Saturday, May 28, 2005

Episode III Dark Wader: Revenge of the Sithy

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...
well actually yesterday, earth, JP Nagar Bangalore.
The sun disappeared at around 3.45 pm on Friday as the
Force was enveloped by dark, electrified clouds racing across
the sky. The soul of the Force was left battered and bruised over
the past few days due to its inability to cope with the rains. Blackouts,
flooded streets, its hi-tech status down the drains. Jedi Knights... Wake up!

I was busy in office doing some work. Well I had to write it, just incase my manager reads this blog. Then we heard the rumble and saw flashes of lightening. "Early".. I thought to myself. It had been raining heavily for the past 4 days. It would rain only in the evenings, then the lights would go out. However the next morning the sun would be shining down on everyone as if nothing had happened. This was a daily affair.

Within minutes, we were engulfed in a torrent of rain. 59.2mm in one hour... One of the heaviest in recent times. Traffic stopped! Two wheelers were too scared to venture into the unknown as they waited with baited breath for the storm to pass. As they waded through the streets they bore witness to the fury of nature. Trees were uprooted. 150 in the city... 80 in JP Nagar itself... Some buses and other vehicles were damaged cause trees fell on them.

Unaware of the damage being caused we went out into the balcony to get close to the rain. There was lightning, strong gusty winds and sheets of rain. We all savoured the moment protected by the quaint building we call an office. Later there was a blackout in JP Nagar as I presume was the case with most parts of the city.

In the evening I became the dark wader, as I set out on a mission to fill my tummy. On my way I surveyed the damage... Trees blocked the streets. Poles were brought down. Every road was affected... atleast in JP Nagar. I went home that night through the dark roads... lucky to find the lights still on. There was some hope. The mossies wouldn't get the better of me.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

My first half marathon

I wish I could run like no one's timing,
I wish I could let my soul lay bare,
I wish I could just go a prancing,
I wish music's in the air.

Ran my first half marathon on Sunday May 15th. Had started preparing about a month ago. Used to run a max of 2-3 kms before that on the gym's treadmill. Timing improves with practise where you start to understand your limitations and pace yourself properly. The max I had done in practise was abt 15kms in about 1hr 40+ mins. This was 2 weeks back. I remember then that I actually got bored running around in circles and stopped :-) Improved on my timing and could then do abt 10kms in 55mins. Did quite a bit of 5-10 kms runs with a gap of 1-3 days.

I spent the night at Manish's place in Shantinagar since it is about 5-10 mins walking distance from Kantheerva stadium where the marathon starts. On the day of the event I ate few bananas in the morning. Covered likely friction areas of my body with petroleum jelly (vaseline) and stuffed my pockets with some sweets. Decided to run with some wireless music to give me company along the way. Put an iPod (in button locked mode) attached to a bluetooth stereo adaptor in my back pocket. The adaptor is one of the two products I've been working on over the past 4-5 months.

5:53am: Finally armed and dangerous and err... umm... feeling a little bit sticky too, I set out to do something I've never done before. ('Chariots of fire' music in the background).... As I start walking towards the stadium I feel this sudden rush of adrenaline. I've trained hard for this day. I feel I can run at top speed to the stadium and still would have enough energy to run the marathon. Then I finally utter my first words of the day..... "Auto!".

The half marathon started about 30 mins after the full marathon. I started the run with some jazz.... We first went thru Cubbon park, then passed in front of VidhanSoudha. There was a lot of shade till the golf course... Then there were some downhill and uphill sections. I walked the uphill ones.... I was cruising along when the iPod went to some whacko state. I guess running with a 20GB hard disk device jingling in your back pocket could cause it to misbehave. After a little bit of wrestling with the iPod and multiple tries to reboot it did things start to work again... This happened about 2-3 times again along the way. The wireless headphone and wireless adaptor (built by us) worked fine all along and crossed the finish line with dignity :-). A lot of other runners had music to accompany them but none of them had wireless music. I guess I could consider myself as the first half marathon runner (in India atleast) to run with "music in the air" over stereo bluetooth :-) Got a lot of curious/envious looks from ppl along the way.... "GEEK!!" :-) Ok ... I'm sorry for getting into my PR role yet again.... back to the marathon...

There were water stations at a gap of every 2kms. Not too many ppl along the roads initially to cheer us... The view on the Hebbal flyover (halfway mark) was lovely... The lake beside it added to the scenery. A bit after this my weight and age caught up with me as I saw some elderly runners breeze past me.... C'mon I was just being polite and allowed them to pass by!!!! .... Then the front runner, a local bangalorean, of the full marathon passed us on his way back. He was followed by some international runners... They all had so much energy... they just ran and ran and ran and disappeared beyond the horizon....

Lost my energy during the end. Walked half of the last 6kms :-)..... By this time the ppl along the roads increased, cheering us to go on, lying that there was only 3 kms left when there were actually 4-5kms left.... May God bless their souls.... Towards the end the water stations seemed to be far far away.... At one point I was actually eyeing some of the half filled water bottles thrown along the road.... Luckily I had sweets in my pockets. Also felt minor cramps but managed to stretch and then continue. There was also 2 other runners who had my level of stamina..... From the start of the race we kept on overtaking each other, then we would slow down while the other would overtake.... so we kinda maintained the pace for the other person... towards the end we started running together.... started chatting and giving each other encouragement to go on.

