Saturday, November 24, 2012

#11 : Bhumi : The Joy of Volunteering

Before I start writing about my experience with Bhumi, I have a long list of people to thank. For start, Ramya, Thank you for introducing me to such an wonderful organization, it was a life changing experience, Next, Lokesh, the center head of the center (PVR School) where I first taught computers, Vaishnavi (Chennai )  for sending me off to Kanini Program though I asked for MAD (SO now, Thank god you sent me off there!), Rajkumar, Thank you for pulling me in to the Kanini HR team and last but not the least, Jaishri, my biggest support in Kanini HR team & much more than that. And then there are a loooong list of other volunteers who have helped me & from whom I have learnt a lot from (Sownaj,Nirmala,Doc, Malli,Bhuvanesh,Prem,Shivani,Avinash,Venkat,Vaishnavi,Aakansha,Arun,Krishna,Syed,Ishwarya,Saranya.....Phew! lots more people to put down!)

 Hang on! I am missing something right? ah! Yes. The Kids! How can I forget them at all in my life! The kids at PVR & PBC-Mambalam { bad that I couldn't spend a whole academic year with them, thanks to growing up & Responsibilities that come along :( }I don't know how much knowledge I imparted but what I got back from them seems to much higher in comparison  as far as I know.

So this is how it all began. Ramya, my classmate at college told me about Bhumi. I signed up after a  year after she told me ( Thanks to my parents thought I was a kid myself, what would I go teach kids that too with my not so good Tamil ). I got a call for the orientation. I was kind of scared. After all, it was something new to me and I am not the kind that talks much one - on - one (Public speaking has always been a piece of cake for me ). I reached the place early ( Even before the Bhumi volunteers came). Vaishnavi (Chennai) came in carrying a big pile of news paper. I wondered if they were going to make us read it & test our accent or something like that. But it turned out we had to use the paper for a fun game of dressing up. After all the fun, they got down to business, The mapping. I had asked for MAD( Speak Out now. The English Program) but unfortunately I wasn't able to find suitable classes. So they sent me to Kanini. I was literally horrified. My Tamil was restricted to normal talk ( I studied Hindi & Moved with Hindi speaking friends much till school). But then the Kanini volunteers who did the mapping assured me that I could Manage.

And so Kanini it was at PVR School (Greenways road)!

 I started classes on September 12 (Unforgettable because it is was Lokesh's Birthday that day and I didn't wish him as I was a bit scared of him back then). I stepped into a small room with 3 working systems & 12 kids, Lokesh introduced me to the kids. I went expecting quite kids who would sit in rows & listen. But alas! They were a bunch of Hyper active kids jumping about the benches. They bombarded me with questions, Akka unga peru enna, neenga enna pannaringa, neenga Lokesh anna frnd ah! I just went dizzy ( The nice kind of dizzy! My god those kids were  so innocent!). I answered all their questions. MS Word was being taught. I observed Lokesh taking classes & decide to follow the way he does. As time progressed I got really comfortable with the kids. But one thing I learnt was Preparation is the key to effectively handle the kids. I still remember, one day I was handling classes all alone ( That was a time! Phew! 38 kids all alone! But then it didn't continue like that for a long time. Normally there was at least 2 people to give me company). I hadn't prepared for the class. We were looking at Filter options in MS Excel. The kids as usual started asking me all sorts of questions & I had to tell I would get back to them. One kid said, "En akka neenga thoongitingala unga teacher class edukumbodhu?! adhan unggalukku idhu theriyala" I just burst out laughing. Then I realized, with these kids its better to come prepared for all sorts of questions ( *Sighs* I never asked so many questions to my teacher! These kids are Hyper!) The below Video has my kids in class

P.S. Don't get fooled. They were calm only for the camera & it took the Video team quite an effort to calm these Hyper Active Kids down!

