around us

It’s in the Cloud!


Image by Toons4Biz at

As a kid I thought there was only water vapour in the cloud.. but well now there is storage space, money and telent! All in the cloud 🙂

In the last couple of years there has been a lot of talk about cloud computing with substantial growth in cloud services, companies and users. Cloud computing means services provided over the internet that replace the need to install applications locally. For example using word on Gmail instead of buying Microsoft Word application. Simply speaking all my presentations, documents and spreadsheets can be stored in a “cloud” which I can access through Internet.

Recently I was doing a research on social enterprises in India and in one of the companies model’s I came across “cloud financing”. Fancy term to use, but I was confused on what it really means and how does it work? Internet search didn’t tell much. All I got was IBM cloud financing, which is financing solutions for companies moving to cloud computing. So during the interview, I asked about cloud financing to the enterprise’s VP. He explained that cloud financing was raising capital through Internet from individuals. So I would say it means the same as  ‘crowd financing’, which simply means raising money from different people. The idea is not new,  NGOs have been doing  this since long (remember the collection boxes at payment counters in supermarket and malls) but Internet now has made it very easy to reach out to the crowd. Not just NGOs but startups and social entrepreneurs also seek support from the crowd. More recently it has been used by a Bollywood Production house for the movie I AM. Production money was raised through twitter and facebook. The director, Onir, offered supporters co-production credits and a share in profits.

Just like crowd financing is for raising capital; crowd sourcing is used for raising talent by tapping into the customers. So many companies now have customer forums on their website to give feedbacks, ratings and provide solution to fellow customer’s problems. Customer feedbacks and user generated media such as blogs and Wikipedia are reducing organisation’s research expenditure.

Businesses don’t just depend on customers for demand of their products but a lot more. As Jeff Howe, the author of crowdsourcing says

“The Power of Crowd is driving the future of businesses”


Categories: around us, development, digital living | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

13,000 teachers put on Census duty – Hindustan Times

13,000 teachers put on Census duty – Hindustan Times.

Different departments of the state need to work in tandem for realistic development. This fact has been again and again emphasised by many working in the field but rarely is it taken into consideration by our state machinery..Here is a perfect example to show that development does not happen in water-tight compartments. Primary school teachers are put on census duty in the months preceding the annual examinations. Teachers to stay out of school for almost a month from Feb 14th to March 5th. Municiple corporation says education does not fall under their department and education department says Census is national duty.. who suffers? the children and their education.

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From volunteering to volunteering…

I’ve been asked this question again and again. Why did I switch my career from engineering to development? Well I thought I’d better answer that now!

Graduating from IIT, a job in a well-known MNC was an obvious choice. I was designing circuits for various mobile applications. The job was challenging, interesting, I learned a lot but the most important thing, which made me stick to it for 5 years, was the opportunities my company provided towards community development. Before TI, “giving back to society” for me, mainly meant donating money/material. It was only later that I saw how important and how much more difficult (and thus more satisfying) it was to donate my time and my skills. Writing a cheque was easy, but it was easily forgotten as well. TI India Foundation gave me an opportunity to volunteer my time at various NGOs. I was a companion to old people, a teacher to under privileged children or a friend to special kids. Sometimes a fundraiser, sometimes a marketing help for an NGO. It allowed me to take up so many different roles and go beyond my daily routine of being a design engineer. The impact was observable immediately; the satisfaction was delivered just as soon.

But it wasn’t easy being a volunteer every time. It’s different to see poverty from outside and think about doing something about it than to experience it and work within it. I would just like to recount an instance here, which made me question my efforts towards volunteering as well as strengthened them.

I was once trying to convince the parents of a 10-year-old slum girl to allow her to continue school. I gave all the regular arguments of the vicious cycle of poverty and that until she gets good education, there is no way out for her. The father of the child, made his 6 children stand in line in front of me and simply said, if she doesn’t work the rest go hungry.

