Kadambari

I’ve had a writers block. I could record my podcast this week but couldn’t find anything to write.

Besides the gulmohar tree in front of my balcony was another tree. My wife who correctly identified the gulmohar could not identify the other correctly. She first thought it was ramphal (wild sweetsop). But, as the tree bore fruit, she confessed to me that it was not ramphal.

The Kadambari tree in our compound. The gulmohar shared earlier can be seen photo bombing. Image Credit: Pradeep Mohandas

Sahil Khan fleeted a picture of the tree on Twitter. I asked him for the identity of the tree and he said it was the kadambari (burflower). So, what we thought of as a fruit was actually it’s flower!

I then read through the Wikipedia entry for the kadambari and I must say my inquisitiveness was piqued. This also led me to the eponymous romantic novel in Sanskrit.

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.

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

What’s not going to change in the next ten years?

Jeff Bezos says –
“I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. …[I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.

via Vishal Khandelwal, SafalNiveshak.com

Chamath Palihapitiya

I first heard of him on Tim Ferriss’ 5 Bullet Friday (dated April 17, 2020). This is the text that Tim adds:

Podcast episode I’m listening to —Billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya on How to Invest in This CrisisThis was sent to me by one of the better investors I know, someone who has been exceptionally successful in startups, public equities, and cryptocurrencies. Here is the description: “This is an episode of The Pomp Podcast with host Anthony Pompliano (@APompliano) and guest Chamath Palihapitiya (@chamath), the CEO of Social Capital, the Chairman of Virgin Galactic, and the owner of the Golden State Warriors. In this conversation, Chamath and Anthony discuss … where Chamath currently has capital invested, how he thinks we can solve the structural issues in health and economics, why being a patient investor will pay off, where he is looking for opportunity right now, what he thinks should happen with the NBA, and how the world is going to change after the pandemic is over.” Term that pops up in this episode: fiat currency. The term “fiat” derives from the Latin fiat (“let it be done”). For more on fiat currency as related to the US economy, I quite enjoyed Biography of the Dollar when I read it in 2009.

Tim Ferriss, 5 Bullet Friday, April 17, 2020

While following YouTube’s suggestion, I also enjoyed listening to this interview with him for the View from the Top podcast. There is a nice summary of the episode on their website.

I gather that many of his appearances on television has been controversial but he has some interesting insights into the present scenario. He also has an annual letter to his investors where he shares his thesis of the present condition.

Work from Home 2

It’s been more than a month since my last post about Working from Home. I thought this was a nice time to look back at how things went.

Information Overload

News about COVID-19 was everywhere. Television news, newspapers, podcast episodes, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp group and email newsletters. It was information overload. Eventually, I limited the sources of information that I relied upon.

These are the resources that I turned to over the last one month while I tuned out all the rest to maintain my sanity.

Ward-wise COVID-19 active case numbers shared by Smart Pune tweet, embedded below. Image Credit: Smart Pune.

For local information related to Pune, I followed the Smart Pune Twitter handle. This provided ward-level data about the spread of the disease – number of positive cases and death – in my ward.

There were two podcasts that I followed for COVID-19. The 3 Things podcast from the Indian Express provided news stories from across the country. It covers only a single or 3 topics at the maximum. These deep dives gave enough back ground and insight about the news stories that I slowly ended consumption of other news sources which were covering very little other than COVID-19.

A data based podcast comes from a data journalist, Rukmini S called The Moving Curve (also available on Spotify now).

I also have access to some office-related resources which are not accessible publically.

Working from Home setup

Since the last update, I have become better at separating time between home and work. I tried to setup my working time according to better internet speeds. However, I found that this affected my output and left me feeling groggy most of the time.

As time passed, the internet and power supply stabilized. This allowed me to go back to my office timings for work. When I reset this, it improved my productivity at work and happiness at home.

But, perhaps, by the time people get used to working from home it may well be time to return back to a workplace. Personally, I would welcome it even if we maintain social distancing.