Mike check. Mike check 1. 2. 3.
There’s something I’ve learned while working with the TEDx organizers here at TEDxKinnaird: You’re never done working- ever. There’s always something left, one last rehearsal, one last sound check. The idea that something could still be left undone is a bit of a nightmare actually. We’ve worked for months to get this done, and now, with the speakers finalized and prepped, their talks ready and the stage design finalized, we don’t want anything left to chance. So that’s why, despite the fact that it’s event day, that the attendees are due to arrive at 1:30, there we were, the entire TEDxKinnaird team, scurrying about, getting the stage polished, putting up the decor, helping the speakers rehearse their speeches, fussing over a fussy printer, chasing wild animals off the venue and generally managing to be everywhere all the time and yet feel like there is more to be done.
The day started out on an ominous note- for us at least. We love rain as much as any other Pakistani, but on event day? No, please no. But our team anticipated the rain (we’d been keeping an eye on the broadcast for some time now) and we’d ensured that there were canopies to provide shelter from the rain in case it did decide to pour, and plenty of hot coffee to go around. We had a mini crisis session when the rain decided it wanted to test our management skills and started to pour, just as we began our registration process. We’re so grateful to our attendees who patiently stuck with us, and our volunteers and core team members who spent all their time running back and forth with umbrellas and who jumped in to help speed up the registration process.
An attendee tweeted: “If there is any superlative degree above best, id use tht for this amaazing experience! #TedXKinnaird”. And we have to agree, after all, it was a pretty awesome event, and we are pretty awesome people.
The event was only delayed a little, and when we did begin, with a brilliant mime put on by some of the wonderful women of Kinnaird’s Dramatics Society, the smiles on the faces of our attendees helped- so much. We breathed a collective sigh of relief and then we were back to work.
“The real story of social media is a human one,” said our first speaker. Jay Jaboneta was up first, with a miniature version of the Yellow Boats of hope that his organization is famous for. He spoke about hope, and how it was actually an acronym for something much bigger. Jay’talk was important, not only because he spoke about the social media as a tool for change, but because he managed to set the tone for the rest of the event. The sight of the audience, spellbound with smiles on their faces as they listened and nodded along to our friend from the Philippines was enough to warm our hearts.
Sehar Tariq caught the audiences attention from the very beginning. She said that she wanted to talk about the “F” word. She spoke about feminism and how we, as a nation needed to pick up the mantle of what she considers a great cause. “Feminism,” she said “at its core, is the belief that all human beings are created equal.” I must say, if the live tweets were anything to go by, she managed to change a lot of minds with her talk.
The TED talk played during the event showed us how important identity and courage are. “Opposite of poverty is Justice, not wealth” said Bryan Stevenson, and we wholeheartedly agree. This talk was instrumental in informing us about the justice system in America and was met with plenty of applause from our audience.
The much awaited 4Paee performance started off next. You can imagine how nervous we were when the lights went off right at the start, but thankfully the backup generators were in place already and 4Paee was able to pick up where they’d left off. They got a few laughs and an appreciative round of applause when they informed the audience that it was “Okay, because we’re Pakistani’s. We’re trained for these kind of situations!” The boys were, in a word, flawless. Not only did they talk about trust, and what it and Construct Deconstruct means to them as a garage band, but also gave an impromptu encore performance of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep (among others) that had the audience on their feet, begging for more (or in my case, attracting a LOT of attention by repeatedly bowing them down).
The much needed networking break had people scurrying to get to the refreshments- and to find people with similar Attendee tags so they could, as one attendee put it: “Catch up with some much needed networking!” (Yes, he actually said that, and we love him for it). After several photographs were taken and many interesting ideas were discussed (we were listening in, and we were definitely interested) the attendees headed back to the hall, where they were treated to a merge of music and poetry by the Lahore Beat Poets. While it was a bit difficult for many in our audience to understand the concept, once the LBP crew explained the concept, we found many of the attendees nodding along to the music and lyrics. Both “Only Road to You” was a crowd favorite. In fact, we heard several of the audience members murmur something about being “caught in the reverie” long after the performance ended.
It was a pleasant surprise to hear our attendees give talks on the TEDxKinnaird stage. Despite his obvious surprise at being chosen, Ghalib Khalil, the founder of Rescue Pakistan, gave a coherent, passionate talk about the idea behind his organization. Himself a full time student, he encouraged us to do whatever we could to help people around us, and made his point very clear when he took out some sweets and explained how he kept some sweets about him at all times so that, every time he saw a child begging, he’d give them sweets instead of money.
TEDxKinnaird veteran Jazib Zahir took the stage again this year, this time as an attendee speaker and spoke about how he was working with solar energy to make sure Pakistan had a brighter future. TEDxCity2.0 organizer Saad Hamid, who has also been a speaker at TEDActive, spoke about the TEDx movement in Pakistan and Raza Naeem did his best to demystify the Arab Spring. “People are their own liberators”, said the latter and we think the audience definitely agreed.
A TEDTalk by Cesara Herada for novel ideas for clearing up oil spills came on, and the audience got chance to see how “technology” could be adapted to fit the idea behind TED so well.
Comic book fans watching our livestream must have been pretty happy when Mehran Khan took the stage. He’s working on Voltura with his brother. What’s that? Oh, nothing much- only Pakistan’ first graphic novel. “People say, if it’s not Desi, it won’t click with the awam,” he said, “but I think, it needs to bep ersonal, because our problems are personal. And that’s what makes Voltura relevant. It asks you: when do you give up? It asks you When do you give up on your soul? Your dreams?”
Saba Aziz, Pakistan’s best female tennis player, was our next speaker. She recently made Newsweek Pakistan’s list of 100 women who matter in 2012 as a Hall of Famer. She thought that tennis could, and should be made a household sport. After all, if ”We can fit at least 20 tennis courts in a cricket field.”, why shouldn’t we give it a try?
And last up: Saad Rasool. He was a banker who gave up the glitzy life in New York because he wanted, so badly, to do something for this nation. People called him crazy, he responded by becoming a lawyer, and setting up a private law practice. “I dream of a day,” he said, “jab eik rupiye ke chaar dollar milein ge”. Translation? “I dream of a day, when you’ll get $4 for one Pakistani Rupee.” That struck many of us as idealistic, but it didn’t deter Saad from inspiring us to think positive, to allow confusion in order to understand and achieve possibilities, and helping us end this event on the note we wanted it to: by inspiring people to think, and getting them geared up and ready to spread their ideas.
Thank You, everyone, who has been a part of TEDxKinnaird, whether you were an attendee, part of the crew, a volunteer or a core team member. Thank you to the live tweeters, to the people who stayed in one spot for six hours to watch our livestream, and to the wonderful, and generous partners and sponsors who helped us make this event a reality. Your support and enthusiasm is what drives us and pushes us each year. We’re sorry it’s over, even though these past six months have been crazy, but in a way we’re also glad. Because, now that it’s over, we can start planning for something bigger. You guessed it: TEDxKinnaird 2014. What’ll we do this time round?
You’ll just have to wait and see.
Ready? Set. TEDx!
- Noor Rehman