Daughter’s School – First Working Day

Daughter ready for her online class in Nursery

It’s a new world.

The first day at school (yesterday – June 10) for my daughter involved an hour long session for Parents Orientation. My daughter, my wife and I sat in front of my laptop awaiting for the session to begin. Today (June 11) the working day begins.

Several parents logged in, tried playing with the settings. Muting audio and toggling the video settings. The pre-primary coordinator introduced us to the school, its founder and the principal. The principal made a brief statement welcoming us to the school’s family. She said that the times were unprecedented for both parents and teachers. She asked for our support during the first few days as we both adjusted to not being physically present.

We were asked to turn on the cameras and the students got to see their teachers for the first time on a video call on Teams.

Our laptop died on us right in the middle. It took us a few minutes of worry to switch to the mobile phone app. Afterwards, my wife took it to another repair shop as the guy who repaired it earlier was out of Pune for a two day visit to his parents. We got the laptop repaired in the evening.

In the QnA session thereafter, a parent asked if the school could start later in the day as kids wake up late.

Parents use the Teams chat feature to get other parents’ mobile numbers and started a WhatsApp group. My efforts to try and quit WhatsApp remain difficult. The conversation in the evening turned towards how unfair it was to have kids studying in Nursery take their class online. News from Karnataka added fuel to the fire.

Many parents felt that physical presence of teachers (who were trained for this) was needed. The stress on the parents has certainly increased. Working parents would find it difficult to sit with their children.

There is a triplet in our daughter’s class. Do the issues multiply 3x for them or do these things get better with scale?

The classes for the first two weeks is just an hour long. They begin with a “morning assembly”. That is followed with a 5 minute break. The first class begins at 9:30 am. This goes on for half an hour. This is followed by a 15 minute fruit break. Then there is another class for half an hour. This is followed by a 5 minute break. The day ends with a “closing assembly”.

Daughter’s First Day at School

Today is my daughter’s first day at school. She is in Nursery.

First, let me acknowledge my privilege in being able to afford a school that is starting on time during a pandemic. The classes are online. Being able to afford a separate laptop for her with enough internet bandwidth to attend class and for me to work from home is a blessing.

We were thinking of moving to Kerala in May 2020. I was working from home and schools were not slated to open till September 2020 this year. The interstate pass system had opened. We were applying for passes planning to drive down to Kerala. The request got rejected. On the evening of the same day, we got an email from my daughter’s school that school would open with online classes on June 10, 2020. June 10 is the day schools normally open in Maharashtra, where we are based now.

This stopped us from seeking a pass to go to Kerala and we decided to stay put here. Although classes are online, we were not sure how easy it would be to travel between Maharashtra and Kerala at some point in the future.

Many of the smaller private schools and government schools have still not opened and are wondering how to ensure that everyone can access academic content. There are concerns around content delivery and access. My daughter’s school has assumed that it’s parents have the privilege to access a laptop or a smartphone at home with good bandwidth.

A few days before the announcement, I was listening to Rukmini’s podcast, The Moving Curve. She was talking about the importance of opening up schools and day care facilities as a precursor to parents returning to work. In India, working parents choose and depend on schools to take care of their kids most of the day to enable them to go to work.

In a recent episode, Rukmini spoke of how a disruption of even a year in the student’s academic track leads to a loss in pay of about 15% per year later on in life. That’s getting one pay grade less than one deserves for the rest of life.

This helped me realize the importance of privilege of being able to have my daughter attend school now.

I was watching this video in Malayalam of efforts people are taking to prepare their child for school online. Cleaning up the background, setting up a desk for studying and providing water and sufficient lighting during studies. There are also health considerations like keeping a safe distance between the child’s eyes and the screen.

Online class about to begin… video in Malayalam

I lent the table and chair I was using for working from home to my daughter. We put a sofa cushion on the seat so that the camera is at the correct height that she can be seen. We have moved furniture around so that the background is our wall. We also did a few test runs with my parents last night.

My daughter’s classes are on Microsoft Teams, a software that even I was only introduced to last year while I was working with State Bank of India. She has her own email id for accessing content and for school work.

My best wishes for everyone who are on this journey.

Samkhya on YouTube

Since writing a summary of my search on reading up on Samkhya, I thought this update would help other seekers. This YouTube video (~ 30 minutes long, embedded below) is the best explanation that I have found online of the philosophy of Samkhya and Yoga. I have been looking for the Samkhya Karika translations online. There seem to be a lot of content for competitive exams but very little else.

What is Samkhya & Yoga Philosophy? by Vishwa Yoga

I am currently reading the pdf of the book by John Davies. After that, I hope to get D E Osto’s book that I mentioned in my earlier post.

Gulmohar

There was a gulmohar tree right outside my house.

Gulmohar before it bloomed. Image credit: Pradeep Mohandas

We moved into this building only last July. I never noticed this tree because I never sat in our balcony overlooking the tree. I didn’t have the time nor the inclination. I was mostly staring into a rectangular device.

After the lockdown, my family sat in the balcony in the evening. It started as a ritual to enjoy the afternoon tea with a cool breeze to keep us company. This practice also gifted us some magnificent sunsets.

The blooming gulmohar seen from our balcony. Image Credit: Pradeep Mohandas

As the gulmohar bloomed, my wife identified it. After that we looked at it each day as it bloomed and turned into a place of refuge for winged refugees and a stray cat.

Cyclone Nisarga – the day after

Since writing yesterday, the cyclone missed Mumbai and passed South of the city via the town of Alibaug. The Indian Meteorological Department said that the town faced wind speeds of 100-120 kmph. There was destruction but no loss of life.

