Monday, October 31, 2005
Beyond Blogging: Volunteering at Akshara III
See here for details of the massive project Akshara has undertaken in association with the Karnataka State Education Department (the objective is to have every single child in the primary schools in Bangalore to be reading at the levels they are supposed to be by the end of July next year).
He explained the areas in which the project will be needing volunteer assistance. These are:
1. Data collection: this is the earliest step in the process and requires actually traveling to the schools and collecting data regarding the location of the schools, the school strength, etc. Akshara is considering using PDAs/laptops for collecting data. They need help in devising software for entering the data into the PDAs/laptops.
2. Transfer of data to computers: At this stage, the data collected on the ground will be transfered to computers via programs designed for this specific purpose. At the end of the data collection process, Akshara will need the data to be tabulated and presented in a format that will be useful.
3. Data Analysis
4. Assessments: There are two kinds of assessments - at the project level and at the child level. Akshara needs volunteers to conduct assessments of the overall project (how the project is being run) and dipstick assessments (random surveys) of how the children are progressing during and at the end of the program.
5. Documentation: Finally, they will need volunteers to document the entire program from beginning to end. They are also looking for a videographer to make a documentary of this project.
All of this work (other than Documentation, which will be continuous) can be done over the weekends and at Resource Centers (that Akshara will set up in various localities) that are closest to you.
These are the five broad areas in which they need help. If you are interested in any of these five areas, please leave a comment to this post. Col. Rajan is expecting to hear from us by the end of next week. Once we have a group, he's offered to make a presentation (perhaps on a Saturday afternoon/evening or on a Sunday) to us regarding the program and how they see volunteers fitting into the scheme of things. At the presentation, all of us who are interested will get a clearer idea of each of the five steps and we can all decide which areas we will be able to assist in.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
The Great Indian October Fest
Beer, music, flea-market, food, games galore and fun unlimited! It's party time Bangalore!!
Truly Bangalore city rocks as it was but the natural choice, the booze haven, that would host this biggg fete first time in India!!
Cheers to the beery beery rocking times ahead!!
*glug glug glug glug glug*
DATE: 28, 29 and 30 Oktober
VENUE: Freeway 19 Entrance, Palace Grounds
Friday, October 21, 2005
Statement from the Bloggers of Bangalore and online petition in support of freedom of expression
In June 2005, JAM (link), a popular youth magazine published out of Mumbai, ran a story on IIPM titled 'The Truth about IIPM's Tall Claims" ( link ) pointing out blatant exaggerations in the institute's claims about infrastructure, courses, affiliations and placements. For instance, the magazine article pointed out how IIPM continues to use certain rankings conferred upon it AFTER those rankings have been withdrawn by the bodies conferring them.
The magazine ran an ethically researched investigative story on IIPM, revealing what was a marketing fraud by the college.
Alongside, Rashmi Bansal, the editor of JAM magazine and a former student of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad, who is also a blogger ( link ), published the same on her personal blog ( link to her post here ). In August 2005, blogger Gaurav Sabnis, another Mumbai-based blogger, posted about this on his own blog (link), linking to JAM's original story (link to gaurav's post). Soon after this, he received an e-mail from the IIPM legal department threatening to sue him for a huge sum of money unless he withdrew his comments ( link ). Simultaneously, he was also pressurised by IIPM through his employers, a global hardware manufacturer. Rather than put his employers in a tight spot, Sabnis decided to quit his job ( link ). Meanwhile, Varna Sriraman ( link ) also got a mail from IIPM threatning legal and police action ( link )
This is a story that has been carried by several media organisations
such as the Hindustan Times:
( link )
( link )
( link )
( link )
( link )
( link )
and has created a furore in the blogosphere in India as well as internationally. The strength of blogging as a force to reckon with has previously been seen in the co-ordination or relief efforts in the Tsunami crisis ( http://tsunamihelp.blogspot.com ) and the Mumbai rains at Mumbai Help ( http://mumbaihelp.blogspot.com/ ) and Cloudburst Mumbai ( http://cloudburstmumbai.blogspot.com ).
