Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What a way to end the year??

In the last 2 weeks I did so many things which I would not normally - Got up late every other day (don't ask me what's new about that), ended up consuming more than two times the calories I need, had family approved gup-shup(pani puri) at road side bandi, ate hot hot mirchi bajjis on the road - went for morning walks with the intention of burning some fat, slept in the afternoons, was not hooked to the laptop more than 10 minutes every day, been with family at home not thinking of work team project ....

2 weeks of vacation - total relaxation - complete rejuvenation - all set to start the new year bright and fresh full of energy.

Feel like looking back to see how I have enjoyed the year. But I gotto sleep right now as I have to get up early tomorrow.

Me off to Puttaparthi tomorrow.. Cu all in the new year.

Happy new year!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Education as it can be

Dear friends,

My weekly sessions at CSIM have completed and I am now doing an individual project. This is like a dream project which I would love to implement some day.

My passion is in 2 areas - children and education. So, I plan to do a project that would bring more meaning to these. As most of you would know, I have been volunteering for ACT for the past few years. The idea of this project is based out of my experiences with children there. It has stemmed from the feeling of helplessness, frustration while teaching children and the constant urge to motivate children to learn the right way.

I have put down my thoughts of the project. In the coming weeks I will post my findings and ways to address the issue.

I would like you all to pass on your suggestions or any inputs you have.



Life of an under-privileged child

Today, there are many NGOs who work for educating under-privileged children. One of the biggest challenges these NGOs face is to sustain and increase the interest of the child in education. Being supported by the NGO, the child joins a government school enthusiastic about going the school and being the first generation literate in his/her family. Slowly as years pass by, the child keeps learning new theories and concepts in school and finds no relevance to it in daily lives. At home, their parents are uneducated and hence are not able to help them in understanding the importance or the science behind the concepts. At schools (typically government schools), the standard of teaching is poor. When the child reaches class 8 or 9, his/her interest in education drops as they hardly understand what they learn. They prefer to mug-up the question answers and score marks for the sake of exams than understanding the logic or reasoning. As time passes, they complete class 10 and face the big question of which branch/stream to choose. Most of them end up choosing commerce not because the want to become a C.A, but because they have an aversion to mathematics, physics and chemistry. Their choices are more derived from their dislikes than likes. Much before they realize, they end up gazing at the limited choices they have for an under-graduate degree. The girl enrolls herself for an arts course and the boy for a B.Com. As they have not developed their application and problem solving skills so long, they struggle to get a good job for their education. And there finally comes the irony - they land up in a job which has no relevance to what they have learnt so far.

There are multiple cascading problems here,
1. As teaching at school is more exam oriented and not application oriented, the child looses interest
2. As they loose interest, they start disliking subjects which need more logic like Maths and Science. This gives them limited options in class X and XII
3. Without developing the required problem solving skills, they don’t end up in the right jobs

Today, there are many organizations that are working for identifying the most appropriate streams for the child based on his/her capability. There are also organizations working towards getting a job for them.


Through this project I would like to work on the root-cause of the problem which is – Learning not being application and problem solving oriented.


Education is important to every child irrespective of their background. The problem of rote learning is applicable to children in general and only to under-privileged ones. Through this project I would like to come up with some ways of addressing this issue for all children.

Coming soon ...
Results of some study/surveys
Analysis of existing solutions if any
New solutions

Sunday, December 07, 2008

How terrorizing is a terror attack?

With the wake of the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, life has changed for most of us. We sit glued to the tv not watching movies or mega serials but tracking the latest updates on the investigations and closely looking out for new terror alerts and warnings. Every lunch table conversations is on the topic of what can the Indian Government do and how Pakistan is playing a double game.

Though most of us have not experienced the trauma personally being there @ the Taj or Oberoi or CST station, it has affected us completely. For me, it has been a major change in thought process -- my mind always clouded with fear and suspicion.

It was friday afternoon, we were sitting at the lunch table watching one of the news channels in the cafeteria. The usual conversations began and here my team mate told me that there is a threat warning sent for Bangalore. He continued telling us about why he cancelled all his weekend plans and wanted to stay safe at home. Dec 6th - the Babri Masjid day, seemed to be an excuse enough for another attack. I had my usual plans of a packed saturday with finishing some pending works followed by csim class and then go back home around 7:30 in the night. But after hearing to him, I was little scared and started thinking twice about my plans. At the end of our discussion, I was completely gotten to believing that it was unsafe to be out of home over the weekend though I knew I was falling prey to exactly what the terrorists want - create panic and confusion in the minds of people. Finally one of my colleagues managed to pep me up to gather some courage and move on with life.

This was not the only incident -- remember a few days ago, there was a high security alert in many airports in the country following some email threat? Around the same night was when 2 of my dear ones were supposed to land in Mumbai. I was so scared, din't know what to do. I din't want to talk about it at home and end up scaring others. That night, I hardly slept in peace.

Of-late I dream of people shooting around, sudden confusion created in the city, people running around to save their lives. It might sound exagerrated, this is exactly what I have been going thru in the last few days. I wonder what it would be like for those people who have been there.

Every other place has become unsafe. How can someone be at peace when survival itself is at stake?

The mumbai attack has been a big wake up call for all of us to identify and fix the major security loop holes and the basic issue of corruption. As a citizen, I don't have much clue of what to do? All I do today is to watch the tv and keep myself updated. That's really the sad state ...

Friday, December 05, 2008


Pics of Prakrut posted here

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Life post PRAKRUT

Seems like I just got down from a roller coaster ride... yea, I now experience a sudden slow down after a speedy bumpy ride with a safe landing.

