WCMUMBAI_MUGS

What I took away as Organizer of WordCamp Mumbai 2014!

Last weekend was a culmination of months of preparation for WordCamp Mumbai. There were days when I was was extremely sure of it’s success and there were certain days, I had tremendous doubts on my ability more than anyone else.

WCMUMBAI_MUGS

How did the event go?

I loved organizing this event. I kept asking many people around if they were having a good time and enjoying the sessions. Most said incredibly nice things but by no means am I going to fall into the trap of thinking this was the perfect WordCamp. They were probably being polite and real feedback will soon start trickling in.

How WordCamp Mumbai was as an event? The best to answer that question, would be people who attended as participants, speakers and even sponsors.

As an organizer I am too close to it to be rational enough. Maybe 6 months down the line I could be more objective- hence I won’t get into rating the WordCamp sessions, events anytime soon.

But I certainly learnt a lot of things with this WordCamp and here are my takeaways.

  • Prepare like crazy! – First thing I take away is that one has to prepare for everything. Take your time and make plans and prepare for all eventualities.
  • Things will go wrong! – However much you prepare, it won’t be enough. Things will go wrong! (Hint: Crowding at registration)
  • And some more things will go wrong! –  (Hint: WiFi)
  • A lot of things do go right! – And finally things do end up going right too. Sometimes its important to just keep calm and carry on. :-P

Getting rid of Organizer’s Ego

Every organizer because of the amount of efforts they put into a WordCamp tends to feel a certain amount of ownership over the event. Personally I think that is a dangerous trend among event organizers.

Open source communities will have their famous personalities but we must not forget that we do not own this community or movement. I just had the privilege of organizing a meeting place for them.

As a organizer I hope I won’t fall into the trap of thinking that I have some ownership over WordCamp Mumbai or WordPress community. I do not.

Finally “Remember it’s a privilege!”

It is a great privilege to be an organizer of WordCamp. You become friends with some awesomely talented people.

I doubt I would have interacted much with any of my co-organizers like Vachan, Sahil, Yash, Jaidev, Chirag, Saurabh, Premanshu, Gaurav, Ajay, Ratnesh and so many more had it not been for WordPress meetups.

I doubt I would have had the chance to hang out with founders, CEOs, web developers, code geeks, WordCamp organizers from other cities, event organizers, journalists, writers, bloggers, sketch artists and so many more – if I had not been involved in organizing this WordCamp.

Now to what my plans are post WordCamp – It is time to chill out a bit, start reading some books and toss a few beers and enjoy turning a year older this weekend with some close friends and family.

Yes there is life outside the great “W” too. :-D

Here are some posts by some participants.

Saurabh Shukla, Ideasmithy, Annkur,  Puneet, Rahul, Brajeshwar (will add more as days go along)

Needed “Anarchy” in Media

Elections are near and the media circus is getting louder. Politicians and industrialists all complain of “media bias” and “paid media”. Despite the accusations about a corrupt media, all parties involved are buying up media.

When News channels host panel discussions and moderators sit spouting righteous judgmental pronouncements then- we are in trouble.

We blame the media for its elitism and lack of focus on what is important. But we seldom realize that media is just doing it’s job and doing it very efficiently.

The problem is with the perception. Many of us have not understood that media is not supposed to inform and educate us. It is supposed to be packaged entertainment. A product that is sold to entertain us, to shock us, to keep us busy enough to not ask questions. The current state of media is “Reality TV” at its most efficient.

Do you really want to discuss FDI, women’s rights, poverty in detail? It is so much more entertaining to see talking heads from different political ideologies call each other names while the TV host stopping them with a holier than thou attitude.

The media needs a bit of anarchy introduced. We need to promote self-publishing even more than we ever did.  The fourth estate  needs to stop being an estate.

I think the media does not need to be taught a new lesson or be regulated. It probably needs to be redefined and possibly changed.

New Year Resolutions!

A New Year is exciting and fills people with hope, gratitude and new found vigour. Then 2nd January hits home and everything is more or less the same.

I was asked a lot by people what my new year resolutions are. I never made any, except when I was little and decided to study really hard so I could top my class. I never even came close so… here is how I feel about resolutions.

New Years Resolutions

Since you nice people are reading my sometimes silly ramblings. Thanks and wishing you all a Happy New Year. ;-)

Malala

Malala Yousafzai is Awesomely Humbling!

Malala Yousafzai is awesome. She embodies the word “inspiration”. An outspoken supported of women’s education, she not just survived an assassination attempt but has stood up to the more vile brutes in a way only a child could have.

How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?

