The collective dream of a Nation

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The old mechanical alarm clock started to make loud ringing sounds enough to wake up the entire neighborhood. But the 11 year old kid slept on unperturbed. His mom came and tried to wake him up. After some attempts, she softly whispered into his ears, ‘you will miss the launch!’. The kid woke up with a start. He didn’t want to miss the rocket launch that was telecast live on TV. And there was no competition for TV time amongst the 14 members of his joint family as it was 4 AM in the morning and every other soul in the house slumbered peacefully. The darkness around him wasn’t much a bother for this enthusiastic kid who woke up, quickly brushed his teeth, drank some water and dashed to the living room not to miss the countdown of the rocket launch.

This was 1995 in India where TV cable hadn’t a presence yet in nooks and corners of the country. But the national network (DoorDarshan) had a special broadcast live from French Guiana in Central America. The commentators spoke in Hindi peppered with scientific words in English which the 11-year old understood only slightly. But his gaze was fixed on the inset video of the rocket and the countdown timer at the bottom left of the TV screen. Suddenly as the countdown timer said T-20 the whole team of scientists went into a freeze and now only the project director’s voice was heard loud and clear saying “5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Go”. A brief silence followed after which the Ariane rocket ignited and lifted off carrying India’s INSAT-2C into earth’s orbit. The boy cheered every time the sounds of jubilation were heard on TV. His dreams soared high along with the rocket that carried India’s future (communication). The boy wondered, ‘Are my friends watching this too?’ and looked forward to school that day to compare notes with his best friends so that they could together dream of becoming scientists who go on to create something truly majestic that their countrymen will be proud of.

In the current day, 19 years later, these kids have gone on to build bridges, mend others’ hearts & lungs, write software, setup businesses, teach and inspire other kids and what not. And when India makes another huge scientific progress (in this case Mars Orbiter Mission or Mangalyaan) we all pause, look up the sky wondering where the red planet is, feel proud of our scientists and also proud that a collective dream of a nation to have come true.

This reminds the author of a quote from his favorite idol, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
‘Dream, Dream Dream. Dreams transform into thoughts. And thoughts result in action.’

Gifted – A Poem

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Disabled’, the society screamed and their life was restricted,
Different! not less‘, was the chant to which their parent’s enlisted.

To achieve the impossible, is what their families committed,
It was every parent’s dream that their child lives unassisted.

Unique they were, and each of them was spirited,
Unhindered by the limitations, their bodies had inherited.

Reading about their triumphs, the myth of disability gets lifted,
A celebration called life‘ is the story of these truly GIFTED.

 

Gifted is a collection of 15 inspiring stories of people with disabilities. It’s written by VR Ferose and Sudha Menon. This blogger is proud to have been associated with the book in his own small way (check the acknowledgment in the book).

Brahma 3 – A Poem

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He has a single head, that moves with grace,
The way he works, would leave one in amaze.

His mere mention has let human imagination ablaze.
Creating a universe, would still leave him unfazed.

Spewing perfect shapes, he hardly has any sigma,
Seeing him work, many creators do get a stigma.

His simple design makes one wonder about this enigma,
No wonder the inventors rightly call him a Brahma.

Brahma 3 Anvil is an India-genously (indigenous + India) made desktop 3D printer. The author was fortunate to get a first hand experience seeing the Brahma print a simple bracelet. The author is not associated with the venture in any way and only wish the venture and the technology to do remarkable things. Printing affordable prosthetics, artificial limbs to the bottom billion is just the beginning. The Sky is the limit for this technology.

Baby Sat-Her-Day

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The 7-year old kid came along with her parents. She hesitantly stepped into the new house. Slowly she started exploring each room, balcony, view and smell the house had and was comparing it to the previous house I lived in. Once in a while, she remarked at a familiar object like ‘Oh I see! you have carried the fridge from the old house’.

It was an unusual Saturday. Unusual cause I had woken up at day break and was preparing for my 7-year old niece to come home. I had readied the art supplies, drawing material and some Tom and Jerry cartoon videos for my niece to be engaged with. Her parents gave her the book and toy bag and waved her good bye. My sister instructed me and my wife, ‘She hasn’t had her breakfast!’. After seeing them off, we were on to the task with Dosa (Indian pancake) in hand to feed my niece. This day it was different. For some reason she was completely conscious of her surrounding and got startled on a few occasions. I was thinking, ‘Something about her has changed. Or had it?’. The circumstances were unusual of course. It had been a month since her new term at school had begun and they had an unscheduled week off due to protests in the school. I tried to deviate her attention to the bird’s nest atop the tree near the balcony but she drew me to the topic that was bothering her.

She told ‘Do you know, a 1st grade student in our school was raped?’
In shock (of a 7-year old asking such a question), I nodded. But I didn’t know what to say to her.
The only words that came out of my mouth were  ‘Do you know What’s Rape?’
She said she didn’t understand the word.
But then added that ‘Mom tells me that some teacher forcibly removed the clothes of this kid and fiddled with her body parts’ (she said this in her native tongue which I have translated to the best of my knowledge)
She went on, ‘That’s why Mom and Dad have gone to the school now to protest along with other parents’.

I just didn’t know how to proceed with the conversation and sympathized with the victim and blamed the teacher in question of such a dastard act. We then moved on to talk about other topics and she also drew a parrot in our ‘uncle-niece’ joint activity book.

