April 26, 2010

Trek to rajmachi

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:04 pm by chait83

After a long tryst with destiny (Gumption traps) we decided to trek Rajmachi and came across this blog which said the walk to Rajmachi was enchanting. My legs are still aching and I cursed the person who wrote the blog, yet once done with the trek the experience was truly exhilarating.

We reached Lonavala station at 2 pm (don’t ask why), but an avid trekker would have reached at the most by 10 am. The adventure started with the very fact that we reached at 2 pm, which meant the return journey would be after the sunset through the dark forest (No Street lights, obviously!).

Rajmachi foothill

Rajmachi ... The road ahead

The fort is typically characterized by undulating hilly terrains, as most of the forts belonging to Shivaji Maharaj are.

Majestic view on the way to Rajmachi

History:

Shrivardhan fort from the foothill

So Rajmachi hosts two forts or rather citadels (Bale Kille) know as Shrivardhan and Manoranjan, Shrivardhan being bigger of the two. These two citadels were mainly used as watch towers to guard the Bhor ghat which connects Pune with Mumbai.

Although Mumbai came to prominence only after the Suez canal was built, none the less this was an important trade route even during the reign of Shivaji Maharaj. I haven’t heard of any battles being fought at Rajmachi or any references on the internet, I guess this was indeed a safe haven.

The road:

On the crossroads ??? Take the road on the left

On the cross roads.. Phew !!! Well the road on left is the right one 😉

Well you can take two roads.

You can start from Lonavala and walk down to Rajmachi, which is approximately 20 km. The road is straight without much hiccup for a rookie trekker. Initially the forest was not dense, but as you proceed the forest gets denser. Also there was some construction activity going near the Fort (10 km from the Fort). I hope I won’t get to see street-side vendors around the Fort selling cheap stuff, just the way we have here at Shaniwar wada. Lazy bums can get their bikes right upto the foothill of the fort through the dusky road, but not in rainy season. I would rather prefer to walk out of respect for our historic heritage.

The other way is from Kondivade village near Karjat.

Word of caution: Take lots of water with you (at least 2 ltr / person), because along the way you won’t find any drinking water, no locals, no other source or water. Well the good news is that there is a village on the foothill of the fort and yes you do get mineral water as well.

Near Bhairoba temple, locals still worship here

The main attraction for me was the not the fort but the temples. Most of the Forts in Maharashtra are no more than a hip of ruin surrounded by fortified walls in ailing condition (I so very painful to make this statement, but that’s the truth). After a long time I saw a few glimpses of historic architecture in form of temples and the cave. Last time I remember getting a feel of this kind of architectural beauty was Sindhadurg fort.

So near… Yet So far. After a marathon run from Lonavala station, this 100 mtr climb seemed Herculean.

Finally on the top of the world! On right hand side is Shrivardhan.

Well having said that, the view from the top was worth three hours of huff-puff (to be read as breath taking) journey through the woods.

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April 18, 2010

It’s a sustainable world ?

Posted in Clean tech tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:39 am by chait83

Part – I

This blog is inspired by the clean tech Presentation on Clean tech by Anil Paranjape at  startup Saturday. I was particularly interested with this video on clean tech.


This particular video showed in animated manner how natural resources are exploited by corporate giants for the generation of consumer good. Although I feel the video is bit overkill, but here’s my take on the video.

Well this brings to my mind some scenes from some of my favourite movies.

So here are the scenes:

  1. Lagaan:

Well who can forget the characteristic “Tumse dugna Lagaan Vasool karega!” dialogue, inspiring intense loathing for the British.

Umm… really? Well what about the lovely British lady who sang songs of love running around the sparse bushes of Champaner for our adorable “Bhuuvaaan!!”…. “Yesss.. I am in love!” So, well the loathing is not for the British, but clearly their undue “Dugna Lagaan” policy. Well in technical terms it would be the imperialist policies of the British that Indians opposed of. During the 17th and 18th Century Europe experienced the great industrial revolution and England was the cradle of the revolution and subsequently the leader. Now England being a small country it couldn’t find all the resources it’s factories required and hence venturing out was the only logical alternative. With it’s new found technology and “By hook or by crook” policy the British Empire never saw sun going down for a long time. Not only India but all the British colonies were exploited of their natural and human resources. In this century the imperialism is left far behind, but the traces are still there.

