Armed with a long list of videos and podcasts for reference, I had imagined my role at TEDxGateway 2015 in Mumbai as a spectator and storyteller-after-the-fact.
As it turned out, the event — hosted at the National Centre for Performing Arts at Nariman Point, was less about observing and more about experiencing the exhibitors’ ideas for yourself. The activities involved getting a feel for cool gadgets like the Dot watch (a braille smartwatch that lets the blind read texts), interacting with renowned speakers such as Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, and telling the world, via digital slingshot, your idea of how to live your best possible life.
Split into four sessions, the event highlighted a whirlwind of innovations from artists, designers and engineers. Here are just a few.
1. Platforms for Youth
Ten-year old Ishita Katyal, the youngest TEDx organiser in the Asia Pacific region, discussed the complex process that children go through to decide what they want to be as adults.
Katyal pulled off her talk with insightful aplomb, quite beyond her years. Marketing professional Archana, who watched the presentation, gushed: “It’s great to see a 10-year-old at a TEDx platform. And [that] definitely shows the potential of young children."
2. Taxicabs and Mars Missions
Taxi Fabric presented their unique design ideas to help taxi drivers personalise their cabs. These designs are not just for comfort, but also to attract clientele. If you step into a Mumbai cab and find it blinged to the max with floral patterns, horses and bike-riding figures, you probably have Taxi Fabric to thank.
Elsewhere, Ritu Karidhal spoke to the audience about her contributions to the Mars Orbiter Mission — India’s first interplanetary mission — launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation. Her talk was a stellar ride showcasing Indian innovation, resilience and grit.
Another presentation many attendees said they’d never forget was just as sky-high. Raghu Raman, an Indian Air Force officer, spoke electrifyingly about how the Indian army won many prestigious battles in adverse weather conditions.
3. Investigating Life in Space (and Making Life Better at Home)
Guests were also given a peek into the pioneering research work done by Indian planetary scientists like Lujendra Ojha, who discovered mysterious water-like streaks on the slopes of Martian mountains.
Then, audiences were brought back to earth by Harsh Songra, developer of the My Child app that cleverly screens for complex developmental disorders in just 45 seconds.
The diversity of innovations on show defied a label or theme beyond the event’s aptly descriptive tag: ‘Building ideas for a better world.’ And you really did feel inspired to be part of this.