Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Project 7 - Head First Java

Objective - Research your topic

Masbout in Egypt, Kalawa in Kenya, Gafae in Thailand, Sourj in Armenia, Buna in Ethiopia, Mocha, Latte or Kaapi...all names for that magical drink, the potion that keep us alive and more importantly awake as we try and concentrate in a meeting, fix a bug or write a piece of elusive code in Java...precisely that - Java...coffee. Join me today as we take a close look at this well-loved beverage.

This miracle was discovered about 3000 years back by Capra Hircus...that’s goats. An Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi noticed one day that his docile goats were more lively than usual. He saw some of them munching red berries from a nearby plant. He tasted them and felt very invigorated. He then took his find to a monk who put the berries in hot water and drank the decoction. That was the first recorded brew of coffee.

Thereafter, coffee was cultivated and consumed extensively throughout the Arab world. In fact, the word Coffee has been derived from the Arab word for coffee, Qahwah. The plant was guarded closely and no beans allowed to be taken to other continents. But an Indian pilgrim by the name Baba Budan smuggled 7 beans in his waist belt to India in the year 1650 and planted them in the Chikmagalur district near here. Today India is the 7th largest producer of Coffee in the world, the first being Brazil.

The first Coffeehouses were established in Turkey and they were called Qahwah-Khaneh. They were popular meeting places for scholars, traders and politicians alike. English traders in Turkey would visit these coffeehouses as business would be discussed there. From Turkey, the English took coffee to Europe. When the Dutch beat the Turkish in a battle, they found sacks of coffee among the plunderings. And they started cultivating it in their colonies in Malabar in India and Java in Indonesia.

Coffee was brought to the Americas by a French Naval Officer after raiding Louis XIV’s plantation in Paris and facing pirates, storms and a rough, adventurous and dangerous journey over the Atlantic. Today Americans are the largest consumers of coffee in the world followed by the French and the Germans. Together they consume nearly 3 quarters of the world’s coffee!

Coffee grows in the form of green berries on plants that can grow to heights of 30 to 40 feet. When ripe, the berries are stark red in colour. Each berry contains 2 beans inside.

The two major varieties of coffee grown worldwide are Arabica and Robusta. Arabica has a more refined flavour but is prone to frost and diseases. Robusta, as the name suggests, is the more robust variety and has an earthly flavour to it. Yet, Robusta accounts for only 1/4th of the coffee grown all over while the rest is Arabica.

Unroasted beans have all the acids, proteins and the caffeine but not the much-loved flavour. Upon roasting, the carbohydrates and fats turn into aromatic oils and the moisture and carbon dioxide burn off, releasing the exotic flavour of coffee.

The Roasts for coffee range from light to darkest and have interesting names. The New England roast is a light roast and has a somewhat sour and snappy taste. The American medium roast is a bit sweeter and has a full body with the acid snap, aroma and complexity. The dark French roast is more complex, aromatic and somewhat spicy. The darkest roast is the Italian roast which tastes smoky and not even like the bean.

As opposed to the common notion that darker coffee is better, the amount of caffeine reduces as the coffee is roasted more since the caffeine burns off at higher temperatures. But a recent research suggests that the stimulating effects of coffee are due to a yet unknown chemical which triggers the secretion of the stimulating hormones Cortisone and Adrenaline. So, the secret behind coffee’s kick remains a secret.

"Last comes the beverage of the Orient shore,
Mocha, far off, the fragrant berries bore.
Taste the dark fluid with a dainty lip,
Digestion waits on pleasure as you sip."

So said Pope Lea XII about coffee. The health benefits of coffee are numerous. It reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Type-2 Diabetes, Cirrhosis of the Liver, Heart Disease and the painful condition Gout. The tannins in coffee reduce the incidence of dental caries. Studies performed by the Harvard School of Public Health suggest that coffee reduces the risk of Gallstones and Gall Bladder Diseases. And here is some good news for all of us who want to lose weight...coffee increases the metabolic rate according to a Danish study. It is even higher while exercising and coffee makes body fat more easily available to the exercising muscles.