  1. Gandhi:

Well another very inspiring movie. I clearly recount the scene where Barrister M K Gandhi descends from the ship on India shores and take an extensive tour across the nation ascending to the role of Bapu. Along the tour he meets farmer aggrieved by forced cultivation of Indigo and battling the famines. Well after twenty years Bapu figures out that the natural resources of India are exploited for the factories of Manchester and Chelmsford. So he laid the foundation of non co-operation movement.

Apart from the overall success or failures of his life, Gandhiji was very wise to clearly demarcate values from people. This demarcation at any point of time is very important for a value centric, process oriented action plan.

  1. Blood diamond:

This movie was a showed stark reality of the happenings of Liberia and their diamond mines. Here Leonardo di Caprio shown as a mercenary who trades weapons for diamonds. At one point of time explains how the whole business runs. So he trades weapons with the extremist for the diamonds, he then hands them over to local authorities who certify them to be excavated in South Africa by a Big South African company. They are then sent to India for polishing and then the company hordes the diamonds, to create artificial scarcity in the market. Then the advertisement campaigns are run to show how rare a diamond is.

The worst part of all this blood diamond was school going children were abducted, brainwashed, exposed to drugs and prostitution at a very early age and made soldiers of the bloody revolution.

Now there was another scene where after an extreme bloodbath an old man sadly exclaims to the protagonist of the movie “I hope they don’t find oil here!”

The movie ends with the UN passing a resolution stating that the natural resources of a country are their own and others have no right to exploit them.

Thus end the sad saga of conflict diamonds, well at least in the movie.

Well the video also shows the same thing, portraying entrepreneurs as imperialist. As I said earlier that imperialism though non-existent in official senses the traces are still there.

Some of the things that we see around:

  1. Well with India having 50% of the child labour the problem is very serious.
  2. The saga of builders trying to grab land on Vetal Tekdi in Pune.
  3. Leather tanneries in Kanpur letting out their untreated waste into River Yamuna.
  4. The famous Taj corridor case.

And many many more…

… To be continued

April 2, 2010

Startup Saturday 10 March

Posted in Starup Saturday at 9:46 am by chait83

This blog is a followup of the previous blog in the startup Saturday series.

The theme for today’s meet was adventure sports. The speakers for the meet were
1. Commodore V. G. Praveen from Inland windsurfing and sailing academy.
2. Anita from Templepilots
3. Rohan More from Japalouppe (A horse riding academy)

One common thing evident about all the speakers was the air of euphoria and the passion with which all the speakers spoke.

The session started V. G. Praveen’s presentation. His “Inland windsurfing and sailing academy” is located at Varasgon near Panshet dam in Pune. There they conduct sailing, kayaking and windsurfing activities. They are associated with the Yachting Association of India

Praveen has been into sailing and windsurfing for past seven years and started teaching five years back.

How did he start his academy?
Well started Sailing from a club in Pune, which organised a camp once in a year. Later on he moved to Goa to get a formal course in sailing, windsurfing. When he decided to start his academy he looked out for second-hand equipment and he found out quite a few sellers for that. There was a very peculiar associated with the purchase, all the equipment required repairs and the spare parts were not available in India. To add to the trouble the spare parts were not interchangeable and hence he had to go to Thailand to buy new equipments.
Currently the equipment is exempted of customs.

When he was asked as to why there aren’t many adventure sports enthusiasts in India, his answer was:
1. The general prejudices in the minds of people, that adventure sports are dangerous.
2. All the equipment required for their water sports activity has to be imported; hence the overall cost for the course is expensive as well.

Where can you organise water sports:
For kayaking: A place where the water is calm and there is not much wind, like lakes.
For windsurfing: The water body should be more than three kilometres in diameter otherwise it is not enjoyable. Also as the name implies there should be sufficient wind for windsurfing.

How do they promote their academy?
Through their website http://www.windsportsPune.com and word of mouth. They have taken no effort in doing the promotion for their company since there is a very niche segment of people who have interest in water sports and according to him it’s not possible to attract these people through advertisement campaigns.

Business:
Since this sport is very niche there aren’t many people involved in this business.
Adventure sports enthusiast should be looking forward to this as a wonderful opportunity, since in coming five years there would be a new generation who would want to get involved in adventure sports and they would be earning enough to pay handsomely for adventure sports.

