Spilling Good INK – Guest Post

Sticks&Drones’ guest poster Viswa Subbaraman returns in Part The Second of his epic Indian adventure:

I left off in my last post about the INKTalks 2014 <inktalks.com> with session 2. I’m going to try to cover some of the big highlights in this post, and in the next one, I’ll focus on my fellow Ink Fellows, which is probably one of the more inspiring parts of the INK Talks for me.Because I had to be in make-up for my INK talk, I missed part of Session 3 of the conference, but I did catch the tail end. Ugesh Sarcar mesmerized the crowd with a glimpse into the magic show he’s currently working on. It was a nice mix of comedy and magic. One day, I’ll figure out how they do those tricks.

Session 4 (the one in which I spoke) dealt with “The Stuff of Life,” and it didn’t disappoint. Jitish Kallat talked about his work in organizing the Kochi-Muziri Biennale. Ok, so I grew up in the US, but I’ve spent every other year going back to India pretty much since I was born. I’m always fascinated that every two years, India seems like a totally different country – completely different. I have seen how businesses have grown, but this was a nice introduction to the internationalization of India’s art scene. I hope one day to attend the Biennale in Kochi. If you go, tell me how it is!

Satyajit Bhatkal and his wife Svati talked about their show Satyamev Jayate, which in some ways sounds like HBO’s Vice but for India. They took on topics such as child labor and female infanticide. The stories they told of the women they interviewed were incredibly moving. I haven’t had a chance to see one of the shows, but on my next trip to India, I do hope I catch one.

As a musician, I found Bickram Ghose’s freestyle improve Tabla playing fascinating. Bhavesh Bhatia was a truly inspiring person. His was another one of the talks in Hindi (I think Hindi must make it more dramatic). Luckily, I had someone who could translate sitting next to me. Bhavesh is blind, but as he said, being blind is ok, but being blind in the mind is bad. (As it was translated to me). Bhavesh started a candle company that employs almost 200 people – many of whom are blind and disabled themselves. My favorite quote of his was, “I don’t want people to buy my candles because they are made by blind people. I want people to buy my candles because they are well designed and the best on the market.”

The Kumbha Mela team was fascinating. Kumbh is probably the biggest crowd of people descending on a city in the world, and this team was working on mobile resources to help the town deal with an influx of about 100 million people on one city. Liv Arnesen talked about using explorations (she skied to the South Pole, and she crossed Antarctica) to build excitement in kids for education.

How can I not talk about Usha Uthup? What a fascinating tale of someone who just loves to sing. Her performances at INK were motivating for a performer like me. She LOVES music, and she LOVES singing, and it just shines from her on stage. She was such a gripping and fun performer. Plus, I’d never heard anyone sing Skyfall in a sari before. I was fascinated by how inventor Dhairya Dand thinks. Who thinks of stuff like this? < http://dhairyadand.com/sec/?page=projects&id=supershoes>

The final day of INK kept the inspiration going. My friend Vidhya Subramanian did an incredible Bharatanatyam performance that was both educational and moving. I wonder whether we can bring her to do a performance at the Skylight? Kunal Bahl (one of the co-founders of SnapDeal) also spoke. This was perhaps my most embarrassing moment of the trip. The night before at the reception, I met him, and we talked about opera and singing for quite a while. I asked him what he did… He laughed and said “e-commerce.” Well yes.. If by e-commerce you mean that your company raised $623M and is considered one of India’s biggest and most important start-ups. I was amazed by his humility and grace.

One of the final great inspirations was hearing Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy speak. This Oscar-winning, Pakistani filmmaker has made such films as Children of the Taliban, Iraq: The Lost Generation, and Saving Face, a film about women who were victims of acid attacks. She is a filmmaker who lives under death threats, but refuses to leave her beloved Pakistan. The quote that I think I will never forget is one that her father said to her that she recounted to us, “if you tell the truth, I will stand with you, and so will the world.”

I’ll do one more post on the INK Fellows, but as you can see the talks were amazing because of the brilliant people they found to speak.

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