For detailed information on the bloggers vs IIPM issue, please visit http://desipundit.com for chronological updates on the controversy.
In the meantime, furthen investigative journalism by blogger thalassa_mikra
( link )
have raised further doubts about the educational qualifications of IIPM founder Malay Chaudhuri ( link ) and about IIPM's European connections ( link )
Investigations by other bloggers also cast grave doubts on the quality and authenticity of the foreign institutes that grant degrees to IIPM students.
The purpose of this petition is to express solidarity with the bloggers who have suffered threats and abuse at the hands of IIPM and also to draw attention to the original issues at the heart of the JAM story on IIPM.
If you believe that journalists and the media should be free to inform the public of false advertisements, which directly or indirectly affects their lives;
If you believe education should not be reduced to a marketable commodity;
If you believe that blogging is a powerful supplement to traditional media;
If you believe that bloggers should be entitled to individual opinions as also their own online space for airing and discussing these opinions;
If you believe in standing up for your rights; as an active member of society, as a blogger, as a citizen with the right to know
Please show your support to this cause, by going to the following website:
http://www.petitiononline.com/blogbang, and adding your signature. Also, if you’re a blogger, please carry this article on your blog. Thirdly, do pass this e-mail around to all your contacts.
The bloggers of bangalore are also going to stage a silent, sit-in demonstration on Monday, the 24th of October, in front of IIPM, Bangalore, to express their support to this cause. If you think the right to express our opinions is one of our fundamental, inalienable rights, do inform as many people as you can about this proposed demonstration.
if you want to post this on your blog, or pass it along as an e-mail, you will need the links. I have converted the URL's to HTML links to prevent cluttering, but here are the necessary links anyway:
jam article on IIPM:
her post on iipm:
gaurav sabnis' blog:
his post on the issue:
Varna's legal notice:
rashmi bansal's post rebutting claims made in fake blogs
that the JAM expose was funded by a rival of IIPM:
her post with the caution notice outlook had carried
gaurav's post about IIPM's legal notice to him:
gaurav's post on his resignation from his workplace:
Hindustan Times Story:
Indian Express story:
Mumbai help blog:
Cloudburst Mumbai Blog:
her post on Malay Chaudhuri's educational qualifications:
her post on IIPM's European connections:
Friday, October 14, 2005
A lot of people have said yes in the mails- since it is rather difficult to kep track there, I suggest that everyone willing to join in leave a comment here, so it's all centralized.
Moreover, as I've said in my mail to blogbang, we need a core team to co-ordinate this effort, and I suggest this core team be formed and meets by day after tomorrow morning if not tomorrow evening to chalk out a clear POA. So, if you are willing t5o be one of the chief perpetrator and can help with someting in particular, do holler here, and let's fix up the venue quick. Call me if you want: 9243122682.
Things to be discussed and formulated:
1) exactly how to keep the law in the loop
2) should we start from PTI and end at IIPM or how else can we go about it.
3) how to keep the media, especially visual media in the loop, so that, if they refuse to take the letter, which I'm sure is what the case will be, we can submit it to the media in a press conference.
4) mailerdemon has offered to design badges etc. for us. mdemon, please just cross-post your comment here.
5) most importantly, the date of the protest.
6) anything else i might have forgotten
UPDATE: I suggest we (whoever wants to take a very active role in this) meet up tomorrow, at eleven at Barrista, St. Marks' Road. The agenda is to finalize date, time and exact mode of protest: from where to march. I think after the march we should call a press conference at PTI where we can formally hand over a copy of the letter of protest to the media. Also, medemon pleaase try to make it as you said you have some ideas about this. Sunu, mandar, swar- please make it. chamique, you too. Vignesh is unfortunately out of the country, but he has promised virtual support. Does anyone know how to get in touch with the police. We also need to discuss media management tomorrow, both print and visual.
