A Time To THiNK

Photo: Ishan Tankha

Space architects inventing leotards for Mars. A virus hunter who’s cracked 400 germs.

A mathematician who imbues numbers with magic.

A historian who can explain the universe in a haiku. A scientist fashioning fusion energy.

Eighty-year-old savants defending a river with their bodies.

With these outriders — testing the frontiers of human possibility, sketching the shape of futures to come — there were platoons of others: politicians, dissenters, activists, farmers, corporate czars, writers and stars.

A young girl’s voice in the dark speaking of an India few have heard of. A harvest ritual turned into a massacre. Seventeen tribals shot dead in two hours. A mother forced to display her lactating breasts before she is let off to suckle an infant.

The battle between faith and reason. Feminist uprisings in Egypt and Afghanistan. Journalists reinventing the idea of media itself. Corporates arguing the nature of big business. Farmers arguing against a myopic reading of land. An illusionist arguing against illusion.

THiNK — TEHELKA’s annual event in Goa — was conceived as a forum that would bring together some of the most brilliant and diverse minds from across the globe and create synaptic fireworks. Sparking minds. Lighting bridges between worlds ordinarily cut off from each other. Celebrating the idea of plural thought.

For three days, last weekend, THiNK 2012 approximated that dream. Where else could you hear debates about the nature of God and the universe juxtaposed with the phrase “zipless f***”? Where else could you hear a mining baron admit, as a farmer before him had asserted, that, beyond a point, money is only paper? Where else could you hear Shah Rukh Khan muse existentially about success and loneliness, while Bob Geldof evoked the strangling pain of a father separated from his children, and others debated the future of Europe, China, energy security, Indian cities and the limits of finite resources.

Both those who came to speak and those who came to listen said they went away changed: every corner of the world they occupied had acquired at least one new window.

To honour that plural gathering and share some of its exhilarations with our readers, this week’s special issue is centred on THiNK and slivers of the ideas generated there.

One night over dinner by the sea, one of those who had come to listen suddenly said: “Listening to the farmers speak, for the first time in my life I realised my prosperity has been built on the backs of others. It’s made me think very deeply of how much I will take in the future and how I want to give back.”

For the moment, just that seems to feel endorsement enough.



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