THiNK Live Blog Day 1

And that’s the end of today’s sessions. It was insightful, moving, challenging, fun…It couldn’t have started better. Feel free to scroll through our live-blog if you’ve missed some of the day’s highlights – and don’t forget to follow us tomorrow for more discussions and more discoveries. THiNK

Cinema, Wide Angle: Zoya Akhtar, Anusha Rizvi & Reema Kagti. Three Women in Bollywood

06:25 pm – A big round of applause for our three speakers. Not because they are women, but because they are great filmmakers.

06:20 pm – Our speakers are asked: “Male filmmakers have the casting couch, what do women filmmakers have?” Rizvi replies: “The casting couch.” Nourished laughs in the audience.

06:18 pm – Zoya Akhtar is genuinely saddened by the fact that women’s role is dramatically diminished in Bollywood’s depiction of Indian society.

06:15 pm – Reema Kagti explains that in Bollywood you only have two depictions of women: “the good Indian woman, or the hooker.” Anusha Rizvi calls it “retarded”!

06:10 pm – Anusha Rizvi talks about her practical experience of directing, and how she treats Indian men’s romantic/sexual psyche. Read this Tehelka article on Anusha Rizvi’s work with her husband on Peepli Live, and watch the trailer.


She also explains why she has a problem with the archaic depiction of love in Bollywood: “Hey Romeo, you can’t just grab a woman in the street! It’s not gonna happen!”

06:06 pm – Reema Kagti: “Why are you making a big deal because I’m a woman?!” But she says the film industry is a healthy place for women to work in, because all in all India is a bad place for women.

06:02 pm – Anusha Rizvi starts explaining why now it’s easy for women to be directors in Bollywood. The problem, she says, is why do actresses have a shorter career. “Male superstars have been through two decades of actresses!”

05:58 pm – Now for the last talk of the day. Three women tell us about their experience in Bollywood.

Modern Druids – Seed Ideas for a New World: Dava Newman and Guillermo Trotti. How to Travel Space in a Light Suit.

05:54 pm – The talk ends and we all feel we have been the witness of a scientific breakthrough. And Twitterland has also picked up on the light space suit hype.


05:52 pm – “The world needs all the smart young people, because there are a lot of challenges”, says Dava Newman, making a more general point in the middle of her scientific explanation of how the space suit works.

05:48 pm – Nishita walks around the hall so that the audience can take a closer look at the suit. This is pretty amazing.

05:45 pm – Nishita Jha, a Tehelka colleague, appears on stage wearing a light suit designed by our two speakers. It is flexible and light. “A space suit has to provide all of your pressure”, says Dava Newman. Trust me, this suit seems to have come out of a science-fiction film.

05:41 pm – Newman and Trotti merge architecture, design and physics to create mobile architecture to travel around the moon!

05:36 pm – This BBC article explores the details of Felix Baumgartner’s suit, and how it involved specific and very advanced technological design. If you don’t know who Felix Baumgartner is, this might refresh your memory.


05:32 pm – Dava Newman, a MIT professor and NASA collaborator, and Guillermo Trotti, designer of the new South Pole station, discuss design for extreme environments – yes, space.

In Memoriam. Tarun Sehrawat Memorial Award

05:24 pm – Arun Sehrawat and Ranbir Sehrawat, Tarun’s brother and Tarun’s father, come on stage. The audience stand up and applaud Tarun Sehrawat’s bravery and his family’s strength.

Tarun Sehrawat

05:20 pm – Shoma Chaudhury, with tears in her eyes, praises the memory of Tarun Sehrawat. He was a photographer with Tehelka and passed away from cerebral malaria after reporting in Chhattisgarh. This is a very emotional moment for all the Tehelka staff.






The Dissident Files: Sunder Rajan,  Sudha Bharadwaj & Kamla Kaka. Democracy’s Jackboot: Why We Sing the Blues

05:05 pm - Bharadwaj calls the State’s strategy “draining the water to kill the fish.” She says that tribals are forced off their land so that mining can go on unchecked. She urges the State to rehabilitate them, as that is the only way to de-escalate violence.

04:58 pm - “The Salwa Judum burnt our houses, and many of us had to leave our houses,” Kamla says. She says her village does not support Maoists, who have never threatened them. “I can never understand why the police targets only us poor people. We used to thing we were free, but now have begun to question our freedom,” she says.

