Sunday, December 25, 2011

Addiction Vs Entrepreneurship

I found this quote on FB:
To feel superior to a self-destructive drug addict is the same as feeling superior to an entrepreneur whose enterprise has failed and burdened him with debt. They were both people who wished to experiment with new things. And some experiments fail. That's all there is to it. It doesn't give you the right to look down on them. They are no less human than you are.
Totally agree with the core message: We must treat everyone as humans. But, I think it was patronizing a little too much with the addict. Basically it reminded me about how people keep justifying addictions by saying things like "try something new once in a while" or "you should be open to experimentation!" and similar stuff. And that makes this a dangerous analogy, as it has one very critical flaw yet on the surface looks true and may even encourage people to enter into addiction in the spirit of freedom, experimentation and entrepreneurship. Indeed, it has. So, I commented to explain why the two are not similar...

There might be one slight devil in the details. The entrepreneur tried to do something that had NEVER been done before by anyone - for that is what entrepreneurship is. If there were already so many cases floating around of that exact same thing having been tried by others only to result in disastrous consequences, then that means our entrepreneur never learned from the world around him.

In which case he deserves to have failed and get indebted - you can't repeat a business idea as-is that's already been proven bad, it's stupid.

The drug-addict is REPEATING the exact same thing which 1000s of others before him have tried. It's not like he's pinching the needle in from a different angle so that's a novel concept. He's repeating someone else's experiment and he knows what the results are going to be. So if the bad entrepreneur deserved what he got, then what about the drug addict? Stupid is as stupid does :P

I guess it all hinges on what we define as "new" - new to just the person in question, or new to everyone?

--So, my message: Kids, don't fall for the lure of trying out these things in the spirit of doing something new. It is NOT something new. You're only copying 1000s of other people. By taking a whiff of a cigarette, a peg of alcohol or a snort or needle of a drug, you ain't doin' anything new, man. You're just being as stupid as the other idiots. You're copying an idiot's experiment! Are you really that boring?! If you want to do something NEW, something FRESH, do what a real Entrepreneur does - try something that has never been tried before by anyone around you.

Addiction = boring and old; not new. Be cool. Try something really new. Peace!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

cross-post: "you should date an illiterate girl"

Can't help but cross-post this article - it sums up perfectly the chasm between "dream girl" and "dream woman" - it sums up perfectly what I can't stand about my fellow men and women - it sums up perfectly what I wish more women would be like if only this world would let them!

You Should Date An Illiterate Girl

Jan. 19, 2011
Charles Warnke is a 21 year-old writer based out of Berkeley, California.
Date a girl who doesn't read. Find her in the weary squalor of a Midwestern bar. Find her in the smoke, drunken sweat, and varicolored light of an upscale nightclub. Wherever you find her, find her smiling. Make sure that it lingers when the people that are talking to her look away. Engage her with unsentimental trivialities. Use pick-up lines and laugh inwardly. Take her outside when the night overstays its welcome. Ignore the palpable weight of fatigue. Kiss her in the rain under the weak glow of a streetlamp because you've seen it in film. Remark at its lack of significance. Take her to your apartment. Dispatch with making love. Fuck her.
Let the anxious contract you've unwittingly written evolve slowly and uncomfortably into a relationship. Find shared interests and common ground like sushi, and folk music. Build an impenetrable bastion upon that ground. Make it sacred. Retreat into it every time the air gets stale, or the evenings get long. Talk about nothing of significance. Do little thinking. Let the months pass unnoticed. Ask her to move in. Let her decorate. Get into fights about inconsequential things like how the fucking shower curtain needs to be closed so that it doesn't fucking collect mold. Let a year pass unnoticed. Begin to notice.
Figure that you should probably get married because you will have wasted a lot of time otherwise. Take her to dinner on the forty-fifth floor at a restaurant far beyond your means. Make sure there is a beautiful view of the city. Sheepishly ask a waiter to bring her a glass of champagne with a modest ring in it. When she notices, propose to her with all of the enthusiasm and sincerity you can muster. Do not be overly concerned if you feel your heart leap through a pane of sheet glass. For that matter, do not be overly concerned if you cannot feel it at all. If there is applause, let it stagnate. If she cries, smile as if you've never been happier. If she doesn't, smile all the same.
Let the years pass unnoticed. Get a career, not a job. Buy a house. Have two striking children. Try to raise them well. Fail, frequently. Lapse into a bored indifference. Lapse into an indifferent sadness. Have a mid-life crisis. Grow old. Wonder at your lack of achievement. Feel sometimes contented, but mostly vacant and ethereal. Feel, during walks, as if you might never return, or as if you might blow away on the wind. Contract a terminal illness. Die, but only after you observe that the girl who didn't read never made your heart oscillate with any significant passion, that no one will write the story of your lives, and that she will die, too, with only a mild and tempered regret that nothing ever came of her capacity to love.
PAGE 2 (where the revelation hits!)
Do those things, god damnit, because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell. Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent as a life unfulfilled—a vocabulary that parses the innate beauty of the world and makes it an accessible necessity instead of an alien wonder. A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much. A vocabulary, god damnit, that makes my vacuous sophistry a cheap trick.
Do it, because a girl who reads understands syntax. Literature has taught her that moments of tenderness come in sporadic but knowable intervals. A girl who reads knows that life is not planar; she knows, and rightly demands, that the ebb comes along with the flow of disappointment. A girl who has read up on her syntax senses the irregular pauses—the hesitation of breath—endemic to a lie. A girl who reads perceives the difference between a parenthetical moment of anger and the entrenched habits of someone whose bitter cynicism will run on, run on well past any point of reason, or purpose, run on far after she has packed a suitcase and said a reluctant goodbye and she has decided that I am an ellipsis and not a period and run on and run on. Syntax that knows the rhythm and cadence of a life well lived.
Date a girl who doesn't read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.
Don't date a girl who reads because girls who read are the storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so god damned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life that I told of at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you. I hate you. I really, really, really hate you.

A 12V DC home

Since my days in electrical engineering, this question has been bothering me: Most of the devices at our home that need electricity, need low-voltage DC power, not 230Volts AC.

The ones that do, are either run on AC just because DC isn't readily available (ceiling fans, washing machines, vacuum cleaners)..

..Or can now be succeeded by next-gen devices with far better performance and lower power consumption (CRT Vs. LCD displays, fluorescent tubelights Vs oLEDs)...

..And the rest are simple resistive circuits that run on both - including the traditional light bulbs, water heaters, kettles, toasters.

In fact, I'd say the only real uses of high voltage grid AC power supply are industrial ones where 3-phase synchronous motors and the like are needed. Homes and shops and offices : why bother?

The appliances we use at home usually have most of their weight in a hefty step-down transformer sitting inside the casing that converts the supplied power into a much safer 12 Volts, which is then converted into DC by AC-DC converter circuits. Crack open a computer's SMPS or a kitchen mixer or a TV and you'll find one inside. Laptop charger cords and mobile charger cords now have lighter electronic converters (albeit with a much shorter lifespan)
But now, a neighborhood biogas plant, a local wind turbine, a fuel cell, a solar panel can directly supply that low-voltage DC power! But unfortunately the electrical appliance industry today designs all products in a way that we need 230V AC (In India - in some other countries there is 110V also which is quite stupid as plugging into the wrong socket causes several faults, malfunctions and fires).

