Back to Bharat

June 10, 2018

Infrastructure but no people investment in schooling.

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 13:26

Read a report about how laptops distributed in Rajasthan to school-kids were lying unused. What does one expect from a system that is willing to invest in half baked equipment but not in people?

On Sept 29, 2016 I donated 2 laptops to the Nareguda ZPHS in Vikarabad Dst. Photos from that are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Gd1m7U3PSfvVvgFR8.

Since that time, I have been trying out a few core ideas at this school:

  1. Skill labs where experts can interact with children in ZPHS. Document that describes some of the details is here. I and  Dr Konda Kishore have started a lab at the Nareguda ZPHS. A few videos are here. 
  2. Automatic vending machine to give nutrition based food. Design is here.
  3. Continuous assessment of students and teachers. A part of this was tried out during my stint at CMU Africa, and I will be trying that more seriously a the ZPHS. Maybe by end of 2018, I should have more definite progress on this.
Advertisements

March 17, 2018

Different rooms for men and women

Filed under: politics, religion, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 23:26

A few months back, I and my wife were invited to the 1st birthday of our friends son. The family was in India on a visit from the United States to renew their H1B visas. As part of the trip, my friend was celebrating his sons’ first birthday. As I reached the venue, I called my friend for directions; he told me over the phone: “Yaar tu pehle aajaa. Phir gaadi park karke famliy ko laana” (You come first, we will go to the car; I will show you where to park and drop the family).

I hugged him and said “Yaar, bhaabhi kahaan hai? Beta kahaan hai?” (Where is your wife? Where is your son?).  My friend pointed out: “Yaar, unka entrance is taraf hai. Woh hamaare me ladies alag baithte hai naa.” (Friend, the entrance for ladies and children is elsewhere. In our custom, women sit away from men). I was surprised. I was further dismayed to see that the location had well-lit promenade entrance for men. Women had to go through a dimly lit narrow lane, and take an even more narrow side door. A set of stairs took them through a narrow corridor up into a hall for the ladies. Outside the separate hall, all ladies had to wear burqa. The ladies also could not come into the enclosure where the men were dining. I protested and said: “Yaar, you never do this in the US. Why here?” He had no answer for me.

My driver later asked me: “Sir, why were there only men at the event? And why did madam go to a different location? That entrance was not good sir. Is this a Muslim event?”. I had no answer for him.

In parts of Hyderabad, several marriage/party halls have separate sections for men and women. They advertise this feature openly. Everyone in Hyderabad knows that in Muslim events, women rarely come out. Even if they do, they sit in a different place.  In some cases, there is also a possibility to have a different level of service offered in these two sections.

In an article written by Mr Harsh Mander,  he says: “…speakers lament the political consensus across the spectrum that Muslims are a political liability”. Mr Mander says that all Muslims are abandoned. But are they? Indian society is one of the most pluralistic. It has the third largest Muslim population in the world [Source]. The number of Muslims in India is close to the Muslim population of all the Middle East countries added together. India is the only secular democracy with such a wide variety of religions in significant numbers. True, countries like the US and France have secular constitutions, but their individual minorities are less than 1% of the population.

Modern society has identified many ways of grouping people: religious, ethnic, economic etc. Society MUST create secular framework to accommodate a common interest. But each group also MUST accommodate the requirements of secular society.

Mr Mander, the real sad part is this:

A entire community is not allowed to celebrate cultural events with both sexes in a single room. Leaders of that community openly support many other glaring discriminations in plain sight. And no political party has the courage to suggest that this needs to change. Every religion will try its best to interfere in the public life of an individual. And every Govt must deny that to every religion. It is dangerous for political parties to be partial and allow one or the other religion to take over public life. Till this partiality continues, we will have a Surya and a Sayyed who cannot share a common space. Till this partiality continues, we will have vote banks governing in the name of democracy.

No religious group is perfect. Hindu society is trying very hard to remove its own share of drawbacks. (I am not going to discuss the definition of Hindu). We are fighting female infanticide, dowry, discriminatory religious practices, and Inshaallah we will win against these ills. We need many like you to point out ills in the religious community and also point out possible solutions.