Personal safety:
If a person follows basic instructions of the course, there is no risk involved in water sports. Till date there has been no mishap in his academy.

Their achievements:
Templepilot:

Anita spoke about Templepilots and was very vocal about two things, passion for flying and safety measure they practice at Templepilots

About Templepilot:
Templepilot is the only registered school for paragliding in India. They started 14 years back.
Anita quit her corporate job to help her husband formalise his hobby of paragliding into a well structured course with a good business vision.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying:

This is an interesting excerpt about Avi (founder of Templepilots) from their website:

“..,.his (Avi) being in the top three in the NDA entrance, winning the prestigious Presidents Gold Medal and being chosen for the IAF as a Fighter Pilot came so naturally that it seemed as if he were destined.

He is a simply a flier, not an aviator, a flier…at heart. He is at home in the sky…and his love for flying comes through to all his students whom he shares it with. His one burning passion is to get more and more people flying with him and tasting the magic of perfection and oneness that he lives by.”
About Anita
“Anita has a background in advertising and pure marketing. Having done her MBA she abandoned her Corporate career as a Senior Brand Manager for TATA Home Finance.”

Well Anita testified that she is enjoying every bit of Templepilots and never once did she regret quitting her job.

Looking at their success story and along with their decision to quit their jobs (most people reading would die to get that kind of jobs) for the sheer joy of flying, it is in the true spirit of “Keep the Aspidistra Flying”.

Competition:
Templepilots is experiencing competition created by them. Yet since the space is really wide more competition can still sustain without much adverse effect on the business.

Obstacles in scaling up:
There are not lot many instructors willing to take up the job. It takes around two years for them to train a person for the job of instructor.
All equipment required for the flying has to imported, also there are no tax exemptions for the imported goods.

Level of physical fitness required for flying:
If you are physically fit to drive a cycle, you can fly. You should not have any back aliments.

How did they promote their flying school?
Anita is the one who does all the promotional activity for their venture. So when they start Templepilots. Anita randomly caught hold of groups in a cafe or any other public tweeting places and told them about flying and Templepilots. The good thing that happened for them wa s that their initial students were influential people of the society and hence the word of mouth publicity was very effective from the very early days.

Their track record has been so far very clean with no mishaps.

Fun trivia:
Is there any scope you running into a tree?
Well if you aim for it, for sure you can!

This was a witty reply to the above query by Anita.
Moral of the story, paragliding is a very safe sport and the glider is in total control at any point of time, provided the glider adheres to the regulations and does not push things beyond the safety threshold.
Japalouppe:

Japalouppe is a Horse riding club located in Talegaon Dabhade, an hour’s drive from Pune.
It’s a mother and son venture. Started by his mother Lorraine Morey and later on assisted by her sons Rohan and Nikhil.
Japaloppe is into training for horses riding, consultation, breeding and allied services for horses. Right now they are the biggest players in Pune and recently they have started another training school at Ranchi.

Inspiration:
Rohan was born and brought surrounded by horses. His father and grandfather are involved in the business of breeding horse. He is a third generation horseman.

How did he start his business?
So Rohan started his business by borrowing money from his father. At some point of time he did want to quit the business since at an early age (about 25 years) he was not able to manage the business. The only motivation at that point of time was his passion for his horse riding school. Slowly he managed to turned the tide and right now they are doing great business and profitable as well. Currently they are catering big corporates and schools in and around Pune.

Their business:
Japalouppe not only conducts training for beginners, but also grooms up students for competition. They have resorts and

Market segmentation:
So Rohan talked about the different Market segments in his line of business.

1. Single horse owners: Not much of the competition since they own a single horse and their business operations are ad hoc in nature.
2. Riding schools to train riders for competition: So there are a lot of riding schools which exclusively train students for competitions, which is a very niche market segment.
3. Generic riding school: This is the segment Japalouppe operates in. This accounts for the largest pie of the horse riding schools, which has a formal structure to its training. Major portion of their business comes from the camps which they conduct for the students in the summers.

Japalouppe not only conducts training for beginners, but also grooms up students for competition. They have resorts wherein they offer a complete joy ride for the trainees or weekend euphoria for enthusiasts.

