East vs. West: TED Talk – Mysore 2009

Interviews, TED, Videos 39 Comments

The Infosys campus, where the event was held was truly impressive. The buildings which were neo-colonial or Spanish or ultra modern, the clean roads and clean rooms and the do-not-walk-on-the-grass rule seemed rather un-Indian but it displayed what Indians can create. More impressive than the infrastructure was the staff of Infosys, who treated you like their own personal guest.

Some of the highlights of the events for me were:

  • Meeting people from all over the world, each one curious about ideas and thoughts.
  • Kavita Ramdass’ talk that showed how the world can be shaped through tradition, rather than by rejecting it….something I firmly believe in
  • Abhay Deol’s talk on atypical Bollywood stories that are slowly emerging…he truly charmed the audience
  • Charles Anderson who showed the extraordinary migratory pattern of ordinary grasshoppers from India to Africa in search of fresh water.
  • The music of Mukul Deora that brought the most modern fusion music with the most ancient Kalaripayat dance
  • Anil (piano) and Sikkil (vocals) who blended Western classical music with Carnatic classical song without compromising on either
  • Harsha Bogle who showed how Indian cricket, through T20, expresses India’s growing comfort with capitalism
  • Tony Hsieh of the highly successful Zappos.com who revealed how people need perceived control and perceived growth to be happy
  • Romulus Whitaker who shared secrets of the King Cobra and the Indian Gharial
  • Shrivatsa Krishna, who shared so beautiful the plight of infrastructure in India, especially the Mumbai airport – why we cannot be China
  • Pranav Mistry’s fabulous Sixth Sense device
  • So much more…….

My own presentation was much appreciated. Here were some of the comments:

  • “You rock, sir”
  • “You made India proud.”
  • “Now I understand so clearly why things in India are so different.”
  • “Thank you for this. I now can explain what went wrong between me and my partner.”
  • Dear Devdutt,
    I am a TEDIndia Fellow & attendee and it was great to hear you speaking. Unfortunately, I could not take your autograph on the books brought at the strand stall.

    Hope to get your autograph sometime soon when I meet you next time.

    Thanks and you have introduced me a new field to explore :)


  • SKJ

    Loved your talk -was at TED and you will find it in my Blog, on the website above, on the title Day Three TED INdia. Congraulations!

  • Great job done. I could only catch the last few minutes of your talk when a friend in New York pinged me over the internet.
    You have truly provided a handle to the most mystical question towards the Indian head shake. In other words a perspective to understand in India through its profoundness in simple approach like “Juggad”.

    In communication college in the outbacks of Harayana, I was exposed to simpleton way of thinking and human communication theory.

    I was told Communication is Culture and culture is communication. Instinctively I applied it to my immediate environment outside the college in different chowks or ‘adda’.

    Than one day it me while i struggling between mythology to understand the culture around me. I realised the 30 million gods and goddesses and the permudation and combination of their stories is the complete study of a human emotional range. In other words this pantheon of divine forms are a range of different pure states of human mind expressing it self. of course I am considering all the emotions a human is capable of surrounding the center void of singularity as a jaapa mala.

    Thank you.

  • Sai

    Dear Devdutt,

    Just saw your talk at TEDIndia… Mind blowing…

  • Rajender

    Quite Impressive …..presentation at TEDIndia

  • Aditya

    Thank you Mr. Pattanaik.

    I shall always look for the subjective truth that the other person is following knowing always, that I am looking through the same distorting lens as well :)

    And the way you expressed the action vs inaction philosophy in the end of your TED talk, as based in cultural and not natural phenomena, was eye opening and helped me personally. Thank you again.

  • david

    superb Devdutt. found you at your ‘moving’ best. had tears in my eyes.

    you inspire me.

  • Raj Subramani

    Dear Devdutt,

    I was moved beyond words when I saw your talk at TED India, Mysore. I was not an attendee, but chanced upon it in Economic Times (internet version) when browsing through some news. I am a Management Consultant and have experience dealing with a wide variety of people whom I come across. Being a trainer, I could appreciate both the content and your erudition, which has created a profound impact in me.

