Friday, December 17, 2010

Inspiration Galore (INK Conference)

Last weekend was one of virtual inspiration. Just a few days before it happened, I found out that TEDIndia was happening again, but it had been restructured to be called the INK conference (in association with TED) that would happen on an annual basis in India (TEDIndia was a one-time thing).

If you don’t know about TED, let me introduce you. It’s a treasure vault of inspiration. TED spreads ideas. It started off as a single conference that has exploded globally to be many conferences. Inspirational folks from all fields are given 6 to 18 minutes to share their work, story and/or idea with the world. While I don’t have a bucket list per say, attending a TED conference is most definitely something I want to do one day.

Anyways, bringing it back to INK. They live streamed one session each day, which was fantastic to watch and thanks to social media like twitter I could get the take-away messages from the other talks that happened over the three days. Some of the best talks are going to be on the TED website, but here are some of the take-aways and stories from the three days (compiled from tweets). You can find more information on the speakers on the INK Conference website.

Side: For Avatar fans, James Cameron is coming out with Avatar that will be going to a new biome – the ocean.

DAY 1:

A great write-up on Day 1 is on the TED Blog here -

DAY 2:

Alexander Tsiaris: “When we're born, we're given a pristine cardiovascular system. Then, we screw it up.” He shares stories about wellness to communicate its importance because “Data does not speak to you. Pie Charts never changed anyone's life - story speaks”

Deepti Naval (after visiting and writing about mental institutions): I could never look at life in the same way again. She gave an intense reading of her poetry, capturing the tortured life of a mentally ill woman.

Simon Lewis: “I believe that we can all rise and shine.” (He gave a talk that started with his almost life-ending accident to the importance of consciousness to science and healing). He explains the experimental sensor-based technology that allows him to walk today and raises awareness about head injuries and ways to recover from them.

Sophie Morgan: Her life changed when she ended up in a wheelchair. Changed, but didn't end. She designed The Mannequal to incorporate wheelchairs in shop windows because disabled girls like fashion too.

Deepak Chopra: proposes that consciousness creates reality. Ultimately, there is only one kind of healing -- the holiness that we experience when we return to our ground state.

Nancy Duarte: You have the power to change the world. It only takes a single idea. I'm really passionate about presentations, brilliant ideas can be forgotten just because of how they're presented. (Great talk on how to make effective presentations)

Anand Kumar begins with the story of Santosh Kumar, a rural Indian who did not have access to formal education but studied on his own. Anand accepted Santosh Kumar to his "Super 30" program. Santosh is now a scientist in Belgium.

George Mathew: When people make music together, they have to listen to each other -- that's an important lesson for young people.

When being beaten in a mugging, his metronome fell out of his pocket. They began asking questions -- mugging became a music lesson.

Luis Dias: Our children are talented. All they need is a chance. Let us give it to them.

Tom Wujec: 3 tech trends might change everything: Digitized reality, infinite computing and rapid fabrication. Once the 3D printer can replicate itself we will definitively have the democratization of design. When we're able to build anything, what will we build?

Corey Bridges: I think the most important thing the Internet enables is collaboration

Sunitha Krishnan: Only when the most excluded, rejected, isolated are included will we have a world that will be a better place for all.

Her story post TEDIndia talk - Google grant led to led to construction of a school, youth home, adult home, hospital. Her Sunitha shelter has been attacked multiple times by mobs, her life attacked. Today the challenge is how to build a team of people who will be committed under such conditions?

C Mallesham innovated an automatic loom to revive the dying tradition of Pochampally silk sari weaving (took him 5 years, he was told only educated engineers could design something like this).

Mussaret Zaidi: Hygiene hypothesis: lack of exposure to bacteria at a young age may hinder immune development (proven to be true). Food policy should take into account local conditions, consider human/animal/environmental health

Ugesh Sarcar: His father, also a magician, told him magic is all about psychology

Mark Koska: Contaminations from injections kill twice as many people as malaria worldwide. He invented a 5-cent syringe that breaks if you try to reuse it.

Ashwini Akkunji started out by running after cattle in her village in Karnataka. Ashwini Akkunji was supported by her father in becoming an athlete, but faced many hurdles of health, isolation, community disapproval. She went on to become an Commonwealth champion.


Alexander Tsiaras’ advice for the young (but really all): You are only limited by your imagination. The possibilities are endless.

Raghava KK: We need to pop our bubbles and continue to reinvent ourselves. My learning is all about unlearning. Everything we do is art. The way I live my life is art.

His favorite new art project - an iPad app that lets you play with and personalize his illustrations.

John Henry Harris: Play hard, work better. When we play, we're open to creativity. At Lego, we have co-creation sessions with kids. It's really about what the children can teach us. True beauty often lies with the simplest things.

He gave each participant a bag of lego and asked them to build a duck in 30s. 30s led to many possibilities à simple way to share that creativity is inherent in us.

Sharada Srinivasan: The striving for perfection in dance is the same as the craftsman striving to create their perfect project.

Arvind Gupta: Often one doesn't know what one wants to do. Sometimes, it's good enough to know what one doesn't want to do. Children want to make things, they want to do things. Science must reach the most oppressed, most marginalized children.

Help spread science and toys to all. Arvind wants others to use his design. See all the toys he makes from nothing and get instructions on how you can do the same:

Philippe Starck (Very humourous and wearing crazy pants): Everything is organic, even me. When you produce, you have the responsibility to keep your product clean. Anything extra will boomerang and kill you.

