Why Tedx Chennai is going to rock your world this weekend

Clean water solutions from a 12-year-old. Making the raaga go viral. Or how about stepping  into the Virtual Reality of a fly? TEDx Chennai promises to fire you up this Sunday

Sonali Shenoy Published :  09th March 2018 04:11 PM   |   Published :   |  09th March 2018 04:11 PM


From child brides to cryptocurrency — this year’s edition of TEDx Chennai promises to be nothing short of eclectic. Bigger than the last one with 18 speakers (that’s almost double of last year), mystery celebrity performances and interactive outdoor features that range from a spot for humanoids to a glow-in-the-dark food experience, it’s no wonder that this event was sold out over a week in advance.The theme this time around is ‘Revolution,’ and as per the usual format, under-18 minute talks, will cover thought-provoking messages presented by diverse profiles of speakers from Chennai to Colorado. Expect to hear from poet Tishani Doshi, gender-fluid fashion designer Purushu Arie, STEM educator Aditi Prasad, blockchain expert Jaspreet Bindra and even 12-year-old scientist Gitanjali Rao!



Gitanjali Rao, Scientist, Colorado
I am going to highlight the global problem of lead contamination of water and introduce a device, I invented, which detects lead contamination better than any current techniques. I also want to promote the idea of STEM education, especially among girls, and encourage the audience to tackle some big problems through technology and innovation.




Lead, kindly light
Honoured with the title of America’s Top Young Scientist last year, Gitanjali has invented a quick, low-cost test to detect lead contaminated water. “I am hoping that the audience takes some ideas from my process of innovation and applies them to solving some big problems like healthcare and pollution,” says the school goer, whose mantra is a confluence of girl power-meets-heal the world. “I believe that everybody should get involved in solving some big problems in our society. This can only happen when we have all available hands and brains, thinking and working on them. Historically, the contributions of girls have been far less than boys. Now, more than any other time in our history, the world needs a strong and focused effort to encourage girls in STEM,” she elaborates.


Sriram Emani, Co-founder & CEO of IndianRaga, Massachusetts
I will be speaking about finding a voice for the classical arts in the 21st century using digital media. This will be based on what we learned over the past few years at IndianRaga, working with thousands of young artistes across 60 global cities. I’m excited to share some of the ideas and insights from that experience.


Saumya Khandelwal, Photojournalist, Delhi
For the past three years, I’ve been working on a solo project capturing images of child brides at Shravasti in Uttar Pradesh. I will be sharing how visual storytelling can create awareness about this. 

It doesn’t stop there. While you’re being guided through a series of solutions to world problems ranging from Artificial Intelligence to smarter agriculture, curator Kritika Jain reveals your own voice can be a part of the solution too. “We have a board where you can put down messages for speakers on Post-Its, as well as something we call a Button Buddy station, where you can get your personal doodle or mantra for change converted into a badge,” says the license holder of the TEDx platform in Chennai, who is all of 24.

Incidentally, before Kritika, a graphic designer and architect was granted a license in 2016 — the TEDx license for Chennai had been revoked in 2012, allegedly due to ‘irregularities in the organising of the event’ such as holding a press conference with sponsors and having a venue sponsor as a speaker, as per reports, quoting an email from Lara Stein, then Director TEDx.  So one might say, things have seen quite a turnaround since, with no flouted rules and the event organised in true TEDx spirit.


Make your own TEDx talk!
For the first time in Chennai, you can make a Tedx talk of your own. Catering to aspirational speakers, organiser Kritika Jain says that there will be a second stage outside the main hall for speakers to deliver their message during the lunch break. “We’re calling it Stage 2,” she says with a smile. “The selection process is already underway, eligible for 20 people who can hit the mic for two minutes each,” she adds. 


I believe I can fly
Woven between serious topics like sturdier architectural solutions for slum settlements (urban planner Marco Ferrario), and teaching girls to code to teach them bravery (STEM Educator Aditi Prasad) are lighter experiences that call to one’s curiosity.  For instance, consider stepping into a simulated ‘virtual reality of a fly’ presented by chemical ecologist Dr Shannon Olsson. The latter has been created for participants to better empathise with nature. Or in contrast, director RS Prasanna’s talk on ‘performance anxiety’. “Anybody who has seen my film Kalyana Samayal Saadham, which is about erectile dysfunction, knows that I will be hinting at more than what it sounds like when I get up on stage,” he says with a laugh. Extrapolating from the film, he elaborates, “I think whether in bed or in life — there is a need to impress. Especially now with the rise of social media, we’re all suffering from performance anxiety in one way or another.” He adds in jest, “Like my performance anxiety shot up the moment I saw the list of speakers who will be taking the stage at this event!”

The event will be held at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Hall, on March 11.