I was dumbfounded by that response. That time I just left, went to my mentor and cried my heart out. However, she insisted that I go back and try harder. I did and I succeeded and it gave me such pleasure that no other achievement of mine could stand in front of it.

I’ve had my share of disappointments as well, but in this field one success is worth tens of disappointments.

While the desire to contribute more grew, time was limited and that’s what triggered the change. From a part-time volunteer, I became a full time volunteer with save the children and then a full time employee with iVolunteer, where I get to manage and interact with volunteers from different walks of life eager to give their time and skills to change lives. Along with ensuring that their skills are best utilised, I am back to part time volunteering again!

PS: I’m sharing this post for the alternative’s Bucket-a-hope campaign.  Grab your “bucket”, fill it with hope and share your giving story with

Categories: around us, Volunteer, work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Education in the 21st century!

Education today we know is very competitive, especially in a country like India where the ratio of good schools to students is very disappointing. One will be shocked just to see the admission process for a child entering into kindergarten. While the government has rules about not questioning a child so young, the process now targets the parent. And children are also not technically left out of the whole process.. They have to come for what many schools call an “interaction day” where the teacher observes the child in a play room or a library in the school and judges his/her .. I don’t know what.. attitude? Aptitude?. For a child as young as 4 years old, what do we mean by attitude or aptitude? Or any other skills for that matter? How do you make sure a 4 year old understands that s/he is being watched over.. s/he may not just be in a mood but schools still insists and the parents comply and the child does his/her own thing.

My sister is currently filling up forms for my niece’s admission and also “preparing” her for the “interaction day”. I’ll just recall some of Nandini’s preparation here:

Mummy: Nandini what is your mother’s name?

Nandini: Mumma Pareek

Mummy: Nandini theek se bolo.. Monica Pareek

Nandini: par mumma aap to mumma ho na (but mummy aren’t you mummy?)

(We all laughed at that but my sister was obviously not amused.. she was too tensed to appreciate the humour or the innocence in that reply!)

The preparation continues…

Mummy: Nandini can you sing me a poem?

Nandini: Which one? Twinkle twinkle?

Mummy: any one.. okay sing twinkle twinkle..

Nandini: Twinkle Twinkle little star, la la la la la..

(she started rhyming the tune of the poem…)

It’s not that she didn’t know the poem, but she was not in a mood and how do you bring a child of 3 years in mood to sing something she doesn’t want to?

Before interaction, comes the parents’ screening.. Their education, profession and their ability to write essays! That would mean if I’m uneducated, I have no chance of getting my child into a good school and why? Because I failed? So my child suffers.. and even if I write that essay and still my child doesn’t go through, it’s my failure again!

So here is a question from the application form for a particular school for my niece’s admission:

Please share with us your thoughts, beliefs & expectations about the relative roles of parents and educators in bringing up children effectively in the 21st century.


And this question carries the maximum points in the whole form! I was reminded of my post-graduate application process time when I heard this one.. I’ve written enough essays for my post-graduate application but to think that a parent has to write similar essays for a child’s admission. God help Indian parents!

But then the schools may also say that faced with so many admission requests, they need to have some sort of criterion for selecting children. But in doing so they are denying a right to good education to many children. In my opinion the problem lies not in the admission process, but in the education process itself. Why can’t all our schools become the ‘good schools’? With education becoming a booming industry; with more and more people entering the so-called ‘upper middle class’; the distinction between schools will continue to exist and so will the pressure on parents and young children first to get admission and then to excel. Ranking in schools is another topic, which can trigger hot debates but I would rather not talk about that now and think about an answer to that question now!

Categories: around us, education, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Butterflies in my stomach…

Yesterday I felt almost like a fresh graduate out of college, who has her first day at work the next day. Preparing what to wear, what to take.. I was both excited and anxious. New sector, new people, new roles and responsibilities. Getting back to work after 3 years wasn’t easy..The only thought I had the whole day yesterday was  “How would tomorrow be”.. But just thinking couldn’t do much anyway.. so I slept saying “I shall cross the bridge when it comes”..


