It’s all about the PEOPLE

What do you do when curtains come down on a great show? There is sadness that it’s all over too soon. You comfort yourself you will be there again and get back to life and living, carrying those little ‘soul-uplifting’ moments with you forever. There is so much and more. And we are not talking about the year that will just pass us by.

When we took our bow on the last day of the first-ever INK Conference, in association with TED, this December 12, we felt all of the above, resolving at the same time to come back better and stronger.

It is now more than 10 days since we sat mesmerized listening to so many untold stories, tapped to the beats of beautiful music, or shed a few quiet tears hearing about loss and redemption, love and longing — all on the INK stage. In such a context, distance, as they say, makes one look back on things with a fonder heart. The out-of-moment state as opposed to the in-the-moment one. And the one thing that stands out about an experience like INK is the people who populate it.

The people who tell a story, share an idea, show a new way to look at an old idea – all those up on the stage. Then there are people who make up the audience — the banker, the singer, the entrepreneur, the CEO, the scientist, the artist, the conference junkie, the industrialist, the novelist and the list can go on. These are people who also have their own incredible stories to tell, and could well be sharing the limelight. There’s no way then of dividing INK people into separate categories – some who only talk and some who only listen.

As an INK attendee remarked on the second day, “One will get to hear the Speaker Talks once they are online anyway, but what I am looking forward to at INK is meeting so many people from such diverse backgrounds.”

Rekha Menon, executive director at Accenture and an INK attendee, called the INK experience “INK-credible” and termed it as her “Brain feed.”

A student volunteer at INK was not just a student studying to get a degree, she was an entrepreneur as well.  Sitting under the warm sun with the breeze determined to keep blowing away the empty water bottles from the table, Min Xuan Lee was having a quiet lunch on the last day of INK with her other volunteer friends, happy that all the running around in her role, was worth it. She talked about ‘Playmoolah’ (‘The best ‘real’ way to teach children about money’) which she has co-founded. “We teach little children to value money and how saving is important,” she shared animatedly.

While reviewing his INK experience, attendee Nicholas Foo, who is an assistant manager at the Singapore Tourist Board, wrote in his blog, “I had the fortune of hanging out with the world’s youngest headmaster, a 14-year-old computer animator and a child prodigy. And then I look at myself, all 25 years of it, and asked myself, what have I done and what am I going to do? It was these same 2 questions I stuck on my hostel wall whilst in university. Nearly everyone there (at INK), even those in the audience, had created or started something or another; a social enterprise, a company, an NGO…I’ve started nothing more than a blog.”

Nicholas is just being humble. He can any day make a very good stand-up artiste, as was witnessed by many on the second evening dinner. Nicholas took up the challenge of giving a five minute talk in an Indian accent, and the entire gathering at the amphitheatre was in splits.

Most people at INK carried more than one kind of business card. The businessman who also paints, the scientist who aspires to be a novelist, the writer who runs marathons…you get the drift.

As a news report in a daily put it, “It (INK) also made for interesting people-watching.” True, yet not the whole truth. True, because there were interesting people you could exchange more than a polite hello with during breaks, with say someone like Ralph Simon, founder of the first mobile ring tone company.  Yet not the whole truth. Because at INK it is difficult to just be a curious bystander. You cannot leave it without carrying away a part of it with you. INK is like a campfire site to gather around, listen and exchange stories that make our lives richer and more vibrant.

Dipti Nair

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