One academic year got over. I got the hang of it and started with the next set of kids. That was all together a different challenge as we were implementing the NIIT syllabus which had a very different structure & a more professional aspect in terms of examples. Though we were trained by NIIT instructors ( I learnt a lot in that Webinar. I even considered a career as a teacher :P), we kind of found it hard to teach as the kids weren't acquainted with business examples. But we did manage at the end of the day.
Then came along Kanini quest! Again I went expecting strict "competition " environment. It turned out to be complete contrast. It was fun all the way. Interacting with volunteers & meeting other kids. 
When was the last time you played Ringa Ringa Roses? When was the last time you played Hide & Seek?
Well, I got to do that there in Kanini Quest.
My PVR kids made a sweep. We won in almost all category - Kanini  Quest '11
Kanini Quest 12' - We didn't win much. But participation is what matters &  looking at the creativity  of other kids ! It was Amazing!

Finally, My shift to the new center, PBC- Mambalam. The kids there are even smaller (7th,8th,9th Std) & Sharper. This center has girls too (PVR was all brat boys). The kids in this center are very knowledgeable & talented.  I remember a Kid answering quite a difficult question of mine. I asked the kids to tell who was a major competitor of Microsoft's Windows OS. I gave them a hint : Apple. One kid just stood and replied its called Mac. I was simply amazed! He was just studying 8th Std in a corporation school.  I didn't know what Mac was till 11th std ( I studied in a "CBSE"school! School has nothing to do with what you are! Illustrated by this kid) Sad that I am not able to continue taking classes :( 
The Kids at PBC- West Mambalam ( Lots missing in the picture!) 

Ah! I forgot one more thing. The much awaited & most unforgettable event of the year - Nakshtra ( Previously called Siragugal -2011 ) . Well, I have no words to describe that event. The smile that was on each children's face just made my day! So many talents. I simply felt I missed having such a platform to exhibit my talents. I was a bit jealous of those kids, My god! Face painting , Singing, Dance, Art & What not! Highly talented these kids were. No matter where they were from. I got a chance to meet lots of other volunteers & not to forget the RJ/Columist Bosskey ( How can I forget him! He was pulling my leg badly!), Cricketer Balaji, Singer Karthik. 
Nakshtra 2012 - Was a bit of disappointment as rain played spoil sport & we had to postpone day 1. But day 2 was still fun though I missed out a lot as I was sitting at the registration desk.  Though I did catch up on the Dance contest, which as usual was brilliant!

I would be making through injustice if I don't write about the HR & KPI activities that I was a part of. I don't know how effective I was as an HR making sure all the centers had enough volunteers to take classes. But I do know one thing for sure. Being in the HR team helped me have an easy transition from college to Corporate world ( Especially when you join a company where you don't have your class mates coming along ). I learnt a lot on handling people & the importance of working as a team. 

To sum up, Bhumi & those kids were the best things that happened to me. It feels like for the first time in life I did something useful. 

Change Today! Change Tomorrow!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

#10 : My Life & Music

Been long time since I blogged. Thanks to long hours of travelling to work. I seem to have time only to eat,work,listen to music & Sleep. The 'Listening to music' activity is my favorite activity of the day. Honestly its not an " activity " . Music is a part of me, A part of my life. Music is what got me writing this blog post. I watched an video by the great composer A.R.Rahman, called " An Invitation".
Catch the Video here
In that Video Rahman Sir asked what is good music to you ( Not sure of the exact wordings). That got me thinking & Eventually putting down my thoughts to paper (um...Blog!)

Ever since I was born I have been listening ( Technically Hearing would be an apt word) to music. Yes, I know you would ask how the hell do you know that?! Well, my parents have always kept up the " Tradition" (& they still do ) of starting the day with Carnatic music renditions by Smt.M.S.Subbulakshmi , Dr.M.L.Vasanthakumari & a long list of other great singers. I never had much of an exposure to Film songs till the age to 14. Then when my circle of friends changed my exposure to music expanded. I started listening to film songs, Instrumentals, Opera Music & what not.

So what's the point?! How would life be without music?!
Well, for a start, I would be a really bored & lost person. Then my temper would be as hot as sun. I just can't imagine life like that.
Then the next question is, why not sing?! The answer is simple enough. Like all parents, my parents also got me a music tutor & I learnt singing at my own pace for a year. Then we shifted to another locality & I joined another tutor who felt I didn't have that right voice to sing. I got discouraged and quit. Well, what more could you expect from a lost 12 yr old ( Must have told that to me now I would proved I can sing too, with a little voice training). So I just stopped singing & my voice degraded & I lost that pitch. But then that's okay. I am happy as long as I am able to listen.