The downside is that coffee can cause insomnia, anxiety and irritability. It may dehydrate and hence cause constipation. It also causes staining of teeth.

Now for a quick bit about the office coffee break...a time to relax and enjoy a hot, steaming cup of coffee -- and bacteria! Public-health officials in Grande Prairie in Alberta, Canada tested reusable mugs from four government offices, including the Health Department itself, and found high concentrations of bacteria. The fact is that we don’t clean our coffee mugs well-enough -- just a quick rinse. To properly sanitize a mug, it should be washed thoroughly and then rinsed for 30 seconds in water of 170 degrees or more. The key to avoiding health hazards then is to either use disposable cups or use good detergents and an ounce of your time to rinse the mugs.

Drink it with milk or without it, with chocolate, cream or a dash of cardamom...drink it at Barista, Coffee Day, Kalmane, the Italian Vending machine outside or from the stainless steel filter at home...savour it in the morning, noon, evening or even at night, just keep in mind this piece of advice from Jilly Cooper’s book How To Survive From 9 to 5...Never drink black coffee at lunch; it will keep you awake in the afternoon.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Project 6 - An Affair To Remember

Objective - Use voice modulation effectively and explore the possibilities of your voice

Read the wedding card

The greatest and strongest institution in India - Marriage. It is an institution that commands a lot of awe, respect, and sacredness! There is a lot of preparation involved more so in an arranged marriage. Let us take a peep into this whole business of the Great Indian Arranged Marriage.

It all begins when a prospective groom comes over to see the girl. The decked up girl walks into the room with a tray of teacups for the guests, coyly, shyly. She sits herself down and while they are busy forming first impressions about her, the girl is thinking ‘Wow! I never noticed that each tile on our floor has 16 checkered blocks within it...’ She has never looked at the floor for such long a time!

The usual viva-voce begins...‘What have you studied?’ ‘What are your hobbies?’ ‘Do you know to cook?’ ‘Would you be interested in working after marriage?’...As the girl tries to find her voice after such a long period of silence to answer the questions she wonders...‘Did the panel at my first job interview ask me all that? Getting a job is easier than this!’

If everything goes well, a few days later they convey their decision - they like the girl...there is excitement at the girl’s house, there are sighs of relief, the girl blushes pink as her friends squeal in their ‘Congratulations!!’ and preparations for the wedding begin.

The Engagement is accomplished with much fanfare...In a few communities the rituals are so elaborate that they might as well get the couple married then and there. Post the engagement, for some days the multitude gazes at the rings and utters various exclamations...the girl’s friends especially - ‘How beautiful! 23K or 22? And that stone is diamond is it?’

After the engagement has faded from the minds, the wedding starts to be planned. There are frequent calls between the two parties. "What is the Groom’s height?" "What brand of suit does he prefer?" "What colour of Sarees to buy for the bride?" "Kanjeevaram or Benaras silk?" "Which Marriage Hall is available?" "What design to have for the invitation cards?"...The hustle and bustle that characterizes any house where a wedding is to take place.

The day of the wedding dawns and the ceremonies ensue. The guests start pouring in. Children have the most fun at such occasions paying no heed to the purpose of them being there. They run around the hall disturbing chairs and inventing their own games. The little girls collect fallen flowers and shout out "Hey I got a pink rose...which colour did you get?"

The bride’s friends are busy in discussions, ‘the couple looks good together no! And she looks so pretty in that Saree. Apparently her mother-in-law gave it to her...which company did she say the groom works for?’