Billboards torn away by the winds associated with Cyclone Nisarga

I posted two videos on YouTube. One of them showed a billboard near our home that was torn by the winds that lashed Pune as the outer envelope of the cyclone passed through the city.

Cyclone Nisarga Effect – Pune

Yesterday, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra addressed the State about the upcoming cyclone likely to hit the coast of Maharashtra today (June 3).

The address was in the native language, Marathi. Above is the link to the Twitter thread of the address in English.

There has been torrential rain since 3 pm yesterday. The rain subsided late yesterday evening and was since a drizzle. We went to check that our vehicles were secure. We put the two-wheelers on the center stand.

Today morning there has been no rain but has been particularly windy. I recorded a short video of the fast moving clouds I was noticing since today morning:

Cyclone Nisarga Effect

People have been used a site called Windy.com to follow the storm. Friends and relatives shared the link to the site via WhatsApp and Twitter. The site is built by a few people in the Czech Republic and seems to perform well even on mobile. I think that’s the reason why it has become quite popular.

While we brace for the storm, I hope you stay safe too.

Kerala Model vs Gujarat Model

In their mid-weekly public policy newsletter, Anticipating the Unintended, Pranay Kotasthane and R S Jaitley discuss the Kerala and Gujarat model of how states have developed.

They suggest that the current situation in both states are the result of history of about two centuries and not just the current government in power in both states. They suggest that the best state model to pursue is to take the best of both worlds.

Perhaps the model to follow is the Travancore state did in the 19th century. Writing about the policies pursued by Travancore, they write:

Travancore was keen to be seen as a model ‘native state’. It privatized landholding and introduced commercial crops in the state. Private property rights means a greater incentive to improve farm productivity. The results were immediate. The state ran a budget surplus for a better part of the 19th century and it used it to invest in education and public health.

Pranay Kotasthane and Raghu Sanjaylal Jaitley, Anticipating the Unintended, #37, May 27, 2020.

There are innumerable social issues that affect Kerala today as it had affected Travancore then. The pandemic exposes Gujarat’s lack of investment in education and public health. But, Kerala is able to invest in these today only because of the gains of private enterprise in the past. In that sense, Kerala seems to be following the Scandinavian model.

Pragati Podcast #138 Prem Panicker

These are show notes from Episode 138 of the Pragati Podcast with Prem Panicker (Twitter). I thought this episode is an equivalent to an MBA course on starting an online publication in India today. My show notes are only points from the podcast that are of interest to me.

Image Credit: The Pragati Podcast/IVM Podcasts

Prem is talking about his time at rediff.com. He says that they had limited resources and so the news desk they developed had to sort and prioritise news flow. For press conferences and coverage of events, they could rely on news agencies who will cover these events. They had to decide when to send in a reporter to the field.

He says they used data to maintain customers and to make sure they are not losing readers but the current news organizations are being run from Excel sheets.

They designed their story pages like home pages because people were landing there directly. Their pages were modelled like a shopping mall is. The customer is made to walk by some stores as he moves up or down the stairs or escalators in the mall. This is for randomly discovering stuff one might not otherwise consume. Similarly they share stories that the reader reaches a page is also shown news content that they might like to read.

Prem talks about his time with Yahoo! They knew that they could not compete with other news organisations. They went for thoughtful long form pieces. Some of the news stories that emerge are like the ones by Arati Kumar-Rao while she travelled along the Brahmaputra river.

He says that we cite short attention spans of the reader. But, this is more the journalism houses excuse for not providing long form journalistic content. He cites examples of various journalism house pivoting to long form journalism. Even Buzzfeed!

The “class” even had a case study with Barkha Dutt’s new venture – MoJo TV.

For some examples of online content done well, he suggests his own website, peepli.org stories from 2014 for which he is presently trying to raise money.

For data visualisations, he suggests work done by Bobby Ghosh for the Hindustan Times, circa 2014. Ghosh is presently with Bloomberg Opinion.

He suggests the podcasts of Amit Varma’s The Seen and the Unseen and Rukmini’s The Moving Curve.

The show ends with a number. Prem thinks that INR 120 crores would be a safe amount to have to start your own news venture.

Work from Home 3

India is under Lockdown 4.0. There are more than one lakh COVID-19 positive patients in India. There are about 400 in the ward of the city where I live. The Lockdown has been extended up to May 31 in the state.

After struggling with the Lockdown through March and April, I feel that I have some more control and the processes that I laid out for work and home have started showing some benefits. That many of the Lockdown requirements were eased added to the sense of control I felt.

I got myself a desk and two chairs. We had not purchased these since I did not feel the need for a table when I was working from office. I spent most of my time at home using my mobile phone. With working from home, I was spending 8 to 10 hours on the laptop. Other than a place to keep it also helped in ergonomics and lends itself to multiple other uses.

I continued consuming news only through 3 Things and The Moving Curve. I have started adding other news through newsletter, blogs and tweets but reduced it’s consumption through May. But, I try to keep away from news of the pandemic but that has been difficult.

I started packing my work laptop after completing a day at work. I also practiced locking up the room I used for work. This gave me a sense of separation between work and home. I also tried to limit working hour whenever possible. This also helped family understand when I could be disturbed.

We upgraded the internet connection at home which has helped with multiple people using the wifi at home.

Changes outside also helped. Before May 17, government announcements frequently changed when shops would be open and when not. These notifications changed in 2-3 days. This had led to a lot of anxiety. Shops staying open for longer hours and more shops opening up since May 17 has returned a sense of certainty. Power and Internet connections have also become more reliable in May.

Other posts in this series:

  1. Work from Home 1
  2. Work from Home 2