5 life lessons from India Today Conclave
This special issue curates the best of the conclave for you to mull over.
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Every year for the past 17 years, the India Today Conclave has been a way to reconnect with the world of ideas. Over the past few years, we have tracked global trends ranging from "Building an Indian Century" in 2004 to "Reinventing Democracy" in 2013.
Every year, we've managed to reflect the zeitgeist, whether it was the post-9/11 world in 2002 or the great expectations of the new decade in 2010. This year, we chose "The Great Churn: Triumphs and Tribulations" as the theme in keeping with the spirit of the times. From America First to India Reimagined, from solutions to the Age of Anxiety to progress in the Era of Artificial Intelligence, the India Today Conclave in Mumbai covered hot button issues agitating people across the globe right now. In my opening speech, I highlighted five paradoxes I believe are sweeping the world.
How we deal with them will define the 21st century - the rise of nationalism in a hyper-connected world, the phenomenon of illiberal democracy, the emergence of strong leaders but divisive societies, the coexistence of great prosperity and immense inequality and the growing power of transnational information giants advocating transparency but not submitting to accountability.
India Today cover story, 'The Big Churn', for March 26, 2018
But the conclave was more than just that. It was nourishment for the mind, body and soul. Speakers such as UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and bestselling author Yuval Noah Harari spoke of the rising tide of nationalism sweeping across the globe and gave us much to think about. Each of them gave it a context.
Sonia Gandhi spoke of the dangers of preferring monologue to conversation and exclusionary forces to pluralism, virtually outlining the agenda of the Opposition, comprising what she described hopefully as "like-minded parties", in the run-up to the general elections. Hillary Clinton explained the alienation that US President Donald Trump tapped into to win the election in 2016 while Harari spoke of the three great global challenges the world faces right now-nuclear, ecological and technological. Badminton stars PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth and Pullela Gopichand, as well as cricketing heroes Sourav Ganguly, Ajinkya Rahane and Prithvi Shaw, showed the endless possibilities of the human body. Wellness champions from across the world - Austria to the Philippines - told us the many ways we could avoid the inevitable, being killed by lifestyle diseases rather than violence.
There was also much sustenance for the soul. There was biochemist-turned-Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard advocating compassion as a way to cure unhappiness, brain scientist Murali Doraiswamy and major funder of brain research, former Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan, talking of the possibilities of artificial intelligence, and millennial poet Rupi Kaur channelling the rage of disempowered women.
It was an education for me, as I hope it was for our guests at the event, our audience on television and our viewers online. This special issue curates the best of the conclave for you to mull over. For me, there were five top takeaways. We need more women in public life, for their empathy and their intelligence - it's Time's Up only for men in positions of power and influence. The politics of hate needs to give way to the politics of compassion and integrity. We need more debate, discourse and dissent, whether it is about identity politics or about justice in the dock.
In a world fractured by ethnicities, races and faiths, we need to teach the history of humankind, and not of nations, cultures or religions. The problems we face are global and we need global collaboration instead of the global stupidity we are now witnessing. And last, we need more candour, humour and humanity in our lives.
Two days of listening to some of the brightest people in the world today and five life lessons - not a bad bargain I'd say.
(India Today Editor-in-Chief's note for cover story, 'The Big Churn'; March 26, 2018.)