Somewhere in the 3rd row, oblivious to the ongoing rituals are two ladies having a discussion more important than India’s security policy...‘Do you how much the boy earns?! I heard that he has got a Green Card...you know, he has a younger brother who is single...’ And then ‘what happened to that boy we met at so-and-so’s wedding? You had spoken to his parents is it not? Oh...he became a monk is it! He was a rather nice boy’

The elders assume their positions in the Hall and people start taking their children to meet them...an adolescent boy touches the feet of an elderly aunty supposed to be his father’s 3rd cousin...she exclaims, "How tall you have grown!" As if the he was expected to grow shorter! "I saw you when you were this much, you used to be such crybaby..." and then to his mother "He still cries like that is it?" By this time the boy is thoroughly embarrassed and only wants to run away from the wedding and civilization in general.

Suddenly, the music starts and goes into a crescendo marking the moment of holy matrimony. Everyone crowds around the marquee to shower blessings on the couple. They hand over the gifts, mumble their congratulations and proceed to eat.

Food is another major article of discussion. "You know, at so-and-so’s wedding they had 3 different cuisines...we couldn’t even taste everything! By the way, did you taste the Biryani? It is delicious..."

A child bothers his mother with cries of "I want ice-cream!" when there is none...and his mother tries to bargain "Baby, I will buy you ice-cream this evening...promise...for now will you be a good boy and eat the dessert?"

Meanwhile, preparations to see the couple off have begun. And among sobbing relatives, friends wishing the best for a happy married life, hugs and kisses from the kids of the household, the bride steps out with her husband into a new life with new hopes, apprehensions and excitement for the future. For all that has gone into sending the darling daughter away, every Indian wedding in itself becomes - an affair to remember.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Project 5 - The Only Man

Objective - Use body language effectively

Agra, Kanpur, Meerut, Barrackpore and..JHANSI.

The event - The Great Indian Uprising of 1857

And this year: 2007. 150 years since that event - the event that shook the foundations of the Raj in India, the event that made legends out of common sepoys like Mangal Pandey and the event that left a wake of unrest among the Indians leading to Independence less than a 100 years later.

One of those legends of the 1857 Mutiny was a woman whose name became synonymous with courage and valour.

Born around the year 1828 in Varanasi as Manikarnika Tambe, Manu - as she was affectionately called - was quite a tomboy as a child. She learnt to use the sword, to shoot and to ride horses. In fact, she was known to be an excellent horse rider and a good judge of horses. An anecdote has it that once her childhood playmate Nana Sahib denied her a ride on his elephant. In return, she declared that one day she would have ten elephants to every one of his. A fine example of the bravado and ambition she was born with.

Her contemporaries have described her as a charming woman of middle size, stout but not too stout. Her expression was intelligent. Her eyes were particularly fine and her nose very delicately shaped. The only thing that spoilt her was her voice which was something between a whine and a croak.

This beautiful maiden was married to the Raja of Jhansi, at a tender age of 14 years. She took the name Lakshmi after marriage and thus came to be known as the Rani of Jhansi Lakshmibai.

After the death of her son a five-year-old boy was adopted from the extended family. To ensure that the British understood the adoption as proper the local British officials were called to witness the event. Despite such precautions, Jhansi was annexed two years later in keeping with Lord Dalhousie’s proclamation that all states without biological heirs were to be annexed in to the British kingdom. The Rani kept pleading the British to recognize her son as the legal heir and spare Jhansi but the pleas fell on deaf ears. A woman who aspired to own a multitude of elephants some day was robbed of her kingdom in a matter of days.

So, on the 21st of March 1858, when British troops under Hugh Rose appeared outside Jhansi, the Rani decided to collaborate with her rebelling sepoys. Tatya Tope’s troops had reached Jhansi to assist the Rani but could not hold out against the British who managed to scale the walls and enter Jhansi.

What followed was execution of the natives, plundering and excessive violence by the British soldiers. Seeing the army stream across the streets, Jhansi’s women threw their children and themselves down wells. There was blood everywhere.

At this time, the Rani led her troops clad in military attire, a red jacket, trousers and a white turban on her head, which made it impossible to tell whether it was a man or a woman fighting. Her son was strapped to her back all the while as she fought on horseback – an image immortalized in her statues all over the country.