But in the name of Ram, Rahim, or maybe the Indian constitution,  will the Muslims accept reform? Will they say that we do not need to marry four women, we do not need a separate MPLB (Muslim Personal Law Board), or at the very least do not need different entrances to our marriage halls? Often times, burqa is defended saying that it empowers/protects women from unruly elements in the public space. I wonder what empowerment or protection is obtained by having separate areas in an event like birthday, marriage, engagement, eid, or for that matter in a mosque?

No group will leave its familiar customs and practices easily. They will use every rule and ruse to ensure that status quo continues to be maintained. Every group has to be coerced into following the common minimum. The Congress is completely complicit in ensuring that Muslims were never asked to introspect. Ergo, Muslims were never able to reform. In doing so, the Congress has ensured that these Minorities always stand out as a different group.

I dont know if the BJP will be any better. The BJP will cause more harm if it pushes the appeasement pendulum to the other side. Sections of the BJP are showing signs of rabble rousing. Secularism is a process of ensuring everyone reaches a common ground, while retaining their independent thought. It is a complex phenomena. Political parties have to raise to the occasion and be bi-partisan.

The full comment by Harsh Mander:

Over the past months, I have been urged to join a series of meetings called by Muslim leaders and youth. The mood is always sombre, submerged in despair. In these meetings, speakers lament the political consensus across the spectrum that Muslims are a political liability. Political parties are unwilling to field Muslim candidates, to speak of issues of violence and discrimination that afflict large Muslim populations, even to openly seek Muslim votes. In one of these meetings, a prominent Dalit leader said, “By all means come in large numbers to our rallies. But don’t come with your skullcaps and burkas.”

This article says that Darul Uloom Deoband has instructed Madrassas to not accept Govt grants because they do not want to follow Govt regulations. The Darul calls this “Govt interference”. Is this a right step for the unity and secularism of our country? To quote the article:

We have our own disciplinary codes, uniforms as well as syllabus to follow and don’t want the government interfering in these matters. We don’t want the government to ask us for details of daily attendance of students and teachers and other such things.

January 23, 2018

Different title, same content

Filed under: India, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 10:17

The same news article with a different title can give readers very different impressions to readers.

For instance, take this article in the Indian Express of Jan 23 2018. The title is:

Original version used by IE (Version 1): SC panel chief Ram Shankar Katheria ‘threatens’ cop in audio clip gone viral: Are you challenging Yogi? [This is clearly against the minister and favors cops]

Instead of this, let us change the title to the following:

Version 2: SC panel chief takes exception to cops who clear local SC/ST bazaar – Says Minorities commission will take action against errant officer. [For the minister, but paints cops as anti-SC]

Version 3: SC panel chief vs cops enforcing anti-encroachment. Who is correct?  [Borderline neutral in comparison with V1 and V2, but favors cops]

Version 4: SC panel chief pulls up cops who cleared minorities from the local bazaar. [Borderline neutral as compared to V1 and V2, but against cops]

Let the content be exactly the same, the title will totally change the readers perspective. And in these days of 100 media channels, who reads the article? At least in case of this specific article, it is mentioned that the minister was chairperson of National Commission for Scheduled Caste. I have seen articles that much worse in taking journalistic liberties.

Disclaimer: I am not against or for any specific party, person. But I do feel media is wielding undue influence. The article is reproduced below for those who wish to read the whole thing:

In An audio clip that is being shared online, a voice, purportedly that of National Commission for Scheduled Caste chairperson and Agra MP from the BJP Ram Shankar Katheria, is heard threatening a policeman.

The clip begins with a man addressing Sub-Inspector Mahesh Pal Yadav, in-charge of Bodala outpost in Agra. He claimed he was calling from the “MP’s house”, and that several people had arrived there complaining that Yadav did not allow them to hold a bazaar in the area. He seemed to be referring to an anti-encroachment drive in the area earlier. The S-I is purportedly heard saying he was merely following instructions of the SSP.

