Overview of India Today Conclave 2010
By: Ankit Gogia
Being a part of high profile gathering, niche audience, getting royal treatment, interacting with eminent personalities, experiencing state of art environment, witnessing live and international media coverage, enjoying the limelight has always been in my dreams…
To my surprise it turned out to be true, when I got the opportunity to attend the 9th India Today Conclave at Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi. I was one of the 18 student delegates who were to represent Jaypee Group at the grand event.
I with my other three friends left the JIET campus on 10th March to reach New Delhi. Overflowing with excitement and expectations we reached the next morning. There we were joined by students from JUIT, JIIT and JBS. We were briefed up, instructed and given passes. We were also introduced to two members from Jaypee Group, who was to join us in the event. Now, we were the official delegates from Jaypee Group. I was the youngest among all. This was the greatest privilege I ever got in my life.
The big day finally arrived. The morning Sun brought rays of surprise and joy with it. We reached the Taj Palace Hotel. A gentle hospitality and sweet fragrances all through the way welcomed us; soon we were in the conference hall. Elegant and thoughtfully designed interiors astonished us. I was lost in its aroma. It was warm and had a royal factor.
Next on schedule were the most awaited addresses from the top dignitaries. Well it had been a fantastic experience to listen them. I have tried to gather and briefly explained the main points of speeches and discussions in the following ‘Words of Wisdom’. This was the shortest I could make; I couldn’t find any more lines to omit. Each line is special and will actually make you think, judge and act.
Words of Wisdom
India Today Conclave – is an international forum for ideas & debate presented by India Today group. The Conclave has, over the past eight years, established itself as a gathering of the finest minds from government, politics, business, science & technology, religion and academia to sport, the arts & entertainment and has become one of the most sought after international engagements.
The 9th India Toady Conclave 2010 had the theme ‘New Decade: Great Expectations’ and brought best minds across the planet to discuss and debate the new decisive decade and empowered others with their wisdom. The two days event was divided into various sessions, each with a unique topic.
The conclave began with the welcome note from Arun Purie, Editor-in-Chief of India Today Group. He briefly recalled the major events of last decade and said, ‘We are the survivors of the Roller-Coaster Decade’.
The inaugural keynote address was by P.Chidambram, Union Home Minister of India on ‘South Asia: Securing the Future’. Speaking with candour, he said that South Asia is the most difficult place to live in and he spelt out the challenges India faces on the security front. Chidambaram’s articulation and witty remarks earned him much applause.
Next, delivering the address on the topic ‘Dubai 2020’, Sheikh Ahmed, a key member of Dubai royalty said: “India has a special place for the UAE and we have deep-rooted ties which we want to expand”. He also added that vision of both the countries is to focus on people-to-people contacts.
To debate on ‘Politics of Progress’ , Union Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, Union Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran and BJP president Nitin Jayaram Gadkari took part in the discussion.
Highlighting India’s progress, Maran said that all those who harboured doubts about the country’s development should travel abroad to see how our country was respected.
“If there is a will there is definitely a way, otherwise it’s just committees, sub-committees and seminars,” Gadkari said, drawing applause from the audience.
“I believe in the revival of the weakest rather than survival of the fittest”, Kamal Nath added. He focused on managing the growth. The overall discussion was pretty interesting which included witty comments.
“Change is easier when it happens to others than when it does to you. When it happens to us, it makes us uncomfortable,” said John Chambers, chairman and CEO of CISCO. He was addressing the session ‘Enabling Country Transformation through Technology’. He surprised everyone by stepping off the stage and walking through the crowd as he delivered his rapid fire speech that was peppered with humorous asides. India is destined to lead, and once you get moving, your speed will be amazing, Chambers told the audience. He also discussed virtual learning revolution that could take education to every Indian for a dollar a month.
Everyone present there appreciated his presentation and communication skills. Undoubtedly, he deserves to be listed in Times Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People’.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Black Swan, philosopher and expert discussed the unpredictable ways in which human history evolves while speaking on ‘Power of the Unknown’. He was provocative and entertaining and discussed his evolving thoughts on how the world can shield itself from Black Swan events.
“Mother nature likes redundancy and likes things to be small so that they don’t impact when they break”, he quoted.
Discussing ‘The world according to Google’, Nikesh Arora, president, Google Inc, spoke on new technology trends that would change the world. “The biggest thing that will change everything is video. Almost 50-60 per cent content will now be consumed digitally”, he said.
Kapil Sibal said while delivering his address ‘The Future of Education’ that he would be bringing in new proposals by enacting a new act that would usher in radical changes in education. He also laid emphasis on intellectual assets, vocational education and Innovation University. “After all, one examination on one day cannot decide your child’s fate”, he said to an applauding audience. He seemed to be determined to make education a game changer India.
Delivering the dinner keynote address ‘Freedom and Dissent’ on the first day Salman Rushdie said, “Freedom is not a tea party. It has to be strongly argued. Disagreement with whoever wants to stifle your freedom has to be strongly fought”.
In his first comment on the Husain affair, he said it was indeed sad that India was showing its closed mind. He demanded better understanding of art and artists.
This was one of the best ever speech that I have heard in my life. Each word he spoke seemed like a jewel with a million dollar worth.