UPDATE 2: there was a meeting yesterday attended by arka, chamique, bem, sunu and mailer demon (who's been nice enough to agree to design nice arm-bands etc. for the demonstration.
Things discussed were:
1) Why this protest? Is it just an emotional response? What will it accomplish?
The general agreement: the fundamental issue at stake here is the freedom of expression. It was also discussed that freedom of expression is not a blanket endorsement of libertarianism, but that it implies the right to voice one's rational opinions, and that is what had been repressed in Gaurav's case. As an extesnion, it was a moment of truth for the blogging community, something which affected our identites as bloggers qua bloggers. Hence, this demonstration, more than anything, is to be symbolic statement- of our identities as bloggers, and of the fact that we take our role seriously and responsibly, and are willing to stand by our words.
It was also decided to highlight the fact that blogging now plays a mature and responsible role in dissemination of information and in coming to the aid of society at large, sometimes in ways that mainstream media cannot. (for instance the role played by bloggers in the tsunami crisis, in Iraq, after the London blasts, the Mumbai rains). In the same spirit, this too was an attempt by a blogger to voice his opinions and make society at large aware of what he thought to be unscrupulous practices by a so called educational institution. The price he has had to pay for that is unacceptable.
It was also discussed that after the initial flurry of posts, etc., the three people at the centre of it all, gaurav, rashmi, and varna, shouldn't suddenly find themselves alone and friendless. Hence, this is also to be a show of solidarity towards them.
Now about the when and the how.
THE DEMONSTRATION IS TO BE ON MONDAY THE 24,TH. IT WILL BE A SILENT SIT-IN DEMONSTRATION. WE ARE YET TO FINALIZE THE EXACT MECHANISM, BUT THE TENTATIVE PLAN IS THAT WE'LL SIT IN FRONT OF IIPM BANGALORE IN THE MORNING FOR ABOUT HALF AN HOUR, AND LATER ADDRESS THE MEDIA AT A DIFFERENT VENUE, WHERE WE SHALL HAND OVER A FORMAL STATEMENT, TO BE SIGNED BY ALL MEMBERS OF BLOGBANG, AND ALSO A MEDIA RELEASE.
Before this, by thursday, we shall give out a pre-release to the media. I, chamique and bem will co-ordinate the writing efforts.
It is also requested that all members of Blogbang carry the media-releases and the statement on their blogs
Other things that were decided: We shall speak to legal entities and the law enforcement authorities. We shall also, by co-ordinating with the media, try to make non-bloggers aware of this, especially, we shall try to garner support from well-known people in other creative fields (theatre, literature and the arts) academics (real management gurus for instance), and also take this to the campuses, especially journalism colleges and departments of journalism in mainstream colleges. To this end, I have already spoken extensively to one of the foremost newspapers from the mainstream media, and efforts to get in touch with the visual media are underway.
One last, and very important thing: A lot of people have already expressed their willingness to be a part of this. Many of you have already commented. If you are convinced that you want to join, in addition to leaving your name here, I request you to mail me your name and number at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is just so that we have a way to co-ordinate and keep in touch, especially on d-day. please mark your mails as "protest" in the subject line. Once you have committed, please do not back out.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Freedom Curbed, Freedom Challenged
Guarav has every right to ask what questions he may, right or wrong. We do NOT live in a police state, our thoughts and opinions regulated and dictated by the Powers that Be. We are Indians, born with the freedom to think, to choose and to speak. And to stand firm by our rights. Gaurav Sabnis has stood by his rights and refused to either delete his 'offending' post or to issue a retraction of his opinions. And he has voluntarily resigned from IBM, in protest against the pressure from IIPM, firm in his belief and with trust in his merits. More power to him.
