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How doomed are we? July 29, 2010

Posted by coupleofthoughts in arpita.
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I am the content writer of myEshala, a complete educational package. Currently, I am working on the Geography textbook of class 10. The textbook is based on natural resources and if you look at the index page you will see topics like Human Resources, Water Resources, Forest Resources, Land Resources, etc.

Now – when I write a lesson , I first read the textbook and then I try to visit government websites about the projects that are mentioned in the book. That way I understand what is going on first and then I can research about specific details and try to make it interesting and easy to understand. And I was so shaken as I did this!

The first topic I did was Human Resources – there we tell the kids that the population is going out of proportion, we have a skewed sex ratio, high percentage of illiterate population and no awareness of family planning. Then, in the next topic, Water Resources, we tell the children that we have lots of irrigation projects, but they aren’t enough. Moreover, our water resources are dwindling and we really have no plan in place. The River Linking Project is an excellent idea, but it is completely stalled because the government is not really a. dynamic and b. interested at all. So basically, no one cares and let’s see what happens. The next lesson is forest resources – which is another gloomy picture. We need 33% forests, but we have only 29% – and even those are on their way out. The only reason we have the forests that we do are because those areas still haven’t seen development. Once they do, its bye bye jungle! Then I worked on the lesson Land Resources. There I kind of tell the children that we have only so much land, but we have more and more people, more and more industry and businesses and homes . And along with all that we are messing around with what little we do have and making it unusable!

After doing the first five lessons I started thinking – we are telling 14 and 15 year old kids all this about our country. What are they going to think? Will they be scared? Will they think this is normal? Will they subconsciously decide that this is not where they want to be? Or will they decide that they will make a difference and do something for the environment, this country and the planet?

Well, the last question seems to idealistic and farfetched. Most  probably that is what the kids are thinking. They will start with these great ideas and then the real India will let them realize that its better if they stick to their cushy jobs and leave the ‘others’ to manage the government. And sadly – looking at the government data and statistics, that is most likely to happen. Things will only get worse. Sigh!

So, how doomed are we, exactly?


India’s moon mission Chandrayaan terminated – my view September 1, 2009

Posted by coupleofthoughts in nikhil.
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Just today, I read up about India’s moon mission Chandrayaan being terminated. And that got me thinking.

Firstly, why are we aiming for the stars? Don’t we have enough to do already on our hands? Or is it that some work needs to be given to ISRO, and the moon mission was the only option left?

Some questions for ISRO:

Are our weather prediction satellites as good as the other countries?

Are our terrain mapping satellites giving data which is easily accessible by everyone?

Is your Google Earth ‘killer’ (seriously guys, think before you make such bold statements) even running to make a kill? Or is it killing itself? My 2c about Bhuvan – if made well, it will be great for the Indians; the keyword being “if”.

Are you taking science education to all parts of India? If yes, my school certainly hasn’t heard from you.

Next, my question is for the Government, and more for Respected. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. Why even bother doing something on the moon, when there is so much to be done in India itself? Are we doing enough about our corruption, our diseases, our infrastructure, global warming, that we have spare money to blow (literally) on the moon?

If we just scrapped the moon and Mars missions, couldn’t we just allocate the funds for science education instead?

I firmly believe that space missions, manned or unmanned are for developed countries. And we are far from one.

Or am I just too ignorant and don’t understand anything about running a country, or a space program?

How do you explain the meaning of “influence” to a third grade kid? August 4, 2009

Posted by coupleofthoughts in Uncategorized.
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Here are some definitions from the web:

http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influence says:

Influence is a force (or power) of change that comes from the outside of the person or thing that is influenced by it. It can be either planned by others on purpose, or an unplanned result of other events.

Wordnet.princeton.edu says:

a power to affect persons or events especially power based on prestige etc

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/influence says:

the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others

I have to read each of the definitions twice before I can figure out what influence means myself. I need something simple!!

Here is the context:

The climate influences the clothes people wear, and the agriculture of that place.

I would explain it in this context as:

influence means “doing something because of something happening”

If you have any other way, let me know!

Job applications July 28, 2009

Posted by coupleofthoughts in Uncategorized.
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I gave “a” “add” in the paper for “job requirment”.

