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Calloh!Callay! I finally made it out to INK. Well, InkLive to be accurate, but what the heck. Joy all around when I managed to score a press pass to cover the event. So I hopped onto the night train with the Jaaga crew, and found myself back in Kochi, for the first time since Startup School moved back to Bangalore. I decided to give myself a few days to chew on all the goodness and spit out the cud, so that I could write about it with a calm and settled mind.
In it’s fourth edition, INK 2013 was held at the Le Meridian Kochi, in God’s Own Country, Kerala. In an attempt to make the talks more accessible and affordable to college students and young professionals, they ran a parallel event called InkLive that included live screening of the talks from the main conference, workshops and speaker interactions.
The Life Radical session on Day 2 might have been my favorite overall track. Riddled with the philosophical and the rhetoric, it was filled curious musings about life, mind, the future and the new. High points of this session included William Pennell Rock - Social Anthropologist, who developed ORIGINS, an innovative school which rediscovers the roots of performing art as a means of generating spiritual and psychological health. He talked passionately about the Upanishads, his journey as to Benaras as a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Philosophy, and how British philosophy does not have the conceptual framework to deal with Indian philosophy. His talk urged us to look and use ancient wisdom to pave the way for the future.
A rad demonstration by Ink Fellow from the MIT Media Lab Anirudh Sharma of a printer that creates ink by harvesting smoke and soot. While still reeling from this magical smoke ink, we were descended upon by another Ink Fellow Rohan Dixit who goes by the title of Meditation Neurotechnologist, where he presented Brain Bot, a brainwave headset that reads your mind, turning the internal process of mindfulness into objective measure. His work is based on his first-hand research with sadhus and monks in the Himalayas, where he recorded their brainwaves while they were meditating.
This demonstration was followed by the appearance of deep and broody, filmmaker and screenwriter Anand Gandhi, (Ship of Theseus fame, one of the best films to have come out of India this year), talking about being conflicted between being a nihilist and a romantic at heart.
My personal highlights from the conference:
The graphic designer in me was stoked to be in the same space as Stefan Sagmiester. He was one of the co-hosts this year and talked about the happiest moments of his life, and how a lot of them were tied to good design. To make up for the technical glitches during the live screening of his talk, we did get to see him, in the flesh, at the end of day 3, during a speaker interaction session at InkLive. I snuck into the evening festivities and got to watch him groove with the kathakali dancers, who were part of the special performance for all the INK guests.
Watching the funny, oomphy and sassy Usha Uthup talk openly about her journey as a female singer starting off in the Sixties, performing in night clubs wearing her Kanchivaram sarees, and working the husky voice that is now instantly recognisable as her own. This was followed by her mesmerizing rendition of Skyfall sent chills down my spin and she had the audience in splits as she mimicked and sang Fever, with an impeccable Japanese accent. She was later joined on stage with her daughter and granddaughter, both amazing singers in their own right and the audience got to witness the three of them created magic, as in their first performance together.
The poignant story of 17-year-old artist Aisha Choudhary who was born with an immune deficiency disorder and overcame a predicted life expectancy of only one year. Despite living with Pulminory Fibrosis, where each breath is a challenge, Aisha talked slowly and softly about the eminent realness of death and the choice of happiness. A big salute to her unimaginable endurance and resolve.
Last year, on my first trip to New York, I wandered into Strand, the bookstore and stumbled upon a delightfully illustrated book called The Principles of Uncertainty. I loved the artwork and was stoked to add this to my personal collection of graphic novels and illustrated books. Flashfoward a year later, and the author and illustrator behind that book, Maira Kalman was right here on the INK2013 stage, talking about emotion, documentation and being present. Serendipity aside, watching her talk in person honestly about her work as a storyteller and illustrator, made my year.
The Drumjam by Roberto Narain and Vasundhara Das.
Lakshmi Pratury, host and curator of the conference, referred to INK as a brain spa of sorts. Rightly so, I believe. With speakers talking about happiness, looking inwards at the functioning of our inner worlds, being present, going back to ones’ roots, and looking at ancient wisdom to pave the way for the future, it left us with nuggets of wisdom, stimulation and ideas that put into focus the important stuff of life and tied in really well with this year’s theme All That Matter. Starting with the ocean and ending with space, from tea sommeliers, 3D printers, hemp farming, music, dancers to deep sea diving, Vedic consultants and jet propulsion experts, the conference covered a whole gamut of things.
Honestly, before heading to INK, I was feeling a little “conference-d out”. I had already attended four conferences this year and was a little saturated with big ideas and people talking about changing the world. I have to admit that despite by initial skepticism, I am super grateful that all the stars aligned just in time and I made it out there.
Technical glitches aside, the 3-day event were intelligent, social and hugely stimulating. I look forward to INK next year and can only imagine this turning into a becoming bigger, better and long term affair.
The complete speaker roster of the conference is available here.
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