I, however, see it as the duty of IBM to have stood by Gaurav, and not allowed him to resign just to save potential embarrassment and loss of H/W revenue. What is the worst that would have happened? The IIPM would have burned many lakhs of rupees worth of laptops. And would have cut their own nose off to spite their face. Would this have in any way lowered the intrinsic value of the IBM laptop and their technology? No. Would this have given other IBM customers pause before a buying decision? I don't think so. As I see it, whatever negative press there may be, around the burning of the laptops, would be more than offset by seeing IBM exercise social responsibility, and extending support to an employee whose basic constitutional and human rights are being challenged. All the more so when he has explicitly stated that his personal views are no means those of his employer.
It would be a sad, shameful thing if, today, Gaurav is denied employment on account of this issue. Especially when the IIPM should be taking the original authors of the article to task, if at all they have published wrong information. Nor is he the only one to be asking these questions. It is not a matter of whether the questions raised against the IIPM are right or wrong. It is not a question of whether the IIPM's ads are making true claims or false. That's not it at all.
It's a question of Freedom. The freedom of the average person to have doubts. Freedom to question and the freedom to share opinions. It is a question of Gaurav Sabnis's, and in fact anyone's, freedom of speech.
Today, the IIPM has moved to silence one individual who has, in an open forum, raised his voice against them. They, and others like them, must never again be allowed to make such a move against anyone, blogger or no.
(Crossposted on 'From The Chaos')
Note: In case I have not been blatant enough in the post, let me remove any vestiges of doubt here. Based on the many newspapers advertisements released by the Indian Institute Of Planning and Management, as also the material on their website, that I have come across, I have reached the conclusion that their grandiloquent rhetoric is nothing but a malicious attempt to mislead and dupe the public at large. None of the many tall clamis made by IIPM, about the facilities they offer, about their panel of visiting facculty, about their exemplary placement record, appear to be substantiated in any of their own websites, or elsewhere on the web. The credentials of the dean of this institute, Mr. Arindam Chaudhuri, also appear to be highly suspect, and no documentation of his contribution to any branch of management or any of their allied fields thereof are available, except epithets such as "management guru," "personality of the decade" etc. which are only to be found on Mr. Chaudhuri's personal website and those under the aegis of IIPM. Even Mr. Chaudhuri's academic credentials are rather suspect. In view of the above facts, it is my personal belief and opinion, which I am expressing here in this website managed by me, on the domain blogspot.com (reference blogger.com) that IIPM is a perpetrator of false advertisement ammounting to fraud, with the express intention of achieving moneytary gains from the said advertisements. As a citizen of India, I believe it is my fundamental right to hold and profess these opinions. I invite IIPM to initiate any legal action they deem appropriate if they think otherwise.
However, that is not all. I stronly condemnt the dastardly way in which IIPM has reacted to the recent criticism against it by JAM magazine and by Mr. Gaurav Sabnis on his blog. I particularly resent the way it has acted (as I believe) in forcing the chain of events to such an impasse that Mr. Sabnis was left with no recourse but to resign from his position with his employer, thereby depriving him of his means of livelihood. In view of the above facts, I propose that the community of Indian bloggers, en masse, file a PIL against IIPM, asking for damages to the tune of Rs. Ten Billion, ( One Thousand Crore), an eighth of which is to be paid to Mr. Sabnis, an eighth to Ms. Rashmi Bansal, and a fourth to be utilized in setting up an trust for research into the social impact of blogging as an organic medium of communication and also the creation of a fund to indemnify bloggers against future harassemnt from any source, individual, corporate or otherwise. I propose that this be named "The Arindam Chaudhuri Foundation for Blogging Rights and Research Into the Importance of Blogging." The remaining Five Hundred Million Rupees should be donated to any trust, fund, etc. working on relief operations for the Kashmir earthquake victims.
