Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wiki and Walky Weekend in W(m)umbai

Hi All!

Sharing some pics from Mumbai Dream Run last Sunday.. it was more of a carnival than a run, with lots of shouting and dancing thrown in!

You'll find more pics adding over the coming week on ; and I'll post videos too on
I started out with Team (an online micro-credit social investment platform), but half an hour into it lost them (I was, ahem, distracted..)

...and then joined the Teach For India group instead!

Also nearly bumped into two old friends from the TCS contingent..  ;)

Ajay - Right after the Carnival ended, we headed like a pack of hungry dogs to Jazz buffet restaurant in Marine Drive... and I got to implement most of the recommendations from your humorous speech on Buffet meals. Wishing you were there... those waiters never saw it coming! ;)

One note about the Jazz restaurant - they've strategically placed all the Desserts at a spot where there's very little place between the table and a wall section. Only thin people can squeeze in to take it and even that's an effort! Smart!!

Also attached a pic from Wikipedia 10th anniversary Mumbai meetup that took place on Saturday (and one of the reasons why I wasn't around last Sat)

At the meetup, when the right time came, I made a pitch about the wikipedia for schools project, how I installed the offline version at an under-resourced english medium school in Nanapeth, Pune and the impact it's had..  and  the response was so great, with university professors and tech bloggers lining up their laptops to copy it and expressing interest, it's turned into a movement now that can potentially spread all across India!

Check out

We also learned about Google IME - which installs any Indian or other language into your computer and is being used by many senior citizens with no technical knowledge to contribute Indian language articles on wikipedia! It uses an auto-suggest concept the same way we add recipients when sending email.. no need to type the whole word, and it learns the most often used words so you get faster each time. Tres comfortable, even for rapid switching between English and the language. Do check it out if you're interested in creating vernacular content or helping your folks do it.
(read through the installation instructions once)

And between these events, equally exciting, was to-and-fro across Mumbai using the best transport imaginable - the Mumbai Local!
On Friday night, I was in the middle of a crowded bogie when I found from a phone call that I was supposed to get off at Andheri instead of Borivli.. and just then the train reached Andheri. Everyone said there's no way I can get out here in time, but with a huge squeeze-through effort, I managed to alight, with all parts intact at the nick of time. 1 second late and the train would have been too fast moving out and I'd have crashed! Now I know how a baby feels after being pushed out of a womb!!
Oh, and a Kudos to the automated ticketing machines with touchscreens - Damn easy to take your ticket now, I didn't have to wait in any line at all.

One thing I appreciated about my Mumbai Local experience was that the people care about each other, despite all the rush. And it works - people with big bags just pass them on to the middle of the bogie and call for them when their station is coming - implicitly trusting every one of the 20 or so people who pass it along. Whenever I asked a question out to the crowd, I was given a detailed and helpful answer, and then they even acted to help me at times without me having to ask them. And there's groups of people interacting, brainstorming all the time. I saw a TED video once about how coffee shops in England where people could interact for long hours and weren't forced to buy stuff, could be the reason behind her huge leap forward in science, knowledge and trade over a century ago. I have a strong feeling the Mumbai Local is doing the same for Mumbai.

Also did a night-over with college buddies on Friday night.. one of them had come straight from the airport after a long onsite stint and we all met up after a long time. On Saturday night, met family friends after many years and got a huge bear-hug from Nilaxi Aunty which was even more crushing than the trains! I was so lost in chit chatting with them I totally forgot to take photos! :(

So, it was an eventful weekend in Mumbai and with the wikipedia for schools project, we may just have opened a Pandora's box (a good one!) for more things to come!

Oh, and for TFI friends.. I introduced myself at the wikipedia meetup as a Teach For India Fellow -- good publicity -- Wanna take it forward??

Nikhil Sheth+91-966-583-1250

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