In the aftermath of the life-changing INKTalks 2018, I must admit that it feels a little surreal to be back home and at work. It felt like the last 5 crazy, exhilarating days never happened. But I bring back with me some mind-blowing inspiration, some lovely experiences. And most importantly, the wonderful memories of being part of a warm bunch of crazy people who are out to change the world!
For those of you who don’t know, INKTalks is India’s premier multi-disciplinary conference. Or as their compelling founder – Lakshmi Pratury – likes to say, INKTalks is a place to hear awesome stories – of ordinary people who have done truly extraordinary things. And chief among these people are the INK Fellows, 22 awesome people who have done the kind of life-changing things that make for amazing listening.
I was lucky enough to be one of them and constantly afraid that I would be declared a fraud (I kid you not!). From the time that I spent with them, listening to their stories, I came away with some truly life-changing learnings. I’m penning them down to ensure that I don’t forget them. And I hope that they will give you too a flavour of what we experienced at INK!
Make it about the people. Always!
I have spoken at many events. And been part of many cohorts – entrepreneurial and otherwise. But never did I feel like part of a family.A warm, crazy, busy family that is trying to make a difference. A place where the success of every colleague is as vitally important as mine. And where each person participated with all their hearts – not for their own glory, but to help someone else rise!
The tone is set by Lakshmi. I was blown away by her simple gesture of warmly and genuinely hugging EVERY SINGLE fellow (past & present) at the INK Fellows orientation. That’s a lot of hugs and I am not ashamed to admit that I eagerly awaited mine. And that I really enjoyed it and carried that warmth with me for the next 5 days.
That warmth is echoed by her team, every single person! Despite all the pressure, I did not hear one rude word, one mean comment or one display of temper. Everyone was at it, sleepless, tired but focused on just one goal – to help each fellow there tell the best story possible! From Sweta to Ranjini to Raghava and Nikhil, the focus was to help…and keep helping till you got it right! And how the Fellows reciprocated! I particularly remember the heart-melting gesture that the 2018 INK Fellows practised of giving every single Fellow’s Talk, a standing ovation! Mind. Blown.
Success is relative!
It’s easy to think in today’s world that success is about accumulating material possessions, money, fame. But with the INK Fellows, the life-changing realisation came home to me that success is so much much more…
Success is getting the Indonesian government to care about cleaning a river which touches 15 million lives (Gary). Or in striving tirelessly to relieve chronic pain in an affordable manner (Siddharth). Or in learning to see the mysteries of the world in a DNA strand (Anjana). And especially in elevating the lives of 79 manual scavengers with temple waste flowers (Ankit). Or in becoming a male dancer storming the bastions of the traditionally female kochpudi dance (Haleem)…
I could go on and on…22 times to be exact…but what blew me away was the level of passion and commitment that each of these people bought to their endeavours. Their unstinting efforts to make a difference. And if that is not success, I don’t know what is!!!
Diversity is not just a fancy, politically correct word!
I met people at INK that blew my mind.
The challenges that they struggle with – body dysmorphia, physical disabilities, gender & communal biases – are things that I could not even have imagined in my regular, mundane life. That they struggle with it on a daily basis and win, consistently, has my deepest and most heartfelt respect. It has taught me to be far less judgemental. To listen, to things that are most often not said. To just be.
INKTalks has been one of the best and most life-changing things to happen to me recently. It has changed me in many ways, some of which will have far-reaching implications. And for that, I will always be thankful!