Pick the Right Candidate

Our General Election is underway and I’m scheduled to cast my vote on the 17th with others from my city. The media is practically running out of confrontational verbs, “Rahul Slams Modi”, “Pawar Criticises Election Commission” and so on. The mind is exhausted by the narrow focus of the information it’s being fed and is starved for the truth.

How do you pick out the right candidate?

I think that’s the important question. If we overestimate the impact of our individual vote, in the process we might be led to believe we’re helping a party win over the candidate. Rather the opposite is true. The candidate I pick represents me in parliament, if he wins. I learned that lesson the hard way in our last general election.

However, your vote does eventually decide who will lead our nation.

Last night, I watched Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan debate if Islam is a religion of Peace. Tariq’s opening argument, struck a deep chord with me. He interprets Islam as a means of self-education for the individual to help realize the road to peace irrespective of whether the times you live in are violent or peaceful.

This post is not about the religion, or any other religion but about our co-existence and continued prosperity.

Pick the party that can show all of us the way to work together in a way that does not compromise the fundamentals rights that we’ve been granted through our constitution. The one that respects the universal need for peace.

While we leave civic education to schools, our schools can reach only a fraction of our population. The other portion, including our educated adults, people like me still grasp at straws when making this important choice.


Confidence in Innocence

The other day, I was sitting on my Dad’s lap on a revolving chair and watching a movie. I leaned back and caused the chair to tilt. We were both in free-fall. Dad instinctively lifted me up in the air. On having completed the fall, he put me down on the ground to his right. For a brief moment I stood there surprised at the sudden turn of events. Realizing I was ok, I turned to Dad and said “I didn’t get hurt as I am Bheem“.

Greatly inspired by “It’s me, Saksham“.


A First Vlog

Blogging can get easier. I’ve been putting up vlogs, rolling out two this week around concepts that I’ve been exploring. It all started when I put in an application to an incubator that needed a one-minute video introduction.

Getting Politicians to Debate Live Online.
Key Behavioral Concepts that Drive Ventures: Existential Freedom, Emotional Investment.

PS. Thank you for the kind wishes for my birthday.

 


Can Blogging be any Easier?

My blogs have been neglected of late.  I feel a bit like I may have lost my edge here.

Writing a blog post ought to really be easy. Peculiar mindsets make it harder. I’ve been writing a closed journal and that too hasn’t been flourishing thanks to the long hours that are going into getting a server setup and writing code, making phone calls for my latest initiative. Free time is spent with the family, going out and getting chores done, or on youtube.

I’m currently reading “How Children Succeed” by Paul Tough. Eddie Griffin’s “Freedom of Speech” is funny and soo politically incorrect.

I’m working through web app development in grails, bootstrap, deploying grails and concepts of project automation, continuous integration. I’ve also spent a little part of the week updating my vimrc which is now on github. I’m working out how I can get Alfred, a launcher to work better with macvim and run IDE-like searches.

This week the big challenge met successfully has been to get past growWith.in‘s first feature out. We’ve published our first-list of industry experts to assist first-time entrepreneurs with Business Modeling. Its been quite an effort coding and recruiting experts side-by-side. I’m looking forward to the payoff and feedback over the course of next week.

Another challenge that I’ve come up to is taming our tomcat deployment. The Java world is still surprisingly casual with Memory issues. I find an OutOfMemory exception in our production server after redeploying applications about 2 – 3 times. Lately these take the form of ‘out of PermGen space‘. We’re still to identify a PaaS that will help eliminate system administration responsibilities, in-turn driving productivity up.

My current activity patterns are a huge change from pre-September days and especially after having quit my last employment position. It has been a long, fun ride!


The Chess Classroom

Everyone has a point in their pre-teen years where they discover the road the self-instruction. It’s a point where you finally recognize the path to learning, or to learn about learning. We’re born with ability, we just won’t see it right away. No faith in modern ways tend to cloud knowledge of it. Right from the start we have teachers, systems, or caregivers. As we grow up we’re immersed in an always connected world. Some where in between those two ages the opaque doors that shield discovery are broken through.

I recall learning to play chess with my recently retired neighbor. As a fifteen year old it was about finding ways to get better. Find books on chess in the library (didn’t have the web at home in 1993). Get a chess program to play with on the XT. Improve the skill level bit by bit. I sure didn’t exercise these habits when school subjects were in the picture.

When on the path, our proverbial student acknowledges his ability to define and take on new challenges. While on the path he learns to tip life out of balance and take on a mindset that’s conducive to change. He’s caught up in a fever and can ignore everything else. Challenges to him could mean both things – those he likes and those he doesn’t. Every day, he ratchets up his skill and challenge level together.

