Friday, October 2, 2009

Talking at TED - My Vertical World

I am a fellow at TED this year and a well meaning friend suggested that I must talk about it. In a lark I wrote the following address of mine at the TED which would happen only in November 2009. I have no idea if I would be speaking there at all or if I do what I would be saying, but the following piece pretty much sums up my thoughts and here it is. Hence this is a speech that has not happened yet and may never happen. Enjoy...

Good morning friends!

I am 45 and for the last 34 years I have been climbing and traveling around the globe seeking new challenges and methods to kill myself. It’s a wonder that I am still here while more than 70% of my friends are not.

During my global gallivanting I managed to climb Mt Everest and some of the highest peaks in the world along with the highest summits of all the seven continents and countless others. Horizontally I skied to the North and the South Pole and across the world’s longest and biggest glaciers and ice caps. I have been mostly traversing through areas that are seldom marked on a map, places where perhaps none or very few had ever been, extremely hostile and punishing terrains and in the coldest possible places on Earth. My passion took me to more than 100 countries and as I befriended countless people from extremely diverse and amazing backgrounds I realized that people were good everywhere. They smile when we smile and open their homes and hearts when we do.

Welcome to my vertical world where only two directions work, up and down. It’s a world full of magic and wonder. And nowhere else does it apply more befittingly than in the mountains that what goes up must come down. Extreme mountaineering is an out and out insane activity with absolutely no logic whatsoever and very little practical application either. We don’t gain anything at the end of the day except few broken bones and dreams perhaps and return only with our memories full of spectacles beyond our wildest fantasies. Why do it, I am often asked and to those I say, why not!

In my world life is simple as there are few options and very little to choose from. We do with whatever we have and learn to appreciate and prize even the most basic that life has to offer. In my presentation I would like to share an incredible journey into the hearts of nature’s mightiest and majestic forces. I have climbed each of the mountains you are going to see and my climbs are fundamentally a testimony to man’s indomitable will to succeed on the face of utmost adversity.

Mountains have helped me realize how insignificant, fragile, minuscule and powerless we are and also how strong and powerful we can be when we want to be. Hanging by my nails and biting into some imaginary crack or piece of rock I have often been in frozen animation staring death in its eyes on countless occasions while battling for my life in some of the world’s worst terrains and weather conditions and have learned that you can go as far as you want to… there’s absolutely nothing to stop you except the limitations of your own mind. Redefining my limits and then stretching them I am yet to find my limit, that point in time and space when my mind finally cries that I have gone far and high enough.

My world is only a part of this wonderful planet we call home and it is very fragile, hanging precariously between survival and annihilation. We human beings through our actions and attitude are altering our planet in ways that it cannot recover from and we are heading for our own doom. Be it in terms of climate change, global warming, extinction of species or future shortage of water and food, the time is already behind us when we should have all collectively woken up and joined forces to change the way we live. We cannot reverse the process but we can definitely slow it down. It’s my plea to each one of you here to join hands and make a difference and let’s save the planet since this planet essentially is a world without boundaries. It belongs to me as much to anyone of you or to the most downtrodden or exalted. We are in a position to do something, so let’s do it.

Now sit back, relax, tighten your woolies around for these are really cold pictures and enjoy…
I will see you on top.


  1. thaliyan ....:)could just imagine u out there satya

  2. Satya... you are such a natural speaker and writer.. All the best and am very confident we all will see you at TED..

  3. For a guy like me who is so used to last minute talk preparation, I admire you for getting yours done a month in advance!

    Very nice write up. Have a few suggestions for you. Will mail you.

  4. Thats the way to go. From the depths of the seas (Dam is originally from the submarine arm of the Indian navy - in case some don't know) to the highest peaks in the world is an amazing journey.Keep it up and look forward to your talk. I am sure it will be spell binding.

  5. Damn typos! Third time posting...hopefully this time it makes sense!

    You will likely talk as you present, as it will be extempore.

    Nice beginning to speech but somewhat lacklustre ending. You said you potentially had a lot of time to present. Some presentations are 3 mins., some 25. Where are you at, because the speech sounds about 5 minutes or so, yes?

    The message is powerful, but maybe you can substantiate it with images that prove the point of concern? Reiterate the positive note about the indomitableness of the human spirit through personal experience of people visited, or personal incidents, and tie that into the possibilities for the world if we used that spirit into sustaining our planet?

    I'll email you comments in case you aren't alerted when comments are posted to your blogs.

  6. I can't wait to hear you speak, and watch your video on TED!

  7. May i be with you in any of the expedition. I wish to meet death eye-to-eye and concur. I had a basic course from hmi some 10 years back.


  8. Nice writeup. Looking fwd to see you speak on Nov 29.

  9. You are amazing sir. I was at TEDx Chennai this evening and I went speechless seeing where and all have you reached. I salute your bravery and aspirations.

  10. Would love to hear you talk one day in front of an audience!