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December 07, 2015

How TEDxGateway 2015 Inspired Me…

Text by Wyanet Vaz . Images by TEDxGateway

An account of 18 life-changing moments, and an unanswered question…

It’s no surprise that any TED talk will leave you with more inspiration than what you bargained for. The 6th edition of TEDxGateway at the NCPA in Mumbai, didn’t disappoint. It’s not everyday that you meet a NASA scientist in a badass leather jacket, who also happens to be a heavy metal guitarist. Hearing an ex-soldier narrate army stories with a voice as sturdy as his being, made me feel more Indian than I ever did. There were innovations like apps, braille watches, 3D organ printers, 3D cameras and smog rings by college kickouts, and people with learning disabilities. A photographer who spoke for conservancy workers and their everyday struggles, and a sound engineer who quit his job only to work for the welfare of tigers, is reason enough to believe, that if they can make a difference, so can we.

And finally, I was left with a question that continues to intrigue me, which you will find at the end of this post. But before you take a look at our picks of the most inspiring quotes, I had a chance to meet the real Phunsukh Wangdu, who told me that, “It’s more rewarding to be a ripple in the ocean than to be a wave in a pond.”

Verve lists the 18 moments that gave us goosebumps.

“Is following your dreams some kind of an adult thing? I think age is just a number. I think anyone is capable of great actions.”
– 10 year old, Ishita Katyal. She is the youngest organizer of a TEDxYouth event in the Asia-Pacific, author of the book Simran’s Diary. She also conducts workshops for children at a local balewadi school.

“My father wanted me to be the village postmaster.”
– Economist, Dilip Ratha. He is the manager of the migration and remittances team at the World Bank, and was the first to analyze the global significance of remittances (money sent from foreign workers to their families back home).

“In an unfortunate environment even stars are discarded as failures, but in a supportive environment, the so called ‘failures’ can shine like bright stars.”
– Sonam Wangchuk, founder of Student’s Educational & Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL). He has also started an alternative learning school that replaces conventional education with practical know-how. He is the inspiration for the character Phunsukh Wangdu in Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots.

“In 3 months I will be leaving Switzerland and departing for India again. But this time, walking a good part of the way. And over the course of the next four seasons, my fiance, my dog and I, will travel in slow motion, work with rural communities and teach children in China, Mongolia, Nepal and India. Because, data and information shouldn’t be about a gigantic computer, but about the life of people it aims to improve.”
– Data Scientist, Nicholas Peroni. While he tries to wrap his head over the eternal question – does more information make our life better, he is also undertaking the Slow Motion Project.

“In 1992, in Parvanoo, in the Timber Trail, there was a cable car which broke, and was dangling by a single cable. There were many souls trapped in it, and they were going to plunge to certain death. There is a beautiful story of a Hindu woman trapped inside who was praying to her Gods, to save her. And in a little while they heard the thud of a chopper coming and the copter was being flown by Faly Homi Major, and from that copter, the Paracommando Ivan Crasto slithered down and saved the lives of the people inside. Now here’s something really funny, this woman was reaching out to her Hindu gods, but it was a Christian paracommando, flown by a Parsi major, who came to save her.”
– Ex-soldier and UN Peacekeeper, Capt. Raghu Raman. He is a distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation and also the author of Everyman’s War.

“To show how challenging it was to achieve the correct cruise path for the Mars orbiter, it would be similar to going out right now and hitting a golf ball towards a hole located in Los Angeles. The ball has to go straight into the hole, and to make it even more challenging, the hole was moving! But on 24th September 2014, at 8am IST, history was made – MOM successfully entered Martian orbit.”
– ISRO scientist, Ritu Karidhal. She lead the team behind the sucess of ‘Mangalyaan’, the Mars Orbiter Mission by ISRO.

“Power is not important. What is important is delivery of services to the people.”
– Railway minister, Suresh Prabhu.