As I entered the Kantheerva stadium there were thousands of ppl cheering us on... most of them were the the celebration run (7 kms run) participants which was yet to start. Finally when I entered the stadium and saw the finish line which was abt 20-30 meters away, I tried to run faster... However I got a cramp in my right leg cause of the increase in speed and stopped.... I tried to hop on the left leg but it couldn't support my body... Then the crowd shouted louder :-)... A volunteer even came up to help me but I refused and limped across the finish line while the crowd cheered me on.... I felt a bit guilty as it seemed like a scene out of a hindi movie.... So I kinda completed in style... make that hindi film estyle :-) assisted by some jazz composed by my cousin, some Dil Chahta Hai, Ray Charles and finally Norah Jones enabled by a product with moi inside.....

Plan to run more.... the incentives... tanned skin, blistered feet, aching legs, back and shoulder blades.... and finally the joy of completing... cheered along the way by unknown faces and smiling policemen who stop traffic for you.....

In terms of organising the event I feel that they should have noted the timing for all those who completed. There were about 5-10 officials sitting at the finishing line noting down something when ppl finished.... They gave us blank certificates at the end.... no name .. no timing... This calls for the acceptance speech. Ok here goes, "blah, blah, blah. And finally, Mom and Dad this ones for you!!! [sob, sob]. I mean the blank certificate. Either one of you can write your name out there and put whatever timing you want." Well I completed in about 2 hrs 17 mins types.. but don't know the official timing as I was busy attending to the cramp I got at the end... Luckily the guy who finished just before me checked his timing... I'm sure there are many others who don't know their timing... However I would like to thank them for the wonderful experience. It felt great to participate....

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Wrote this for one of the products we have built at Impulsesoft. iWISH which stands for Impulsesoft's Wireless Stereo Headphone. Its an attempt to sum up the music experience.


I wish I could dance like no one's watching.

I wish I could let my soul lay bare.

I wish I could just go a prancing.

iWISH music's in the air.

Alistair D'souza (2005)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Understanding Others, Educating Ourselves.

Saurabh sent out a mail saying that AID India is conducting a state wide education survey in TN where they would go village to village and test the reading, writing and math skills of children. Basically an attempt to evaluate the education standard in the schools there. Decided to go as I've never done such a thing a before. Besides he also mentioned that Tamil/Telegu skills were NOT necessary for participating...

We decided to have a meeting a week before we actually went to the villages. We met at Saurabh's place where we given an introduction to AID followed by AID Bangalore activities . A few of the exisiting volunteers spoke about their work like the Joy of Learning program and related experiences. We were then briefed about the TN-wide education survey. We then tried to come up with our future Plan of Action which led to a long and interesting discussion with ppl putting forward their views of how a survey in villages should be carried out, some speaking out of previous experience. I was a silent observer.

On May 8th which was a Sunday, about 14 volunteers were to meet at Sulagiri, Krishnagiri District in TamilNadu. Ayush, my roommate joined in. We were to carry out the survey in Sulagiri as it was closer to Bangalore. AID-Chennai volunteers would carry out similar surveys in other parts of TamilNadu. Some of us met at Silkboard flyover. It took us about 1 hour to reach Sulagiri. And yeah... we definately played Swades on the way.... besides Ayush is a SRK fan. We drove along the bangalore-hosur-krishnagiri highway. It was a nice stretch. As we came closer to Sulagiri we saw a lot more greenery. Sulagiri is the panchayat level village and has several other villages under it. It has private and govt schools and Tamil or Telugu is taught in all.

We first filled our tummies with a good breakfast and then divided ourselves into 3 groups as we had 3 cars. I was grouped with Ayush, my roomie and colleague at Impulsesoft. Kavitha and Vamsi who are a phd couple. Kavitha is doing drug research and Vamsi works for Strand Genomics. Then there was Rajesh who works for Microsoft Research labs. Material for the survey was distributed. I only understood the math part as the numbers were in english numerals. The other stuff was greek to me.... well actually Tamil and Telugu. We then distributed the villages and set off in our respective directions. Vamsi, Kavitha and Rajesh transliterated the material. Ayush and myself were assigned the math stuff as we were useless ppl as far as the mode of communication of the village chirdren was concerned. We learned how to pronounce the basic words for addition, substraction, multiplication and division. Since we used English numerals we did ok.

Useless ppl in other groups managed to get by with their newly acquired vocabulary of 5 Tamil words and by ‘outsourcing’ where kids tested other kids. Others transliterated the material and were able to test writing skills. The actual written content was then evaluated by a volunteer who knew the language. They also spoke to the village elders to find out about the state of medical facilities, water, electricity. Testing the kids was easy. There would be some initial work to break the ice but then they would get there friends to be tested. It was nice to know that the mid day meal programmes were still carried out in schools even though it was vacation time. By afternoon we had done about 3 villages, testing an average of 25-30 children in each. We then lunched on some chocolate cake made by my mom. My cousin was just back from my hometown and my mom had sent a lot of goodies :-) We then went to about 3 more villages after that. By the end of the day, between the 3 groups we had covered about 15 villages!

It was an enriching experience. People are polite and good hosts. Reading and writing is not that much of a problem as is their math skills. Some of the kids in higher standards lack basic math skills such as subtraction with carry over.

I remember Vamsi telling me during our first meeting that AID is not about any particular religion or anything. Our group of 5 had a Jain, some Hindus and a Christian. Your beliefs are your religion and atleast for that day we all had the same religion.