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Friday, July 28, 2023

Chp 886. Y20 Brainstorming, Aizawl

Have you ever been in a situation where you're invited to an event, and then suddenly asked to speak in front of the audience, that too live-streamed on YouTube by an official Govt of India channel?

Embarrassingly for me, that's what happened last week. :D

So, my dear friend Fela who runs this absolutely fantastic incubator called TiLi (Tharthilthlentu) was hosting a Y20 brainstorming session, in association with G20 (Group of 20, which includes 19 countries and the European Union) to discuss the future of work for the youth of Mizoram in this digital age. 

He had invited me as a guest to the prestigious event!

As you all know, I live at my farm here in Neihbawih. Apart from being a farmer, I also work in the digital industry. It's quite a big deal for me to go all the way to Aizawl, not just because of the distance but also because of my busy work schedule.

But Fela is a good friend and we've had many constructive industry-related conversations. He had even visited me at my farm all the way from Aizawl, so it was only fair that I return the favour and accept his invitation.

Plus, I was really impressed with the list of keynote speakers he had lined up for the event. Mizos who had reached great heights in various sectors. They were:

Lalramsanga Sailo - An IRS officer, Lalramsanga is the Secretary of Labour, Employment, Skill Development, and Entrepreneurship Department (LESDE), Mizoram. He focuses on HRD, skill and entrepreneurship ecosystems, and labour welfare in both organized and unorganized sectors. He is also a research scholar on the Informal Sector Economy in Mizoram.

Dinkima Sailo - Based in Singapore, Dinkima is an international affairs and public policy advisor. He manages the Friedrich Ebert Foundation's geopolitics program, serves as an adjunct professor at the Singapore Institute of Technology, and is a board director at the Arthur Bastings Collective.

Rokimi Khawlhring - An equity analyst, Rokimi began her career at MFS Investment Management in Boston and later joined Sanford C. Bernstein in New York. She now owns a top bakery chain in Aizawl and ventures into various startups while expanding her portfolio as an angel investor.

Danny Hmar - An MBA from IIM Ahmedabad, Danny is currently WFH (working from home) as a Product Marketing Manager at Browserstack, a reputed SaaS company. He loves writing and sharing marketing content on social media and also runs his own marketing initiative cleverly coined "Hmarketing 101".

Jonathan Lalremruata was also one of the keynote speakers, but unfortunately, he had to bail at the last minute due to a family emergency.

Apart from these esteemed keynote speakers, Ali Syed, a Consultant RIS from the Ministry of External Affairs, GOI, gave an introduction about the event and shared his knowledge and experience on what the main intention of this brainstorming event was, as well as the past initiatives undertaken by the Government of India.

And then of course there was none other than the one and only LTL Fela, who moderated the entire event and added his valuable input to the ongoing discussion and presentation, while trying to create a conclusive and compelling deduction that would leave no room for doubt or confusion.

I really wanted to hear what these wonderful speakers had to say and imbibe all their thoughts and wisdom. And so I took a leave from work to attend the event and got ready to leave my farm here at Neihbawih.

Coming down to Aizawl, that was another drama. I had to feed my dogs first before my cab arrived because you know, dogs really don't understand what's going on.

I also had to leave very early because my cab driver told me Durtlang Leitan would be closed from 9AM because they had to clear the landslide debris, and so I had to leave my farm by 7 freaking AM!

Once I reached Aizawl, I had delicious home-cooked food (after such a long time!) and then left for the event, which was located at Mission Veng.

I was one of the early people to reach the venue. :D

It was a closed event, meaning, it was based on invitations only. The names of all the invitees and guests were labelled on their designated chairs. I searched for mine and it was there on the front row, right in front of the keynote speakers, lolz.

Soon, all the keynote speakers arrived and it was time to kickstart the event.

I was able to take really up-close photos of the keynote speakers from where I was sitting. :D

Christopher Lalbiaknia, the secretary of TiLi, gave a hearty welcome address.

After that, as mentioned earlier, Ali Syed from the Ministry of Internal Affairs introduced the event to the audience, covering a lot of interesting topics.

And then one by one, the four esteemed keynote speakers took the stage and left the audience in awe with well-articulated speeches and powerful presentations.