04:56 pm - Tehelka Hindi editor Sanjay Dubey asks Kamla Kaka to tell the story of the July 28 massacre of tribals by the CRPF, where paramilitary forces fired upon innocent villagers. “The firing lasted for an hour and a half,” she says, “and then tortured the survivors, branding them Maoists. ‘We are not human, we can rape all of you right here,’ they said to us.”

04:51 pm - Sunder Rajan has spent years protesting the proposed nuclear plant at Koodankulam. He talks about the 8,000 cases of sedition registered in the region. “Most of these cases are nameless,” he says. “This is not an anti-nuclear struggle,” he says of the Koodankulam protest. “This is a struggle for need-based decentralised power generation.”

Shoma Chaudhury reminds the audience, who gave a standing ovation to activist Dayamani Barla last year, that Barla now faces arrest. Here’s her session with Aruna Roy last year.

04:41 pm - The next session is something very close to Tehelka’s heart: the right to dissent. We have Sunder Rajan, a software engineer who came back to India and gave voice to the anti-nuclear protests at Koodankulam; civil liberties lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj and Kamla Kaka, a tribal activist.

04:32 pm - There’s a lull in the thinking as Lavanya and Subbalaxmi show that saxophones can do much more than jazz. The sari-clad Sax Sisters are currently playing Bollywood classics.

The Development Knot: Zhang Mei and Arvind Subramanian. Dragon Head, Snake Tail: The Sting in the China Story

04:15 pm - Subramanian doesn’t agree that political change is imminent in China. The new leadership, however, will no longer have the luxury of laissez faire, he says.

04:12 pm - THiNK is getting a lot of love on the interwebz. Here are a couple of appreciative Tweets.

04:07 pm - “Why do we fear Chinese dominance if we were okay with decades of US dominance?” asks Shoma Chaudhury. China will be like any other power, says Subramanian. But there is the added fear of China’s lack of democracy and its army, he says. The US also doesn’t have too many neighbours, he says, unlike China, which adds to anxieties.

04:03 pm - In this Foreign Policy essay (available only to subscribers, though), Subramanian called China the “Inevitable Superpower”.

“Is that time already fast approaching, with China poised to take over from the United States? This is an essential question, and yet it has not yet been taken seriously enough in the United States. There, this central conceit still reigns: the United States’ economic preeminence cannot be seriously threatened because it is the United States’ to lose, and sooner or later, the United States will rise to the challenge of not losing it. China may be on its way to becoming an economic superpower, and the United States may have to share the global stage with it in the future.”

03:59 pm - “You go to bat with the political system you have, and not the one you want to have,” says Subramanian on the challenges of democracy in economic progress.

03:55 pm - “My generation lived the rise of China,” says Mei, who says that the economic wave of China has become unstoppable. Subramanian says the US has declined because of its fiscal problems. With nobody left to lend to it other than China, he says, we could have the unprecedented situation of policy being dictated to it in exchange for loans.

03:48 pm - Now for a session on the behemoth that is the Chinese economy. Zhang Mei runs WildChina, a company that in just over a decade has become one of the most awarded in its space including a ringing endorsement from National Geographic Adventure who titled it the ‘Best Adventure Travel Company on Earth’. Arvind Subramanian published a book called Eclipse: Living in the Shadows of China’s Economic Dominance, that posits that China is not poised to become the biggest superpower in the world; it already is.

03:38 pm - Here’s the podcast of an interview with the man who coined the term ‘podcast’, Ben Hammersley. Only at THiNK2012.

Shark Bite: Vikram Sathaye. Stand-up comedy

03:38 pm - And now, it’s time for constipated singers. Fun.

03:28 pm - From cricket to politicians talking about cricket. Here’s Vajpayee, that old chestnut, then a very squeaky Advani, now Pawar, then a truly incomprehensible Karunanidhi, all talking about VVS Laxman.

03:22 pm - THERE IT IS! Nobody does Sachin impressions like Sathaye, and he is almost pitch-perfect.

03:19 pm - Sathaye used to be a geologist, before he realised Yana Gupta made more than the CEO of Unilever, he says. He’s known mostly for his cricket impressions, and begins with Sidhuisms. Bigg Boss is mentioned for the first time in THiNK history.

The Fast Burning Fuse: Can Indian cities be saved from themselves?

03:15 pm - “Houses make towns; citizens make cities,” says Shoma Chaudhury, quoting Rousseau and ends the session. Now for some Sathaye comedy. Yay!

03:13 pm - “I don’t have land,” says Chavan, summing up Mumbai’s development worries in four words. Succinct.

