Friday, November 28, 2008

Kadlekka Parishe

Last weekend we attended a strange festival at the Basavangudi Temple (Bull Temple) in Bangalore. It was so interesting that it has brought me back to my blog!

"Kadlekka Parishe" or Peanut Festival is celebrated on the last Monday of the Karthigai month (this year, the last Monday of the Kannadiga's Karthigai month was 24th November) at the Basavangudi temple. It order to draw the crowds, the jatra started on Saturday itself (although the rain did play spoilsport, on both Saturday and Sunday evenings).

Well, the highlight of this festival is the sale of peanuts! Farmers from all around Karnataka and even areas of Tamilnadu (like Dharmapuri) come to sell their first harvest of peanuts. As a result, you can see peanuts in every direction you look around the Basavangudi temple -- right from BMS College right upto the Ramakrishna Ashrama. The temple is crowded with a truly assorted array of visitors -- right from the villagers to the ITzens of Bangalore to foreign nationals! Naturally, there are other festive activities too, to entertain the crowd to the fullest -- this ranges from special pujas at the temple and music/dance concerts to stalls featuring bulls, sale of a wide range of goods, especially handicrafts, and amusement rides. But the overwhelming aspect of the whole festival is obviously the heaps of peanuts covering both sides of the road!

There is an interesting story behind this -- my neighbour tells me. Many years ago, Basavangudi was full of peanut plantations. However, strangely the villagers found that somebody was stealing their peanuts every night! Suspecting this to be either a thief or a herd of cows, the villagers stood guard one night, and one of them found a lone bull feasting on the crop! Mistaking this to be a thief, he threw his spear in the direction and on finding no further movement from the person/animal, he went back to resume his night's sleep. When the villagers came to the field next morning to review the night's adventure, they realised that the farmer had actually struck down none other than the Bull God (Nandi or Basava, the mount of Lord Shiva) himself, and in place of the bull, they found a stone statue. They also realised that in the guise of a bull feasting on the peanuts, the Bull God was actually guarding the peanut crops from thieves!

Worried that they had committed a sin, the villagers pondered over what to do, and built a temple to house the statue. However, to their surprise and shock, the bull kept outgrowing the temple! That was when Lord Shiva appeared in a troubled villager's dream and instructed that they should dig in front of the bull statue -- they will find a trishul (the three-pronged weapon of gods and goddesses), which they should affix on the bull's forehead to stop it from growing, and they should also worship the bull regularly and offer the first harvest of peanuts to the temple every year. This custom is continued till date.

This explains both the mammoth size of the bull as well as the strange custom.

In all, a wonderfully interesting experience -- which makes you forget that you are in the fast-paced and cosmopolitan Bangalore. Vikram and I felt like we were in Thanjavur or Mylapore, raging with festivities, old-world style!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Updates!!

When it rains, it pours -- good luck or bad! This time, fortunately, it turned out to be good luck.

a) The rains came, and the power shedding frequency has gone down amazingly. Just 1/2 an hour a day. Thank God.

b) After I sent the link to my blogpost on Sify (A long cable cut short) to a senior executive at the company, suddenly today evening two visitors knocked at my door - Sify's Area Manager and the local agent! They renewed my a/c for the pending two months, and assured me good service now and later. They did not refute any of the problems I faced but told me that this problem occured only in two areas of Bangalore and nowhere else. They also promised to rectify the problem in my neighbourhood. It'll take me a while to trust that this will happen, but I was definitely happy about the assurance and hope it turns out true. I know this isn't really citizen journalism -- it happened because I mailed the link to the top management, but I'm happy that they at least acted on this. If my neighbour gets the same service, it is citizen journalism!

c) The good tide continues -- BSNL has also fixed the massive exchange problem in our area, and I've had uninterrupted connectivity for the past two days. I almost fainted with joy when I got a call from BSNL asking if the problem has been solved. What service! Of course, this was definitely not because of any blogpost, but nonetheless, I'm glad it happened :-)

Touch wood! Hope God doesn't end with a, "Touche!" and stop the rains ;-)

Friday, July 25, 2008

AGAIN!!

Can you believe it... my BSNL connection is down AGAIN!!! I called the customer support only to be told that it's a problem at the local exchange. So, the walks to the telephone exchange begin again. I know BSNL service is not going to improve any time soon, but in the bargain I hope I at least lose a few kilos... worrying about the connection and walking to the exchange!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Do I have a broadband connection?