There were days when I was juggling between mails, phone calls and work (of course). My days would begin with mom constantly saying 'aarthi aarthiiiiiiiiii.. ezhuduko... mani enna theriyuma.... iduku daan seekirama thoongu nu sollaren, ketta daane...' (I don't wish to translate and loose the charm of it :-)) and then I would sleepily come down switch on my lappy and start checking mails for updates from the team on the event.

It was almost 30 days of hard work concentrated over the weekends, that is how I would define our pattern of working. It was a complete phase of putting all learning into practice. We went step by step, sometimes jumped a few steps in anxiety and enthusiasm.

We did everything right from identifying the social issue of concern, the target audience, how we would want to attack the problem. At the end of these discussions, we decided to choose 'Environment' as the issue of target and we decided to host an event promoting the solutions instead of talking about the problem which is the usual style. That was how and when PRAKRUT was born.

Then we went about identifying target audience and the different activities that we would do as part of the event. School children were our primary target as a change brought in to the minds of young ones tend to stay with them all through the life. We also decided to approach general public thru the children. We planned to leverage the work of NGOs and corporates having solutions in this domain to bring forth the solutions.

Slowly we moved to the most important part of budgeting the whole event. This was the most funny task as each time we did, we got a completely new figure which was way beyond the previous times result. Thank God, none of us even our wildest dreams are doing any work related to finance. Till the last minute this the one constant variable.

All pre-work for the event soon started like inviting school children for the exhibiting their eco-friendly solutions, making posters for inviting them and writing rules. I almost felt like a school principal while editing the rules list. I was wondering how it would be if I were asked to come in school uniform on a weekend and how much I hated such things as a child.

Talking to NGO's, hearing their response, coaxing them to participate, answering wierd questions like 'will you give us food?', running behind them to get confirmation. It was all fun watching the story unfold. Thanks to Aruna for her immense patience in gathering the inputs and doing all the talking. I had enough of a bad experience right in the beginning :-)

The next round of running around was for the misc activities which turned out to take more effort and time than the main ones probably coz most of the important tasks were done by then.

Publicity poster making, visiting the venue, debating what food to serve thru the day, who will arrange, how to arrange, how much to spend - it all looks so simple and silly now. Writing mails to companies asking for sponsorship was the funniest of all. If only I show you the mails I wrote, you would laugh at it. All the realization of how to write a mail to a sponsor dawned after being grilled by Varsha (I hope Varsha is reading this :-)) one saturday afternoon. Oh man!! I almost lost hopes of having the event till she finally flagged off saying we are 70% complete.

It was a lot of learning - learning how to work in a team when people are in different frequency levels, how to ensure majority of them are not hurt and still put forward your opinions, how to use somebody's strenght, how to talk in a press meet (nothing will work if you don't know to speak kannada). What can I say when we had lots of praises at the end for this wonderful event. All the hard work seemed so much fun at the end.

Missing being on top of my mails, getting interrupted at work by phone calls, calling people, being in my own world of thoughts about the event. Missing all the people and the fun.

Life seems to now be moving like a goods train, so slow. Guess, this saturday would be the time to change gears and go on another roller coaster ride. Yep, time has come for my individual project - my FAC (field action component).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

PRAKRUT - An initiative to promote eco-friendly solutions

Prakrut - An initiative to promote eco-friendly solutions.

This is an event hosted by the third batch students of CSIM (Centre for Social Initiative and Management). As part of the event there are
1. Exhibits on eco-friendly solutions by school children
2. NGO's, corporates show-casing their solutions
3. Activities center where there is lots to do and learn
4. On-the-spot painting competition for children all through the day
5. Information stalls

This is one of the ways by which we are planning to sensitize people towards the environmental issues. If each of us take that one step, we would do more good to humanity and our future generations.

Please help us in spreading the word across to all your friends in Bangalore. Feel free to pass on the poster above to all your friends. It is a day long event on Sunday.

Call your colleagues, friends, neighbors to participate. Awareness spreads only by word of mouth.

VENUE - Seva Sadan, Kormanagala 3rd Block, Bangalore
Time - 10am to 6pm
Contact - Aruna -

More details about the event - NGOPost
Yahoo calendar

Come, join hands to Nurture mother Nature.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

CSIM session 10

Sustainability was the topic of this session. Ms.Lily Paul of Ashoka was back to explore this with us.

Yep, like every other week we started with the basics of understanding what we were about to talk about. This session began with an exercise making each of us think what sustainability is all about the factors that would affect it.

We all defined it in our own terms, based on our perspectives and past experiences. We settled something like -- It is taking your goals forward through the times in the same way or in an improved way. We then summed the different factors that affects sustainability. Then Lily helped us classify these in to 3 broad categories.

1. Mission [You need to have a mission that will make the goals a reality]
2. Strategic plan [The plan is how part of the mission]
3. Leadership [Good leadership is needed to stand the test of time]
4. Organization relevance [How is your org. going to add value in whatever it does]

1. Funding [No funds.. not gonna be there for long]
2. Budget plan [To know how much funds we need]
3. Self-sustaining strategies [Most important factor, think what will happen if all donors disappear coz of economic recession!!]
4. Diversify resource sources [Find different sources of funding]
5. Transparency [In terms of accounts n processes]
6. Fund raising and reporting [Report to donors on how the fund was used]
7. Building collaborations [Join hands with related NGOs]

1. Sharing org. values and mission [This makes people understand the org. better]
2. Community participation [Make the community participate in the mission]
3. Networking [Needless to explain]
4. Building acceptance with stake holders [So that they realize the importance of this work]

Well, if all that sounded so much theory here comes the big surprise - a man who has each of these in his organization and has shown us the true meaning of sustainability.

