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Sahay, mental health@COVID-19

When Indian PM informed 1st  lockdown, I was upset, could not sleep well that night. 

  • Involved in a social space, my thoughts were how poor people will be impacted by this and problems they would face.
  • IT companies can work from home, others are not equipped to work from home. 

I became crazy before hitting bed to say to  my second daughter that I am going to violate the lockdown to support people who need help. She wanted me to stay home as she wanted me to be safe,  created a conflict in my mind. Reached Rajesh for guidance, who said “There is nothing wrong  that you are angry about the lockdown. You have valid reasons, as much your daughter. Surrender to this scenario. Once you surrender, see what action is possible and continue to act. Surrender is the key in crazy scenario”

In a state of surrender, I called Guru of Sochara and Prasanna, asked for ideas and shared about Coronathon.(Thanks Paras Chopra). Guru came back and wanted to explore creating a solution to offer mental counselling. Started an entire new journey o Sahay(named later)

Our  initiative was to facilitate people to have better mental health in these uncertain times. This facilitation means,  people who need mental counselling need access to mental counsellors who can counsel patients(beneficiaries) on mental health. With lockdown in place, came up with virtual  IT solutions, wrote the same, along with high level principles and shared with anyone interested

  1. Can solutions leverage existing tools? There is little or no software development , while there can be human participation to fill gaps of integration.
  2. How to protect privacy of both parties, beneficiary and counsellor? I want to ensure that counsellor privacy is protected for sure.
  3. How do we scale if there is more demand for this service.
  4. Propose approach  to on-board counsellors
  5. Propose approach to on-board beneficiary
  6. Propose approach to on-board volunteers to work for adoption of the solution.

Discussions with Guru and Prasanna connected me with the first counsellors and also first set of volunteers.  We were lucky to have Abu (Vismaye Kalike),Michelle(Sochara) and Adi(CA from Hyd) to join as first volunteers. 

As solution required mental counsellor to serve the patient(beneficiary) and we  did not have beneficiary contacts, I  decided to  on-board of counsellors as first step. Michelle and Abu took charge to identify and on-board counsellors.  Our idea was to on-board a good number of counsellors on -board, we can reach out to the government to connect with beneficiaries who require help and share in social media too.

To bring clarity and transparency for all of us, I wrote a solution document  and sample documents required as part of the solution.

  1. Google spreadsheet to capture  beneficiaries 
    1. Good Input form to Capture beneficiary details.
  2. Google spreadsheet to capture counsellors and their availability
    1. Good Input form to Capture counsellor details.
  3. Google spreadsheet to record  appointments made
  4. Free video conferencing software like zoom , Jisti , webex
  5. Toll free number  and dashboard to log missed calls.( By Valueleaf )

Valueleaf provided us with missed call numbers  and a dashboard to provide log of missed calls. (Thanks to Guru). While volunteers were aware that  zoom offers personal Zoom URLs and unlimited 45 minute free calls, We discussed that Zoom was user friendly. 

Hearing media reports about zoom privacy violations, We also discussed privacy concerns around zoom(Thanks to Prasanna), We explored the usage of Jitsi as an alternate tool. My observation was Jitsi was cool for developers, while it was not user friendly for the first time user. Keeping in mind future requirement  to scale, I explored for future usage of  Appointy and Picktime 

For the launch of the initiative, We jointly arrived at the workflow  as 

  1. Counsellors provide their available schedule and their personal zoom URL
  2. Beneficiaries call number and give missed call
  3. Volunteer contact beneficiary and confirms the request and confirm schedule  appointment
  4. On confirmed appointment, Volunteer shares counsellor personal Zoom URL to beneficiary . 
  5. Counsellor starts a zoom call at appointment time and the beneficiary joins the same to have a session.

Abu and Michelle took charge to streamline the counsellor on-boarding, improved Google Input forms to become more better and added interesting questions with discussion with early counsellors. In addition, they took guidance to have  a training  zoom session to educate on-boarded counsellors on “How to handle stressed individuals in scenario like pandemic” and implemented the same.

Adi took  charge to streamline the counsellor end. Adi also took care of monitoring the dashboard of Valueleaf for missed calls. For missed call, Adit reached beneficiary and scheduled the appointment

In discussion with mental counsellors and first few calls, we created additional guidelines for interaction between Counsellor and beneficiary over zoom

  1. Duration of one session for beneficiary will be 45 minutes
  2. A beneficiary can be provided with max of 3 free sessions
  3. A Counsellor can reconnect(post 45 min cal) for an additional 15 minutes,and it becomes 1 hour free session 
  4. Language preference  and expertise area of the counsellor was captured to ensure better schedule of appointments
  5. For a 45 minute call, we decided to block Counsellor time for 90 minutes, that provides Counsellors for time to breathe, relax and record notes of the session
  6. Recommended that Counsellors do not call beneficiary on their personal mobile number for their own safety and privacy.

While counsellors were not happy with break-up at 45 minutes, they were flexible to go ahead with the same. Once, we had counsellors and few beneficiaries coming in, we joined hands with mental counsellors to perform extend social media Outreach

  • Sahay initiative  started with a web page on the Sochara website. Vignesh helped to have our own web-site.http://www.sahay.life/
  • Abu created posters to share on social media and also created/maintained  instagram and facebook pages. Twitter URL 
  • Akshara facilitated creation of the first video related to mental health for COVID times. In addition, Akshara impressed counsellors to create more videos to publish in social media pages. Some counsellors are created videos in Hindi and Kannada.

image1 

 

Solution to the problem called education

Found in email description calling folks to join the webinar of http://aarohilife.org/. Found it very powerful, copying for my own reference.

Imagine going to the same cinema hall to watch the same movie again and again. That is when most of us do not even like the movie. The only silver lining is that invariably most of your friends too would be there.

For the last 100 years or so we have been going to the same hall, watching the same movie.

In little ways, over the decades the movie has been made better, earlier it was black and white (remember our textbooks), now colour has been added, the visuals have been improved, animations and slicker technology has been added. But the cinema hall and the movie are the same.

The projectors (teachers) are now more contemporary and viewer friendly, no doubt. The cinema hall has also been upgraded, more comfortable and modern, even air is now conditionied. But the cinema hall and the movie are the same.

The parents feel good that their child is going to the same cinema hall and watching the same movie they watched. If the child comes back cribbing about the movie, they sell them the movie even harder. They even send the child to smaller repeat shows (tutions) so that the child masters the movie or some parents give children tabs at home which screen the same movie in a different way. They have even created a toddler version of the movie (called preschool) where children can get prepared to go to the cinema hall for the movie later. But the cinema hall and the movie are the same.

In conferences, in publications and media, in drawing rooms and discussion groups, in debates across the world, this watching the same movie in the same hall has been lamented, criticised and shown to be the greatest malady of the industrial revolution. But the cinema hall and the movie are the same.

