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World fusion

Friday, December 07, 2018

The 10th TEDxGateway had a stellar line-up of global speakers  showcasing  Ideas Worth Spreading, says Ronita Torcato

Mosquitoes. We swat them. The surrealist painter Salvador Dalí  was terrified of grasshoppers. In the Bible, God employs swarms of flies, gnats and hornets to destroy and/or punish lawbreakers.  Some Nazis believed anti-Semitism  was the same as delousing. Insects!  Who could ever love them? Folks like Levon Biss, a British photographer whose passion for nature and photography has resulted in  the art of Microsculpture.  There he was at the 10th edition of TEDxGateway in Mumbai talking to a rapt 5,000 plus audience about his work, which involves  a unique photographic study of insects in mind-blowing magnification  that celebrates the wonderful world of nature and science.

Biss has shown his work at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History among other venues and his  display booth, post the TEDX talk, was the most crowded. One booth (JSW?) had the longest queue for selfies. We bypassed the allure of self-indulgence to chat with Biss and gape again at the awesome portraits he has created  using more than 8,000 images revealing nanoscopic details of insects in the highest resolutions!  He smiles approvingly when we tell him we never kill spiders, we just sweep the cobwebs away. Those who terminate spiders might like to know most have eight eyes! We counted four or five on Biss' spider. The rest we couldn't see. What we saw most clearly  though was a beautiful Brazilian  bee, its iridescent body gleaming  like an emerald, its wings shining like gold!

Biss has also photographed up close and intensely personal, the shield bug that Charles Darwin brought back from Australia on the HMS Beagle in 1836 as well as stones embedded with insects and foliage.  These  stones are known as ‘The Gold of the North’  because of their gorgeous colour. Biss was talking about amber, resinous, fossil matter which Polish people in particular have been crafting into the most beautiful jewellery and other objets d'art, ever since the Neolithic period! Amber is created by mighty forests and the best amber can be found around the Baltic region, especially Gdańsk. Why did those ancient trees produce so much resin that we can still find  40 million years later? Science says the trees were trying to protect themselves. When a tree was wounded by borers, birds or  wind, it covered the injury with resin which eventually fell off, fossillised,  to emerge in our times as astonishing amber!

Biss was not alone in sharing his passion with Mumbaikars. The 10th TEDxGateway had many other speakers who  are creating a better world.  Spotlighting the theme of ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’, TEDx presented this eclectic mix of achievers, who gave talks that everyone in the audience—students, CEOs, scientists, artists and bureaucrats—could relate to. Speakers included Haaziq Kazi, a child prodigy who has designed a prototype of a ship, named ERVIS which can suck out plastic from the ocean surface; Mihir Shah, an innovator and entrepreneur; Raghu Rai, Padmashri Awardee and acclaimed photographer; Parag Khanna, Geopolitical Futurist; Tom Wujec, technologist and design thinker; Harssh A. Poddar, IPS Officer; Shabana Basij-Rasikh, educator and humanitarian;  Dr Binish Desai, social entrepreneur and innovator; Prashant Warrier, an expert in Artificial Intelligence; Shantha Rau Barriga, Founding Director of the Disability Division at Human Rights Watch and Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, biodiversity scientist and  former President of Mauritius, to name a few. The spectacular line-up had also included Storror, a  Parkour Collective, which was alack and alas, deported for performing stunts on a Parel highrise without  permission. When criminals are at large all over, why deport these guys? Sigh.

We got high at TEDxGateway and chemical substances had nothing to do with it but a performance by Maati Baani, a world music duo comprising  music composer/producer Kartik Shah and Indian classical vocalist Nirali Kartik who have collaborated with over 150 artistes across the world, from  YouTubers  and street musicians to folk artistes whose repertoire includes rare and endangered traditions of music. At TEDx, the Maati Bani line-up showcased the talents of seven year-old tablachi Shayaan Udeshi and Chennai musician Lydian Nadhaswaram; Tao Issaro, Indo-Australian producer, programmer and multi-instrumentalist; Eldar Blau aka. The Legendary Strawberry Man, a street artist from Israel and Anda Union from Inner Mongolia. Anda Union consists of best friends Urgen and Nars who grew up in the Horchin grasslands with his grandparents who were traditional herders and an award-winning singer Tsetsegmaa, who sounded as spectacular as her royal blue traditional costume.

The NSCI Dome really rocked during their performance which was interspersed with virtuoso solos by  Shayaan and Nadhaswaram, child prodigies who began learning music when they were toddlers! (Nadhaswaram plays piano, guitar, mrudangam and tabla.) Israel-born Eldar Blau  played the scientifically engineered drone pipe he calls Saxo-Didge, a souped-up version of the  Didgeridoo, wind instrument developed by Australian aboriginals 1,500 years ago and still extremely popular. Last but decidedly not least. It was good to see drummer Tao Issaro all grown up! His Kerala-based parents, Kathak dancer Daksha Sheth and  Australian percussionist-composer dad Devissaro often brought him  as a child to Mumbai.  Tao first performed as a dancer, then as a lighting and sound controller to finally finding his place on-stage through music. Way to go, Tao!

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