I think I do :-) But I am not sure BSNL thinks so. Here is what happened...

In May, I applied for a broadband connection from BSNL. In June, I got it. I went to their office every week, diligently, and one day they said – Ma’am, you’ve been blessed with a broadband connection by the almighty BSNL. Here is your username and password J I was elated. My husband and I had had such a terrible time with Sify that we were yearning for the BSNL connection, despite the horror stories we had heard about their customer service.

On June 7th 2008, the residents of Padmanabhanagar would have seen me walking back home from the BSNL office with a big smile on my face and a small chit of paper in my hand – that tiny scrap of paper with the username and password scribbled on it by the supervisor at the desk was the only proof that I had a broadband connection! I asked for more details... the IP address perhaps, but they refused to help me in any other way, since I used a ‘private modem’ (it was a standard model, but I was using my own modem and not the one supplied by them). So, after a bit of a struggle and some calls to the BSNL call centre, I got the broadband running on my computer (for those of you who don’t know, they have a call centre for broadband queries – 1800 424 1600).

However, right from the start it so happened that my connection would get cut every time we got an incoming call! So, I called the customer care again, and they confirmed that it was not a problem with my modem’s settings but with the line, so they would lodge a complaint.

A month went by, nothing happened. I would just get calls once in a while asking if my telephone worked. Every time, I would say, yes it did, and explain the disconnection problem I faced. Still the problem persisted.

And then one day, the connection went on the blink – totally! Two lights went down on the modem! So, I called customer care again, and they said the problem was again with the line, but they could not register a complaint because the previous one (lodged more than a month ago) was still pending!

So, off I went to the exchange again, but even before I could explain what the problem was, the supervisor there shut me up saying 500 lines were down and would be repaired. I went to the office every day, for a week, only to get the same reply. Till one day, I managed to barge past the supervisor and tell the lady at the computer that my telephone line WAS working but my broadband connection wasn’t. She pulled up some records, and very nicely told me, “Madam, you do not have a broadband connection. Your application is still pending!” What?! I had been using the broadband connection for over a month, and even paid for it. So, how come I don’t have a connection?

I was confused and tried to explain the problem to her. After thinking for a while, she asked me... if it is true that you do have a connection, tell me your username and password. For some reason, she insisted on knowing the password to ascertain if my claim was true or not. Unable and unwilling to argue with her, I gave her the details. She believed me. She pulled up the records, changed the status to “repeat complaint” and promised to get it fixed asap. And it was. The next day, I got a call from the engineer in the morning, asking what the problem was, and he fixed it immediately. If only they had heard me out, perhaps the problem would have been sorted out even earlier.

Well, that is not the end of the story. The ADSL link was up, but for some reason the PPPOE connection never went through. The connection status remained, “Cannot reach PPP server.” Customer care again! However, the moment the customer support guys asked me for the modem model number and I answered, they would reply saying, “Sorry madam, we do not support private modems.” Oh my God, most modems have the same settings, and D-Link was such a standard model, couldn’t they at least try and see what the problem is?

After repeated calls, I at last reached a guy who seemed to be awake and prepared to try fixing the problem... after 45 minutes on the call, he realised that the problem was at the server-end and fixed it! On July 22nd 2008, I got connected to the Internet, at last.

Having gone online after a long time, I pinged my brother on GTalk, and said, “Hey, my Internet is back!” Lo and behold, the lights went off! Therein begins another story – the saga of power cuts in Bangalore :-)

PS1: I learnt quite a few lessons through this experience. Firstly, never argue with a Government employee. Be polite, almost subservient. They need to ‘bless’ you with service. Please, good morning, thank you, sir and madam are good words to use – and they do have a good influence on the Government staff, and achieve the desired results. I do not blame them – they probably have enough people screaming at them, so politeness is a welcome respite even for them!

PS2: When you call customer support, remember that you are reaching a call centre. So, every time you call, a different person will pick up the phone. So, if one of the professionals you reach seems clueless or unhelpful, don’t waste your time. Cut and call again. Chances are that if you call six times, you will reach one person who doesn’t belong in front of that dumb terminal and overused headset! He or she will hear, think, and sort out your problem.

