC: Rohan Agarwal for The Think Tank