Listening to music. Note : Its music. Well whats the difference. Not much. Song is Music + Lyrics. So when I mean I listen to music ,I listen to that instrumental playing no matter what the lyrics are. Call me strange or queer. Yes, I might not understand what the song is all about but it'll be on the loop if I like the " Music". WHY?! simple. The music affects me in a way. In a good way.
Especially compositions of A.R.Rahman & particularly the ones rendered by Singer Hariharan & Rahman Sir himself. I am simply mad about his compositions. He compositions never cease to amaze me!
Of course I do love songs rendered by Late  M.S.Subbulakshmi & Mr.Unnikrishnan.
But the majority of songs that come out now days are simply unfit to be spent time on. Though there are rare good ones that come out. All I hear these days are " noise".  Its not that I am against fast numbers ( Come on! There was a time I used to listen to Metal music, Stopped it now. It wasn't going well with my ears! ) or the Kuthu songs. But just that it could be better.

Well, Hang on. A.R.Rahman's composition are an exception. Call me Biased. But that's a fact. He is only composer to be doing consistently well. I am not simply saying this just because he has won two Oscars. If you ask him Oscar for Jai Ho?! No Bad choice. There are list of other songs that deserve more than Oscar. My personal favorites being Pachai Niramae ( Alaipayuthay), Pudhu vellai Mazhai (Roja). The list is long.
Now coming to the answer for Rahman sir's question. What is good music?

The human mind & heart are a pair of Monkeys. Our thoughts keep fluctuating from good to bad. Good music is the one which makes this Monkey sit in a place. Calm it down & make it think. The music is working if it brings about a good change in you. And I believe to me A.R.Rahman & few others' composition have done that to me. Made me a better person.
That's my take on music!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

#9 : The Political Verdict

The heading might be a bit deceptive. No! This post is surely not about some corrupt politician or our ever lacking civic amenities ( Can't stop ranting about our system can I!???).
Last month I got a chance to catch up with a long lost friend from the NGO that I work for. I asked him what he was up to. I probably have never heard such a reply ( My jaws just dropped to the floor!) He replied that he aspires to become a politician and has finished a course in political sciences which included inspiring talking from well established politicians! Imagine that reply from a software engineer. That is the last thing that we would expect. I wonder why this change of heart. From being a software engineer to a politician!Is the software sector so hopeless that he has taken such a decision!?! Then when I prod him with further questions and he says its what he always wanted to become - A Politician. His reply left me shell shocked!

It took me almost a month to pen my thoughts! I have taught 2 batches of 9th std kids and currently handling the third set. The first question I ask when we start classes is what profession they want to choose. I have seen variety of replies from carpenter to aeronautical engineer, Army men to painter etc. But no kid has ever said politician for an answer. I wonder why?! Gen Y doesn't even consider politics as a career or what?!

But then realization hits me hard when I do some research. I just did a quick research to find out what exactly does it take to be a politician and this is what I learnt.

First who is a politician?

This is what I get upon Googling 

  • A person who is professionally involved in politics, esp. as a holder of or a candidate for an elected office
  • A person who acts in a manipulative and devious way, typically to gain advancement within an organization
  • A schemer who tries to gain advantage in an organization in sly or underhanded ways
  • A person primarily interested in political office for selfish or other narrow usually short-sighted reasons    

  • The first definition seems the "Textbook"definition while the other 3 seems to be "Reality"definition.

    Now that we have established who a politician is lets get to ways of "becoming" one.

    WAY 1 : Get a degree in political sciences. (This way is highly "Not Recomended "by me! If you still really want to take this route to become a politician read this article Might help you get perspective or even lose it !) 
    PROs : You have a degree. You can understand the working of our system ( Not that we don't understand it otherwise!) 
    1. Your chances of getting kicked out of your home by your parents increases exponentially. Especially if your family is conservative one.
    2. Chances of finding a like minded life partner diminishes (Vanishes would be a correct term given this generation's thinking) 
    3. Last but most important of all - The chances of you becoming a successful politician is "Very Less" ( 1 in a Million chance is what I feel).

