Thursday, December 28, 2006

PANIIT Meet 2006: Inspire, Involve and Transform (ourselves...is it implied?)

Just cam back from PANIIT meet at Mumbai. First ever congregation of all seven IITs together to reinforce the 'brand IIT' and 'brand India'. All those brains who toiled hard in the foreigner land and made the shining buck when the rest of the India slept, descended in Mumbai for three days. And when IITians speak, the world listens. So came the president and his mandatory entourage (governor, chief minister etc. etc. who had nothing to say or add). From president to George Soros (did I get his surname right...who is one of the mover and shaker in the American investment industry), Shashi Tharoor, Nandan Nilekani, Sam Pitroda ......even Lara Dutta (amongst IITians....it reminds me of 'socials' we used to have with GS Medical. :)).

So there was a lot of bon-homie, networking, familar faces...turning back the time-wheel...a lot of intellectual stimulation....seven sessions in parallel..ranging from"how to alleviate poverty in one generation" to "sustainable development"..."learning from the entrepreneurs"..."knowledge economy and growth..."...etc. etc...I just walked in and out of several sessions....from avery soft, insightful and empathic speeches to hard coaded, full of statistics, boastful...I went and tasted all ..bit by bit. What did they all say??

Well..President was a pleasant surprise for me and Sonali both. She expected already a one-to-one and knowledgeable talk which the president did. His speech on how nano-technology in combination with Bio-technology is going to change the world we live was interesting and inspiring as he threw indian references in between.. A statesman and a politician taking out time to research and write a speech for best of the brains, does need some guts and balance of mind. This presendent (Dr. kalam) will surely go down the history as someone at the helm who could inspire the millieu across ages. Shashi Tharoor was theoritical, composed, handsome, emphatic, insightful and boring.... yes, I had quite a mized reaction for him. He did remind me of my favorite subject these days i.e. Indian culture...a culture of plurality and contradictions....contradictions which themselves are an oximoron of sorts i.e. A tamil hindu v/s a northy hindu v/s a tamil muslim.....so many similarities and so many differences....overlaps are confusing not only to outsiders but to ourselves as well. My mother finds herself in a strangeland in Tamilnadu even though she may be visiting a Tamil jain temple in Jain residential complex...Onio is trying to articulate this Indian element in design beyond the cliched 'Lota' of Charles Eames ...and soon a book would be out (if all goes well) on this. So Shashi Tharoor had a lot to remind us about who we are and who we always have been and how the new India is about the 'hope trick' far away from the 'rope trick'...how Indian culture is about 'evident without a binding theory' much like American 'Do it' attitude rather than a French searching for structural meanings....so it was a long, engaging and boring (I am still divided in my opinion, you see) lecture from our man in UN.

Sam Pitroda almose spoke the same things that he sopke in CII-NID Design summit on what Indian needs (this time it was 'Technology' and not 'Design'). Wow... it is so easy to switch the platforms and say the same things...Designers should make a differene by touching more human lives...affecting more people ....improvise things at grass-roots and 'technologists' should do the same....Then why stop at technologists...it should be educationists, politicians, bureaucrats...all should do the same (we don't talk of NGOs in India who are doing it already and moving 19000 crores yearly, in this direction...wooo). Well this 'designers' tag is being dragged far too long in the chain of human development contributors. Dr. Kalam was unequivocal when it came to two distinct lines of human resources we need as a country first, we need world class skills (read: skillfull graphic designers, product designers, craftsmen etc. who are hands-on), second we need world-class thinkers (read: sustainability, strategy, development, trends.....domain). To generalise that the whole design community is about 'strategic, empathic, sustainable development'....well I have my reservations. Then Indian would never make a single luxury brand. Sam Pitroda was right in saying that we need both...we need to produce super computers and take care of our drinking water problem, at the same time. That is our reality. We don't have generations to do this... all this has to happen at the same time.

We are passing through a positive turbulence....there is anew dawn on the other side and we are lucky to be young and alive at these times...Thank you God for every thing !!