I delivered an NED Talk

When we finally implemented the NED Talks a year back, we took a policy decision that we wouldn’t be speaking ourselves, and instead remain content with organising, producing and anchoring the event.

With a year of NED talks (where we collected over fifty NED fellows over six episodes) done, there were the interesting situation today where the Takshashila Institution, which I’m associated with an many of whose fellows have delivered NED Talks, organised an NED Talks-like event (they acknowledged it as such) as part of their year-ending bash.

So they requested me to speak at the event and I agreed to talk about the Ramayana and its connection with the current civil war in Syria. I essentially paraphrased what I’d written in this post on this blog, and argued that Europe and the US should back Russia in supporting Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

The event was streamed live on Youtube, and you can find my talk here:

See and enjoy (my talk starts around the 15 minute mark).

PS: I had consumed two glasses of wine before this talk which “lubricated” things and enabled me to talk without feeling self-conscious. I must say this method works fairly well for short talks.

NED Talks – First Edition

Back in 2009, the TED conference was held in Mysore. If there can exist TED Talks, I reasoned, there is no reason why we cannot have NED talks. And as is my wont, I had shot off a blog post in April 2009, announcing that the first NED Talks would happen in October 2009. Some of the points I had made in that blog post are interesting – I had said that it would be a day long (or even weekend long event), speakers would be “mango people”, and that talks would be uploaded on Youtube. I had no clue what would happen at the NED Talks.

Much happened though between April 2009, when I wrote that blog post, and October 2009, when the first edition of the talks were to happened. I moved jobs. I moved cities. My mother died. Life changed way too much for me to be bothered about NED Talks any more. And so I did what came naturally to me – put NED!

On several occasions in the last five years I’ve thought of “finally organising” the NED Talks, but they never came to fruition for a multitude of reasons, the most important of them being NED itself! I would think I would organise it, start thinking about how I would organise it, and then get confused, and then get into doubt, and thus, postpone! I went through several cycles of this until last month.

It was a day before the wife was to return to Bangalore for her winter holidays, and she suggested that we do the talks while she is in town. She was in luck that I was prepared to listen to her that day. And the idea took root. A guest list was quickly prepared. One guest was quickly signed up and with his help we froze what seemed like a convenient date. And by the end of the day, the first set of invites had been sent out!

The inaugural edition of the NED Talks took place last night, at our residence in Bangalore. There were a total of thirteen speakers, each of whom spoke for five minutes each. Both from our pertinent observations, and from the feedback we received from attendees, I think the event was a grand success. Like they say in Page 3 party reports, “everybody had a good time”.

The format was designed so as to be conducive to NED. One of the big barriers to hosting an event is to arrange for a venue. So we decided to do it in our own home. We didn’t want audience to put NED during the talks, so each speaker was allotted five minutes (though by my accounts most exceeded that limit). Getting professional video was NED-inducing, so we set up a DSLR on a tripod. Food came from the nearby Upahara Darshini and Gayathri Stores. Wine from Venus Wine Stores, also very nearby. The whole thing was set up such that there was no way for us to put NED.

And no one put NED. The talks were all excellent, and thought-provoking. Though none of them were “ideas that can change the world” as TED promises, they were all interesting. So we had a demonstration on different kind of knives, and an exposition on the enduring appeal of late 80s-early 90s Bollywood music – whose musical qualities leave much to be desired. Someone spoke about the importance of being shallow, and someone else on what makes someone interesting. There was a demonstration on the engineering behind consumption of certain herbal products! Thirteen speeches. All very well received.

This being the first edition there were the usual glitches. I had taken upon myself the quadruple role of emcee, DJ, photographer and videographer, which meant that the latter three didn’t receive much attention. So soft background music which was supposed to be played during talks were never played. Some talks were not captured on video at all, while others were only partially recorded (so we will only be putting up a montage of the talks on youtube rather than individual videos). The same camera was being used for taking both photos and videos, which meant not many photos were taken!

Post the event one NED-inducing activity is to make a montage of the videos. We’ve put enthu and done the first part which is cutting up interesting sections from different videos. Now we have the job of stitching them together. Hopefully we’ll upload pretty soon!

Nevertheless the wife and I are extremely kicked that we managed to pull this off. That the much-awaited NED talks finally happened. And now that they’ve happened, we hope to have them on a regular basis. Given that they’ll continue to happen in our drawing room, they’ll remain invite-only events, though.

Jai to NED!