It's just so ridiculous, seeing that the AC-DC conversion results in inefficiency and power wastage! (and you can feel that in your power adapter heating up). If you wanted to switch to an off-grid electric supply today, you'd have to contend with this mind-boggling multi-step wastage:
1. Take the renewable-generated power and store it in a battery - WASTE POWER but unavoidable unless you're using fuel cells or your biogas turbine runs 24/7
2. Convert the electric power from LV DC to HV AC using an inverter - WASTE POWER
3. At the appliance end, convert the HV AC back to LV DC - WASTE POWER.

No wonder the entire grid power industry keeps gloating that getting off the grid is impractical - the present system we've been using since some decades makes it impractical for no fault of the poor little wind turbine or solar panel! And here we're not even looking at the issues of the actual things that are generating the power - it's purely the conventional systems at the user end that's wasting half the power away!

If the designers and the industry had had the foresight and had included an alternate DC supply socket in every electrical appliance that actually uses DC on the inside, then every home could have readily switched to off-grid renewable energy. Instead, the few expensive examples we see today, probably waste half of the renewable energy put in.

But the industry has locked us in.

So now I'm foreseeing a major demand cropping up for an industry in parallel with the rise of local renewable power replacing the grid : an industry that will re-wire and retrofit all existing electrical appliances to include a DC power socket. In most cases this will be as simple as drilling a hole in the casing and fitting a socket that will skip the transformer/converter sections and hook up directly with the device. Some rudimentary over-voltage and polarity protection will also be in order - but at the low voltages like 12V, it's easily doable. It's very simple, but essential for the concept of off-grid homes to turn to reality.

An offshoot of this: Say goodbye to the eternal safety hazard of the electric socket and switch. A person or child accidentally touching both terminals of a 12V DC outlet will NOT suffer intense burns; a short-circuit at this low level of voltage will be cut out by the protection system long before there can be any fire hazard (unlike 230V AC where the spark can burn someone or set things on fire and only AFTER the spark does the protection fuse kick in). The main fusebox, etc will longer be a very very dangerous place in the house. This "side-effect" of converting a home from AC to DC can be marketed as a major safety enhancement for the family.

Of course, it doesn't have to be this or that - we can have a transition model having both LV-DC and AC sockets available. Several homes in areas of frequent power cuts employ an inverter system anyway which kicks in when the power is out, replicates the 230V AC supply from the battery storage and powers most of the house sockets. In fact, these houses are great potential off-grid converts as you simply have to hook up the renewable power source with the existing battery and extend circuits from there to give DC power outlets to the whole house.

A house with DC sockets and appliances running directly off it - hoping I get to see this idea converted into reality some day!

14 Feb 2013 Edit: This entrepreneur, Gunter Pauli, is DOING IT! Check out his video/audio talk from this article: at 51:00 mins!

Friday, December 16, 2011

HOW TO deploy Wikipedia for Schools offline encylopedia on school computers

Bridge the internet divide; spread the light of knowledge to school computers the same way you share movies and songs with your friends: with Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V and a few clicks!

Thanks to Jessie and Emmanuel for their support and faith; it's an honor to be collaborating with you on this project!

Nikhil Sheth,
Teach for India Fellow, 2011-13
Grade 3 teacher, Shantabai Ladkat School, Nanapeth, Pune

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The junior's turn

A bus loaded with passengers and a collection of senior and junior drivers is speeding towards a cliff. The senior drivers are all roundly criticized for having driven them in that direction, for never having learned to turn the wheel or use the brakes, and for having ignored earlier pleas of the more tech-savvy passengers who'd looked up their GPS and figured things out before they did. But now that the cliff is finally visible, all the passengers want the bus to halt, turn around and get back to safety.

However, the junior drivers are now at the wheel and they say it's their turn to push the accelerator; and they haven't been taught by the seniors to do anything else. They're only focused on "their turn", are pushing the accelerator more than ever before, and are oblivious to the fact that the whole bus is going to plunge over unless they stop mindlessly mimicking their seniors' past actions. They're also busy blaming the senior drivers along with everyone else, but don't want to make any changes on their part.

The junior drivers are the government-industrial complexes of India and China and some more developing nations. The senior drivers are pretty much irrelevant by now. The bus is our planet. The rest you extrapolate.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Distance makes the heart...

For men:

Proximity makes the heart grow fonder,
Distance makes the heart look yonder.

For women:

Distance makes the heart grow fonder,
Proximity makes her want a brother.

Yes, this post is a joke, a pot-shot, a jibe. Probably just more crap from me. Absolutely untrue. DEFINITELY not true in your case at least...

But tell that to all the women who only realized how much they miss and long for that one friend only after the poor chap has already given up, made drastic changes to his life and gone away.

Tell it to the women who desperately cling on to their long distance relationships, make themselves impervious to all other influences, stay ever faithful, only to find out much later that their beau's gotten bored of this dedicated routine and wants to move on.

And finally,tell that to all the guys whose female buddies / colleagues / classmates (who they worked with, talked with, grew to respect, appreciate, admire and gradually start to like) turned them into brothers or parked them forever in "the friend zone".

Thursday, November 3, 2011

No more dead dinosaurs, sorry!

(just read a "breaking news: petrol price hike by another 2rs/lit on TOI)
Ok enough talk and theories. Time to put the foot to the pedal.

Petrol prices are never coming back down, people. Even if we removed all the taxes and the surcharges that these email fwds complain about, there IS NOT ENOUGH PETROLEUM IN THE WORLD FOR INDIA's demand or for any other country - there were only that many dead dinosaurs in the ground and we've burned most of them off. 

(for the slow : That is correct. Petrol that powers your cars and bikes is actually extracted from the decomposed dead bodies of dinosaurs and other animals and plants that lived and died millions of years ago. In case you did not know that little yucky detail. That is why it is called a Fossil Fuel. Did you think it was coming from your oily neighbor's head??)

There were no infinite generations of dinosaurs. They died out, I'm sorry. There is no infinite petroleum. All the money in the world will not make any more of it for you. If you'd like to start now, there is a 65~100 million year waiting period. Just consider yourself lucky that the animals who died at the time were buried rather than cremated upon death. 

The age of petrol is over. Transition or suffer.

(edit: ok, for the sake of accuracy, petrol is more from dead sea creatures than dinosaurs, statistically speaking. But the dinosaur tag sends the message home. See the image below for a quick explanation)
yep... we've been running the modern world off the desecration of our ancestors' graves... and actually imagining an infinite supply of dead bodies being stored under the ground... reminds me of Draupadis' vastaharan scene in Mahabharat, only this time it's Duryodhan who's praying that the sari never runs out.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stupid... brainless... irrational... crappy... self-destructive...

I had given up on it completely.

Thrown in the towel.

Said goodbye to the concept itself.

Refused to adhere to the "quick fixes" prescribed by my peers : refused to drown myself in either the bottle or the work or in other distractions.

Moved on. Decided to make myself useful to others for a change. Decided that I will look at the world in ways others don't, that I will say yes where others say no, that I will see and realize solutions where others only see and create problems.