Further, as one of the founders of the Bangalore bloggers' community, I ask all members to join in a peaceful protest march and demonstration in front of IIPM, Banglaore, to culminate in the delivery of a formal letter of protest to the campus director, or anyone in an equivalent position. I further urge bloggers' communities in other places to carry out similar protest marches to the nearest IIPM centre/office.
cross-posted on kaashyapeya.blogspot.com
Please leave your thougts/ideas about the proposed protest march and letter of protest/other forms of protest there or here.
Monday, October 10, 2005
Beyond Blogging: Volunteering at Akshara Foundation II
He was very excited to hear from us and gave me the details of a huge project they are undertaking in association with the Karnataka State Education Department. This is a long-term project whose aim is to improve reading and math skills in about 1,30,000 (1 lakh 30 thousand) primary school children all over the city.
Akshara will need help in gathering, tabulating and analysing data pertaining to these children, documenting the whole process, in addition to actually working with the children on their reading and math. The data gathering process will start over the next few weeks and will culminate in June-August of 2006 when the children will go through Akshara's lesson plans.
He agreed that we could do most of the work on the weekends. I've set up a meeting with Col. Rajan on October 22nd (Saturday) to get all the details and work out the logistics of how we can make this work.
This sounds like a great project for our group. Not only will we be contributing time and talent where it's needed, but we will also have the satisfaction of seeing something through from start to finish.
More details within the next couple of weeks!
Update: The meeting did not take place as planned because of a conference Col. Rajan had to attend over the weekend (I was rather glad because I was in no state to make it). We've rescheduled it to next Saturday, October 29th. I'll keep you updated as and when there is something to report. Thanks!
Sunday, October 09, 2005
October Bangalore Bloggers' Meet
The upper floor of Infinitea holds seven tables which can accomodate about 25 people, but when the venue was being chosen, none of us accounted for the non-Bangalore Blogger patrons of Infinitea. Suffice to say that when I arrived, I found six of my fellow bloggers huddled together around a table meant for four and the rest of the place packed.
The first to arrive was, of course, Eager Beaver Mandar, who sent me an SMS at, mark this, 4:29 pm to say he had arrived and was waiting! He was a full half-hour early, but did not bring a placard to identify himself despite exhortations to the contrary. So after wasting some time sitting by themselves, not knowing who the other bloggers were, etc. Pradeep Nair, Aditya, Surjo, KVK, Mandar and Swar found each other and contemplated various ways to encroach on the available real estate.
Right next to our table was a couple (a Knight in Shining Armor and his Lady Love) who must have thought they had a cozy corner of Inifinitea to themselves. Until the cozy corner was invaded by a noisy bunch of bloggers, that is. We gave them sidelong glances, trying to figure out what stage of the whole Infinitea experience they were in - the beginning, middle or end. They must have received the vibes we were sending over, because soon, the Knight asked for the bill. Unfortunately, however, our quest for more space wasn't going to end so easily or quickly. The Knight had trouble paying the bill because he only had a debit card and Inifinitea had trouble with their debit card swiping machine. So he went down to the billing counter to figure out an alternative leaving Lady Love alone, cornered and feeling antsy.
Finally, about 20 minutes later, during which time Ambar, Akash, Sunu, Veera, Arka, Anurag and Arvind had arrived, Lady Love wiggled out of her corner and made her way down. We promptly had the table cleared and joined that and one other table together. Just as we were settling down, we noticed a wallet on the sofa, found twelve claimants for it (all in good jest, of course), but upon closer examination of the wallet, found a picture of a younger Lady Love inside. We all looked around wildly for Lady Love, and thankfully found her Knight still at the billing counter downstairs. So we threw down the wallet to him (may be that solved his bill paying woes) and finally settled down to business.
What business you ask? Ordering tea, of which the choices were mind-numbingly complicated (at the end of one perusal of the menu, you actually need some tea to snap out of the befuddlement), introducing yourself and finding out who everyone else is, carrying on side conversations, and conversations across the entire length of the table from one corner to the other while a couple of others are trying to do the same on the other diagonal. Four of us finally settled for some Masala Chai (on Sunu's recommendation), Ambar got some green concoction (what was it Ambar?), Arka got some Darjeeling tea, and the guys at the other end of the table got a pot of tea which steadily got bitter as the seconds rolled by.