    I have forwarded the link to many of my e-group mates and most of my contacts with whom I share something personal or professional. A few of them who saw that immediately responded, as if to say, that part of the mystery of being what we are is now clear to us.

    I have a passing interest (that is all I can say about it) in mythology and I have read the epics a few times. I have always felt that history and culture can teach us so much about ourselves, with which we can hold our heads high. All that was my ‘opinion’ so far; you have given some logic to that through your talk.


  • Sanjay Bahl

    Dear Mr Devdutt,
    Thanks for an enlightening talk.
    But it has kleft me with some questions i would like to ask you?

    can we define one way of doing business in India? what is the indian business best practice.
    what has the most succesful consumer driven company in the US done in comparison to the most succesful consumer driven company in india?

    I’ll be completly enlightened on this if you answer that.


  • Excellent is the only word I have for your content and style of your presentation.

    Totally enjoyed!

  • SP@Mlton Keynes

    Dear Davidutt,

    Great talk !!!

    I would love to watch more talk on common man life example, that can be applied to lead a better standard of living in this world.

  • Vivek

    Excellent talk

  • Ankur Shah

    Dear Sir,

    This is the best analysis I have ever seen that go beyond pages of history to current era and still it answers some of the very common things in our life.

    After experiencing lives in India and in US, I totally agree with you on how lives and things are fundamentally different.

    It answers why we Indians do not like standard things compared to non standard complex and unpredictable things.

    It really really enlighten me.

    Hoping to get more videos of this nature soon.

    Thank you.

  • Sagar Madgi

    I listened to the talk you gave at TED India in Mysore, through internet. You mentioned that individuals should their way based on the outcome they want to seek, and there is nothing called “right” or “wrong”.I disagree with your opinions expressed.This concept of “there is nothing right or wrong” should be weighed in accordance with the outcomes/results-Do this results ultimately “benefit” the whole society in general? And this “benefit” is just not “monetary”, it is also emotional,and to a great degree-“spiritual”.The whole Indian way of life is centered around these concepts.

    Without involving these aspects, we cannot come to a rigid conclusion of whether a particular culture follows some practices which give societies stability and benefit-India to a large extent has this stability, and this is turn due to the culture we have.

    Just to give an example-USA has the highest percentage of unwed mothers(about 35%) and everyone agrees that this is extremely harmful for the society. This increase in percentage of unwed mothers can be directly correlated to the un-hindered/un-hampered sex education given in schools, which did put emphais on purity or chastity, and the “liberalized” culture of America-which promotes whatever-you-feel-good-do-it culture.
    The results speak for themselves. Which culture is good- the “liberalized” American culture or “conservative” Indian culture? Seeing objectively its Indian.

    TO give another example-Not a single state In US had such unrestricted abortion(as now) before the Supreme Court decreed it to be national policy in 1973. But the consequences of this judicial decision are now obvious: since 1973, more than 15 million unborn children have had their lives snuffed out by legalized abortions. That is over ten times the number of Americans lost in all our nation’s wars.Is this not WRONG? Regrettably, the efforts of those who, under the banner of “freedom of choice,” have so far blocked every effort to reverse nationwide abortion-on-demand.

    There is fundamental problem with the way you see “rights” or “wrongs”. They have to be seen in an entirely different context from your viewpoint.There is a distinction between “right” and “wrong”-in different cultures-but this has to be weighed objectively – in spiritual and material senses.

    Thus, a distinction has to be established between “right” and the “wrong”-these distinction cannot be applied on the basis of mass opinions or “modern” culture(s).Some of these distinctions exist in Indian society even now-they are a part of our culture- but these distinctions have been set before hand and are objective and rational.They need to be seen in correct perspective.