When the rebels lost in Jhansi, the Rani managed to escape to Kalpi and from thereon marched to Gwalior. En route they stopped for rest in Phoolbaugh for rest. The Rani sat there drinking sherbet. Her childhood friend who had never left her side so far was with her too. Suddenly, the British troops appeared. The rebels fled save a few. The Rani handed over her son to her friend and bade them to safety. She mounted her horse and started to ride but was faced with a sewerage canal. The horse refused to leap leaving her no option but to fight.

And fight she did, furiously, in this decisive battle of her life, with the horse’s reign between her teeth and swords in both hands. As her final moment arrived, she was first unseated from the horse by a sabre cut in her side and then shot at by a soldier. Sitting leaning against a rock, she fired her pistol at her assailant. Enraged, he slashed at her and delivered the fatal wound. Thus, the Rani of Jhansi Lakshmibai became a martyr at the age of only 30 years with a reward of Rs. 100000 on her head.

More than being a martyr in the First War of Indian Independence, the Rani became an eternal inspiration as the true woman of substance. She showed us the potential to greatness every woman possesses. Such was the heroic life and death of the Boudicca of India – the Rani of Jhansi Lakshmibai, who, not inappropriately, Hugh Rose declared to be the only man among the Indian Mutineers.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Project 4 - Making Daddy Proud

Objective - Select the right words and communicate ideas vividly

2nd of December 2004. 7 AM.

I awoke to the squeaking of unoiled wheelchair wheels. My eyes stung from the fragmentary sleep I had had the previous night. My father had been in the hospital since 3 days then and a patient of Chronic Kidney Failure since 3 years. I blinked repeatedly. My eyes felt better. Sitting up I could see hospital’s reception table straight ahead. The receptionist was not in. But the dialysis patients had started arriving for the morning shift. There was a low hum in the reception area as those patient’s escorts talked in low voices. I decided to check on my father.

There was a huge square frosted glass window behind my father’s bed. It was an east-facing window and at that time of the day my father’s white-walled room was awash with light. Since the light came from behind my father’s bed, at first sight it seemed like it was my father’s aura and not diffused sunlight that filled the room.

In his heydays, my father had been a 5 feet 7 inches tall pot-bellied man. His square face had high cheekbones, flesh piling up against them. He had narrow Mongolian eyes like mine. So when he smiled, his cheeks squeezed them and all one saw was two segments for his eyes. Overall, he looked like an amiable huggable teddy bear.

But through the 3 years of his disease, his body wasted away. His high cheekbones made his gaunt cheeks more pronounced. His limbs started looking like sticks. But due to the disease, water would accumulate in his torso and his feet. So his tummy took on the appearance of a drum more than a pot. The swelling near his chest would go down for a day two after his weekly dialysis turning the drum into more of a pitcher.

That day the drum was larger. His head was tilted to the left and he was staring blankly straight ahead. The previous two days the nurses had to tie his hands to the guardrails of the hospital bed because he would constantly try to pull the oxygen mask off his nose. He had not been too cognizant of his actions. A knot had formed in my throat by seeing him in such a pathetic state – a prisoner of his bed. My eyes had become dams for the tears of pity and agony.

That day though, he was breathing easily and the mask hung from nozzle of the brown oxygen cylinder standing to the right of the head his bed. To the left side was a table with an assortment of medicines and a vacuum flask to keep boiled water in. The flask was white with peach-coloured flowers. Somehow, the design conveyed gaiety to me; the flask seemed a misfit in the room where the air hung heavy with helplessness, sombreness and sleeplessness.

My mother was sitting to the right side of the bed having tea and gazing at my father. From the foot of the bed where I stood, I could only see her back. She was hunching a little. I saw how her spine had gone lax from unspoken resignation and fatigue even as the day had just begun. She asked me to freshen up from home and come. I had also to go to the bank that day. My father had not yet acknowledged my presence. Thinking he was in a stupor, I left without speaking to him.

