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.

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.

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

Pune Coffee Brewers Club meetup

I first heard of coffee brewers when I read Mehul’s Twitter update that he was participating in a brewing competition and came in at no 3. Coffee brewing is basically the process of making coffee from the stage of coffee beans to a concoction that you can consume.

Today, we met at The Fat Labrador, a cafe situated in Bavdhan, Pune.

Coffee devices and brewing paraphernalia that we used today. Image Credit: Pradeep Mohandas

This is the second meetup of Pune’s Coffee Brewers Club. We started out with discussing coffee recipes that some of the brewers had arrived at ostensibly after a lot of experimentation with a lot of coffee devices. There was a lot of talk of mgs of coffee, minute-second readings of the time they allowed it to brew and broadly methods by which coffee was brewed (immersion and pour over).

After that introduction, Mehul spoke of the factors that affected a good coffee output: temperature, pressure and time. We then got to try both the methods using a pour over method and an Aeropress.

We tried tasting different beans that Mehul had carried with him from Mumbai. After a few rounds of this, we got to try out an espresso from a hand pressed espresso machine.

Mehul ended the session on how us newcomers could begin getting a glimpse into the world of coffee brewing. He suggested getting the coffee that is freshly roasted (3-4 days old roasted coffee). I was assured that Indian roasters do not usually sell stale coffee. This is to be consumed over the period of next 3-4 weeks for best effect.

He suggested beginning with a simple process of coffee brewing. Get fresh ground coffee put it in a cup of boiling water, let it brew for about 3-4 minutes and then consume. The next step would be to have an aeropress to make the coffee. Aeropress is considered a very versatile, cheap and easy to carry device that does most of the functions that a coffee brewer is looking at and hence quite highly recommended. It comes at a price range of about three to four thousand.

The next step up is getting a simple grinder. Mehul had got his off AliExpress for about INR 900. When we reach a place where we can’t turn the grinder anymore, we reach the zero setting. As we turn, the grinder churns out coarser coffee. If you plan to go ahead, you can invest in better grinders as they turn out more consistent and get control over the size of the coarseness of the coffee beans. Prefer manual over electronics.

The next investment is in a measuring pad. The cheapest one is off Amazon that costs INR 200-300. This helps to measure the amount of coffee beans you take. This too gets complicated with higher price where a timer gets added on which helps you measure brewing time.

The next investment suggested for your upward spiral into the world of coffee brewing is a goose-neck kettle. This is useful to control the way in which water is poured on the ground coffee beans. These comes with insertable thermometers that helps you control the temperature of water that is used for your coffee.

I am not sure whether I am going to personally follow through with coffee brewing beyond say South Indian filter coffee. However, I’ll let these notes remain for future reference. I also got hold of ground filter coffee powder from the Fat Labrador that I will try out. I had a good filter coffee and Bombay Masala sandwich after the meetup.

Great to meet Mehul after a long time and nice to meet fellow coffee enthusiasts in a new city. If you find any errors in the notes above, they are most likely mine, and request you to leave them in the comment section to help me fix them.

(added later) Mehul shared links on the Pune CBC WhatsApp group for some of the products he recommended. Sharing here for the sense of completion:

  1. Cheapest scale. 1 gms increment. Max 10 kg.
  2. Scale that Can measure in 0.5 gms increments.
  3. Scale that can measure in 0.1 gms increment.
  4. Simple gooseneck kettle, no thermometer.
  5. Simple gooseneck kettle, with thermometer.

Storytelling by Hemant Baliwala

Society for Technical Communication Pune arranged for a learning session on Storytelling by Hemant Baliwala on August 14, 2019 . I attended the session hoping this would help me improve my blogging skills a bit.

The first session had all of us (about 37 of us) introduce ourselves with our name, favourite food, favourite place, happiest moment of our life and the saddest moment of our life. 

While I shared the above information openly, the second session took my saddest moment and tore it apart. In Hemant’s defence, he asked for my permission on whether he could take this apart publicly in class. He also said that he would also try and help me to find closure on this life event. People in the room were encouraged to see the moment through various lens (sarcastic, best case or positive scenarios, negative scenarios like imagining a dead man as a bad man etc). The idea was to openly map everything about the event in details unbiased or with little of my own bias of this experience using something akin to a mind-map.

I did not know while agreeing to this that I would be submitting myself to relive the event through such excruciating detail. While for others this was merely an event, for me it was a lived experience. They were trying to come up with all the factors that led up to the event as a story. Hemant asked us to present the story as is without judgement. He said the audience would judge and that we need not judge on behalf of the audience. I can’t say this gave me closure. It disturbed me a bit and took me a nice lunch in the company of friends to find my balance again.

Answers I gave from the first and third session of the Learning Session on Storytelling. Image: Pradeep Mohandas

The third session used device prompts. We were divided into teams of six. We were given photographs as device prompts. We were given two photographs – one of a circus and another of a toilet sign. We were asked to prepare mind maps like we had for the second session. We were then asked to outline a story based on the same. 

In the photo above, I’ve shared answers I gave on the first session and the mind map and the story outline I created for the third session. I will flesh out the story here in a future blog post.

Shri Krishna Janmashtami

Shri Krishna Jayanthi is celebrated as the day when Krishna was born. This falls on the day of Rohini Nakshatram in the month of Chingam, as per the Malayalam calendar. This fell on August 23, 2019.