PS3: Six months in the Silicon Valley of India, without a stable Internet connection, working from home! How did I manage? My husband and dad who were confident that we could (at any expense) find a way out to let me work uninterrupted, egging me on to patiently overcome poor customer service and somehow get the connection – even when I lost my cool. Not to forget my work associates who never complained about my short and sometimes slightly delayed responses! Best of all... a Reliance Netconnect data card that continued to work even after our card had been rendered invalid due to a wrong recharge done at the local Reliance World store!

PS4: I hope this connection continues to work!

A long cable cut short

This is such a long story, I don’t know where to start and where to end! Essentially, when we moved into Padmanabhanagar six months ago, we heard that there were only two ISPs operating here – BSNL and Sify. BSNL told us that a new connection would take around 6-8 weeks to materialise. Since I work from home and needed Internet badly, we decided to go for Sify instead. We called customer care, and promptly within two days, a guy called Sudhir came home, booked our connection, took an advance, gave us what seemed like a “receipt”, and promised to give the connection within three working days. Three grew to seven, seven grew to 14 days, and there was still no sight of the guy!

After we called again, another guy came – this time, a Mr Chethan. Sudhir had shut shop and would no longer be catering to our area, he said. So, it was now over to dealing with Chethan, who said he will take the advance from Sudhir, but insisted that he will not do the wiring till we paid in full. So, we paid the remaining Rs 6900/- Sify charges a whopping Rs 1800/- for installation, while most other ISPs offer it at more competitive rates if not a complete waiver; however, the brochure promised a discount of over Rs 700 if we paid for six months in advance, so we did, little knowing what was in store. We got something which we thought was the “receipt”.

The guy who came so promptly to collect the payment disappeared after that. He would speak on the verge of tears and explain all his troubles to us, whenever we called to enquire about the status of our connection. And one day, we flew off the handle and threatened to take a BSNL connection if he didn’t do the wiring within a day. So, the wires came. After a dozen more calls and threats an idiot of an “engineer” came to setup our connection. He became tense the moment he saw that we had Windows Vista. He threw in the towel when he found we had a wireless router too. So, with a little help from him (nothing more than providing the IP addresses and the Sify dialer), we set up the connection all by ourselves, and it started working.

One month went by, with us being able to use the Internet whenever Chethan’s server was not down, which was not much, by the way. Then came the first week of March, and we were greeted by a new error message: “Invalid quota/account expired!” What the heck, we thought! After all, we had paid in advance for six months. We called customer service, and they said our account had been renewed only for a month.
Why?
That is how it works. Your local agent has to pay us next month’s subscription and only after that we will renew the account.
Oh, so will you contact the local agent or should I?
You have to remind him, madam.

So, we were back at the mercy of the Honourable Shri Chetan Ji. His father wouldn’t be well. He would not be in town. He would be in hospital. He would have no money in his account. All the calamities known in this world would befall him only when our account had to be renewed.

After another week, a call to the customer support again.
Hi, the local agent is not renewing my a/c despite repeated reminders?
Oh ok, shall I lodge a complaint?
Yes, please.

A few more days go by...
Hi, my a/c has still not been renewed?
Oh, is it so madam, let me check the status of your complaint?
We have reminded your local agent. He’ll be doing it.
I am confident he is not. So, what further action are you going to take?
We can only remind him ma’am. He only has to renew the a/c. We cannot do anything.
So, am I Sify’s customer or the local agent’s? What responsibility do you take for the poor service I am getting?

After giving up on customer care, we would call the local agent repeatedly till he renews the a/c. The same ordeal continued every month, for four months.

Last month...
We are unable to reach the local agent, our Internet a/c has not been renewed, and worse still, we are not even able to reach the Sify account... we have no clue whether the cable has been cut somewhere or what. Shrimaan Chethan Maharaj has changed his telephone number, so we cannot even reach him.


After several desperate calls to Sify customer care, we realised that Sify is as useless as its local agents. They wish to take absolutely no responsibility for the kind of service you get. Whether it is a connectivity issue or a renewal related one, the call centre simply lends a patient ear to your rants – they initiate NO action and make it very clear that you have to contact your local agent for any further response. What was even more ridiculous than this response was the fact that they do not keep customer records for more than two months, so the person at the other end of the phone had no clue how MANY complaints we had given. What about those blessed issues that are not solved even after two months? Ask God or somebody from Sify – the former might be easier!

