LAHORE: There have been many that have seen such ‘Tedx Talks’ with much skepticism. Their main criticism stems from the belief that most of our speakers end up being overly self-indulgent. I decided to go see for myself. I registered for the event and got selected amidst other 250 people that gathered under that roof to hear ideas that changed the lives of women in Pakistan. Tedx was first created in the spirit of sharing ideas worth spreading. TedxLahoreWomen followed the same spirit of bringing the movers and shakers of our society on the same platform to appreciate the narrative of women or those who had struggled for them. This event coincided with TedWomen that was being held in California – an initiative that can help provide a counternarrative for the grim and bleak worldview of Pakistan. The list of speakers was diverse – nothing short of a true representation of the rich fabric of our society. In the first half, we heard Zainab Chughtai, Salman Soofi, Sophia Kasuri, and Dr Shagufta talk about the ways that they contributed to society. In the second half, we had Sarah Zaman, Faiza Saleem, Hala Bashir Malik and the only woman who has been the showstopper for both fashion shows and even ted talks now, Mahira Khan. The event started with a beautiful classical rendition of our national anthem by two Nescafe Basement superstars, Arfa Chaudhry and Janat Sohail Aziz. As they played the national anthem on a Sitar and a Ukulele, the audience stood up in reverence to the one thing that unites them all – being Pakistani. More than anything else, I found myself feeling more connected and united with my own people than ever before – the national anthem has a magical way of blurring away the fault lines that divide us. Zainab Chughtai is a name that went viral on social media for speaking up against body shaming. We heard, one on one, the story of her struggle of growing up with “Punjabi hips and big lips”. It was awe inspiring to see how many young women, including myself, were able to relate to her narrative of being bullied for being overweight. Faiza Saleem, Pakistan’s only social media entertainer, addressed the same issue in a more light hearted manner. She had us in fits of laughter as she cracked jokes about being a plus size individual. However, after the initial stand up comedy session, she reiterated the need to look beyond physical attributes for one is beautiful and worthy of love, no matter what shape and size. Dr Shagufta, a medical practitioner, gave us the ways of mainstream healing and focused her soul and energy towards discovering several ways in which nature helps heal our bodies. She spoke of her struggle to make it out of the monopoly of big pharmaceutical companies and focused on the one thing that is innate and pure – nature. She gave the audience some great tips on how to have a healthy lifestyle instead of short-lived, romantic breakups with unhealthy foods. Speaking of healthy lifestyles and healthcare, Sophia Kasuri, the educationist and brains behind Gymboree, spoke in depth about the little ways in which people and social interactions impact the development of a child’s brain and personality from very early on. She’s credited for bringing Early Childhood Development to the home turf. With such great insights into the world around us, the one thing that helped us ease into the remainder of the evening was the splendid classical performance by the legendary Sarah Zaman. She is an accredited musician that spoke in beautiful analogies about acceptance and harmony. As I swayed to the sound of her voice, the sound of the Tabla by Sajjad Hussain and Zohaib Hassan’s Sitar, paired with the beautiful words written by Bulleh Shah, I couldn’t help but replay the words she spoke before her performance. The notes in every song or ghazal get paired up together to form consonances. If only one respects those consonances, the resulting melody is even more harmonious than before. She related this to respecting the diversity of people in our society. Only then would the songs of our lives be more melodious and harmonious – what a beautiful thought that is! The cherry on top of her remarkable performance was the translated lyrics that we all received of Bulleh Shah’s “Kaafi” before her performance. This was extremely important for our generation that finds it impossible to fathom the depth in Bulleh Shah’s written words. I never understood the essence of Bulleh Shah till she sang it to us with much love and devotion. Salman Soofi, the great mind behind the Woman on Wheels initiative, narrated the reason behind his desire to help women reclaim public transport and public spaces. As a young boy, he saw the discomfort that his own mother felt as he travelled with her, along with several other women huddled together like chickens in a cage, on a bus. It was that, that provided the driving force for him to initiate the Women on Wheels, which trained over 1,000 women in Lahore, alone, to ride a bike. Moreover, his aim to help spread development to the rural areas instead of keeping it limited to the big cities is truly remarkable. Talking about reclaiming public spaces, Hala Bashir Malik is a woman who deserves much appreciation for her work as an academic, an architect and even a citizen of the country. Hala Bashir Malik spoke of the consumerism that is eating away at public spaces, and the need to preserve the city that she calls her own: Lahore. She gave an awe-inspiring talk about the identity of the city stemming from its people and the desperate need to preserve it. The lady of the evening, Mahira Khan, stole the show with her talk being mainly about compassion and the need for empathy. She spoke openly about the panic attack that she experienced as a result of cyber bullying. Instead of delivering a talk about her journey, she emphasised the need to emphathise with people and their narratives. What followed was a swarm of ardent followers that encircled Mahira Khan for selfies and hugs. The TedxLahoreWomen helped remind everyone the need to contribute towards the betterment of society. Being in the presence of such remarkable people who have worked towards easing the lives of women in our country, reminds us of how much more needs to be done. Attending the event and writing this review are my two-cents towards contributing towards women empowerment!