03:10 pm - Value in public land should be recovered by the state, says Chavan, talking of challenges he has faced. This can be done through competitive bidding rather than under-the-table deals and concessions without transparency, he says.

03:07 pm - Here’s Gensler talking about the cities of the future at the Global Competitiveness Forum.

03:06 pm - Gensler weighs in on the high-rise debate, says that similar project housing in the US is a dystopic face of the society. “Cities in the US usually get it right or wrong,” he says, “but when they get it right, there is usually a group of city leaders who tap into the vibrancy of the city.”

03:02 pm - KT Ravindran says that there are tensions between the corporate face of a city and the needs of its citizens. These tensions need to be resolved through democratisation of the planning process, he says. He says that instead of socially unfeasible quick fix solutions like high-rise housing for slum dwellers, the residents should be included in the financial model.

02:53 pm - Chavan talks about the frictions between the different levels of government in urban development. But, he says, some broad principles of good urbanisation can be introduced regardless.

02:50 pm - Chavan has been hailed by many for taking on the nexus of land developers in Mumbai. Here’s a profile on him by Tehelka’s Ashok Malik.

02:45 pm - KT Ravindran, Director of the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, says that equity should be the primary concern in urban planning. “Unless we can arrive at a just city, which talks about equality, we should not talk about the future of Indian cities,” he says.

02:40 pm - Prithviraj Chavan has invested a lot of time in urban development, retaining the portfolio. He’s talking about the challenges. “My ideal city would be one where people do not have to commute,” he says. Pre-1991, he says, industrial development would occur where new infrastructure could be created, but now it’s only market forces dictate industrialisation.

02:35 pm - Change of plans. Instead of Vikram Sathaye’s comedy, we’re going to get a serious discussion on Indian cities with Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan and architects David Gensler and KT Ravindran.

02:30 pm - As we get things going again, here’s an interview with intrepid journalist Jason Burke.

02:20 pm - Everyone is making their way back to the main ballroom for the post-lunch session. First up will be the comedic stylings of Vikram Sathaye, cricket mimic extraordinaire. Meanwhile, we’ve been asking speakers what they think of  THiNK2012. Here’s Fawzia Koofi.

02:05 pm - And that’s lunch, folks. After a cerebral session (sigh) by neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert, the Thinkers have retired for lunch. For those of you joining us in this live blog, we’re going to be putting up post-session interviews with the speakers and podcasts. The thinking resumes at 2:30 pm.

Evolutionary Lab: Daniel Wolpert. Why I Am A Movement Chauvinist

01:30 pm - “I hope I’ve convinced you the brain is there to control movement”. Daniel Wolpert has definitely convinced us, and he invites us to look inside the heads of people.

01:20 pm - Bayesian learning, beliefs, robotics, movements, tennis: this session is fascinating, yet very intellectually challenging. I am having a hard time live-sharing Daniel Wolpert’s arguments.

01:10 pm - Daniel Wolpert, brain expert: “Why do we have a brain? It is only there to control movement – that’s all.” “Human movement is much better than robotic movement”

Watch his TED talk, where he deals with the same question.


War Talks and Peace Moves: Efraim Halevy & Kanwal Sibal. Inside Israel With The Man Who Led The Mossad.

01:05 pm - “Is it true that a Mossad agent can kill someone with a straw and a newspaper?” Halevy candidly responds: “I don’t know how to do it.” These are the last words of this insightful discussion.

01:00 pm - Efraim Halevy surprisingly quotes (without mentioning him) Yasser Arafat: “We must work with what we have in our hands. We have a sword in one hand, and an olive branch in the other hand. The olive branch shouldn’t fall off of our hand.”

12:55 pm - Kanwal Sibal sounds very skeptical about the “Arab Spring”. He highlights the success of Islamist parties and the blunders of the war in Lybia.

12:50 pm - A funny Freudian slip by Efraim Halevy: “All the wars except one in which Israel was involved  were initiated by us. No, by the other side. That is not a Freudian slip.”

Efraim Halevy, former director of the Mossad, hasn’t lost the keen geopolitical sense of spy masters.

12:45 pm - Kanwal Sibal is understanding of Israel’s fear of being attacked. Yet he is sure that the militaristic evolution of the country is negative. Look at who in Israel is ardently pushing for a military strike in Iran – and who is against.

12:40 pm - Halevy: “We must not minimise the threat, but we have to look forward to a diplomatic solution.” “There are misconceptions about Israel, about how Israel came to be, and about where Israel wants to go.”