March 29, 2010

Startup saturday 13th feb

Posted in Starup Saturday tagged , , , , , , , at 2:29 pm by chait83

Well this blog was written well a month back for startup Saturday. It never got published on the site it was intended for, apparently because they did not have any policies in place (Probably they still haven’t given a thought). I didn’t want the hard work to go in vain. This blog series I am writing down to contribute my 2 cents to the spirit of entrepreneurship and the startup community.

Startup Saturday Pune 4, focused on Grass Root Ventures and Pune Angel Network. We invited companies from micro finance, vada pav, laundry, courier, low-end staffing, sanitation, taxis, rural BPO, rural hospitals, mobile service centers and low-cost hotels. We choose to focus on these ventures because, there are diamonds at the bottom of the pyramid. The market is gigantic, customer problems are many and the demand unmet.

We had Brigadier Jayant Mankikar from Checkmate Security Services who talked about how the founder Mr. Vikram Mahurkar used to take guards on his scooter to client locations every day and has built a company of 300 Cr, employing close to 50,000.

Brigadier Jayant Mankikar is a currently working at the position of GM at Checkmate Security Services. His company provides security services to mainly corporate sector. You can find more details about their services here.

1. How does the company operate?
The company has a team which travels to the rural areas of the country. There they conduct their routine physical fitness test and a few other basic tests to shortlist candidates. The candidates are brought to a training center in Pune for a fortnightly training. The training center is equipped with all facilities for training a security guard like metal detectors, CCTV, etc. The candidates are provided with lodging and boarding facilities. Once the candidates are done with their training there are sent to the site for their regular duty and their payroll start from that day.

2. Some of the challenges they face:
The major challenge faced by their organization is communication gap between the organization and gaurds.
a. Labour unions: Mr. Jayant spoke about the most menacing problem faced by their organization is their employee referring to labour union for petty issues instead of approaching to their seniors. He spoke of a how he was woken in the middle of the night by a labour union leader demanding reimbursement of Rs. 24 which was miscalculated by their payroll department. Although the problem of labour unions is age-old, startups should be very effective in their communication with their employees. Although communication cannot curb the menacing problem, certainly it’s the most import part of the business.
b. Homesickness: Since most of the employees hail from rural areas and never been away from home for a long period, they most certainly get homesick. In this case they just pack their bags and return home without intimating anyone; in this case the clients notice that one fine day four of their guards are missing. In this situation the company has to arrange for alternate guards on the fly.
c. Routine security procedures challenged by annoying individuals: Sometime individuals are annoyed by the security guards on duty who are doing their routine security checks and try to evade the procedures. If these individuals happen to be important or influential people, the guards are in a twist. In this case if a guard not withstanding the pressure performs his duty, is demanded an apology for “Nagging” the person which actually is the duty of the security personnel.
3. Any business opportunities for techno startups in security business?
Mr. Jayant’s reply was no to this question. He felt that most of the tech stuff required for the security purpose is available. Yet we feel that any tech startup who wants to explore opportunities in this segment should visit companies like checkmate, for they have pan India presence and their clients are mostly big corporate. After all a good product / service can only be designed when an entrepreneur knows the business thoroughly and with his business acumen is able to define correctly the pain areas and build a good team which can address the pain area correctly.

Next was Rajiv Kumar from Laundry Consultants Group:

He has been a technical consultant, reseller, and service provider for large laundries in Pune. His clients have been large five star hotels like “The Taj Hotels”.
How he started his business:
Rajeev started his business with as low investment as the brochures in his bag. He didn’t have an office when he started his business.
1. Benchmarks for laundry business:
2. His future plans:
Rajeev had made a presentation for his upcoming venture and his presentation was cut short since we were running short of time. Yet with whatever presented we got a fair idea of his plans. Here are the issues he is aiming to address.
a. Overnight service: Today people are spending more time in their offices and more than often they would want a service wherein they handover the clothes for laundry in the evening and collect in the morning. With his service model Rajeev aims to solve this pain for the people who don’t find much time for laundry.
b. Fabric dynamics: As each one of us is aware that our “once in a life time” Fabrics need special care. This can be provided only by a professional laundry service.

Suketu Talekar from Doolally:

They run a micro brewery. For those who don’t know what a microbrewery is, it is a small brewery which produces handcrafted beer and served directly to the consumers.