I asked for “experianced” as well as “non-experianced” people.

Here is a line from a fresher: “As my career has just started, I am happy to the student”.

What about salary expectations, you say?

“previos salary was 8.5 per month.please go through it.”

Go through what? Your salary? Or your CV?

We all do typos. Typos are a fact of life. But, not when you are sending your CV for a job application! I would expect that a job app would be looked at twice before hitting the send button!

Plus, the CV’s are 2-3 pages long – why? Because the font size is Arial, 14, and paragraph indentation is an insane value. Reduce the font to 11, sanitize the indent, and normalize (remove duplicates) and what do we have! A 3/4th page bio-data!

Want to hear more? You can’t. I deleted the e-mails already!

Heck, I think I will write a post on how to apply for a job!

Recession effects March 19, 2009

Posted by coupleofthoughts in nikhil.

The recession has had a great effect on all the people I interact with on a daily basis. Right from civil people, to hardware dealers, to material suppliers, to car dealers. I see a 180 degree shift in attitude, not anywhere else. Just a few months ago, when we weren’t seeing the effects of the slowdown, these people were so full of themselves. To get even a small thing done would take innumerable phone calls, half of which would not be answered in the first place. Most weekends would be off work, partying in some place (Weekends is when we get things done for the coming week). No more. The party definitely seems to be over.

If we wanted to buy something a few months ago, it would take us 50 phone calls to get a quotation, and another 50 to make a sale happen. Note the “us” here. WE had to pursue the seller to sell to us. Isn’t that ironic? Hmm…

Things have changed for the good I would say. The recession has definitely shown the people where they stand. It has shown that the party does not happen forever. It tends to end every once in a while.

This brings me to the attitude of people. Its quite amazing that in good times, you tend to forget your basic values, ethics and principles. When bad times hit, you start to analyze yourself. Customers who have been small, but steady suddenly start getting importance, as compared to high-flying-promising and non-paying ones. If I were in their places, I would also pay attention to steady sources of income – small or big wouldn’t matter.

We are small-fry. My attitude towards these people changes too. I realise that I provide steady but small requirements to these people. When ignored, I think that, heck, lets the bad times roll in, then we’ll see who’s boss. I think in a revenge kind of way, knowing that when good times come back, these people will again resort to the same way of working. Nothing is going to change. I might as well make hay while the sun shines (well, the sun isn’t shining, but you get the idea). The way we can press these people to give in is amazing. I got tremendous insight into the profit margins of these people. Margins of 50-75%?! Wow. And on what? Things like UPS’, printers, computers, which are not cheap utilities in the first place.

One more good effect of the recession for us is teachers. These days, I get more than 5 resume’s a day for teaching positions. Earlier I would get those many after giving an advertisement in the local papers. People seem to have realized that teaching would always remain in demand. Well, I am glad about it. We could never afford to pay as much as IT companies were able to pay them. So this is like a U-turn of events. Earlier, we used to hire teachers, train them, and they would quite for a job in an MNC. Now, the same teachers are coming back, ready to work for the same salary that we used to offer. Salaries in IT companies in Pune would be another topic in itself – but best described in one word – bloated.

In a selfish kinf of way, I hope this trend continues…

Does your culture depend on the education you have? January 16, 2009

Posted by coupleofthoughts in arpita.
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I have to interact with many kinds of people from all segments of society and the different kinds of attitudes that I get from different kinds of people are amazing. Most of the people are highly educated but send off very different vibes. I have seen two kinds of people. The ones who are really intelligent and smart and the ones who think they are very intelligent and smart.

The really intelligent ones are a pleasure to talk to. They are usually quite witty, have so much information about so many topics, they are passionate about their hobbies, they have no hang-ups usually, and oh yes, without an exception their humility is something one has to appreciate. They are brilliant, they know it, but they are matter of fact about it. They have achieved a lot in their field and don’t mind sharing ideas. Even the suggestions that they come up are very good and possible to implement. These people know how to be polite and put their thoughts across. Even when they have a complaint, they word it properly and politely and usually always get their problem solved. I just love hanging out and interacting with such people. When they come to talk, we invariably end up discussing something very interesting and exciting. It is an enriching experience just talking to them.