Foreign Policy’s 11 questions to Efraim Halevy.

12:35 pm - Kanwal Sibal explains why Iran is making a mistake in being aggressive with Israel. However, he also says that the Israeli government has not the right attitude to negotiate with Iran.

Read this article by Kanwal Sibal on the Israel-Iran tensions.

12:30 pm - Efraim Halevy is one of the voices in Israel who believes there should be a dialogue with Iran to prevent war.The leaders in the Israeli government are on the contrary pushing for military strikes, and are supported by the majority of the public opinion.

Here is an interview of Halevy with Russia Today, where he discusses which non-military solutions could be possible.


The Republic of Technology: Ben Hammersley & Sachin Pilot. Does the Internet Need Control?

12:25 pm - Ben Hammersley concludes by telling the audience how Internet control is a “slippery slope”, as it will inevitably lead to effective censorship.

Shoma Chaudhury: “In India, we have to accept offense or we are going to lose our freedom.”

12:20 pm - Sachin Pilot claims that India is absolutely against the state control over the Internet. However, the recent history has showed that the government has used the Internet censorship tool more often than seldom.

12:15 pm - Sachin Pilot replies that he has the responsibilty to listen to people who are affected by Internet without having access to it. “There has to be a balance. Just because I can’t fix a problem Monday morning, it doesn’t mean I have to close my eyes to violence on the Internet. The number of requests to limit content on Google that India sends is 1/3 of what Norway sent to Google after the Utoya massacre.”

12:10 pm - In this discussion, Sachin Pilot and Ben Hammersley seem to represent two opposite positions, which cannot be reconciled easily. Ben Hammersley claims Sachin Pilot’s previous geopolitical point is absolutely irrelevant.

Ben Hammersley is certain that censorship is never justified. “You can try censoring things online, or – better – you can try fixing the fundamental problems of society instead of patching things up in a clumsy way.”

12:05 pm - Ben Hammersley is making the point that limiting content on the Internet is “mathematically impossible”. Responding to Sachin Pilot, he explains the problem is not technological but social. “What can we do to prevent children from watching pornography online? I tell people who ask me this that it is a parenting issue, not an Internet issue.”

12:00 pm - Shoma Chaudhury: “Sachin Pilot, would you accept to acknowledge that politicians have been blocking freedom of speech on the Internet because they were afraid to harm ‘local sensitivities’?”

Sachin Pilot: “My contention has always been that 2/3 of the people who use the Internet are in Asia or South America. But who has the “master switch”? Americans. These are cultural and strategic issues, on which Ben Hammersley should also write a book on.”

11:55 am - “The world is now split between two people: those who grew up and developed before 1989, and those who grew up and developed after that date. Internet has reshaped and rebuilt our world entirely.”, says Ben Hammersley. Read the fascinating bio of the inventor of the term “podcast”.

11:50 am - Shoma Chaudhury asks Sachin Pilot to present his opinion on the issue. Although he might be tired to hear this, Sachin Pilot was the youngest MP in the Indian Parliament, and is now a Minister in the current UPA government.


The Taboo Buster: Christopher Turner on the 20th century psychoanalyst that the 21st century needs

11:45 am - “Reich was very successful with the Beat movement, and the authorities started scrutinizing him when Harpers Magazine said he was the leader of a “cult of anarchy and sex”. – “Reich was described by one of his followers as a ‘genital narcissist’.” – “Wilhelm Reich perhaps is a prophet, because now America has become one enormous Orgone Machine, where everything is over-sexualized, the sexual revolution got dramatically commodified.” These are Chris Turner’s closing remarks.

For those interested, a scientific review of Reich’s theories.

11:40 am - “When I met Norman Mailer, he admitted that Orgone Energy Accumulators were in fact crap, and he said the machine was a bit like these nuclear shelters people in the US built in the 1950s.” – “Mailer took from Reich the idea that the better your orgasm, the better man you would be” – “The apocalyptic orgasm is the one that would shatter the world order.”

“Intellectuals do not and cannot have good orgasms!”

11:35 am - “68ers would write ‘Read Reich’ on walls” – Wilhelm Reich, the man who invented free love: “JD Salinger, Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer were all devotees of the orgone energy accumulator, nicknamed by Woody Allen the ‘Orgasmatron’. Its inventor, Wilhelm Reich, claimed that better orgasms could cure society’s ills”, says Chris Turner in a Guardian article.