Most of us, when we think of the problems with education, resign to it, declaring it is a humongous and futile task to change the movie, the cinema hall, the system.

We have an invitation to you all. SImply walk out of this system, walk out of the hall. Life is a multiplex. The moment you walk out of the cinema hall you can see so many more movies outside. For one interested in music, there are musicians making musical movies. For one interested in football there are clubs playing football movies and for techie geeks there are coders coding movies in open source communities. I am sure you get the idea.

For the children not sure of one kind of movie, they can explore myriad kinds of movies in the multiplex of life and choose their calling in due course of time. Many of us, called entrepreneurs, can even create new movies.

We do not need to change the system, we can just step out of it to (www) a wide wonderful world. Interested? Welcome to open learning.

BlockChain in Corporate Governance?

corporate governance
In 1990s My father used to invest in shares. These were days used to submit share transfer application in paper with real share transfer stamps on purchase of shares and on sale, handover signed transfer application and share certificates to share broker. Yes, all this started to become history with introduction of demat accounts today and today they are only in history.

My father used to receive annual balance sheet and annual general body meeting(AGM)  notice every year. The annual general body meeting has resolutions proposed by company secretary. Each shareholder is provided with right to vote for each resolution proportion to the number of shares of the shareholder. There is a proxy vote form to be filled by shareholder and proxy person can attend AGM and cast votes. Rarely my father visited annual general body meeting.

Company needs to provide annual balance sheet to each shareholder and also submit to company affairs department. In those days,  annual reports in hard copy received were stacked at my father’s home. An organized person who stored annual report  and could go 20 years back. For a lot us, we may consider this to be waste of space and paper in today.

My father used to give these reasons

  • A shareholder can compare 2 year annual reports and question company if there are irregularities or data about previous year has been tampered in next year. As there is copy of balance sheet with each shareholder, the company does not dare to tamper data of the balance sheets.
  • With resolutions, the number of shared that is owned by share-holder is printed. this proof of share ownership provided by the company to you.
  • In addition, he used to confirm whether dividend declared in AGM is credited to account. If not, he used to write letters and get unpaid dividend.

My father seemed to have a system similar to block-chain manually. Today shareholders are asked to receive balance sheets online, instead of printing and save paper. Companies send balance sheet on email, not send as email attachment and send as  PDF link in the company site. A shareholder clicks link to download the balance sheet and can store locally.  The current balance sheets are bulkier close to 300 pages

In current days of corporate scandals including famous Satyam case, let us analyze some challenging scenarios and solutions to mitigate the same below.
Scenario 1 Can balance sheet be tampered?

  • Can company personnel tamper data in balance sheet? How prepared are shareholders to identify company tampered and uploaded new balance sheets? For example, I open, read a few pages and delete. I do not read complete document of 200+ pages
  • What happens if company tampers balance sheet and place tampered on its website? Everyone will compare both tampered copy and confirm that all is well. Is it really well?
  • How to compare 2 documents with 300 pages are same? Where to find free software to compare to 2 documents that look similar, and check for tampering?

Scenario 2 Is resolution and balance sheet refer same or different information?

  • Do balance sheets present in company website viewed by shareholders and what is being submitted to the department of company affairs match?
  • If there is a difference, which balance sheet is considered the right one?

Scenario 3 Did resolution pass or fail? Earlier few people vote on annual general body meeting resolutions as small shareholder in Chennai need to be physically present at AGM that happens in Delhi or Gurgaon. Now, more shareholders can vote if they are provided with online access to vote from their home on AGM resolutions. Still

  • As shareholder, where does one view votes received for specific resolution?
  • How to be sure that vote count was not tampered before submission to department of company affairs?

Scenario 4 Has dividend payment reached shareholder? When I received email Infosys to submit tax declaration for dividend to be not-taxed at source, I visited website and performed login using my PAN and demat account number (DP ID) and client beneficiary. I did not see the following

  • Display of the votes received for resolution in earlier annual general body meeting of previous year when I was shareholder too
  • Dividend paid to share-holder each year. While they make use of my PAN and demat details to allow me to create user, I would like to see my details
  • The number of shares for which I was provided dividend amount. If the dividend was given multiple times, an entry for each time and day of dividend credit to my bank account(masked)

Worked in block-chain, do we need to implement solution like below to prevent mishaps like Satyam episode from happening again. Let us dive in to block-chain solution.

Department of company affairs maintains a block-chain, that guarantees the integrity of balance sheet, AGM Resolutions and vote and  shareholder specific transactions
Transaction 1: Balance sheet is signed by directors  e-signature for its validity

File hash of Balance sheet is stored on block-chain and gets transaction number, and placed on company investor website as web link to balance sheet.

  • Instead of storing entire document on block-chain, we can store document hash on the block-chain. Even If company personnel updates balance sheet to correct spelling mistakes, document hash gets modified too and new version gets added.
  • The auditor of the company can place yearly audit report as document hash on the block-chain.
  • Auditor needs to leverage their e-signature to both balance sheet and audit report for its validity. Now auditor becomes responsible for any future irregularities found in balance sheet.

Transaction 2: Visit company investor site to download balance sheet. On doubt,

  • the balance sheet report can be downloaded from the company affairs site using document transaction number.
  • document hash of balance sheet placed on the company site is same as the document hash of balance sheet submitted to company affairs department.

Transaction 3: All annual body resolutions get stored on second block-chain.

  • AGM resolutions can be connected with digitally signed balance sheet and audit report.
  • All votes received by resolution are also placed on second block-chain and also who voted for and against the resolution
  • Based on resolution, if balance sheet needs to be updated, generate new document hash for updated balance sheet and audit reports, store them in first block-chain.

Transaction 4: When a company pays dividend, the dividend transaction along with share-holding of share-holder gets stored on block-chain.

  • The dividend is associated with to resolution ID from second block-chain transaction that is related to approved dividend.
  • Along with dividend, the information whether transfer of dividend via NEFT was success or failure. Can shareholder be facilitate to know about  not received dividend?

Organize Webinar in COVID times

As part of Sahay initiative, we decided to move Sahay from a missed call number model to a hotline model. We decided to make use of the exotel setup. It was fun exercise for me to learn to  set up an exotel  system, explain exotel features to other stakeholders, on-board counsellors on to exotel platform, configure/modify the call settings to suit to the counsellor’s needs. Abu and Vignesh started to facilitate on-boarding of students from Christ university and MontFord College for handling mental hotline numbers.
Instagram Story - 14
I reached out to my friend Ram Kumar asking an approach to spread message of Sahay -hotline. Ram Kumar suggested 2 things I can perform in these lockdown COVID times

  1. Send WhatsApp message to target audience – Work with WhatsApp provider to send 
  2. Conduct webinars in different languages and also spread news about Sahay.