Now, we were – totally – at the mercy of the local agent. With Rs 1800/- paid for the installation, and two months of service pending from the six we’d paid for, we had around Rs 2800/- at stake, looking at it on a pro rata basis!

So, we decided to go and knock at the doors of Mr Chethan. However, we realised the door we knocked on was not his! When we reached the address given to us by him, we realised that it was not his office and that we were not the first gullible nuts to reach there! There had been several others who had come searching for Chethan, and the people at that address made it very clear that Sify is the worst option we could have gone for. Slow or fast, costly or cheap, good or bad, go for BSNL – at least, they have a permanent office, they said! How true!

We somehow managed to find the address and telephone number of Babuji Cable Vision, the network that Chethan worked for – every time we call, they promise to convey the request to Chethan and send him, but our problem has not been solved till date!

We have decided to forfeit the 2.8K for the sake of peace... unless somebody from Sify reads this and feels it their duty to sort this problem out for us!

(In the background we also applied for a BSNL broadband connection, and got it after four weeks of waiting. That is another story; wait till you hear it. But it’s not half as bad as Sify – I would say it is much better.)

And then there was light!

Where?

Most of the people in Padmanabhanagar, a neighbourhood in Bangalore where I live, say their Good Morning and Good Night, in the darkness -- not really because everybody follows the 'early to bed, early to rise' principle, but more so because this is how bad the power situation in Bangalore is.

The newspapers proclaimed four hour power cuts across Bangalore, as the monsoons had failed, and the dams not being full meant not enough power for the city. But in Padmanabhanagar, we have power only for around four hours a day. Trust me... I drew up this power cut schedule from the past few days:

The first power cut of the day is from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., followed by...
8:30 – 9:30 a.m.
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
12:30 - 2:30 p.m.
3:00 – 3:30 p.m.
4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
7:30 - 8:30 p.m.
9:30 – 10:30 p.m.
Please note that the power cuts are also at the most inconvenient of times!

Why is it that we are suffering such large power cuts, when the rest of Bangalore experiences only 4 hrs or less of power outage? If rumours are true, it is because Padmanabhanagar is Devegowda’s “area” – housing his petrol bunk, hospital as well as homes of his closest kin... and obviously Devegowda is not particularly liked by the current Government.

Well, the monsoons I understand, and the four hours I’m prepared to accept as a price to pay for the damage we’ve caused to nature through modernisation... but from the wrath of the politicians, who will save us! If the rumours are true and we are afflicted by excess power cuts just because we live near Devegowda’s fort, it makes me wonder... we are the ones affected by this, not him... I’m sure he has heavy duty generators running on all his properties! How does it matter to him whether or not the lights burn in our homes?

Thankfully the Sun God does his job reasonably well, or we'd be in the dark for most part of the day too!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Satisfied Squirrel

This morning, as always, I laid out rice under the tree outside our house -- customarily meant for the crows, but always eaten by other animals including a tiny mouse that lives in a hole under the tree. Just when I was about to go back into the house, I heard a happy squeal and turned back, only to see a tiny squirrel eating the rice.

It was interesting and insightful seeing how the squirrel had its fill. It rushed down the tree and took four to five morsels of rice, that is all. Delighted to see its hands FULL of rice, it rushed back up the tree to the lowest branch and happily devoured it. It came back again for two or three more fills, and then rushed away playfully.

In all, it must have had less than one mouthful of rice by our standards, but it seemed so satisfied and happy. The spoonful of rice I served out would have fed four or five squirrels, I guess! And that in itself is a satisfying thought.

Well, it all goes to show just one thing -- satisfaction is relative. We are as happy and satisfied as we want to be!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

India's Cottage Industry Rocks!

Truly, India's cottage industry rocks. The wealth of fabrics and handicrafts that get 'exported' to the cities from our villages and small towns is truly mind-boggling.

But, I wonder where you buy these? Earlier I used to buy them at exhibitions and other handicraft showrooms, but now I feel the best places to buy these from are the government-owned/cooperative stores such as Janatha Bazaar, Cooptex, Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan, Sarvodaya, etc. You get them much, much cheaper!