And I'd gone on to do great things - learned techniques in communication and deployed them to get the right things done, participated in movements, undertook undertakings which none of my peers would have thought doable, organized, mobilized - a lot of things. Made some awesome friendships. Had a whale of a time.

I had traveled with my mind across the length and breadth of human knowledge - I read, saw, analyzed, understood, went into the depth of things, made amazing insights and dazzled all with my newfound wisdom.

So why, why now, when there is a world full of things I Have to do and which I Can do - why is it surging back like a phoenix?

Why is it tossing me between extreme moods? Why am I crying uncontrollably?

Why is it preventing me from tapping the full extent of my abilities? Heck, why is it preventing me from even functioning normally?

Why do I suddenly feel the loneliness of an eternity? Even when everything is there why do I feel like nothing, and no one, is around?

Why am I hoping where there should be no hope; Why am I ignoring all that I can be doing instead? Why am I waiting endlessly for that which my rational mind knows doesn't stand a chance of happening? And in the process why am I ruining other thngs I can easily make happen?

Why am I choosing the melancholy music over rock? Why do I suddenly prefer the slow piano version over the orginal? Why have I lost my appetite for comedies and action and all entertainment in general?

Why am I suddenly a child again, why am I coming to silly conclusions? Why am I making up wild theories? Why am I actually considering going forward with my deliberations, knowing full well the consequences?

Why am I focussing only on the glorious possibilities and unlimited happiness in store "if everything clicks" without weighing in the risks and the pitfalls, without looking at practical factors? Without stopping to consider that there are people in this world other than myself with hearts and minds of their own?

Why am I ignoring the million other things I can be doing right now? Why am I not getting in touch with the scores of other people I should be catching up with, given only a limited time of rest remaining before the hectic routine starts again? Why am I not at all interested in talking with anybody, yet feeling inconsolably lonely at the same time?

Why am I mentally rehearsing awesome, elegant things to say and then ending up making an incoherent idiot of myself?

Why can't I explain this to myself, let alone anyone else?

Why has it taken such a hold on me? I didn't want this. I didn't ask for it. I admit I got distracted, but that's completely human! Why am I suddenly so afraid of being judged without a chance to be heard out? Why does the prospect terrify me?

Why the bloody hell am I writing a sentimental, introverted blog post in a place where I usually (and very proudly!) stick to practical, big-picture, analytical, fact-based works?

Stupid... brainless... irrational... crappy... self-destructive... heart!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - report any incidence of corruption by SMS, twitter or email

Cross-posting from TOI article:

City student launches anti-corruption site
PUNE: Aditya Palnitkar, a std 10 student of the Abhinav Vidyalay, has launched a website to fight corruption, and has dedicated it to anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare. The site,, ... will make it possible for students and citizens to report cases of bribery, cheating, overcharging, forcible donations, extortion, scams and harassment in government offices by simply using their mobile phones.
Reports will be made available to media and enforcement authorities. The website ( is unique in the sense that citizens can report corruption via SMS, email or Twitter without even visiting the website," said 14-year-old Aditya.
Citizens can simply use their mobile phone to send a detailed report via SMS to 8446324670 or by email to
Awesome low-cost, high-tech initiative.. hats off to this whiz kid!

There are already some serious reportings collecting : check it out:

I urge all citizens to come forward to offer to help him take this site forward - the main issues I forsee will be corrupt people spamming the site in an effort to discredit it, so just like in Wikipedia's case, we need a citizens' army to fight back the spam as soon as it's posted. This is very easy to do : use the Comments facility to flag any spam posts.

Subscribe by RSS (not to be confused with the political RSS, this is just a feed of alerts) with this link for Pune: - add it as a live bookmark or to google reader or something so you can keep track of latest posts.

Meanwhile we can also reach out to RTI and anti-corruption experts to come and comment on the individual posts to give more info to the concerned individuals on how they can have their issues redressed or what specific action is to be taken against the corrupt officers.

I usually don't go nationalistic, but in this case I'll make an exception.. feeling proud to see someone "doing something about it" that too in such an ingenius manner! Jai Hind!

How did the financai world forget this most basic design feature?

I don't understand one thing:

In all the adventure or sci-fi movies featuring some big ship or large machinery, and in all the fiction books writing about such things, everywhere you see a fundamental precaution inherent in the system : compartmentalization.

In the spaceship, if there's a sudden puncture in the hull in one section and all the air is getting sucked out, all the surrounding sections seal this one off - we can surely remember seeing the emergency doors automatically closing in and the film's protagonists just escaping from under in sp many movies, cartoons and serials by now. Same thing happens in submarines. In huge machinery too if there's an accident in one part then there are systems in place to isolate the fault. Even as an electrical engineering student I witnessed these protections being almost ubiquitous in every single diagram from the smallest motors to the most extensive extremely-high-voltage (EHV - yes, that's a real term used in electrical engineering!) distribution networks. Even in tales of centuries-old sea voyages with sailing ships and pirates and all, the punch-drunk ship doctor knows that to stop an infection in a wounded leg from spreading or to prevent the wound from sucking out all the blood in the sailor's body, the leg has to be amputated.

click on the image to see the article where this was published.
So how is it that now when I see all these financial experts and leaders : (who're supposed to the brightest minds in the world to have gotten through to all those ivy league colleges and to have led such huge companies and governments and made so much money) - when I see them talk or see reports of what they're saying about the Eurozone crisis, and the US debt, and the world finanical collapse and everything related - NOBODY makes any reference whatsoever to any compartmentalization-like protection in the super-duper-ultra-complex systems they claim authority over? Instead they go on and on about the exact opposite : portraying this whole thing as dominoes, with just one faulty piece being sufficient to destroy the entire setup.

All the Gold in the world...

..Will not help you put Humpty Dumpty together again, my friend!

I am certain that they will not publish the comment I just posted there - so am posting it here ;) Maybe I can't compete with the Wall Street Journal's readership but what the heck!

A very very stupid article published on :

My comment on it:

bullshit article. Shows the brainlessness of people who still believe in infinite growth on a finite planet and who love putting price tags on everything without thinking.

1) there isn't enough oil in the world to fulfill all of India's demand even if it had all the money in the world. It's a finite planet and we're not going to get any more, period. China has the most reserve capital in the world and even she will never get all the oil she wants - it's just not there.

2) selling off that much gold into the world market will crash the price of gold and make it worthless. Even using it to pay off any country's debts will result in the same. the price of gold is only high because of the fact that it's rare, nothing else. On the other hand we'd benefit all chemistry labs, electronics, medicine and aerospace industries greatly by making a very useful element cheap enough. (remember Rutherford's gold foil experiment?)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ebook : From Dictatorship to Democracy

An ebook that has been followed by activists worldwide to bring down dictatorships non-violently. This is the result of an unbroken chain in the development of non-violence as a SCIENCE and a STRATEGY rather than just moral posturing.

Gandhi ignited it. Albert Einstein caught it and spent the last years of his life propagating it. Gene Sharp took it from Einstein, set up the "Albert Einstein Institution" ( in his home and spent his lifetime converting the ideas into real, actionable strategies. He scripted a generic handbook listing 198 methods on non-violent action that can be used by activists anywhere on the planet to bring down dictators, tyrants and oppressors. And distributed it for free.