  • Easan

    Dear Devdutt,

    Great presentation, with some new and relevant concepts for a western audience, such as ‘darshan’.

    You might include the Yamas and Niyamas in future talks, to convey that Hindus definitely have a deep sense of right and wrong. You would of course be correct saying right and wrong ‘mostly’, as you so poignantly portray the Indian mind structure, but it is definitely there, and at least as much observed as any westerner observes his commandment myths.

    Every company should have CBO ! Very good !

  • Dear Devdutt,

    I have been following your blog for a while, and am glad to see you perform at TED India. I am sure this will get more people interested in going back to our roots to find solutions for our modern day needs.

    Best regards,

  • Ashok Sharma

    Sitting in my office on Sunday evening in Boston I was browsing internet, I never thought I will come across such profound presentation. Thanks to Times of India I got the link to your TED presentation. Truly inspirational and thought provoking. I am sure from now onwards I will have different perspective even towards my fellow indians. Look forward to some more intriguing interviews/shows/books..whatever.

  • Srinivasan V

    Fantastic talk.
    I have never felt SO MOVED.
    You Brought the ESSENCE of our India.
    God Bless all your pursuits.
    Perth, Australia.

  • Krishna Prasad

    dear doctor

    we met briefly during the TED talks. Fantastic as I said then, more so felt proud to meet an accomplished Odiya and a doctor.

  • Pradeep

    Watched your presentation online today. I should say I became your instant fan. I loved the intellect and the emphatic nature of your presentation. Feels great to share the land you walk on.

  • Hi Devdutt,
    I have been following you for the last 3 years through your articles on ET. I have been directing all my friends to your website for a long time.
    It was a pleasure to hear your TED lecture. I look forward to reading and hearing more from you.

  • vijay

    It was power packed high performance talk…

    You have taken mythos completely to a different level. Usually the study of mythos was always associated with spirituality and philosophy thanks to your effort the perception has been completely changed.

  • Absolutely wonderful talk.

    Gives us a chance to understand our Indian culture.

  • Suresh Iyer

    Hi Devdutt

    Thank you for your wonderful talk at TED2009. Look forward to many more such presentations. Thanks to Times of India for uploading it.

  • Hi Devdutt,

    I immediately became a fan of your thoughts and style. Also, the TED talk has a lesson for me. The existence of a boundary called Subjective Truth until the two parties in a dialogue are on same plane. And how acceptance of it can bring peace and patience.

    In my view point, a religion is hierarchical pyramid of thoughts/ideas/truths/beliefs where the pinnacle is understood as the Absolute Truth. A religion through its methods also known as rituals promises to hand hold the believer to the absolute truth or bliss or heaven or salvation.

    I believe Indian Mythology does point to “its” Absolute Truth as well. Though in your talk, it wasn’t clearly mentioned. Is there a particular reason ? Or do you believe that Indian Mythology is not based on an Absolute Truth.

    Looking forward to here from you.


    • who knows what the absolute truth is? You or me or the lamp-post? …..what we have is access to subjective truth…lets be content with that….

  • Sibaranjan Pattnayak

    Dear Sir,

    Your talk at TED was heart touching. If we think that we human have same type of desires (i.e. desire to grow and overcome our problems (mukti)) then we will not fight with each other based upon races and cultural differences. We will make the whole world as our home. A world with no boundary, a world with one single family, a world with no wars due to race or religion. Lets us spread the truth that we human either it is black or white came from Africa (proved by human genome project). Let us spread the message that we have relation between one another. Lets hope that complete peace to our world. Let there be complete harmony among human kind, all other creatures and nature. Lets grow together to make a perfect world.

    Thanks for all your mind blowing presentation – where you presented that it all depends upon perception of individual how he interpret a scenario. Everything may be right at same time. It all depends upon perceptions which one you will follow. Both western thoughts and eastern thoughts are correct depending upon the person, his virtue, space and time.