I have come across really smart women who are a pleasure to talk to as well. Some are housewives who have chosen to be housewives to spend time with their kids. Some women are full time or part time professionals and are doing an amazing job managing two fronts. They are very helpful and co-operative and do the best for their children. Their kids are flourishing too.

Then there is the other kind – the ones who think they are very intelligent and smart. And sad to say, there are more women in this category that I have come across than men. It disturbs me because I used to think that women are more balanced and sensitive and therefore it follows that they should have more people-sense. But it seems not to be that way. These people are so loud and arrogant, they end up irritating the people they talk to. Almost even before you have heard what this person wants to say, you have decided that you don’t want to help him. The people associated with such people also suffer as they never get their problems solved because no one wants to help them out. The ‘I think I am smart’ types lose out on every front. Their kids usually suffer as a result. As the parent interferes and speaks arrogantly, the kid gets embarrassed. When the parent blows up issues out of proportion, the child slowly loses friends. Moreover, the child also gets the wrong message – he will probably be just like that and lose out on the finer things in life.

But what completely baffles me is, how can one not realise that this attitude is wrong and then try to change it. Do you not know when you are being rude and arrogant? Is not possible to self analyze that the person you are talking to is annoyed with you and is shutting you out? Can you not make out from the expression on the face of the person that you are talking to that your communication method is failing?

So, that made me realise that just having educational qualifications and fancy degrees doesn’t give you the basic values. They are part of your culture, your upbringing, the kind of friends you have, the way your parents have behaved. Probably that is where intelligence comes in – a well developed emotional intelligence. That is what is necessary to be a good, pleasant human being.

English Grammar – to care or not to care? December 17, 2008

Posted by coupleofthoughts in English, nikhil.
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What I have observed in Pune is that you are an exception if you can speak English without a break for more than 3 minutes. And, you are an exception if you can write more than 5 sentences, without a grammatical error.

You may be in a snazzy IT company, or you may be teaching in a school, or you might be working for a service oriented company, the situation is the same. The English is broken.

What some might say, and to some extent I agree to too, is `What is the purpose of language? Isn’t it to communicate your ideas to the other person effectively?’

Why is it necessary to have thousands of rules and exceptions (exceptions are much greater than the rules)  in English Grammar, when all you need to do is communicate effectively?

Take my case. I should not be saying this since I run a school, but I don’t know the in’s and out’s of grammar. I know the basic verb, noun, article and conjunction stuff. That’s it! Do I need to know clauses? I don’t think so.

One thing worth noting is that whenever I read English that is grammatically wrong, I still am able to get the point that the person is trying to get across. Very rarely has it happened that due to wrong sentence construction, the meaning has changed.

So, my question is, do we need to care about the grammatical correctness of a sentence, or just concentrate on the meaning of the sentence? I would go with the latter one. “Purists” would definitely disagree with me, but, these errors have become so commonplace, that even newspapers have them! I would expect them to at least have correct grammatical English! I will have to start a new website if I have to list all the wrong sentences that I come across (I think I will do it!).

Coming from Mumbai, which is cosmopolitan, I have observed that most of the friends I know have great English speaking and writing skills. That is, they don’t make mistakes. This is probably because when we were kids, the only language we could use to communicate with one another, was either Hindi, English, or Hinglish  (a mixture of Hindi and English – that will make up another entry :-) ). In Pune though, the situation is different. Marathi is so dominant, that all the non-Maharashtrians adapt to it, and it becomes the primary mode of communication.

The solution to this problem has to be tackled at a young age. Reading is the most important activity that can help solve this issue. And, the liking of this habit has to be developed at a very young age. And, the main responsibility of doing this, is of the parents. They must monitor what is being read, and try to find out more reading material all the time. The next thing to do is, watch old English films, like Sound of Music etc. I cannot vouch for newer English movies! Next, make sure you talk to each other in English, as broken as it may be. You will realize your own mistakes from time to time and progress as you go on (unless, of course, you think you are awesome and feel that you speak better than anyone else).

I can go on forever about this, as it is a very dear topic, but lets stop here for now. More on this will follow …

So – do your children go to your own school? November 16, 2008

Posted by coupleofthoughts in nikhil.
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I have been asked this question time and again. Does your school going daughter go to your own school? Will you admit your younger son to your own school? Um – yeah! Now why would I think of putting them any place else? I don’t know if the question is just polite conversation, or genuine in nature.