And it has. Whether the book itself was directly used or not, the simple ideas inside it (non necessarily originating from there - most are just common sense when you put your head to it) have done something so powerful, so unstoppable, that it's brought about non-violent revolutions or severely scared tyrants all over the globe - Serbia, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Tibet, Myanmar... They're even powering the recent worldwide protests sparked by "Occupy Wall Street".

It's even led to the production of a documentary film "How to Start a Revolution": here's the trailer:

So take it and spread it.

Pradigm Shift

Image by Adbusters
Needed. Badly. This much everyone can understand.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Thousand and One TV Nights

Re-discovered : The origins of today's TV soap serials.

I think I've just located where this cancerous curse on today's women and men has originated.
Looking through publishers notes on a children's storybook of Sinbad the sailor, I re-stumbled across the 1001 Arabian Nights. Here is the premise:

About the Thousand and One Nights
The premise for the stories is that a cruel Sultan has threatened to kill his newly-married wife, Scheherazade.
To save herself, that evening she starts telling a wonderful story. She doesn’t finish it, but keeps the Sultan in suspense and he postpones her execution in order to find out what happens next.

As soon as she finishes one story, she quickly begins another before her husband can act on his threat. Finally, one thousand and one nights and hundreds of stories later, the Sultan decides to let his wife go free.

So, imagine that you're the cruel Sultan. And your newly-wed wife isn't a real woman, but your TV. Heck, not even your TV - just one TV channel. The smart ones can get the analogy right now and move on to another post. But still let's explain things, and after that of course there is the big-picture perspective to check out....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Opinion: Paid Digital TV has caused terrorism and the deaths of thousands

I want to get this idea out of my head and get back to mountains of pending work. Maybe I'll come back to this at a later date and refine it further.

Main point : Corporate greed in the television industry has created the present-day world problems of terrorism and religious extremism in the middle east and south asia. All the repeating terror attacks in both India and Pakistan, the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and now in Pakistan as well, Sri Lanka's ethnic conflicts, the Naxalite or Maoist violence in the interiors of India, Iraq's bloodbath of Sunnis Vs Shias as well as continued dominance of hardliners in Iran have been caused by a greedy business model that abused modern technology to line the pockets of a few individuals.

Sounds a little controversial? Let me rephrase it in a smaller line:

Paid Digital TV has caused all the religious/ethnic conflicts and terrorist strikes in our part of the world.

There, that should set some heads rolling. Now, I'll explain how:

disclaimer : I'm not saying that TV has caused all these problems - na, it's the opposite. I'm saying the that the conversion to paid digital of nearly all our channels has caused it.

I grew up as a son of an Indian expatriate engineer living in Saudi Arabia. It was a great childhood. TV was a huge part of all our lives. Back home in India, cable television too had mushroomed. In India, there were local cable networks bringing it home so you'd just stick an RF cable into your TV and have different channels tuned in. But in Saudi Arabia these networks weren't there. So, residents of a building or two would team up, buy and put up their own dish antenna's in the terraces of their buildings. In my building we had two dishes - a big one pointing in one direction and a smaller one pointing in the other. The cables coming out of there were simply joined together, and then split and dropped down the side of the building to all the residents' homes, and they went in via holes made in the air conditioner frames.

In our halls (why do we call it a living room, I lived in all the rooms) we had set-top boxes that took in these thick fat cables and tuned all the channels on different frequencies using several parameters - not just the one-dimensional LF/HF/UHF line of the TV. I remember there being different ways of tuning in audio and video. All the technicalities came right down to the end user and nothing was pre-programmed.

Although we thought nothing of it at the time, the hallmark here was practical simplicity : One dish antenna points at that particular satellite, and the wires coming out from that go down to our homes. No electricity used here. To add a new resident who'd recently moved in, we just put in a splitter or simply wound his wire round the existing ones. To get the channels right, we would simply dedicate an evening to taking the TV and the tuner up to the terrace, hooking it up there and physically moving the dish in all directions possible while looking at the screen to find the right orientation by trial and error. Many channels would come grainy but we did the best we could and lived with that.

I didn't even understand the concept at the time : all satellite TV channels we got were essentially free-to-air, analogue, non-encrypted. So, anybody anywhere in the world, could locally assemble a dish antenna, hook up wires coming out of it to universally available set-top boxes and watch all the satellite channels that we were watching. No patents, no brands. At the time it was understood that the channels cannot possibly take any money from the people watching, so to make ends meet and keep the cameras rolling they used advertisements. Nobody liked them very much, but we all understood they were a necessity to keep watching our favorite shows. It was a bit like putting up with a spouse's nagging so as to avail of the .. ahem.. later on.

At that time, we knew from our family friends living in American compounds (read: high-security gated communities in and around Riyadh made for foreigners where the usual strict rules of burkhas etc are relaxed and they're made to resemble a home away from home for the expatriates coming from western countries) that THEY were watching TV channels directly from USA/UK that weren't available to us. It was on a "Sky network" and apparently only paid or authorised people could get those channels and we couldn't even if we pointed our dishes in that satellite's direction and even if we tried those new digital set-top boxes out on the market. Apparently the american compounds paid for a connection. But still, all the residents there did not have a satellite dish above their homes. I later found out that this was basically the same rig used by cable operators in India to bring us all those channels that we did not get from our homegrown setups in Saudi. But even they didn't get ALL the channels due to government bans on some that regularly aired movies or shows having nudity. Still, there was a huge bunch of TV channels that anybody in this part of the world could watch with very little capital and only electric bills as the monthly expenditure. Essentially, TV was free.

What effect did that have, you may ask? Well, picture this : A small town in Afghanistan using generators could watch all the TV shows - Indian, American, European, Pakistani, Chinese, Japanese - everything - that everybody else was watching. Quite literally, the world's civilization was being beamed, for free, into the regions of the world where telephones, radio, internet, transport, frozen foods, malls, cars had no possibility of reaching. Eveybody loved Raymond. The Simpsons challenged everyone to understand english faster so they could get all the jokes. Everyone enjoyed Bollywood movies and songs even if their nearest theater would never show them. For all the authoritarian governments that banned cable TV on moral/cultural grounds, there was really no way of carrying out that ban : the day after a police raid the satellite dish would be up again - government orders melted away in the face of the iron will of the millions of women across the region who needed their weekly dose of serials. Kids across borders were united by Tom and Jerry and Captain Planet. MTV and Channel V and shows for teens like Friends challenged cultural notions on a daily basis in a fun, engaging and non-violent manner. Even the strictest of adults would secretly watch Baywatch after a day full of moaning the ills of western openness. The advertisements informed everyone about the latest state of technology so even if their local markets didn't have the products, they knew they're out there.

In the face of this continuous, non-stop barrage of the entire world's updated ideas, culture and technology, no hardliner stood any real chance of dominating the hearts and minds of anybody other than those closeted inside their own homes. How could anyone who's watched Phoebe of friends ever hate the liberalization of women? How could anyone who loves Tom and Jerry or Popeye ever even think of attacking the people of the country whence they came? How could anyone who's watching Star Trek be expected to blow up innocent people just because they're from another religion? How could anyone regularly watching Discovery shows on space exploration ever be expected to get really mired into regional conflicts?