Imagine getting a beautiful, ethnic pillow cover for Rs 21/- or a classy, aesthetic, durable bed spread for Rs 75/- And oh well, I forgot the 15% seasonal discount on them! These are pretty much the same goods (often from the same manufacturers) that you would buy for triple the price at posh shops!

If the products are so economically-priced and yet durable, why is it that more people don't buy from these cooperative stores? I can only guess. Maybe it's because these stores are very to-the-point without any fancy decor or lighting? Maybe it's because these stores are not given much publicity? Maybe it's because they do not stock 'everything' all the time and only moving stock that matches the season? Well, I would say, that is why they are able to sell at such a price!

Personally speaking, any day, I would prefer to window shop at exhibitions and upmarket stores and then go buy the same products (if available) from the Janatha Bazaars of this world! What if one pillow cover or dupatta fades... 90% of the time I am able to bet on the quality :-)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Thogayal -- ever so versatile!


Have you tasted thogayal/thuvayal before? If you're a south Indian, you're sure to have, else you can try it out now, right in your own kitchen -- I'm sure you'll love it too!

Essentially, thogayal is a spicy variety of chutney made with vegetables/greens, dal etc. Tastes heavenly when mixed with rice, topped with a dash of til oil. Or you could have it as a side-dish along with idli, dosa, puris or the heavenly தயிர் சாதம் (curd rice)!

Curry Leaf Thogayal


One great thing about thogayal is that you can use the same basic recipe for any non-starchy vegetable (radish, beetroot etc), coriander, curry leaves or pudina. Even better, you can use it to imbibe in your diet many nutritious parts of vegetables which we would otherwise discard, such as the flesh of the snake-gourd, the peel of chow-chow, orange peel, etc!!

Here is how you make it...

Fry together a few spoons of urad dal, red chillies (according to taste) and asafoetida. Saute the vegetable/greens/peels. Grind both together, a little coarsely (if it's too fine, it will become sticky when you mix it together with rice).

Easy, isn't it?!!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

My brother's blog

I'm sure you'll love it! He's been blogging much longer than me, and is much more regular too. Plus, he is a great observer -- you'll know from his posts on varied subjects! Check it out... http://gcmouli.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Valid concern...

Around mid-March, our BSNL telephone line was down for over a week, and I had to go to the office every alternate day to find out when it would be fixed. One fine day, I learnt that it was a major breakdown with several lines in the area down, and that it would take a few more days to be fixed. That was when a senior citizen, who had also been regularly wearing out his feet at the steps of the BSNL office lost his cool and raised a very valid concern.

His telephone had been down for more than 10 days, that is, for 1/3rd of the month -- will BSNL reduce the monthly rental paid by him since the service was not available for such a long period, he asked! To a person living out of a small pension, every rupee mattered, and the wastage of 1/3rd of the monthly rental is a big matter of concern. It is a matter of concern for every person, for that matter. He obviously got only a grumble and a curt reply saying the lineman will come (when?) soon.

Despite the emergence of several competitors, and the apparent change in the outlook of government agencies, organisations like BSNL still seem to consider serving the customer with a smile as a favour bequeathed on the latter (at least that is the attitude of most of the old-school customer-facing staff). Needless to say, they will not go out of their way, ever, to make a customer happy. Can you even dream of BSNL giving the concerned citizen a discount on his monthly bill, just because he raised a valid concern. I can definitely think of many MNCs and even proactive Indian private players doing (or at least considering) it.

With the kind of infrastructure and clout that government institutions have, just imagine what a sea change a little change in attitude can bring about. A lot to hope for, but well, some things seem to never change!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fun and Learning at OSIW

(A late but detailed review)

Being part participant, part team-member (on the content planning front), loud devil’s advocate, unconstrained idea-generator, patient ear, and unabashed complainer – or in short, being a pain in the neck – is a tough role, in any event! But I enjoyed being just that, at Open Source India Week 2008 (held from February 11th to 15th 2008 in Bangalore, Mumbai and New Delhi; I attended in Bangalore).

To be frank, there were a lot of little execution goofs – sometimes, the taxis sent to the hotel to pick up the star-speakers didn’t reach on time, a few speakers didn’t turn up, the event managers produced just one ‘master of ceremonies’ for three halls, sometimes it seemed as if there were no schedules although everything looked perfect on paper, and there was no Internet at the venue – God bless those patient souls.