As I am less WhatsApp Savvy, I decided to create a webinar.  This is my first time to organize a online webinar. I decided to document the whole process discovered/followed by me for  the webinar . After organise 1 webinar all myself and facilitate organising second webinar, I observe 4 stages to organize webinar

  • Stage 1 : Preparation for webinar or webinar panel – includes marketing
  • Stage 2:  Prior to webinar ( on event date or previous day)
  • Stage 3:  During Webinar
  • Stage 4:  Post to webinar (on event date or next day)

At start, I  created a document for the webinar and captured details and placed the same on a shared location(Google drive). Found this useful as it helped panelists, moderator and creative guys to view a single view of truth

Select Topic, Format and Speaker: As I was new, I did not know the topic to start with.

I started with speakers. I found speakers to talk in mental space thanks to Guru and Prasanna.

To explore the panel model, I requested Bimlesh to support me by being moderator. Bimlesh gladly offered to be moderator even before topic and panelist were identified. To set the context  to the panelist and also obtain their consent, I had to have interesting conversations with each one of the panelist. Enjoyed the conversation. When folks asked a topic, I asked for help to arrive at the topic in a collaborative way and accepted that it was the first time to put things together. Actually they seem to like my answer” I do not know. I need help to move forward”

Schedule meeting with speakers: We schedule meetings with speakers. We discussed the topic.  Guru asked for diversity in gender and we had a women speaker suggestion from  one of the speakers.  Luckily, we found a date to do an online webinar panel, where all participants were available for an hour, duration decided for a webinar of 3 with moderator. While we found date, we still were not zeroing on topic and was decided that we decide topic in email discussion

Setup meeting URL : Please think of the number of audience who will attend, whether they require a password to join the webinar and how to perform recording of the webinar.  Please obtain a short URL that can be put in a poster. Webex URL was too long and cryptic.

Create Poster The email discussion did not happen on Sunday. To speed the process I got to my next task of creating an online poster. Abu introduced me to a creative guy, Bhuvanesh from Chennai. I gave a dummy topic and we created a poster with date and speaker name. I also created a webform and created webex based meeting ID. I posted to the group and asked them to finalize the topic title as “Manage Fear and Anxiety due to COVID 19”

The  document created by the organizer can be shared with creative people too. I capture outputs of creative people in a shared location and shared with panelists and stakeholders for feedback. We create 3 to 4 versions of poster

Finalize Topic The email discussion was a topic with a group of speakers and stakeholders was crazy with everyone giving their opinions and the email thread was growing and diverging and not converging. Let me accept that I was not capable of choosing one over the other.  

As part of Sahay, Akshara was a mental health professional and active volunteer, who was also a panel speaker. I called Akshara and surrendered to Akshara asking for his support to come with the topic. Akshara was sweet to take time to arrive at topics that would be more acceptable to all speakers and we jointly pulled Guru to publish topics to all of us.

Here are my learning  for anyone who organizes the webinar.

  • Try your best to finalize topics earlier. If you want to be democratic it is going to be a lot of fun for the organizer.  
  • On other hand, with no topic. Creating a poster was a good idea. When the poster was in good shape, speakers realized a sense of completion and helped to finalize the topic.  
  • Have atleast one speaker who can support the organizer, wherever required. 
  • The moderator runs one or more meetings with panelists to plan the structure of their interactions.
  • Confirm that  panelist and moderator got web conference software installed.

Awesome, the poster was updated and we published the same on instagram, twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and WhatsApp. As the free version of webex only allowed 100 participants, we did not advertise much. 

On the day prior to webinar or day of the webinar. Checked to view  65 registrations.

  1. Check meeting setup and ensure no gap exists in end-to-end preparation.
  2. Send email to panelists sharing the number of registrations, ask them to ensure that they are free  and available at the time of the webinar. It may be a good idea to ask panelists to come 15 minutes prior to meeting, if it works for the panelists
  3. Send email to all registered participants asking them to join the webinar and ensure that the webinar link is shared with them. This email shall be sent a few hours before the webinar. For a webinar in the evening, send an email in the morning. 
  4. Still be prepared with the mindset that registered participants may forget to join the webinar.

15 minute before the webinar, organizer needs to start a webinar URL and wait for panelists. If panelists do not join, give them a reminder by a call. As organizer, you can do following before start of webinar and during the webinar.  Be ready to play a role of secretary for panelists and moderator.

  1. You can display on screen something that you want people to know
  2. Once the moderator joins, make the moderator host. If web-conference software allows, make the other panelist as co-host. 
  3. Admit participants if the web conference software expects the organiser to do so. Admit them as muted, if possible.
  4. Send a welcome message to participants when they join.
  5. Ask participants to mute themselves or mute them on joining
  6. Answer logical questions of participants, that you can respond, say related to recording. If they are audience feedback on the webinar or panelist, capture them separately.
  7. Check your email for questions that may share difficulty in joining the meeting and you may be able to respond to them with help. 
  8. If you configure chat, the organizer receives their questions in chat. Collect questions in document
  9. Present questions to moderator and panelist at appropriate times(I asked questions). Write down answers to questions in documents,  valuable effort. 
  10. At the webinar end, when the moderator closes, please display the end slide and thank the audience, panelists and moderator. 

Wow! Webinar is complete. As organizer, there are few more steps for you to complete. One can choose to perform following on the day of webinar completion or next day.

  1. Upload recording to Youtube(after downloading if needed). Edit video to make it more presentable to the audience.( i missed)
  2. Send thanks by email to panelists and moderators, and a link to recording. Feel free to share live feedback captured earlier with them.
  3. Send thanks email to participants, and a link to recording. (if there are further webinars, email can mention them). Feel free to share captured audience questions and answers with the audience.
  4. Send thanks by email to volunteers and everyone who supported you to organize the webinar.
  5. Share link to recording in social media. Like emails, you can send WhatsApp message if you interact with others on WhatsApp.

Thanks to Guru, Prasanna Akshara for the confidence in me to organize my first webinar and Bimlesh to risk being my moderator,  Subrat and Usha to bet on me to be a panelist. Thanks to Bhuvanesh unconstrained support to create posters.

Another news is that Sahay creates another zoom based webinar with a new set of panelists and was attended by  more than 100 people.

Welcome 2020. Bye Bye 2019

2019 was interesting year for me. I decided to take care of myself. The year started with me buying a car for myself first time in my life. Noting down other changes in my life.

Continue weekly meditation practice. Thanks to Rajesh and Vallari I have got in to silent hour every Friday of the week and also attended Vipasanna session. I started a regular meditation practise for 20 minutes. Found it extremely useful in 2019 to help to handle tricky scenarios by responding to scenario and reacting based on emotions. Still ask question: What did I go to Rajesh house every Friday for diverse food provided by Vallari or my commitment to silent hour?  Irrespective of reason of going, I am happy that Friday silent hour has positive impact in my life as human being.

