INK 2014: Beyond Boundaries

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan

What happens when you take some of the most creative innovators and artistes, the best thinkers in various fields and the biggest entrepreneurs in the country and put them together in a room over three days?  
That, in a nutshell, defines INKTALKS.

The recently concluded INKTALKS 2014 was held in Mumbai at the resplendent Grand Hyatt between October 31st  - November 2nd. This years’s theme – ‘Beyond Boundaries’ was especially appealing as it looked to erase all the man-made lines we have drawn on the ground and in our minds and instead focus on what should really matter: humanity. 

Rather than conform to the regular concepts driveled out in newspapers and organisations with not-too-subtle ulterior motives, INK – as it has over the past few years – chooses to use a combination of the past, present and the future to instead show you how you can make a difference. Hosted by the effervescent Lakshmi Pratury and with over six dozen speakers and performers in attendance, the audience was treated to a diverse array of ideas from myriad walks of life, each with a unique and inspiring story to tell.

There is no way I can attempt to do justice for all their voices and all the innovations that were on display so I will focus on those that still linger in my mind even now, days later.

  • Anshu Goonj, founder of the volunteer based organization Goonj, used the theme of multiple “D’s” (from death to dignity) and spoke on what the journey has been like looking to help those in need.
  • Raghava KK (Flipsicle) had a very interesting concept on visual perspectives and the difference between what we see versus reality.
  • Music director Shantanu Moitra (with the aid of actress-singer Monali Thakur) used the medium of music to provide insights into the complicated relationship between two of the greatest minds of our country - Rabrindath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, two friends with very different mindsets. Their rendition of ‘Ekla Chalo’ and the story behind how Tagore used it to motivate the Mahatma when he himself could not be there was simply magical.
  • Team Indus, India’s  only entry for the Google Lunar Xprize, was there to show us how they plan to impact the next generation of space exploration.  
    Team Indus

  • Dr Daniel Kraft had me literally in awe. Stanford and Harvard trained; Physician (in both internal medicine and paediatrics); scientist; pilot – those are the things that come with the name BEFORE he starts to wow you by demonstrating all the gadgets in his pocket and that are coming up, pertinent to the medical field.
    •    Integrating health tests onto fabric and clothes we wear.
    •    Painless blood glucose monitoring via contact lenses.
    •    Extremely affordable devices the size of a band-aid which instantly pick up vitals like your ECG and can transmit it on to any regular Bluetooth-enabled device.
    •    Screening for ebola and influenza at home using just a single piece of paper.
    •    3D printing of limbs at very affordable rates, offering hope to amputees.
      Dr Daniel Kraft
  • Hamish Patel (Azoi) too integrates technology with healthcare, showcasing a regular mobile case that can be used to detect ECG, temperature and other vitals and transit readings instantly.
  • Reshma Valliappan forced us to open our eyes to how we treat people we label as mentally disturbed and how we cannot expect them to feel normal if we don’t give them a chance to reintegrate into society.·         
  • Mr and Mrs Satyajit Bhatkal (co-directors, Satyameva Jayate) shared stories of what they had witnessed during their journey and many heart-breaking stories (especially one related to the initial episode on female foeticide) that did not make it to the show.
  • Aurelie Chauleur spoke of her journey across the globe, looking to preserve various dying musical cultures. She raised an important question too: in the need to adapt and survive in today’s world, are the last of the folk musicians globally forced to give up their art?
  • Visual artist Harshvardhan Kadam (Inkbrushnme) showed us all how being an atheist helped him understand God better! Delving into the rich mythological culture and tales and reinterpreting them both in street art and digital format, his visions are truly amazing.
  • Vishal Gondal (GoQii) spoke of his journey to health (accomplishing the seemingly ridiculous 100kms in 48 hours) and the tips to achieving it.
  • Screenwriter Gazal Dhaliwal spoke of the traumatic emotional journey that resulted in her nearly ending her life at the age of twelve and the medical journey to becoming who she was meant to be.
  • Nameet Agro (FirstAgro) showed us the many viable alternatives to pesticides that we have right here in India for agriculture that can be stop the long term side effects that we all choose to ignore while consuming pesticide-laced food.
  • William Florance (Head of Google's Education Outreach) laid bare all that is wrong with the present education system and how empowering both the teachers and the students with all available skills is essential rather than byhearting textbooks.
  • Director Rajkumar Hirani and film critic Anupama Chopra showed us glimpses of life beyond the camera and things they have seen during their journey in Bollywood that influenced them.
  • Steve Boyes (Wild Bird Trust) is a conservation biologist whose recent work in Okavango Delta wilderness resulted in it being declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Along with his crew, their annual expeditions into the wilderness represent the most comprehensive biodiversity surveys ever taken in these remote lands.
  • Melati and Isabel Wijsen, 13 and 11 year old respectively, spoke of how their desire to make a difference led them to start the social initiative Bye-Bye Plastic Bags in Bali, which now transcends boundaries and is noted worldwide.
    Bye Bye Plastic Bags
  • You had wonderful stories of the journey towards success - both the desire within to do something different and all that hurdles along the way - from Neeraj Kakkar (‘PaperBoat’, Hector Beverages), Shravangi Hagargi (Safe Hands 24 x 7), Sharmeen Obaid (documentary filmmaker and human rights defender), Phanindra Sama (Redbus) and Neeraj Arora (Whatsapp).
  • There were wonderful performances by percussionist Bickram Ghosh, the wonderfully talented Dharavi Rocks (with Abhijit Jejurikar), Bharatnatyam dancer Vidhya Subramanian, magician Ugesh Sarcar and last but not least, the timeless voice of Usha Uthup who regaled us all with some of her best songs.
It is unfair of me to point out two speakers separately for how inspiring a tale they had to share and yet, I find I must.
  • Arunima Sinha. Does that name ring a bell? It should.You and I watched her tragedy unfold over the newspapers a few years ago. A national level volleyball player who was thrown out of a moving train by assailants and lost her leg, she refused to accept that her dreams had ended. She refused to listen to those who discouraged her and less than two years after losing her leg, became the first female amputee to climb Mount Everest. She has since scaled the highest peaks of two more continents and is due to start her next journey later this year. “So what excuse do you have for not reaching your goals?” she asks us.·     
Arunima Sinha at INK2014. She received a standing
ovation for this inspiring speech straight from the heart
  • Bhavesh Bhatia (Sunrise Candles industry) started out on his journey into making candles by buying two kilos of raw wax and making candles in a small corner of his house, before selling it on the streets of Mahabaleshwar. Today, he makes over 9,000 different candles. He has over 200 employees in his industry, all of whom share something in common with their boss: they are all visually impaired. Refusing to take anyone’s pity, Bhavesh strives to prove that his inner resolve is stronger than his handicap. With a 109 medals till date in athletics including the National Paralympic Games, he has done more than prove himself, if you ask me.

