A diverse audience made primarily of foreign nationals gathered at Drumstix Cafe in McLeod Ganj to hear a number of speakers from the local community, including controversial Tibetan poet, writer and activist Tenzin Tsundue and acclaimed Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) student Tenzin Yougyal.
The event, titled ‘RECONNECT to Roots,' worked to promote the idea that ‘solutions to current problems may be found in our roots,' according to TEDx Dharamshala lead organizer Arvin Panwar.
An afternoon of 11 speakers -- 5 from the local Indian and Tibetan communities and 6 from TED's video library -- shared personal experiences on topics ranging from the use of computers in deciphering ancient scripts to returning to one's community for a sense of purpose. Despite continued technological issues throughout the program, patient attendees waited for the last speaker, Tibetan poet, writer and activist Tenzin Tsundue to take the stage.
Known as much for his trademark red bandana as for his outspoken views on Tibetan independence, Tsundue addressed the inspiration that comes from the ‘Rebel Mind.' Focusing on the need for individual freedom everywhere, Tsundue told the audience, ‘All communities have their own Rebel Mind and the Rebel Mind is expected to speak up when there is injustice, when there is pain and suffering.' Largely avoiding the controversial Tibet situation, likely due to TED guidelines limiting political and religious issues, Tsundue instead applied his idea of the ‘Rebel Mind' to a range of contemporary problems, including environmental degradation.
Earlier in the afternoon, Tibetan culture took center stage with TIPA student Tenzin Yougyal's folk performance. Yougyal opened his presentation with a Tibetan prayer, explaining afterward in effective English, "That was a prayer for Tibetans who set themselves on fire in Tibet, and the Tibetans who died in India."
Yougyal continued with a whimsical performance on the drayen, which he explained to a largely Western and Indian audience was a traditional Tibetan instrument. He then revealed a home-made drayen he had constructed as a young boy out of a few pieces of wood and an old, empty paint can. Yougyal shared stories of his childhood love of singing and dancing and his dream to study at TIPA. He explained how his admission to TIPA in 2004 allowed him to fulfill TIPA's mission to preserve and promote Tibetan culture. Youngyal ended with a performance on the Tibetan fiddle, or piwang, explaining to the audience the song's lesson: "Don't destroy the nature; instead, live in harmony with the nature."
TEDxDharamsala is an independently organized offshoot of the non-profit TED (Technology Entertainment Design) organization which hosts a series of conferences and talks that aim to spread "ideas worth sharing." Each year, TED hosts a main conference in California, with smaller, international conferences like TEDxDharashala held in different countries on all continents throughout the year.