Friday, November 13, 2015

Light(e)ning event

It so happened that I was walking back home and I got struck by lightning. Or the remnants of a lightning. My umbrella sparked. I screamed and rushed to the side of the road. As I waited for the rain to subside, which never happened, I just thought about what happened. The sound, the scream,  the spark. I tweeted about this because I thought this was so cool!

Meanwhile, as I continued my wait, I saw a kid trying to extend his hand out to check if it was raining. His dad yelled at him for doing that! According to the dad, the kid could have just looked at the road, and seen the rain drops falling, bouncing, or whatever. And there was another instance where the dad yelled at the kid for trying to be experimentative. While I controlled my views about this kid's dad's behaviour, I decided to walk home. I thought about the physics. I thought Benjamin Franklin. I also thought about the need to have plastic  wood umbrellas...

I walked home. Looked it up on the internet, if such things occur. Apparently, yes.

I then told this to some friends and some of them suggested that I should start experimenting if I have acquired any super powers. This blog post is to report that no super powers have yet been discovered. Maybe I already have some. (Yes, I agree we all have our own super powers). Anyway, what are some super powers that I should test myself for?

"Kuch na kuch toh hote hi rehta hai tere saath", as said by my dear friend Ruju.

"Yes amma, I am alive. No, my height hasn't reduced"

"Okay, but in exchange I get to take you to the ceiling and throw you off to see if you can fly", another friend. Oh god!

Me: "My umbrella sparked"
Asid: "Haha. New souvenir"

"You qualify now! Quit your job right away, I say : P"
- sent by my dear Bhuv

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Scribing for the blind

This weekend I had the opportunity to be a scribe at the Little Flower Convent School for the Deaf and Blind. I found out about this volunteering opportunity through an email in the CTC (Chennai Trekking Club) group. As I work on weekdays, I signed up to volunteer on Saturday.

I just knew that I would have to write the Computer Science exam for a student studying in Class 12. I did not have any more information. I thought this was a nice opportunity to interact with blind children and know more about their lifestyle.

On Saturday, I found myself sitting under a tree in the school compound. The school is really beautiful. Lot of trees, play ground and classrooms. It was green and breezy! At 10 am, the teacher directed us to the examination hall. There were eight 11th standard girls and seven 12th standard girls. We were 16 volunteers (I think).

As I entered the exam hall, at the start of the exam, I looked at the smiling students, and smiled. The way we smile to say hi or to acknowledge someone. And then the truth dawned upon me. This happened several times in the span of 3 hours.

The teacher had printed the questions on papers, spread them on a desk (blank side facing up) and the students had to pick one of the questions. Remember our good old science lab exams? The teacher told them which question they had picked. Some of them were disappointed at the question which they happened to pick. Again, remember those lab exams? One of them was super happy for what she picked. Ha, every class has such a student!

I accompanied one of the students, A, to a classroom. Once we got to know each other a bit, she instructed me how she wanted the margins on the paper. Then she told me where to write the date, the page number, her name, subject etc. She knew what she wanted! Heading in the center, date on the left and name on the right. Top margin needs to be wider than the other three.

After this, I read the question to her. She asked me to repeat it a couple of times. Apparently, she did not prepare too well, but she wasn't nervous at all. She dictated me all the steps involved in the program and chatted away as I wrote. Mind you, headings in black, figures to be drawn with pencil and other text in blue ink!

We chatted and enjoyed writing the answer. After this, we had one more question. She did decently well. After we gave the paper, I sat and spoke to another student, P, who was very enthu to talk. She showed me the stories that she has been typing on her computer. She has partial vision. She used a black background and large white font to be able to figure out if she was typing correctly.

I asked the girls what they wanted to be.. I asked about their hobbies, We became good friends and I stayed back to chat for some more time. We discussed Harry Potter, Wikipedia, gender based treatment, music, amongst other things. This girl, P, wants to write more and hopes to publish a book. She did have some gadgets to help her with reading and listening to books. She told me how they got one from US, but it was really expensive! There is so much scope to use technology to assist these wonderful kids to learn more. This got me thinking about all the "technological advances" that we see around us. Yes, those countless mobile apps which help in getting food at our doorstep, those mobile apps to count  the calories that we have consumed, and then those mobile apps to tell us how much one needs to burn (if any). Sigh.

As I left, I gave a hug and wished P all the best. She memorized my email id and promised to write me an email in April, after she is done with her exams. I smiled at her.. only to realise that she wouldn't know that. It took some time for me to let this thought sink in.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Chennai Coastal Cleanup6

"On June 7th, early in the morning, 5500 volunteers cleaned up 29 tons of garbage from the beaches between Marina and Pondicherry as part of the 6th year edition of the Chennai Coastal Cleanup, an initiative to create awareness among the public on the environmental impact of the increasing garbage footprint and health hazards of plastics. 120 major Corporates, NGOs, schools and other groups participated in the event on Sunday morning between 6-9am. The volunteers segregated garbage in three major categories: 13% glass, 32% recyclable waste (plastics, sandals, cardboard, fishing nets, etc.) and 54% of non-recyclable waste. 45% of the total volume of garbage collected will be recycled by Earth Recycler and the remaining garbage will move to the garbage dump."

Every year in Chennai, we have a Coastal Cleanup. This was the 6th edition. I had signed up for the 5th edition last year, but due to some reasons (maybe laziness) I did not go. I would say I wasn't aware about the activities and how awesome it would be.

This time, the Chennai Trekking Club initiative, had a prequel to it. NoPlasticChallenge! I was challenged by a friend. It was an eye opening experience. I wrote about it here.

This prequel along with infographics, videos, just like movie trailers, generated a lot of awareness amongst people. CTC also designed mugs to replace paper cups, bottles to replace the usual plastic bottles that we keep disposing. This motivated me to start giving deeper thought on how I am using plastic in my daily life.

The videos, blogposts, the flash mobs and mime acts across Chennai got together a lot of people and united them in working for a cause.

So for the D-Day, there were several beaches that were identified. Each beach had an incharge. Those who signed up for a particular meeting point contacted the incharge and figured out the transport. Several cycled, and car pooled to reach their allotted beach.

I had a friend along with me. So we just took a bus to one of the meeting points. It was a little late and we couldn't meet the incharge. Luckily he answered our call and we figured out that the beach was elsewhere. I think this aspect could be improved next year. So T and I decided to just go to a very familiar place, Besant Nagar beach. Chennai has a huge coastal line. So we were a little away from the commonly visited beach.

Once we reached, we saw several people with yellow gloves and huge white sacks. We tagged along and started picking garbage. We initially picked plastics. We found several interesting things! Broken toys, toothbrushes, foam, chappals, glass bottles and what not! Yep. Luckily, it was cloudy! This enabled all of us to pick the trash peacefully while engaging in friendly and thoughtful discussions.

Before leaving, we got a nice matka, some refreshments which made us forget the fact that we didn't get to see the sunrise. We also got a lot of information from one of the volunteers on how they intend to separate the waste after the collection. He told how this was not a one day thing and about the post processing.

I am just glad that I could play a small part. At the same time I was amazed at how selflessly these volunteers were working for a cleaner environment. We should definitely think twice before throwing that piece of paper on the road or a plastic ice cream wrapper on the beach. It doesn't hurt to roam around, find a dust bin and then dispose.

To know more about this- visit this page-

Get started! Small initiatives could lead to a peaceful living.