A Chess Tournament

A Chess Tournament, by ninahale on flickr.com. Some rights reserved. Click through for details.

It isn’t always a continuous or successful process. Naturally, obstacles that aren’t necessarily in line with cognitive abilities appear – outside his practice, as well as inside it. It’s at this point that we learn what constraints mean. We learn that the path isn’t about pure intellectual or internal achievement.

The student works so that learning be life long. It can’t pay off if you’re always in comfortable positions. It certainly won’t pay off if you’re only rigid, or only flexible.

It definitely will pay off if you think of failure and success as something we do. Not as destinations. I promise I won’t downplay failure, I know its hard.

Both are great teachers that we all need to meet. Meet them early, meet them daily. What the student does right after that meeting is important. At times, he attempts to hide his ability from potential social embarrassment, or perhaps attempts to nurture it protectively; In a way that won’t acknowledge reality. In other words those same constraints that the path starts out from in the first place.

The good news – the best classroom where this is happening is the one you’re in right now. Look around. There are others with you too.

Dedicated to the inspiring IS318 Chess team.


Balmaadi Coffee Estate, A Photo Essay

Coffee Plant, Balmaadi Coffee Estate.

This December I was a guest ar the Balmaadi Coffee Estate in the Nilgiris. Balmaadi is led by entrepreneur Unnamalai Thiagarajan. Growing coffee at an altitude of 6000 feet in the wild Nilgiris is challenging. Unna sticks to principles of sustainable biodynamism to produce organic coffee beans that have been recognized in India and globally for their unique flavor. Like their coffee, my short stay there was both a journey through Unna’s vision and an experience into the coffee grower’s life in the wild.

Read the rest of this entry »


A Hundred and Fifty Years of the Bishop’s Colours

This year it will be nineteen years having left school. In the years gone by I’ve done little to stay in touch with the school. In that time familiar teachers have moved on. Times have changed and old school friends have drifted away to be replaced by new ones.

Earlier this year, Principal Friese invited alumni to a special assembly. Bishop’s was going to turn 150 in 2014! At the assembly he asked for assistance for the upcoming year-long celebrations.  The assembly rekindled a deeper connection and natural curiosity. Had the school ventured to change their teaching methods? Did they still place great emphasis on all-round development? I had no excuse for having stayed away for so long.

At the sesquicentennial committee meeting I was surprised to see alumni from as far back as the 1960’s. Some had children who were studying at Bishop’s, others were simply there to help. I met alumni from the IT committee, Marketing committee, other old boys and teachers. The committee was chaired by the principal and the headmasters of each of the three schools in Pune.

The school appointed historian related her findings. She’d found verifiable documents (maps, plans, communications) that Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington had planned out an offensive against the Maratha’s (Second Anglo-Maratha war 1803 – 1805) from the bungalow that currently serves as the Principal’s residence. She’d also verified that the original underground Peshwa-era water supply pipeline did pass through the school grounds.

A couple of days earlier I’d met with the  historian who interviewed me for interesting anecdotes and to learn how the graduates of the ’94 batch had done in life. As I recollected details of the alumni I was still in touch with, the list consisted of entrepreneurs, industrialists and even a film director (ever watched Karthik Calling Karthik?). Everyone had done well. Recalling school days wasn’t easy emotionally. In my opinion, my teachers at Bishop’s stood out for their commitment to the general welfare of their students. I say that with great care and an educational background spanning two universities across continents and two schools. The old boys themselves are the greatest testimony the school could have.

As I watched the committees share their progress, their spirit was infectious. I headed back and I thought hard. I’d contributed to the history book and I felt I could do more. Although I wouldn’t be an effective contributor at this late stage I could help in other ways. As I reached out to my professional network to other old boys I was amazed by the enthusiasm with which they got back. Would they like to contribute their memories, reach out to other alumni? Yes, of course they would.

Today, Bishop’s has grown from one school campus in Pune, Camp to two new areas – Kalyani Nagar and Undri. However, they’re still constrained in their teaching methods. Having been around for a long time can be both a boon and a curse. Another entrepreneur Phil Libin Founder, CEO at Evernote shared his insight into the same paradox earlier this month – his dream is for his company to endure for a hundred years and to continue to innovate despite it’s age. The hope is that with this renewed connection back to the school and with the help of other parents, we might have a hand at influencing the course the school charts next.

As the celebrations shape up there’s a lot more that could be done. If you’ve attended St. Helena’s or St. Mary’s Pune, do get in touch. Our historian would love to get your views on the Bishopites you knew or met. If you’re an old boy and have photos, anecdotes or anything else you’d like to share – please get in touch as soon as you can. Your material will make it to a coffee table book that will cover the school through the ages. If you intend to travel to attend the celebrations in 2014, follow the school website for event dates and details.


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