INK is committed to seeking out and sharing inspiring stories that go against the tide and create an impact in the minds of people. The meeting of minds from such diverse fields allows for the chance for more exciting concepts to develop, collaborations to occur and stories to begin. 

The INK Fellows
The INK fellows program looks to identify young innovators who are redefining their own field or looking to change the world around them.
The Conference is not limited to those within the hall either, having a live webcast besides featuring these inspiring talks online at their site and launching their own exclusive mobile application this year.

From its first foray back in 2010 in Lavasa, INK has certainly come a long way. The journey today encompasses 5 conferences, 110 fellows, over 240 speakers, 65,000 attendees and more than 1.4 crore viewings of the motivational speeches online. 
It is truly unique in what it aspires to attain here and touchwood, more and more brilliant minds of India will be discovered and encouraged by the talks that take place here at these conference. 
Authors notes:

·         In addition to their site, to see more pictures and tweets from the event, you may follow them on twitter at @inktalks or check out the hashtag #INK2014

·         I couldn’t have been there had it not been for being chosen as the winner of Blogadda’s and INKTALKS contest on ‘Beyond Boundaries’. Thank you so much for the opportunity, Blogadda. Keep inspiring… you’ve been erasing boundaries online over the last seven years and doing a pretty fine job at it too, don’t you think? 

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Let me know what you think.

  1. Looks like you had a good time there...
    Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Wow Roshan. That must have been so enriching. I really salute all the people and their achievements.
    I thank you to bring this to our notice.

    1. Some truly memorable talks were there. Do visit their site. I expect the links will be up shortly

  3. This sounds like an incredible event - inspirational, diverse, thought-provoking... you were indeed fortunate to have been able to attend! Thank you for sharing your experience for those of us who couldn't be there.

    1. Thanks Laurel... it was an incredible event, indeed. Hopefully, there will be more people inspired by these talks to reach out and innovate

  4. Wow! Lucky you...this does sound like an enriching experience :)

    1. It was indeed Vinodini... some wonderful talks and insights into the minds of people who refused to give up.

  5. WOW...what an amazing experience! Sounds like you had a blast! ♥

  6. This is so wonderful..Thought provoking to say the least..

    1. It really was: makes you come face to face with some truly insightful perspectives

  7. This must be such an enriching experience. So many brilliant minds under one roof. I wish I could attend such conference.

    1. It was an enriching experience, indeed Rajlakshmi... had a great time listening to success stories and upcoming innovations.

  8. So much inspiration. And what an experience you must have had. Wish I could attend something like this soon.

    1. If you get the opportunity, definitely go. Don't miss it for any reason.

    2. If you get the opportunity, definitely go. Don't miss it for any reason.

  9. Sounds like a great experience! Glad you were a part of it. Thanks for sharing

  10. Congrats Doc. Looks like an awesome event that will go as wonderful memory in your life:)

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