Circa 2000 : Something happened. One by one all the channels started announcing they're switching to Digital with oh-so-improved viewer experience and that we should contact our cable operators to know how we can continue watching them. Now in a structured cable TV market, this was of little significance to the viewer. But in Saudi Arabia, and I'm sure, all over the non-cable-networked world, people went "what??" Because we WERE our own cable operators and we had no idea what these channels were talking about! Some channels like BBC who had never had any intentions of going paid, started giving detailed instructions on how to tune a standard digital set-top box. But the other channels didn't provide any details. One by one the channels go off air and are replaced by static screens telling that they've gone digital and giving phone numbers of their offices in places that most of the unorganized world could never reach.

And then some service called Pehla pops up in the middle east, catering to the desperate needs of the panicked expatriates from the subcontinent. Not only would we get all those channels back, but now we would also be able to see several more western channels, that too with schedules and info boxes right on screen, no need to consult the daily newspapers! The only catch : for the first time we now had to PAY a monthly or yearly subscription fee. For TV. Now it sounds perfectly fine to you, but back then it was like charging a monthly fee for breathing air. Something so ubiquitous that we never thought we'd have to pay for, whose running costs were nicely self-financed with all those advertisements, is now going to cost us monthly. In return we were promised "no ads" or reduced ads and very very high quality content. Of course, it was a useless sales pitch : with free-to-air TV channels gone, there were little other options.

And there was something even crazier in store : Everyone who took this subscription, had to get Pehla's own set-top box (and junk the ones we had), and.. wait for it... A SATELLITE DISH. With every single connection. To make it easier, they made it zero installation charges and then zero cost for the dish completely. Now forget about the money aspect, just ask yourself this : There is ONE satellite of Pehla's out there in space that we need to receive the signals from. On the same building's terrace, keeping ONE satellite dish for all the subscribers would suffice - just as before, we can take the cord out and put it in splitters and wind them round and round and send them to all the building's residents, and even to the adjoining building if feasible. But NO, now every family that needed a connection, had to prop up their own satellite dish. So now a building housing 10 families would have 10 dishes on its terrace, with more for the families using more than one connection. The ensuing loss of space on the entire world's terraces where kids would normally go play or where mothers would grow plants or host parties - will go down in history as the biggest unaccounted-for forced real estate loss of all time. Forget the zero-installation charges, if we'd charged those bastards a monthly rent for occupying the building's terrace on a per sq. foot basis and added up charges for all residents in the buildings (as terraces are common space), it would have been them paying us! This model had absolutely no justification : the agents' reasonings that "if you split the wire you don't get all the signals properly" were bullshit. The only reason for forcing this ridiculous wastage of metals and plastic and installation efforts that I can see, is to drive prices up and hence drive profits up. If it's zero-installation-costs then that means they've passed the costs to your monthly subscription, which means they'll easily make up for those costs and still keep charging you long after making absolute profits.

And talking about profits : what the hell had they promised? reduced advertisements? bullshit! Now the TV channels firstly charge companies to air their ads, and then ON TOP OF THAT they charge millions of people for forcing them to watch those ads alongside their shows. The fact that this industry now makes billions and billions in profits proves that they're over-charging everybody. That too they didn't bring this about by making any real costly changes on their end : they simply re-programmed the signals that the satellite broadcasts, and changed the encoding from analog to digital, and put in encryption codes. So that on the ground, even if people still receive those signals, they don't get to see anything until they pay for the service, in lieu of which the agents puts in a decryption code - at first manually and now by inserting a card. Suddenly it's all high-tech but it's only for profit - the technology has been abused big-time. You heard that right. All the different packages that they offer - did you think the satellite way up there sends different signals to your dish and different signals to your neighbor who's taken the platinum pack? You're both receiving the same set of signals - but you get a different decryption code depending on what you're paying for and so you don't get some channels that your neighbor gets. It's all there, it's all coming to you, but by black-boxing the set-top box and encrypting the signals you get denied what once upon a time used to be as free as air.

But anyways, that is not what has caused the rise in terrorism, irrational as it may be. Now let me go into the main driver:

The real problem lay in the payment model. To be able to collect monthly or yearly subscription charges from families, the company in question needs to set up an expensive network of offices and agents everywhere they hope to reach. This can be done in cities and towns that have infrastructure set up to get daily supply of electricity, transport, frozen foods etc. But what about the places where the "grid" does not reach? And what about the majority of the population for whom paying for monthly TV viewing is beyond their family budget? The more out-of-reach a place, the higher the costs for the cable network, so higher charges, and so lesser people who can subscribe, as typically out-of-reach places are also poorer. Also, you need permissions from local and national administrations to carry out business. Which means a network will find it impossible to charge viewers for subscribing to an "enemy" country's channels. Basically, this model is simply non-doable for the majority of the population spread over all our continents - I'm talking 99.9% or more. But anyways that section, which had been benefiting the most from satellite TV by way of learning and liberalization, did not matter to the broadcasters because they didn't buy the advertised products. Dabur honey advertised in Indian channels wouldn't find customers in rural Pakistan. So they simply left them out. If you lived in a place where the network couldn't charge you a subscription fee, then no more satellite TV for you. Gone. I know this happened to my family - we considered Pehla too expensive and now I get how bewildered my Dad must have felt at the whole model and why he never signed up - it didn't make any sense. They took away a good thing from millions and millions of people from all over our side of the world because they couldn't make more money from us. It would not have cost them anything, but it would not have made them any huge profits so they simply abandoned over 99% of their audience.

What was left behind was a vacuum : TV had been the only real thing coming anywhere close to connecting millions of people with the rest of the world. All over Pakistan, millions of people would watch the same Indian TV shows and share in the steady unshackling of culture and the increasing empowerment of women and children. TV was teaching young people that sexuality wasn't a bad thing and that it is ok to fall in love with someone from another caste or religion. Peoples of both nations saw that the people on the other side were just like them. It sent a message of connectedness to the masses of both countries - you cannot expect the people of a nation that loves your weekly TV serials to really harbor ill will towards your nation's citizens. No matter what our leaders said, the people were not in the conflict mindset. Ditto for dramas in PTV that Indians adored. The authorities previously could do nothing to stop this shared culture. But with one Indian channel after another going digital and paid, now there was no way for them to have any subscription collection network in Pakistan - the authorities would never allow that. In the same way, Indian authorities too did not permit Pakistani and many other countries' TV channels. Now with a controlled system in place, restrictions came where there was previously free sharing of culture. So the sharing of TV and with that cultures across the border, stopped abruptly. Mind, at this time even Internet or even cheap telecommunications hadn't made any inroads into the majority of households of both nations. Suddenly we were cut off and the peoples of any nation could now only watch that which their authorities let them. As for the majority population - they were too poor to afford paid TV anyways - they lost out completely, they even got disconnected from the rest of their own nation.