11:30 am - Chris Turner is now going through Wilhelm Reich’s life and career.

“He could have been Freud’s flag-bearer, but he was fascinated by orgams, which Freud called his ‘hobby’. Reich wrote The Function of Orgasms, and explained how the lack of sexual satisfaction was the cause of many problems in society. Freud wanted to protect psychoanalysis from politics, that’s why things didn’t work out with Reich. Yet Reich thought he was representing the true Freud” Read about Wilhelm Reich.

11:25 am - After a beautiful music interlude, Tarun Tejpal introduces this transition: “From sax to sex”. Christopher Turner will be talking about psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, who theorized the vital force of orgasms and who is considered the father of the “sexual revolution”.


Why We Fight: Shekar Dattatri, Swami Shivanand, Prof. G D Agarwal – The Story of Growth, Ganga and the Ghats

11:00 am - Shoma Chaudhury asks the speakers how growth and preservation of the Ganga can go hand in hand.


10:55 am - Part 1 of The Truth About Tigers, by Shekar Dattatri. The images are stunning.


10:50 am - An interview with Prof. G D Agarwal on his struggle


10:45 am - Read the TEHELKA dossier on the plight of the Ganga (6 parts)

10:40 am - “There can’t be growth without water”, Shekar Dattatri presents his defense of the Westeren Ghats


The Number Mysteries: Marcus Du Sautoy on music, football and why maths matter

10:25 am - “I persuaded my football team to play  only with prime numbers on our jerseys. It transformed our season! We came second in the league!” Marcus Du Sautoy ends his session by showing the audience a quadratic equation to curve the ball in the net – To all the young football players following THiNK2012: listen carefully to your maths professor!

10:20 am - “There is a $1 million prize in America to identify the prime number pattern.”

10:15 am - Du Sautoy tricks the audience with non-pattern sequences. And he comes to his passion – prime numbers: “The pattern of the sequence of prime numbers disappears in your hand, it is elusive.”

10:10 am - “I define a mathematician as a pattern searcher, somebody who looks for models or patterns in this chaotic world. To THiNK is to spot these patterns. I have a few patterns I want to test on the audience.” Marcus Du Sautoy is now explaining algebra sequences, such as the Fibonacci sequence.


10:05 am - “Prime numbers are the atoms of maths – Every Real Madrid key player had a prime number on his shirt!”
10:00 am - For an introduction to Marcus Du Sautoy, watch his TED talk. “I’m not very fast at my time tables.


The Personal is Political: Fawzia Koofi and Jason Burke on America’s footprint in Afghanistan

09:55 am - Jason Burke: “There is a whole new cycle starting in which Al-Qaida is much less present. That is important to remember.” – “When people will look back at this decade, in exams, in schools, people will ask: ‘What were they doing?’” -

Watch the trailer of Restrepo, a breath-taking documentary on the experience of US soldiers in Afghanistan.


09:50 am - Fawzia Koofi: “Americans didn’t ask Afghans to come to their country, and aren’t asking their opinion now that they want to leave. The war in Afghanistan is not an Afghan war, it is a regional conflict.” – “Who are Taliban? They are not unemployed, uneducated young people. They speak neither Dari or Pashto. People say Afghanistan is an occupied country, but what is the difference with Taliban occupation? These people are Pakistani, Arab, Chechen.” A great book by Steve Coll to understand who the Taliban are.

09:45 am - Jason Burke: “Ten years later, what do we get? It’s the reverse process. Americans are dismantling their operation. People are either too optimistic or too pessimistic when they think about Afghanistan after the US leaves. The nightmare scenario won’t happen, the optimistic scenario won’t happen. I think Afghanistan will bewilder people for what it will achieve.” Read the New Yorker’s take on Afghanistan after the US leave.

09:40 am - Jason Burke describes America’s attack on Tora Bora while he was reporting the conflict. “What really struck me is how Bagram, which was a desolate plain, suddenly became an immense operation. I really saw what it means when the US turns up somewhere.”

09:35 am - Fawzia Koofi: “People of Afghanistan demonstrated such a huge resilience”

09:30 am - Fawzia Koofi reflects on her experience of Afghanistan “What you year about Afghanistan is just about the ‘War on Terror’, but there is much more about the Afghan civilisation”. Read about Fawzia Koofi’s life.

09:25 am - Shoma Chaudhury is introducing our two speakers, Fawzia Koofi and Jason Burke.

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