A day at TEDx Sydney 2019

I have watched a large amount of TED talks online, got carried away by many, applied some of them in my life and benefited out of a few. But what really moved me in all of those was how they shape up ideas, and inspire thoughts. Not a surprise, considering that is what these 6-18 minute timed talks are supposed to do.

This exactly was my expectation as I invested my time and effort to attend TEDx Sydney this year, where I could have a first-hand experience of what it all feels like in the real life. I must say that it was well worth the effort, which turned out to be a day that challenged my thoughts, pushed me out of my comfort zone, inspired to re-imagine and refocus my actions, and even got me tasting my first ever Liquid Nitrogen ice-cream created by Sydney University’s researchers (!); and making a fragrance of my own, based on my values!

The theme for the year – which happens to be the 10th year of TEDx- Sydney – was legacy. However, as the day unfolded, it was clear as to what the curators believed were important in terms of the topic. These were three in number. The digital legacy in terms of digital footprints, intrusion into privacy and information explosion; the legacy that Australians who are privileged to lead a normal, routine life leaves on the helpless refugees; and the legacy of waste that all of the world is leaving for the future generations.

Legacy in various forms

As discussions around the storytelling power of data is gaining momentum, it was spot on for Ros Harvey to discuss about how data doesn’t stand by itself.  However, as it gets converted into information and knowledge and further shapes up the wisdom of humans, data becomes an immensely significant element in our lives. It was shocking to learn that 80% of the data in the cyberspace has only been created in the last 2 years! And it really helped to connect the dots when Craig Costello, the cryptographer, talked about how intruding into the privacy of our personal computers and cell phones to steal this data is expected any moment, once the quantum computers take the centre stage. He had the good will of five thousand of us audience, when he said that professionals like him around the world are trying hard to halt the quantum computers breaking into the encryptions of data!

“I sometimes had the privilege of living with an income”, said Behrouz Boochani, the highly awarded writer, on his video from the prison in Manus Island when he talked about his life. Imprisoned for the last 6 years in Manus Island, this Iranian-Kurdish journalist had immensely touching stories to tell about the fellow prisoners, who moved from a small prison in their birth countries to a ‘bigger’ prison in Manus Island, a small island near Papua New Guinea. Aligning with this was a talk by Hedayat Osyan, a refugee from Indonesia, who explored different religious beliefs as well as multicultural soccer teams in his first years in Australia as a refugee, as part of his efforts to connect with people of different religions and cultures. It was with great admiration that the audience listened to the story of him setting up a ‘social enterprise’ of a tiling factory (!) to employ refugees and pay them the appropriate salary and superannuation. The question he left behind was whether at least a few of the audience would help some of the refugees build up a life in Australia.

Then came the conversations on waste. This, and the topic of sustainability was ever prevalent; well beyond the talks. A few moving documentaries were showed on the topic, and a think tank was set up in the interactive space – aptly called ‘the hub’ – where experts discussed the topic, and audience could ask questions. Right from implementing a thoughtful waste disposing system, to using biodegradable lunch packs, to cutting out plastic usage in the hub, to using organic, local produce for food and partnering with socially responsible local food outlets for food tasting – there were an array of efforts; all quite impressive. A talk by Kim Graham-Nye, on how disposable diapers are taking on the world, one at a time, was an eye-opener. Given a nappy takes about 500 years to degrade, she reminded us of the fact that not even the first nappy that was used by the mankind would have degraded!

They moved the audience…

If these were the high impact talks, there were talks that were emotionally moving – like the one of DJ Hookie where he talked about how a disease had him amputate his arms and legs when he was 19; and how he went ahead with his life to be a successful DJ, and music producer. His talk gave an insight into how people make assumptions on him; the best being the kids assuming that he is a pirate!  

Then there was Yve Blake, the young writer and playwright who literally brought some razzle dazzle into the platform with her glittering clothes; let alone her vivacious talk. She was talking about female enthusiasm and how it is looked down upon by the world. The best example she provided us was of people raising eyebrows of teen girls shrieking at the boyband performances. And it was quite a sight (and voice) to behold as she got all of us audience to get up and shriek at the top of our lungs!

Maxine Beneba Clarke, the African-Australian author brought home the point of “how long it took her wanting to be a called a writer to actually being called one”; merely because of her being born as a person of colour. She had her talk dedicated to ‘all the kids who read in the library, as they come in all shapes, sizes and colours’. Her beautiful portrayal of the long but fulfilling journey was truly inspirational!

The movies, and the stage performances

It resonated with the theme of TEDx shows when Handsome opened the show with their performance that stated “It is important to tell our stories to remind people that we exist”. The short movies were beautiful, especially the one about a man who built up his life with his own hands, and how we have failed the bird – Australian Ibis, and made it into mere rummagers-in-garbage in the urban locales of the country. A musical performance by Deep Sea Astronauts that followed had a lot to do the with the bird, and the legacy of the waste that leave for the living beings around us. Aligned with this was a short film that talked about how honey bees who live for only 150 days leave the legacy of life- nurturing honey whereas the legacy that we, human beings leave on them is mere rubbish!

The hub – where it all happened!

The hub where great food, drinks and amazing concepts by the TEDx Sydney partners were show-cased, was a true treasure house of ideas, and a space that stirred up some interesting conversations!

Across 17 speakers, 7 performers and 7 short films, and one huge hub, there definitely was something for everyone. And the day touched, moved, inspired and motivated us audience, as we lived though the extraordinary journeys of ordinary people – to take away sparks of ideas that give us the power to bring about small changes in our lives, which collectively will remodel the ways we all think, and live. 

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