At first, I thought that this question was shallow. But then, thinking about it a little bit, I realized that I myself didn’t attend the school that my mother taught in! It was probably because she taught in a Marathi medium school, and my parents wanted me to learn English, so they admitted me to an English medium school. Over the years, I have seen many parents interact with each other. I also realized that sending your child to an international jazzy school is also a kind of a status symbol or an ego booster. The quality of education is not that important, but the size and the colour of the school, along with the strata of society that the children belong to, definitely is!

But, I ask myself – what do I value the most? I value having my children close to me at all times. Having them go to my school, makes things more controlled. Next, I value good education. Again, my school is at the top of that category.

So, yes, I am proud of my older daughter study in my school, and I will definitely enroll my younger son to my school, when he is eligible.

Lesson learnt – wear dark clothes when you have toddlers November 13, 2008

Posted by coupleofthoughts in children, nikhil.
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If you are a parent of toddlers, this should have occured to you! I realise that every time I am with my kids in a park, on the ground, or anywhere where they have shoes on, I am left with a pair of dirty trousers and a soiled shirt! I look like a labour contractor who has been out on a construction site monitoring the digging of the foundation of a building! And many times, these stains don’t go away completely. I have now decided to wear dark coloured clothes all the time – they at least don’t show the marks after they are washed!

While this post is not related to the crux of this blog (might be more suitable on this site), I thought I would mention a point here, as it might help parents…

A busload of sadness November 6, 2008

Posted by coupleofthoughts in arpita.
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My present project involves making video lessons for the kids so that they can be shown exactly what we are talking about. So when the kids learn that stone breaks down to form soil I try to show a video, an experiment or an animation along with the voiceover so that the kids see and hear about it at the same time. It has good effects – a kid feels like he is watching a show and even if he forgets the audio he will most probably remember the video and will be able to reproduce the information almost accurately.

Well, so there was this statement about conservation of natural resources and how we should save petrol and diesel by carpooling and using public transport. So I thought what better way to let kids know this than showing them the public transport in Pune. So I hiked with my tripod, camera and sister to the nearby bus stop and stood there ready to capture a bus on tape.

I knew I would get a few curious glances, but in Pune the bus service is not so good. The buses do not run on regular schedules and they are not maintained properly either. So it is mostly the very low income group that travels by bus, unlike Mumbai. In Mumbai buses are quite convenient, clean and regular – in stark contrast!

So there I was standing and being stared at, when a few bold onlookers decided to approach me. They asked me what I was doing. I just told them that I was waiting for a bus, I wanted to record a public transport vehicle. Actually that was what I precisely wanted to do. Do you know how many different directions people thought in after that one statement? One asked me if I was exposing how badly maintained the buses are, another thought I was making a documentary on the plight of the common man, a third said it was good – I could show how irregular and without schedule the buses were. People wanted me to capture the crowds and show how insufficient the number of buses were. Some thought I was exposing the corruption and some even thought I was launching a crusade against poor public transport systems. Each one, without exception, was extremely happy that someone was doing something about the situation and wished me good luck. Most people thought I was affiliated to a news channel. When I told a few people I was doing it for the kids, again they thought it was to tell them about corruption.

Now, I would love to launch a crusade and get things straightened out and have a good public transport system set up in Pune. However, I have a job that keeps me very busy and I also believe that there is not much I can do in that area – I lack the mindset and my attitude is all wrong too. But what really surprised me was that how corrupt our system is, is a fact that everyone knows and has accepted and is very casual about it. Everyone felt strongly about it but people were also very casual and matter of fact – almost as if it has been accepted as an everyday thing. Isn’t that really scary? It really disturbed me. Even as I write this I feel really sad that there is really almost nothing that I can do. My way of fighting corruption is that I will never cheat anyone myself. I will do good work, sell good products and always render good service.

But that isn’t going to change the world. It will only change the way the people who use my educational services – they will be at the receiving end of a very sincere effort. That is pretty much what I can contribute to decrease corruption – I can make sure that I do not become part of the corrupt population! Who would have thought that going to video shoot people using the municipality bus could be so depressing?