So, we said, “Phew!” And they went “Wow!”
Between the Phew and Wow lies the story of the fourth edition of Knowledge Factory, and we can’t believe we did it again. It seems like yesterday that we started out on this journey that has taken us from its birthplace in New Delhi to Mumbai, Bangalore, and in the year of the Lord 2020, to Mangalore. In a previous blog(http://bit.ly/KFBLOG9), I had compared hosting this festival of insights, ideas and trivia to pregnancy, because it had its pleasure in the moments of conception, followed by lots of caring and nurturing, strange feelings in the stomach, and then that final moment where something beautiful comes out but after some pains. That’s the moment when the organising team goes “Phew! We did it” while others say, “Wow!”
We are always prepared for hiccups. For the third time in four years, we had a star speaker (actor and cancer survivor Lisa Ray) suddenly pulling out due to a personal emergency. So, we took the topic of her intended session and turned it into our mission statement: Broken, But More Beautiful.
Hats off to stand-up comedian Papa CJ and Thyrocare founder Dr. A. Velumani. They had the audience in splits, mixing wisdom and humour in unbelievable doses. Both have been ardent supporters of the KF family, shedding their rockstar status to show up as informal and dedicated friends.
The venue was a godsend as the St Agnes college campus in Mangalore opened up its gates and hearts in perfect weather for us to mark the centenary year of southern India’s oldest all-women’s college.
The high point of the event was Papa CJ dancing with Sister Jeswina cheered by a thousand teenagers. I think we broke famous convent ice because the disciplined sisters and faculty members at the college are sombre and dedicated to their work and the students. CJ thought it was time to make them break into a well-deserved dance. He had planned to show up at KF2020 on his own to be with us, and his performance on stage was a late swing — and what a swing it was! As I said in my opening speech, it is all planned by the Lord up there.
CJ tirelessly autographed copies of his book, “Naked” and posed for selfies after the show. His unintended competitor (and a tough one at that) turned out to be Velumani, whose mix of rustic humour and advise on frugal entrepreneurship showed a doctor-turned-motivational speaker-turned comedian in a multifarious role.
As hat-tips and standing ovations go, we wish we could do a thank-you jig to the amazing team at St Agnes College, Mangalore. Here’s what they did for us:
- Gave us a brand-new auditorium for KF4 to be an inaugural act.
- Sold tickets and did promos to pack it to its 1,200 seats
- Set up a crack team of students in blue Knowledge Factory T-shirts to handle every bit of logistical support — ably guided by faculty members.
- Escorted, cheered and helped the speakers with a mix of curiosity, dedication and friendliness
Providers turned partners turned participants for us. Think about it!
In our best KF tradition, we mixed gravitas with humour, aesthetics with social purpose, literature with a quiz and advertising with health. Some high points:
- Nandini Srikar came prepared with a masterclass presentation on her journey as an ad jingle composer. We wish we had more mass communication students out there.
- Swati Pandey taught us how one could mix farming with IIT-style engineering
- Gaurava Yadav foxed Mangaloreans with a question on a glamorous city girl that no one could answer
- Supermodel Dipannita Sharma revealed she was in a re-use mode with a borrowed outfit because she was committed to sustainability (as she spoke to entrepreneur Kriti Tula who spewed data to show how much the fashion industry wastes as it makes trendy outfits!)
- Anuradha Kedia showed how good intentions can turn a casual blog into a media venture with millions of readers
- Sunil Buch taught us how to joke impromptu on stage after a hilarious session by a comedian in order keep the audience mood up.
- Actor Prakash Belawadi turned out to be the ultimate critic of his friend, the late Girish Karnad. He mixed bouquets and brickbats in equal measure to analyse the late genius. Objectivity doesn’t get better than this.
A lot else goes uncaptured in all that. And a lot many people cannot be named or thanked individually. We can only offer unconditional apologies to the unmentioned — you know how difficult it is to re-live a rich experience in a single blog.
Where did all those ideas come from? The speakers, of course. But before the event came a bunch of people who put things together. The KF team has grown slightly bigger and brought in a fresh set of ideas with matching energy. The topics were more socially conscious this time, thanks to social responsibility addicts in the team.
The audience was younger than in the previous years as the location shifted from metropolitan hotels to a college campus. All the best to St Agnes for a hundred more years of joyous learning. One has to just look at the list of donors and philanthropists from across the world contributing to the auditorium at their alma-mater to see how large a global footprint generated by a bunch of dedicated educationists and nuns from a corner of southern India can be.
Our fervent hope is that we turned Agnesians into Ignited Agnesians — to borrow a fancy adjective from our late President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
The Mangalore experience has opened our minds to new ideas. Let us see what we can do with them.
(by Madhavan Narayanan)