The big surprise was Mr.Ayappa Masagi. He is an Ashoka fellow, founder of rainwater conpcets and Water Literacy Foundation. A man so filled with passion for his work who firmly believes in 'Doer first teacher next'. He has brought water to more than 80,000 bore wells across the country. His book 'Jala-Nela-Jana' talks about the various technologies he uses to conserve and reuse water.

With a mission to 'create a water literate India' he founded the Water Literacy Foundation in 2005. He has 100+ self developed technologies for bore well, stream water harvesting, rain water harvesting.

Initially he started working out as an individual who was trying to save his farms from drought. He found some innovative ways by which he could conserve water. Then, he went about taking his work to farmers in the drought prone areas, some corporates who were spending huge sum on water. All his projects became huge success. He has now worked on projects worth 40 crores with people involvement.

Talking more about people involvement - this is one of the prime factors which we termed as community involvement for sustainability. He worked with the people in proving his solutions, thereby making them participate in many activities and see the change for themselves. This helps in a big way to achieve credibility.

As he kept explaining to us about his projects, we were so curious to know how he spreads this message to people being the one man army. He then told us about how he organizes awareness programs at customer's venue. This hints around the point of diverse resource sources. He also sells books, cds and uses that money back in to running projects.

As in every other social venture, funding is a big problem here too. You either don't get funds or you get it but not at the time of need. It is no different for Masagi. He is now hoping to tackle this problem by coming up with some self-sustaining models. He has established rain water concepts which is a profit making company. A part of the profits from here will be used for running projects in WLF. Also, there is another strategy where he is planning to form a group of farmers and invest an initial sum in doing projects in that farm. He will then take a part of the profit which will be used for doing further projects. With multiple iterations of this, there is will be enough money to get this model going.

Coming back to doer first teacher next - it is so true to see that he has all systems in place at his home where now bore water comes at 3o feet when compared to 1500 feet it would take for water to come.

He is someone who is so full of passion, knowledge and the desire to spread the awareness around. At the end of the class, we were so fascinated by his work and someone (none else than a software geek could ask this Q.. ok its not me) asked a question on why he has not patented any of his technologies. Yea, what else can people like us think when we are so used to listening to patents and IP mining every other day. Masagi's answered asking why he should patent his idea when all he wants to do is to spread awareness of water literacy. Well, that's what happens when you are a social entrepreneur - you don't own your idea and stick to it; you just want to see the benefit of it reaching multiple people.

That was how our last session was - theory filled with practicality and kannada poetry. Masagi is a poet, he recites poems as he speaks. I wish I knew kannada to understand and appreciate it all.

CSIM Session 9

This session was by Ms.Sangita, CFO Dream-a-Dream. She spoke to us on Financial management for NGOs.

I did not take notes, so not much to blog here. The session was more on the importance of finance management - how to budget, allocate funds, classify expenses and file them regularly. It was a pretty informative session.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What's wrong with me?

For a change this weekend I feel I have all the time in the world and don't know what to do. I am wondering what's wrong with me. So, I decided to turn back and see what I did over the last one week.

Monday - Oh man!! seems long time ago.. Lemme recollect. It started with the usual Monday morning meetings. I had come back to office with all energy gained from the Wayanad trip and after hearing some inspiring session on 'Power of unreasonable people'. I was all charged up to take lot of work. Then interviewed some guy, it did not go all that well :-(. Then caught up on the Flex trainings.

Tuesday - The power and enthu still seem to be there in me. I was all set to go complete my work at office. After long time, I did some code changes and felt good about it though it was very minor.

Wednesday - Ahaa, there comes it. It was the day of saraswati pooja and did some tasty tashty chakara pongal, vadai and sundal. By the time we had brkie I was feeling too lazy to go to office. Took some sundal to office. And somehow managed to come home by 7 :-)

Thursday - Holiday, woohoooo. Got up and wore some new clothes. After lunch, me and pv set to accomplish our 5 month dream of ordering a book shelf :). Met our family furniture guy (like family doctor u see) and designed our shelf. When we heard his estimates, we decided to cut the frills in our design, made it plain and simple. That is our achievement of the month, rather months :-) Then did some roaming around for buying furniture for ACT. Then we went to Pinx for some dhaba chai and mini samosa. We then went to Prasidhi to do some diwali purchase and the day ended with superb tasty food at Oye Amristar.

Friday - It was a long day at work. One more interview to take. I wanted to come home early and go for a round of puchka but was getting late at office. By the time I came home I had a bad headache. Then some calls from office to fix some issue :( Bad day it was.

Saturday - Most of my excitement died down when I got a message that the CSIM class was canceled. Anyways, it gave me time to be at home and we all watched Sivaji. Then another round of diwali purchase :)

Sunday - Lazy lazy day. Did nothing at all. Finally got so irritated with myself, that we went out for a round of puchka. And now here writing this post. Waiting to goto office and do some work tomorrow.

Waiting to goto office? What's wrong with me?? Nothing, that's what happens when there are too many lean weeks :)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The story behind the Lehman Brothers collapse

Having heard and read little here and here about the Lehman Brother's bankruptcy over the last few weeks, I really could not understand what went wrong.

I was too lazy to ask anyone to know in detail. All I knew was people failed to repay home loans and that led to bankruptcy. That made me wonder how it could only happen with Lehman, it should be a common case. However, there were too many things that my mind had to munch in the last couple of weeks that this took a back seat.

Today, I came across an article in the Hindu Magazine answering all my questions and much beyond. I appreciate the way the writer has put down the facts that makes it easy to comprehend.

In short, this is how it works

Banks offer home loans to people --> Investment banks like Lehman Bros buy those loans from the banks. This is good for the bank as they get back the loan money at one shot and now they can issue more loans. Lehman brothers now coverts these loans in to funds which investors buy.
Each month the bank sends the EMI paid against the loan to Lehman Bros who then splits it and sends it across to its investors. These investors now get a monthly returns for their investments.

