Flashback 2004, Mumbai: My second day as intern at Bombay Times and I had messed up an interview with VJ Maria Goretti. It needed to be 450 words and she talked worth only a 150. The editor said my word power was poor. It hurt. Then a senior journalist fell ill and I was assigned his story: to interview a disabled girl. I walked into the Fellowship of the Physically Handicapped at Haji Ali and met wheelchair-bound Vipasha Mehta who became first person in India with cerebral palsy to earn a PhD. She smiled at me. I started asking her parents questions. They answered a couple but then her father told me, "Vipasha does not like anyone to speak on her behalf. You must ask her questions." I looked at the shrivelled body of the 32-year-old who had spent 8 years keying her PhD thesis. She couldn't use her hands so they attached a stylus to her head and she typed by nodding. Her speech was unintelligible and I spent 3 hours trying to understand each word she spoke. Her father helped when I pleaded. I wrote a 700-word piece the editor liked. Since then I have faced many challenges but each time I wanted to give up I think of that one woman who showed the world that even she could do it. When you learn how to communicate with those who can't speak, you really learn about communication.
Monday, December 25, 2017
Sunday, December 3, 2017
The popular recipe for creating the “next” Silicon Valley goes something like this:
1. Build a big, beautiful, fully equipped technology park
2. Mix in R& D labs and university centers;
3. Provide incentives to attract scientists firms and users;
4. Interconnect the industry through consortia and specialized suppliers;
5. Protect intellectual property and tech transfer; and,
6. Establish a favorable business environment and regulations.
It happens all the time all over the world. And it never works.
- Alec Ross in The Industries of the Future
Saturday, December 2, 2017
“Each year, 2,000 Palestinians graduate from local universities in technical subjects, but only about 30 percent of them find work in their fields. As one young woman studying at Palestine Polytechnic University put it, “We must have a better economy to have better lives, and we must have 3G to have a better economy,” her reasoning being that if there is no Internet connectivity, then the basic conditions necessary to do engineering work are not there. This produces a dangerous unintended consequence: underemployment for young engineers. Radicalization, unemployment, and engineering skills are a nasty combination. Many suicide bombers and bomb makers that Hamas has produced have come with this background. The best way for the West Bank to not end up like Gaza is through economic integration and well-being.”
- Alec Ross in The Industries of the Future
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
I always wonder why people yell commands at dogs, all the time. As if shouting will make a dog obey when even adult humans who know the language sometimes don't. A few months ago, I visited a friend in the US who was keeping his neighbour's dog while they were on a holiday. He kept yelling and the big male labrador toyed with him by pulling at his leash while they were out for a walk. The louder my friend shouted the harder the dog tugged. My friend almost tumbled. He asked me to watch the dog for a few minutes while he entered the shop. I wondered if the dog would tug at the leash. He looked at me. I whispered, "Sit." The dog sat. Ten minutes later my friend emerged. I handed him the leash. And the dog took my friend for a run.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Last night, we watched Rajat Kapoor's play What Is Done Is Done based on Shakespeare's Macbeth. Kapoor's spin on the great tragedy was to interperse the acts with clowns and humour (more grey than dark) where once a clown told the audience, "You've forgotten the murder in the last scene." The acting and lighting were great but I am not sure of the comic interludes. They made me laugh on their own but took me away from understanding Macbeth's (Macky B) dilemma, predicament, fear, paranoia and mania. I remembered the darkness in Vishal Bhardwaj's Maqbool (the Bollywood version of Macbeth) and how I had felt the fear felt by the protagonist. I missed that experience in this theatre.
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Many of us, over the coming years, will dismiss the 2016 demonetisation as a bad dream. For those 100-odd families who lost their near and dear ones as their savings were wiped out, bank staff who buckled under stress and guilt, people who succumbed to the trials of standing in long ATM queues for their own money, or those could not get admitted to hospitals because they did not have cash on their person, this will be the wound they have to live with forever. Will the upholders of the policy that promised to remove 'black money' from society ever be able to remove the blood that stained it?