    WAY 2 : Earn a million bucks & learn how to spend it ( I meant spending in politics ) Remember Rajnikanth's Classic movie - Arunachalam? If you had watched that movie you might have a fair idea of why money is most important for a politician. In my opinion this is one of the next to easy ways of becoming a politician.
    But on the downside earning a million bucks is not easy and takes years unless you are born with a golden spoon ( With gold prices skyrocketing! ) . So essentially you are someone-turned-politician at the age of 50 maybe. 

    WAY 3 : Marry a well established politician's Son/Daughter. We all know how this works and we have seen many examples. Hence, I feel there is no need to elaborate on this.

    WAY 4: Be from a political family. The most fail safe way to become a politician provided you really have it in you to become one. Again this way also does't need a detailed account as we all know about this ( Its a shame if you don't) 

    FINAL VERDICT : ITS IN YOUR FATE! Although ways 4,3 & 2 seem the best bet to me. 

    Okay we now we know who a politician is & what are the ways to become one, Lets get to why this profession isn't exactly a career option at large. 

    1. The general image of a politician is not so good. Thanks to the corrupt ones & the ones with a pot belly chewing paan wearing a white kurta/white dothi and talking rubbish ( No offence meant! That's the image we all associate with a politician commonly).
    2. Lack to steady monthly income ( Hang on! I know you might be looking at this wide eyed. I meant lack of steady monthly income till you become a "successful"politician. The struggling days!)
    3. Scandals, blackmailing and what not - Accept it or forget about your career.
    4. Private life under constant public scrutiny. We all watch News channels & Read Newspapers ( Chances of being in the front page & Making headlines is very high be it in a good/ bad way, mostly in a bad way though!)
    5. Discouragement. If you were to tell your parents/ friends that you want to rule this country & do good for it, first thing they ask you - Are you barking mad?! has the summer heat got to you?! ( Unless you are from a family of politicians you are sure to hear this!). 

    The list seems to be a tad too long for me to put it in writing. Hence its best to leave it the top 5 that came to my head while writing this.

    Its obvious that  "POLITICIANS ARE NOT MADE,THEY ARE BORN".You simply need to have it in your blood. In your DNA make up! If you don't have it then you don't stand a chance of becoming a "successful" politician in this generation! Reality bites! Literally! 

    P.S: My view of things. No offence meant. Its not easy to run a country with ever growing population. Takes gut to become a politician.


    Sunday, July 1, 2012

    #8 : Inter-Views

    Finally I got a fodder to chew! Interviews!

    Many of you might be wondering why am writing about interviews when I already have a job offer.  Lets just say I am looking for better work opportunity - hence Interviews.
    My first interview hardly lasted 20 mins. I was pretty sure that I wouldn't be selected. Just 20 mins that too hardly any technical questions! No way! ( That's what I thought!) But alas I did get the job
    It was a complete surprise actually. But I wasn't exactly happy about it due various reasons (Long story!).

    Here are few things that I picked up by attending some 6 odd company's selection process :

    1. When you really think you have given your best shot, you never get selected, mostly applicable to aptitude and technical rounds ( Happened with me twice!). your best is yet to come!

    2. Results of aptitude rounds can be unpredictable - Think of peer group's standards. Many people may simply be either smarter than you or dumber than you or they may simply get lucky (I got lucky once :P)

    3.Group Discussions are hanging swords - What you speak can either go against you or favor you!               ( Favored me once though I almost had a verbal showdown with another participant(read as my own class mate)!)

    4. Accept that fact that not always you and your best buddy get a job in the same company - EXAMPLE : Me & My best buddy-Pritika! { I keep wondering who is going to finish off my lunch & translate tamil for me after I join work! *sob sob* :( }

    5. Follow the ethics that you studied (Professional ethics ) - A classic example would be a situation where you already have an offer in a good company & you  attend interviews in-spite of having an offer to kill for (Never say this excuse : Its just an experience!)  for some other company which is  in the same category of the company that you already have an offer from (To be understood as "core offers") You have absolutely NO RIGHTS to destroy other's chances of landing a good job offer  (Personal Experience. Have been at the receiving end of such a goddamn situation!)

    6.Stand for what you say - Don't panic and change your answer when the interviewers asks if you are sure about the answer. ( I know its difficult! but then you have to be steady!)

    7. Technical interviews tend to give you a headache - don't talk much before any technical interview. Save your energy ( I got a bad headache twice!) an empty stomach tends to amplify this phenomenon.