Shivam Sai Gupta (India’s youngest animator) – I believe creativity is born from pain and suffering. And, creativity can solve any problem.

Lynda Barry (Hilarious talk) – Starts with how her grandmother is Filipino, which she, unlike Americans, is not crazy. What is an image? It's spontaneous and feels somehow alive. The image world is so much more than art, it's all around you. The thing that scares me about technology is that reduces eye contact between children and parents.

Matt Groening (another hilarious talk): He began with wisdom from the Simpsons and gave insight into what each character was based off of. His dad told him "Matt, you can't draw, so don’t try to make your living as a cartoonist.” Ultimate payback: naming a character (Homer) after him.

Rives did a funny wrap-up of the conference, poking fun at attendees.

KUDOS to the INK team. How can I attend next year ;)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Lighting Lamps - Jyot se Jyot

As I light oil lamps, one from another, alongside millions around the world, a song and story spring to mind.

Jyot Se Jyot Jalate Chalo
Prem Ki Ganga Bahate Chalo
Raah Mein Aaye Jo Deen Dukhi
Sab Ko Gale Se Lagate Chalo
My own loose translation

As you go along light another's lamp with your own
Let the river of love flow as you go
If you meet anyone with sorrow along your way
Embrace him as you go


I am reminded of a story I read long ago, yet cannot find. Here is it paraphrased (which I know is not as beautiful as the original).

A man made the long journey to the sacred fire. He crossed rivers and went over mountains. With his candle lit, he began the journey home. Along the way, he came across a women with an unlit lamp, who asked him to light her lamp with his own. Not thinking of the pains he took to light his lamp, he put his candle to hers. As he continued, the rains came down, extinguishing his light. But he had shared his light with another. So instead of having to take the long journey to the fire, he made his way back to the woman and lit his lamp from hers.


As you light your lamp, embrace the nature of its fire that does not diminish when shared with others.

Jyot se jyot jalate chalo.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gratitude for Ice Cream and Electricity and everything in between

Today the topic of our conversation veered from a question about how patriotic Jana Mana is to everyone's favourite - Ice cream. Well, actually the importing of ice from Britain to India. (Did you know that ice was imported? that too over ships that took weeks to reach their destination?) The reason for the import? British officials wanted ice cream.

How was ice cream invented? There are many stories. Wiki would probably give you more insight, but the story that was shared was how after much struggle, someone got the idea to add salt to the ice to enable the creation of ice cream.

It got me thinking. Everything in the world around us, was at some point someone's invention. A random thought or idea that took time and patience to develop. Edison didn't invent the lightbulb in a day. So many people died in the process of creating airplanes. And what about our computers and phones? The things we consume on daily basis where the result of someone's idea, someone's perseverance and dedication (in many cases, that of many people).

As our conversation moved from ice cream to airplanes, I was filled with gratitude for all those that came before us, for giving us the many luxuries and little things that we take for granted, yet have a place in our lives. In that gratitude, I was reminded yet again of how we are connected to not only the world we live in at present, but that which came before us and that which is to come.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gratefully Overwhelmed

[Old entry that I never got around to posting]

The last stop on Tabla Ecstasy's North America tour was Toronto.  My family and family friends did a fantastic job organizing the show.  For most, it was the first time they were going to hear me (or Tabla Ecstasy) perform.  Though still an amateur, I had the honour of opening for my gurubhais.  But before that, I had to get on stage and introduce my world, beginning with Guruji.  As I looked out at the 500+ audience and started speaking, I choked.  Normally, I am very comfortable on stage, emceeing is something I've been doing since childhood. This wasn't supposed to be difficult.  Without notice, my eyes had filled up with tears and I was at a loss of words.   I was overwhelmed with gratitude.   Many of the those who sat in front of me had seen me grow up in front of them and today they were all there to show their support for what I was doing and be apart of my world, even if it was only for a few hours.  Even as I sit here recounting the moment, I am overcome with emotion, reminded yet again of the countless hidden threads of love that give me strength in my journey.  I say it time and time again and even though it doesn't seem sufficient.  Thank you.

The whole evening is one that I will never be able to forget.   We all felt the outpouring of sincere blessings and good wishes.  The energy that was cultivated that night was something beyond words.

My performance that night was not my best, as I had been battling the flu all week, but nonetheless here is a clip.


Friday, April 16, 2010

On the Road

Touring is an experience. It's been great to reconnect with so many friends over the last few weeks. We've really been all over the place, but haven't at the same time in comparison to what it is going to be like next time around (this time its been VA, NC, SC, GA, NY, NJ, PA and CA, while next time its going to be a more comprehensive US tour).

There have been many highs. One of them being the incredible response we are getting show after show. To see the years of practice that the Tabla Ecstasy artists have done being appreciated and to see the impact they are having on their listeners has been wonderful. The number of well-wishers that this group is just growing and growing. One of the responsibilities I have on the road is to get feedback from the audience after the show and many many times I have been so overwhelmed by the true heartfelt wishes and prayers for the success that people are giving for the group. I am reminded time and time again how fortunate I am to be apart of this wonderful family and to have Guruji in my life.

This week is our last week in the US. We have shows in Albany (tonight), Manhattan (April 17th) and Princeton (Sunday). Then we head North to Canada, where I have the privilege of opening for the group during our Toronto show.