Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Report on the Toastmasters District Semi-Annual Conference - I

From: Prasad Sovani
Date: Tue, Nov 30, 2010
Subject: Report on the District Semi-Annual Conference - I

Dear Toastmaster friends,

Hi! I returned from Mumbai late on Sunday night and was busy in pending work, hence the delay in sending this mail.

It was fabulous experience at Reverberations 2010.
I was quite happy with the quality of contests and felt that it has improved over the years.

First the headlines:
Our contestants rocked, and narrowly missed out on winning one of the top 3 positions, but were good enough to win the semi-finals and enter the finals.
Both Mario Rozario(Evaluation) and Ramakrishna Reddy(Humorous) did us proud by giving their best shot!
So though they have not won a medal, they were GOOD!

The next District event is Annual District Conference in May 2010 at Mysore and I' like to have each club from our Division represented over there. So, if the clubs are represented on Thursday 12 May 2010,(For Semi-Finals to support our contestants) and onwards, it might be great for all of us.

I shall now give report of only day 1 in this mail.
We reached there at 1.30 pm on Friday and straightaway I had to attend the District Executive Committee meeting.

Our Division is vibrant & vivacious! We were the best Division of District 82-N. We have added 4 new clubs against the target of 6 and we are expected to achieve at least 10 new clubs by June end.
Plus when I talked about what is happening in our Division, all the present people applauded vigorously and commented during the break that Div M is different!

FYI, we are unique in 6 ways. 1. Forming new community clubs by splitting (The 'Prasad Sovani' model or Pune model) It was requested by some Division Governors that I talk about this. 2. Monthly dinners for Presidents & Div Council, to bond well 3. Training for Presidents on a regular basis to groom future leaders, 4. Mentoring rigorously as was evident in substantial improvement in Ramakrishna's speech, 5. Division newsletter & Wikia, 6. Lot of coverage in print media

That evening, we had the inauguration & while there were many programmes, I was touched by Frank Storey's speech.
Frank joined Toastmasters after repeated requests by his colleague. After his first meeting, joined straightaway, and same month joined 5 more clubs to practise more! Later, he went on to be District Governor in USA.

I have some take-homes from PDG DTM Frank Storey's speech and I feel that it certainly added value to me:

1. Never give up and invite people persistently. Frank himself was invited several times before he attended and went on to serve Toastmasters International as a District Governor!
I (Prasad Sovani) invited rigorously in Singapore and am doing so in Pune, but these words re-enforced my thoughts.

2. The domino effect: A brings B in to TM club and B goes on to sponsor 10 new clubs, one of which produces DGs! Amazing, isn't it? So always keep bringing new guests, you never know who will go on to become a Frank Storey, or a Nagaraja Rao or a Prasad Sovani!
You would have pleasure knowing that the person you introduced to TM, went on to become someone who served a far greater cause!

3. A little praise for a new TM goes a long way in making him feel interested in the movement! Frank was praised by someone initially as a Rising Star and he worked hard to prove those words.

4. I liked this the most--- Your club may not need additional members, but the members need you (movement), so keep adding members!

There was a cultural show and dinner but I had to stay in town at a family friend's home (Dalvi) and needed to be there in time for a decent chat and reach at a reasonable hour, so left earlier!

But, I invited my friend from the Dalvi household to join TMC in Mumbai and he may indeed do so! & who knows what he can accomplish as a TM ...........

Warm Wishes
-- Prasad

Prasad Sovani, Distinguished Toastmaster
Division Governor, Division M, Toastmasters International Dist. 82
Immediate Past President, Rotary Club of Pune Lokmanyanagar,
Professional Corporate Trainer & Economist,
GSE Scholar, The Rotary Foundation, 2005-06
Prasad Sovani,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Water levels plunging down | India Environment Portal

Water levels plunging down | India Environment Portal

My dear modern, proud India,

You can buzz about the latest gadgets and swankiest cars,
You can pride yourself with all your high standard lifestyle,
You can claim the right to consume and have a good life,

But will all these things matter when
you don't have the water to brush your teeth one morning?

Will the softdrinks and the fine wine
help you wash and clean your body?

Will the awesome interface on your gadget
quench your thirst when the water runs out?

What good is all this prosperity if it cannot guarantee the survival of your children?