“What if curing a disease was as easy as typing a few lines of code? What if you could design a brand new organism using standard software that runs on your laptop, and all you need to do is press print? What if we could personalise drugs to individuals instead of the entire population? What if we could build entire new organs out of a patient’s own cells and eliminate the organ waiting list? We are closer to these things than you realise.”
– Inventor, Danny Cabrera. He is the founder of Biobots, a desktop 3D bioprinter that builds 3D living tissues out of human cells.

“I remembered this thing when I was a boy. I was playing at a children’s party with plastic balloons. So when you start polishing a plastic balloon, it becomes static. It attracts your hair. And two days later, under the shower I wondered what if we would take that principle and build the largest smog vacuum cleaner in the world, which sucks up polluted air, and spits out clean air creating parks, playgrounds which are cleanest in the city. And two years later, we made it!”
– Artist and innovator of the Smog Free Project, Daan Roosegaarde.

“There are more than 10 million blind children out there. I believe our generation has a responsibility, to give them the same opportunity that we have now, so that they can dream about their future.”
– Innovator, Eric Ju Yoon Kim. He is the developer of the world’s first braille watch.

“My GPA dropped massively. I felt stifled but I never ever thought of dropping out. I finally graduated towards the bottom of the class. On the day of our convocation we were made to stand in the order of our grades. My father later asked me, ‘Why were you standing at the far end of the queue?’. And I lied to him, I told him that we were standing in the order of our surnames.”
– Innovator and alumni of the MIT Media Lab, Kshitij Marwah. He is also the founder of Tesseract Imaging, which developed the technology of 3D photography and the 360-degree camera.

“Someone’s opinion of you will never become your reality.”
– 19-year-old app developer and entrepreneur, Harsh Songra. He developed the My Child App, that screens developmental disorders in 45 seconds. He himself suffers from dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder (DCD).

“If you ain’t got baggage, you ain’t got story.”
– Spoken word poet, writer and entrepreneur, Melizarani T. Selva. Her book of poems is called Taboo.

“We would be horrified if endangered royal bengal tigers were on sale, but we shop and eat endangered fish from the ocean all the time. Let’s begin by asking ourselves the question, are we really that hungry?”
– Marine conservationist, Siddharth Chakravarthy. He works for Sea Shepherd Global and has chased the whale poachers in Antarctica, and most recently, pursued and shut-down illegal fishing vessels in Antarctica.

“ISIS is not in the media. ISIS is the media. They have a media production company and they have an army. An army of graphic designers, engineers, and an army of cameramen. These are just as important as an army of foot soldiers.”
– Foreign policy and security researcher, Dr. Benedetta Berti. She is also an analyst, author and lecturer. The Italian government awarded her the Order of the Star of Italy (order of Knighthood).

“Descending into manholes and cleaning drainage lines are a special kind of horror. The drainage lines are deep enough to accommodate a double decker bus. Once inside, there is nothing but darkness. Totally cut off from the outside world, anything could happen. He could pass out inhaling some toxic gas, slip on slime, or his dead body may surface and get carried into the seas. It is true that this job requires no special skills, only a pair of arms and legs, but the courage to descend into living hell.”
– Documentary photographer and photo-journalist, Sudharak Olwe. Through his photos he narrates the untold story of conservancy workers, and is on the road to release his book on the same theme titled In  Search of Dignity and Justice.

“People assume I need assistance, when I am doing fine. Even when I can walk unassisted, I am offered a wheelchair. It’s annoying. Why do we find it hard to accept someone who is different?”
– Tiger conservationist, Hans Dalal. Despite his battle with cerebral palsy, he started an NGO, called PROWL and works towards protection of tigers and their habitats.

“Out of the 7 billion people living on that planet, I am not special in any regards. I’m an average student, I’m a failed wannabe magician, and an engineer. My point is, if somehow I can do this, so can you. My passion is exploration. What’s yours?”
– Planetary Scientist, Lujendra Ojha. He is also a Ph.D Candidate at Georgia Institute of Technology. This summer, NASA announced the findings of his latest study, ‘The streaks are indeed flowing water on present-day Mars’.

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