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Ideas That Transcend Boundaries—TEDxManipalUniversity

The second edition of TEDxManipalUniversity witnessed a full house at the Gangubai Hangal Hall of the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities. The event started with a short note from the Lead Organizer, Dhruv Verma. He spoke about how TED aims to spread ideas across the world through their talks. Dhruv further added that this event particularly aimed to spread ideas from Manipal across the world. Speaking of the theme, Transcendence, he explained how it signified one’s ability to break the shackles of the mind and the body.

Session I
Siddhant Sharma

A TEDx talk by Sam Berns, a 17-year-old boy afflicted with progeria, an illness that results in accelerated ageing, was presented in the first session of the event. The talk was recorded in 2013 and has been viewed 28 million times on YouTube ever since. The speech was extremely moving and provided a different outlook towards life.

The first speaker was Siddharth Chakravarty, a marine conservationist, who very eloquently put forth his views regarding the ocean crisis. He went on to speak about the implications of overfishing and slammed the corporates for making profits from food, which should be a universal human right.

Siddharth Chakravarty talks about locating ourselves in the ocean crisis.

The next speaker, Anand Sudharshan, spoke about how we can design a better future for ourselves. Speaking about the various technological advancements that have been taking place and their impact on the future, he said that machine learning and artificial intelligence would change the way humans work. Sudharshan also encouraged the young members in the audience to let go of personal biases and venture into new things in life. He ended his speech by rephrasing Alan Kay’s quote, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” to “The best way to create the future is by designing it.”

Anand Sudarshan enlightens the audience on the best ways to design your future.

The next speaker was Vinayak Jain, a final year medical student at Kasturba Medical College, Manipal. He articulated his thoughts on the patient-doctor relationship in his extremely engaging talk that managed to get a few laughs during its course. Vinayak was critical of the extreme political correctness expected from doctors and was of the belief that it did not help the patients in any way. He later added that the study of humanities played a significant part in intensifying the relationship between a patient and a doctor.

Vinayak Jain sheds light on the importance of political correctness in doctor-patient relationships.

Session II
Athulya Mohandas Menon

After a break of about 20 minutes during which the attendees were provided with refreshments, the second session started off with a video of a TED Talk that emphasized the power of spoken word poetry. Sarah Kay, the founder of the V.O.I.C.E Project, talked about how adversity should push us to work harder and open our hearts to the issues faced by people. Looking for the silver lining during tough times allows us to be human and sensitive rather than cold and calculated.

Following this, the first speaker for the second session, Saisri Akondi, talked about the importance of innovation and sustainable development. The 4th year Biomedical Engineering student talked about the various projects she has kick-started, among them VaxiBead, an initiative that promises to improve the healthcare sector by making it easier to keep track of the medical history of children. Approximately 9.1 million kids in India suffer from diseases contracted due to lack of proper vaccination, a problem that can be solved by the usage of this application. She talked about how innovation was the cornerstone that would decide how our future pans out. Innovation requires constant effort and can result in multiple failures which, in the long run, only helps the innovator build a better product.

Saisri Akondi talks about sustainable solutions to everyday problems.

Sammilan Shetty, the second speaker, wowed the audience with his in-depth knowledge in the field of Lepidopterology. Mr Shetty owns an open-air butterfly conservation park spread across over seven acres of land, located at the foot of Kanthavara forest in Belvai. The place, being amidst the Western Ghats, hosts more than 100 species of butterflies, including some of the most beautiful butterflies of the world. His talk informed the audience about the life cycle and habitat requirements of the butterflies and also about the importance of ecosystem conservation. Even a species as small and intricate as the butterflies go a long way in maintaining the ecological balance, which, once lost, is incredibly hard to regain.

Sammilan Shetty captivates the audience with his knowledge and appreciation for butterflies.

“Service to humanity is the best work of life”, began K S Jaivittal, the estate officer of Manipal Academy of Higher Education. He has shown by example that this line is indeed the best way to go about life. Mr Jaivittal talked about the time his daughter, Archana, got diagnosed with Down Syndrome. He knew then that he would make her someone special irrespective of her disability. His strength and tenacity led to Archana representing India and winning two bronze medals at the Asia Pacific Special Olympics in the swimming event. This inspired him to set up the Asare foundation to help children with such disabilities attain their true potential in life. The Asare Foundation, in association with the Archana Trust, aims to help the mentally challenged, irrespective of caste, creed, race, or community, and give them vocational training and psychological evaluation that will, in the long run, help them get the best out of their lives. Mr Jaivittal’s heartfelt words from his personal experience garnered him a well-deserved standing ovation.

Mr K S Jaivittal rightfully earns a standing ovation from the audience for his riveting speech.

Session III
Sanjana Srivastva

The third and final session was initiated with a TED video by educator Sir Ken Robinson, where he delivered a compelling yet refreshingly amicable talk on the impacts of modern education possibly diminishing creativity in children as they age.

As the seated minds collectively pondered the intricacies of our education system, student speaker Reuben John stepped up to add a technical flare to the room with an informed talk on Artificial Intelligence.  Bringing us from the inception of artificial intelligence in the 1950s to the today’s gigantic advancements in the field, Reuben John delved into the details that aren’t shown in mainstream media and cinema. He also connected to the TED video, explaining how the mind of a three-year-old child may harness the most creativity and potential possible. He concluded with the abstract idea of unlocking more potential in AI than we may have within our own selves.

MIT undergraduate, Reuben John, leaves the audience spell-bound with his talk on artificial intelligence and machine learning

Next introduced was the strong female figure Sandhya Chandrasekharayya—entrepreneur and co-founder of Indiahikes, India’s largest trekking community specialising in the Himalayas. She walked the audience through her journey from a software engineer to an entrepreneur. She eventually found her calling—her evergreen passion for trekking led her to co-found what has today become one of India’s largest trekking organisations. As her personal tale progressed, she delivered critical lessons for budding entrepreneurs. She emphasized how start-ups need not be a solitary effort and how the key to start-ups is to focus on building stronger relationships, as opposed to products. After detailing her own hardships and imparting valuable knowledge, the audience was left with a kindling hope towards the entrepreneurship market as well as an undeniable urge to find their own calling.

Sandhya Chandrasekharyya talks about her experiences as a trekker.

The final speaker of the afternoon, Hayat Amiree, captivated the audience as he spoke of A Story of Hope—his personal struggles as a refugee in the Afghan war—and contrastingly delivered the speech with a charming sense of inspiration. He brought into perspective the troubled childhood he went through as a refugee, how he built himself up and obtained scholarships, all the while battling the loss of identity and a secure home. He imparted the important life lessons he had learnt during his times of hardship. One of these lessons was something he that he had learnt from a song which he sang to himself every night—wake up tomorrow as someone kinder, nicer, and just better. Mr Amiree delivered his beautifully inspiring speech with a strong and impacting air of confidence, easily becoming a crowd favourite and receiving a standing ovation at the end.

The audience was thoroughly moved by Hayat Amiree’s speech about his life as a refugee.

Lastly, after a few words of thanks from the organising committee, the speakers were given a TEDx token of appreciation. After a small photo session, some of the speakers took questions from the audience before they finally dispersed. The ticket to TEDxManipalUniversity was inclusive of a dinner with the speakers later that day, where the audience was free to interact with the speakers about their personal experiences, motivation, and sound advice.

Photo Credits to The Photography Club, Manipal