A weekend in the Himalayas with TED...
on Honk if you Like Curry (India), 14/Dec/2010 16:22, 34 days ago
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So, who is this TED I hear you say? An attractive UN peacekeeper in need of heading to the hills? A charming South Asian correspondent researching his next headline? Well, sadly none of the above as TED is actually a website.Well more than a website. One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about living in India, is having the time to read and learn lots about new stuff.TEDhas been one of my favourite finds, it’s a website that is devoted to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ and showcases riveting talks from remarkable people. Some of the talks are filmed at TEDx events which are held all over the world. Getting a ticket to one of these events is a bit like winning a golden ticket Charlie&The Chocolate Factory style. So, when I saw that tickets were up for grabs forTEDxKumaun, an event focused on development issues in India which was being held in the foothills of the Himalayas, I got pen to paper pronto.I could think of no better way to spend one of my last weekends in India, in Uttarakhand, a beautiful region that I had visited before in June when I had my weekend inJilling. To have the opportunity to learn more about development in India with the magical view of mighty peaks like Nanda Devi (7816m), was certainly not something that I will get to do back home in London. The event was over two days and involved 2x eight hour night trains and 2x three hour drive up very winding hills. One of the great things about living in India is that I’m now totally immune to long journeys. So it turned out to be 24 hours of travel for 28 hours at the event but it was so worth it.The topics discussed ranged from growth, governance, health, education, corruption to food security. As my work has concentrated on disability, it was really interesting to find out more about other key development issues that I knew a bit about. One of my favourite slides had to be from a presentation called‘The decentralisation of corruption through the corruption of decentralisation’ (try saying that after a few Kingfishers...) which showed the complexity of all the different government schemes to get funding to local communities. The chart was mind boggling and you could easily see how corruption could happen. Especially when I found out that in Uttarakhand out of 45,000 registered NGOs only 15,000 were legit, so that’s why fundraising can be tough in India...As with all these events, it’s the people that really make it. The whole atmosphere was very informal and it was easy to chat to the speakers. Everyone was bundled up in layers as it was very chilly at 2,500 metres, to the point where we looked like we were at a snowmobile conference. I had some great chats with a range of people; some had travelled all the way as far as Bombay and Chennai to be there. Everyone had diverse backgrounds and it was great to meet other foreigners who were in India doing some really interesting work. One of my favourite chats had to be with Anne, a spritely septuagenarian who had livedin the area for a while. She used to work in advertising in Delhi in the ‘70s and it was really interesting to hear her stories about dealing with clients in such a different culture.As with any Indian event, the food was fantastic. Grown in such beautiful surroundings the vegetables were extra tasty and it was nice to get a final fill of curry whilst sitting around a fire chatting away. The hotel I was staying in had amazing views but had to be one of the coldest places I had ever stayed. Despite donning three layers, a hat, a sleeping bag and two duvets, when I lay in bed I could still see my breath in the air. But mountain air always sends you off to sleep and it was worth some shivering for the early morning view of the rose tinged glow on the Himalayas that I woke up to.We got back to Delhi at 4.30am this morning, in the rickshaw home cruising on the empty streets lit up by fires and swaddled figures trying to keep warm, the weekend seemed very surreal. It was a nice feeling to get home, shed a layer of fleece and jump into bed for a few hours kip before work. So, an average Indian weekend? An above average one, thanks to TED.Highlights:being a loser and a winner– with the festive season in flow party season has arrived, last weekend it was off to the Australian Embassy for their 80s fancy dress quiz, we may have got the boobie prize in the quiz but we won first prize for our amazing Flashdance outfits – a proud moment, no pleasure without pain –in preparation for my travels it was off to the Dr for jabs, what I thought may only be one small injection turned out to be five (ouch!) but worth it for some tropical time, public transport – my new commute to work involves going on the metro which I have to say is very enjoyable in the ladies only carriage (a semi stare free environment) and some sort of training for getting on the tube again I guess, comfort food eating time – it’s so cold it’s time to keep warm through the power of eating, what’s not to love about this time of year..?