Although his presentation was the funniest one, it was filled with lot of passion and a sense of achievement.

Suketu talked about his experience in drinking beer at a microbrewery in Singapore to setting up the first microbrewery of Pune and the challenges thereof.
If anything, his presentation was an amazingly simple and inspiring story of a person working in Singapore, with no experience or knowledge of food and beverages industry, making a commitment to friends after few pints of beer, to quit his
job and make good beer in India. They started in 2006 and finally got it up and running in 2009.

Inspiration:
Drinking beer ofcourse! Suketu was inspired by this idea of starting a microbrewery India when he was completely drunk, both in terms of literally senses and his love for handcrafted microbrewery beer experience all the while frustrated with the job he had at a FMCG company in Singapore. He came back to India to pursue his dream and the hurdles were endless.

Challenges faced:
1. Prior to Doolally there was no concept of microbrewery in India, hence getting the license was really tricky. They had to take the officers to Singapore to explain them what a microbrewery actually is. It took eighteen months for them to secure the first license for microbrewery in India.
2. Machinery: Again since this was a first of its kind venture in India, setting up the machinery for the brewery was a tough job. Their first design had failed the first time and they had to do it again.

Business operations:
Doolally currently is not involved in the allied business of serving food, as they want to play on their strengths which is brewing the beer. So they have contracted with the Corinthian club, where the club takes care of serving the food and the beer is provided by Doolally.

Doolally have plans to expand by leasing out Franchises, but time being they plan to focus only on the quality of the beer and the whole experience of drinking a handcrafted beer rather than investing in the marketing or PR of the product. Suketu simply puts this as “We would want to put whatever we have in our product rather than marketing”.

His take on failures:
Suketu said that during this four years of putting Doolally in place, they had failed in every conceivable manner. His said that an entrepreneur has to be very shameless, every time you fall flat on your face you stand up, learn from your mistakes and start walking. Now that Doolally is Pune’s first microbrewery, in that sense it makes their team the pioneers of microbrewery in India.

The word Doolally:
Deolali is small town near Nashik (Suketu hails from the same town) which was a pre-independence transit camp for the British army. The word Doolally originates from the slang term “Doolaly (Deolali) Tap (Fever in marathi)” and referring to menace created by soldiers in transit who were kept at the town without any commanding officer.

As an icing on the cake, was the kickoff of Pune Angel Network. Anil
Paranjape and Rajeev Karajgikar briefly spoke about the idea, pain
points of entrepreneurs and investors and how this network is going to
be a bridge between the two. The most important point raised by Anil Paranjape was that any serious wannabe entrepreneurs who have crude idea for their venture should meet the Angel network so their ideas are refined over subsequent meetings. Most of the times the entrepreneurs think that they should first create some prototype and then come to Angel network. In this case lot of time is wasted if the prototype happens to be non-promising and only a different approach in conceptualization of the prototype could have built a successful product or a service.

Networking over tea was entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs crowding around Pune Angels.

February 11, 2010

A cuckoo’s egg

Posted in Book review tagged , , , , , , , at 8:33 am by chait83

So what does it take to write a thriller… FBI , CIA , KGB, NSA… High tech research labs of Berkley , MIT and Stanford .. add to it a little bit of innocence and goof ups of a mad ( for the mere mortals) scientist.. and you have a humourous thriller on your platter. But “A cuckoo’s egg” by Cliff Stoll is far more than just being a thriller and humour, it’s about influence of human society or a culture as a whole on technology. Usually viewed from an opposite angle i.e. influence of technology on  humans or the culture or the society as whole.

This blog is not a book review, but rather my learnings from the book.


1. Technology and people : Cliff still is thinking about the motive of the hacker. Most of researchers of his university would be more than happy if the hacker goes on and takes some effort to read their papers residing on the vast network of Berkley..What would the hacker get at the end of the day hacking into their computers. But his colleagues are concerned that this hacker would bring the network on its knees. Cliff still is not able to realise this concern. After all what would the hacker do with worthless data on their system and since he was around for at least a year he could have created havoc long ago if he had to.

Excerpt from the book.

Dennis saw the hacker problem in terms of social morality. “We’ll always find a few dodos poking around our data. I’m worried about how hackers poison the trust that’s built our networks. After years of trying to hook together a bunch of computers, a few morons can spoil  everything.”