The man then ostensibly hands over the phone to Katheria. “Mahesh Pal Yadav-ji, Yadav ho tou gunda to nahi na ho tum. Yogi ko challenge karte ho?… Naukri kha jaunga aur jail bhej doonga dubara bakwas ki to (You maybe a Yadav but you are no thug. You dare challenge Yogi?… You will be dismissed and sent to jail if you do any mischief again),” the voice is heard telling the S-I.

Jis SC ki tune pitai ki hai usse application likh kar commission se tere khilaf FIR karke jail bhej doonga aise gundai dubara ki toh. Woh ro raha hai jisko danda mara hai. Commission me likh kar usse application likha le to zamanat nahi hogi aur naukri mein kabhi promotion nahi hoga. (Will get an application from the SC person you assaulted and send it to SC Commission to register an FIR against you and send you to jail, if you try that again. The victim is crying… You will not get bail if he sends an application and you will never get a promotion.)”

A voice — purportedly S-I Yadav’s — is then heard saying that he had not assaulted anyone and neither did he have anything against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. SSP Agra Amit Pathak said an inquiry will be conducted into the audio.

Despite several attempts, The Indian Express could not reach S-I Yadav or Katheria for a comment.

 

 

 

 

November 9, 2017

Science Exhibition

Filed under: education, governance, India, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 16:03

I was invited to judge a science exhibition today. I never realized that this innocent participation on my behalf would be a Pretoria moment. Students had to prepare mock ups on one of the following topics: Software development life cycle, Innovation in computer science, Different types of software systems, eGovernance, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Networking, Real life uses of computers, Innovation using computers, evolution of operating systems. The students had to prepare posters describing the topic, speak about it, and then demonstrate any working prototype, if they had one. The posters were very colorful and meticulously prepared. Barring few, all the students had parroted a script and were repeating whatever was written on their respective posters. However, many students did not even know the meanings of the terms they had used.

The very first team I had spoken to was from Andhra Pradesh. There were two children manning the poster. I asked the name of one girl. “Sharada (name changed) sir, from ABC school.” I asked the other girl for her name. She showed a shy smile and took a step back. Sharada said: “Sir, she is just there to hold the poster”. I said: “It is OK, let her give the name”. Mahita, it was. Sharada started with her demonstration on the evolution of operating systems. She got stuck several times in between. For a student of class 8, it was a bit odd that she had not tried to learn the basics of what she was presenting. A lot of effort had gone into designing cardboard models of computers, paper mache models of an RTOS, several Android phones, and even the scale model of a city. But she clearly lacked knowledge of the topic. Unfortunately for her, the poster holder Mahita also ended up answering a question. Sharada was peeved, not at her own lack of depth but at the ignominy of a “helper” answering her question.

Raj, a student of class 9 was presenting on eGovernance. His presentation covered a slew of ideas: eBanking, eHospitals, eRegistration, eLearning, eEverything. I asked him: “Are there any disadvantages of eGovernance”. Raj: “People are losing jobs due to eGovernance and Govt has to provide replacement jobs. Govt cannot provide jobs anymore. Google is doing a project along with TCS to replace education systems. They will covert everything to a e-Sysytem, and provide jobs”. Clearly surprised, I asked: “Son, who gave you such information?”. Raj: “Sir, you may not know everything. My father is a professor in the computer science department at AU in Vizag. He told me all this”. I asked: “What is his name?”. “Sai Bhaskar” came the reply. I asked: “Dr Sai Bhaskar?”. Raj replied: “No sir, only Sai Bhaskar. He was a professor, now he is not a professor”. After we left his table, he came up walking towards us and said – “Sir, how do we prevent hacking? What can be done to prevent people from taking money from ATM machines after hacking them? I heard that hackers can use ultrasound to break into computers. Flipkart once crashed because of this.”

Sukesh from Bangalore, participating in the innovation section spoke about “LiFi”. In his demo, the audio out of an android phone and a 2.5v battery was connected to an LED. The LED was shining brightly, likely from the 2.5 v battery. The audio out was also connected to a small computer speaker. The speaker was getting power from the mains, and also had a solar panel taped to it. His claim was that when the LED was on, and placed close to the solar panel, the speakers were having more amplitude. I asked Sukesh: “How do you know this is due to LiFi.” Sukesh hold the speaker up, close to his ear and says: “Hear it sir, it is louder”. I did not have the heart to even correct him.