When was the last time you asked someone,
"Where does this water I'm using come from?"
"And how long will it keep coming from there?"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bans don’t always work the way you want them

A Note in Facebook page of…. Dr. Manmohan Singh

(wow, they’re all on FB now. That’s a good step.)


Ban on Import of Second Hand Computers

Excerpt: “Earlier, the import of second hand computers including personal computers/laptops and computer peripherals including printers, plotter, scanner, monitor, keyboard and storage units as donations by certain categories of donees was freely permitted but as per the Directorate General Foreign Trade (DGFT) Public Notice dated 13.5.2010, this provision has been deleted.”

I’ve posted a couple of comments there… just making a record here, coz I expect them to be removed from there!

First one:

This law's terminology must be modified to ensure it doesn't get outdated in the next few years. Or else we will have to waste more taxpayers' money in a long and tedious process later.
1. Does this cover any used computer one buys on ebay and other such personal shopping sites on an individual level? And how will you exclude people who are bringing their personal/work   laptop/PC/storage device with them when entering India? Are we going to ban pendrives now??
2. Does this make any difference between real e-waste and computers that are readily re-usable with years more of shelf life?
3. This decision is going to hurt millions of lower income families who are planning to buy a working condition 2nd hand comp to better their children's future. What are the provisions for compensating them?
4. Why is law not covering mobile phones which are an even bigger second-hand market and which produce more e-waste than computers do? They use the exact same chemical materials as well. What are we using to differentiate between mobile and computer, seeing that these are going to fully converge over the coming years? If the Indian Govt was really interested in environmental safety, why are a whole range of chemically similar goods not being banned as well?
5. There is a growing movement in the production of environmentally safe computing devices and companies that are tracking the full product cycle by taking back used and not-needed goods and recycling them. These practices may eventually be mainstreamed. Will this law still enforce the ban then, even when certain second hand products are guaranteed not to pollute India?

Please address these concerns, and let's have a law that's visionary and future-proof rather than reactionary.


And another comment to give an alternative:

With all due respect, if we really want to prevent toxic dumping in India, then we simply need a law that bans the entire laundry-list of hazardous materials (at their most basic description) from coming into the country without an exit path.
Ex: "Any goods containing more than x grams of mercury and so-and-so compounds containing mercury are banned from second-hand imports. These may comprise the PCB's in Computer devices and peripherals, etc etc".
This will then prevent the importers from dismantling the computers and re-branding their components, like "TV" for CRT monitor, for instance. It will also then directly provide an incentive to all companies to switch to environmentally benign PCB and component manufacturing. This law in present form is going to fail to deter the polluters, and will just prevent the aspiring common man form improving his life.


Seeing how there’s really no other critical feedback visible, I fully expect my comments to be deleted in a short time. Well, you saw them here!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Where no wire has gone before

Edit, 16/2/14 : Sheesh, so naive I was! There's much much more to problems-solving than 3G.

3G mobile services are poised to come in a big way into our lives. The sort of internet speeds that were previously available only with a fixed, somewhat expensive and inevitably limited infrastructure, will now be available in the places that wires would only have dreamed of venturing to.
So the questions going around everywhere : "What will 3G mean to you" and its variants. A lot of techies, geeks, bloggers, gurus, industrialists, and what not have jumped in with their answers.

But I think we've committed an error here.
We haven't asked the right people.

Flashback : Dawn of the internet
In the very early days of the internet, it wasn't available to the breadth of the world's population that enjoys it today. Only a limited section of people in developed countries who were already well-connected to modern technology, could use it. If we created a time machine and went back then and asked the question "What will the internet mean to you" to only those people who were already well connected, do you think their response would have been any reflection of what the internet has really turned out to be? Would they have predicted the amazing transformation that has happened in the last two decades due to the internet?
I doubt it. Because the internet has brought the maximum transformation to the lives of those who, till then, didn't enjoy all the benefits of being connected to the rest of the world.

Back to the present:
So back to the question : What is 3G going to mean to... whom should we be asking, to get the best answer?
The welll-connected netizen? Nope. For him/her, at least at the beginning, it will simply be a substitution or at best an upgrade.
The people whose lives are REALLY going to be transformed by 3G, are the ones whose lives haven't been transformed by the power of the internet yet.