Isn't that a very interesting way of looking at the concept of home loans? Now, where could the problem come? What if the EMI is not paid on time? Well, as this concept emerged the interest rates for home loans were very low and there was close to 1% of defaulters. So, this was not considered to be a major risk at all.

Now you should see the strategy of Lehman. They now convinced AIG (Insurance) to insure these home loans. There being almost a minimal risk in the home loan payment business, AIG promptly signed the deal. Everything was going smooth. With more and more investors getting into this business, Lehman was buying more and more home loans. This internally pushed the banks to offer more loans. Slowly, the qualifying criteria of loan approvals detoriated and it seemed like anyone could get a loan. Around the same time, the interest rates all increased. All this mounted to a large number of defaulters.

As the EMI's were not paid, the banks could not give Lehman the monthly share who then had nothing to give the investors. This was when Lehman Bros felt the heat of the situation. AIG now had to insure all these defaulters and ended up loosing so much money in an area which was considered the least risk.

And the rest is history today...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

CSIM Session 8

What more can we ask for than to hear on Social Entrepreneurship and strategy from CSIM founder Mr.Devarajan himself.

The basic questions were asked - What is a strategy? It is a plan of action to reach goals/objectives.
Then came the point to ponder - When does one need a strategy? Inorder to realize a vision, one needs mission and to accomplish the mission one needs a strategy.

Vision is something which lasts for a long time, it is not something valid for a few years. The vision should be simple and not time bound. With this, each of us were asked to frame our vision in 3 words. Few examples that came out
Empowerment of women
Empowerment of children
Improve quality of life
Providing widow marriage opportunities
Removing economic barriers
Social transformation together
Providing timely help

Create a better world

Out of these we were asked to choose 3 which we thought were missions that would last for generations to come. We selected the ones marked in bold.

The next step was to create a mission. For this we worked to understand what a mission means - it flows from the vision, should be measurable and have a time line. We took the example of the vision 'Improve quality of life' and framed mission statement - Promoting spiritual wellness, emotional well being and physical well being.

While creating a mission statement, ensure that it has goals set against a time line and it is measurable.

Now comes the strategy which helps to accomplish the mission. Strategy is
1. a practical plan to achieve the mission
2. needs to have a time line
3. needs to be in detail
4. identify the risk and plan to mitigate them
5. internalize the risk by planning for resources needed to mitigate the risk
6. Identify the resources [time, people, knowledge, finance, infrastructure]

The cycle of the execution of the plan is more of a common sense.

During the multiple iterations of this cycle, there will be revisions to the plan. Then the process can be documented and shared, replicated to other NGO's. This will help in reaching out to many people and scaling of the organization.

Many times, intuition plays a role in strategy formation. Intuition comes from experience and is useful in risk management.

Then Devarajan sir read out some extracts from the book 'The power of unreasonable people'. This seems to a good read, an inspirational one. One extract had some good statistics that showed why the future of social sector and social enterpreneurs will be very bright. The author says that there are 4 billion people in the bottom of the economic pyramid. These people do very small jobs like the cobblers, masons, sweepers etc. The suprising fact is that the total revenue of such small jobs across the world is 5 trillion. To re-iterate

4 billion people in the bottom of economic zone ===> generate 5 trillion revenue

Isn't that amazing? The future lies in tapping the talent in this zone, by providing them the right skills. Now, who knows best about the people in this zone? NGO's. And that is why the world is looking for SE's to try new business models, study these groups and promote a social change.

CSIM Session 7

Hurrah!! I completed blogging on one of the pending sessions. Now comes session7.

If I were to describe this session in few words, I would say it was truly inspirational. This time we had Dr.Meena Jain talking to us about Looking Beyond. Meena Jain is the founder of Sambhav foundation which works for children with disabilities.

Most of our discussion in this class was on trying to understand ourselves, our comfort zones and how to build secure zones. It began with the question on what do I see when I look beyond me?

The above pic tells us that there is my family, relatives, neighbourood, community, country beyond me. As we interact with each of these, we have some barriers causing a tunneled vision.
For example, if I had an argument with my father and did not like the way it went, I don't have the courage to go and tell papa how hurt I am. Instead I would go to ma and ask her how papa could say like that and express how hurt I am. We are not direct in our conversations and that's when we have the tuneled vision.

Then we spoke about 2 key things
1. Comfort zone - which are built from our wants, they are temporary. Most of the time, we are not able to adjust when we are in comfort zone.
2. Secure zone - built from needs - like need for shelter, family, livelihood. These are permanent needs and we are able to adjust more if we have build a good secure zone.

This session was so much talking of our day-to-day issues on our families like I am unable to convince my parents of my career choice. Most of the times, when we talk to our dear ones we don't reason out our decision, we justify it emotionally. This makes the opposite party think that we are adamant for no reason. Always use your rationale mind to reason out decisions.

But hey, I know this is no way an easy job. I have tried it many times and failed miserably. As we raised such concerns in the class, Meena Jain gave us tips on how one can work towards it to improve ones EQ.
1. Become aware of your feeling
2. Acknowledge your feeling
3. Be in control of your feeling
4. Sense and identify the feeling of others

The key take aways from the class
1. Only if you have good relationships in your family - you can be at peace and serve others
2. Trust people and let your goals reflect in all your action, interactions like in your neighbourhood, family, community. This will automatically build the trust in people.
Above all, it all lead to

Stop talking, start doing

CSIM Session 6

This has been a long pending post. Today I am planning to clear of few of my TBD (To Be Done) tasks as this bucket is now overflowing :-)

We had Varsha Avadhany from Fidelity to talk on NGO laws and regulations. Like every other session we began with trying to understand the basic words under discussion - in this case 'Laws and regulations'. Then we moved to understand why should there be laws n regulations in a non-profit sector. We came up with answers like they are needed to have a discipline, transparency, standard operating processes.