I didn’t see how trust had anything to do with it.

Dennis replied. “You’re seeing the crude physical apparatus—the wires and communications.The real work isn’t laying wires, it’s agreeing to link isolated communities.”

Technology is not a mesh of copper wires and silicon heaps, it is the ideology or the culture of the people who define the technology. For a very long time I thought that technology would be defining the course of human culture. But it’s the other way round, technology is just a medium which at times bridges the gap between human realms and their dreams. Technology alone is just a mesh of copper wires or heaps of silicon. The very existence of the technology lies within the ideology and the culture of the contemporary society, good or bad, culture defines the technology. Culture is the soul and technology is the bodily form of the human pursuit.


2. Freedom of thought :  You would find books across the globe and over the entire human History on this topic.. freedom of thought, but to me the most important aspect of this topic that this book discusses is mutual co-operation for the freedom.

3. If you can’t break the brick wall jump over it:

Often we are pursuing things in our lives (Not specifically a scientific pursuit, but a generic pursuit) and then we give up because we come across a brick wall. We try something else and again there is a brick wall and we give up. If probability of success is less than 1%, all it means is that we need to try more than 100 times to succeed. It doesn’t mean that “nobody cares“, or there is no point in it, or you failed in the pursuit, or it’s very difficult. All it means is that is you have to keep exploring different possibilities. You have to traverse untreaded paths, and battle the rough waters to find the shore.
Wow…did that that sounds philosophical !

But here’s what Luis Alvarez has to say on how to tread the untreaded path and find the shore out of rough waters.

This excerpt from the book here which is discussion between the author and a Nobel Laureate Luis Alvarez when they meet casually at the cafeteria.

Luis Alvarez: When you’re doing real research, you never know what it’ll cost, how much time it’ll take, or what you’ll find. You just know there’s unexplored territory and a chance to discover what’s out there.

Author: That’s easy for you to say. But I’ve got to keep three managers off my back.

L A : Don’t be a cop, be a scientist. Research the connections, the techniques, the holes. Apply physical principles. Find new methods to solve problems. Compile statistics, publish your results, and only trust what you can prove. But don’t exclude improbable solutions—keep your mind open.

A : But what do I do when I hit a brick wall ? Like the telephone company withholding a phone trace. Or the FBI refusing a court order. Or our laboratory shutting me down in a couple days?

L A  (People this is the most amazing part.. I would never forget):

Dead ends are illusory. When did you ever let a ‘Do Not Enter’ sign keep you away from anything? Go around the brick walls. When you can’t go around, climb over or dig under. Just don’t give up.

Permission, bah!

Funding, forget it.

Nobody will pay for research; they’re only interested in results,” Luie said. “Sure, you could write a detailed proposal to chase this hacker. In fifty pages, you’ll describe what you knew, what you expected, how much money it would take. Include the names of three qualified referees, cost benefit ratios, and what papers you’ve written before. Oh, and don’t forget the theoretical justification.

Or you could just chase the bastard. Run faster than him. Faster than the lab’s management. Don’t wait for someone else, do it yourself. Keep your boss happy, but don’t let him tie you down. Don’t give them a standing target.

When pioneers run after their pursuits like a mad bull on a rage, they scatter a lot of dust around them often leaving it for others to clean. The most important thing that Luis Alavarez talks about running like a bull, but with sanity of the goal and without scattering the dust around. This is one thing I would be internalizing in a few days.

Well that’s all folks. Read the book, it is awesome.

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February 3, 2010

Our blind education system:

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 7:47 pm by chait83

As I was cleaning up the old newspapers today I saw a photograph of parents sleeping in front of a convent school for admission forms for their kids. So I was wondering what this hype about convent schools is and on the other hand schools teaching Vedanta philosophy are considered as last resort to feeble minds.

Sometime in the eighteenth century the East India Company was figuring out how to overcome the local language barrier for clerical jobs. Lord Macaulay struck with a brilliant idea – teach the locals English. The Christian missionaries were up for the task and bingo; the convents meant for the nuns were turned into temples of English education. Dictionary meaning of convent is “A religious residence especially for nuns.” Hmm! Something what we saw in “The sound of Music” where Julia Andrews tries to be a nun in a convent. It’s been sixty years the Britishers have quit India, but still the mindset persists in Indian mentality.