There were other bloopers in the science meet, but Sukesh was the most jarring. I could not comprehend how the school teachers could allow such shallow presentations to come to a regional competition. I dont know if it is a failure of the system, parents, or some strange phenomena within children. I am seriously terrified of the future prospects of my nation.

This is the first school exhibition I attended. Over the next few weeks, I will try to attend other science meets. I hope there will be some succour to be found.

PS: All names and location details have been changed.

November 8, 2017

What is boring?

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 08:49

A decade ago, I had started the branch of an NGO in Buffalo, NY. I bought pizza for the group and displayed T shirts with the India flag. It was a beautiful summer day, with the meeting held in my friends dorm room. The meeting encouraged people to do their bit for their home country. It showed a video of kids playing in a Govt school, villagers lining up for medical treatment, and farmers holding up produce. Yes, the meeting was very productive. It laid the seeds for an organization that ended up generating a lot of goodwill and money for projects back home. And yes, the meeting was not boring. It had just enough content to make people open their purse, and stopped just at the time when they needed to get back to their lives. It was nice – life continued and everyone felt good.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that people were OK to open their purse strings as long as they “felt good” about it. If you made them too uncomfortable, or questioned their status quo, they will instantly grimace. You cannot tell them they were wrong. You cannot show them their own biases. They had worked hard to get where they were. I also realized that it is difficult to continue being in corporate world, raise questions, and be truthful at the same time. My own personal situation was at odds with my belief system. This, after ticking all the right boxes in the roles of engineer, son, husband, and father (pun intended). However, I could not tell anyone that these roles were incorrectly defined and must be changed. I realized these discussions were just intellectual games. No one really wanted (or had the capacity) to make a difference. They wanted to enjoy the perception of contributing. It is not wrong to enjoy. It is just that I do not prefer such enjoyment. Life as it is, is awesome. The sun rises with a brilliance each day, flowers blossom, butterflies kiss, leaves fall and new leaves grow without being asked. I have a great family, and mostly I do not have to lie or cheat for my living. I enjoy every moment of life as it is. I am not doing social service to enjoy :). I am only attempting to change my personal situation to bring it in line with my beliefs.

Cut to the present world. Someone very senior said that discussion about the needs of people and economy is boring. I baulked. I almost felt as though I was talking to a stone wall (or walls). It was not just 20-somethings which needed pizza to make them think about society. We have gotten to an unfortunate state where even individuals who have “made it” need to be entertained before they discuss anything of substance. They have to be entertained even more before they do something. Parents do not realize that their options about society do not just effect their children, it effects the surroundings in which every child will grow/live.

Since a few years ago, I had stopped talking in public about my plans in rural development, and my own transformation. I try to focus on doing the work instead of speaking about it. I consciously decided to speak only in 1-1. Even then, I avoided talking to adults until pushed, preferring to spend time with children. Of late, I let my guard down among some friends and “like-minded” people. I responded to someone wanting to discuss. I thought they were honest. I did not think they would be bored. My bad.

 

October 23, 2017

Freelance Cheating.

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 16:52

I was exploring software freelancing and wanted to see what kind of jobs do people put there. I created a login on http://www.freelancer.in. What I saw was disturbing to say the least.

Project number “15462213”:

It was someones homework on Decision trees. The description is here.

Project number “15399788” (There were 14 bids for this; the project was even awarded).

I’m looking for a Indian male expert in Data scientist related field with data science, statistical analysis, machine learning , Hive, PIG,SQL, Python or R. Need good communication skills and available to take proxy phone interview in US CST time zone during working hours. I will send the job description. There might be multiple phone interview rounds, and the funds will only be transferred only if the interview is success and the candidate is selected. No bidding more than $750.

freelancer

Project “15435278“:

Write 2 pages PhD Proposal

Any topic related to any area from these, Visual and Data Analysis in Disease Diagnosis, Medical Image Analysis with Pattern Recognition, Drug Design by Visualization and Machine Learning Approach, Mining Protein and Genome Regulatory Networks using Graphic Models, Knowledge Discovery for RNA Structure and Function, Deep Learning Approach and its Applications, Speech Therapy and Data Mining.