    8. Last but not the least! Be yourself! ( Well.... Not exactly if you are the short tempered type or the silent type!)

    One attitude that would help if you are not selected - "Trisha illena dhivya!" :D

    PS: I am no genius in cracking interviews. I simply had fun (& obviously failures) which gave made me write this piece!


    Friday, June 8, 2012

    #7 : Panorama

    For the first time my post's title gets straight to the point! Yes, Panorama!

    My fascination with panorama started when my dad mailed me a panoramic view of a temple in Kerala. My god! How cool is it to navigate and look around just with photographs. So I decided to dig around a bit on how a Panoramic view is created. I stumbled upon a lot of other panoramic photography that made me go WOW! Honestly I'm almost an illiterate when it comes to the subject of photography, thought I do have an eye to differentiate poor photography from the good stuff. Its just that I'm not much fascinated like my peer groups who roam around clicking away with an SLR.

    So what exactly is this "Panorama"? 
    Panorama is basically a picture representing scenes extended to be beheld at once, and so exhibited a part at a time, by being unrolled, and made to pass continuously before the spectator ( That's the definition that is given in some online dictionary! Don't blame me if you don't understand neither do I :P )
    Simply put its complete view in every direction , a 360 Degree view.

    Check this link out He is my favorite so far (You'll know why once you see this page!)

    Any "types" of panorama? 
    In terms of the format of panoramas, there are essentially three different kinds: 
    • Partial panoramas that you know mainly from traditional landscape photography. They are created by stitching (assembling) of multiple normal photos together side-by-side, which creates a photo with much wider angle that would be possible with a normal lens.
    • Cylindrical 360ยบ panoramas - One notch higher are 360° photos which capture the whole field of view in all directions around the photographer. These are sometimes called cylindrical panoramas. They cover 360-degrees around but not up and down view. These are too created by stitching multiple photos together. The only real difference from partial panoramas is that you need to make sure the first and the last photos overlap. There are also so called "one shot" 360-degree lenses but they are by definition very low quality compared to the traditional stitched panoramas.
    • Spherical panoramas are the top of the line which not only capture the 360-degree field of view but in which you can also look up and down. They can even be taken in a way that you can't see the tripod nor the photographer's shadow in the picture. 
    Okay, looks good, sounds a bit complicated.How exactly to create one?!
    You, the photographer, choose a place from which you want the panorama to be taken. Then you start taking photos around yourself until you cover the whole intended field of view with photos. It does not really matter what camera or lens you use, you can even use a cell phone, as long as the photos overlap. The easiest, though, is to use a digital SLR camera with a fisheye lens. The wider the viewing angle of the lens is, the less photos you need to cover the entire field of view. With a cell phone, you will need many photos, with a fisheye lens, you need as little as three to cover the entire sphere. 

    For those "mad about photography" folks out there! hit you tube. I stumbled upon this video.

    quite simple if you have an "eye" for photography (God! I need to work on that skill!)

    Hang on! that guy in the video used something to stitch those photos. What was it?!
    The photos you take need to be joined (stitched / assembled) together with great precision on a computer. When the shooting and stitching is done properly the result is a completely seamless, smooth image (without borders between photos), which can be viewed in any direction. 

    Here's the list of recommended tools for stitching your photos together:
    • Recommended: - Fully automated online/cloud panorama stitcher (freemium).
    • PTgui - Absolutely great program for stitching panoramas (paid)
    • Kolor Autopano Pro / Giga - Awesome stitching software (paid); Kolor also makes great virtual tour creation software called Panotour
    • Hugin - An alternative to PTGui (a bit more difficult and less convenient to use but free)
    • Ideally, you will also need any photo editor (Photoshop or any other) for processing your photos
    Beware: Stitching photos is not a lightweight task, and the more RAM you have, the better. It also helps to have fast hard disks. For example, tiny notebook might take 30 minutes to stitch a panorama while the same task would take 2 minutes on an average desktop computer (because of RAM and disk speed, more than processor speed).

    Hit this tutorial page for more info :

    Okay for people like me those who are plain lazy to do all the above stuff, lets just sit back and enjoy the spectacular visuals! 

    Okay so we are done with the panorama! But how do we upload this in to blog etc?!




