My Art World


From Sole to Souls

Day 5&6, 29.1.2011/30.1.20

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They say all good things come to an end. Well I still stand by the title of my first blog – it is ” just the beginning” — a beginning of a new life for all of us once we get back to our normal worlds. It’s unfathomable that five days passed so quickly, and it is still so surreal for me. Saturday morning began with our ideas lab, the most awaited moment for all us Changemakers. Dan began the ideas lab, which was followed by Raquel, Mai, Trevor and finally me. It was the five minutes we have been preparing for, for the last one and a half months. However, at the end of it, with all the preparation and practice, we came to realize that it was our personal stories, that we just needed to be ourselves. The discussion that ensued was so enriching, and we got a lot of good feedback on how we could scale and improve our project.

We went out to celebrate our success at Café Schneider and then we headed back to the congress centre. Raquel and I went to a very interesting session about sustainability. All the participants were asked to choose from topics like housing, values, leisure and entertainment, and we were also given age groups like parents (income generators), great-grandparents, teenagers and children. We were to discuss how the world will look like to us in the year 2050. We then came back to the present to try to rethink how we would make the current year better with what we expected in the future.

The five of us + Fran, our director, headed back to our house to work, take a break and then get ready for the soiree. We were all decked up and took a cab for the first time to the congress centre, and what we saw completely blew our mind. The very place where all the sessions happened had been converted into one very desi hall with so much Indian-ness to it. While we binged on the food we also saw a fashion collection by Indian designer Anamika Khanna and a guest appearance by Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone. I have never felt more proud of being Indian that last night, because of the amount of our culture that was portrayed at the soiree. We danced till about 2 a.m. and then left for home to hit the bed.

Today was personally my favorite out of all the days, not only because Dan and Raquel were on the closing plenary but also because it was an incredible, inspiring and moving session. Post the closing plenary we went up to Schatzalp to see the most beautiful mountains and have some seriously amazing food. We also had lunch with Nick Vujicic and then we FINALLY went sledding down the Schatzalp, and that was probably the most liberating experience I have ever had in my entire life. Sledding down Swiss mountains amid the tall trees and snow was a visual treat to any artist, and I captured it all with my eyes, the best camera ever. The sledding caused so much friction that the sole of my boot ripped off and I ended up walking back home with just a sock on my leg. It made me realize something that people always talk about — the spirit of Davos. To me, it would be to capture and savor every moment – the people, the humor, the food, the nature and most importantly the belief that all of us could contribute in improving the state of the world in one way or another. I might have left the sole of my boot in Davos, but I am definitely taking back my enriched soul – it’s invaluable.

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Of handshakes, happiness and hope

Day 3 – 27.1.2011

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It would be really hard to sum up today in just a blog post. It involved a myriad of sessions, people and emotions. Trevor and I were the earliest to leave the house for a half-hour long journey up to the congress center where we went for a session — The Global Talent Crisis-Talent Mobility. Neither of us had a clue about the topic or how we could contribute to the discussion as it is mainly concerned with business enterprises, educational institutions and governments. However our worries ended soon. We were put into discussion groups where my group discussed the collaboration of educational institutes and governments to solve this gap. It was finally ended with a small address by the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli .

We were just chilling at the Social Entrepreneurs Lounge and we happened to get a quick opportunity to meet Leonel Fernández Reyna, the president of the Dominican Republic, who happened to be a very soft spoken and friendly person.

This was followed by a visit to the session with French President Sarkozy whom I found immensely profound in his thoughts about the various issues that were part of the discussion.

One of the highlights of today would be our visit to the Davos High School. Only the girls went to attend it as Dan and Trevor were at the BBC debate. The reason why I liked it so much was because we left behind who we were at the congress center and went to visit the students as normal kids and help inspire them in our own capacity. It was wonderful to get to know the students there and learn more about their passions and views of the World Economic Forum. Seems like they get to see quite a lot of participants too!

