Evoke, a Columbia University Alumni event in association with the US Consulate, compelled the audience to look at things differently.
It was an evening to remember, with an eclectic audience listening to the ideas and thoughts of those foremost in their fields. Evoke, an event organised to create a platform for sharing thoughts, was supported by the Columbia Alumni Association and the US Consulate with other sponsors. With speakers dedicated to topics like beauty, money, sexuality, love, violence, faith and substance, curators Leeza Mangladas and Samyak Chakrabarty had ensured that the audience would be all ears when the speakers took stage.
Beauty queen and actress Lara Dutta pointed out the obvious advantages of being born with a certain beauty and yet stressed the fact that your face can take you only that far. After that you need to fall back on your intellect.
Businessman Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was quite open about his comments on money but cautioned the audience that it is never an end itself, but always a means to an end. “As long as my money is earned by moral means, acceptable to myself, why should I bother about anything else?” he mentioned, along with an urge to donate.
Gay activist Ashok Row Kavi startled the audience with his statistical findings of homosexual practices and the spread of diseases thereof, especially in rural India. He also mentioned that India has one of the most successful HIV Aids programme in the world, a fact much lauded by the listeners.
Ad man and lyricists Prasoon Joshi apologised for the fact that as a poet and songwriter he hadn’t done much justice to gay love, and went on to analyse the depiction of all kids of love in our movies – be it romantic, motherly, patriotic or devotional.
Editor-in-Chief of the Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta examined where violence came from and whether man is essentially violent and why nations resort to violence as a means of conflict resolution, terrorism and counterterrorism. He also examined the issue of sectarian conflict in a secular country, and whether violence is ever morally justifiable.
Mark Lilla, Professor of History at Columbia University and an authority on religion and politics, will investigated the human impulse toward spirituality and whether it is innate or learned. He explored the concept of conversion and what it means to take on a new belief system. He examined the causes and consequences of religious fundamentalism as well.
Mental health expert and rehabilitator Dr Azhar Hakim discussed the genetics of addiction, whether substance use is necessarily morally reprehensible and the fine line between recreational drug use and substance abuse.
After the stimulating evening, one could only agree with what US Consul General Peter Haas mentioned in his opening comments – “To evoke is to call forth, and I expect this event to to that, in addition to provoking the audience.”