Slowly we moved to the intricacies of the formation of non-profits, the different forms under which they can be registered
1. Trust
[This is the oldest way, a minimum of 2 members are required to form a trust. Can be started within by members of the same family]
2. Society registration
[A minimum of 7 members, not more than 2 people can be blood relatives. The board member cannot be an employee of that society]
3. Non-profit company
[Companies sometimes use their profit to start a non-profit (NP) company which works on the same line of business but don't run for profit]
Example of this - Maya organics, mobility India
So, the selling price of the product this NP company sells should be equal to the cost price.

This was already so much of gyaan for us, hardly did we know that it was just the tip of the iceberg :-)

We later covered aspects of tax filing, the different exemtions like 80G where there is a 50% tax exemption, 35AC where there is a 100% tax exemption. The FCRA act and its regulations were an interesting topic.

FCRA stands for Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (1976). For a NPO to get FCRA approval, they need to be functional for atleast 3 years. There are 2 ways of getting permission -
1. Apply for FCRA which will take atleast a year for the approval
2. Apply to the Central Govt. for prior permission for a particular project
On approval, the NPO can get foreign contributions.

The Ministry of Home Affairs grants FCRA approval and they have many rounds of processing and cross verification which makes it time consuming. All FCRA contributions are monitored by intelligence agency across the world.

At last the point that was dirven again and again in to our head was

Friday, September 26, 2008

CSIM Session 5

VALUEable or inVALUEable ??

Both I would say... That's how I will describe the few hours of our interaction with Mr. & Mrs. Chandran. The title slide projected 'Values and beliefs' as the topic for the day, I thought it would be a moral science class. S0mething like - you should do this you should not do this and probably some stories too (tats one reason why I liked these classes in school).

The class started with the duo (Mr and Mrs Chandran) asking us a very basic question - What do you understand by Value? This question stumped me big time. We keep using this word so very often and when I was asked to define value I was BLINKING. Values are learned beliefs like honesty is a value, punctuality is a value. As we practice these values they become habits or virtues and when a group of people exhibit this value it becomes ethics. That's the definition incase someone asks you.

This class was so filled with exercises that we never felt the time passing by. We did multiple hands on sessions. We began identifying the values which are important for each of us. Following that we had to give priority of the identfied 7. Once that was done, we were asked to split a sum of 10,000Rs against these 7 in varied proportion. At the end we did some basic math like add, multiply and found out which value rates high for each one. This gave us an idea of what takes more priority for us - power/position, aesthetic sense, social/helping others etc. This was a wonderful exercise which re-iterated to me that I am a person who loves being with people and enjoy helping people.

We then came to an interesting conversation on can a project that works for a social cause be profit oriented. This one is many people's favourite. We all agreed on the fact that social projects need not always be non-profit ones. As we reached this point, there was a confusion in distinguishing a business from a social project. If both are profit oriented models what is the difference in them. And here is where the duo helped us see the key difference - in a social cause the profit comes from the work that is done and not at the expense of the customer.

The session turned more and more captivating as we identified that our discussions were bringing forth the on-the-field qualities one needs to be a social worker. Some of the most important ones are
1. Understand the people you work for. Read between the lines - both verbal and non-verbal communication
2. Be objective as you hear to the people. Never judge using your value system.
We were given a wonderful example for this
A lady comes to you - she is pregnant for the 7th time - all the children born so far are either deaf or dumb - she is suffering from syphilis - what would you suggest - abortion??
The question left us in a fix - atleast I did not know what to say - couple of folks suggested an abortion as the chances of the 7th child being normal is less. The rest were against it as they could not accept the whole idea of taking life off.
And know what? The 7th child was Beethoven.

As a social worker it helps to be a
1. empathetic listener
2. have cultural sensitivity [I came across a mail on Bihar relief activity where they were urging people to donate sarees. The women of Bihar have never worn anything other than saree. The person/organization here was culturally sensitive to the needs of the people.]
3. Gender sensitivity
4. good communicator
5. Establish trust

The most important thing is to be one with the mass. That's one reason why Gandhi was loved and Nehru was respected.

Before we realised the clock struck 6 and the session was over. It was - Invaluably valuble.

Hats off to the duo - they had so much energy in them to keep the class going for 4 hrs. At their age, I am not sure if I will be able to talk for 30 minutes continuously. They were so knowledgable and down to earth.

Thanks to CSIM - We are getting a life-time opportunity to meet such great people and spend time with them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tum ho to ...

Tum Ho To Gaata Hai Dil, Tum Nahin To Geet Kahan..
Tum Ho To Hai Sab Haasil, Tum Nahin To Kya Hai Yahan..
Tum Ho To Hai Sapno Ke Jaisa Haseen Ek Sama…
Jo Tum Ho To Yeh Lagta Hai Ke Mil Gayi.. Har Khushi
Jo Tum Na Ho Yeh Lagta Hai Ke Har Khushi.. Mein Hai Kami
Tumko Hai Maangti Yeh Zindagi…

One of my favorite soft beat songs from Rock On movie. I liked this one rendered by Joe (Arjun Rampal) in the movie.

The movie is awesome, God salute to Farhan Akthar for his amazing acting and singing. Never knew someone could be so mutli-talented.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

CSIM Session 4

Today I decided to shed off little laziness and write about my previous sessions. There is too much to write and so I start without any foreground background.

