‘Nice, but not excellent ; and TED is in the business of excellence ‘ - this is how a participant summed up the recent TED-India Mysore meet. The participant, describing herself as a TED virgin, blogged the five-day meet.
Excerpts : Easy applause was abundant and standing ovations proffered to individuals who, in all reality, were small fry in the scale of the battle which India faces.
Some people whose ideas are most radical and influential in the developmental world – whether through NGOs, the law, journalism and activism – were conspicuous by their absence.
Shashi Tharoor, in his talk, used a ” pedestrian cliché about India’s pluralist democracy, which was true but missed some extremely important political points and was as smooth as Tony Blair in 1997″.
A qawwali would have been far more illustrative of India’s holistic musical culture than the Sindhi-African dance troupe whose entertainment value was, at best, dubious.
I wondered, a fair few times, how many people noticed the women sweeping the lawns with back-breaking brooms, or how many people smiled and spoke to the women waiting to clean the loos in the Infosys campus, where no one is allowed to drink, have sex or walk on the lawn (Did anyone actually read those House Rules).
The excerpts, selective, and, arguably, taken out of context, put TED meet in a negative light. This wasn’t the blogger’s over-all impression - “there was so much positive about TED India that fills my last five blog entries that it was important for me to reflect on what could have been different.”
I plead guilty to highlighting her negatives. As a Mysore resident with a sense of entitlement , I have my own grievance. TED-India meet was held on the Infosys campus, Mysore . It could as well have been held at Melbourne or Manhattan, so far as Mysore residents were concerned. Here was a unique global event hosted in our town, and we weren’t allowed to be a part of it. That most Mysore residents hadn’t even heard of TED was reason enough to initiate them to such unique happening .
Shouldn’t Mysore residents benefit from the proceedings ? Head of the district administration saw merit in this, and took up our plea with the event managers. As an upshot , I had a call from Sameer (who said he took care of webstreaming TED talks ) . And I suggested to him that the TED proceedings at Infosys campus could be relayed through closed-circuit network on a screen set up at a public place (Institute of Engineers hall) for the benefit of interested local residents.
Sameer mentioned something webstreaming TED talks live, for free, courtesy IndiaTimes. All one needed was the password and Internet connection. Sameer couldn’t have known the Mysore realities – 1) most of us here subscribe to ‘limited’ broadband access, which is cheaper ; and 2) power supply, subject to routine shutdown , was particularly erratic in Mysore those days.
Hence, the plea for close-circuit telecast at a public hall. Wouldn’t it further the TED agenda of ‘spreading ideas’ ? ‘Yeah, but these ideas are expensive,’ quipped Sameer. Those coming to the TED India meet from the world over are believed to have paid $2,500 per seat ; and the Mysore meet had been sold out weeks in advance. Sameer , however, said I could listen to TED talks free on my PC ; and offered to e-mail me the relevant password. I wasn’t pleading my individual access, but thanked him, nonetheless, for the offer. But then I didn’t hear from Sameer after that call, anyway .
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