iSpellbound | Being Disrupted at #INK2015

It is not every day that you’re sitting in an audience that a Josh Radnor comes up on stage and talks about behavioural contagion at a time when every one of us is curating an audience of our own through our posts and tweets or an Irrfan Khan lets you in on his love for the great outdoors as he comes in defence of the need to leave our forests untouched so that tigers, elephants and others are free in their own habitat.

It is not every day that one gets invited to attend an event at the scale of the INK Conference either!

Making the most at #INK2015

A week before the event, I received an email from the team at BlogAdda that they were sending 20 of their bloggers to INK Live 2015. Would I be interested? INK was not entirely new to me. I was acquainted with INK Talks and had separately watched Lakshmi Pratury live in action in 2014. A chance to attend INK 2015 was not something I would let slip. As it turned out, I had made the shortlist and BlogAdda was granting me special access to attend. Needless to say, I was ecstatic.

INK 2015 to me was about the ordinariness of the extraordinaire and the extraordinariness in the everyday.

At the individual level, as someone who has recently made her foray into the freelancer’s world, I seek inspiration in its human embodiment now more than ever. Resonating with the offbeat in a world that takes comfort in the formulaic, I find myself constantly sniffing the air for more. And as a travel blogger who is a staunch practitioner of responsible travel and mindful presence on social media, it is no wonder then that Josh and Irrfan’s words have left an indelible mark on me.

And it wasn’t just them. I also found resonance in listening to INKFellows share nuggets from their journeys.

If you (like me) thought mind-controlling parasites was the stuff only sci-fi novels and films are made of, prepare to have your mind blown! Because we had Anand Varma share his field of interest (i.e. parasites) with us. It was his idea of wanting to communicate science more visually (i.e. outside the realm of writing research papers) that led him to stumble upon photography as a medium. Which in turn led him to bag projects – including one on mind-controlling parasites – with The National Geographic Society.

Video+timelapse by @anandavarma for @natgeo. This cabbage butterfly caterpillar (Pieris brassicae) has been infected...
Posted by Anand Varma - Photographer on Saturday, 15 November 2014

But before I was done ruminating over parasite-based fun (and not so fun) facts, I was made to realise that disaster rehabilitation and mass events have a lot in common; they both have humans living in squalor-like conditions. Therefore, there is this need for ‘housing with dignity’. With that Scott Knox drew us in to the topic, by describing his design for modular housing units: a fully equipped village that has all of the basic facilities right down to sanitation and is designed incorporating sustainable practices such as rain water harvesting and use of renewable energy.

The power of ideas gained further momentum when Arshiya Bose spoke about wanting to make her PhD thesis something more than what three people would read. So she delved deeper into the interconnectedness between coffee plantations and biodiversity. With the advent of sun grown coffee taking over from shade grown coffee (which deforestation is largely responsible for), there have been damaging consequences for nature and livelihoods. That’s how Black Baza Coffee was born. Though protecting nature while growing coffee has begun showing results, it turns out that disrupting people’s ideas about the kind of coffee they drink (and its source) has been more challenging.

Then Arunabh Kumar of The Viral Fever (TVF) struck a chord closer to home when he spoke about how the votes were split within the Indian entertainment industry on who comprise the Indian youth when he was starting out. He pun-ily commented on the state of affairs saying, “The only fiction Indian youth watch for entertainment is news” and went on to demonstrate how TVF has been making a dent in trying to change that with India centric content.

If you were asked: How many people do you know who do not want the tag of being the youngest doctor at 17 to be the only thing they ever get known for – what would your answer be? That’s how we met Dr. Bala Murali Ambati whose claim to fame besides the aforementioned is that today as an ophthalmologist he volunteers with ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital – the only one of its kind – providing care to under privileged countries. This flying hospital is like most other aircrafts on the outside but it hosts an ophthalmic hospital and teaching facility right on board!

When Sharath Gayakwad said, “Sports transforms lives; it certainly has transformed mine” we were certain we knew what he meant. Speaking of being forced to enter the pool as a kid and surrendering himself completely to his coach, Sharath left many of us inspired. It was the course of direction in his life that led him to being a Paralympic swimmer who today has more than a hundred medals to his name.

These are only but six of the voices. Spread over two and a half days, people from different walks of life shared a wide range of thought provoking ideas, leaving me in particular with just the dose of inspiration I needed. Turns out Lakshmi was right after all when she said, “The reason we do INK is so that people can see the real person, not just the headlines.”

But INK wasn’t only about listening, it was also about spending time doing. Every attendee at INK Live could register for two workshops. My choice of selection was the design thinking workshop and the drum circle workshop.

At the design thinking workshop, paired with a friend I had to come up with ideas that would help them address a current challenge such that the gains would outweigh the pains. The exercise pushes you as a person to not just walk but also run in another’s shoes when coming up with solutions for them. The bottom line always being the need to be empathetic towards the other.

If the first workshop was an exercise for my tiny cranium, the drum circle workshop was perhaps a way of redeeming my inner child. Facilitated by Abhijit Jejurikar who is the force to reckon behind Dharavi Rocks, the bottom line here was to create beats using materials of trash. We had had the privilege of watching Dharavi Rocks perform and take the energy levels through the roof at INK Live on Day 1. On Day 2 it was up to us to at least try and replicate some of it. It goes without saying that we were no match in comparison but letting ourselves loose on paint buckets turned into drums was an experience beyond comparison!

It’s a challenge to put in words something as wonderful as the INK experience in a blog post. And so at the risk of sounding corny I’ll quote Rumi and say that ‘what I sought came seeking me’ albeit via BlogAdda. It put me in front of a screen that had individuals who have paved a non-formulaic pathway of their own.

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