While I waited for my turn at the counter in the bank, I saw my best friend searching the crowds. My father’s condition had grown serious. Upon reaching the hospital, I saw my sobbing sister and glum classmates outside. In the reception area, my mother was weeping inconsolably. My paternal aunt confirmed what my brain was trying not to derive from the scene – my father had passed away a few minutes ago.

I was incredulous. He couldn’t just leave. My paternal aunt was trying to hold my hands but I jerked them away and proceeded to his room.

I saw his body wrapped in the sheet he had used as a coverlet. The nurses were tying his body with coir ropes before it started to harden as if they were packing a piece of cargo to be shipped off. But I couldn’t protest. I couldn’t say a word. A flood of emotion was washing my sanity away. I cupped his face in my palms and felt his cheeks with my thumbs. The skin was still warm and soft. His face had a half-smile. He seemed to be calm, free from pain and in immense peace. I called out to him but there was no response. It was then that the dam behind my eyes gave way and tears flowed freely.

After that we were all led to my grandmother’s house. Father’s body was placed in the washed and completely vacated veranda so visitors could pay homage to him. There was a small brass oil lamp and sandalwood incense on the left side near his head. The strong scent masked the faint smell of medicines and hospitals that had become characteristic of my father. The framed picture of my late grandfather hung on the wall parallel to my father’s body and it seemed as if he were overseeing the preparations for his son’s final journey to where he was.

The rituals started and the priest made my mother, my sister and me pour water over ourselves and perform the rituals in the same drenched clothes. The water was icy cold and it chilled us to the bone. My already shocked mother was unable to support herself after that and had to be helped by two people to perform all rituals. We offered rice grains and flowers at our father’s forehead and circled his body thrice before touching his feet. I remember how different his body felt then from the morning. It felt like it was made of wood. All signs of moisture had receded from his body. I touched my head to his feet for the last time and stayed that way for a few seconds. I didn’t want to let go.

After the rituals were over, the men lifted the bamboo sticks father’s body had been fastened to and took him away. A small carrier truck was parked a few feet away from the house. They kept his body in it and the truck took a turn around the corner. With that my father disappeared from our sight and our lives forever.

In the 3-year long battle against the disease, my father lost his hearing to the side effects of a life-saving drug, underwent painful dialysis every single week and endured immense physical discomfort. But he never complained. He never stopped smiling.

Among the many things he taught me in his lifetime was public speaking. He told me that any speech should have an attention-grabbing opening. He taught me the importance of body language. He wrote most of my speeches in school until I was mature enough to write them by myself. He introduced me to the powerful art of oratory.

Smiling as much as I can and public speaking are my ways of paying obeisance to him. I try and do both here and every time I step-off the dais, I only hope he is watching and smiling. I only hope he is proud of me.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Project 2 - The Benefits Of Team Sports

Objective: Organize Your Speech

Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman once disagreed that team chemistry was the key to the Bulls' success. "Chemistry is a class you take in high school or college," he declared, "where you figure out two plus two is ten, or something."

Kindly excuse and overlook that slight scholastic aberration of Rodman’s and join me in descrying the real theme of the anecdote: Team Chemistry. That’s a small part of my topic for today – the benefits of team sports.

The reason I chose this topic is I am a Basketball Player myself and the game has taught me a lot more than just technicalities like dribbling my way to the basket and netting the ball. As Michael Jordan once put it and echoed my feelings – “Even when I'm old and grey, I won't be able to play it, but I'll still love the game.” I decided to take a broader view and talk about team sports.

That sports are beneficial for us has been a premise that has seldom been investigated. To enlist any of the advantages like physical fitness, discipline would be to state the obvious. So, let’s begin with the basic premise that everyone should ideally indulge in one form of sport or the other and not contest it.

Given that postulate, I feel that team sports are a better option as compared to individual sports. And we shall examine this statement from multiple perspectives like emotional, even spiritual and social.