Session 4 - We had Vishal Talreja from Dream-a-dream come and talk to us. He was young, dynamic and of course very inspiring. The session was focussed on leadership. We discussed some of the aspects of a leader and then did a case study which was very interesting.

Here is a jist of the case -- Ravi is the head of DWF foundation which supports around 800 children in Bangalore. Over the period of time, he feels that organization has become stagnant in terms of growth. So he comes up with a project where DWF can start supporting children in Chennai and Mysore. There a couple of organizations who wants to partner with DWF for this. Now, Ravi takes this proposal to his team, everyone is excited about this but are not willing to take it forward. The reasons being they are stretching themselves already and will not be able to give time to any new work, how can they trust the credibility of the partners and how can they get to know their work ethics, what if their mission is very different. The case ended with the question - If you are Ravi how would you take this project forward and convince your team.

On a first read, the question resonated a typical corporate team behaviour. How many teams we would have felt that we are already over working and our manager comes with some new task thinking we have all the time in the world to do it. All the while, I was seeing the problem from the eyes of someone working in the team. With this case study I was forced to reverse roles, tables turned and for once I pitied all my managers and thought of the tough times they would have had convincing someone like me :-)

Coming back to the case, we were 4 in our team and each one was thinking tangential to the other. Somehow at the end we managed to streamline our thoughts though one person was totally against Ravi's decision. There were 3 teams. The first team's presentation was awesome - J had come to present and for the next 10-15 minutes we only saw Ravi there and not J. Truly fantastic presentation I should say. Hats off folks. They gave ideas like Ravi would take the lead and go to chennai and Mysore to start these operations. This way, he would move out of Bangalore and give way to the team to lead the efforts in Bangalore. Most of their points was based on this key idea. Though it seemed to work, the project now looked like Ravi's child and not the teams.

The second team presented ideas on how to solve the existing problems in Bangalore so that the team can start working on the new projects. The idea was good, they had a plan in place to solve the issues but the only point that was missed is what if they get caught in the loop of solving the problems in Bangalore. There were couple of comments from other teams as the plan did not bring out the qualities of a leader who would empower his people to solve their problems.

Last was our team and we knew that our analysis of the problem was not enough. We had brought out ideas like how to partner with the local NGOs, how to reduce the work load of the team so that they can take up new work. Also we split the growth numbers into smaller chunks for it to sound realistic and achievable. Somehow we managed to get appreciation from other teams.

At the end of the case study, we came up with a list of qualities of a good leader. A few of what I can recollect (those which sounded very important to me) -
1. Transformatory thinking or think big and out of the box
2. Empowerment of people
3. Understand the people
4. Have a vision for the future

Apart from these are the essential values like integrity, honesty and others.

That was how our session ended. It was a fabulous case study with a lot of thoughts flowing from everyone.

More to come on the 5th session.

God!! Please help me get up early so that I can blog my thoughts.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Zoommm Vrooooooommmmmmm

Hurrah, I crossed 1000 kms on my cutie bike. For me its a big achievement. I remember those days when I wanted to buy a 2 wheeler and was so hesitant only coz it was long long time since I had ridden a bike. I was so scared to be ride on on the roads of Bengaluru where half the driving population know no rules.

Thanks to pv, with all the encouragement and motivation we bought pleasure a few months back. It was a like a dream come true for me (one of my small dreams :)). The first week I feared to take it anywhere that was a kilometer away from home. All I did was go round and round the same street. And all of a sudden there came a day when I had to take my sis on the bike all the way to HSR layout. Now, it was not only to ride my way but also to ensure my sis is safe. Too much pressure, somehow I managed to go and then it was all fun ...

That day alone I drove on the inner ring road, outer ring road, marathahalli, whitefield. Confidence grew and from then on all I did was to zoom and vroom and this week I crossed the 1000km mark. For all those bikers, it would seem wierd that I am jumping up and down just for this. But this one is very special to me.

In all these days, I have had so much fun on the bike. Offlate I have started scolding more, scolding somoene on the road who does not drive the way I want him/her to :-). I know almost every other driver would have scolded me. Recently, I had the best experience on the bike.

As usual one morning I started the bike to go to office without realizing the tough times I would face soon. I slowed the bike a little to cross a hump on the road and tak my bike stopped. Then i pressed the button to get it started but it failed to respond. I put the choke on and then things fell in place. And there came the next time where I slowed down coz of traffic. This was the beginning of all troubles - my bike failed to start no matter what. I had no way but to pull it to the side with all those heartless four wheeler guyz honking behind. Then I shook the bike this side and that side without knowing why I did. Well, I remember many people doing that way and I wanted to try my luck too. I was left with no option but to push the bike to some place and park it. That was the time it struck me that its been a real long time since I filled some fuel, but the fuel indicator was showing the petrol tank was half full. Also, that was morning was when I had the wonderful thought that the bike has started giving good milage after the service. With all this in mind, I decided to check the fuel tank myself. I opened to see that it was empty with not even a drop of petrol :) What else, I walked to the nearest petrol bunk, got a half litre can of petrol and filled the tank. After two three kicks, my bike decided to take me to office.

Morals of the story -
Don't always trust your fuel indicator
Don't dream of big milage increase after the first service

Now every time I fill petrol, I use my elementary math to calculate how many kms would come before I have to refill.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why mobile phones have no dial tones?

This was an interesting question I read in the sci-tech section of The Hindu today. I thought it is worth sharing. Here is the extract from the newspaper.

Why can’t we hear the dial-tone in a mobile phone but hear it in the fixed wire & wireless phones?

In a conventional telephone network (fixed wire) the telephone is connected physically to a telephone exchange by a pair of dedicated copper wire from the customer’s home or office.