Back at the congress center we met with Lord Stephen Carter from Alcatel-Lucent where we got to share what we did with him and also spoke about the power of media and how it is important to spread the right kind of news.

A session with Lorenzo Mendoza ensued and was probably my favorite part of the entire day. Being the man that he is, Mr. Mendoza to me epitomizes modesty, dedication and passion. More than an hour’s conversation covered everything from grassroots activities, gender equality to how we need to keep the passion burning inside of us even though we might change our convictions over the course of our lives.

And the evening, what can I say about it? An epic speech by former President Bill Clinton where he moved audiences with his words and thoughts and left many people thinking much afterward. Oooooh.. I got to shake hands with him and take a picture which was completely destroyed because of another fan taking a snap at the same time.

At dinner we had a discussion about Role Models of the 21st Century where we tried to distinguish between leaders and role models and discussed what an ideal role model would be.

In sum today was a mixed bag of emotions and left me with so much hope for the days to come.

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Conservation, culture and conversations

Day 4, 28.1.2011

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I overslept today to find myself skipping a breakfast session, but that’s only because I have no memory of my director waking me up, which she says she did. So we all go to the Congress Center on what might have been the chilliest morning of the forum so far. We went to a session on health with Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono, three people I have been dying to meet. It covered a number of key health topics, followed by Bill Gates donating about $100 million towards the cause of fighting polio.

We immediately run to the social entrepreneurs corner to find Katherine Garett-Cox, the chief executive of Alliance Trust Plc. The best part of all the meet-the-leader sessions is that we get to sit down and talk to all these wonderful entrepreneurs — many who have had humble beginnings, some who even got into business by accident and today run very successful enterprises. It is just a great feeling to have a one-to-one conversation with them to find out more about what drives them. Most of their stories are very inspiring, and it’s awesome to meet women entrepreneurs like Katherine.

I spent much of my time after that reading up for one of my speaking roles. I was a panelist in a session called “Art and the Natural World,” which basically focused on how artists can bring about change towards conservation. I found it absolutely ridiculous doing so much research for my speech, because I realized I did not need it. I had to talk about 10 paintings on environmental conservation that I held closest to my heart. The session had Silas Birtwistle and Greg Stone. We spoke about the connection between art and the natural world and had a question-and-answer question when the audience could ask us more about our work or our environmental initiatives.

This was followed by dinner. I was one of the many discussion leaders at this Cultural Leaders dinner. What was so unique about this dinner is that it was in a very different format. We “speed dated” — all the discussion leaders shifted from one table to another after each course. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Mr. Romero Britto, a Brazilian artist, and many other leaders like Platon. We discussed the role of arts and culture in improving local communities and society as a whole. We also spoke about old artists and the impact they had and still have, and how today’s artists are completely different.

It was amazing to just sit and listen to so many views that were at the table. Some of the aspects I agreed with, some I didn’t, and some I didn’t have a clue about. However, I think arts and culture form an integral part of our world.

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A day in the life of a Refugee.

Day 2, Davos Klosters- 26.1.2011

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A day that will remain etched in my memory in times to come. There was so much about today that made it special. So we woke up really early and set off on a freezing walk through knee-deep snow to the UNHCR Refugee run. Well, contrary to our understanding it had nothing to do with running. It was a 25-minute simulation that put us through a hair-raising experience to help better the understanding of what refugees go through and it gave me a whole new perspective about the situation. First we were put into pitch dark tents with soldiers patrolling and we had to keep our heads down all the time. I was given the identity of a married woman with four children and the only possession I had was some jewelery and I had to flee with what I had. We came from a community where the women wore head scarves and didn’t talk to men who were not immediate family. Through the entire process we were put in a camp where we learned about land mines and I also had to trade my watch for a glass of water and a piece of bread, which was subsequently stolen by a fellow tent-mate. The final part that left me shocked was when three young women, including me, were robbed of our identities and in danger of being sold. It made me realize the realities of life and I felt that I was an extremely lucky to be just the way I am.