But for some something as basic as going to school is a struggle. Malala Yousafzai is from the town of Mingora in the Swat Valley of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakthunkhwa region. This is a region the Taliban started a campaign to shutdown schools for girls.

In September 2008, Malala only 11 years old spoke against the Taliban at the Press Club in Peshawar. She thundered “How dare the Taliban take way my basic right to education?”

Malala was shot in the head last year, a assassination attempt she survived with months being spent in hospital. Until yesterday, this teenage girl was nominated for the Nobel peace prize until they gave the prize to an uninspiring organisation which basically was sort of doing its job – it seems old men with desk and supposed gravitas won over someone who actually is inspiring. She appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and left him (and many others I am sure) speechless.

We don’t learn the importance of anything until it is snatched from our hands

-on her love for education

Remembering Independence Day – 15th August 1947

aji

Aji today!

We celebrate Independence day with hardly any real understanding of how people who actually lived through the event felt. The day is historic and there are a million such stories of micro history which are sobering reminders how people felt.

My Aji (grandmother) turned 82 last month, while an independent India turns 66 tomorrow. The date 15th August raises a lot of memories for her. Her mother was a political activist who had been jailed many times for her role in the struggle for freedom. She has in the past vividly described her visits to her mother in Nagpur’s Central Jail as a child. She had grown up knowing relatives who were political activists and often were either on the run or were imprisoned.

So when Independence Day arrived, it was a day of great hope and relief for the sixteen year old. Hope for a country and relief for knowing that her near and dear ones were now safe. Last year my sister while talking to Aji, asked her to write down in a notebook her memories of the first Independence day. She obliged. She narrated it to my mother on the phone today and I typed it out. Do excuse my rusty Marathi typing.

There is also an English translation at the end.

१५ ऑगस्ट

रात्री अरुंधतीचा मला फोन आला. आम्ही गप्पा मारत होतो . ती सहज म्हणाली – “आजी तू काय करत होती?” – मी म्हणाले “उद्या १५ ऑगस्ट. माला खूप पूर्वीच्या , १ ९ ४ ७ पासून च्या आठवणी मनात येत्तात, त्या आठवीत होते “. तिच्या  सांगण्यावरून मी काही आठवणी तिला सांगत होते – तेव्हा ती म्हणाली “आजी , तू हे सर्व लिही न. नंतर मी वाचेन. ह्या सर्व आठवणी तू लिहून काढ .”

मी तर त्याच घटनां मध्ये अगदी रमून गेले होते. नेहमी प्रमाणेच १ ५ ऑगस्ट उजाडला आणि माला एकदम १ ९ ४ ७ च्या चौदा ऑगस्ट मध्ये घेऊन गेले . अकोला नागरी नववधू सारखी सजली होति. ठिकठिकाणी कमानी माळा , पताका लावल्या होत्या . लोकांनी घरांवर, दुकानांवर , काचेर्यानवर रोशनाई केली होति. १ ५ ० वर्षांनी भारत स्वतन्त्त्र होणार होत. पारतंत्र्याच्या बेड्या गळून पाढणार होत्या . देश मोकळा श्वास घेणार होता . आमच्या घरालातर सणाच – उत्सवाच रूप आल होत . माझी आई कै . सौ . प्रमिला ऒक  तर तीन चार वेळा जेल यात्रा करून आलेलि. माझा चुलत भाऊ केशव, माझे थोरले काका बापूसाहेब, माझी मधली काकू- राधाकाकू , माझ्या मावशीचे यजमान श्री . अप्पासाहेब कुलकर्णी, हि सर्व मंडळी मुक्त झाली होति. त्यांनीही स्वंतंत्र लढ्यात उड्या घेतल्या होत्या , कारावास भोगले होते.

सर्वांच्या आनंदाला पारावर नव्हता . मी तेव्हा Fergusson College hostel मध्ये 1st year ला होते . आईनी आमच्या Rector-ना पत्र पाठवून माला आकोल्यास बोलावून घेतले होते . त्या ऐतिहासिक दिवशी आम्ही सर्व एकत्र असाव अशी तिची इच्छा होति. आमच्या rector -नेहि परवानगी दिलि. मी १३ ऑगस्टला दुपारी साडे अकरा वाजता आकोल्यास पोहचले.