Long before the Britishers came to India, India and China were considered the learning centers of the world. Probably the roads, water supply and drainage systems back the haddpa and Mohejodaro civilization were better than Pune.

So how’s this possible, these Indian scholars didn’t go to any convent schools. The Britishers hit the Indian shores only in the eighteenth century.

Quest for knowledge

(From perspective of Indian culture):

India had society divided into four sections and later into thousands of castes and subcastes, since very early days. Probably entire generations of trees have sacrificed their lives justifying this division of labour (or caste system) and then criticizing the caste system. Only thing I would say is that early division of labour did specify the four principles of human transcendence to the supreme (moksha). So keeping the division of labour out of

So Brahmans were the ones whose job was to explore the new limits of knowledge, transcend it into wisdom and elevate the stature of the common man.

Kshatriya: The most misunderstood ones. Lots of books mention Kshatriya as warriors and epic Bollywood movies cast them as epitome of violent maniacs whose swords are ever thirsty of human blood. Bhisma pitamah in Mahabharat truly defines the duties of a Kshatriya on his death bed to Yudhisthir. He mentions that the true duty of a Kshatriya is to impart justice to the masses and protect the virtue so that peace prevails in the society. So a Kshatriya should have thorough understanding his own duties. Violence is the last resort for a Kshatriya to impart justice, when all other means to deliver justice have “failed”. When a Kshatriya decides to step into the battlefield he must perform his duty with all his might. Essentially job here is to make sure that peace prevails, at times through violent means as well.

Vaisya: these were the merchants or generally the people who exchanged goods with mutual understanding and in process earning their share of profit. Not much literature is available since these people I guess because these people minded their own business 😉

Shudra: Osho mentions that the duty of a Shudra is to serve, with a purpose. Society for a very long time has treated them as mere servants. So not much learning has happened in the class and literature is filled only with the stories of their exploitation. Much can be attributed to lack of education.

Of these four sections only Brahmans and a handful of Kshatriya (princes and royal families) received formal education.

Apart from this formal education pattern there was a lot of informal education happening around society as well.

A young boy of the age eleven or twelve starts taking up small jobs like an apprentice on ship, or as a farm labour, carpenter, etc. The boy would most likely look upto the best sailor on the board and would be someone like him someday. His education starts with simple things like different techniques of tying knots. In return the captain of the ships would get some cheap labour on the board. By the time the boy is eighteen years old he is a master of the trade. Proactive boys would look upto captain and someday become captain of the ship. Same goes with the other trades as well, like farming, fishing, business, etc.

Learning through discussion:

So coming back to formal education of the vedic period the students had to stay in a monastery / convent 😉 of a wise sage for the complete period of his education. For that period the sage was the student’s family.

The first lesson would always be why to respect the teachers, elders and the society. The very next lesson involved self realization and the wise old sage would start teaching only when the he felt that his student is thorough with the first two lessons. The fables and epics are full of creative ways implemented by the teacher to inculcate these to lessons into their pupils.

The education by this teacher was never a classroom, textbook, grades degree kind of education. It was an open forum where the pupils raised their question and the teacher answered them through open discussion with fellow students.

It is said that Upanishads were outcome of discussion between students and the teacher. Also the veds were split in the four disciplines by Ved Vyaas through discussion with his students.

The education is deemed complete only when the teacher thought so and that would happen only when he is convinced that the student is ready for the challenges of real world.

Both systems have common patterns:

  1. Students learn things which are very relevant to their trade, with a much focused mindset from an expert of the trade.
  2. There are no illusionary carrots of marks and degree, the sole purpose of education is wisdom. Knowledge is gained out of inquisition and not out of compulsion.

History has witnessed that this kind of system had it’s own share of flaws, but certainly this system is less flawed than the current education system.

Sikandar ne Porus se ki thi ladai.. jo ki thi ladia toh mein kya karu?