    Sibaranjan Pattnayak

  • Nikky

    I have never in my life heard such utter crap. One,you have no understanding of Indian mythology. You may know the stories but the concept behind the stories, is missing completely. Two, as you say complexity is part of the Indian culture, I believe you fail to understand that we have built a culture that stands on the complex and amazing concepts of vedas, ayurveda and yoga. Not something that the western world who live their lives as a step 1,step 2 and step 3 could have ever built. The human mind was built to think, to conceive to understand and to create not to follow a daily routine of Step A to Step B. If that was all we are supposed to be doing, then how are humans different than any other animals on this planet? Yes we take emotional sensitivity in business which is why rodden with poverty and illiteracy, we can still boast of a culture rich with heritage,tradition and values. Where do you see values in the western world? In the genetically modified seeds, in the Bhopal gas tragedy, in the culture that believes that parents belong to old age homes? Before you compare two cultures, understand the differences, the complexities, the intricacies of each. Do not show your ignorance by judging that, which you know nothing about.

  • Sanjay Kao

    Dear Devdutt,

    That was enlightening……reminded me of the words of my father “we see things as we are and not as they are”……a sensitivity I’ve witnessed and have been cognisant of through my career! I’m an Indian….

    Truly well said….


  • I have never heard a more thought provoking lecture than yours during the last 60 years.Please keep it up.

  • rajat

    Ted must have been a great event [just imagining ] today saw video of Pranav Mistry describing his 6 sense technology

  • dear Devdutta
    I just happened to come across ur talk on … TED a.. about Ganesha and karhtikeya .It is commendable indeed how U have condensed the essence and philosophy of Sanathana dharma ( that it is not about argument, nor is it about proving I am right, It is more about leaving the others alone. to grown on their own at their own pace.
    You have delivered it in a language understood by the modern mind .. yes the Indian mythology, is like an abstract art there in no limit to wt one can see in it, rather it revel s itself according to the evolutionary status of the viewer . And can be adapted at any point of time and in accordance with TIME , like u have shown.
    Looks like a few more like u will give the so called “GURUS” a run for their money :)
    wishing u the best

    smt Dharma somashekar

  • Manish

    You gave a whole new meaning & a fresh perspective to all the people interested in doing business/work in India. I have also read your book on “Ram”.

    Kudos & keep up the good work.


  • Lokendra Bhati

    Really i am going through a difficult phase in my life but after watching all your videos backed by enormous knowledge i feel like i had got all the answer which i want to ask the god and suddenly i started feeling like m not going through a difficult phase but m going through the most auspicious learning phase of my life where i will get to learn real world and making balance between the subjective and objective reality.
    hats of 2 u….u r really a real motivation source of my life.
    Thanks a lot !!!

  • Vinod Subramony

    I liked your thought provoking lecture in PMI Meet 2010 @Grand Hyatt. Mumbai. I was a part of it. I would like to learn from people like you who have not only grown in stature but also in knowledge. Please keep working on like this so that people like me get to learn new and good things.

    God Bless you and your Efforts!!

    Thanks & Regards

    Vinod S.

  • Puneresident

    Hello All,

    1. Meat eaters(Mleecha’s) doesn’t have blessings of saraswati in kaliyuga

    2. In boom time lakshmi will do favours in bust saraswati will do favour provided you invite saraswati. Boom and bust are two sides of a coin.

    3. I am having a simple math

    1+ infinity = infinity

    It concludes which is bigger 1 or infinity.

  • jayshree rao

    Dear Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik,
    I really enjoyed your Ted Talk. Very articulate, thought provoking and coming from a place of compassion, I see. I have also finished reading your book ‘ 7 secrets of Shiva’ and am about to start the one on Vishnu. I plan to give the same books as a gift to one of my friends for her upcoming birthday as well. I loved your book and the comprehensive yet precise nature of your research. While keeping things brief, you have also covered very important aspects of all the mythological characters in the pantheon of our Gods. Thank you. Good luck, God bless .