A team sport is one that involves competition between teams of players e.g. Cricket whereas individual sports have individuals as participants e.g. Golf. Let us take up the emotional angle first, the values and the abstractions. In an individual sport, the sportsperson is responsible as much for his loss as for his success. When the stakes are high, and you win it almost implies you win as a person also but when you lose, you as a person have lost. But in a team sport, the blow of a loss is divided over the whole team and the joy of victory is multiplied by individual happiness. One man can never be responsible for either the victory or the loss of the team. Those who believe that do not understand a team sport at all. As former American Baseballer Michelle Smith put it, “I don't need to be the Number 1 on the team. This is what I train for day in and day out. I am the support player. If I need to hit, pitch, run, whatever, I will do it. If everything was going to be about me, I think I'd quit.”

A team sport teaches you optimization of skills, not maximization unlike individual sports where the individual is expected to be equipped with all the necessary skills. In a team you identify the key strengths of each member and tune your performance so that everybody does what he knows to do best. All 5 members on a basketball team can’t be star shooters; that would be a once in a blue moon occurrence. And all the members can’t be spectacular defenders. The key is for the defenders to defend to the best of their ability so that the shooters are free to shoot and net the points. That distributes the load of performance and each person performs to his optimum and the team achieves its maximum.

Los Angeles Lakers player Shaquille O'Neal (who now plays for Miami Heat) was frequently upbraided by his coach for his tardiness. One day, he had to take a drastic measure to avoid being late for yet another practice. And What? He appeared on the court wearing his shoes... and nothing else. While that is taking things too far, the point is, in a team sport, the whole team has to train together whereas in an individual sport you have the luxury of scheduling your practice sessions as per your convenience. It teaches you to be punctual and to organize yourself. You throw a whim and miss practice or turn up late and it is bound to reflect in the team’s performance. You learn to adjust, to prioritize.

You know how when birds migrate they fly in a ‘V’ formation? Not that the bird at the tip is any more capable than the others but they just choose a leader and follow his lead. When he is tired another bird replaces it and they move on. In a team sport too, you have a captain and he assigns you a role. And the captains change. You learn to manage as well as carry out roles assigned to you. American Footballer Jack Kemp said, “Every team requires unity. A team has to move as one unit, one force, with each person understanding and assisting the roles of his team mates.” And that says it well.

In 1983, the team representing India brought home the Cricket World Cup. Who would care to get that verbose, we just said India wins the World Cup and made heroes and legends out of the team members. In 2007, when the team representing India lost their way out of the world cup, we just said India out of the World Cup. It sounded terrible. It pricked the ears. And we wanted to blame someone…naturally the team that brought the calamity about. Being in a team sport involves belonging to a unit; you always represent a unit whose reputation you are somehow expected to uphold at all times…your school, your district, your Nation. It breeds a sense of belonging for that unit and nurtures patriotism for it. Although that may or may not be the case in an individual sport but it has potential to assume fanatic proportions in a team sport. That just multiplies the already existing excitement and thrill in playing the sport.

Coming to the spiritual point of view, you know how they always tell you to detach yourself from the experiences of life, from your personality, from your ego in order to attain enlightenment…that is easy with team sports. You are always a part of the team. You learn to identify yourself as just an instrument to achieve the goal of the team and not as an individual. And since neither the victory nor the loss is wholly your own, there is no question of getting egotistic about it.

Sania Mirza was once asked if she missed having fun and partying like people her age and felt like she was sacrificing something. She, in reply, said that there was always a price to pay for your ambitions. From the social point of view and as I said earlier, in individual sports you may be training alone most of the time and with progress in your career you may get kind of isolated from your peers. In team sports on the other hand, you can always have fun with your teammates. A sense of camaraderie exists and is even essential for the team’s success. When you go on tours, the journey itself becomes enjoyable with so many people to have fun with. Former American Footballer Jim Brown’s lucid statement speaks for how he felt about this - "When you need a friend, you can always count on your teammates."

Team sports also prepare you for certain high paying professions that elevate your social status these days - politics for one! With so many parties and coalitions in the fray today, gone are the days when politics was likened to Chess. It is now no less than a team sport…something like Rugby! Not actors but good team sportsmen should have automatic entries to politics, I feel.