सर्व घरभर आनन्दिअनन्द होता. काकांनी मला आईकरता गुपचुप एक सुंदर खादीची साडी आणायला सांगितली. ती त्यानी त्यांच्या कापतात ठेवली . आईने मलाहि साडी आणली. बाबाला नवीन कपडे, उमाबाईना साडी – सर्वाना सणासारखे नवीन कपडे मिळाले होते. चौदा तारखे पासूनच कार्यक्रमाना सुरुवात झाली होति. आमच आंगण व्यवस्थित सारवून, त्यावर सतरंजी जाजम गालीचा घातला . कडेकडेनी खुर्च्या ठेवल्या होत्या. दसर्यालाही असाच थाट असे . नागरिकांच्या सभा, झेंडावंदन इत्यादी भरगच्च कार्यक्रम होते .

आईच्याहस्ते दोन – तीन ठिकाणी झेंडावंदन झाले.  चौदा तारखेला रात्री साडेसात – आठ वाजता, आमच्या घरी मंडळी येउ लागली. मित्र-आप्त सर्व आली. मोठी मेजवानी होती. बासुंदी – पुरी, मसाले भात असा बेत होता . जेवणा पूर्वी काकांनी आईला साडी दिलि. मी तिला लगेच नेसायला सांगितली .  ती सुरेख पंढरी साडी – परवता सारखे काठ असलेले , कानात मोत्याची कुडी , गळ्यात मंगळसूत्र – असा साधाच पोशाख – पण आई खूप सुंदर दिसत होती . तीन्हेही काकाचं औक्षवण केल. आणि जेवताना काकांना कोर चांदीच ताट मांडल. तिने ते आधीच आणल होत . सरवाना  फार कौतुक वाटल - It was a token of her appreciation and love for my father – for what he had done for her.

गप्पा गोष्टीत वेळ गेला. बारावाजता सर्वांनी नेहरूंच भाषण Radio वरून ऐकल. कानात सर्व प्राण आणून ऐकत होतो.

मग साडेबारा पासून झेंडा वंदन, सभा, भेटी – पाहते तीन-चार वाजे परयन्त चालू होत. १५ ऑगस्ट ला आम्ही सर्व मळयात आजीच्या पाया पडायला गेलो. आजीने स्वतः आईला हार घातला, मिठी मारली. सर्वाना आनंदाश्रू आवरेनासे झाले. सर्व वडील मंडळीना भेटून आलो. दिवसभर ‘वन्दे मतरम ‘ कानावर पडत होते. माझ्या आईनी आमच्या सुभद्रा वाहिनी करताही एक सुरेख खादीची नौवार साडी आणली होती. ती नेसूनच त्या जेवायला आल्या होत्या.

दोन दिवस धामधुमित गेले. मी १७ ऑगस्टला निघाले – १ ८ ला – Hostel वर परतले. तरी पण कित्येक दिवस त्या आठवणी मनी दाटून येत होत्या. पुढे आईचा स्वर्गवास – माझा विवाह – जमशेदपूरला आमच वास्तव्य. १९५८ मध्ये आम्ही टाटांच्या बंगल्यात – राहायला गेलो. बंगला मोठा होता. चारी बाजूस आवार होते. तिथे वारांद्याथून बाहेर अंगणात जाताना मी एक मोठा बांबू लावून घेतला होता. त्या १५ ऑगस्टला मी माझ्या घरी प्रथमच झेंडा वंदन केल. काही वर्ष तरी झेंडा वंदन करत होतो.

पुढे पुढे हि प्रथा बंदच झाली, झेंडा वंदन गेल, वन्दे मातरम हि गेल, पण १५ ऑगस्ट आला कि त्या सर्व स्मृती जाग्या होतात आणि आई, काका, बाबा सर्वांची खूप आठवण होते. आता हे सर्व अरूंनधतीला वाचून दाखवायचं आहे. तिच्या मुळेच मी हे लिहिले. Thank you, Arundhati.

(In English)

15th August

A couple of days ago Arundhati called me. While talking on the phone she asked me what I was doing. I told her I was recalling my memories of 1947 and our first Independence Day. She told me to pen down these memories so she could read them later. I was lost reminiscing about those old days when 15th August dawned and it took me back to 14th August, 1947.

Akola, my hometown was adorned like a bride! Everywhere there were decorative arches and garlands. People had lit up their houses, shops and offices with rows of twinkling lights. After a 150 years – India was going to be free. The chains of British rule were to be broken. The country was going to breathe the air of freedom! There was an atmosphere of festivity in my house too. My mother Pramila Oke, had been to jail 3-4 times. My cousin Keshav, my uncle Bapusaheb, my aunt Radha Kaku, my maternal aunt’s husband Appasaheb Kulkarni, all had been fighting for freedom and were free today. Everyone’s joy knew no bounds.

In those days, I was studying in Pune’s Fergusson College and staying in the hostel. My mother wrote to the hostel Rector to allow me to visit Akola. She wanted all of us to be together on that historic day. The Rector gave us permission and on 13th August, 11.30 am I reached Akola.

