I have good memories with the north (Gilgit-Baltistant). Mostly because I have actually had the opportunity to live in Skardu (2,200m) for almost 4 years while I was admitted to a boarding school (“why Skardu of all the places”, you ask? let’s leave that for another time).
I have been trying to find an excuse to visit the north again, especially Fairy Meadows, the lush-green plateau in Gilgit. Luckily I found that opportunity while discussing an idea with a friend.
The idea was simple: we wanted to do a TEDx event. But this one would be quite different. It would be organized in open-air space (rather than in a air-conditioned auditorium or corridor) and the speakers and the audience would set out with us on a 5-day adventure tour starting from Islamabad to the base camp of Nanga Parbat (the ninth highest peak in the world). Yes, it did seem crazy at first but I am happy that I managed to pull it off.
TEDxFairyMeadows was the first ever independently organized TED event hosted in the beautiful open-space of Gilgit-Baltistan at Fairy Meadows. Themed ‘Adventure-us’, the idea behind TEDxFairyMeadows was to take ideas to a new whole new height in Pakistan and introduce the world to the beauty of the north as well as use the TEDx platform to share inspirational and motivational ideas and stories. The event was organized in partnership with Discover Pakistan, an adventure club, based out of Islamabad and featured more than 90+ attendees who travelled via Jeep all the way from Riakot bridge and then hiked all the way up to 3500m to reach the lush green plateau of Fairy Meadows.
The event took place on Jun 17, 2013 and the venue was chosen onsite with Nanga Parbat (the ninth highest peak in the world) as the background. A total of 4 speakers shared their talks, two locals and two foreigners. The event was followed by an extempore idea-sharing sessions where adventure seekers, climbers, hikers, trekkers and explorers from the attendees shared their stories of adventure and inspiration.
This TEDx event was all about thrill, adventure and possibilities and what really makes me feel good about this is that it happened despite all weather upsets and lack of technical infrastructure that you would expect to have in a usual TEDx event. In fact there was a point where I had to call off the whole event because of the rain but then suddenly, not sure if it was adrenaline or what, something inside me asked me to stand up and I picked up the camera and asked all speakers to get to the ground with their raincoats. All I had to do was hook up a standee on one side with Nanga Parbat in the background and there and then an ideas-worth-spreading platform was born. What started off with an audience of just 10 people started getting the attention of the onlookers and they joined us to listen to the great ideas and stories that were being shared on one of the highest human-accessible plateaus of the world.
But TEDxFairyMeadows was very different and unique. It made me discover a whole new side of TEDx as a platform to share ideas and stories and it made me realize how this platform can be used to make the ordinary stories and ideas, special. Especially in a culture such as we have in Pakistan where open sharing and open dialogue is a taboo, this platform can be used to create connections that can do wonders. One of things I noticed at TEDxFairyMeadows was that the people who were shy and hesitant in introducing themselves to other participants or weren’t simply interested in talking to each other were suddenly very open in sharing their likes/dislikes, in socializing, in sharing their ideas and in accepting and listening to others’ stories without rolling their eyes (which kind of is a hard feat to achieve when you are dealing with groups in a high-context culture). That’s what TEDx does to you.
It is very hard to digest that just 3 days after the TEDxFairyMeadows event, a group of foreigners were killed in cold blood by the Taliban around the same area and it just breaks my heart to see how far we need to go to counter terrorism with good ideas. But the journey has begun and we are not stopping here!
In the coming years I am hoping to see this community grow beyond the walls of auditoriums and corridors and perhaps who knows, TEDxSwat, TEDxHazara, TEDxFata, TEDxSkardu etc might just be around the corner.
Feel free to follow TEDxFairyMeadows on Facebook to catch up with the amazing photos and videos from the event.