All four speakers spoke about different fields, captivating everybody on the floor. The topics ranged from entrepreneurship to government policies for a more startup-friendly ecosystem to different skills required in today's age of AI to venture capitalism, and so on.

I'm posting a video of the entire event further below. There are so many interesting and motivating takeaways from all their presentations, so I really hope you watch the video. 

A few favourite points of mine are how Dinsanga reinforced the fact that good ideas are not limited to metros and cities but are very much in abundance at distant remote places. Ramsanga interestingly mentioned how the state and central governments are already preparing the youth on AI courses with support from the Ministry of IT. Rinkimi talked about unicorns and how companies get to that stage by disrupting the industry which really inspired the audience. And Danny gave very good demonstrations of the power and capability of AI, and how we must utilise that as a tool rather than opposing it, or even fearing it. 

The audience was captivated. The invitees also consisted of one representative from each college in Aizawl, and it was good to see them gain so much from the speeches. And when they report their experience to their respective institutions, it is bound to pique even more curiosity.

The keynote event ended with an overwhelming ovation. It was truly a day worth spending. After the keynote speeches, it was time for the brainstorming session.

And it was then that Fela dropped a bomb! :D Suddenly he announced that all special guests must also give a short speech!

Initially, when he invited me, he told me that it would be a brainstorming session about different topics. And so I read the portfolio of all the keynote speakers and prepared a list of topics regarding each of their specializations. I was ready to bring those points up so that they could impart their wisdom about it to us and we could all further discuss it.

I mean, I thought that's what the event was going to be about. But nooo, he never said anything about us giving a speech!

So there were five special guests invited: Lalnunpuia - Director Zonet, Vanglaini family and founder of FamCart, Angela Zothanpuii - Director of LESDE, Nicky Puia - Stock trader and Hauva & Sons, Ruth Zothanpuii - Project Coordinator at KAAMT and former Secretary to Member of Planning Commission, and me - a farmer.

Though we were all hesitant to speak, there was nothing we could do when all eyes were on us. Angela didn't come due to last-minute office work, so she escaped. :D Mapuia, Ruth and Nicky eventually gave very inspirational speeches. They all talked about their respective line of work with so much passion and enthusiasm that it was contagious.  

Mapuia shared his vast experience on OTT platforms and monetisation, and how Industry 4.0 is disrupting that sector, as well as his first-hand personal experience on how the digital revolution is affecting his print business. And I must admit, until that day, I realised I have only thought about how my job can be replaced by technology, but I've never really put myself in the shoes of family business owners who have to make the painful decision of laying off people due to technology.

Ruth took the audience through a new and very refreshing topic of performing arts, and how the youth of Mizoram can utilise technology, giving a very good example of how Shakespeare had been integrated into Mizo plays that had really impressed the Planning Commission and National School of Drama.

Nicky immediately took us down memory lane by talking about what life was like in the early digital days, giving an example of how much we used to struggle with Dreamweaver to make a website, lolz, those HTML coding days :D And how today we can just use AI to make a website. He gave many examples of innovative technological ideas he was involved in, as well as new ideas possible in today's technological age which really inspired the young audience.

When it was my turn, I decided to talk about two topics - Remote working and AI. Danny had already covered most of the things I wanted to say, so I had to talk more about my personal experiences. 

However, I did make everyone do a small exercise on how we percept the same instructions, and yet the outcome is not the same in spite of that and then related that to how AI is only as efficient as the person operating it. It was good to see everybody taking part in the exercise.

I also tried to quell the fear of AI by demonstrating a few things AI would not replace, like human emotions and perceptions. I did a small interactive exercise on the decoy effect and how our human minds work in comparative marketing.

Overall, yes, I was unprepared, and I said "right" like a bazillion times! :D But it was good to see that the audience had something to gain from it.

You can see the part where I was speaking in the video below, the video is hosted at the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports YouTube channel.

But I really do recommend you watch all the other speeches as well. There is a lot to gain from hearing all their insightful speeches, as they not only provided valuable knowledge and expertise in their areas but also instilled a sense of empowerment and motivation.

After this, it was the Q&A round. The energised audience asked all the keynote speakers very interesting and compelling questions.

And of course, the keynote speakers played their role to perfection, answering all questions with profound expertise and leaving the young audience thoroughly inspired and motivated.

