Aditi Parekh was the perfect teenager until she dropped out of school after Class 11. With time on her hands and YouTube for company, she discovered TED talks. As Aditi watched one such video, a pop-up asked “Do you want to conduct these conferences in your country?” “Yes! Yes!” she thought. Three months later, at 17, she was licensed by TED to curate and host a TEDx conference for a hundred youth in Coimbatore. Thus, TEDx Youth@Anaikatti materialised in Vidya Vanam School. Eleven game-changers spoke of conservation, alternative education, serendipity, fitness, design, superpowers and the money onion, all linked by the theme ‘Once upon an idea’. There was a Bharatanatyam performance by students of Bhakti Natya Niketan dance school and a contemporary dance by Ponnambalam and Siju. Esther Elias brings you the nut graf of how an ‘idea’ changed each speaker’s life

Steve BorgiaIndologist, Author, Founder of eco-tourism venture INDeco

Divine manifestation of desire

Steve believes every idea stems from a desire and when the idea becomes a vision, divine intelligence sketches forward the path of truth where there’s no failure. His vision of a tourism business that would conserve heritage led to INDeco Hotels Swamimalai which preserves an 1800 Tanjore village by using and selling only what’s produced there from the mud fridges to khadi.

Judy Balan

Blogger, Author of Two Fates

Stumbling into your future

“Go out there and do something” was the world’s advice to 17-year-old Judy. She set out to find true love which only took her through a series of broken relationships. At 27, she found herself divorced and a single mother. So she devised the ‘Shut up and stay put’ theory. Eventually, serendipity led her to create a blog which bagged her a book deal as well as playwriting offers.

Kezevino Aram

Paediatrician, Community health activist, Director of Shanti Ashram

Every child counts

Dr. Kezevino believes that while India has made incremental improvements in child health care since independence, the need of the hour is for quantum leaps towards including every single child under the health and education spectrum. The idea translated into reality when she focused on preventive health care in villages around Perur where over 16,000 children have been immunised through programmes by Shanti Ashram.

Prema Rangachary

Educationist, Writer, Founder of Vidya Vanam School

Rethinking education

Prema says 'education for all' is a feel-good statement that’s lost its fire because the approach has been through providing children with mid-day meals or good toilets, not a curriculum that excited them.

Thus began Vidya Vanam with a syllabus that combined physical stamina, emotional stability and intellectual acumen.

Radha Gopalan

Environmental scientist, Teacher, Head of Rishi Valley Special Development Authority (RVSDA)

Be the change

Radha believes that that if you decide on something, the universe will align itself with you and that one must grab every opportunity. These principles took her to small and marginal farmers who taught her the on-ground meaning of human rights, right to water and land, and right to freely practise their pastoral livelihood. “I could never be a farmer myself but I could engage with communities and the Government on their problems. You don’t have to come from an exclusive place to make a difference. Sensitivity to your surroundings will bring about meaningful development.”

Sheela Nambiar

Gynaecologist, Fitness expert, Writer

Fitness and the youth

Sheela believes we’re a generation preoccupied by how our body looks as opposed to how it performs. To right this, she says we first need to understand food at a level deeper than crash diets and understand the varied facets to fitness. Sheela says once this falls in place, one can function better as well as look, not like someone else, but the best version of oneself.

Sakhi Nitin-Anita

Writer and Founder of Prem Patra Project

Owning your learning

Sakhi dropped out school after Class VII to discover what she was really good at. “Why must an authority who doesn’t know me decide what I must study and from which texts?” she asks. The idea led her to Swaraj University, an unstructured learning community in Udaipur that provides students the freedom to hone their interests through internships, mentorships and introspection. Here, Sakhi found love in writing and began the Prem Patra Project which “rekindled letter-writing as a form of real connection”.

Rijuta Agarwal

Student, Designer

‘Looking, feeling, learning’

“Design is a problem-solving way of thinking,” says Rujuta who believes that we’ve moved from the industrial age into the information age and are currently in the conceptual age which requires conceptual thinkers. “The world has enough machines for analysis but only humans can design creatively, play and empathise.” Thus, products of this age must be useful as well as hold meaning, something that can occur only if we prevent “rationality from killing our creativity”.

Arvind Venkatachalam

Chartered accountant and Entrepreneur

Acquiring superpowers - Ashtama Siddhi

Arvind believes superpowers are real because they are about having a larger-than-life vision. “Two thousand years ago the eight ashtamas included anima (becoming atom-like), mahima (becoming huge), garima (becoming strong) among others.

Today, humankind has achieved all these in their literal sense, so we must redefine them for a larger context,” he says. For instance, anima now means humbling yourself before everyone, and mahima means opening your heart.

Jayakumar Baradwaj

Carnatic musician, Co-founder Prastara

Into the past, into the future

Jayakumar believes we must see heritage structures as not just sites of worship but as windows into long-gone societies and for insights that can help our present. He wants to rediscover heritage in villages that history textbooks never spoke of. Thus began his organisation Prastara in Chennai which preserves heritage with the help of children.

Mansoor Khan

Filmmaker, organic farmer,

‘The third curve - end of economics’

While the world says ideas can stretch your mind infinitely, Mansoor believes ideas need limits. He proves his point through recent history. He says the notion that money can grow endlessly has been practised at the cost of energy and resources which are limited. The primary resource depleted has been oil, which peaked in 2005. Hence, the world must now shift from running on the principles of economics to running by the principles of ecology.