Author Archive

Featurette: Rama Devi, Vision Entrepreneur extraordinaire

July 23, 2008

Footage of my co-workers at VisionSpring (formerly Scojo Foundation).

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Family portraits at the Lifespring Hospital Mother’s Day Fair

May 11, 2008

Family portrait

Find more Lifespring family portraits here.

Family Style

April 29, 2008

Tinda-ma! (Let’s eat!) is my favorite thing to say around here. The entire office (Eleven of us) gets together in the conference room for lunch every day without fail.  Everyone brings food from home and takes a little from others without question.  It is family style at its best. (Today, Vipin specially brought me Puri that his wife made – Ah Mazing).  I never leave the room without learning something new about India.  Like why the communist party is so successful in West Bengal, or how silk worms make silk or how Tata decided to made the Nano…  It’s a massive gift for someone new in these here parts.

But back to the family: We have ear-splitting debate and wide-open criticisms, people getting help with personal problems and more than our fair share of hysterical laughter.  It’s one of the great benefits of only being eleven people; You have no choice but to invest in each other because there is nowhere to hide.  As my friend Charles Warren used to say, “innovation needs intimacy”.  IMHO, this kind of homestyle environment is what’s missing from a lot of big companies.

Say the secret code

March 3, 2008

I’m in a convenience store in a small town south of Chennai and I meet this guy, Kannan, who runs it.  Never seen this guy in my life.  He’s a congenial kind of fellow: Big smile, straight-talking, laid-back.  I had bought a bottle of water from him a few hours back and he mentioned he could help me rent a moped if I wanted one.  So I had thought about it and came back to ask about it… can you help me find a moped?  “Everything is possible,” he says.  Little did he know, these are the code words into my secret society.  On hearing this, I extend my hand to shake his and ask if I can sit a spell.  Forget about the moped ride – this is the kind of person I want to spend more time with.  Turns out, he’s 25.  He makes 2000 rupees a month ($50) working 30 days out of 31.  He grew up living on the streets of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.  He has apparently mastered the English language with no formal training.  His father is dead and was only good for drinking and making babies anyway.  His mother doesn’t work and needs to go to the hospital for a nerve problem every few days.  They have no assets, no way to save and no insurance.  His sister who lives in a big house in Kerala won’t help out.  His uncle who gave a damn is now in the sky.  And yet, after all this, Kannan still has the optimism to smile and say “everything is possible”.

He previously had his own shop (a sculpture gallery) but some Kashmiris came and offered his landlord an irresistible sum of money for the space.  I guess that’s what’s happening all around – The price of real estate is skyrocketing and forcing people out of prime areas. 

The boss man comes into the store, needing drinks for his upcoming card game.  He points out a few things with the inventory, gives his daughters some candy and leaves.  Meanwhile, Kannan is stuck in the store everyday, treading water, waiting for the day when he can re-open his own store.  He’s clearly a highly capable person.  But can he make the leap with only one day a month to think about it and a mother to care for at home?

Watermelons

February 29, 2008

Watermelons
by Charles Simic

Green Buddhas
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.

Gemütlichkeit

February 19, 2008

Gemütlichkeit (pronounced /gəˈmyːtlɪçkaɪt/) is a German abstract noun whose closest English equivalent is “Cosiness.” However, rather than merely describing a place as not too large, well-heated and nicely furnished (a cosy room, a cosy flat), Gemütlichkeit connotes the notion of belonging, social acceptance, cheerfulness, the absence of anything hectic and the opportunity to spend quality time.

Gemütlichkeit is the word the International Herald Tribune describes the feeling of Munich, #1 on it’s list of “the world’s top 10 most liveable cities”. Love this word.

Colorful procession

February 17, 2008

Why sleep?

February 15, 2008

I couldn’t. So I went to see what all the noise was about.

This made me miss home

February 14, 2008

Time-lapse photography of a foggy day in San Francisco.

TFN Redux

February 13, 2008

We chit-chatted.  We played ukulele tunes adapted to the mandolin. We shared the best part of our 2007s.  I finished Slaughterhouse Five.  One new person came all the way from Japan for this event and has decided to stay in Hyderabad (in part) because of Technology-Free Night.  Social impact portfolio results: strong to very strong.  This was a totally carbon-neutral event, not counting the transportation costs of imported cheese.  Consider it a ritual.  Jawad, next time you can join us in spirit