When the telephone goes off hook, the switch in telephone exchange will allow dial tone carrying voltage, to be sent on to the receiver. So you hear the dial tone.

In a mobile, communication is happening between base station and mobile by wireless.

This means the cell phone is not connected physically to the mobile exchange always. In a mobile phone handset, when you enter the number to be dialled and press the “send key”, the mobile phone sends a request to open a circuit, which means the circuit is on demand and not always on as in the case of a landline.

So you don’t require a dial tone in mobile networks. (It happens when you press the call button you may get a message stating network busy which shows the channel is unavailable.)

Fixed Wireless: To provide communication in a sparsely populated area and in extreme terrain conditions, where laying cable is not profitable or may be difficult, fixed Wireless was emerged as an alternative to the land line (fixed wire). So in this system a processor is provided in the customer premises to simulate a conventional telephone network.

The processor provides a simulated dial tone when the telephone goes off-hook. Then the dial number is analyzed by using digit analysis and transmits all the numbers to a base station. Unlike a cellular service instead of pressing a “send key”, a dial tone is provided.

In a landline a real dial tone is a method to indicate that a connection with the communication network has actually been established where as the simulated dial tone in a fixed wireless may not accurately reflect whether a connection can be made with the communication network. For example even if the communications channels are busy the fixed wireless phone will still provide a dial tone giving a false impression that the call will go through.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The story of Ganesha

Of late I am getting to hear a lot of mythological stories. I can't believe myself, I am reading a book of mythological stories :)

Here is the story of how the Lord Ganesha got his elephant head.

Long long ago, there was an asura named Gajasura who was performing penance for thousands of years. Lord Shiva pleased with his dedication appeared before him and granted a wish. Immediately Gajasura asked Lord Shiva to reside inside his stomach and the lord granted his wish.

Lord Shiva was now not found anywhere in Kailasha or Vaikunta and the devas got worried, they went to Narada. He took them all to Lord Vishnu who knew everything.

All the devas and the Vishnu dressed up like the 'gudugudu walas' (people who take the bull and go to each home) went to the kingdom of Gajasura. The king pleased with the singing granted a wish to the leader of the gang. The leader was none other than Vishnu himself, but Gajasura failed to realise this. Vishnu took this chance and sent the bull to pierce Gaja's stomach with its horns. Lord Shiva came out and that was the time when Gajasura understood that it was Vishnu. Gajasura then asked for a boon to Lord Shiva to be known in all directions.

As the news of Shiva coming back to Kailasha reached Parvati, she wanted to prepare herself to recieve him. While she was removing the nalangu (sandal paste) from her body, she made a cute doll with it. The doll looked so beautiful that she induced life in to it. It became a boy and she asked him to gaurd the place and not allow anyone till she comes from bath.

Shiva too eager to meet Parvati comes to Kailasha and he is stopped by this boy who does not let him. The boy tells him that his mother had ordered him not to allow anyone to come in till she comes out of bath. Shiva became angry and be-headed the boy. Parvati came from bath to find the boy dead. She was so upset and questioned shiva how he could do that to their son. Shiva thought of an idea and ordered his men to bring the head of Gajasura. He then fixed the head of gajasura (whose head is that of an elephant) to the boy and that's how Ganesha got the head of the elephant.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Teacher's day

Today, I am reminded of those teachers who have changed many things in me for good.
Shanthi mam (bio), Sivaraman sir (English), Chemistry sir, Hemavathy mam (chemistry) and my all time favourite and constant teacher my dearest mom.

Wishing you all a very happy teacher's day and thank you so much for having taken this noble profession to educate and empower young minds.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Kya aap Panchivi pass se tez hai?

Kya aap panchvi pass se tez hai, hai ya nahi? Ab patha chal jayega.

Try to answer these simple(??) questions and find out for yourself.

1. Who wrote 'Jana Gana Mana' our national Anthem?

2. Who wrote 'Vande Mataram'?

3. How many states are there in India?

4. What is the capital of Jharkhand?

5. Who is the vice president of India?

Well, these were some questions I was trying to answer yesterday and I found
mein Aarthi Muralidharan panchvi class se tez nahi hoon :( :( :( :(

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

CSIM Session 3

These days, my Saturdays are packed both with food for stomach and for thought :)
This was the third session and we had Ms.Shanti Raghavan to talk to us on SE.

Let me begin by introducing her. She is the founder of EnAble India, an organization which works for empowering disabled people in India. She worked in the U.S of A for some years before moving to India.
It was interesting to know what prompted her to start this initiative. She has a brother who suffered from progressive vision loss and she wanted to do everything possible so that he lead a normal life. So, she googled to find out more about support groups for such kind of illness, helped him pursue every thing he ever wanted. In the due course of time, she had so much information on how to handle visually impaired (VI) people. As she realized this, she wanted to share this with everyone and that's when the seeds for Enable India was sown.

All our discussion was based on her work, how society views disabled people, the challenges she faces in her work. While she gave us a brief of what enable india does, she wanted us to understand the challenges of her job. So, the class was split in to 3 groups and each group was given a question to answer.

Group 1 - If you are a SE working for empowerment of disabled people, what incentives would you give a company for them to hire the disabled?

Group 2 - How would you teach the Hearing Impaired (HI) work ethics, for example coming to office on time?

Group 3 - How would you handle the task of making a VI a cook/caterer?

All 3 questions were amazing and needed a lot of thought. We were given around 20 minutes time to come up with all the strategies and creative ideas.

Even before I realized my mind had already set up a big block in front of me and was not wanting to think of how a VI could become a cook. At that point of time, it was impossible for me to let my imagination flow in that way to bring forth some innovative solutions. Without spending much time on my thoughts, I jumped in to the first question which we were supposed to discuss as a group.