We celebrate this day by decorating the pooja room, undertake fasts, offer Prasad like Appam and Palpayasam , chant the Vishnu Sahasranamam and play devotional songs. Shri Krishna Jayanthi is also known as Ashtami-Rohini, Janmashtami or Gokulashtami.

Photo of Our pooja place decorated for Shri Krishna Jayanthi. Photo Credit: Pradeep Mohandas
Our pooja place decorated for Shri Krishna Jayanthi. Credit: Pradeep Mohandas

It was a working day for Pradeep ettan. After he returned from office, we went together to visit the Ayyappan temple at Dhanori. The statue of Krishna was beautifully decorated with sandalwood.

Photo of The Sanctum Sanctorum at the Ayyappa Temple, Dhanori, Pune. Photo Credit: Dhanya Vallat
The Sanctum Sanctorum at the Ayyappa Temple, Dhanori, Pune. Credit: Dhanya Vallat
Photo of the Sanctum Sanctorum of the ISKCON Temple, Camp, Pune. Photo Credit: Dhanya Vallat
Sanctum Sanctorum of the ISKCON Temple, Camp, Pune. Credit: Dhanya Vallat

From there we went to the ISKCON temple in Camp, Pune. The temple had created a carnival like atmosphere and depicted the life of Krishna in life size displays. The statue and sanctum sanctorum was beautifully decorated with colourful flowers.

Pune

I wanted my first visit with Dhanya to begin with a visit to the Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple. So, when Dhanya wanted to begin to visit places near Mumbai, I thought it was time to visit Pune. Dad suggested we check in to Vivanta by Taj Blue Diamond in Pune and drive to Pune.

We left Mumbai around 8:30 in the morning in our white Swift car. Driving along the Sion-Panvel highway we reached the Mumbai-Pune Expressway without any issues. The drive on the Expressway was also eventless and we whiled away time listening to the radio. Once we reached closer to Pune, we switched on Google Maps to help us navigate to Vishrantwadi Junction in Pune. The route was reasonably reliable, though it took us through a maze of lanes that we were not familiar with and at times were doubtful whether we had got lost in the maze. However, as we got close to the Junction, signposts appeared helpfully. Pune is developing its own BRTS for which work seems to be progressing. There was drizzle enroute to Pune but it really started pouring when we were waiting for Dhanya’s friend’s husband, Rakesh.

He came in his white Swift and guided us to their house in Dhanori, quite close to the airport. We had vegetarian biriyani and kurma for lunch. This was followed by dessert. Dhanya’s friend is also named Dhanya. Both of them went to college together in their BBA days. They had a lot of catching up to do and so Rakesh and I left them to do the talking.

We left their house and again with great help from Google Maps, found our way to Blue Diamond hotel. We slept a while, soaking in the cushioned beds under the warm blankets, cherishing a moment of togetherness. We then went to the up and coming Koregaon Plaza mall and returned to the room quickly for a night out in a pub.

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Dhanya’s friend, Dhanya with her husband, Rakesh

 

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Dhanya and me at the Independence Brewing Co.

Dhanya and Rakesh picked us up at the Taj. Both Dhanyas had spent considerable time discussing what to wear. We went to the Independence Brewing Co. For both Dhanyas it was their first pub experience. Everyone enjoyed themselves with drinks and lots of photos taken for keepsake. They dropped us at the Taj again on their way back home. We were both exhausted from the long drive and promptly went to bed to sleep.

Rakesh had mentioned in his conversations on the day before that they were going to Lavasa and asked if we were interested in coming along. We were planning to return to Mumbai that afternoon after checking out at around 12 pm. I considered not going but realised that we had come most of the way to Lavasa and without company might not go to Lavasa on our own. I confirmed that we would be coming after a visit to the Dagdhusheth temple. I said we’d confirm times on the next day.

The next day we awoke at 6:30 am. We got ready and used the Taj’s car to take us to Dagdhusheth temple. I was not sure if there would be any lines and also wasn’t sure if we’d get parking there. We got an easy and early darshan there and made our way back to the hotel by 9 am. We caught the Taj’s sumptuous breakfast spread.

We then headed to Lavasa in our respective Swift cars. The plan was to drive to Lavasa, grab a bite of lunch there and then head back to Mumbai that day afternoon. The drive to Lavasa, though, surprised and it was afternoon by the time we got there. After parking our cars, we walked on the lakeside in the rains. We grabbed a bite of pizza at Smokin’ Joe’s. There Rakesh got news that a landslide on the Mumbai Pune Expressway had led to its closure. The news came out that people had died in the landslide and it was suggested that the old Mumbai-Pune Highway, the NH4 be taken. We drove back to Pune in the hopes that the landslide would be cleared and we could head back to Mumbai that night.

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Both Dhanyas met in Pune after a looonnng time.

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Both cars chilling after the long trip to Lavasa.

It was 5 pm by the time we reached Wakad junction and both Rakesh and my father in Mumbai suggested we stay the night and attempt to head back to Mumbai only early next morning. Accordingly, we headed back again to Dhanya’s friends house for the night. We had rice and onion sambar that night for dinner. It was midnight by the time we slept that night.

We headed back to Mumbai early that morning. There was no traffic jam and the landslide was cleared from all four lanes of the Expressway. There were light to moderate showers but we reached back home at 9, just in time to head back to another week at work.