    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    #6 : Playing the Devil's Advocate

    Watching an Interview (Can you take it Karan Thapar?!) of one of my favorite "anchor/Interviewer" Mr.Karan Thapar ( Devil's advocate CNN-IBN)  by News Laundry triggered me to write this post.

    For those who have no clue who Karan Thapar is & don't watch those "Hellish" kind of interviews & prefer the "normal" kind of interviews here is a little some thing about the show & its anchor.
    Devil's Advocate as rightly named is hosted by Mr.Karan Thapar who obviously plays the "Devil's advocate"   ( Honestly some of his interviews has made me wonder if he is the devil himself ! Though its kind of nice to watch such a hard play at times!!). People literally get roasted on this show! I very much remember an episode where the famous advocate/politician Mr.Ram Jeth Malani walked out in the middle of the interview.Thanks to the anchor's grilling!  Another interview that just blew my mind off was the one with Mrs.J.Jayalalitha , CM - TN  (This one was in BBC) 

    Honestly! That's Journalism at its best & worst! Bit contradicting am I?!
    Well Let me elaborate on it.

    1) Rude! At times the interviewers are thoroughly rude & show their exasperation out publicly! Okay agreed your are humans as we are & you also get frustrated just like us. But that doesn't mean that you have to vent it out like that.

    2) Not all interviewers are like that honestly! There are many people who are really nice when they interview even the worst kind of people. My all time favorites are Prannoy Roy & Vikram Chandra of NDTV.

    3) Certain "News"channels tend to telecast more of "Buzz"news (Entertainment "News" its called). Seriously I simply feel its not that important to know which celebrity is dating whom etc etc!

    4) The Mudslinging (More Commonly seen in print media) - Like me,most have you would have noticed a hell a lot of mudslinging going on between The Times of India ( The sleepy ad!) & The Hindu ( The changing with 'Times' ad). I simply feel these two news papers are two different entities that can never compete with each other. Both the papers have their own share of good & bad.

    Well, I CONCLUDE that the News Media has been both an angel & devil. But wencan never live without the Fourth estate can we?!!!

    PS: My first attempt in criticizing something in good & bad way! I'm Entitled to my opinions after all!


    Monday, February 27, 2012

    #5 : The Adrenaline Rush

    Been long since I blogged! And this time I'm not going to go bickering about the Public Transport or Corruption! 
    From the title don't mistake it for some kind of adventure experience that I had ( Adventure & me!?! Bad combo :P)
    Its about the stuff that I really enjoy watching/reading.
    So this is how my fascination with murder & crime started

    I first stated reading books when I was in 3rd standard. My Mom got me interested in comics & short stories by Enid Blyton. But then I lost interest in comics within a year & half.I started venturing to other sections.That's when I found out Mysteries were far better then comics. I got totally addicted to Nancy Drew written by collective authors under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.

    Though I did read a couple of Hardy Boys Books found Nancy drew a lot better. Then I grew up!! ( I had to you see :P)Moved on to Books by Agatha Christe.Went on rage to finish of all her books featuring Hercule Poirot in the lead. Didn't like the same authors books featuring Ms.Jane Marple!

    Thanks to Agatha Christe's books, I got a new friend , B.S.Dhivya. We bonded big time over books. We still continue to be good friends thanks to Books!

    After Mystery & Crime came along fantasy series Harry Potter to amaze be. I went bonkers over the HP series ( Though I didn't enjoy the movie as much as the books). Sad JKR had to end the series. 

    But thanks to her books I concentrated on my boards exams ( You see her books were like carrots dangled in front of a rabbit. To get the carrots I had to score good marks!!!)

    After the HP series ended I turned towards John Grisham & Jeffery Archer. Those two authors are my all time favorites.I also started to explore various books by novelists like Tess Gerritsen  Micheal Plamer, Lee Child etc.But I still haven't ventured into any other genre.I'm more of the kind who enjoys the adrenaline rush narrated in a book.

    But of late my attention has turned to Thriller series telecast-ed on TV.I have a long list of Mystery series/Thrillers that I enjoy(or enjoyed :D finished off some) & here are a few to name.




    So that's the rush of adrenaline that I know of! 

    P.S: I'm not a Violent person :D