TEDxLahore – collective optimism, over and all!
31st of August, 2010 saw TEDxLahore return to the city with a whole new spirit. From the jam-packed Ali Auditorium to a comprehensive list of speakers, the experience was quite enriching and motivating for almost everyone who attended the talks. One can easily say that TEDxLahore’s second year with the theme of ‘Collective Genius’ was far bigger and better than the first one.
Some 380 people were handpicked from more than a thousand applicants and all of them showed up! There were students, educationists, trainers, professionals, bloggers; people belonging to a very diverse and interesting group of individuals. Although some of the enthusiastic crowd was present at the venue two hours in advance of the planned timing, the event kicked off a bit late due to bad weather. The stage design was sleek and impressive, hats off to the people behind it. Same was the case with audio system provided by Bose, which apart from slight glitches worked pretty fine.
Before the talks, a minute of silence was observed to honor the lives lost in devastating floods, Airblue plane crash as well as to the victims of terrorism. After that, Arif Hasan, a renowned architect, took to the stage and discussed socio-economic changes in urban planning after Partition. He was followed by the duo of Omar Sheikh and Jabran Rafique, both of whom are super-mappers and the guys behind Attabad Lake markings and mapping on Google Mapmaker.
Some other notable talks featured:
Ajmal Kamal – who talked about his dream of seeing everything written in Urdu available to everyone through print and electronic media.
Dr. Tariq Rahman – shed some light on how code-switching (multilingual overlapping e.g. Urdish & Urdi) is not exactly a bad thing in literature or everyday conversations.
Saima Zaidi – provided a visual treat by presenting the rich visual culture of Pakistan. References included a poster for Jhuley Laal, product packaging for Rooh Afza, Tibet Talcum Powder and a Mughal miniature depicting the folk love story of Shirin Farhad. She concluded her presentation with a resolve that we are a diverse and inclusive society as evident in our visual culture.
Beena Raza came next with her introduction to Sangan Nagar Institute of Philosophy & Arts. Apart from very lengthy text on slides, it was interesting to hear about another effort to revive our culture.
The show-stopper in the first half, without a doubt, was Noor Zehra’s mesmerizing performance on Sagar Veena. She played the instrument with so much ease yet captivating the whole audience in its magic. For those who are not aware, Noor Zehra happens to be Ali Noor and Ali Hamza’s mother.
Almost all of these speakers kept the audience glued to their seats despite some of the participants occasionally snoozing off due to tiredness or inspirational overdose. Just before the second half started, refreshments were served which included samosas, rolls, ras malai and rabrri milk by Nirala. Participants also got some time to network, talk and discuss ideas with each other.
The first half of the event was interesting but more on the informational side. Real surprise was packed in the second half of the evening during which each speaker was generously applauded by the audience. And yes, there were at least two standing ovations for Dr. Zeeshan Usmani and Mudassir Zia who honestly deserved it.
Dr. Zeeshan Usmani is a full-bright scholar and an associate professor at GIK Institute who has developed a very comprehensive computer simulation model for tracking the effects of shock waves after suicide bombings. He currently has the largest database of suicide bombings in Pakistan, which has helped him develop an intelligent model very useful for pre-emptive measures, calculating human causalities and identifying the perpetrators. His genius and humor-filled presentation style won him accolade by everyone in the auditorium. If there was an award for man of the match, it would have easily been shared by Dr. Usmani and Mudassir Zia.
Mudassir Zia was the only speaker to conduct his talk in Urdu, our national language, and perhaps the highest on inspirational value as he discussed remarkable achievements of his group of friends. His ideal of ‘first do, dare and then dream’ is very relevant to the current reality of our society where everyone talks big but does nothing. Mudassir and his friends have started a charity school (Ghulam Muhammad Grammar School), arranged patriotic street art competitions and conducted blood donation drives all by themselves without any external help or funding. Every member of their team works in his respective profession and then dedicates personal time and resources to all these noble activities.
In addition to Dr. Usmani and Mudassir Zia, other speakers included:
Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haque – discussed the paradigm of donor projects and production. Being the head of the Planning Commission of Pakistan, he admitted that our development is devoid of creativity and innovation because we give little creative and intellectual space to our youth. He was true is saying that we focus only on hardware (development projects) and do very less about changing the software (mind-set and intellectual skills of the people).
Live on Skype from London, Majid Nawaz discussed the need to develop national consensus to identify our leaders, symbols, alliances and finally a progressive narrative. Relating to different ideologies, Majid mentioned how every idea needs these four elements in order to be effective and strong enough to unite any nation.
Zubair Bhatti – the ex-DCO of Jhang shared his initiative of pre-emptive feedback gathering from common citizens. The idea is being implemented successfully across various districts of the Punjab where senior government officials call individuals to ask if there was any corruption witnessed by them. An automated telephone feedback line is also being started for recording complaints in this regard.
Dr. Asher Hasan – the founder of Naya Jeevan presented his NGO’s work on provision of quality healthcare to the deserving most in our society.
Finally, Dr. Aamir Khan came up with his dream of quality healthcare for all Pakistanis. With an impressive profile of achievements and successes, Dr. Aamir Khan, as the head of IRD, has initiated the use of mobile phone technology for mapping, tracking and curing pneumonia, TB and STDs amongst citizens of major urban areas in Pakistan. He acknowledged the genius behind mobile phones which has helped his system of paperless medical reports and patient data collection in the least developed areas of Pakistan.
Rafay Alam, scheduled to speak about Critical Mass (a campaign to encourage cycling in cities), could not make it from Delhi due to a flight delay but was generously appreciated by everyone present in the audience for his initiative.
Once the talks finished, Asim Fayyaz, Curator TEDxLahore, presented his concluding remarks which thanking everyone including the sponsors. What came later was a total surprise live performance on drums and dhol by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh and his friends.
Adding on to the suggestions given by other fellow bloggers, I would also appreciate the effort put in by everyone from organizers to volunteers. Although, one can say that the talks did not exceed the TED caliber, still, they were pretty decent; some of them quite innovative and even inspiring around the idea of ‘Collective Genius’. Since, TEDx phenomenon has just started with at least three chapters in Lahore alone, one can easily hope that we will see a marked improvement in the quality and inspirational quotient of talks in successive future events.
Hats off and two thumbs up for the organizers, speakers and audience at TEDxLahore!
Favorite sayings from TEDxLahore 2010:
– ‘Chinese curse: May you get what you wish for!’ – Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haque
– ‘The only helping hand is at the end of your arm’ – Mudassir Zia
– ‘The problem with problems: solve one, get one free – so we need to keep working’ – Dr.Aamir Khan
– Lots of positivity, optimism, patriotism and loads of ideas to bring a change for the better
– A goody-bag with TEDxLahore soundtrack, WWF Natura magazine, discount vouchers on books from ‘…the last word’ Qadaffi Stadium and a cute little plant gifted by the Horticulture Society.