LAHORE: The TEDx talks that came to Lahore for the second year in a row on July 31, 2010 mark a monumental change in this city’s approach to new ideas.
The change being the fact that of the 300 plus people who had confirmed their attendance not one missed the event and this too despite the veritable downpour in the city. The theme for this year’s talks is ‘Collective genius’. It was indeed the undertone in every presentation despite the range of diverse subject matter addressed during the day-long conference.
The TEDx event, as in other cities around the world, showcased a host of unique speakers, a short film, two musical performances, a skype session with a former jihadi addressing the conference from England as well as an exchange between the audience and speakers during the hour-long break. The talks were divided into two sessions with the opening session from 2pm to 4.30pm focusing more on ‘theoretical’ change with in-depth discussions by Architect Arif Hassan, Google map-makers for Pakistan Omer Sheikh and Jibran Rafique, editor Ajmal Kamal, socio linguist Dr Tariq Rahman, musicologist Beena Raza and sagar veena virtuoso Noor Zehra and visual culture expert Saima Zaidi. The second session from 5.30 to 8pm focused more on activists from completely original denominations. A narration on ‘a tale of two cities’ discussing the denominations between Burger and Bun Kebab children by Dr Asher Hasan was incredibly moving, followed by a skype session with activist for social change, reformed jihadist Majid Nawaz. Economist Dr Nadeemul Haq (also a donor for the event) broke down Pakistan’s economic dilemma into a triad of major problems: excessive focus on development projects, foreign aid and starving the local consumer. Former Jhang district coordination officer (DCO) Zubair Bhatti presented his ‘near-fool proof’ formula to end petty corruption in the province, supported by some evidence. Dr Aamir Khan walked the audience through the near- miraculous potential of cell phone technology in solving the health care crisis. Yet the show stopper of the day, hands down was Zeeshanul Haq Usmani. Dr Usmani’s presentation on ‘framing the suicide bomb mode’ took the audience through an ‘awe’-some journey of how his incredible software could help determine the magnitude, range and rate of injury for every type of explosive, peg down how many people would be likely to die in a certain attack and predict the extent of injuries for those that survived. The gruesome yet gripping presentation, put forward with uncharacteristic fervour was an eye-opener for the terror ravaged Lahoris in the audience.
All in all, TEDx Lahore can be called nothing short of inspirational, from the gift packs prepared with a plant donated by the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) for every guest to go home and ‘join’ the green revolution, to the endearing ‘we, not me’ slogans on the sponsored bags. The event, its organisers and its speakers practically exuded a spirit of hope and change and for once...the audience were no different.
Correction: reformed jihadist Majid Nawaz was mistakenly cited as 'terrorist' in the article, although his group was never labelled as such. The error has been corrected.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2010.