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Tirunelveli takes on TEDX

The Internet has been bringing informat ion and knowledge to the farthest corners of the world, but it takes a lot more effort and courage to dream big to bring home the best of it.

Published: 26th May 2021 06:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th May 2021 06:10 AM   |  A+A-

TEDx Youth Vannarpettai hosted six speakers

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: The Internet has been bringing informat ion and knowledge to the farthest corners of the world, but it takes a lot more effort and courage to dream big to bring home the best of it. This sentiment fuelled a team of Tirunelveli youth to bring home a celebrated slice of this wealth in the form of TEDx Youth Vannarpettai — one of the first in the south Tamil Nadu region and an absolute rarity in a tier- 2 city. Working through the pandemic, they managed to stage their first event, virtually, with six young speakers and have it officiated by the parent organisation.

And all this started with the small dream of making it to a TED. For Theerumalai Ga, MD of operations for the team, making even that dream a reality did not come easily. “I’m a government college student from Tirunelveli. The first time I got a chance to participate in a TEDx event is at the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Trichy. Just getting in was so difficult. The ticket prices were Rs 500-Rs 1,000. Once you apply, chances are that they won’t pick a non-NIT or non-IIT student.

But, somehow, I got a chance to attend the event. It was there that I thought that it would be nice to have such a forum in Tirunelveli too,” he recounts. He happened to meet like-minded Tirunelveli students at the event and rally their passion for the cause. That’s how Sanghamitra Anand, the team’s licensee and curator, joined them. Currently pursuing her Masters in the UK, TED conferences have been a source of fascination for Sanghamitra since her school days. It was her stint at NIT Trichy that gave her the opportunity to be a part of their TEDx event.

It’s here that she also got to meet the founder of this TEDx chapter and hear his story of bringing the forum to the campus. This germ of an idea was furthered when she found Theerumalai pitching for the same. “In 2019, when I was applying to study in the UK, I had some time in my hands. So I started the process to procure a TEDx licence. We formed a team with Theerumalai anna and a few motivated friends (all in their early 20s) and worked on this,” she narrates. While the licence arrived in November 2019, they planned to host the event in June 2020 with a diverse set of speakers, at a nice venue and such.

But the pandemic had other plans. It was then that TED allowed events to be conducted entirely online. This allowed the team to regroup, put together a new list of speakers and go live on BigBlueButton with six talks on April 24. And this was officially approved by TED on May 22. From Sonai Balamurugan, a Tirunelveli-born environmentalist working in the US, to Patruni Sastry, an LGBTQIA activist and drag performer of international acclaim, there was much that the TEDx Youth Vannarpettai had to offer. Avi Natesan, founder of The Slime Space, also hosted an interactive origami session.

And the response was great, especially in a place where they struggled to get people to understand what TED was, says Theerumalai. “There was no awareness of the event. When we were promoting our event, we had to first explain what it was. Beyond this, it is seen as an elitist platform. That’s all the more reason we wanted to bring this home,” he says. Now that there is a precedent, he is hopeful that this will inspire more people to plan for more -- perhaps bring in more TEDx ventures to the city. If the country recovers from the pandemic soon enough, Sanghamitra says they might be able to host a live event next year. Here’s hoping.

Watch the talks at https:// youtube.com/playlist?list=PLs RNoUx8w3rP8WeV5tJ7c6Oz- HYk-SCwU5



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