TEDxLahore: Collective Genius

TEDxLahore stood true to its banner of ‘’collective genius.” And it was a house-full.

Rabia Mehmood July 31, 2010

TEDxLahore stood true to its banner of ‘’collective genius.” Out of more than a thousand applications from all across Pakistan, some 380 were selected. And it was a house-full.

The speaking session began with incomparable input from Arif Hasan on evolution of cityscapes in Pakistan and how despite the PHDs and modern universities, things would not move forward in this country without development in ‘skills.’

This was followed by an interesting and interactive talk by Jabran Rafique, with contribution from his partner Omer Sheikh in the UK, on the use of digital cartography in Pakistan. Citing the Attabad lake incident, Rafique explained to an attentive audience how mapping via google tools can help create a data base for anybody to access, despite how secretive the government can be with information in Pakistan.

Intellectual mapping of the Urdu language was discussed by Ajmal Kamal, who is involved with the Urdu Project which aims to put written work in Urdu language, fiction and non-fiction, online.

Socio-linguist Dr Tariq Rehman gave a brief view of how important it is to accept the evolution of the Urdu language in Pakistan in modern times.

Communication Designer Saima Zaidi then took the attendees through an interpretation of national identity via the indigenous visual culture that has been prevalent here over for decades. Noor Zehra Raza then got a standing ovation for playing the ‘sagar veena,’ an instrument that was designed by her father Raza Kazim.

Dr Asher Hasan, then narrated a story of children from opposing class systems to explain how these very children are needed to end the socio-economic apartheid in Pakistan. He was followed by Mudassir Zia who shared his vision on how the youth can be the key to solve issues of unequal opportunity in the sphere of education and other public service sectors.

The fact that confused notions of development and ‘mimicking the donor’ in Pakistan exclude the majority of Pakistanis, who are mostly less than 20 years of age was Dr Nadeem ul Haq’s opinion. He reiterated the need for homegrown intellectual and community space for the youth.

Zubair K Bhatti, introduced as the ‘Corruption Buster,’ spoke about collective effort and challenges with regards to transparent governance. He was followed by Majid Nawaz who talked about how the narrative of Pakistan and Pakistanis needs to be in accordance with what was Jinnah’s dream.

Holding true to its concept of exposing ideas and contribution of Pakistanis not just to the country but the world, TEDx Lahore introduced Dr Aamir Khan. An epidemiologist and founding member of openxdata.org consortium, he shared the incredible work young Pakistanis working with him from Korangi in Karachi to Gilgit have done with Media Lab in MIT to the Harvard School of Business in the interest of public health and the prevention of diseases like Pneumonia and Tuberculosis.  He also shared how cell phones have been used in researching in the field of health care.

The hero of this charged intellectual activity that took place in Lahore and was viewed via live streams in cafes in Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and Netherlands was Dr Zeeshan Usmani . Dr Usmani was introduced as the ‘Counter Terrorism Planner.’ Dr Usmani had the crowd in fits, despite the grim seriousness of the area of his remarkable research, and he received the longest and biggest standing ovation of the night. His work focuses on ‘suicide bombings’ and the software designed by him can help doctors in treatment of patients of suicide attacks as well as the government and intelligence agencies to analyze and preempt terrorist activities. Dr Usmani shared why he began working in the sphere of terrorism and very aptly pointed out “So far we do not have a vision to solve the problem of terrorism in Pakistan.”

The event did get over shadowed by repetitive technical glitches, at times it did lose the audience’s interest and there was some light dozing off and snoring in a few corners. But, time and again there were a few talks which revitalized the attendees. On the whole the spirit of the event was predominantly national and was made saccharine sweet with love of the homeland. A short film called ‘building Pakistan’ was shown, which just showed the flag of Pakistan built with match boxes in green and white. This mood was reinforced by a cute goodie bag that read ‘WE NOT ME’ on it and contained a match used in the film, a WWF magazine, a Last Word discount coupon, a music CD and a plant for all the guests to go home and plant.

The night ended with a percussions jam, which was a surprise parting gift by the TEDx team.

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Farheen Hussain | 10 years ago | Reply To all those who take sick pleasure in complaining incessantly about the state of affairs of the country, do NOTHING about it themselves and then shoot down those who try; arrange an event of this magnitude, of this calibre and energy on a volunteer basis for NO personal gain and then you have earned the right to criticise. I attended the event myself, am NOT a part of the volunteer team and I can vouch that only after the longest time I felt inspired and positive for Pakistan. This was a break from the typical rhetorical bs doled out on talk shows, 'aunty' gossip and complaining sessions or psuedo burger bacha whinning about the mess that is Pakistan. It was real individuals taking the stage and talking about alternatives, what they had personally done, what impact it had, what role you can define for yourself. It was the power of ideas, which is the TED spirit. Granted their were technical problems and some speakers failed to deliver but most had substance and the power to inspire. I for one did not appreciate TEDx Karachi all that much because it provided a platform to those who a) didnt neccessarily need it since they were already big shots and b) didnt have any novel ideas just fancy 'ivy league' degrees and rich daddies. On the contrary TEDx Lahore unearthed our organic intellectuals and activists like Dr. Usmani, MUdassir Zia, Saima Zaidi. This is what we need; committed, brilliant people to be brought to the fore, their ideas shared and linked with other like minded people. I salute TEDx Lahore for the right spirit and know that given it polishes some rough edges and continues on the same lines it can spur a social revolution through ideas.
Junaid Naseer | 10 years ago | Reply totally agreed with the following ... The hype, as with everything Pakistani, was cloying. The event itself much like an onion.
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