When she left, the nagging question was bothering me, ‘What world are we creating for the younger generation?’. I don’t have an answer for it. Probably that’s the reason why 4000 people took to the streets on that eventful Saturday. Here’s the picture drawn by my 7-year old niece. Let this be a reminder of the innocence of these kids that we need to preserve and our responsibility as adults to create a safe and fun environment for them.

Space to be different (IPL Saga – Part 3 of 3)

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   “Love you, Gauti”, shouted the two girls at the top of their voices. They were jumping off their seats and dancing and cheering when Gautam Gambhir played. Not only did they cheer his walk to the cricket pitch but every time the ball hit his bat. This is a usual scene in a cricket crazy nation where crowds run behind team buses just to catch glimpse of Sunil Narine or Wasim Akram. What would the scene look like for a Tendulkar or Dhoni. Absolute chaos.

   Coming back to the scene of the girls rooting for Gautam Gambhir and his Kolkata Knight Riders brigade. Every time the girls got up from their seats to cheer or shout some young boys behind them were copying the girl’s moves. Especially a lanky lad among the boys put some moves that kept the crowd amused. Behind, a drunk man was throwing a lot of ‘F’ expletives at a bunch of people who had occupied his seat. For some reason he wanted to sit in his own seat and not open to sit in other vacant seats. A bunch of opportune guys, saw the cheering girls and came and started chatting up the girls. And then there were people shouting slogans for India’s victory. That too in an Indian Premier league cricket game where teams were regional and didn’t represent the country. And there were people who were sloshed and shouting at the top of their voices. If only they had thumped their chests, it would look like a full clothed Tarzan in the jungle.

   Replace Cricket with Football or any other sport and sportsmen, the situation is the same world over (except maybe for tennis and its tie-clad clapping gentlemen). Do spaces like stadium offer a space where man lets his adrenaline flow? Why do we tend to behave differently in these spaces in contrast to our own offices or communities? Are we constrained by our social fabric so much that getting excited or fearful (the cause for adrenaline rush) is only restricted to these special spaces? Should we bottle it up until the next cricket match to vent it out?

Man versus System – The Indian Context (IPL Saga – Part 2 or 3)

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It feels happy to have beat the pack of 40000 people and had an early drink in a stadium doesn’t it. After enjoying this little achievement, this author turned back to his seat in the stadium to watch cricket players going through the practice drill, coaches guiding players, Umpires and referees inspecting the pitch and the ground staff and their machinery clearing the dew off the grass. It was break time for the biggest game of the IPL season.

One such machine used in day-night cricket encounters in the sub-continent is a super sopper. It’s used to absorb all the dew of the grass so that the batting side don’t have an advantage. It was a road roller of sorts meant for the grass. Ironic that these machines were in use in IPL where balls mostly flew out of the park and only occasionally touched the grass. On the particular day of IPL final, two machines came onto the ground to do their duties. Unfortunately one of them broke down during operation. The technicians were called in to fix but to no avail. The break got extended by a few minutes as the huge machine stopped moving and had to be cleared off the field for the play to start. Though it had regular wheels to be rolled off the ground, for some reason the ground staff were reluctant to use it. The solution finally employed being, about 40 people lifted the machine off the ground.

The author wonders, what would happen if this situation were to happen in Australia or England where the planned system would have accounted for such an eventuality. Maybe they had a crane on the ground. Maybe they would have better designed super soppers that could be easily rolled off the ground. Why do, we in India, offer solutions that need people to do it instead of systems and infrastructure.

   The answer, in the author’s mind, is simple. ‘We use the resource that’s available in plenty‘. Could a western country afford to have hundreds of ground staff? Probably not. But we do. So are we a country that has less use of a system? Maybe. Look around you. Every time a road is dug to lay a cable you will find tens of people digging trenches in the age of advanced tunneling machines. At our IT/BPO industries which hire by few hundred thousands. Look at Indian Railways that’s one of the largest employer in the world.  So next time someone tries to retrofit a western solution to an Indian context. Take note that this is a different country where human resources thrive over systems.

When opportunity knocks (IPL Saga – Part 1 of 3)

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  It was a lazy Sunday afternoon that was meant to be spent laid back on a chair reading your favorite book or catching a siesta. But all it takes is one phone call to change it into an exciting noise filled prospect. It was this blogger’s ‘boss at work’ who was calling. With much trepidation one answers only to find out that the boss has a spare ticket to watch the biggest game of the summer in India with him and his family. No points for guessing that it’s the final of the Indian Premier League season 7. Kolkata Knight Riders facing Kings Eleven Punjab in an exciting contest in Bangalore.

  The place around the stadium wore a festive look even 3 hours prior to the contest. People came out in team colors in support of the greatest spectacle of the Indian Summer. An electric atmosphere created by 40000 fans who had come to watch a good cricket contest. And it was a good contest that went to the wire. Post match, walking back to the car park, the boss revealed that the blogger was the eight guy the boss had called to watch the match with and was shocked that the other seven refused to watch an IPL final including the boss’s boss (a.k.a Boss’s wife).

  A cool breeze was blowing in, the crowd was dispersing from the stadium. The night sky was full of cracker smoke and there wasn’t a star recognizable in the haze which one could pin one’s lucky fortune on. In one of those moments you realizes that ‘When opportunity knocks on your door, it doesn’t matter if it has knocked other doors before. All that matters is whether you answer it or not’.