This was followed by a wonderful session called “Powerful Portraits: What’s in a face?” by photographer Platon Antoniou. Then we had a session with financier Jitesh Gadhia where we discussed a variety of topics. I then met with my Social Entrepreneur Buddy — Jeroo Billimoria who is the founder of Aflatoun.

At 3 p.m. we had one of the best meetings of the day. We met with theProfessor Schwab, the man behind the World Economic Forum. And even though it was just 15 minutes it was really nice to get to know him and share our activism with him too. I also got to give him my painting which was pretty awesome to imagine that I have left a part of what I do with the Forum.

My favorite part of the day was our meeting with the managing director of the World Bank Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who happens to be a genuinely nice person with so much information and experience to share. I loved every minute that I spoke with her. The Crystal Award followed: A.R Rahman one of India’ favorite composers and singers was honored. This was followed by the Opening Plenary session with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who flew in to speak despite the current state of affairs in the country.

Finally I set off to the dinner session where I was one of the discussion leaders for the topic, “Budding artist, fertilizer needed,” which focused on the key enabling factors for the success of budding artists and I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion.

To sum up the day, I would say it was one roller-coaster ride – the energy, the people, the ideas, the happiness, the struggle that we learned that people went through in different parts of the world just made me both happy and grateful to be a part of the Forum, because after all the aim is to live through the roller-coaster that is life.

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Just the Beginning

Davos- Klosters, 25.1.2011

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D-A-V-O-S, The very word that left me sleepless for nights. Not just in excitement but in anticipation and looking back, time has flown by and I am finally here in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. As a visual artist I cannot explain the visual impact the place has had on me over the past 24 hours. The mountains, the snow, the buildings, the people, the cheese and chocolate, just about everything. Well that’s a lot to take in considering that today was just the first day of the World Economic Forum 2011. A place where heads of state, businessmen and entrepreneurs in all walks of expertise participate and then there is us, the Global Changemakers who are the youngest participants at the Forum. The Forum by itself is overwhelming in its very proportion and I would be lying if I said that I was not completely nervous. The day began with a half-hour walk up a snowy hill to an Italian café for lunch. We met with Sophie Bussmann- Kemdjo the senior community relations manager of Africa at the World Economic Forum. During our meeting, we discussed building more youth engagement in Africa. The best part of the meetings so far has been the valuable insight that everyone has to offer. We then left for a session with the Young Global Leaders. I was stunned by the number of people who were there — all of them from such a wide range of backgrounds. We split into groups depending upon our interests. I joined a session on creativity and the value of high art. During the session, I spoke with artist Lera Auerbach and producer Rafael Destella and their views on investment in art and identifying the right talent in the new reality and providing appropriate support. One of the highlights of my session was when I got an opportunity to meet Enric Sala, a National Geographic Fellow and a marine biologist whom I deeply admire. Using my art to spread a message about environmental problems is something that I hold very close to my heart and meeting him was a wonderful experience. Dinner came next. Ah, the Swiss – Don’t they just love food? I feel like I’m almost Swiss already. We had a dinner session with Sarah Gillett, the British Ambassador to Switzerland. We had the chance to ask her questions relating to her life, her inspirations, her experiences of being a diplomat and the pros and cons of traveling and holding a high stress job. It was nice to see her open up and talk to us. After the oh-so-delicious chocolate fondue we headed for another 30 minute walk back to our lovely Swiss house. By that point, it had started snowing — my first-ever experience with snow. It was just magical to look up in the sky and see the flakes fall on my face. The chill of the snow that melted onto my gloves made me realize that this is just the beginning of one very cool experience.

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My Vegetarians

One year and two months hence I find myself still struggling with PWSD- Post World School Depression.