Come today morning, I was up at 5:30 am! (I had to leave home at 9!). tried sleeping again.. no use. So kept on tossing and turning till 7 when I finally woke up, did some general time pass on net, got ready and left at 9.


In the office, the scenario mirrored “throw the baby in the pool and she will learn to swim”. After a brief orientation about the organisation and the centre.. I was left on my own, as everyone was busy preparing for a big event the next week. However 15 minutes into my ‘free time’ I saw my name on a board against events plan and activity leader for child welfare and elderly welfare during the weeklong event with the plan due COB today. And so the work began and the butterflies stopped fluttering around.. 🙂


Welcome Ashima Goyal Siraj, Regional Manager – West, iVolunteer, India


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Waving to strangers…

A train window is a window to many amazing worlds especially when you are travelling in India. The scenes change dramatically as the train moves from villages where one can see lush green fields, to no-one’s land where mountains or ruins stare at you or outskirts of town where one can actually peep into homes of slum dwellers. But one scene, which always gets a response from me is that of children waving the passing train..


Why do they do it? I’ve always wondered what pleasure it gives them to wave goodbye to complete strangers. Maybe when they see people staring blankly out of windows, they just want to bring a smile on their faces and vice verca?

At a recent trip to Hampi, we hired an auto for a day trip to all the ruins in the city. At around 2pm we crossed a double-file line of school children returning home from school, and each of them waved at us, with bright smiles forcing us to smile back! 🙂 Later we took a bus back to Hospet, which is the nearest station. On the way there was girl playing in dirt outside her small house. As soon as she saw the bus, she stood up and started waving emphatically with the broadest smile I have ever seen! I don’t know if someone she knew was on the bus but I wish I could have captured her smile that time..


Another thought which crossed my mind was, at least in a bus or auto or a train, they can see the people inside and they can get a response back.. but so many times I’ve seen kids waving at airplanes! In fact I used to do the same as a kid. I don’t why I did it then and I don’t know why I stopped doing so now.. The reason could be the same as it is with Hugs and Kisses. As we grow up, we shy away from strangers, as grown ups we start questioning and seek to repress. In their innocence, the children are just wishing a traveller good-luck. In return if they get a wave back it deepens the smile and as smiles are contagious, it brings one on the traveller’s face as well.. and more the smiles the better it is..


(note: the images are taken from different sites on the copyright violation intended)


Categories: around us, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Finally it pays off…

Of all the things that I learnt at LSE, writing social science academic and research articles was the toughest. I remember the first assignment: There was this long and lengthy 30 page article on the current language of the development sector and it’s current relevance and we were to write a review for it. And this during the introduction lecture, due on the following Tuesday! I read the abstract and went completely bonkers… full of jargon.. as heavy as it can get.

I was all confused and felt out of place amidst students with social science background and conversant with the both the language and the writing style. Bewildered I went to the counsellor at the teaching and learning centre.

“I come from an engineering background. I can write articles with equations as the main components but I can’t make sense of a 30 page article and write a review for it in a week’s time, when it takes me a day to read one page of that article!”

It was that day and today, I have written more than 10 academic papers and edited and reviewed many more in a year’s time. And now it also pays … 🙂


Read on:


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For lack of a better name…

The idea of a food blog has been lingering in my mind since long. Actually the initial intention of “lime ‘n’ lemony” was a food blog but then I started doubting my skills as a cook and abandoned the idea.

