From tackling the urban housing crisis and developing affordable medical technology made of paper to creating virtual reality orchestras, the first episode of TED Talks India: Nayi Soch featured an array of ideas on how to make the country a better and more interesting place. The show, hosted by Shah Rukh Khan, was premiered on the Star Plus channel on December 10, with six speakers from diverse fields, including science, music and literature.
TED Talks India: Nayi Soch, a collaboration between Star Plus and TED, is in the form of 45-minute weekly episodes in Hindi, in which Khan hosts visionaries from varied professions. TED is a media organisation that organises talks by opinion leaders in the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design, which are then made available online for free distribution. This is the first time that TED brings its concept of sharing “ideas worth spreading” to the TV screen and in a language other than English.
The first speaker, researcher and human settlement expert Gautam Bhan, spoke about how reimagining slum clusters as bastis or legitimate settlements could help solve the urban housing crisis. Bhan said that if such settlements, made and lived in predominantly by migrants workers, are nurtured by governments, they can be recognised as affordable housing options instead of encroachments or temporary settlements. The key, according to Bhan, is to give land and property rights to slum dwellers instead of razing their homes. He cited the example of Ahmedabad, where the government, over 10 years, developed amenities like water and electricity in a slum cluster, helping it evolve into a thriving society.
Engineer and environmentalist Shubhendu Sharma spoke about how he adopted a method developed by Japanese naturalist Akira Miyawaki to create fast-growing self-sustainable forests across India. Known as the Miyawaki method, the afforestation technique can be used to generate vegetation on land of any kind or size (even a backyard) in a few years and with little maintenance. Sharma’s company, Afforrestt, has created more than 1,000 forests in 35 cities across the globe. “At the price of an iPhone, just using local material, in a parking space for just six cars, you can create a forest of 100 trees,” Sharma said.
Music composer Sneha Khanwalkar (known for her work on Gangs of Wasseypur and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!) introduced a virtual-reality orchestra – which allows a solo performer to recreate the orchestra experience without the use of instruments on stage. Khanwalkar did not delve into details about the technology but showcased it with a performance.
Manu Prakash, a bio-engineer working in California, demonstrated medical research technology made out of folded paper. Prakash got the idea when he saw a medical centrifuge lying unused in Uganda in 2013 because there was no electricity to operate it. He then created a centrifuge by using a yo-yo made of paper, which could separate plasma and other elements from blood to detect anemia. He also showed another invention: the foldscope, a microscope made out of paper.
Prakash’s technology has been distributed to more than 100 countries till date, including refugee camps in Lebanon. His foldscopes will soon be deployed in India.
Difficult Daughters author Manju Kapoor spoke about how redefining masculinity and raising emotionally mature men in Indian households was an essential step to achieve gender equality. She expressed concern over the fact that Indian men are not taught to learn necessary home-making skills and that their need to express anger physically upon women is legitimised across homes. She upheld the need for Indian men to be compassionate towards their families and share equal responsibilities with women in the household.
The final speaker, entrepreneur Anirudh Sharma, spoke about his patented Air-Ink technology which captures pollutants from the air, filters toxins and heavy metals out to produce purified carbon-based pigment which in turn is converted to usable ink.
While the first episode of Nayi Soch focused on problems that were rooted the Indian context and social realities, it is not known yet if forthcoming episodes will retain the local approach or will go the distance to feature riskier ideas and more cutting-edge technology.
What would help TED in its mission to spread these important ideas far and wide, however, would be to dub and telecast the show in other Indian languages as well – so that a show that is meant to cater to every citizen of the country can reach the entirety of its intended audience.