It was in this vacuum that hardline organizations now found a space to thrive. Without a constant source of information and culture telling them that the "others" have emotions and feelings too, or informing them about how interconnected and united the world is or showing them all sorts of fascinating things from different peoples and places all around the world, it was easy for hardliners to brainwash naive minds into believing that only their way and their ideas were the right path and that everything and everybody else was a threat and had to be eliminated. Even the real experts of their own religion who preached peace, were now no longer seen or heard and were replaced by warmongers and misinformers.

And that, my friend, is where all the world's suicide bombers, terrorists, extremists and conflicters have come from. Can you really expect a muslim teenager to grow up to hate christians or hindus or anyone else if he's grown up watching how everybody has the same emotions and how interconnected our planet is or how amazing and beautiful our world and our universe is? In the nether regions of India too, zero connection with the rest of the country and the world made sure that when the locals were pushed out of their homes by greedy miners and industrialists, they perceived them as representing the entirety of the rest of India - to them modern India only represented greedy, vicious profit-crazy plunderers in bed with abusive, authoritarian police forces. Hence they simply did not have the environment or the encouragement to fight injustice in civilized discourse - how can you expect a tribal to know he can get justice at the courts if he doesn't know of their existence or how to go about the process? And so they took the only technology available to them without monthly subscription fees - weapons. And hence "India's biggest internal security threat" as Chidambaran likes to term it. How much have those channels made in profits, again? Is it more than the amount and the lives and livelihoods lost by us in internal and external conflicts till now? Do those profits justify depriving millions of poor people of the benefits of the world's accumulated ideas, knowledge, education and culture while they're getting state-of-the-art weapons delivered to them by arms manufacturers that our governments cannot stop? Does it justify the bomb blasts and the innocents killed?

So where do we go from here? 
I can bet with you that if we were to un-encrpypt all of the world's satellite TV channels and make them free-to-air and viewable with the simplest of technology, we'll find peace quicker than any complicated rounds of negotiations or any wars on terror. If the US had bombed Afghanistan with free-to-air reruns of Friends and Baywatch and Tom and Jerry translated in all its local languages broadcast on all frequencies and parachute-dropped TVs, set-top boxes, satellite dishes and portable generators / batteries into the country instead of dropping bombs, the Taliban would have been converted or kicked out by their own women and children in a year. Phoebe of Friends is humanity's most powerful weapon of mass destruction of old thoughts and attitudes - she has single-handedly transformed the hearts and minds of millions of men and women and would transform billions of hearts and minds if only we unleashed her upon the oppressive and backward regions of the world. We do not need war - all we need is some love and entertainment along with elimination of this stupid encrpytion of TV channels!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

the God in us - a tribute to Wangari Maathai

Wangari Muta Maathai (1940-2011)

"I don't really know why I care so much. I just have something inside me that tells me that there is a problem, and I have got to do something about it. I think that is what I would call the God in me.

All of us have a God in us, and that God is the spirit that unites all life, everything that is on this planet.

It must be this voice that is telling me to do something, and I am sure it's the same voice that is speaking to everybody on this planet — at least everybody who seems to be concerned about the fate of the world, the fate of this planet."

-Wangari Maathai
Environmentalist and womens' rights activist
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 2004
Founder, the Green Belt Movement

..And also,

-Nikhil Sheth
Teach for India Fellow, 2011-13

(hey, she's literally spoken my mind! No kidding!!)

Wangari Mathaai proved that we can all make a difference in saving the planet, and that we don't need huge resources at our disposal to lead the way.

Photo and words peacefully adopted from this album on 's facebook page:

The Golden Cage

Here is an interesting email forward, and then below it is my unsolicited opinion!

My Degree Isn't Worth the Debt!

Facing college costs that are rising far faster than incomes, many Americans are relying on massive amounts of debt.
We talked to people overloaded with student loans.

Courtesy: Erik Solecki
Erik Solecki
Student debt: $185,000
Bachelor's in industrial engineering from Kettering University
Was my college degree worth it? Hell no.
I graduated from one of the top engineering schools in the nation, thinking my starting salary would be between $70,000 and $80,000 a year.
Such a specialized, technical degree is supposed to lead to a great career, so I was willing to take out the debt.
Instead, I was hit with nine months of unemployment after graduating. And now that I finally have a job, I'm making about $15,000 a year less than I had hoped.
Even if I were able to afford the $1,800 payments each month, it will probably take me 30 years to pay off my student loans.
I engineer high-end autos. Ironically, I'll probably never be able to afford one.

Courtesy: Saniquah Robinson
Saniquah Robinson
Student debt: $82,000
Degrees: Master's in Health Science from Chatham University; Bachelor's in psychology from Temple University
After holding my Master's for three years, I'm still fighting to find a Master's level position.
I have been seeking employment in the medical field and after about a hundred interviews, I'm left doing contract work for $19 an hour.
I once believed that part of the American Dream was to earn a college education and this would ensure a great career and financial freedom. Unfortunately I am losing hope.
I'm a mother of three, and my husband and I have been turned down from purchasing a home due to our income-to-debt ratio.
I don't want people to think they shouldn't go to college -- it definitely gives you a great foundation to start your career. But it's very important that when you do, you know exactly what you want to study and you're knowledgeable about debt.

Courtesy: Shane Dixon
Shane Dixon
Student debt: $72,800
Degrees: Master's in public health from University of South Carolina; Bachelor's in biology from Clemson University
In my early years after high school, I wavered between trade school and college, but eventually opted for college and earned a Bachelor's in biology.
I quickly found work, but at an abysmal wage of $7.25 per hour, which did not even allow me to live on my own.
After an exasperating year at that wage, I decided to go back to school and I graduated in 2004 with a Master's in Public Health, thinking I was on the road to recovery.
During that time, I had been married, had a child, gotten divorced, and ended up raising my son on my own. I took a low paying government job in Southern Florida, and because I couldn't even make the minimum payments on my debt, I took forbearance after forbearance.
I have had a good life, but now at age 37, the weariness of carrying this financial burden frustrates me to no end.
My son is nine years old now and will want to attend college when he graduates high school. But what will I tell him? First I have to decide if the college degree is worth the debt. I hope by the time he is making his decision, I will have figured it out.

Courtesy: Michelle Shipley
Michelle Shipley
Student debt: $140,000
Degree: Bachelor's in political science and international development from Tulane University
Like many, I had no idea what money meant when I was 17. My family is not wealthy. I simply didn't have the information or knowledge to know what it would be like now.
I had to pay for college on my own and took out loans for everything - rent, food, books, tuition, etc.
Then, during my sophomore year, I lost everything to Hurricane Katrina. I finished my degree, but continued to take loans to make it possible.
I'm now working at a non-profit and I love it -- but I don't make much. I've been able to put off the payments through forbearance, but I know the $1,400 a month bills are coming soon. Not to mention, I've also racked up about $7,000 in credit card debt.
My debt is a life-swallowing, all-consuming, hole in my life. No college degree is worth that.

Over there it's Student Debt; for many Indians it is mostly "Parents' Investment". For a very few, it's a scholarship. In either case, it is ultimately some few very well-off people to whom all the hard-earned or hard-raised money goes, with only a fraction coming back into the ecosystem in any beneficial way.