At the end of 20 minutes, we all had come up with points, ideas that broke our own mind blocks about disabled people, it shattered some of the assumptions my sub-conscious mind had. The best part at the end of discussing all the 3 questions, I could easily understand that every problem has a solution.

The best example to this was when we were brain-storming on the last topic. We proceeded with this by writing down the responsibilities of a cook, the challenges/barriers a visually impaired person would face and the solution for those.
At the end, it seemed to that there is no hard boundaries to what a disabled person can or cannot do. Let us not impose our mind blocks on them and prevent them from reaching their dreams. I just got reminded of what Will Smith tells his son in the movie Pursuit of Happyness 'Don't ever let someone tell you can't do it. You gotta dream, you gotto protect it. People can't do something and they want tell you you can't do it.' How true that statement is.

This session was so damn interesting that I started taking notes and believe me I filled in 3 long pages. So, I will go back to my notes and see if there is something that I missed posting.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

CSIM - Session 2

It was a Saturday afternoon and I managed to reach the class after going round and round on Mission road. It was 2pm and the class started with around 7 students, one coordinator and a guest lecturer.

As I entered, quickly one of the students broke the ice and started introducing herself and slowly everyone followed. Our guest lecturer was Ms.Lily, the chairman of one of the departments of Ashoka. Ashoka is an association of social entrepreneurs (SE). It links SE's with venture capitalists and identifies people who exhibit a lot of innovation in the way they tackle issues.

Lily started of by asking us what we understand by the term SE. There were different answers, all converging to the aspect of someone who has an idea of how to tackle a problem or an issue that will affect the society in a big way. Then the discussion turned to identifying the qualities in a SE - the primary ones being passion, perseverance, networking, integrity. Lot of interesting discussions were started as we came up with the list of qualities.

Then, we saw a short movie on Manndeshi bank. This bank was started by Chetna in a remote district of Satara, south of Pune. She and her husband moved to Satara to do farming and slowly realized the difficulties in that area. As she progressed, she learnt the difficulties that the women in the area under-went in terms on not having right to property, male dominance. She worked towards empowering women by fighting for their rights and finally succeeded in women owning property. Most families in the village were in debts as they borrowed money for a high interest rates. This prompted Chetna to start a co-operative bank and lend money at reasonable rates. This was how Manndeshi bank was started. With time, she further worked on an all round solution by providing women vocational training, opened a B school to educate women on how to handle finance, fill chellans in the banks and now has established a wonderful women self sufficient village. Kudos to her, she is an Ashoka fellow. Chetna and her work

This was a pretty inspiring movie we saw and were asked to brain-storm on the kind of challenges she would have faced and how she could have over come.

Following this, we had a personal interaction with Mrs.Suganda who runs centers to train poor disabled people with less IQ. Her story is yet another amazing one. Today she runs 16 such centers to train these specially abled people to do back end processing for banks, telecom companies. It is such a success story that I was so surprised to learn how she came out of all the hardships that were thrown at her at different points of time. She is a living example to determination and perseverance being the key to success. Sometime next month, we are planning to visit one of her centers in Malleswaram.

Overall, it was a very motivating session and gave a lot of insight into the kind of problems and how innovative one can be in solving them.

Like every other class and course, there is no escape to home work :) Yep, there is a case study for each of us which we will be asked to present anytime. I got reminded of the SupTs (surprise tests) in my college.

That reminds me that I got to at least open and flip through the pages before the coming Saturday.

Some more tid-bits from the class
1. Sanbox project
2. Javed Abedi
3. Matrimonial site for widow re-marriage. This one was one of the ideas of my class mates and I found it novel and of great use.
4. Right To Information RTI Act

More to come after my next session.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The CSIM series

Here begins the CSIM series. CSIM stands for Center for Social Initiative and Management. This is an organization which promotes social entrepreneurship.

I got to know about this from one of my friend when I met her in a marriage, that's the only useful thing I did in the marriage apart from hogging the good food. She got herself registered to the 4 month course on social entrepreneurship. I found the course pretty interesting and soon joined in Bengaluru.

I started the course by missing the first lecture (courtesy chennai trip) and the instructor called me sometime during the week asking reason for my absence. But this time, I acted like one good student and informed her earlier which she forgot. Thanks to her memory, I was saved.

As I attended the second session, I got to find more people sailing in my boat. Well, now who attends all classes sincerely? But, hey!! I want to do okay... So, our second session began with me entering the class on dot 2pm, blame the bangalore traffic and all the one two three four ways. One gets lost without any difficulty. And to top it all, my bike had as less fuel that we never knew when it would stop.

The second session was damn good. We had discussion on various topics like qualitues of an entrepreneur, had some guest speakers who were so inspiring.

I just realized that I am in office and supposed to attend a conf call.. Before my BigB notices me, let me log off and be a good employee :)

To be continued ...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Here I come back

I am bakkkkkkkkkkkkk, with a bang (??) :) I don't know about that. But yea, back after a very long time. With new josh, all enthued to fill up this space with some really useful stuff.

I finally managed to find something motivating me enough to blog about it. I recently enrolled myself in to a 'social entrepreneur' course to know more about the social sector and how it works.

I have always been interested in the social sector, something that I quickly connect to and derive a lot of satisfaction from. Many a days, I have thought about the purpose of my existence. Sometimes, I think Mr.G has sent us here for a specific reason - that one reason which makes us unique and truly beautiful from inside. I have not yet found why "Mission Aarthi" was created but here I have set out to find it.

Most of my future posts will be on what I learn in my weekly lectures of social entrepreneurship and anything that interests me as I go this way...

Here I begin with a new look for my dear blog.