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.


Travel to Disrupt Self?


Visitor on a Rainy Day

A Koel (Asian Koel) perches outside my verandah.

I inadvertently caught a Koel perched on the barbed wire fence.

Original photograph by Doug Janson.
Asian Koel – Original photograph by Doug Janson.


In Thirty Days

Life can get a little crazy some times. Too many things to get done, too little room for exploring a new direction. Then there is the flip-side – sticking to a daily boring routine, wondering out loud as to where the improvement is going to come in from.

Matt Cutts says the best way to make change stick is to diligently follow a 30-day rule. Pursue your new direction for 30-days, let it build up momentum and take on a self-rewarding nature. It turns out, thirty days is just enough to gain depth and make your effort worthwhile.

Will it work for you? Of course it will! Just remember its you who makes the change possible. I’ve been following similar shades of Matt’s thirty-day rule to get change to stick. It has helped me get back on the jogging track, learn new keyboard shortcuts and follow a new process at work. Even when I need to get through a book that has been particularly difficult to read. A helpful tip is to ignore the urge to rationalize the change for the time duration. I’ve fixed my eyes on a new goal and this time, I will be adhering to Matt’s thirty-day rule to the letter.


Three “Letters from the CEO”

How do you convey a deep sense excitement for what lies ahead? How do you share a sense of reward after huge effort? Here’s three outstanding letters from Marissa Mayer, Jack Dorsey and Jeff Bezos that apply the written word well in conveying passion and direction.

Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos announcing the Kindle Paperwhite. His letter was front and center on the Amazon home page (pdf screenshot) marking the final turn away from ‘gold box’ offers and cluttered Amazon home page of the early 2000’s. Read the letter as reprinted on Kindle Chronicles.

Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer on renewing the Yahoo Logo “Geeking out on the Yahoo Logo“.

Square CEO, Jack Dorsey on signing up Starbucks “Onward“.

I added this one from CEO GoDaddy, Blake Irving (png) a little after publishing the post.

Hope you enjoy reading these as much as I have!


Freedom to be Indian

Have you ever heard the argument that life in India brings you closer to our original nature thanks to the extremes in our society? I’ve lived here for the better part of my life and I think I can safely say that the first part just isn’t true. Yes, we do have extremes. Problems that really can rip right through the fabric of what makes us human. But a consistent exposure to those extremes grows our insensitivity. It becomes routine to ignore what’s broken and refuse to outgrow what we’ve been good at in the hope that the other problems will solve themselves. It is in this very struggle that we rediscover our original nature and show ourselves.

This post is about two short stories of a passion like none other.

Life is hardest here for our poor. When they’re sick, they won’t find options for better treatment. Not because of the lack of money, but because they lack the ability to read and write. All Indian private hospitals have provisions and perhaps the compassion for the economically challenged. However, getting past the admissions process is daunting, requires forms to be filled and explanations to be made. I imagine if you’re sick you’ll want to simply avoid the stress and accept the state-sponsored care you can get by default.

Ravi Saxena of Ghazipur on the other hand has found a way to fix this. As a tea vendor, he makes Rs. 8,000 working for 20 days in a month. The remaining 10 days Ravi invests in helping the poor get past the admissions process in private hospitals and claim the benefits. Ravi says that his family and friends encourage him to concentrate on his business but he prefers to put the poor first. I learned about Ravi’s story first in the Times of India*.

The next story is about Myshkin Ingawale and about his invention that makes it possible to test for anemia in the field. As Myshkin explains in this talk, anemia is a solvable condition that goes largely undiagnosed. An anemic expecting mother is at very high risk at childbirth, especially if her condition is unknown to those attending on her. Myshkin was inspired by one such case he learned of through a friend and doctor who attended on a mother who died at childbirth. Myshkin aims to equip health workers with his invention at scale making it possible for next steps in treatment.

Ravi and Myshkin are integrating our country in their own ways. Their stories deserve to be a part of our collective consciousness. Their daily effort grants them a freedom that has always been uniquely Indian – to be yourself. A freedom that comes from the self-knowledge that we all can listen to. The knowledge that we’re doing our bit.

Wish you all a Happy Independence Day 2013!

india gate


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 53 other followers