An Enlightening Experience : TEDxDubai

For someone who hasn't even heard of TED till a month back, to attend, in fact to be a part of TEDxDubai was an enlightening experience.

I precisely remember it started as a passing mention by Masarat Daud during my first meeting with her. I came back home not even vaguely remembering the name of organisation or event.A week passed and then I stumbled upon a red coloured pigeon on twitter - @TEDxDubai. I have a twitter id since 28th November, 2008 but was never really posting or what I now call Tweeting. Then after some mouse maneuvers, I landed on TEDxDubai website. Ahhhh, another offline event for the online community, doesn't interest me, though no harm in registering. So I clicked on a subsection titled 'Attend'. Downloads another page which looks like any other registration form vastly common for someone who had 8 email addresses when he was just 16.

But here I got the first good vibe for TEDxDubai! It wasn't a simple Name, Date of Birth, Email, Cell blah blah blah kinda form! The questions were simple yet clear like- why do you wanna attend TEDxDubai? To answer this, one would have to know what the event is about, so I went to the top right box in my browser window and typed TED and go! Google never disappoints you, on came a string of results in less than a second which eventually took me to official TED website. What I saw on the website was not what I expected. There were videos, videos of people, ordinary people who had their ideas of changing, impacting the world. I got so engrossed in the videos that I forgot the primary task in hand- to register for TEDxDubai! So, I went back to face the next question in the form- what's your idea to change the world? This wasn't really difficult, I had it in the back of my mind ever since I came to Dubai, so I fill that in, answered the other questions and submitted the form.

And then began the wait. The wait for an invitation to the event. Time passed and then came the first list of attendees. Only 30 attendees, I surely didn't expect to be the top 30, but still, I jumped in, checked the names out, not mine. Then came the next batch, not there, then the 3rd batch, again disappointed. Along came the Eid holidays. As everybody else, I was on road, in the desert, in a camp when I decided to switch on my BlackBerry, 4th and 5th batches released. Anxiousness, am I in? Am I gonna make it? Somehow the holidays passed and I came back to find my name in the 5th batch. I froze the video and kept starring at the screen, it’s my name!!! That's me! I got selected as an attendee! Great!!!!

Than came an announcement asking for help from volunteers. Okay, here are two enthusiastic gentlemen - James Piecowye and Giorgio Ungania trying to pull-off a huge event, they can surely do with some help.

I sent in my details for the volunteers call. To my surprise, received an email from Habiba Hamid, someone I knew from Dubai Cares time and here she is, trying to contribute to social causes as always! Great, the good feeling started taking me hostage, something told me it’s gonna be big, huge!

Friday, 9th of October, the dry run for TEDxDubai. My first thought when I saw the Palladium was - this is no joke, it’s not some offline geek-get-together, these guys mean business! I entered the Palladium with one of the speakers and my inspiration - Masarat Daud and I saw a lot of friendly faces eager to help, eager to be a part of the revolution! Got our briefing as the volunteers, met the speakers and tada! - Let the show begin!

Big Day, 10-10-09, and couldn't have had a better start to the day than James telling me - "Look at this, people around the world stereotype Arab women and here, they sit behind these registration desks, eager to be the part of a change! Wonderful!!"

Went through the brief pep talks with fellow volunteers - Let's rock and roll! Everything was so perfectly managed that none of the volunteers even had to ask the organisers about anything at all! Saturday morning, up early, people started coming in and settling down!

Then comes the moment I have been waiting from past month or so. James starts with the humorous no-mobile-phones policy of TED! The two mandatory presentations from TED and Bruno Giussani, TED Europe director with his inaugural TEDxDubai talk!

Next were the TEDxDubai specific speakers. The total data available on the internet from evolution of mankind till 2003 - 5 Gigabytes and the data for the year 2008 alone - 487 Gigabytes, I surely don't know how to put it into context but I can understand the difference as a student of Mathematics! That’s amazing and it applies for the speaker also who presented this fact - Mohammad Gawdat.

The speakers were awesome, Leo Laporte and his signature style of mixing humor with reality, specially the 'Torches of Freedom' part, and so were Ian Gilbert, Ernst Van Der Poll and others.

Paul Bennett kept the audience interested with a very intriguing question - What is your dream for Dubai throwing back equally interesting replies!

Then came the rock stars of Dubai- the Al Awadhi Brothers or as the twiteratti call them- the Wild Peeta Bros! Entrepreneurship = Persistence, the words were so common yet when they were put together, it was a Eureka moment!

Dr. Naif Al Mutawa- a name I had never heard before, but one I will never forget. Frankly, my sense of religious understanding evolved manifolds after I heard him. The 99 - Hey, when's it releasing? Now this is someone trying to clear a lot of misunderstandings in the world through a relevant medium! He deserved the standing ovation he got after the world premiere of the trailer.

Frankly, it was only because of Masarat that I wanted to attend this conference and when I saw her entering the side stage from the green room, I could actually feel butterflies in my stomach. I have been telling here all the while she's gonna be fine, she doesn't have to prove anything to anyone and so on, but here I was praying myself, God, let's hope everything goes well. What she said & what she presented was summed-up by the standing ovation she got and by many attendees going up to her after the presentation with tearful eyes!

Samar Jodha and his passion to save the marginalised Buddhist community in Phaneng was evident in his work.

Then there was a 13 year old girl who wanted to win the Oscars (best wishes, you surely will). Dubai Abdulla Abulhoul was not just another 13 year old; she was the youngest animation film director in the Gulf Film Festival. After her presentation, almost everyone was convinced - age is just a number!!

The standup comic of Arab World Jamil Abu-Wardeh reminded everyone what they have sorely forgotten - laugh at yourselves first and to take responsibilities seriously and themselves! Then the face of modern Emirati women - Khulood Al Atiyat and her innovative way of binding people together - Unleash was another example of development of mindset in the UAE.

What began as a passing mention was a fulfilling experience; I was forced to reflect on something I had almost abandoned. NO, I AM GONNA DO IT, I AM GONNA MAKE IT HAPPEN, NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES and as James summed it up, Let the discussions begin, start something new and finish it up in a month, let the spirit of TED live on!

P.S. I have been trying to work for the betterment of the construction labourers in Dubai from sometime. The group's called : The Help Humanity Foundation. After attending TEDxDubai, I am motivated to take the cause forward and will try all that I can to make their lives better. I need your help, please visit the website and learn how you can help!!


ĄηğэĻĭšTїÇ said...

TedxDubai sure was a blast .. after days we still remember and talk about it .. I admit that it has affected me - I have taken the initiative in many things now ..

La Communica said...

Very well written and impressively well researched. Chapeau! I am glad you took up blogging and your social work again. Keep it going.