On a more serious note, the software profession where team-work is a cardinal skill. Nobody realizes the importance of team-work more than we do. And team sports teach that too well.

Team sports unite and harmonize. When the whole society is disintegrating, we have people belonging to all faiths on the Indian Cricket team and they are united for a common goal – winning…together.

A final thought in the words of New York Knicks Coach Red Holzman, "On a good team there are no superstars. There are great players who show they are great players by being able to play with others as a team. They have the ability to be superstars, but if they fit into a good team, they make sacrifices, they do things necessary to help the team win. What the numbers are in salaries or statistics don't matter; how they play together does."

It’s like that Jack Johnson song - We are better when we are together!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Project 1 - The Banker's Daughter

Objective - Introduce yourself and learn to speak before an audience

The year is 1966. The fifth from among Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films is running in cinema theatres all over India. One among the thousands watching the film is an 18-year-old boy. He loves it…so much so that he decides if he ever has a daughter, he will name her after the film.

18 years later, that boy grows up to be a banker and does have a daughter. And he stands by the decision he made all the same.

The banker was my father and the movie was the 1966 classic - Anupama.

Anupama comes from the Sanskrit root ‘Upama’ which means comparison or very loosely, title. ‘an’ is a negative Sanskrit prefix and it means without. So, the word Anupama means without comparison or incomparable. It means unique. And I hope I will have lived up to the name by the end of my days.

Born and brought up in Nagpur - the Orange City of India, I have lived there most of my life. I studied in a school whose motto was ‘Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye’ – ‘Knowledge is that which liberates’…and true to the words, my school gave me enough opportunities to broaden my horizons and liberate my mind. I am indebted to my school for most of what I am today.

I have always performed decently in school and college exams. But I believe it only enabled me to fill the educational qualifications table in most of the forms. I believe in what Mark Twain said “Don’t let your schooling come in the way of your Education.” It’s what I did apart from studying that defines me as I am.

I underwent 7 rigorous years of Basketball Coaching and had a short stint with Korfball when I was in school. I played State-Level Inter-School tournaments and explored quite a few cities in Maharashtra as part of the tours. Basketball has taught me important lessons that are not a part of school curricula. Teamwork, sportsman spirit and power of practice are just a few of them.

I also learnt Hindustani Classical Music but ironically I am the English Vocalist for the office band Vocals n Chords. Music – all genres right from Indian Classical to Hard Rock – is my lifeblood. It is the way it transcends boundaries and prejudices, the way it can be enjoyed in solitude as well as in a group, the way it can take you to a spiritual plane that attracts me. Music is one of my most loved indulgences!

I was always involved in one or the other oratory activity in school and college. The zenith was when I won the National Science Seminar in 1999. It was not so much the seminar itself as the participants that benefited me. I met 31 other students – one from each state of India and came to know of various cultural aspects of the lesser-known states like the seven sisters of the North East. The seminar and the science are long forgotten but the precious friendships continue to enrich my life.

I am an electrical engineer from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur. And engineering too was not without it’s fair share of life lessons. For example, the Fourier Transforms that help an electrical engineer to analyze the most complex of waveforms by breaking them down into simpler and fundamental waves taught me this: any problem in life can be broken into simpler components and then it doesn’t seem as daunting. All through college also I was constantly involved in extra-curricular activities like public speaking, singing, sports and being a member of various student bodies. All of them have ameliorated my life and sculpted my personality in their own way.

My other interests include reading and writing. I read indiscriminately and enjoy it thoroughly. My favourite book remains ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’. It is the story of a dying professor and one of his old students. It is about realizing what the really important things in life are – nature, the people around you, their emotions…and not maddening success and money that leave you completely disconnected from your family and friends.

That is about my hobbies and interests and in effect about me.

I would like to end with a few lines from one of my two favourite poems ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling, the other being Anyway. The whole poem is worth being etched in Gold and read like a prayer but the last lines summarize it well…

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!