But over all, I enjoyed working with the team – a lot – and it was a valuable learning/networking experience for me too.

Lesson learnt: Events must have a dedicated team for handling logistics, but this team must also be involved right from the planning stage so that they always have a holistic picture of what is happening, where. Execution related errors can be easily avoided and should be -- because it’s these little goofs that irritate both the participants and the organisers!

A wary start

Events are not my cup of tea. I am an editorial person, and understandably, I was wary of joining the team. Of course, others discouraged me too, since Microsoft (well-known element on the hit-list of free/open source software patrons) was also a sponsor. I, however, liked the fact that the organisers were very candid about that. They did not try to con me into joining the team – they made it clear at the very outset that Microsoft was going to be there too. Somehow, that didn’t bother me much, because it’s ultimately about being ‘open’ and letting everybody share their views. Ultimately, the consumer is intelligent and will make the right decision. I never doubt that. In fact, as a consumer, I believe I am intelligent too – I only use what works best for me!

Plus, the organisers offered me a role in the content-planning front, which frankly was just one step away from what I do for the magazines I work with. The content in this case would be presented and not written, and I’d have to interact with speakers and not authors. I also liked the fact that the goals of the event were good, and the positioning was different – it was an event targeted at those who knew the basics, it was meant to be a meeting ground for professionals already in the field of FOSS and IT to top up their knowledge and discover the latest in FOSS.

As a silent reviewer, however, I was a wee bit saddened because somehow the goals were not publicised much amongst the targeted audience – the turnout was not as much as it could have been, and the saddest part was that some later said, “Oh, it sounds interesting but we never knew about it, or we’d definitely have come.”

Lesson learnt: It’s not enough if you put together a good event, you need to publicise it too, because the right audience is an important part of the overall dynamics. And this needs to be done not just through ads but also through social-networking and other online modes – let’s say, PR is as important as the ads. Plus, it needs to be done on an ongoing basis – throughout the year, to keep the buzz alive.
That said, it was a very interesting few months -- interacting with speakers, understanding the topics they'd like to speak on, checking the 'match' of the topics with the various segments of the audience, finalising the topics, etc.

Interesting stuff, and pet projects

As a participant, I thought the content overall was well-planned (obviously, I didn’t plan all of it ;-)), and I found interesting discussions happening in many of the halls, anytime I stepped in for a sneak peek. Web development, mobile applications, open-sourced hardware-software platforms (such as the T-Engine/T-Kernel embedded systems platform), virtualisation, and a whole lot of interesting topics were covered – and the general impression was that the erstwhile LinuxAsia had grown in coverage in sync with the increased scope of its name!

Two of my favourite workshops (well, to be frank, it’s these two that lured me to work with the LinuxAsia team) were the ones on accessibility and FOSS-based entrepreneurship.

Accessibility is a significant issue today, and all the speakers (and the audience) were very clear about the fact that no proprietary software offers the specially-abled users as much freedom and accessibility as open sourced ones. The speakers demonstrated accessibility features in desktop environments and browsers, the possibilities that open source opens up in this front, and also certain challenges faced currently, which developers could help overcome. Klaus and Adrianne Knopper of Knoppix and ADRIANE (desktop environment for the visually-challenged) fame, Krishnakant Mane of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research who demonstrated accessibility features in software such as Mozilla Firefox, Amartyo Bannerjee, Teresa and Arun Mehta who spoke on computing for those with autism and cerebral palsy, and C Umashankar, managing director of ELCOT who showcased their work in that space and the general relevance of accessibility – every talk was valuable to users and developers.

FOSS.biz, a workshop on FOSS-based entrepreneurship was another interesting session that saw a packed hall and tremendous interaction between the audience and the panellists. The two panel discussions focused on tech-entrepreneurship on a broad level before zooming into the growth in FOSS-based entrepreneurship (and investments therein) across the globe. Many insights arose from the experienced panellists such as investors Alok Mittal and Ashish Gupta, technologists Brian Behlendorf and David Axmark, and open source advocates like Dr. Anthony Wasserman.

India needs more entrepreneurs now, as that’s the only way we can capitalise on our intellectual capital in a sustainable way, in the long-term. And FOSS breaks down some of the entry-barriers, allowing more people to start their own companies. While the investors made it clear that their evaluation of a project would be agnostic of whether it is open sourced or not, they did highlight the global trends in FOSS-based entrepreneurship and discuss the advantages therein. This workshop was organised in association with investment firm, Canaan Partners.

