When the legendary TED conference came down to India, Indian bloggers were understandably excited.
During the conference, the TED blog fed the excitement by posting session-wise roundups (session 1, session 2, session 3, session 4, session 5, session 6, session 7, session 8, session 9) and reactions to the most popular talks (Hans Rosling, Devdutt Pattanaik, Tony Hsieh, Scott Cook, Pranav Mistry, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Shukla Bose, Anil Gupta, Kavita Ramdas, Sunitha Krishnan, Sidi Goma, Ramachandra Budihal, Ananda Shankar Jayant, Kiran Sethi, Eve Ensler, His Holiness the Karmapa, Shashi Tharoor) and even did a roundup of reactions to the conference.
Several bloggers wrote posts about how TED touched them in unexpected ways.
Rajiv Dingra was one of them –
In my last 3 years and more of blogging experience Ive attended over 50 events (atleast) and each of them have left me richer in knowledge or in insight. But none of them have ever moved me to tears or made me go in deep thought or made me proud to be Indian all in the matter of days. TEDIndia infact was more a reflection of what are the grave issues in India and the brilliance and the fallacy of India rather than being specific to Technology, Entertainment and Design.
Peter Elst summarized TEDIndia in ten quotes.
While the overall reaction to TEDIndia was overwhelmingly positive, several attendees were left a little underwhelmed.
TEDIndia fellow Amit Varma complained that TEDIndia catered to Western stereotypes of India –
There was much exotica, and much mysticism served up that says nothing at all about the country we are today. The average foreign attendee would have gone away with his stereotypes about India reinforced, not shattered. That’s an opportunity missed.
Amit also shared an interesting sociological observation –
The pharmacy at the Infosys campus in Mysore does not sell condoms. I want you to think about that for a moment. This is a campus where thousands of young men and women stay and work together. The official Infosys position on this matter, thus, seems to be that either a) Infosys employees do not have sex or b) Infosys employees have sex, but it should not be safe sex. Isn’t this interesting?
Aditi Machado was surprised by TEDIndia's strong focus on India –
In retrospect the India-focus at TED was too strong. When TED is held in the UK or the US, does the conference become all about those countries and those countries’ contributions to the world? I don’t think so. The running theme at TEDIndia, beginning with the first talk by Hans Rosling, seemed to be: ‘India will become the next superpower. Oh, and China too. But we’re in India and India is a democracy and we hate Commies, so we like India better.’ I’m sure many Indians were flattered, and I’m as patriotic as the next person, but it was disturbing to see that almost every speaker, especially the non-Indians, felt obligated to give us a big pat on the back.
Manjeet Kripalani at Financial Express also complained about TEDIndia's uni-directional programming –
The title was promising: “TEDIndia: the Future Beckons”. On the Mysore campus, India’s future had already arrived. It did not reflect in the programming of TEDIndia. The idea of TED is unique. Brilliant new minds who expound their futuristic ideas in 18 minutes to a sophisticated celebrity audience, interspersed with entertainment, music and some socially responsible talk. This TED conference was more “Bono Saves the World” than either Technology or Entertainment or Design. No soft or hard power, but powerlessness.
TED attendee Our Woman in Havana rounded off her series of posts about TEDIndia (day one, day two, day three, day four) by deciding that the real genius of TED lies in its ability to gather together people who are hugely talented and successful in a diverse range of fields –
Some of my best TED moments were little breaks when a randomly struck conversation brought nuggets of new thought –talking literature with A who worked in microfinance with the Acumen Fund and discovering our common heritage; discussing whether Urdu should be written in Hindi script in order to preserve the language in India with T; clashing head-on with J over Cuban politics at lunch; understanding from A why someone would want to put a boutique hotel in Ahmedabad; learning from B how designers can source organic materials; always always bumping into T and talking football, Punjabi and why lawyers are perceived as emptying rather than filling; dancing with a stranger; drinking coffee with an artist; discussing with C how to put Shashi Tharoor on the spot with a question about Indian state accountability over genocide. The genius in TED lay in those moments where nobody knew what would come next, and could then be blown away by what did come next. At times, those were the speakers, and often, those moments came in the all too brief meetings we had with people who already seem to have become friends.
For me, TEDIndia was about a rediscovery of the power of storytelling –
These stories reminded me that the most powerful stories we can tell about ourselves are, in fact, stories about other people. These stories reminded me that by telling stories about ideas that are bigger than us, we become bigger than ourselves. These stories reminded me that we are shaped by the stories we tell others, but even more so by the stories we tell ourselves.
The TEDIndia talks will soon be up on the TED website, so do look out for them.