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Monday, October 16, 2017
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Our 21-year-old dhobi has got engaged to a girl who is in Standard X in his hometown of Ajmer in Rajasthan. We told him that he should wait till she is 18 to get married otherwise the police might arrest him on the grounds of marrying a child. He tells us that in his community people hold weddings in secret when the bride and groom are underaged but he has told his parents he will wait for three years and marry in style instead of going into hiding. He then showed us the picture of his fiancee who he has not met yet (yes, they got engaged before setting their eyes on each other.) She looks like a mischievous child posing for the camera. We ask her name. He doesn't know. "That's why I will wait so I can talk to her. Till then, I can be happy and free."
Thursday, September 14, 2017
When my Afghan, Iranian, Japanese or German students have a problem understanding or reading English they simply ask me and we resolve it. When I request Indian students to do the same if they have an issue with the language they either don't own up to it or do so after much prodding. I see that more with urban students in universities and colleges than those in rural schools. What kind of system of education have we created that hinders people from sharing their weaknesses and limitations to get better in life? When you go to the bank and you don't know the procedure, you'll ask a manager/bank representative without caring about what the other people think about you? Why then do you not do the same in a classroom?
#EducationInIndia #LanguageBarriers #CommunicationBarriers
Monday, August 14, 2017
I conducted an orientation session for the first batch of Bachelors of Journalism and Mass Communication students where I engaged the students in creating a story. I started with a stick-sketch of a 22-year-old woman journalist who is ready to leave for work and her phone beeps. Here's what they made, adding line after another one by one:
1. She gets a call from the hospital that her father is serious
2. She leaves for the hospital to meet her father when her phone rings again
3. Her boss asks her to report an event
4. She is confused
5. She goes to the event (August 15 Independence Day celebrations).
6. She sees a father giving a flag to his daughter telling her that duty comes before family. She feels glad she made it to the event
7. She is driving back to the hospital. She receives a call from the hospital announcing her father's demise. She's disturbed and is killed in a road accident
8. She turns into a ghost and goes to work
9. She discovers some documents that disclose her colleagues are corrupt
10. Her colleagues suspect she is a ghost because the CCTV at office captures some paranormal activity
11. They try to record her on video by fooling her about a reporting assignment. She does the recording but she does not appear on screen and they figure she's a ghost
12. They get a tantrik to office and do a havan to get rid of her
13. She kills them all but spares her boss
14. The boss figures he is in love with her
15. He cannot confess his feelings for her and gets depressed and starts smoking
16. Meanwhile, she finds a male ghost and falls in love with him
17. They marry each other and 'live' happily ever after
I've always held the belief that the US is a great place to study and work but isn't quite the vacation destination in spite of some spectacular natural and man-made beauties. As much as I enjoyed my six-week trip along the east coast from Miami to Maine and around the great lakes this June and July, that belief has been strengthened. When you go to Europe, Australia or anywhere in Asia for a vacation, what draws you in are the cultures, languages, hospitality and the ease of commute and travel. For a tourist, multiple travel options mean flexibility in schedules, the ability to stay as long as you want to take in the beauty of a place and leave whenever you wish to. In America, what you get is a sense of urgency. Your dependence is completely on your hosts (unless you manage to drive yourself) and their ability and patience to navigate the endless traffic on the interstate highways. You could be marvelling at the beautiful countryside wanting to stop for pictures but the next exit might be miles away and you'd be put off by the familiar MacDonalds sign. You do have an option to fly low cost airlines but they're insular to any kind of warmth or companionship - things that make vacations more memorable. Unlike Mumbai locals, subway trains don't have a system where they display the next station so you keep guessing. My favourite journey was on an Amtrak train from New York to Boston, where I was the only person in the compartment who had the luxury of time to look out of the window at the beautiful countryside while my co-passengers furiously keyed laptops and phones. I almost felt guilty that I was having fun.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Saturday, May 20, 2017
I spent the morning explaining to the illiterate domestic help that her bank passbook (she had asked me to photocopy) is incomplete and how, in spite of the fact she can't read, she can identify whether the credits and the balance match or not by crudely measuring the width of the columns. It's not the best way but I showed her how a 'thin' column of 400 rupees can't become suddenly 'wide' to accommodate 13000 when the credit column in between is as 'narrow'' as 10 rupees. Because she is illiterate she gives her money to her nephew to deposit in the bank. I asked her why she doesn't ask her daughter who is literate. "She's only a girl," was her answer. Mom-in-law urged her to send her daughter to the bank instead of the nephew so she could learn banking. I insisted that she go on her own to ask the officials to record the transactions. She hesitated. I pointed to my cook who is also illiterate but has a mental record of every transaction she has made, so much so that she can intimidate bank officials.