October 19, 2017

Krishna leela and metoo…

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 00:33

I saw a photo being circulated by a few friends about metoo. I did not like it. I thought the photo was unrelated to metoo, and it was in extremely poor taste. The photo completely mis represents Krishna leela. I tried arguing with a friend about it… I decided to document those ramblings here…

Me:

Like you say, one sees what one sees.

My points are:
1) Why bring religion into the context of #metoo? Does it help the matter at hand? If not, then why use the graphic?

2) Side effects of such memes. This image is deeply related to Hindu religion. Are all Hindus bigots? Are only Hindus bigots? Let us say you designed something similar in “religion X”, what image will it send of “religion X”? Is that the true image of all members of that religion?

When I was told this story, there were many versions: was that the Gopikas were sages who were taken by Rama’s good looks. The benevolent Rama takes Krishna avatara to abide by their wishes. In this particular leela, the gopikas complain that it is wrong of Krishna, who is a God, to behave immorally and steal their clothes. Krishna preaches that if I am indeed God, then why have shame. And if I am indeed God, you were sages in your previous birth. Was it not wrong of you to get taken by my good looks?

Oh and there are other versions – that the Gopikas were praying to Godess Parvati so they may get Krishna as their husband. Krishna does this act to ask them – how can all of you want to marry me? Apparently, Gopikas commit an error by getting fully unclothed. When one is conducting specific pujas, they cannot be completely naked in a river. He also reminds that they were not doing their Puja properly.

But yes… One can see what one wants to see.

Friend:

Are all Hindus bigots? I don’t know, you tell me…

I haven’t seen marital and other major poojas performed by females yet. Till recently females weren’t even allowed in sanctum sanctorums of many temples. I don’t even want to get into the issue of non-Brahmin priests. I welcome you to notice similar facts in other religions.

For a lot of people the concept of good, bad and sin comes from religion. So from a cause and effect stance, maybe if religion didn’t have male bigotry, then we’d have seen lesser numbers of “me too” on our FB feeds.

Me:

You say that because pujas are done by men, means that they are somehow hand in glove for crimes against women. By extension, this must be true of Jews, Christians, Muslims… No organized religion has significant female priestly numbers. Many commercial organizations are also top-heavy with men.

Most drivers of public services (refer, buse drivers, train drivers, airplane pilots) all over the world are men. So, does it mean public transport utilities have an ulterior motive to keep women from travelling? After football matches in UK, people routinely get rowdy. Does it mean you ban all matches?

Most air hostesses, nurses, school teachers, home makers were women, what unique quality do they posses for that role? Was that done deliberately by women so that men may be forced to take on other dangerous jobs? Was that done so that they may dominate men by taking on such roles? The feminist will give you one answer, the MCP will give you an antipodal response.

Time wise, recorded history is a blip compared to the history of evolution. The female species in homo sapiens has taken on many convenient roles by staying at home (or cave). Men, on the other hand have been forced to hunt, gather and take on relatively strenuous tasks. It is in the last 10-20K years or so that things were worse off for women. That too, pure numbers wise, I am not so sure. One must check the sex ratio of casualties in famines, wars, and work related events. Being at home sure beats running off to a war or slogging out in a farm, or a construction site.

Contrast this with lions, where the males do time pass, and females do all the hard work. The bloddy males even kill cubs that the females reared with such care. Or with snakes and fishes, where some female species eat the male.

We can be pessimistic and say that such a social evolution in homo sapiens was deliberately malicious. We can be optimistic and say that OK, shit happened as an accident of history. Let us work together fix it. BTW, I am not trying to justify crimes against someone. Terrible wrongs were committed. Yes. But was everyone in that group malicious, I do not know?

And in using these classic men vs women arguments, does it mean that there is no sexual exploitation of men? Does it mean that female bosses do not discriminate against men? This is a human problem. Not a problem of one group vs the other. The shaming of one group en masse to favour another only leads to more divisions. This is more so when you twist the context of a belief completely and use that to make a point.

