Archive for January, 2007

A visit to one of the cleanest kitchens

Friday, January 12th, 2007

This morning I went to the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (IICP). The people there do some amazing work in terms of mainstreaming these special children. The organisation was earlier known as the Spastics Society of Eastern India. This was my second visit to the place, and I enjoyed going back there. My meeting with Swati went off really well. We ended up deciding the modus operandi of our programme of field testing and benchmarking of localized FOSS based Accessibility (a11y) software with differently-abled children as our target group.

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I must say that IICP probably has one of the spotless kitchens I have had the opportunity to visit. The mid-day meals and snacks for everyone at the place, which includes the students, the special educators as well as all the staff is cooked there. These pictures of the kitchen were taken just after they had finished cooking lunch, and were yet to “clean up”!

The kitchen is managed by the students themselves, some of whom have severe motor disability. Yet they are extremely adept at their tasks, and are quite particular. For example the young man seen in the wheelchair in the picture is in charge of the in-house bakery. At Swati’s request for coffee, he wheelchair-ed across to ask us if we would like to have biscuits along with our coffee. When we said “Yes!”, he asked if we would like the biscuits from the “shop” or “our biscuit”. Swati replied back “Of course ours”. He seemed a little diffident. I wondered why.

It soon became clear when he came over with the tray of coffee and biscuits. Apparently, the cookies had just come off the oven, and hence still quite warm and soft. And he wasn’t too happy to serve us something that wasn’t in his opinion not quite ready to be eaten yet. The biscuits were simply delicious. I think I ate three, leaving just a solitary one for Swati. :-P

On my way out, I met with Raja, who is apparently one of Swati’s favorite students. He has serious speech impairment. As I was about to leave he seemed to greet me. Took me a few seconds to realize that he was wishing me a “Happy New Year!”. He seemed to have remembered me from my last visit. I wished him back as Swati introduced us. And that was perhaps a bit of undoing in itself, as Raja was intensely curious to know what “Open Source” meant. Since I was getting late for another meeting in the afternoon, I left Swati to explain to him the finer nuances of Open Source.

Everytime I meet them, I’m rather struck by their sheer energy, which often seem to be on the point of bubbling over, and sometimes that makes it extremely difficult for me to comprehend them. However, I must remember to ask about the recipe for the cookies the next time.

The “politics” of work culture???

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

“Work culture” is a rather hotly debated topic in West Bengal. This photo depicts a “Ensure a Successful Bandh/Strike” poster on the top, the hand drawn poster at the bottom protests against work culture being allegedly destroyed by the authorities. A study in contrast?


It felt good! :)

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

Yesterday evening was rather nice. The Operational Research Society of India (ORSI) are holding their 39th Annual Convention between 5th and 7th January 2007 at the Heritage Institute of Technology. I was invited by the organisers to be a member of a panel discussion - “Information Technology in Decision Making as the Cutting Edge“.

I reached the venue to find everyone waiting eagerly for the arrival of Dr. Debesh Das (MIC, Dept of IT, GoWB), who was also on the panel. My other fellow panelists included representatives from Oracle India and Mahindra British Telecom (Tech Mahindra). It seems like even in a place like Kolkata, a fledgling FOSS startup is beginning to become accepted to be a part of an Industry panel. 3 years back, no one here would have given us a second look in a general, non IT specific conference. It sure felt good!!! :D

Once everyone had arrived, we moved to the A/V Room. The session moderator Prof. A.K Mittal from IIT Kanpur, gave me the opening slot, perhaps being the least known entity helped. I spoke about my favourite topic these days - “IT Asset Management - Energizing Your Enterprise Processes and IT System“.

Despite being an obvious FOSS spiel, I deliberately kept away from the politics of FOSS vs. proprietary software. Focusing more on the value proposition and drawing from L2C2’s case studies, I found that my apprehension about my presentation being on the periphery of the topic of discussion was somewhat unfounded. In fact, the Oracle India rep (Ambarish Sengupta) actually built his presentation from where I had ended (service/stack consolidation and server virtualization) and moved into grid support in Oracle 10G.

[On a side note : Luckily my Thinkpad didn’t act funny, and there were a few people in the audience who came up to speak afterwards, recognising that I was using Ubuntu, but were rather taken aback by the on-screen antics of the Beryl powered display.

It was Ambarish’s Windows XP powered Compaq wide-screen laptop that played hooky with the room’s hi-funda projection system from LG. That brought about a tongue-in-cheek comments from the moderator on the _need_ of IT Management *evil grins*]

I’m still surprised how people do not realized that IT itself needs management. Somehow, people are yet to realize that IT is fast becoming one of the most mismanaged and increasingly more and more complicated affair in any enterprise. Such a scenario is capable of playing havoc with the TCO, with simply too many loose ends and unnecessary wastage.

When his turn came, Dr. Debesh Das re-iterated his stand, stating “we would use opensource wherever possible…“, adding with a grin, “and where not possible, we shall use Oracle

During the Q/A session, Dr. Das clarified to audience questions that e-gov implementation in the state would seek to go vernacular and announced that in the workshop at PDSIT, BESU on 20 - 21st January, some of these issues should achieve a greater clarity and of course direction.