If only 100 or 1000 people did this, it would be still ok, but what about the big picture? We must ask ourselves, "could there be an alternative?" Is the world just a narrow tunnel we must rush into, or an open field where there are many pathways to success and where you can also be happy by not running around too much? Especially in the fast-developing global scenario of nearly all education becoming completely free and open to all and existing materials getting outdated by the time their students graduate, should we keep running after the old bandwagon?

I loved the personal stories shared here in this email forward and their power to drive in the point. (Apologies if the photos of the people didn't come through...) They're not isolated incidents : several people I've grown up with, studied with, gotten acquainted with - extremely nice and talented people, are also living under mountains of debt - either to banks or in a few 'lucky' cases, to their families. Does that explain the abnormally high incidence of talented and well-educated people ultimately not marrying the men or women they had fallen in love with, or not taking up their dream projects but instead fake-smiling their way through compromise and calling it all a part of "growing up" ?!

I can tell you this : They are not happy with the way their life has panned out, sorry. Many still have expectations that it's all turning around and "just a little bit more slogging!" but I foresee frustration lurking around the corners. The vast majority aren't doing the revolutionary, ground-breaking, world-changing or noble work that they'd set out to - somewhere in the race for prosperity and status, those innate aspirations took a backseat. In many cases the heart itself has changed and they're no longer the people I knew that genuinely wanted to help others.

They're working hard, all right - too hard in fact, but what and who are they ultimately working for? Couldn't their immense talents have been better utilized? And the biggest tragedy is that they can't just change tracks now even if they desperately want to : the debt has trapped them in golden cages - trapped them until the time comes when they will no longer be able to return to their dream projects. They are no longer free people.

I'm also attaching a couple of great info-graphics I've found elsewhere that explains the fine lines brilliantly. And don't go for the comfortable ignorances : the picture of student loans in India too isn't getting any better. I highly recommend all youngsters who are gearing up for further studies, and their parents who are planning on bankrolling them with the expectation of magically giving them a better life, to please check this out, switch off the TV for an evening and spend some time thinking over it together.

Nikhil Sheth
Pune, India
Teach For India Fellow, 2011-13

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Need your help for funding my classroom and under-resourced school @TeachForIndia

Hi Friends,

Need your help to raise funds for my classroom, to give my students who come from slums and low-income families a fighting chance in the battle against educational inequity. Please spread this link around :

You can donate here in a simple online process using your netbanking, debit or credit card. And you'll get the tax exemption from this as well.

If you'd like to know more about the Teach for India fellowship that I'm a part of, please visit

If you'd like to know more about my class and my school and the amazing 35 kids who have become my heartbeats, please visit our website I set up recently : ,
or check out my profile on Facebook! In case we've been out of touch for very long now, then sincere apologies, but after checking out these links you'll know what's keeping me 100% occupied nowadays!

Thanking you,

Nikhil Sheth
Pune, India
Teach For India Fellow, 2011-13

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Hi All! It's been LOONNNGG since I wrote anything blog-worthy here, but a recent conversation with an acquaintance on FB, and an open-ended question, seems to have made me spit some things out. That too this isn't about some issue that I'm just observing (as most posts are), but something VERY personal : the events that led me to quit the corporate world and make social work my life!

The question was phrased excellently : I'm hiding the name of the person for now and will reveal it when he gives permission. My answer was a direct thoughts-to-text conversion so it may be a little crazy and I don't really want to "copy-edit" it right now.

Hi Nikhil!

Upon going through some of your recent updates on Fb, an intriguing question popped up in my mind. (It may sound a bit personal, so please feel free to respond as you wish.)

The question simply is: why?

I admire your altruism especially seeing as how it is so rare today. But what makes you tick? Why do you do the volunteering or the social work that you do?

What is it exactly that goes through your mind when you make decisions that we have to face everyday? For instance, the choice of whether to start working, after a (post)graduation with an NGO or an MNC -- the obvious factor being the money involved. Even if, let's say, one can get well paid even in NGOs today, why prefer the trouble of social work and social change rather than sit at home and have some fun? Even at a rather micro level, why help anyone at all except when helping them is going to increase your own chances of success?

Let me tell you why I'm asking this question. This is a question that bothers me daily. For some reason it turns out that compared to helping others and being all enthusiastic about social amelioration, focussing on one's own issues and solving them as fast as possible is so much more enjoyable, easy and comfortable. In you I already see the social activist, all focussed on positive social impact -- not just the wishy-washy campaign sort of thing but genuine change that is based on ideas that are intellectually and morally very very satisfying.

I would really love to know these answers from you.

Thank you for your time.

Answer: (or a confusing excuse for one!)

Hi !
Thanks a lot for your compliments; I don't know if I deserve them because currently as far as TFI is concerned there are others doing a much better job of it than I am.

Your question forced me to really think about this.. I haven't completely found out the answer to your question yet, but in reflecting over it during our intensive training program with TFI, I had found a few things here and there that may add up to an explanation.

Beginning with : I've always been better at helping other ppl than at helping myself. At a personal level I'm extremely disorganized and always in a mess. Somehow my greatest successes have come when I was doing something not for myself. In the process I did gain a lot so it was always a win-win. But I've never had the kind of ambitions or even interests that I see in guys around me. During by 10th-11th-12th grade years, my Mom was fighting a battle with cancer and the whole family was caring for her. She passed away when I was in 12th. I remember being completely tuned out of all the things my peers were crazy about - cars, bikes, games, clothes, etc. Materialism just didn't make any sense at the time and the MS-in-US bandwagon stopped being attractive.

I didn't become any activist type just then. But I took out a great deal of time to read news and articles and think about things. Was always very connected with anything related to environment and technology and human rights - but only as an observer. It was after college and over a year after joining my company and working in Gurgaon, that I was very depressed over a heart-break, felt like my world had ended and had resigned myself to accepting that I would never have a normal family life and there I found that the only thing that gave me relief from my depression was helping others. (No, I had read way too much scientific stuff in my teenage years and never bought into the drinking/smoking game, plus I hate being one of the crowd) I signed up to join a team of volunteers from my company that was taking part in a Yamuna cleanup drive. I stayed at the camp overnight, shared the tent with some youngsters whom you will find in the most posh mall of Delhi - but on the other side of the counter, as the staff. From conversations with them I found that they all were actually smarter and more deserving of good opportunities than I was. The question of why they didn't get better opportunities - only because of lack of money - haunted me. Even when riddled with so many issues, these youngsters were out here giving their time for a noble cause when all their wealthier counterparts - the facebook generation we're part of - who COULD help easily - weren't around.

That kick-started my volunteering spree that went on for 2 years and I put 50% of my work time in that (and still did enough good quality work to get a big cash award and appreciation from client!). During the time my thirst for knowledge made me watch several documentaries and read new ideas from all around the world and I'd gotten very sensitized to several issues. In 2010, something tragic happened to the person I was closest to in Gurgaon and who had become my sister over the years - she lost her father in a terrible incident and her family was put through severe emotional trauma. I watched as just within a week after the funeral she was back for work - being at a level equal to me (we were recruited and trained in our company together), she was now the sole earning member of her family and supporting a mother and two smaller siblings. This made me question my own situation : no dependencies, no big aspirations, I spend over half my time in doing volunteering or organizing things other than work, was very comfortable financially because of zero excess expenditure lifestyle. The girl who was like my sister was also so invested in doing social work (she'd celebrate her birthday at a home for spastic children) but she did not have any luxury, she had to care for her family. Just like that there may be someone else who needs my job, my seat for real reasons. I remembered something I'd read as a kid somewhere about how in a society it's the "dharma" of those who are well off to help those who are struggling. I got this overpowering feeling that I was occupying someone else's seat - that my role in life is not this and that if I can afford to then I should do something else worthwhile and make the best use of my skills for the common good. I didn't have any other plans but I resigned from my company in June 2010. (without consulting with anybody! it was a personal decision!)