As the conversations were chugging along, Swar and Sunu left to catch a showing of Spirited Away, Pradeep and Anurag went back to work (or so they told us, may be they were getting the hell away from the rest of us as quickly as possible) and KVK and Mandar went out for a smoke. By this time, it was p-o-u-r-i-n-g.
I really don't know what's going on with Bangalore. Over the past few days, we've had downpours of the heaviest kind - the kind where the sky just opens and dumps rain. No drizzle to give you a hint that there may be rain on the way. No siree! Apparently, the clouds have no time to be polite.
Of course, every time it rains, the power has to go. The combination of hot tea, no fans/AC, and an over-crowded mezzanine floor was most unpleasant. Thankfully, the company was good.
For those who were not at the meet, these are the points to note:
- the plan is to set aside a specific day of the month for furture meets. Henceforth, the Bangalore Bloggers' meets will take place on the second Saturday of every month;
- venues will be decided during the week before the meet. The alternative is to pick a venue and stick to it for every meet. At least that way, we know what we're getting in terms of available space, etc.; and
- everyone is excited about doing something as a group, and volunteering time at Akshara, in particular.
Note: The bloggers for whom I don't have the links, please send them to me and I'll update the post. Thanks.
Crossposted on Blogpourri.
Update: Thanks Anurag, for the url details.
Friday, October 07, 2005
My scrapbook of Bangalore
I see Life as a series of "freeze-frames" that capture a piece of time, and add definition to the picture of our own lives. From the entire stack, that comprise my own passage through time, here are a few that, for me, define the experience that is Bangalore. Some of these, sadly, remain only a memory today, having given in to the fast pace of change:
- Leisurely strolls down an almost-empty MG Road, after 10 pm, kept company by chai-vendors, rickshaws and other night owls
- The coloured lights strung out over the Brigade Road stretch during the New Year and all Festival seasons
- Chatpata churmuri, eaten at the handcart in front of Plaza theatre, chased down by tangy tomato slices with pori on them
- Browsing through the racks at British Library, surrounded by other people interested in more than just the next best-seller, on a weekend morning
- Heading downstairs to Koshy's, after the above browsing, and reading, over sandwiches and pots of coffee, in the smoke-filled haze
- Catching sight of Girish Karnad, at the next table, through said smoke-filled haze!
- The dusk-to-dawn magic of Vasanthahabba, experienced through a chill February night, marked by the red-dust at Hesargatta and never-ending wonder
- Arundati Nag MC-ing Vasanthahabba
- Waiting in line, from 6:30am, for breakfast at MTR (coffee served in silver tumblers!)
- Scrounging food, after midnight, at the Hilals, the Tajs and the carts of Shivajinagar
- Puliogare and thatte idlis at Cadambams, followed by hot, filter coffee
- The STRAND Book Festival
- Second-hand bookshops in the alleys around MG Road, where you can 'borrow' a book for a measley fee!
- Chowdiah Memorial for innumerous plays and concerts, surrounded by a Bangalore that truly appreciates
- Scrambled eggs on toast, at India Coffee House, followed by a masala dosa that you MUST eat with a fork and knife
- Rosgulla chat at Gangotri
- Masala puri with dum aalo at KC Das. And being mistaken for a Bengali as you leave, pot of misti doi in hand :o)
- Endless evenings of friends, food and fooling around at Casa's
- Dosa camps that save the life of many a hungry night-shifter
- Akkirotti dinners in front of Canara Bank on Mission Road
- Speed runs down the inner ring road, to test out a friend's bike / car, after midnight
- Standing on the roof watching the jets come back after the Air show
Errm...as you would have probably figured out, by now, Food plays a huge role in the memories I make :o)
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Bloggers' Meet - 8th October
Be there! :o)