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Mrinal Kanti Rai

The Purist

Tedx Me and Equality

Let me confess I am not a big fan of conferences but when I attended Tedx at TEDxGolfLinksPark recently, it was inspiring enough to change my perception about conferences. The speakers at the Tedx event were motivating to the core. Each of the talks was immersive and engaging enough to disconnect you from your surroundings.

The event started with Apala Lahiri Chavan, Chief Oracle-HFI1 and CEO- ICE, setting the context. A fascinating journey about how digital literacy today demands equality. Whether its Africa or Asia, the need for looking inward to explore opportunities was evident. Her ‘Three Laws of UX’ not only provided a framework for UX professionals to handle the conflict between professional and ethical dilemmas but also gave a glimpse of her passion for designing all things future. She concluded showcasing a concept app called ‘Equalizer’ reiterating how a ‘small step is a chance to make a giant leap for mankind2. The ‘Three laws of UX’ were a gentle reminder that I have a unique opportunity to redefine the future of digital literacy and equality.

Equality of access is as important as digital equality. There are those who still don't have the access to basic infrastructure to support their livelihood.
For PR Ganapathy of Villigro, Social Entrepreneurship is a way to change lives of people with limited access to modern technology. TouchHb device of the Biosense project at Villigro helps to save pregnant women and children to die of anemia. Not just life saving innovation but livelihood sustaining innovation too. Another project, The Promethean, gave birth to a milk-cooling device that provides milk storage to villages with limited access to electricity. Inequality of opportunity and resources is a universal truth but the universal law of equality says ‘Erasing one node of inequality helps to eradicate many instances of inequality’

There is a difference between designing an experience and living an experience. Tushar Vashisht, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, a UID project team member and a former Wall Street banker, along with one of his close friends lived in remote villages in Kerala to understand what it takes to live on a mere INR 100 a day. The hardship they endured inspired them to start, Healthifyme, a company that helps people to lead a healthy, fun and affordable living. Tushar made a simple but powerful statement that lack of info in small things leads to misery in big things.

Knowledge is power – No one exemplifies this better than Madan Padaki of Head Held High who trains zero or low educated youth from rural Karnataka and transforms them from ‘no wedge or low wedge workers’ to knowledge worker in record time.
He takes youth from rural Karnataka, some of whom can’t even write in their native language and, in just seven months teaches them enough English to get call center jobs. Madan proved once again that where others crib he thinks, where others think he acts and where others act he succeeds.  It was evident from his effort that given the right opportunity, equality resurrects itself.

While it’s important to impart knowledge that creates jobs, better opportunities, and makes other lives better, it is equally important to preserve every form of knowledge. Shikha Malviya,  creator of The (Great) Indian Poetry Project, an online archive of Modern Indian Poetry, is at the forefront of the movement to preserve knowledge. With her eloquent style she evoked the pain of various other forms of inequality. For instance, we invest money in museums but we neglect poetry. She expressed through her poetic prowess various forms of human strengths and fallacies. I felt there was a subtext that poetry is classless unlike the popular notion that it’s an expression of educated and perhaps elite too.

The emotions that one senses in poetry almost came to life with Sandeep Sangaru’s Mechanical Engineer, Furniture Designer, NID alumni and Faculty, passion for designing objects. His love for nature, deciphering and refining the skills of local craftsman in various parts of the country was an amalgamation of art and science. He used his knowledge of engineering and design to demonstrate that strength and durability is hidden in the design too and not just in the material. His design of bamboo chairs can endure up to 200kg of weight or can support a person on Mcdonalds diet for 2 years. The thickness of the bamboo stick reminded me what wonders can happen when technology meets design.

Let me take a ‘pause’ because Sneha Iype Varma, Executive Producer, Nirvana films, believes that ‘pause’ brings the best out of us. We all have multiples identities. You can be a UX professional, spouse, teacher, student, Indian, and many more. ‘Pause’ is key to synchronize these identities else we may become a slave of our own identities. She uses advertisements, which she has conceptualized for various companies, to manifest how ‘pause’ can draw you in as an audience and how it’s absence can throw you back during the testing times. Due to the external forces on our emotional and mental faculties, sometimes we need a ‘pause’ to make the right decision.

This great show at Tedx would not have been complete without the key ingredient of any Bollywood movie humour. Vipul Goyal , the stand up artist who owns the unique HR firm Humorously Yours, added the last bit to make Tedx a blockbuster. He was funny, at times politically incorrect but then he has license to do so and left everyone craving for more.

Tedx like a popular Bollywood movie may not have earned 100 crore but certainly created an impact worth 100 crore for every individual who attended the event.
I am one of them.

  1. HFI – Human Factors International
  2. Rephrasing Neil Armstrong "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind", Wiki

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