Sadly though, all good things must come to an end. We didn't have enough, but it was necessary to call it a day. We had the Vote of thanks delivered by Martha Lalzarmawii and mementoes were presented to all the keynote speakers.

And with that, the memorable event was over.

The keynote speakers with Fela and Ali Syed.

And then with us unprepared special guests in the background. :D

And finally with the entire TiLi team who had made this event a grand success.

And oh, how could I forget about the snacks. There were tons of delicious food served after the event. To Aizawllers, this might be normal, but I hogged on every piece of scrumptious food like it was my last day on earth. :D

All in all, I was really glad so many of our young generations asked very interesting questions. To be frank, when I was their age, I was still playing with GI Joes. Mizoram really has a bright future, as the future of our state depends on the future of our youth.

After the event, there was apparently an after-party type of function, but much as I would love to spend more time with such brilliant people, I had to rush back to Neihbawih because I had to feed my five dogs their dinner.

Such is the life of a single-dad farmer, but that's life. We battle each day as it comes. Thank you so much TiLi and G20 for such an enlightening event filled with profound insights and inspirations. Wishing everybody a great success. Cheers.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Chp 885. Life of a single dad

Life is tough when you're a single dad in your mid 40's with 5 kids.

Five rumbustious kids, all males, running everywhere in the house and destroying anything in their path. Life is a whirlwind of chaos and turmoil, especially when there is no better-half around to help you manage the circus show.

The first thing I must remember when I wake up every morning is whether there is leftover food for them to eat or if I have to cook from scratch. If it's just warming up leftovers, then I can relax a bit, one of those rare breathers. If it's cooking, then I have to cook immediately before I even do my basics like brushing my teeth because the food has to cool down before breakfast time.

And they are such spoilt brats. Any food that is a little over 2 days old, they won't eat! My dad, rest in peace his soul, would have whooped my ass if I refused such food. But of course, I can't whack my kids because woke culture says it is wrong.

I really hate woke culture. How many times my kids woke me up in the middle of the night! So frustrating! Screw you, woke culture. Stop this culture of waking up your parents. Let me sleep, dammit!

Anyhoo, that cycle of cooking repeats in the evening again, after a day spent trying to spare at least 5-10 minutes every hour playing with them from my busy work schedule. After all, I definitely don't want any of them getting inspired by the song "Cats In The Cradle", if you know what I mean.

As dinner time approaches, I have to make sure I cook everything just the way they like it again, or else, tantrums.

But you know what?

Watching them munch away the food I toiled so hard with my bare hands and complained so much about, is all replaced by a sense of fulfilment and joy. For in the act of nourishing their bodies, I am nourished by the light in their eyes, the warmth of their smiles. The hours spent labouring in the kitchen, the weariness that clings to my bones, it is all but a fleeting price to pay for the immeasurable reward of their happiness.

All single dads out there will know how this feels.

Everything. Is. Worth. It.

In the midst of all this, I no longer have the energy to cook my own food. Sometimes I order from nearby Sihphir town, and sometimes I starve. That is the sacrifice we parents make for our beloved children because they mean the world to us.

And in the night, as I gently tuck them all to sleep, one by one, this is perhaps the only time they are obedient, lolz. As I sit in front of my PC trying to wrap up a few deadlines (deadlines I must meet so that I can continue feeding them), I glance at the peaceful embrace of their slumber, like wisps of moonlight, their breaths come soft and rhythmic, harmonizing with the silent cadence of the night.

I sometimes think, do they ever dream, "Daddy is still working" or "Daddy must make ends meet to give us a happier tomorrow"? Perhaps they do. Or at least they do that in my imagination.

As I switch off the lights to call it a night and make sure I have kept all leftovers in the fridge, I tuck in beside my eldest, because he's the only one who sleeps in the same bed with me. The rest have their own beds.

I know that tomorrow the whole cycle will repeat again. In addition to that, the number of times I have to clean their poop or give them a bath they hate will only make my daily routine harder. But as I said, it is worth it.

Being a single dad to five kids is tough, but the emotional benefits you get are truly rewarding. Cheers to all the single dads out there.

Ending this post with a photo of my five adorable kids sleeping peacefully.