I'm talking about the last mile, baby. The places where no wire has gone before.
That's right. The rest of humanity that we haven't been able to reach till now.
With a 3G-enabled phone, or better yet, a 3G-enabled tablet like Adam, anyone, anywhere, gets access to the rest of humanity.

Across the seas, plains, hills and valleys, into the depths of countries where you can't even find a fuel pump let alone a Starbucks, that's where 3G is going to take full-blown communication to.

Children who have never seen a textbook will suddenly be able to educate themselves from KG to Phd, accessing the contents put forth by the best educational institutions on the planet. Farmers who were limited by what they knew will now know more than any middle man or moneylender would have ever allowed them to.

Masses in economically backward sections will get full access to the detailed track records of the politicians vying for their vote banks. A world of opportunities beyond their wildest dreams will open up before them.

Who knows? A boy in a village in Africa may collaborate with a girl in the hinterlands of India and together they might set up the next Google!

Of course, it looks far-fetched. So did the internet, remember? Never underestimate the power of communication. Right now it's not cheap or convenient enough to have the effect, but 3G services are going to change the game.

This post is an entry for the 3G Life Blogger contest.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I had a crazy thought last week.

Actually, I have crazy thoughts everyday. Anyways, back to this one..

I was locating the venue for the TMCP-West meeting and pondering about how the hell I’m going to get there. My bike was, as usual, in servicing (my own laziness – I was supposed to get something done and hadn’t). Autos are too expensive and I can’t afford to make a habit of them for long distances like this one. And bus.. I haven’t been on these routes, it probably involves bus-changing, there’s no telling how long one has to wait at some spot. Pune’s traffic can really slow things down. So I’m pondering at the map…

kothrud route

… And it struck me that the distance between the venue and my home is almost the same as the distance we have to run at the Mumbai Dream Run coming in Jan. I had slacked off in running/walking since half a year or so now. So why don’t I use this opportunity to walk! Going.. nah, not enough time and I have to play General Evaluator role there. Coming back – ya, definitely. The weather was pretty good too!

So, decided : I’ll WALK from Kothrud all the way to Sahakarnagar-2 tonight! Getting there, I took an auto, and to save money + test myself a bit, I got off at Nal Stop (2/3rds way) and walked from there to the venue. Not bad at all, made it in under half an hour!

After the meeting, I started off… and it’s weird how after such a lull I was able to cross the whole way with full energy. See the map on top? I had blue-toothed to my phone – was able to track my way perfectly! And best part is – at no point did I need to turn on my cell’s mp3 player. I don’t know why other people go everywhere with headphones on – I prefer hearing the world around me. It’s got so much more depth, and you can really experience the outdoors. It’s esp good when you pass by and eavesdrop on bits and pieces of other people’s conversations. It’s like a table topics session! I was even talking to myself, thinking clearly, pondering about the next few blog posts – all with a spring in the step!

So, conclusions :

  1. I can now cross half the city on foot, at a speed of 7kmph.
  2. I need to get newer running shoes – these are ageing finally.
  3. It’s more fun when you do NOT put on stupid headphones.
  4. If a lot of people walked, we would pass through the in-between places, recognize which places need attention and the impact of garbage mismanagement and ultimately make our city a better one for our children.
  5. Men piss everywhere. But only those tracts of road stink (eww!) where there is NO GRASS OR SHRUBBERY. These green things absorb and recycle it all, and that is much cheaper than transporting the filth in sewage. So, we should line the SIDES of our streets with greenery, rather than the middle!

Monday, November 1, 2010


I came across a great website that has aggregated over 150 different noble-cause organizations from around the world for an online competition to win a grant of USD 15,000.


The site depends on the online community to pick its finalists in each category - the categories range from Education to Peace to Sustainable Living and much more.

You can register for free using your email address or facebook or gmail login, and are able to cast 3 votes in each category. The voting closes today or tomorrow so hurry up!

Some examples of projects that are in the fray:
World Social Forum 2.0
Teach For India
Vertical Greenhouse
…and many more projects in some or the other sector with a noble initiative.

Best thing is - so many projects have come together in one place so it’s much easier for wannabe do-gooders like me (and you too!) to find them, and it's amazing what people can do through collaboration and creativity!

Gift Economy

Would you like to show your appreciation for this work through a small contribution?

(PS: there's no ads or revenue sources of any kind on this blog)

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