Lyrics of a famous hindi song, have a special place in my heart. I often wonder what does a farmer in some remote village of India got to do with world war. A person by the age of 21-22 begets a child in most of the villages in India. Now the question is how is the tenth standard history of world war going to help a person feed his family and a newly arrived member in the family. Unless you have cleared tenth standard a person doesn’t get to pursue education in his field of interest. Jawaharlal Nehru in his book “Discovery of India” mentions about the plight of Indian peasants oppressed by moneylenders, taxes, famines, atrocities, etc in the British era. Reading newspapers I see no difference in the situation. May be the only difference is that the farmers are literate in present-day and have mobile phones, but still today most of them were oppressed to same degree. The sole reason for this plight of the farmers is their inability to manage their finances, which is not taught in any of the schools in India.

Government publishes a huge stack of worthless junk explaining increasing dropout rate, when the reasons for that are “but obvious”, nothing has been done. Farmers are committing suicides, there are compensations given out, whereas the real culprit is education system.

Now consider the poor section of the urban society, who don’t have much educational background nor intend to make a dent in the universe with their intellect. Most of the times struggle is to get the next meal for them and send a few pennies back home in some remote village in India. Here the expectations from life are simple. Again education system does nothing for this section as well. No person can learn vocational courses unless that person has completed tenth grade. Climbing the ladder to the tenth grade is full with worthless “sinkandar porus” battlefield stories from their perspective. If a person at the age of 11-12 is taught how to repair two-wheelers, may by the age of eighteen he would be self-sustaining. Once self-sustaining there is good chance that this boy would look around and see the bigger picture and realize importance of higher education. Though the person might or might not pursue higher education, the most important aspect here is the realization.

Coming towards the sophisticated urban class of the cities, the privileged ones who receive higher education there is craze among the students to become engineer, in most of the cases because their friends are getting into engineering. Here students learn how to solve cryptic mathematical problems, but in real life the most important skill for an engineer is to define a set of problems correctly. During my engineering days I had learnt double, triple, vector integration, derivative, all hi-fundu calculus which in real life I never required or I could never comprehend where I could use it.

There are very few people who would justify their choice of higher education. With a handful exception the most common scenarios would be:

  1. People pursuing arts did because they had no where else to go.
  2. People pursing commerce did because they wanted to have fun for three years.
  3. People studying medicine did that because their parents are doctors.
  4. People pursuing non-contemporary skills try to justify by their choice by “scope” offered by their profession.

Once into the inferno, students realize that lucrative jobs are available only in if they do MBA and hence they pursue MBA for job’s sake. Now rest of the time is spent in compromising with the job and life.

Degrees like MBA and engineering can only grind the rough edges and make them smooth, but there should inherent acumen for machines or business in the student itself without which the student is a failure (again explaining the growing dropout and suicide rate).

Focus on things that you love:

Lot of people keep telling you “Focus on things that you love”

Focus: Next time some asks you to focus on something, ask them what focus means? Unless the person is “Wise old sage” you are sure to trigger a humourous exchange of synonyms without deriving much out the discussion and for sake of some common sense you are not focusing on the task you are asked to focus on. In most of the cases people who talk about focus are certainly clueless about what they are talking. Even I don’t know what focus is, when I would understand I would certainly write a blog on it.

Love:

Years ago I had written off a movie of Karan Johar “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” (as I always do, that’s why I haven’t seen anymore movies of his), but this dialogue always lingered in my mind “Pyaar dosti hai”, delivered by SRK with a typical UMmUMmM.. I often hear people saying that this is passion of my life. Passion is “Pyaar” in excess quantity. So going by this hypothesis, passion for a particular profession starts with a friendship.

Friendship is not difficult to comprehend for anyone. Friends make our hearts lighter and merrier when they are around. Communication in friendship is always beyond all the barriers, since many of us find friends in animals, plants, books, etc. Friendship levels the playground, which always connect two friends. Most importantly friends give a meaning to life, good or bad but friendship always gives makes life meaningful.

So referring back to our hypothesis “Pyaar dosti hai”, you cannot be passionate about your profession unless you:

  1. Feel lighter and merrier doing the job you are doing
  2. You feel that there is no barrier of communication and you can relate to your profession as easily as you can relate to your friends.
  3. Your profession giving meaning to your life? Now unlike friendship the meaningfulness should always be in good terms. I guess very few people reading this blog want to end up being thief or some form of thief.

If you find these three things (there could be more aspects) then it’s just a matter of time that you become passionate with your profession. Focus would automatically be there once you are in love 😉

Cheers !!!

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