Saturday, February 24, 2007

Impacting the Ground Zero...

In the far away land called India, there is a big metropolis called New Delhi. On quite a few occasions, I take the Public Transport Bus from my home to the office. Besides saving me some bucks, this sojourn gives me an opportunity to see the real India...far away from the high-tech world of the NEW "Bangalored" or "Gurgaoned" India that the world now knows about.

Of course there are more mobiles than watches in people's hands, and they are spending more on things that they could do without. But this is the story about the silver lining in all of this contrast...After I get down from the bus, I have to cross a railway crossing on foot and a huge container depot, where you would see large containers carrying everything from iron bars to sleek cars to and from all corners of the world. The place is so full of muck and filth that you wouldn't feel like putting your foot on it. But then this is exactly the place where more than a few thousands of people step in and out of to earn their livelihood everyday, twice.

Now, lets talk about the silver lining. Towards the end of this filth, there is a small structure (for want of a better word) that could easily pass off as the neatest place around. This place is a daytime host to several children from the neighborhood. It is almost a morning ritual for me to spend a few minutes taking in the sight of this "school". I see children between ages of 6 and 11 years dressed almost out of place. There is usually a teacher (who makes my day by his or her mere presence), who is trying to instill a sense of confidence and belonging in the children. Occasionally, I see a proud parent dressed for the occasion of dropping in his child who got late for the school. I have even heard students saying "Good Morning" and "May I please come in?" in English, while everyone "outside" the school is using the choicest of words in Hindi, the local and national language. The school only has an invisible boundary (meaning a truly "open" school), but it is wonderful to see how everyone knows and feels its virtual presence! The strength of this small effort doesn't lie in getting the school in place, but to keep the students and teachers from leaving it midway.

Now what does it all have to do with me, and my job? Well the fact is that I work not more than half a mile away from this school. And I just keep thinking about the school until, of course, getting busy working for my students in far away lands in the US of A. The contrast couldn't have been starker. I am involved in designing a state-of-the-art technology platform that a teacher sitting at home uses to teach a student logged in from the comforts of her home. And at this place they are grappling with getting the basic infrastructure to teach, and to get more teaching resources who can find motivation to work here.

If you have any suggestions on how to tackle this situation, please feel free to drop me an email. There are technologies available, which don't really take much to implement, and I will be very happy to anchor the initiative. But more than the money (which anyway is the first step, though), I believe what is needed is that "killer idea"...