Our house was drenched in joyous celebrations. My father had secretly asked me to buy a beautiful Khadi sari for my mother which he hid in his cupboard. My mother had bought a new sari for me, clothes for my brother, a sari for our cook Umabai –  We all got new clothes just like we did during a festival.

From the 14th, the celebrations started. Out courtyard was covered with mats and carpets – chairs arranged around in a big circle – just like we would do during Dussera. There were many programs scheduled – meetings, flag hoisting ceremonies and more. My mother was invited as a chief guest to few flag hoisting events.

On 14th evening by 7.30 – 8.00 people started streaming into our house. All our friends, near and dear ones arrived. A big feast was served complete with basundi-puri (sweet) and masale bhaat (a rice dish). Before dinner, my father presented my mother with the sari which I coaxed her to wear immediately. A beautiful white sari made of khadi with a temple border – pearl earrings, mangalsutra all very simple but my mother looked beautiful! She too presented a silver plate to my father which she had bought earlier. It was a token of her appreciation for what he had done for her over the years.

Time flew by, with us chatting and exchanging news. At the stroke of midnight we surrounded the radio, listening to Pandit Nehru’s address to a free nation!

From 12.30 am onwards, there was a flag hoisting done, meetings were held, speeches made and celebrations continued till 4 am in the morning. Later in the day we visited my maternal grandmother at her farmhouse and took her blessings. She garlanded and hugged her daughter – a very emotional moment for all of us. The whole day slogans of ‘Vande Mataram’ echoed in our ears. Subhadravanihi, another friend and a freedom fighter, came for lunch dressed in a nine-yard khadi sari which my mother had presented to her.

Two days of joy passed in a hurry! I left on the 17th and reached my hostel in Pune on 18th August. For many days my mind would hark back to those wonderful memories.

Soon my mother passed away, I got married – we settled in Jamshedpur. In 1958, we shifted to a company (Tata) bungalow which was spacious with a large garden. In the courtyard that year, I hoisted the national flag in my own house for the first time. I felt proud and overwhelmed.

As years went by, we stopped the practice of flag hoisting, but still every year when 15th August dawns, all those beautiful memories of my parents, my brother, our celebration come flooding back. Thank you Arundhati, for making me write this down.

*Special thanks to Ai (Mom) for help with the translation.

New Category of Posts: History Echo

I read a lot of history. I am a fan of reading about the past. I once came across a quote which I found interesting as a theme for some writing.

Those who do not learn from History, are doomed to repeat it….

Wild quotes apart, I thought about how things today have sometimes a similar echo from the past.

For example in the first post tomorrow under History Echo, I will try to interpret the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and some of its similarities with the Roman empires wars in Dacia and Parthia.

Hope you guys like it.

Disclaimer: I might be a history fan but I am not a scholar or a historian.

Attn: WordPress Fans in Mumbai – Meetup at Powai

Last year, I attended a WordCamp in Mumbai and ended up attending two more this year in Baroda and Pune.

Along with a few friends, we set out to start creating WordPress related meet-ups. The first one was an informal one back in January. The second meet-up was last month in May to celebrate the 10th anniversary of WordPress (unfortunately I could not be part of it).

Now I am looking forward to the 15th of June, where another meet-up will take place.

Here is the Facebook Events link:

https://www.facebook.com/events/530811570290023/

Hope to meet interesting people doing interesting things with WordPress.

What today’s Bollywood could learn from QSQT

QSQT

I am not the biggest fan of watching romantic – comedies (though I am not sure if Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak qualifies much in terms of comedy) but a few days ago, I was intrigued (and semi-bulldozed by a friend) enough to sit through one from the late 1980s. Qayamat se Qayamat Tak – is basically a “Romeo and Juliet” story set in modern Indian context.

Like many Bollywood movies of that time (though times have not really changed much :-P), it has its weaknesses. The romance is shown naively (but understandable as the protagonists are a couple of teenagers) and it has some odd parts of the story left unanswered.

But there is a lot this movie could teach today’s ‘modern’ film-makers who claim to say their movies are ‘different’. I could count about 6 things (could be more) QSQT could teach today’s films.

  1. The characters in the movie are consistent. They do not change their personalities. The main characters (though there are some side shows which are a little inexplicable) are well etched out and are not one-dimensional.
  2. The fight sequences are realistic even by today’s standards. When outnumbered the hero gets beaten up until his friends arrive. Though the climax has some outlandish fighting but then come on this is 1988 we are talking about.
  3. The heroine actually has a role and what more, her character actually has a personality.
  4. The movie has the two main characters repeating clothes through the movie. Yes, normal people repeat the clothes they wear.
  5. The movie ends with a tragedy but it happens fast. In other words the tragedy is tragic and does not slip into comedic territory.
  6. The movie did not have a single item number.