It was a crazy decision of course, but I had made a deal with myself that I'm not going to do anything that isn't approved by the conscience. I swore to give myself max 1 year before worrying about money again. Had enough saved up to sustain myself for 2. I then went even more all-out on the net and read any and every news, opinion article, downloaded and watched nearly every documentary and ted video in existence (related to present-day global issues ie - i hate the dramatized history channel crap, they waste your time and replace the real experts with paid actors). Came across TFI, liked it, volunteered at a school, and then joined TFI. Now I'm sorely missing the freewheeling days! In the long term I want to work in renewable energy and sustainable living, AND technological advancement.

But I hate the monetary paradigm, am convinced it's all a huge ponzi scheme, have seen all the global collapse-related predictions come true (we should all really watch these documentaries that are never screened on TV) and believe the world is in for a major change, and am hopeful it'll be a nice one. So I don't want to be in any rat-race anymore and am still hoping I can shift my lifestyle to a self-sustained moneyless one and protect my family before the shit hits the fan, plus do something to help stave off the disasters of global warming. Meanwhile I'd love to just help as many ppl as possible - it's very important to do positive things around us and so the fellowship. After all, just in case the world really ends in 2012, might as well live doing something good right now!

PS: Why the choice of image?? No reason except it may look good on Facebook! And, just to make you ask, "Why?" ;)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Application for Teach For India 2012 Fellowship is now open

Teach For India header.jpg

Dear Potential Applicant,

Greetings from Teach For India! Hope this email finds you well. We are writing to you because you applied for the Teach For India 2011 Fellowship.

We are excited to announce that the application form for the 2012 Fellowship has gone live on our website and it is time to again to come together and work towards eliminating educational inequity in India.

We invite you to consider applying for the Fellowship. We would like to clarify that if your previous application with us was unsuccessful, that will not be taken into account while evaluating your current application for the 2012 Fellowship. Teach For India believes in continuous improvement and will treat applications for what they are now. We believe that you have gained in skills and experience over the last year, and your familiarity with the Teach For India selection process will help you understand our movement better.

A quick update of what has happened in the last few months:
  • 250 new Fellows joined the Teach For India movement in May/June 2011 and recently started teaching in classrooms
  • Our first cohort of 2009 Fellows graduated this year and are pursuing dynamic paths beyond the Fellowship. To read more about our alumni, please see
  • Teach For India Fellows are currently teaching 13,500 students in 130 schools in Mumbai, Pune and Delhi
  • Teach For India was selected the best NGO to work for by the Economic Times
For 2012, Teach For India is seeking 450 Fellows to teach in 4 cities, namely, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune and Delhi.

We request that you spend some time perusing the following resources to understand our application process this year.

Our first application deadline is 31st July 2011. We look forward to receiving your completed application by then. Kindly visit to get started.

Please feel free to reach out to us at with any questions you may have. 

Good luck!  
Teach For India Team

TEACH FOR INDIA - One day all children will attain an excellent education

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Call for Volunteers (at a Teach For India classroom)

Hi awesome Puneite,

If you can spare some time and come over to my classroom and help me conduct the Beginning Of Year assessments, or volunteer a couple of hours of your spare time from home to correct students' answer papers:
1) You will be very lucky to be a part of MY classroom and we can make it OUR classroom
2) You get to see an amazing group of Grade 5 students who'll simply love ya!
3) I get to finish my BOY assessment on time, and we can give the students an education tailored to their needs!

To know more about the organization I'm a part of, please check out our website or this brief presentation.

Q: Skills needed? Does it involve handling multiple kids?? - No, this is all out-of-classroom, is very easy and anybody can do it! (Please talk about this to your mom / dad / retired elder relatives as well as teenage siblings - everyone can help!)

If you feel like you can help in any way, drop me an e-mail or call/text me @966-583-1250 [local charges apply :-) ]
If you have an off day on Saturday, then that's a huge opportunity! Come on over and I promise it'll be the most rewarding Saturday you've had!

I teach in Shantabai Ladkat English Medium School which is located at Nanapeth.
It is next to Sant Kabir Police Chowky on the main road from Shankar Sheth road flyover to Railway Station; also on a direct road from behind Aurora Towers in Camp.
Show on Google Maps

School timings: 7am to 2pm Mon-Fri
                        11am to 4pm, Sat
Volunteering timings : ANY TIME!

Nikhil Sheth
Pune, India
Grade 5 Teacher, Shantabai Ladkat School, Nanapeth, Pune

 TEACH FOR INDIA Fellow, 2011-13

Friday, June 24, 2011

I've invested as an online zero-profit lender for an Education loan to someone in West Bengal through RangDe

Rang De

Thank you for your Social Investment

Dear Nikhil

Thank you for your social investment. Please find below a summary of your investment:

Social investment amount: Rs. 200
No. of borrowers impacted: 1
Amount donated to Rang De: Rs. 0
Contribute your return on social investment to Rang De: Yes

Payment details:
Rang De credit: Rs.200

Investment Details
BorrowerInvestment (Rs.)LocationProfession

Purnima Barat
200 West Bengal Education Loan

Thank you for your time and support. Please quote your Rang De email user id for future correspondence.

RangDe.Org Team

Teach For India - Best place to work, NGO category - ET and Great places to work survey

Message we received today from our marketing team:

Dear Best People 

      I am feeling ecstatic to share that Teach For India has been ranked as No. 1 in NGO category in the Best places to work survey 2011. About 500 companies participated in the survey and we were amongst a few unique start-up initiatives that were shortlisted to participate for the first time. Check out the cover feature here.

Don't miss to get the Economic Times from the stands today that covers the detailed survey. 

I want to take this opportunity to Thank each one of you for making Teach For India a best place to work within 3 years of its inception.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

RangDe: Proud to be micro-financing a solar oven assembler!

Ambika Manikandan 's Evaluation Notes

First Evaluation : Ovens Raise Profits See more evaluations

The loan allowed Ambika to buy the components for her business in larger numbers. She told Ajesh our evaluator that this has helped her to cater to more clients and she is able to sell more of the solar powered ovens that she assembles. Her two year old business has seen a marked improvement and she is able to repay the loan with ease.
Evaluated by Ajesh 1 month ago
Borrower DetailsView borrower profile

Location : Palakkad, Kerala      Activity : Solar ovens selling Current Loan Status : Repaying
Ambika is involved in an unusual occupation. She buys oven parts and assembles it into solar powered ovens. They are then sold under the brand name of "Excellent". She works in a team and she needs funds to buy the parts. She operates from home and is a significant contributor to the family income. Her daughter is in class twelve and Ambika would like to see her complete her education.

Gift Economy

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