Started Yoga class. After purchase of car, I started to feel that I do not walk or travel by bus and my agility reduces. Hence I decided to start with a regular yoga practice.  Registered for a month in April 2019 to attend yoga classes from 6 am to 7 am every week day from Monday to Friday. Not sure whether I would continue practice beyond a month. Thanks to  Instructors at Ashish Yoga Fitness who have been both supportive and demanding to me leading to and self- extend yoga class for next 9 months.

Observation that I am going to yoga class regularly all weekdays without fail (missed a few days due to travel or being sick), I decided to take a big step to sign for next one year and paid in Dec 2019.  Want to appreciate my own efforts for waking every day myself and go for 6 am session.

Start Daily meditation: After being in silent hour, I used to share with Praveen that I am not doing meditation every day. While I wanted to commit, it was not happening. Praveen suggested that you have not put meditation in top of your priority.   “Do not do anything. Do not touch mobile or newspaper before you sit for daily meditation”.  Thanks Praveen for your suggestion it works. Only after a few weeks of your suggestion, I started yoga class. Now when I come back from yoga class, I do my meditation. (in between, I take time to say bye-bye to my children going to school)

I do not carry mobile or wallet to yoga class. With iPhone set to off-time from 11 am to 7 am, I do not see mobile before going to yoga class. I avoid even being part of WhatsApp group of yoga class.

Need to prioritize sleep for 6 hours. Started to realize that after going to Yoga class, some days I was tired after class and some days I was fresh. It seems the day where I have less than 6 hours of sleep, it made me tired after yoga class and slept coming back home and got up late at 9:30 am.  This hit my meditation time. If I sleep later, I pushed myself for 7: 00 am yoga class which puts a lot of my day in to challenge. Now I put a lot of efforts to sleep by 11:30 pm every night.

Observe that I continue to use mobile for setup of alarm leads to browsing on mobile and still I sleep late, say by 12. Need to buy an alarm clock. Need to sleep by 11 :00 am in 2020. Interestingly my Titan Edge does not glow in night and neither has alarm and can be alone with me without causing distraction.

Reduce priority of newspaper. OK I did my meditation and started to read newspapers. Read news about people exploited due to Aadhaar or CAA and then start browsing on the mobile, tweeting different article and posting comments. Read book The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning, Elevate Your Life which made me realize that newspaper may not be right activity after yoga and meditation.

Stop internet availability from 11:30 pm to 9 am Realized that if internet was switched off, then I do not browse. Most days, I leave Wi-Fi router at my home working and go to bed. While I have setup off-time from 11 pm till 7 am in morning, post 7 am, the emails get refreshed, leading me to view emails (delete a lot of them) and that leads to browsing. Having Found root cause of my browsing habit, I started to force switch off router in night itself. If I have missed, I switch off the router before I go to yoga class. Man, it is lot of efforts to get rid of old habits and to train ourselves to new habits.

Even at work, I started to close outlook and see emails only at some times. Observe that I still see emails on mobile and not log off from LinkedIn and twitter. May be I need to discipline them in 2020

Journal and Reading hour: I have privilege to know personally 3 different coaches in Bangalore who have helped me post my start-up’s. One thing they asked me was to write journal and I have failed to create journal practice.  Once internet was switched off and with fresh mind, I realized that I did not have any planned activity at personal level (other than work related or work related learning). This is my realization in Dec 2019 or late Nov 2019

Attend Kutcheri in Chennai: One of my dream is to attend kutcheri/concert in Chennai during December season. Went to Chennai in 2019 for weekend to attend a concert, a dance performance and instrument. Eye opening. While I see email or twitter after an hour max, how can performer be on stage for 2 hours with focus and attention? Observing myself, I realize that my internet browsing during programs reduced during dance and reduced even further during instrument.

I am going to spend tomorrow on following questions to plan for my 2020.  Now I have learnt to cultivate some discipline, I  need to ask for help to plan my goals and ensure that new practices/habits that i picked in 2019 are not jeopardized.

Track how my day goes  and handle distractions. I have started to question myself “what I am doing every day at work”. Is that the way I want my day to be spend my day”.

  • Ask myself how can my distractions be planned during the day. For example, I allow myself to browse internet and respond to social network post reading hour. Sure after 3 hours of focused work, I can give myself break.
  • In 2020, I want to streamline  the day beyond handling distractions. Observe that I tweet lot around CAA and Aadhaar and do not have schedule for social network messages. Realize the need to say No and unsubscribe blogs that I have subscribed.
  • Should journal need to be done prior to going to bed.

Should I have goal? Been person without concrete goals for myself. Realize that I need to have goal so that my journey is more enjoyable. It is not goal to achieve what I may lose; it is goal to make so that my journey is more challenging.

Should I learn something new? Found learning new activity driving has  made me realize about myself more. Should I learn violin and practice violin every day?

What discipline/habits that I need to cultivate to lead a happy life  when I am 63 years old.

2019, Bought car for myself.

It was not an easy decision for me to books a car for myself. I lacked will and practice to be compassionate to myself and did not purchase things for myself expect books and bought clothes when previous one were worn out or torn.

Earlier, as family we had car. In Milwaukee, we had a car that my wife used to drive and in Bangalore, we had a second had-car for my wife to drive. while I used bus and cycle for personal travel, I carry a  lot of mind baggage to purchase car. Here are some

  • Do I purchase an automatic or go back to manual? My driving school owner helped me made decision that I need to purchase automatic, as he observed my struggle with clutch and gear in manual car
  • Will my father approve me of buying the car? My father breaking his leg and we have to take care of him, admitting to a hospital showed me that question was not valid and there is no point being in past memories of my father stopping me to learn car driving.

While I and my daughters checked a bunch of cars in last quarter of 2018, I was not able to make decision to purchase car. While I need to thank a lot of my friends who helped to finalize car model and make purchase, I took hard decision of not engaging with a friend who cared me across start-up journey. Sorry my friend, I was using your warmth to get care and affection and I have to stop that to learn the hard way that I need to take care of myself. Thanks Eswar, who made me realize that  I seem to refuse to take care of myself.

My start-up journey had created a lot of friction at my home with my wife. My daughters shared their preference of car color, while my wife wanted me to figure out the car to purchase myself and was not involving in the process. She neither wanted to drive car and play a role of driver and I continue to not drive. Booked Maruti Swift on 31 Dec 2018 at 6:30 pm with token money, when shop was close.