Friday, May 19, 2017
I had never in my wildest dreams seen myself as a teacher. A shy kid who dreaded public speaking, I performed on stage only as a dancer. My first memories of teaching was in 2000, when I had to earn a Social Involvement Program (SIP) credit for the co-curricular Honour's program (not to be confused by the Honour's degree) at St Xavier's College, Mumbai. Crissy, the coordinator for SIP, assigned me to St Stephen's Church at Breach Candy, where under the guidance of the very strict Mother Margaret, I would have to teach a group of domestic workers once a week. I was 17. Till that year, I never had an urge to do anything for anyone for free because I was too focused on my studies.
|With members of various editorial teams in Times Response, 2nd Floor, The Times of India Building, Mumbai, in 2006|
|My first batch of students at MS University of Baroda in 2009|
|Celebrating 25 years of the Faculty of Journalism and Communication at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in February 2017|
|Girls in a very remote village school in Bordha village, Vadodara district. I visited the place to document UNICEF's intervention in Education through photographs and success stories|
|With members of Art n' Soul at Indooroopilly Uniting Church. My teacher, Gabriella, is on the extreme left|
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Monday, May 8, 2017
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Monday, May 1, 2017
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Saturday, April 22, 2017
I am one of those people who can drive but choose not to. It's rare in a city like Vadodara where you have only autos in the name of public transport and even schoolkids ride mopeds and bikes. I did drive, albeit very cautiously, when I first married and moved here. I don't enjoy driving and a car for me is just a vehicle of commute, not a way to define me or what I stand for. We had two cars sitting in our parking lot and we were deciding if we should get a small city car for me to drive around. I worked out how many litres of fuel we'd be consuming and chose not to buy one. I'd rely on carpools, taxis, autos and inter-city buses and trains for transport. Anything within the range of 2Km, I walk to, unless I am in a hurry or am sick. Initially, I had people asking me why I don't buy a two-wheeler or car. I'd say I couldn't drive. Now I say, I don't want to keep hunting for a place to park. Sometimes I tell them, "At some point of time in life, I'll have lost the function of my legs and will have to be moved on wheels. I'd rather make use of them now." They laugh it off. Over the last five years, I have become very conscious of my individual carbon footprint. I remember the pride I felt when the power company in Australia wrote us a 'thank you' mail for using one-fourth the power used by a typical two-bedroom Brisbane household. I'd walk a lot in Australia too, because I didn't want to create my large carbon footprint.
Friday, April 21, 2017
Monday, April 17, 2017
When I travel around villages I find a variety of water-storage drums. In many villages in Gujarat, you get water in a tap for an hour or two in the day. The villagers collect water in drums. The drums could be huge brass/copper vessels in a wealthy village home or it could be those plastic containers that are used as storage in the industries. And that's where the problem lies. Storing drinking water in industry storage vessels risks contamination of the water. Often highly toxic chemicals are stored in these drums and repeated washing also may not successfully remove some traces of these chemicals. We talk about providing clean drinking water but we must also think of low-cost storage options.
#BusinessForRural #CleanWater #ChemicalHazards #StorageIssues #Villages #contamination #SustainableDevelopmentGoals #SDGs
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
It's World Poetry Day
And I want to write
Pen scratches paper
But the ink dries
It's no occasion
To make hue and cry
Can words be stifled
If the ink runs dry?
I take my iPad
Fingertips on screen
It's the digital age
I've a Facebook page!
The words take form
Who's to judge
I sift my thoughts
I scroll my feed
Is there a need?
It's World Poetry Day
And I want to write
Throw Me A Word
And I shall write
The cursor moves
The letters dance
A poem takes shape
It's World Poetry Day.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Another semester of teaching at Faculty of Journalism and Communication at Vadodara's M S University comes to an end
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Monday, March 13, 2017
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Monday, February 6, 2017
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Thursday, January 5, 2017
When you get a mention in an article written about Pax Populi by Robert McNulty for a community newspaper in the US, it brightens up your day, more so because both your students Muhammad Qasem Jami and Suraya Mehrzad feature in there too. To read more, click on this link