Amongst the many things we did at World School, debating was one of the most controversial and fun parts of the Forum. Looking back, one of the most prominent issues of the debate were- A Vegetarian Diet Vs An Omnivorous one. It was tough debate to win frankly,considering that the Forum was made up of about 56 non-vegetarians and four vegetarians including I. But we won 🙂

No matter how debatable the issue is, no matter how much statistics show that we are a minority, I still strongly believe that vegetarianism is any day more ethical and environment friendly. This is not a plea to the world to convert them all into vegetarians. It’s nearly impossible.

I however do time and again reinforce the fact that switching is mainly due to choice, and remaining a vegetarian is purely by will power. Many of them have tried, including one of my best friends -Roman Klimke.  Being a hard-core meat-eater, the very thought of trying to get him to switch seemed futile to me. He just did not seem to think of a world that existed without meat. A week was all he was able to sustain.

Yesterday I got news 🙂 Roman has successfully turned vegetarian ! Though hard to believe, he tells me that he read a book titled “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer, that made him change his mind. Foer explores the topics of factory farming and commercial fisheries. He examines topics such as by-catch and slaughterhouse conditions, learning that Indonesian shrimp trawlers kill 58 pounds of sea creatures for every 1 pound of shrimp, and that in American slaughterhouses, cows are consistently “bled, dismembered, and skinned while conscious”. Such is the power of writing. I strongly recommend the book to all those who believe that vegetarians are missing out on life just cause they don’t eat meat.

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Another person who I have to mention in this post is my Roomie from World School- Sophie Galbraith.  She lives in Brisbane and from what I gathered from my stay with her, she is an amazingly dedicated young woman who has also turned vegetarian for a couple of weeks now and still going strong. I am very proud of my fellow world schoolers and would love to see them grow as vegetarians.

So 2 down and another 4,493,825,940 to go. Being Vegetarian is a choice. And a good one I reckon. Being a vegetarian doesn’t cost a dime, being non vegetarian on the contrary costs lives.

I leave you with this “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” . Imagine your head being served on a platter for a sumptuous feast. Appetizing ?

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Day 2, the adventure begins !

Speed dating. Ever wondered what that was? Today was by far the most tiring day of my life. Who ever thought of this was a pure genius. So we were 60 change makers alright. How do we actually find out about each other and our activism in a span of one hour? Well we Speed date. So we are put in groups of about 20 in the form of a circle. 10 people forming an inner circle and 10 forming the outer. The outer circle moves right at the end of one minute. So the inner and outer circle has 30 seconds each to talk about what we do. I have never spoken so much in my entire lifetime ! The circle eventually shifts to other groups such that we all interact with other 59 changemakers. Phew. I was so glad I was able to live through it. Haha..

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Well it made me learn so much about others in a nutshell. Just what we wanted before we were put together in our (GAP) Global Action Project groups. We then left for work. My GAP group was so diverse. We had Graham and Jennifer from Canada, Timur from Kazakhstan( I love the way he rolls his Rrrs..) Tiffany from Vietnam, Hiba from Kuwait, Shihab and Rakiba from Bangladesh and Ganapathy and I from India. My first thought was how the heck we all would come together to work on a project that covers 6 nations. Our first task was to put together all the facts and figures relating to the environment that we had earlier researched.My GAP group being Environment and Climate Change. Now this was a lot. We read them all out and finally decided to group the problems based on similarities and differences. Then we did a sort of mind map linking all the problems to one another. At the end of the session the posters went up on the wall along with posters from other issue groups as well. Lunch was interesting with tons of topics for discussion. Following that we had a visitor. His name was Simon Cohen. He is a communication expert, speaker, consultant, trainer and managing director of global tolerance, which describes itself as a positively different communications agency generating positive media coverage for principled organizations of all shapes and sizes. He spoke to us about the uses of social media in our activism being a very powerful tool that it is. I thoroughly enjoyed the session which was followed by questions from the audience. Dinner ensued. Highlight of the food.. Tiramisu 🙂 The adventure continues…