Around half of Jan 2019, I did not process my loan papers. Processing brought me to confront CIBIL score due to wrong reporting by SCB bank, I  paid the full amount by cheque and made purchase. Interesting to observe that  I was using every reason to postpone to purchase and had to constantly fight the same with help of some friends.

car

Car was delivered by the dealer (Feb 2019). My friend Ravi came to accompany me on my first drive the car to home and park in my basement.(wife and kids sat back). The arrival of new car lead to sale of  old red Maruti that my wife was driving was sold. Thanks Ravi for your support.

From March 2019, I started to drive the car to office and back home every day. Thanks to Sreenath and Siva, sat closer to my desk at my office. Coming from a life of cycle and walk, I started to enjoy car drive. Learning any new skill puts one in learning mode and you start to learn more things beyond driving. Started to view some of them as life lessons, not only driving lessons.

  • When a person comes in wrong direction, I have no option to shout them, as I need to focus on my driving and be careful that my car or their vehicles is not hit due to their wrong action. What is my control? What is not in my control?
  • Irrespective of challenges and difficulties, I need to drive the car to the destination. Do not allow obstacles on the path to stop you to reach the destination.
  • Learning to drive a car in Indian roads demands  my constant attention for long time on the road and both sides and also people coming from behind.
  • Ask for help to Siva and Sreenath to park car and remove car from parking space. For first drive to office, Siva facilitated my drive to second floor car parking and boosted my confidence. Siva helped when I could not park in parking or was scared to take parked car in reverse direction, with vehicles parked zig-zag.
  • In first 3 months, I hit car on the lamp-post and with Siva’s help, I got minor scratches removed and did not allow setback to stop me to drive. Confidence came from a daily practice of driving, lead to driving to places beyond work.
  • Has my patience  improved? Do I crib less? When I fear and called for help, I realize that while I cribbed about other vehicles parked wrongly, Siva focus was to drive me to get my car out of parking under constraints, and not knocking down any vehicle parked wrongly. No focus on others wrong actions.
  • Thanks to Arvind who risked on my first highway trip on to Kolar and back and also demand to switch lanes without reducing speed.
  • Be gratitude to my apartment(what i have).  While I shared that parking was easier in my apartment with both drive way and parking space being broad, Siva pointed how apartments have small drive way where driver needs to twist/turn/reverse to park with limited space to manure. Felt compassionate to myself for spacious apartment and my wife who identified apartment we live.

Driving  really opened me to new perspectives. Gave me new experience that I did not expect to undergo. Think there are hidden values in driving for human growth/maturity.  On first anniversary of booking car, I have completed close to 7300 kms(big for me)

  • Aug 2019 – Drove to Chennai with family and to Pondicherry with Mridula/ Return
  • Oct 2019 – Drove to Hogenakkal, Salem, Trichy/ Return
  • Nov 2019 – Drove to Chennai and Sujatha drove back on return
  • Dec 2019 – Drove to Masinangudi and drove hill (36 hair-pin bend) to Ooty/ Return

Some interesting observations

  • My  daughter Mridula to learn to understand Google maps and become my map navigator. Now she has also learnt to identify hotel to stay in Pondicherry and demands me to fill petrol looking at the car fuel indicator.
  • How does person gets used to context and makes best use of context happens with continuous practice of skill where skill levels evolve in positive ramp?
    • Car Driving has evolved from 1st stage (No AC, No Audio), to 2nd stage (AC, No audio), to 3rd stage (AC, Audio) and stage (AC, Audio, maps, hand-free phone)
    • Lane change has evolved to perform seamlessly moving across multiple lanes in multi-line highway and ability to overtake another vehicle in 2-lane road.
  • Ability to make decision whether to take car or bus. When I travel to HSR for work, I found that traffic on Outer Ring Road as pain and do not drive every day. Still I drive on Fridays so that I can come to my silent hour on-time.

While I question myself that why I refused to purchase automatic car in USA and start driving, rather than spending a lot of dollars for driving classes and failing tests in manual car. I answered myself that the past does not matter and what matters to me is that I can drive now. On our last trip, I gave first goal for my daughter Mridula ” Learn car driving by time you are 18 years old, and get driving license.”

The story of “mail Srini”?

Do you know the story of “mail Srini”? Srini is myself. This is real story occurs in 1998 at Tata Infotech and known to most new joinees who started their first job in  in 1998.
download

The joining date was July 1, 1998 in Bangalore office. We were a of 40 new employees mostly from colleges in Chennai and Coimbatore. This was when Y2K issue was picking up. On joining, we  were made to be part of training program and sat in training rooms for the duration of training. Awesome training indeed. May be why I enable freshers to skill or enable fresh graduates to become industry-employable. Back to the story.

At the start of Aug 1998, we observed that salaries have not been credited. We have opened bank account with Andhra Bank located in CMH road and provided bank details to company.  First 2 or 3 days of the month passed and still no salary credit. No employee will be happy if first salary got delayed. Being son of Financial controller who ensured salaries paid on-time for large employees in public sector , I found the scenario very odd. Being upset, I went to the area where HR representative seats were located.  I overheard HR guy’s talk and understood  the following.

  • As it is first salary where payroll gets started, HR in Bangalore has received cheque from Mumbai. Out of the freshers joined along with us, one person has deserted company in late July 98 for his own reasons after providing bank account number.
  • The cheque includes payment to this person who has absconded. HR guy wanted to stop salary to absconding person. If he provides letter with all accounts to bank along with cheque, payment will be made to all of us including absconding person . Do you think that was the right thing that HR staff needs to perform?
  • I did not think so. To get new cheque, the HR staff was in call with Mumbai staff and i overheard the same.  What I did?

I talked to my senior(call K) and shared our state and what I overheard. My senior was sympathetic and said “what can you do? Please wait, your salary will surely come. When I expressed my anguish and sharing my father’s experience, may be he did not know what to say and responded ” May be you should write email to CEO?

Days where browser based email access was not still common. and emails was accessed via terminal. While our official email address were created, we did not have permission to send and receive emails external to the company. Internal emails can be send if you have access to user terminal where email was enabled and email was disabled in training room computers.

Instead of becoming light, I asked K ” Can you help me write email to CEO? should i go to external center to send email? give me CEO email address?” To share, I send my first email in 1996 to my friends brother working for Microsoft spending Rs 25 in Chennai.

K helped me with email address of CEO and facilitated me to use his terminal access to login to my account and send my email to CEO. While I do not remember email 21 years later, it went like this

Dear Nirmal Jain

I joined TIL Bangalore on 1st July 1998. My salary had not been credited till today. I have got limited money from my father for my first months’ expense and I am running out of cash.

It does not make me feel good to ask my father for money after 1 month of working. I request your help to ensure our salary is paid on-time.”

I did not even understand completely of action done. I went home and slept. By the time, K has shared this email episode with some of freshers who joined with me.

