Cognizance: The spirit of TEDx Manipal 2019
MANIPAL: On February 24, TMA Pai Auditorium witnessed this year’s TEDx Manipal with the theme ‘Cognizance’. The lineup consisted of nine speakers who belonged to various fields of research and work.
The event began at 10 AM and was inaugurated by Raghav Kumar, the event’s lead organiser. He talked about the theme of cognizance, its value, and how the theme came into being because of a suggestion by a student volunteer.
“You need to start living your every day to the fullest because you never know what might happen next.”
The first speaker was Chhaya Dabbas, a young poet and cancer survivor, who spoke about “Why 2 Day Plans Work Better than 2 Year Plans”. She shared stories from her childhood, her love for basketball, and her life-altering experience – her battle with cancer. Her struggles with the disease severely affected her life and confidence. For instance, she felt isolated as a teenager as she had to skip various events like field trips. During times such as these, her only solace was poetry. As a result, upon complete recovery, she launched ‘Baatein’, a poetry blog in 2014.
“When a teacher walks in.”
Gayathri Prabhu, an RK Narayan award recipient for her work in the literary field, recited a powerful extract titled ‘When a Teacher Walks In’, which explains the role of a teacher in society and how we expect too much from them. She currently teaches Literary Studies at the Manipal Centre for Humanities. Additionally, she is a strong advocate for mental health and has helped in the founding of the Student Support Centre in Manipal.
“You have to endure the pain in order to banish the pain.”
The story of Srikaanth Viswanathan is of a middle-aged man from Bangalore who wanted to swim across the English Channel. He dreamt of this for 10 years and thought it impossible to achieve due to his lack of training. However, after rigorous hard work and commitment, his dream finally came true.
The journey wasn’t an easy one. He participated in several competitions, and finally, in 2018, he became the oldest man in India to swim across the English Channel. He faced various challenges during the swim such as severe cramps, hypothermia, and jellyfish stings. He concluded his talk about his journey with his ‘Mantra for Success’: Dream, Goal, Action Plan, Commitment, Hard work and Sacrifice, Expect the Unexpected, and Success.
Post this talk, an interactive session called ‘Social Space’ was conducted with all the speakers.
“DIY Your Life.”
Hailing from Assam, Cherry Jain spoke about her humble origins from a middle-class family, and her secret aspiration to be a model. However, she stuck to family traditions and shifted to Delhi to pursue a B.Com degree. College pushed her out of her comfort zone. In an effort to be independent, she worked in a mall and soon realised how people with menial jobs are looked down upon.
Later, while working as a social media coordinator, she started her fashion and lifestyle blog, ‘Much, Too Much’. Being a social media personality, she made sure to stress that not everything on social media is real; everybody and everything has flaws and we must accept them gracefully. She concluded by saying, “If I can DIY my life and live it the way I want, I’m sure you can too.”
“The more we know something, the more we want to know everything”
When her aunt was hospitalised due to a case of prosthetic failure, Ankita Modi, a student and researcher from Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), was made aware of ‘nosocomial infections’. These infections, which are her current area of research, are acquired when a patient comes in contact with hospital devices and equipment. The numbers are staggering – 1.7 million infections and 99 million deaths have been associated with this condition. She stressed on the importance of research and study in solving global problems such as these. She ended her session by stating that any research is fruitful only when it is in balance with the needs of the people.
“One thing that really makes us different is desire.”
Shubham Jain, an alumnus of MIT, spoke about his dream project, ‘TresMoto’. In his speech titled ‘Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, he spoke about the industrial revolution and its massive impact on society. According to him, the world around us is changing at an unnatural pace. The fourth industrial revolution is fundamentally very different with artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, shared economy, gene editing, and additive manufacturing being the five major pillars or architects of the new world. He concluded by saying that artificial intelligence would make amenities such as healthcare more accessible for all sections of society – be it rich or poor.
Megha Bhatia, a lawyer and advocate for the prevention of child abuse, spoke about how Indian society condemns sexual abuse against children, yet fails to talk about it. While studying law, she encountered various rape cases, their aftermath, and legality. After analysing various cases, she decided to specialise in the field of sexual abuse against children. In order to do so, she went to London to study human rights.
Her talk was accompanied by short but impactful videos. One of these clippings showed a group of small school girls. When they were asked whose fault it was for wearing a small skirt in the case of abuse or rape, they all echoed “Humari” (Mine. The mistake is ours.) She spoke about how girls would rather talk to a friend about abuse than to their own mothers. This was supported by the fact that mothers, in our country, would not necessarily support their child in such a case. She talked about her experience with an Indian mother who believed that sexual abuse was the flaw of the child.
Thus, she started the organisation, ‘Our Voix’. It is a youth-run and youth-led organisation that aims to prevent child sexual abuse by empowering children and providing them with a platform to share their experiences without any hesitation. Their team, consisting of more than 100 volunteers, conducts workshops to sensitise teachers, children and parents on these issues.
“The sentient of life.”
Sovesh Mohapatra, a 17-year-old boy, is nothing short of a child prodigy. He shared his story of being a young scientist and philanthropist. According to him, society expects every child to follow a pattern: study, get a job, get married, and then start a family. However, he decided to not adopt this conventional way of life.
At the age of 14, he went to Kota, not to study for competitive exams but to converse with the best minds of the world. His main aim was to obtain knowledge and become “cognizant”. His life goal is to work on technology-based solutions for everyday problems. So far, he has done research on the quantum efficiency of solar cells, the discovery of new drugs, and the treatment of cancer. His only source of motivation is his multiple failures; failures end with the letter ‘s’ but success begins with the same.
“The brief history of reading.”
Aaron Friedland, a dyslexic student, began reading after the advice of his teachers – a decision that changed his life immensely. In his talk, he discussed the history of reading and its influence on the world. He covered various topics in human history from our increase in brain capacity to our ability to code and decode. Moreover, he spoke about the advent of television and how it led to a decrease in reading habits.
Apart from being an economics lecturer, he is also a social entrepreneur. He devised a technique to help children learn better. They were made to read text which was then recorded as an audio file that helped them study easily. Currently, Aaron serves as the founder and executive director of the ‘The Walking School Bus’ – an initiative aimed at spreading education in developing countries.
The event concluded with a vote of thanks by Sampada Jindal, Co-organiser of TEDx Manipal. This was followed by a ‘Gala Dinner’, which commenced from 6:30 PM.
Featured image courtesy: Tanya Arora
Edited by: Bhavna Subramanian