Not to forget the interesting panel discussion on mobile technologies – the topics discussed ranged from the need for standardisation to make life easier for developers, to better usability, and the desire for virtualisation on the mobile. Channelling the insights of experienced technologists such as Chiaki Ishikawa of the T-Engine Forum and J Satyamoorthy from Red Hat’s Jboss team, Narendra Bhandari of Intel did a superb job of chairing this panel – he left the organisers in total awe, thanks not only to the way he conducted the discussion on stage but also by how he managed to keep an eye on all the panellists to ensure none of them went missing minutes before the discussion was set to happen!


The summits saw a focused audience

I did not have much to do with organising the summits and couldn’t attend any but the CTOSummit in Bangalore (since it is quite closely linked to technology) – but I think it is a superb strategy to shape OSIW into a set of sub-events, including these summits. Unlike a campus event (such as, say, the TechZone of OSIW), in a summit, the audience is limited but extremely focused. Even when a summit is planned or publicised, the profile of the typical attendee is also planned. So, the speakers can also target their talks well; plus, since the audience has similar interests, there is a very vibrant interaction also.

The CTOSummit held at the Taj Westend, Bangalore, was very nice – the panel discussions as well as the interaction with the audience. Frankly, to the extent that I attended, and from the point of view of ‘i.t.’ magazine (which I consult for) and as a journalist, I found this session most interesting – as every panel discussion spelt the latest in technology, what’s hot, what’s not, innovations, and opportunities to be tapped.

Lessons learnt: The exhibitors expressed a very valid desire to have booth-space available at the venue of the CTOSummit, since the audience comprises decision-makers who are more likely to act (first-hand) upon what they see than the mixed audience seen at the campus event (TechZone). Maybe next year?

I only wish I’d also been able to fly over some of the Bangalore traffic and make it in time to have a proper lunch with the attendees at the summit! No, no, it’s not just about the food (that’s there too!). It’s because, as a friend once told me, the real conference always happens when the conference isn’t happening – and lunch times are crucial to get a feel of the audience, their preferences and what they really think about an event! Hmm, maybe it’s not too late… you can mail me your ideas, even now!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Surprise, I'm back!

First of all, a breaking news, for those of you who don't already know -- we're back in India now! We relocated from Sydney to Bangalore in November 2007, after Vikram completed his project there. It's been an enjoyable and hectic time, and -- to be very frank -- my blog got relegated to the least priority as there were so many other things to do! But last week, a PR professional mailed me asking for my phone number so that she could arrange for an interview with her client (whom I wanted to discuss my next article topic with) -- and she was very surprised when I gave her a Bangalore number. "I saw your blog and thought you were in Sydney," she exclaimed. Well, if that isn't wake-up call enough to make me turn to my blog again, what is!

So, to bring you up to speed with the past few months...

Our last few months in Sydney were very eventful, beautiful and memorable. Apart from catching up with friends and shopping trips, we also visited some very interesting places including the heritage suburb called Paramatta, a lot of Hindu temples, and the Wollongong Buddhist Temple. Thinking that we should compliment all the cultural experiences with a splash of adventure too, we went on a whale-watching trip! But I must admit, it was enjoyable only till we sighted the whales. The return back to the shores was not that enjoyable, no thanks to nausea. We just stopped short of throwing up, but the sight of a lot of people around us doing so was not so enviable :-) But in all, it was a beautiful time, and we wound it up in a very fitting manner, by spending our last few evenings In Sydney with friends, or lounging at Circular Quay and Darling Harbour reminiscing.

Back in Bangalore, India now, we've rented a nice, homely house in Padmanabha Nagar, Banshankari, surrounded by temples and marketplaces. Fortunately, this locality is still old Bangalore, untouched to a large extent by the mall-culture that the growth of the IT industry has brought with it. It is so nice out here that it truly feels like we're back in India.

I'm enjoying the same old pleasures of working from home, spending lots of time with my husband and our families, making masala chai when I feel sleepy, buying vegetables right outside the house, and the luxury of having the newspaper and milk delivered at the doorstep every morning. Vikram and I have been travelling a lot since we returned to India -- catching up on social commitments and time with our families. And we're loving every minute.