Next day, HR manager came to training room. I actually respect her very much and she informed that our salaries are credited and expressed that salary credit should not have been delayed. Everyone started to call me “mail Srini” by that time. I was little confused what I have done. Was all this happening due to email? There was some fear raising, while I said to myself that I have not done anything wrong.

Two days, office boy & secretary of N.Ram, center head came to training room and called for me and shared that “Ram has invited me to have coffee with him”. I know who N.Ram. Lot of shout of “mail Srini”, I went along with them with raised head.

N.Ram was an awesome guy and should be in early 50s in 1998. There used to be ragging session at end of every month for people who joined office,  for both experienced and freshers. When senior people join, young employees are not sure what to ask senior person, ragging question comes from Ram and senior person answers and other start to ask question. I have seen N.Ram in event at end of July where i was ragged also and was aware of Ram’s down to earth approach.

When it went to Ram’s cabin, N.Ram threw me down with his humility. He walked to door, open door for me and asked me to take a seat. In very soft voice, he inquired about my college and my family background, which I responded. He asked whether my salary has been credited and I have withdrawn money. I responded in positive.

Then he said in most soft voice possible “If you need something, you can open this door and come to me and ask me. You can still write email to Dr.Nirmal Jain and still copy me. Next time you do not see me here, drop me  an email and I will take care.”  He also checked with me whether I am aware of sending email to  2 email address.

While i do not remember my response today,  his caring approach was making me say  something to effect of sorry. Coffee was served by then and we both had coffee in silence. N.Ram asked me to not hesitate to ask any question, expressed sorry to whole freshers saying something to effect “I have not ensured  that salary was credited on-time”. What Ram did next blew me away.

N.Ram asked whether i had anything else to discuss. I said “No” . I said “Thanks” and got up. I am already uneasy with his caring response when i have send email.  N.Ram got up from his chair and handshake me, came to door, opened the door for me to leave. Holding door, he said “I can also help you and not only Dr. Nirmal Jain”. For first time, I asked myself “Did I do something wrong by jumping a nice person like N.Ram

Everyone who knows email episode started calling me “mail srini” for years, even after I left Tata Infotech. For folks who may not know N.Ram section, here it is.

Today I am supportive, caring  and helpful to freshers  because of what I learnt from a person like N.Ram. Thanks N.Ram once again, I do not hesitate to ask questions and be vulnerable. Rarely once when my startup was forced to delay salary payment by a day, we informed our employees in advance.

“No” PGs to PG’s “everywhere”

Today, during a casual chat with a friend/neighbour, discussion went around mushroom growth of PG accommodations in Brookfield area. Being in Brookfield area for more than 11 years, conversation took us to changes that happened from time we came here. He shared his travel experience from JayaNagar to Wipro office in ITPL area every day (28 kms) in his bike and cannot even think of doing the same every day.

On coming back home, my memories were filled with experience 20 years back of arriving in Bangalore and how things were those days and how many things have changed in these 20 years.  Blog my own  IT fresher life in Bangalore in end of 1990s.

My first job was campus placement in listed company(TIL) located at George Thangiah Complex, Indiranagar, started July 1998. 5 work colleagues(different streams of same college) stayed in ground floor of residential house in B.M.Kaval, Michael Palya(close to 80 feet road) and shared paying advance of Rs 45000(10 months deposit) & rent of Rs 4500 per month. [ Still in touch with one of my housemates on monthly basis]

The rented place consists of a 2 bedroom house with kitchen, large living room and a front room. The house owner lived upstairs. We were little older than eldest son of the house owner who studied in college. The house owner was addressed as “uncle” and “aunty” and they really took care of us.

While 5  stayed in the house, our experience in that house was not PG experience.  Some of our juniors and family friends(students) doing their final semester internships stayed at our home and shared the facility available  at our homes. Blessed with  landlord who did not ask more rent for additional persons staying and we also did not them to share rent and electricity charges.

Phone and Power: No one will believe that our families could call the house owner’s phone and they would call us to take the call. Yes, we did not have mobiles and neither phone connection at home. Some of us called our homes from STD booth. STD booth is where there were be phones to make national calls(STD) and international calls(ISD). When you start phone call, call meter starts tracking the number of minutes of your using the connection to talk and also show the cost of call till that moment, based on the rates of the day.

No online payment facility. We have to pay electricity bill in-person by visiting BESCOM counters. You go in the morning before 10th of the month to have smaller queues.

Washing and Cleaning. No washing machine and we have to engage a maid to take care of cleaning house and washing clothes. Initially we cooked our dinner and asked the maid to clean utensils ourself and kitchen also.

Transport As we lived closer to work place, none of use had vehicle for long time. We walked to work and back. Autos were cheap, auto from work place to reach M.G.Road costed Rs 25(min Rs 8 for 2 kms, Rs 4 per km)

To go to our home towns, there was  RedBus or online KSRTC portal option to make reservations. There were 3 options available to make reservations.

  1. Railways reservation counter at IndiraNagar RTO: Start early in morning, stand in queue and purchase ticket. The counter opened at 8AM. This was convenience and comfort living in Indira Nagar, closer to our home.
  2. State transport Bus counters: You have to go to majestic bus-stand to make reservations in state transport buses. The reservation opened 60 days prior to travel. To make reservation, one took local transport to majestic, made booking, eat there, see a movie and took a bus back home.
  3. Premium Bus Counters : KPN travel, Sharma travel buses has counters in Indira Nagar, where we can purchase tickets. While tickets were costlier compared to state transport, the charge included free pick-up from Indira Nagar in tempo traveller and drop at Madiwala, where we waited and climbed bus.

Interestingly, buses to Neyveli township had no reservation provision. I made reservation to travel to Panruti and take a local bus to Neyveli. On return, I or my sister used to stand for reservation(daily reservation available for night bus, early in morning) to reserve place.

Old HAL airport. While I did not travel much by air, it used to be seamless travel, less than 10 minutes from home to reach airport. Remember, being in Indira Nagar avoided the biggest traffic jam intersection on (Old airport road- 100 Feet Road)junction where i first time experienced  traffic light  changes once in 5 minutes(even those days).

Food. In 1998, Indira Nagar had plenty of restaurants and food eateries in CMH road. They were both far from our home and work place. My company had amazing cafeteria in basement, where we can purchase breakfast, lunch. You can find my work place building still in 80 Feet Road, Indira Nagar.

On weekends, cafeteria did not work and closed for whole day on Sunday, we walked a lot of distance to eat good food. In addition, it rained heavily in evenings in Bangalore(5 pm to 7:30pm) and wanted comfort of having food at home. While housemates took turns to make dinners, it was not seamless experience.

We asked our maid whether she can cook for us, which she agreed. She used to cook 3 times a day, morning breakfast, afternoon lunch and evening dinner. It was a happy experience with the maid who offered us more support than we expected.

