TEDxLSRCollege: Spreading Extraordinary Ideas

It was nine o’clock of a Saturday morning but the auditorium of Lady Shri Ram College was buzzing with the enthusiasm of the attendees awaiting the start of the first TEDx event organized by the Department of Psychology, Lady Shri Ram College on 13th September, 2014.

The event started as Aishaanya Tewari, the host for the event, introduced the Head of the Department of Psychology Ms. Sentisungla Longchar who convened the program with a small speech and marked the beginning of a wonderful journey of exploring new ideas on topics very different from each other.

The first speaker was Mr. Mihir Srivastava, a journalist by profession,based in Bombay, who talked about his unconventional hobby of sketching people nude. He talked about the genesis and journey of what he has now termed as a social experiment. The talk was titled ‘Conversations in the Nude’ wherein he shared certain anecdotes based on his experiences of approaching people to pose nude for him, their reactions and the conversations that ensue between him and his ‘subjects’ after the people shed their clothes. With a display of his sketch work being displayed on the screen, the audience listened to him talk about how the act of shedding of clothes makes the people vulnerable at first but later they shed all their inhibitions and be their natural self even in front of a stranger.The speaker brought home the idea that nudity is capable of making people aware of themselves following their private act of public display.

The second speaker of the day was Dr. Kanika K.Ahuja, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, Lady Shri Ram College. Dr. Ahuja’s talk was titled ‘ Mirror Mirror on the Wall… I’m Sexy, Damn You All!’ and as the title suggests it talked about the body image perceptions which are very prevalent among women. The talk gave insights on how media and society have established certain parameters of beauty and the way in which body shaming is becoming more of a social norm and a way for women to bond over with one another as they shun their own bodies. The speaker engaged the audience with slight touches of humour and sarcasm while she gave illustrations of body shaming that we indulge in daily even without being aware. She ended on the positive note that all the dissatisfaction that women have with their bodies will end once they become aware of the unconscious body shaming that they indulge in and accept themselves for the way they are.

This was followed by a TED video of Terry Moore wherein he talked about ‘Why is ‘x’ the unknown?’. The very w\fittingly chosen video unraveled the mystery associated with the English alphabet ‘x’ , its place in mathematics and it earned a huge applaud from the audience.

The third speaker was Dr. Parul Bansal, Associate Professor in the Psychology Department, Lady Shri Ram College, who talked on ‘Are We Free? Images on Individuality’. Dr. Bansal presented a thought provoking talk on something which is essentially psychological in nature, analysed in the Indian context, i.e. relevance of individualistic thought and behavior in India, a collectivistic society. She put forth individualism as a sure shot way to go but with cooperation with others chained along, i.e. healthy individualism. She talked about how societies and cultures often remember their deviants and express gratitude for their rebellion and discoveries. To foster the uniqueness of an individual, according to Dr. Bansal one can harbor fantasies and dreams, one can also take up the uniquely somewhat individualistic yet unified spiritual path and often individualism can come off through “madness” in the society.

Before breaking for a tea-break the audience got the chance to interact with children enrolled with Teach for India programme, which was one of the sponsors for the event. After tea was served, the audience got a surprise as they found TEDX goody bags for them placed on their seats.

The audience was then presented with the next speaker, Dr. Aseem Shrivastava who spoke on ‘The Dignity of the Earth’. Being an environmental economist, he provided the audience with food for thought as he talked about the need for humans to resume their relationship with the natural world. His instances of how the present human population has become more unaware of the obvious hit the audience hard and he was able to successfully convey his idea that it is still not too late to start protecting the nature and we still have the scope of retreating back to the time where nature was preserved as in his own words, ‘Sometimes you have to go very far from home to actually come back home’.

Another TED talk video was then shown which was titled ‘How to Start a Movement’ by Derek Sivers. The hilarious video set the mood for the next speaker, Dr. Matthew Whoolery, Psychology professor at Brigham Young University, Idaho, USA. He spoke on a very unconventional topic ‘How to be Unhappy?’. In his talk, he successfully attempted to use sarcasm to give tips to the listeners on improving what all the humans are already good at- being unhappy. The audience was in splits as he provided them with reasons to be unhappy. He manipulated research studies and put forth most misinterpreted sayings of various religions to very subtly put across to his audience the need to stay away from the chronic disease of being unhappy. Citing instances from his own life, he kept the audience engaged and was met with huge applause at the end of his talk.

The last speaker of the day was Ms. Shreena Thakore, who has the credit of starting the anti-rape campaign and now organization ‘No Country for Women’, spoke on ‘Is Saying Rape Is ‘Wrong’ Enough?. In her concise but very well thought of talk, she endeavored to make the audience see the problem that lies in considering rape wrong for the wrong reasons. The audience was completely engrossed as they heard her shattering their belief that rape is just sex and since they don’t rape they are not part of the problem. She effectively conveyed the idea of how anyone who considers rape wrong for the wrong reasons, say based on honour and dignity of the women, is as much a part of the problem, as a rapist and the rape is more of a larger social disease which has been caused due to imbalance in various factors like cultural and social structures and it should be dealt with on those levels too.

The event ended with a Thank You speech by the lead organizer of the event Anupriya Jain, where she took the opportunity to thank everyone including the Co organizer Arushi Kothari, sponsors, members of the organizing committee and volunteers who had put their efforts to make the event a success. A special thanks was rendered to Dr. Megha Dhillon for her support as the faculty advisor along with the other faculty members. Mehar Saggu, a 2nd about her experience said, “ It was an amazing event and I feel so lucky that I got a chance to listen to such amazing speakers. All the talks were awe-inspiring; I just couldn’t get over them”. After the official ending, the audience approached the speakers to talk to them and to get photographs clicked with them.

It is hoped that the college is able to come back next year with more of these amazing talks providing more chances of exploring and spreading of unconventional ideas.

Reported by Charul Katiyar


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