Speakers inspire optimism, courage and success with their stories and ideas at TEDxManipalUniversityDubai

Over 80 students from Manipal University attended our first TEDx event held on 9th April 2013.  Students were able to listen and interact with the four invited speakers from different facets of life. Each speaker shared their ideas and experiences as they tried to be that one drop of water in the mighty ocean of change towards being a better individual.

Their talks were based on a self-enrichment theme, “The Better You” that aimed to inspire our current and alumni students to push boundaries, learn from failure, make the right choices and have the courage to live their dreams.

At first we had Sean Blake talk to us about the topic “Challenge Yourself.” In his speech he spoke about “The Untitled Chair Project“, which is his way to raising awareness about bone marrow cancer. He began this project after his close friend expired due to bone marrow cancer, to honor him for the struggles he faced during his illness.


Sean Blake on “Challenge Yourself”

Initially Sean started off by mailing all his friends and colleagues about his project idea to raise awareness about bone marrow cancer and to gather bone marrow donors. But he was surprised to get only two reply mails, out of the many he sent. And that’s when it all began. Getting only two replies was enough to help Sean and his noble cause because, something was better than nothing.

Sean is a photojournalist and his livelihood depends on taking his camera around to tell stories. Thus, his camera became the story teller and a simple red chair  the protagonist. The entire idea of  “The Untitled Chair Project” was to have a willing prop (a person) to do anything with the chair that they wanted to do, and then to share the picture to raise awareness. And once the pictures hit social media, Sean was overwhelmed by the positive response received.

And as the months rolled by Sean was amazed by how many people wanted to make a difference and come forth to help him support the cause. Because every good idea is initially rejected and every great person is initially considered stupid, but it is all about seeing the silver lining that surround the clouds.

“Imagine a world where everyone tries to make a difference.”- Sean Blake

After Sean we had a young upcoming singer/musician/ lyricist, Gayathri Krishnan talk about, “The Art of embracing the Unknown.”

“Head first into the unknown, swim through the air, stay here and die or burst out and live…” are the lines from her song she performed “The Unknown” with which she began her inspiring talk.


Gayathri Krishnan on “The Art of Embracing the Unknown”

Her story was of a very ordinary girl, Gayathri, heading towards something that made her feel alive and that gave her the reason why she wanted to survive. From English literature classes to her love for poetry to working at an esteemed publishing house as the chief editor to finally struggling to be a singer, Gayathri laid her life in front of our eyes in pictures, making most of us relate to her story and inspiring us to embrace the unknown. And finally sharing with us her strategy of survival.

“It is to enjoy the small victories, the glorious break through, the almost successes and even the epic failures. And to conclude I would like to say to you, it might be scary as hell, but the only strategy of not knowing what you are doing, or walking a path completely unknown to you, is to embrace it. And in the little failures, the heartbreaks, and the things that weren’t, are the times that are growing in abundance. It is your dedication and drive that will get you to where you want to get, that will draw people to you, inspire you, inspire them, swallow you whole at times, and push you towards action every single time without fail.”

This was followed by our third speaker Dr. Mandar V. Bichu. A child specialist by profession and a writer by passion, who was with us to talk about “If you want, you can…make a difference.”

He started his talk by informing us, that just because your professional life is different from that of your passion, doesn’t mean that you are always forced to pick a career path that’s not your passion per say. Sometimes it only means that you enjoy doing both.


Dr.Mandar V Bichu on “If you want, you can…make a difference”

Dr. Bichu told us how he was keenly interested in writing books about music and musicians and how everyone kept fixating on the fact that he is doctor and that if he should be writing anything it should be medical related books. He spoke about how difficult it was for him to make people understand that he loved writing about his work as well as his passion. And finally he proved himself by writing two books- one about better parenting (related to his work) and the other about Lata Mangeshkar, and both were thoroughly acclaimed critically.

“Taking up on one profession, doesn’t mean that you give up on other passions in your life.”- Dr. Mandar Bichu

And last but not the least we had Neena Nizar speak to us about “Choices: The win-win game of life.”

Neena is a wife, a mother of two, a teacher and the oldest living person with Jansen’s Metaphyseal Chondroplaisa (a genetic disorder that causes bent bones and stunted growth). She spoke to us about her life through a simple stick figure which she drew of herself when she was small. And each time she thought that she was different, we would scribble something on the figure to convince herself that she fit right in among others. But as she grew older she began to realize that fitting in was not what she had to do, but what she had to do was to accept herself and find happiness in what she was.


Neena Nizar on “Choices: The win-win game of life”

As Neena preceded with her speech she told us about her perfect love story and about the two angels in her life -her sons. She told us that never in her life did she feel that her disability stopped her from doing what she wanted to do.

Today she is successful in all ways, Neena was first to start the buddy program in schools, establish a foundation for special needs children in different parts of U.A.E, she has two great children, a loving husband, great disciples (students) who get back to the world to make a difference. And in some ways she has achieved more than anyone ever will.

“I could turn the scribble into something through which I could find happiness!” – Neena Nizar

And as Neena finished her speech, the room was left spellbound, all standing up to applaud Neena and all the speakers for the series of amazingly inspiring speeches.  As the audience applauded for several minutes, they knew that the end of the event was the start of an inspired survival in each of their lives – a chance to be that “better” individual.

By Srijita Chattopadhyay