  1. Home -made food. Specify what preferred food at every time of meals
  2. She was nice to purchase groceries and vegetables for us
  3. In addition, she with help of house owner auntie made dosa-idly flour.
  4. Bring colleagues from work for lunch at home. The only thing is to inform maid in the morning how many of us would come for lunch.

As she helped us a lot, .we asked her to make more food, so that she can take for her children every day. On weekends, some of us asked her to make non-veg food.

Entertainment & Purchase: No Youtube or amazon Prime those days. My housemates read a lot of books. Compared to clothes, books were more in number.  While few new books were purchased,  lot of books were brought from road-side second-hand book sellers. In addition, house had a tape-recorder after first month and a TV at start of the second year. We had cards. Not sure whether we had chess board and carrom board

This is really true. We can walk towards C.V Raman Nagar and sit on the road next to bust of CV.Raman statue and chat for hours enjoying a good breeze.  No tech parks in those time, means  the entire areas would be empty post 9 pm. Today this bust continue to be located on the way to Bagamane Tech park. When I go to Bagamane Tech park, this experience comes in to my mind and observe how much change has happened.

As M.G Road was close, we used to go to theatres to see movies. Remember, Plaza, Lido and other theatres which have become malls.

Online payments: For first 2 years till 2000, I neither has debit card or credit card. (some banks offered). Salary got credited in Andhra bank , where we need to present in-person to withdraw money. Citbank had setup their large ATM counter in CMH road and stated using their facility with my first debit card in my second job.

Technical Learning and Startups

No Google to search for technical content. Tata Infotech hosted a good library room at work place and used to purchase magazines and technical books. Every employee can rent 2 books. Still remember fresh of follow-up with librarian to purchase  books “Essential COM- Don Box”, took book to Malleswaram 18th cross Xerox shop to create multiple copies. Tata Infotech hosted monthly knowledge meetings, where external speakers used to address the audience.

No laptops those days ( till 2002 for sure). Computers or PCs at office came  with hard drives of capacity  2GB or 4GB, slot for inserting floppy disk and associated with 128 MB RAM or 256 MB RAM.  Special project teams were gifted to have  PCs of 512 MB RAM

All employees had email access. Internet access was limited and unlimited internet was available to special project teams.

No awareness of startups till early 200s. Lot of my ex-colleagues got their H1 visa processed and went to USA( i did not process too). The first startup initiative that I became aware was when my colleague(still in touch) quit job to join as early member of GE Credit division(startup of those days). Sure  a new phenomenon in opening 2000s

 

 

Via lens of the Indian Constitution

In the last few years, being without Aadhaar number made me realise that I am less aware of  fundamental rights and duties offered to Indian citizen by Constitution of India. Understanding of constitution empowers citizen to understand my rights and violations of my rights by stray orders by the government.

Yesterday, I attended workshop “Idea of India, via lens of Constitution” facilitated by Dr Sandeep Pandey in Bangalore.  The workshop started with play by students and the discussion to understand fundamental duties, started  with understand resignations of 3 IAS officers in last 1 year.

Did resignations reflect the current 2019 challenge to young Indian citizen to perform fundamental duty to Indian Constitution, while being IAS officer. Made me think their act to be similar to act of Indians who became ICS officers under British rule and then understood the value of freedom and resigned their ICS positions.

Reflect your own beliefs looking at fundamental duties at Part IVA, Article 51A, Fundamental Duties . Here is my own reflection of my stand with respect to things.

  • “Not obtaining Aadhaar” is in a spirit of software developer to perform duty  “To develop scientific temper, humanism & spirit of inquiry and reform” 
  • Choose not to provide biometrics to UIDAI  to perform duty “To cherish & follow the noble ideals which inspired our freedom struggle”.
  • Compassion to suffering of Kashmir people due to restriction of free movement &communication to perform duty “To promote harmony & spirit of common brotherhood transcending religious, linguistic, regional, sectional diversity”

Then we discussed about fundamental rights of Indian Citizen with respect to individual. Here are the fundamental rights listed that can be exercised by every Indian Citizen.

  • Right to Equality
    • 14, Equality before Law 
    • 15, Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
    • 16, Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment
    • 17, Abolition of untouchability
  • Right to Freedom
    • 19, All citizens shall have right to (a) freedom of speech and expression; (b) assemble peaceably and without arms; (c) form associations or unions; (d) move freely throughout India; (e) reside and settle in any part of India
    • 20, Protection in respect of conviction for offences
    • 21, Protection of life and personal liberty
    • 21A, Right to education
    • 22, Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases
  • Right against Exploitation
    • 23, Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour
    • 24, Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc
  • Right to Freedom of Religion
    • 25, Freedom of conscience, free profession, practice & propagation of religion
    • 26, Freedom to manage religious affairs
    • 27, Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion
    • 28, Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions
  • Cultural and Educational Rights
    • 29, Protection of interests of minorities
    • 30, Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions

Observe that employment of child labor violates  “24, Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc.”. While child cannot be legally employed in factory or work place, child is allowed to engage in occupation to earn money to take care of child(self). Keep 24 in mind when you learn/ observe child trafficked for labour, begging and sexual exploitation

Observe that “Right to Education” is fundamental right offered to every citizen by Indian constitution. May be this right empowers people to ask the government to continue to run schools in villages and not to  close them for economic viable reasons. Not able to stop myself from thinking about “Raatchasi” movie in Tamil.

Observe that Kashmiri blockage of communication and movement violates 19 under “Right to Freedom” section.   A radical idea that came in discussion was  “Instead of removing special rights of Kashmir, Why not Indian government provide similar special right to every state of India? Does that not make all states equal? ”

Personally violations of article 19 is of more concern than removal of Article 370. By doing this change without taking consent of Kashmiris or even debate in the Parliament, followed by  restriction of movement and communication of Kashmiris, the government seems to be committing  more mistakes, rather than single mistake.

Learn that calling Indian government as “Central government” may not be appropriate and recommend calling the same as “Union Government”

The death of Indian scavengers violates 21 under “Right to Freedom” section. Does subsidy provided by government to Haj pilgrims and Manasrovar pilgrims violates 27?  Did P.Chidambaram, accused by ED or CBI appeal to supreme court to protect under  22 (do not know whether he committed crime or not). Does 14 and 21 protect a citizen without Aadhaar cannot be discriminated because he does not have Aadhaar?

Observe that cow vigilante and mob lynching cases and instances where muslim is forced to say “Jai sriram” violates 21 and 26.. May be Citizenship Amendment Bill “allows non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh who arrived in India before 31/12/2014 to become citizens” also violates “26, Freedom to manage religious affairs”.