When my wedding was finalized almost three years ago, I had asked my mom for just one gift. 6 months before my wedding, I asked her to write down all her recipes in a notebook and gift that book to me on my wedding day. After marriage, I took a break from job for about a year. During that time I managed almost all her recipes and also added many more to that book. Looking at the book now, I feel I need to organize it better (making sections for starters, main course, desserts and also sections of veg/non-veg) and also share many of those recipes with others. Especially my mom’s jams and preserves recipes. Doing it online was the best solution..but for lack of a better name, it’s still an action item in my diary. Since last 6 months I have been looking for a name for my blog. In between I took a bartending course and experimented a lot with drinks and mixers.. so that’s another thing I want to add to that blog (when it happens). Last week when a lot of my friends were visiting, I brought this idea on the table, hoping someone would come up with an exciting name but no success.

The essential ingredient of Indian cooking is the spice and the memory is taste and aroma.. I wanted something which would combine these elements. And just as I wrote that I got the idea of 5 senses. Food in fact touches all the 5 senses.

Hearing: the whistle of the pressure cooker (a quintessential part of any Indian Kitchen)!

Touch:  I strongly believe food tastes better when had with hands rather than the boring fork and knife (it has to be ‘finger licking good’!)

Sight, smell and taste need no explanation for their association with food and experience with food.

However ‘5 senses’ being such a common phrase, I wonder if I would find it unavailable. And I will again be on a lookout for a name.. Any suggestions?


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Storytelling for Change

It’s been about 2 months since the World Youth Congress in Istanbul, but life has been fairly hectic since then and though I wrote this post during the congress itself on my phone, I never got down to actually posting it.

Most facilitators at the WYC had their own way of introductions in each workshop and this one was no different. Our facilitator, Will, from New Zealand, taught us the Maori form of greeting: hongi.

Will runs an organization in NZ, which is involved in raising awareness about development issues in schools and colleges. One of the challenges they face is: How do you go into a group and make them listen to something you believe in and leave them, never to see them again, and still make sure they remember the message?

That is where story telling comes in….

We tell stories all the time. At the dinner table, in the bus, over phone.. Every conversation is a story. Story telling is easy, it is natural and it makes the audience relate to you. The workshop focused on how we should do storytelling with a purpose. Things to keep in mind like bringing true and personal (as far as possible) stories, ending with a punch line (key message) which does not go like “and the moral of the story is …”, voice modulation, expressions, gestures etcetera.  One very important point that Will mentioned was that it is absolutely necessary for the stories to be true. For the stories to act as springboards, motivating others for good, you need to tell them what someone else has actually done. First express your key message in one line then look for a personal story to highlight the point, if you can’t find a personal story then go for story of a well known person. If the message is important it should have a precedent, a fictional story should be your last resort.

That was the technical part to the workshop, but what I found most interesting was the practical exercise at the end. We were all divided into groups of 5-6 and each of us had to tell a story to the group, about an incident that changed us in some way or had an influence on us and had to have a key message in the end. My group had 5 people and 4 out of 5 stories we told ended with a message of letting our guards down and trust strangers. Each story was on how an act of kindness by a stranger moved us and made us question our general distrust on strangers, which is mostly fueled by the stories we have heard from others. That left me wondering if the world really is so unsafe or is it just our fears that are put under a magnifying glass made of all the horror stories we hear in media or from a friend about what happened to his friend’s friend. I’m not denying that they aren’t true stories but maybe we need more of the good stories to be told. One tragedy outnumbers 99 acts of solidarity just like ‘one dirty fish spoils the entire pond’. This makes it even more important to have as many as good stories to be told and narrated so that we don’t lose faith in each other.

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This time for Africa..

11th June 2010

FIFA world cup begins..

The link for Shakira singing “This time for Africa” is simply

11th June 2010

more than 100 children died from lead poisoning in Yangalama, Northern Nigeria.

The link for lead poisoning in Nigeria is :

(it didn’t fit in the same line)

Google searches:

“FIFA world cup 2010” :                                   49,400,000 results found

“Nigeria children deaths lead poisoning” :              112,000 results found

A difference of nearly 50 million.

I just had one thought…Does this reflect our priorities for today?

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