It is the same bloddy tu tu main mai everywhere. The religious will look at the rationalist with suspicion. And the rationalist will shoo away the religious. I guess… What do I know, I am just a figment of my imagination.

This is the photo in question; I think it does not represent Krishna Leela:

metoo

August 31, 2017

Morality vs Consciousness

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 18:06

Modern authors often make the claim that India does not have a good sense of morality. They are true. But, they forget that India has something much more comprehensive: Dharma. Modernists selectively apply their vast troves of arguments to put down Indian philosophy and thought. Case in point is an article from the Indian Express, written by the VC of the Ashoka University.

The article first starts by saying that consciousness contains confusions and has distorted Indian life. It dwells into the ever-popular subject of Manu, as thought that was the only moral system in India. It further celebrates that there exists no concept equivalent to morality in Indian psyche. Unfortunately, they ignore other forms of morality preached in India – specifically in the form of dharma. The article asks:

“How does the discourse of evolved consciousness relate to the mutilating realities of social power, as embodied in institutions like caste? “

The article fails to elaborate that Indian psyche is also composed of many more nuanced expressions. Its borders are demarcated by neither Consciousness, nor by Manu.

August 29, 2017

Teenagers sell blood for food

Filed under: social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 18:29

It will not be surprising to see the above headline after a few decades, or a few years. If we go by this article on BBC, a Stanford/Princeton grad started a company called Ambrosia that is experimenting on injecting the blood of young people into older individuals. The claims, as per the article:

“It could help improve things such as appearance or diabetes or heart function or memory. These are all the aspects of ageing that have a common cause.

Each procedure costs $8,000 (£6,200) and sees the patient injected with two and a half litres of plasma – the liquid element of blood that remains after other cells have been removed – taken from young people.

I am fantasizing here, and grossly exaggerating. But, it still rankles me to think that several people actually came forward to buy the plasma. I guess this is civilization.

 

Same day, another article about a teenager (18 year old) girl committed suicide in full view of the social media. Apparently, 10 minutes before her death:

She spoke unsentimentally of her 19th birthday, which was to arrive three days after her death: “I was supposed to do something this weekend for my birthday. But in the end it’s not happening, I mean I can’t go – because of this thing.”

 

 

July 30, 2017

Advertizing articles

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 22:05

Will it engage?

Will the engagement sell?

These are the two most popular  questions  that every business asks these days. Nothing else matters. This has been a common grouse for me ever since I graduated from school. I was hoping that my education was intended to make this world a better place. But most of it is designed to entertain the world.

The article I read on medium today reflected this. Irony is that, it appeared on my facebook wall. 🙂 Below is an image from that article.

advertizing_news.png

The knowledge of how to reliably hijack the human brain for attention is one of the most significant new trends of the 21st century. This discovery, like every large-scale invention in our history, has unexpected outcomes that are difficult to predict.

If we wish to continue to live in a common reality, we must be willing to look at these outcomes with a clear head. Addressing our biggest issues as a species — from climate change, to pandemics, to poverty — requires us to have a common narrative of the honest problems we face: Real threats. Real reasons for outrage.

This article throws light on how propaganda was used to fight wars. Ads drive our world every day and every moment. Ads moved from selling features of the product to saying: “Use this product, it will make you happy, more manly, or more beautiful.”. This was called lifestyle advertizing. For example, in order to sell cigarettes, the ads started saying that cigarettes are manly (Remember the Marlboro man?).

Unfortunately, these days we have other forms: news + advertising, opinion + advertising, lifestyle + advertising. In the days of commercialization, TRPs and razor thin profit margins, a gram of truth is mixed with a ton of lies and passed off as the “news of the day”, “opinion of the day”, or “trend of the day”. This is used to guide public opinion from political affiliation to lifestyle choices.

No one really tries to think if something really is useful to them or if something is correct. “The newspaper says so, so it must be correct”, “the blog says so, so it must be correct”. When we will think for ourselves?

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.