Discussions also lead to learning that “Protection & improvement of environment & safeguarding of forests & wild life” is not right offered by Constitution and is part of “Directive Principles of State Policy”, which also contains “Promotion of interests of SC/STs & other weaker sections”. This helps me to understand politics used by political parties behind providing education benefits and subsidies to citizens, while trying to relocate tribals and people for infrastructure. Similarly “Duty of State to raise level of nutrition & standard of living & to improve public health” is directive principle, which makes me realise why government can be reluctant to create health care infrastructure and provide health care benefits via medical insurance.

Followed by discussions around dilution of RTI by successive governments, starting from “removal ‘file notings’ from definition of information”[2006] and “withdrawal of amendment seeking to exclude political parties from ambit of RTI Act” [2013] and “removal of 5 year fixed term”[2019].

Followed by Discussions on NRC register in Assam, which made me learn new about  Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam and implications/ineffectiveness of the governments, which has already made Bodos disillusioned. 

At end of workshop, my scientific minds says that Indian constitution is rich, while implementation of rights/duties by Indian Constitution in reality has not been effective and people friendly and is more leveraged by political parties that run governments to gain electoral milestones.  At the same time, my scientific mind says that it is not cake walk for citizens also to perform fundamental duty ” To develop scientific temper, humanism & spirit of inquiry and reform”, more under the current government regime with clear majority and  dictatorial style of governance. 

As mind is devil, the more i learnt about violation of constitution and how political parties are leveraging same for their benefits, my mind became little upset  and throw  the question “What is the use of learning  about constitution, in midst of challenges to execution in reality? Was it waste of my time  attending workshop?”.

By not putting question the question to facilitator , the mind came with answer “Its not waste of time. You are in midst of conflict without Aadhaar. You attended workshop, to strengthen your belief  in Indian constitution, as  you value past struggle of Indians to freedom that you enjoy today. You continue to desire  to exercise my rights and perform my duties without fear in current form too.”

Idea of India

Payback to Subramaniam Sir

good teacher

My daughter completed 10th standard and has joined 11th standard. I and my daughter started to have casual conversation about her school subjects, as I still remember my basics Maths, physics, chemistry. Earlier childhood, my daughter started to read story books and continue to read school books with the same attention and never went for special tuition or extra classes. When she wanted more clarity earlier, I introduced her to  Khan academy  and how to search for topic on Khan academy  and then she started to research for clarification herself.

If you live in place like Bangalore, 11th class child are under a lot of pressure to study well from your peer students and parents from peer parents.  You have multiple coaching institutes that call parent on the phone asking you to put your child in their school.  There are schools that call parent on the phone and ask you to apply for admission in their school and share their focus for entrance examinations.

I asked my daughter whether she wants to join any classes. She asked me a question “Did you attend extra classes while you were at school”

My answer was Yes. I reminded for Subramaniam Sir (Block-27 Neyveli) whose only classes I attended while studying 12th standard in my school. (different from Block-9 Subramaniam Sir whose classes were attended by lot of my classmates). Here are my memories at times when there is biopic release called Super 30 based on real life Super 30 classes.

Subramaniam Sir was maverick. He does not collect any fees to students and would not entertain fees from students. There was no application form to fill and he just reminded you by name. He worked in good position Neyveli lignite corporation and offered these classes as support to student to learn maths topics well.  I have heard rumor that he had son who expired due to some snake bite or some unavoidable situations.

Admission process: No one get easy admission to Block-27 Subramaniam Sir. If you come wearing t-shirt and request admission, your chance of getting admissions are low. If you come in 4-wheeler with your parents and park in front of his house, your chance of getting admissions are low. You need to humble and simple and show urge to learn and respect to teacher. (not he expects respect).

You cannot move your hair in style or wear jeans to class. You run the risk of being asked to go home and cannot attend the class in future. When students of higher management of NLC come by car to get admission, they have their admission denied and no one can me Subramaniam Sir change his decision.   If students come by 2-wheeler, your admission may be revoked. All of us come to class only by bicycle. You would have bicycle pump at Sir’s home if your bicycle has less air in wheels and you can self-pump air.

Classes:  Block-27 Subramaniam Sir maths classes did not have table and chairs. Students to have sit on the ground along with the teacher and work on the problems. At times on weekends, Sir would sit down in the garden and there will be mats for students to sit around in the garden.

There was Chemistry Sir who would come and teach Chemistry and it was optional for student to attend chemistry classes. The chemistry class monthly fees was Rs 30 and Chemistry teacher would forget to ask for fees, effectively fees was not demanded.  Chemistry class used to happen in open shed with wooden benches. Even when it rains, the students for maths class continue to sit down in Sir’s house living room and study room. (Remember it was D Type Quarters of Neyveli).

Learning: At times, you asked sir for doubt in one maths problem and have attempted and struggle to move forward, he would provide hint to move forward.  I used to study for IIT-JEE entrance examinations in those times. At times, I would have difficulty to solve complex problem and this topic is also in school syllabus. When I asked for clarification, Sir would clarify my doubts and enable me to resolve the same with a word “that this problem is not in schoolbook. Are you preparing for some other exam? “

Internal tests: Block-27 Subramaniam Sir never asked students to take internal tests.  The interest to learn was of the students and Subramaniam Sir played role of coach helping student become better in what she or he wants.

While I stopped going to classed post November 1992, I have heard that Subramaniam Sir helped student to perform night study in his office during exam preparation holidays. He used to be awake through the night with students and his wife would make all of them tea/coffee so that they can be awake and study well and get good marks.

After sharing this story with my daughter, I asked her whether she wants to explore AhaGuru, founded by Balaji Sampath of Chennai and offers online courses for school students. I was privileged as part of MobiSir to interact with Balaji and be part of software development  of the online course of AhaGuru in early years.  She explored AhaGuru and chose the option that allows to access explanatory videos and no online classes.

At this junction, I had mindset to write wrong about how things are today. Then I decided to kindly remember long term thinking of NLC, PSU company.( think all these benefits are still offered to their employees).

  • They used to conduct free entrance class coaching classed for all students after completion of 12th class exams. NLC brought teachers from different part of Tamil Nadu, paid the teacher and made facility for student to study for free or for a nominally low account.
  • Students scoring top marks in different Neyveli schools were provided with scholarship that reimbursed the whole tuition fees across the course duration of their engineering or medical stream. Students whose parents were NLC employees were eligible for this scholarship. NLC continue to reimburse student who completed 12th class in school of Neyveli whose father retires from NLC right after student completes 12th standard
  • Prior to joining my first job, I had my medical examination done at Neyveli hospital for free. All dependent children of NLC employees received free medical facility (I was dependent of my father as college student)

To end, I decided that to mark all my volunteering activities in community and learning program offered by me at my work to be  “Pay Backwards to Subramaniam Sir of Block-27 Neyveli”