Wednesday, June 16

Changemakers who beat the If

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A photographer spoke about finding a subject and audience beyond the four walls of art galleries. A soft skill trainer talked about how he overcame suicidal tendencies as a teenager. A leadership coach remembered working with daily-wagers as a boy.

Eleven agents of change spoke about dealing with the ‘IF’ in their lives in front of a city audience on Sunday.

The theme of TEDxChowringhee, partnered by The Telegraph, was “The IF in Life”. The ‘x’ stands for an independently organised TED event.

Leena Kejriwal, the founder of the MISSING public art project that seeks to spread awareness about trafficking of minor girls, had made an “unconventional” choice in capturing the “beauty in mundane” in her city. One such foray led her to a red-light area — an experience that has stayed with her.

“What I felt there — the plight of the girls — millions of others have felt. What if I had also let go of that emotion, like the millions of others? By then I had made my name as a fine arts photographer and I was putting up these shows and exhibitions in galleries across the world.

“I realised more and more that my subject in my artwork was becoming sex trafficking. I realised that the dream audience I wanted to talk to was out in the open, not within the four walls of a gallery space. I chose to take a creative risk and create a public artwork,” Kejriwal said.

Suman Agarwal, founder of the Mumbai-based Image Consulting Institute, grooms corporate executives and has also worked with Tihar jail inmates. Agarwal had battled depression for a long time during her formative years and even attempted suicide but was rushed to hospital in time.

The turning point in Agarwal’s life was coming back from the brink of death. “I moved out of what if to what is and learned to embrace life with all its ups and downs. I was brought out of my comfort zone of self-pity and self-doubt,” said Agarwal.

S.M. Lateef, a life coach and one of the speakers, damaged an eye in a freak accident — a pair of scissors fell off a shelf and on his face — when he was barely a year old. The entire neighbourhood started calling him the “one-eyed boy”.

When Lateef tuned 14, his father suffered a stroke and was confined to bed. The family was in dire straits and Lateef saw his mother crying and praying one day. “Something snapped” inside him and he ran out of the home and kept running until he reached a group of labourers laying a road. He asked them for work and got it.

Latif worked for three days and earned Rs 40 every day.

“What if Baba had not suffered the heart attack? What if mom had not reacted the way she did? When faced with my biggest fear… what did I do? At that moment, it is you stepping up and facing your fears. You may have noble intentions but without action… the ‘what ifs’ of life will keep plaguing you,” Lateef said.

Ruchi Bakhai, a psychologist, was in the audience. “I listen to Tedx talks on loop. It was an overwhelming experience to be here in person,” she said.

Lokesh Nathany, licensee, curator and host of TEDxChowringhee, thanked Calcutta for the “love and affection shown towards this programme”.

The event was held at the sprawling amphitheatre on the first floor of the Kolkata Centre for Creativity. With architecture that allows ample sunlight in the wooden galleries, the theatre looks straight out of a college campus.


Source: The Telegraph

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