Spilling good INK – Guest Post

The following is a guest post by Viswa Subbaraman, Artistic Director of the Skylight Theater in Milwaukee. He’s a very interesting young man.

I have been trying to figure out how to wrap my head around everything I learned and was inspired by at the 2014 INKTalks <http://www.inktalks.com> in Mumbai. First, I have read many a criticism of the TED Talk style of conference, but I have to say that it’s been over a week now, and my mind is still kicking around all the amazing stories I heard. I thought about a variety of ways of organizing my thoughts, but I’m still in that Joyce-like stream of consciousness, so my apologies for the nutty style of what is to follow. Many of these talks will be posted online in the next few weeks. (I’m splitting a longer blog into a series since it ended up being way too long).I admit to walking into INK wondering what an opera/orchestra conductor could get out of hearing venture capitalists, investment bankers, artists, conservation biologists, jewelry designers, et. al. speaking at a conference in India. I can honestly say that it has inspired me in very profound ways to look at the art I create and make it even better. How could one not be inspired by a singing Buddhist nun who uses the money she makes from her singing to support education and rights for women and girls? Ani Choying Drolma (the singing nun) opened the conference with a beautiful Buddhist prayer – a haunting and mind clearing way to open. Henry Kaiser who has recorded with some of the most amazing artists, swims with seals, and made a documentary with Werner Herzog showed some of his underwater imagery while free styling on the guitar. (I might also add that he helped me edit the video I used for my talk). Who knew there was music in Antarctica? Evidently a number of the scientists jam together while researching.

Shohini Ghose talked about theoretical physics. I took physics in college, but I figured it would be well over my head. She was able to break it down in a way that was easily understood. Shohini also brought to the fore the contributions that so many women in the sciences have made towards understanding astronomy and the Big Bang. It was truly fascinating to hear about the exploration of the origins of our universe in such an easily processed way. It’s something I constantly try to do in explaining opera, which I believe is nothing more than the exploration of our innate humanity. It was inspiring to hear such a complicated idea simplified in a way that wasn’t patronizing.

One of the aspects that really impressed me about INK were the sheer number of business that were created that make a lot of money but more importantly help solve some of the innate problems of society. So many of the entrepreneurs are actually setting out to make the world better – not just get rich. One that impressed me (a non-profit/volunteer organization – not a for profit, so donate to them!) was Anshu Gupta’s presentation about Goonj <http://goonj.org>. Goonj believes in preserving the dignity of those in need. They look at the reality of disaster relief and try to find ways to align peoples’ giving with what is actually needed on the ground, and they find ways to deliver it in ways that preserve the recipient’s dignity. They also stick around long enough to actually get communities back up and running. It was fascinating to hear about simple things like the size difference between people who live in the city versus people who live in the country. Often the donated clothes are old and barely useful. More than that, they are so big that they don’t fit the recipients.

I’m barely through session 2! Raghava KK inspired us all with his announcement of his new app: Flipsicle. Flipsicle is a social media app that tries to expose us to different points of view by allowing us to use pictures to answer questions. It’s available on Android and in the Apple App Store! I don’t understand much of Hindi, but Arunima Sinha was so passionate that I understood most of her story. Granted, I caught a handful of words such as amputation, prosthetic leg, oxygen tank, Everest. Here is someone who was a national level volley ball player who was thrown to train tracks during a robbery attempt. She lost a leg as a train ran over her. She fought through climate, altitude, and incredible hardship to summit Everest. At one point, she was running out of Oxygen, and luckily a climber who was giving up and turning back dropped an extra oxygen tank. She used that to get back to base camp post summiting Everest… With a prosthetic leg. What did you do today?

More to come in the next few days. So many inspiring people!

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