TEDxYouth@AKAHyderabad 2019 – “Infinity & Beyond” | Aga Khan Academies

TEDxYouth@AKAHyderabad 2019 – “Infinity & Beyond”

05 March 2019

A student-driven event, the 2019 TEDx conference featured 10 unique talks and a handful of stellar performances delivered by Academy students, staff and external speakers.

Organised primarily by four grade 11 students - Anahita Aman, Insha Worliwalla, Rithvik Kesani, and Gitika Joganpally - the Academy’s annual TEDx conference took place on the afternoon of Saturday 23rd February 2019 and was attended by a curated list of 100 guests consisting mostly of students from grades 8-12, and academic staff. “TEDx exposes students to new, innovative ideas in the local community which creates a drive to constantly develop new skills and grow as individuals,” explained Rithvik, when asked about his motivations behind organising the event.

TEDx started with a sublime Urdu vocal performance led by Iliyan Hariyani and Sazil Ramani, accompanied on the piano by music faculty Subhadip Sarkar. Its soulfulness and authenticity set the tone and rhythm for the rest of the evening.

Zohair Gandhi, grade 11, was the first speaker and delivered a concise talk advocating for minimalism and prioritizing interpersonal relationships over material goods to fill the spaces in our lives. Drawing inspiration from his parents, Zohair concentrated on the issues connected with infinitely rising consumerism and ended his talk with a clear call to action – to declutter and make careful, conscious decisions about accumulating things, while seeking meaning in other pursuits.

The evening’s youngest speaker, Sarah Nathani from grade 7, was next on stage. Quietly eloquent and sharply incisive, Sarah spoke about the universe, how it came to be, and how its particulate matter resides in all of us. She deftly braided together theories of astrophysics and philosophy, condensing complex concepts into starkly simple observations. Sarah’s talk centred on introspection, and answering the most compelling questions of human purpose, through the lens of the cosmos.

Following Sarah was Jai Undurti, an internationally-acclaimed graphic novelist and journalist working out of Hyderabad. Jai started Every City is a Story – a unique city-centric graphic storytelling initiative. Jai’s talk at TEDxYouth@AKAHyderabad was built around the belief that cities are living, breathing, dynamic entities that manifest through their interactions with the people who inhabit them, and how they are depicted through different forms of art and narrative. Jai concluded his address with the idea that “every city is a language.”

Next up was the Academy’s student counsellor, Dr. Isabelle Needham-Didsbury, who delivered a measured, insightful talk on humanity’s constant striving for extraordinary happiness. Backed by statistics and soldered by intimate anecdotes from her own life, Dr. Isabelle suggested a variety of tools and techniques that could be deployed in order to feel comfortable with all the other emotions on the spectrum, including the negative ones. Drawing from the Greek ‘eudaimonia,’ meaning ‘a contented state of being happy and healthy,’ she argued that accepting unhappiness and learning to deal with it productively was, paradoxically, part of the process of being happy.

Nidhi Rao Belman’s talk, titled “Deconstructing Woke Activism,” attempted to address the cynicism around social media, while redistributing discourse from what’s trending, to what’s relevant. A strikingly erudite law student, Nidhi touched on landmark moments in India’s civil rights movement, such as the annulment by the Supreme Court in 2018 of Section 377 which criminalized same gender sex. She pusher her listeners to ‘think global, act local’, avoid misinformation, and independently investigate opinions and movements before propagating them as “woke.”

Perhaps the evening’s most profoundly moving talk was given by Diana Nazari, an Afghan student in grade 9. Speaking about the plight of displaced communities from her own perspective as an Afghan refugee to India, Diana’s compellingly told story floated through a rapt, hushed audience, many of whom later admitted to having tears in their eyes. Diana spoke about the things her family had run away from, the lack of choice in becoming a refugee, the indignities suffered in her host country, and the trailing melancholia suffered by her loved ones, deepened by a loss of identity.

Kalyan Raygalla, an assistant professor at Woxsen School of Art & Design, spoke about cinema as a tool for faclitating learning in the classroom. The final two talks, delivered by two grade 11 students, dabbled with the ideas of infinite selves and eternal revolution. While Aryan Srivastava extrapolated on the innumerable selves which exist within each person, Raghav Pathak illustrated for the audience the notion of rebirth as being necessary for human growth and evolution. 

TEDxYouth@AKAHyderabad ended on a light note, with a rendition by the school band on saxophone, guitar and percussion of the famous ‘Tequila Song’ by The Champs. “I believe, that ideas make individuals infinite; and to be able to share one’s ideas with the world is what gives them meaning,” shared an elated Anahita, after the event came to a close. “TEDx has traditionally been a platform for individuals from various backgrounds to voice their ideas, be spontaneous and truthful, and share the stories that shape who they truly are. Today, we gave people an opportunity to do that. Organising TEDx has honestly been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences I have had here at the Academy. I am incredibly thankful for everything it has taught me.”

Speaker videos will be up on the TEDx channel soon! We will keep you posted. 

Written by Kamini Menon
Photos by Kais Vasaya & Iliyan Charaniya (grade 9), Aashraya Dutt (grade 11)