The opening session of the second day on ‘Sex & Spirituality’, featuring a celibate guru, Baba Ramdev and an advocate of free sex, Swami Satya Vedant aroused the right degree of passion. Ramdev spoke of sex as creative urge but it must transcend to a spiritual level. “Sex leads to super consciousness and the only antidote to this is to become more meditative”, Vedant said, adding that a satisfactory sexual life is good for the mental well-being of a person. They agreed that Sex is the most misunderstood topic after religion.
The notion of demographic dividend needs to be well appreciated and acknowledged in considering economic growth of a country, David Bloom, Professor of Economics and Demography, Harvard University, said while speaking on ‘India’s Population: Dividend or Disaster’. He further added, youth will drive Indian growth story. He was flawless in his speech. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi was also seen hearing his speech intently.
Speaking on the ‘Future of Manufacturing’, Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company said manufacturing teams needed the same kind of support and encouragement that a cricket team gets from its fans. “As societies, we have to decide how we consume resources. These are big decisions”, he added.
The question that dominated the first post-lunch session of day two was proactively titled ‘Does Science work against Nature?’ Michael Specter, author on Science & Technology and Suman Sahai, Convenor, Gene Campaign both agreed that Science was the key to all future solutions. “Genetically engineered food is not the answer to food crises, but it is essential weapon in our arsenal against hunger”, said Specter.
Sahai, however, opined that doors should be shut on those ideas where the risk is unknown and therefore not manageable. Sahai lightened the audience by discussing various conflicts of science.
To understand the information revolution taking place in the world, one need to get to the heart of the information, says Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and former coordinator of My.Barackobama.com who clearly knows the ‘Power of Social Networking’.
He took the audience through the facebook story and successful Obama campaign. He pointed out how new technology and gadgets are changing the way we live and work. He also cautioned the audience about technology taking our lives. Besides his impressive part of bio-data, his popularity was evident from the houseful turnout at his session.
The event also had a youth forum that consisted of five panellists who spoke on ‘Idealism vs Reality’ – the key ideas to change reality. It included Congress MP Deepender Hooda, actors Ranbir Kapoor and Asin Thottumkal, MD of Everstone Investment Advisors Roopa Purushottam, executive director and president of Godrej Group Tanya A. Dubash and Indian hockey team goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza.
Hooda walked tightrope saying, “I want to believe in an India of equal opportunity where every kid has an opportunity to follow his dream despite his background”.
Ranbir said, “As a representative of ‘Youngistan’, I’d begin by challenging the topic itself. Why can’t idealism become reality?” He said that instance of idealism taking over reality were India winning the T20 Cup & Rahul Gandhi boarding a local train.
“Idealism does exist, that’s why I have made it to the national hockey team. But realism also exits because it won’t be easy to achieve success from this point onwards”, said Adrian.
Asin spoke with candour and spontaneity. “One needs to compromise with ideals… but change comes when you are courageous and minimise compromise”, she added.
Roopa, the young economist said the most fascinating thing about India is the ‘idea of India’ itself. She believes that the success of the Indian story would depend on how well the great idea of India is implemented, and the youth will have a great role to play in it.
Tanya Dubash spoke in general about the conflict between reality and idealism. Underlining her belief in idealism, she said: “If reality forces you to abandon your ideals, change reality”.
For the first time king of Hollywood James Cameron, producer-director-inventor and bollywood icon Aamir Khan shared the same stage at the breathtaking grand finale to the ninth India Today Conclave that saw a full house listening intently as they discussed all things that define the trends in cinema, both present and future. It resembled as if Newton was meeting Einstein, the two intellectual powers of the planet.
While addressing on ‘Future of Cinema’, Cameron took the audience down memory lane especially the decade-long wait to make Avatar and for technology to catch up with his vision of a futuristic script.
Technology will always be a tool for storytelling. But you can’t entertain without telling something relevant in process, Aamir added.
“Technology is not the most important thing. It’s the story, it’s the heart that is the character of the film”, Cameron said, concluding with a line in Na’avi- “May the Great Mother smile on us all”. Unquestionably, none other than Cameron could epitomise the world of cinema.
No Dream Too Big
These two days were like heavy rain that showered the drops of knowledge and soaked me with fun and enjoyment.
The conclave taught me the way to perceive, think, speak, communicate and applaud. More importantly, I learnt the concept to attain, acquire, and aspire more and more.
We all students had a lovely leisure time too. From gossiping, chatting to laughing, giggling, we had everything. We got to know more about each other. We walked together, sat together, ate together. From wide variety of delicious snacks to all range of mouth-watering dishes and sweets served we left none. We became good friends. The way we worked as a team to get autographs of our favourite stars, is unforgettable. It was out of world.
It was a rare lifetime experience and I wonder, ever again in my life I would get such a chance…
I didn’t want to go away from the royalty and luxury of life, the freedom I enjoyed, the knowledge I got, celebrities I met, lovely friends I made. Instead of saying good bye, I wanted to be back again. But what happened next was hard to believe for me, I found my photograph with Salman Rushdie in newspaper. It was clear and well focussed. I was rolling with immense joy and pride; probably it was a planned gift from God to give me a farewell that will always remind me of these two fantastic days of life.
This grand event and all wonderful sweet memories associated would never die from my heart. Today, I consider myself to be the luckiest and feel highly proud to be a part of Jaypee Group where ‘No Dream is Too Big’!!