#TEDxMumbai – my quick reflections

by Dina on April 3, 2010 · 8 comments

in Conferences,Indian Culture,Voices of the World

I had a lot of fun today at TEDxMumbai. Was great to catch up with old friends, and made some new ones. The speakers were quite interesting and moving especially when they were ‘presenting’ through the narrative of story; some of them really worthy of being on any main TED stage. I tweeted that I really felt more engaged and stimulated by many of these talks than I did at TED India, perhaps because they were targeted at a more culturally homogenous (and yet quite diverse) audience.

Some of my favourite quotes of the day:

Rahul and Mattias from URBZ on Koliwada: “Matias talks about how when friends from Europe visit this so-called slum, they love it, and feel that it is an urban village—“like Florence!” Koliwada, Rahul explains, “is anachronistic to the idea of Mumbai as an urban space. […] The word slum is too generic.” Then they move on to Dharavi. “Land in Dharavi is used in a very special way,” says Rahul. “Many people who don’t have resources, when they find a spot of land, they use it in complex ways.” He shows a slide with a typical toolhouse, with separate images depicting its component functions: “for sleeping, living, working, storing,” This messy structure of Dharavi, he says,”has an internal logic to it. Rural areas prior to the industrial revolution were sites of production.” [full quote from Amit’s blog]

Also from the duo – “the home itself becomes source of wealth. It is common in Indian villages” – they’re referring to tiny urban spaces in slums like Dharavi which breed much entrepreneurship. Anyone who’s ever walked into Dharavi will be hit by how these tiny spaces are converted into economic hubs. This post and image above, from Stuart’s  blog captures it so well!

Laxmi of Astitva.Talks of discrimination. shameful incident a... on Twitpic“We condition a child to be a man or a woman. Children who don’t like it are treated like they’re not normal” . “People used to accept my art but not me. It changed when I worked on tv films” and “give ownership to the community & they’ll show they can do it. We proved we were employable thru education” Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi who’s fighting for transgender rights through her organization Astitva. She also says “the Right to Education bill has come to India. But I don’t think our community will get the benefit of it” and “My guru Shabina is doing a PhD in Tata Institute of Social Sciences. She’s probably the first one of our community in India to get a doctorate”

Ganesh Devy at #tedxmumbai on why languages die. 1 reason is ... on TwitpicGanesh Devy – “The peculiar history of language is not from the tower of Babel, but experience, culture, civilization, climate” “Multilingual cacophony. In india 96% speak 4% of languages & 4% speak 96% of languages. At the time of independence, the figure was 46% and not 4%. India is becoming a graveyard of languages” On why languages die ... “a language doesn’t die – it is killed. …. one reason is conquest. the command of language became the language of command”

And importantly, “Every language is a world view. Let diversity live, only then will democracy survive in a country like India”

Zubin Pastakia of The Cinemas Project: “The problem of nostalgia is that it debilitates you, and limits your way of thinking. I like exploring these cinema halls as cultural experiences of space”

I also loved Dhanashree Pundit Rai’s talk where she used her fantastic vocals to demonstrate that the language of music is a common one, across geographic and cultural boundaries (eastern and western traditions) and across ages (urging youngsters to appreciate the traditional roots in all music today). She live-demoed many forms of ornamentation as well, in Indian Classical Music and made the distinction between Indian musical traditions which relied more on melodies and western classical idioms that relied on harmony. “If the seven notes are common all over the world, then why is that something sounds Japanese, Indian, Western?” “Indian music is a very deep melodic system. Jazz and Pop can improvise a lot on it” Difficult to capture her talk in words – do look for the video on Youtube soon!!

V Raghunathan, who’s written the book Games Indians Play, and describes how Indians are “privately smart, publicly dumb” among other things!


. @amitvarma is liveblogging TEDxMumbai http://bit.ly/bpkHSU.... on TwitpicThe food was great, venue cool, very good with a few exceptions, the event efficiently run, and the company just super! A wonderful way to spend a Saturday. Thank you Netra, Ankesh, Ajay, Parmesh, Priyanka, Yashesh, their teams, and the sponsors of the event Cleartrip and the venue Bluefrog.

Lakshmi’s talk was moving and reminded me of Sunitha Krishnan’s talk at TEDIndia which was extremely evocative. Both are on the “fringe” and both are fighting slavery and discrimination. Left me feeling as I had after Sunita’s talk –  that all of us must take responsibility for having relegated them and their communities to the fringes. And must open our own homes and offices to them. The government will then be forced to take notice. Brave words – but are we really ready for this, as a society? I was absolutely horrified to hear that last night, at the TEDxMumbai dinner at the Bombay Gymkhana, a premier club in South Mumbai, Lakshmi was asked to leave as her presence was felt inappropriate by some club members CEO of the club  (correction – based on this report on the front page of The Mumbai Mirror today). The whole tedxmumbai team and their other guests walked out too. This is inhuman and reminds me of the old British signboard – Dogs and Indians not allowed. Shame on you, management and staff of the Bombay Gymkhana for allowing this to happen.


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jon Husband April 3, 2010 at 9:00 pm

at the TEDxMumbai dinner at the Bombay Gymkhana, a premier club in South Mumbai, Lakshmi was asked to leave as her presence was felt inappropriate by some club members. The whole tedxmumbai team and other guests walked out too.

Unhappy news, that .. but glad some walked out to show their disapproval of bigotry and injustice.

2 Dina April 3, 2010 at 10:01 pm

yes Jon! really really unfortunate. and drove home her point quite brutally. thanks for caring enough to comment!

3 Nirav Sanghavi April 3, 2010 at 10:56 pm

TEDxMumbai was an awesome experience and you cannot but get inspired. Dhanashree was fun and Lakshmi was awesome. Raghunathan had some interesting theories to share and Anupam Kher knows his acting well! All in all, a not-to-be-missed event! Nice meeting you again!

4 Smita April 4, 2010 at 5:30 am

Thanks for sharing, Dina. Enjoyed reading your update.
Really sad to hear about Bombay Gym but really glad to hear that she was supported.

5 Harish Iyer April 4, 2010 at 11:10 am

A real shame, Dina, this kind of behaviour metted out to laxmi is not acceptable. It is a blot on humanity. Shame bombay gymkhana. I am so irate.

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