TEDxMAHE — Unraveling the Complexities

When you think of the word “complex”, what comes to mind? Is it the endless mire of calculus problems, a complicated science report, or a list of all your impending chores? I’d be willing to bet it’s all of them – and then some. 


Complexity is ubiquitous and tends to rule over our lives in minuscule ways. It might even be fair to say that the younger or more inexperienced you are, complexity seems unconquerable. It is often a cloud over our heads, that the recent TEDxMAHE event aimed to tackle.


Organised by the student of MAHE, TEDxMAHE: “Unravel the Complexities” was a masterclass in learning to adapt, explore, and make biriyani – amongst other things. The list of speakers was diverse, and the range of topics covered entailed the intricacies surrounding our decision-making process, the way we approach our lives and much more. 


The first speaker was India’s youngest Shaurya Chakra awardee, Major Pawan Kumar (Retd). Major Kumar had faced endless challenges in active duty, but his composure on stage betrayed nothing. Having come from humble beginnings, he stressed the importance of having a goal, and the inculcation of discipline to work towards it, regardless of how hard life can get. Aspire Higher was a segment that seems to be purely anecdotal on the surface, but when you dig deeper, it clears out to be a lesson in the resilience of the human mind. As he put it, we must learn to weave our way through life like water against the stony path – because no obstacle is truly the end, not if we are willing to give it our all. 


Armed with this poignant story, the audience was then asked to imagine something that seemed extremely straightforward – “What is your dream life?”


Rebekah Sood is the co-founder of Atmosphere Kombucha, a wellness brand she co-runs with her sister. Her segment, Design your dream life, encouraged the audience to look beyond the superficial attractions of success. It becomes easy to overlook the core values that define us when chasing our dreams in this fast-paced world. It is crucial to evaluate our path based on values. Are you someone who enjoys adventure, or are you someone who prefers stability? 


These questions may seem slightly trivial but in a world driven by endless advice and trend-based mindsets, we need to make choices that align with our goals and ideals. “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it – but be intentional. No life manifests out of thin air: it is always our actions that mould it.”

This might beg the question – but how do we know? How can you pinpoint defining moments and values? The answer, if you listen closely to Pranav Mahajan, is the subconscious mind. Mr Mahajan is a third-generation Police Officer and is passionate about the field of metaphysics. “How do we know that a situation feels familiar? Why are sights, sounds, smells and even mannerisms so integral to human existence?” Well, he explains it as a manifestation of our subconscious mind and its vast memories. The Power of the Subconscious Mind was a masterfully curated segment peppered with charming anecdotes and intriguing theories. Mr Mahajan boiled it down to this: “Problems themselves aren’t complex, our responses make it so – and more often than not, we lack the tools to effectively tackle them.” 


This is where our subconscious comes into play – it stores memory and retrieves them with precision, and boosts our understanding of our current situation with respect to the past. Food for thought when introduced, and words to live by when understood, this segment truly looked beyond conventional understanding and approaches to problem-solving. 


Shopping lists are their own niche of problem-solving. They demystify the process of keeping up with our lives and are  easy enough to execute on autopilot. The subconscious mind may know that you don’t really need more dish soap, you just have to plan better – but does life work out that way? 

The answer is both yes and no. 


Parth Bajaj, a self-taught chef, TV show host and passionate baker/musician, has dabbled in almost every domain. From being encouraged to pursue science but pursuing football and kho kho instead, to injuries catapulting him on the path of an engineer, whereby he promptly dove into music, and finally landed in the culinary space – he has done it all. Lively in his manner, Mr Bajaj was a delight to watch, and Imperfect Icing encapsulated the unpredictable nature of life.


He emphasised the idea of doing what you love, but taking your time to find your path. “Just as cakes don’t always come out perfect, our choices don’t always work out – but that’s okay”. Someone might even peel off bits of the cake, or bump into it – what matters is discerning what you need, and working towards it. If there is one thing to take away from this segment, it would be his wonderfully positive attitude, for in a trajectory where you can be anyone’s target, joy in what we love doing will carry us forward. 


Speaking of food, 2.28 biriyanis are ordered per second in India as of 2022. Biriyani – the food of kings, the delicacy that continues to bind a community. Biriyani, an excellent analogy to understand and unravel the complexity of our lives. Anahit Dhondy Bhandari is first and foremost a chef but delivered a segment that was nothing short of poetry. Featured in Forbes 30 under 30 in 2019, she has carved her mark in the culinary industry, her inspiration deeply rooted in her Parsi heritage. Layered in spices was a treatise to the endless layers of human life, right from conception to the end. For those of us who can barely put together a pot of Maggi, Biriyani is a far-off recipe we wouldn’t dare touch. But when Chef Dhondy narrates how life can be crafted like a slow-cooked biriyani, you come to realise that perhaps complexity is simply a stack of layers waiting to be understood.


It starts with ghee or oil, and ends with celebration – a myriad of layers peppered with love. You add what you prefer, and reduce what you have a distaste for – and these are akin to the choices we make in our lives, how we choose to leverage our experience and knowledge to meet our desires. Even if you’re no chef, you can learn to appreciate the slow-burning, intricately layered nature of our lives. 

Layers, layers, layers – we have endlessly examined them, stacked them, taken them apart and hung them out to dry. Perusing them may answer questions related to the problems, but what of the individual who handles them, what about you? 

Abhishek Asthana is a Twitter veteran, and his handle, @GabbarSingh, is but a fraction of his resume. He founded GingerMonkey and Hood, with the latter being one of Shark Tank (An extremely popular series focused on growing businesses). Mr Ashthana is exactly what you expect – humorous, easygoing and real. 


He started where most of us do – as an engineer, and eventually ventured into the marketing realm. While the path itself was not extremely unconventional, he sure was. “The Journey of an Introvert” was fast-paced, funny and insightful all at once. Relatability was the driving force, as he described the mindset of small ambitions inculcated in us, especially when you’re middle class in a way that might make you want to drop your life and start a parody Twitter account – but that is far from the point.


The core message was to look beyond what you already have, and what you have been conditioned to accept as your limit. As with the other segments, knowledge and experience go hand in hand, because life itself can end up being an endless series of Shark Tank-esque pitches. Your confidence is really the last layer to this entire mess, so take the chances, and in Mr Ashthana’s own words, remember – “No matter how much you achieve in life, someday some guy will wrap his samosas with your obituary”. 


So it is that the segments unravelled the complexity from the inside out, with the lens pointed to scrutinise and make sense of ourselves and the world around us. But this event stood apart for Social Spaces. It was, perhaps, one of the most thoughtfully curated parts of the entire event. Vanshika, the Head of Operations, explains that it intended to help people socialise with each other and the speakers, and the game stalls were designed to help introverts break out of their shells, and maybe even form new connections along the way. To quote the crew, it is truly people that make an event special, despite every challenge they come across along the way.  


The core of this event was the wonderful organising team, whose effort paid off magnificently, culminating in a day memorable for everyone who was a part of it. So did that day come to an end, on a hot Sunday afternoon in Manipal, where, for some fleeting moments, the world seemed to be filled with infinite opportunity and endless complexities. 


Written by Rachana Raman for MTTN

Edited by Aayush Niraj for MTTN

Featured Image by TEDxMAHE


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