Finally, I realized the movie actually tackled the issue of ‘honour killings’. It also addresses correctly that honour killings are done by city living folks and not just people from villages of India.

Now I am ready to finally watch more movies form the 80s. Any suggestions? Do drop them in your comments.

SteveJobs_TimeWasting

Steve Jobs and Time Wasting

I remember a friend telling me how we waste hours doing unnecessary things like listening to music, watching movies and reading books. The point he was making is to achieve something great in life, one has to spend all the time they have doing one thing they like and just that. No time wasting anymore.

I agreed to an extent as some of us in our early twenties do to so much nonsense, but lately I have begun think of that idea more deeply. Because doing something repetitively might be useful but true creativity comes from experiences and interaction.

SteveJobs_TimeWasting

If my friend was correct then surely Steve Jobs must have been wasting his time joining an ashram, travelling to India and being obsessed about music (particularly Bob Dylan). Let say all these things were unnecessary in the life of Steve Jobs being one of the great innovative minds of the tech industry.

Think again! He often attributed his success to being minimalist and intuitive, which according to him was being overlooked by the western civilization. He was open to learning from the Japanese the ‘just in time‘ manufacturing processes and replicate them for Apple.

His obsession with music probably contributed greatly to him being such a force behind Apple’s iPod (which changed the music industry in the US).

So much for time wasting activities.

Note: Steve Jobs might have done a hundred different things but he worked very, very, very hard for his success. That part never changes.

Equal

Why should straight people support Gay rights?

EqualI have had a fairly traditional upbringing and back in school there was always an emphasis on ‘responsibilities’ instead of ‘rights’. It was not surprising as many think of their children as an extension of themselves and hence do not really feel the need to inculcate an idea of individuality in them.

First time I heard the term ‘Gay’ was either at home or school. It was used in a joke. As my family follows a Hindu tradition (unlike Abrahamic religions), ‘Gays’ or “Homosexuals” were not viewed with as much revile but we made fun of them alright.

I myself grew up thinking about them as not “quite right”. Sometimes I wondered if they were unnatural or just confused about themselves. I heard many arguments “for” and “against” but honestly I did not really care.

At some stage I thought that the term “live and let live” had a lot of wisdom attached to it. This meant I respected that individuals had the right to live their life the way they wanted.

I empathised with women’s rights strongly because I saw how friends and family members of the female gender, folded under patriarchal expectations and treated unfairly. But I never fully empathised with gay people. I knew no one who was gay.

Then a friend who I had lost contact with for a couple years told me he was gay in an online chat. It was unnerving for a second. I mean I used to hang out with this guy. But as a good friend and partly due to curiosity, I ended up saying I was not going to judge his life style. I remember saying “You are who you are” – whatever that meant but I felt it the right thing to say.

He told me how he was conflicted with his choices for years. Sometimes himself not sure what he was because it was socially and culturally unacceptable. He had not told his parents and probably never will. It would be too upsetting for them. He probably had not told most of his friends either – it would have been too embarrassing. He was almost apologetic while telling me and that got me thinking.

I suddenly felt how difficult it is for gay people. They are literally made to live in ‘shame’ and ‘secrecy’. They are forced to marry and ruin their lives not to mention their spouses. And then it struck me. I never chose to like women, it was just natural. Surely what gay people feel is natural as I doubt they deliberately choose a sexual orientation that literally pushes them to the fringes of society and also make them generally despised by even friends and family members.

Here is why I find some arguments against gays useless -

  • Gays are unnatural: Well there is enough evidence to show homosexual behavior in nature exits. But let start with what is natural first. If procreation is natural then all people who are celibates are unnatural. I do not see people protesting against anyone right to be celibate so why in this case?
  • Gays are against Family system: In western countries with over 40% of children growing up with single parents at some point of time, it really is not much of an argument in favor of family doing a great job. Indians might feel their family systems are intact but even here the divorce rates are rising and its not uncommon to see children with a single parent growing up normally.
  • Gays are not allowed in religion: I find it a little dangerous that some are trying to impose religious ideology on other people who do not want to follow it. As an atheist myself, I cannot buy this argument which someday can be used by religious zealots to attack me saying my disbelief in the idea of god or their religion is grounds to make my views illegal.

So now as someone who thinks that individuals have a right to live their life just as the way they want to, I support gays and lesbians their rights to be individuals.