Google PlusFacebookTwitter

A change of perspective. A dialogue in the dark.

By on Feb 24, 2011 in Food For Thought | 5 comments

No, I didn’t get so exhausted by my first (mammoth) post of the year that I have stopped writing. I have a couple of draft blog posts that I need to edit and refine before I publish them. So much to say, so little time to do so due to ten academic courses, learning a new language, job applications / interviews, a TV studio director role, and a new pillow cover. Life, I tell you. ‘Tis like a grapefruit. But you know what? It’s curious how a difference of a few weeks can bring about a change of perspective. :) How things remain the same and yet not the same. Now, I feel glad to have opted for a full-year on study exchange. I have even more faith that the decision I took in 2009 to do this is worthwhile. I could speak now – or I could wait till the end of my stay in Singapore and speak wiser with added hindsight. You can figure out what I’m going to do, can’t you? You smart cookie! **** Fourteen storeys below my cosy and warm room, the noise from the traffic lights was incessant. Tick tick tick tick beep beep beep beep tick tick tick tick beep beep beep beep. I couldn’t sleep! Was it because of the part of town I was staying in? Should I have coughed up cash for a costlier hostel somewhere else? I went to Hong Kong a month ago, and while I will be writing about those adventures when I get time, I wanted to talk about an eye-opening (you’ll soon realize the significance of these choice of words) experience I had on the trip. I was looking up things to do in Hong Kong on Wikitravel from my hostel room there, when I stumbled across Dialogue In The Dark. It’s a one-of-a-kind of series of ‘experiential exhibitions’ across the world with the aim of increasing public awareness on issues surrounding visually impaired people in society. Intrigued, I put it on my HK itinerary. Let me state what the concept of Dialogue in the Dark is. Essentially, its purpose is to bring about a change of perspective. A sighted person is led to pitch black rooms where locations that a person might encounter in daily life are recreated – a clothing store, a theatre, a cafĂ©, a garden, a busy road intersection, a street market – and guided around by a visually impaired guide. The roles are reversed; here, it is the sighted person who is out of his/her element. Dialogue In The Dark’s (DiD) Hong Kong chapter is in a shopping mall called The Household Center in Mei Foo, Kowloon district. It’s off the beaten track for most tourists. The mall itself is so different from the ones catering to tourists in Hong Kong (or Singapore for that matter) as it sells mostly Chinese goods; it is worth a whistlestop to see where residents go for shopping. All the while I was flitting about in the mall, never once did I see a tourist. Anyway, I hadn’t made a booking online as I couldn’t use my Singaporean debit card in Hong Kong, so I showed up at the DiD office and enquired whether they had any tour slots for the day. At first, I was told that there were no tours being conducted in English for the day. I was disappointed that I would have to miss this as wouldn’t have any other chance to do this (at least on that trip), and to my surprise the staff called me a quarter-hour later telling they’d organized one for me. At the start of the tour, I was handed a walking cane and introduced to my tour guide William. Over an hour-and-half he egged me on to explore my environment through my sense of touch, hearing, smell. It’s amazing how the human brain starts paying more attention to the other senses when sight is taken out of the equation. I felt leaves with my hands, trying to figure out what plant it was. I sat down on a park bench, feeling the smooth grain of the wood. “This one must be green in colour,” I told William. That was the first thing to came to mind when I thought of that texture. Almost silly, isn’t it. Above all, I felt guilty and embarrassed about saying that. How could I barge in and ‘definitely’ settle the look of an object with a person who couldn’t argue otherwise? I remember throughout the tour of being paranoid that there would be a staircase in our path and I’d fall. (There were none.) Nevertheless, I couldn’t just let go of that feeling of fear. I crossed a narrow walkway surrounded by water. I crossed a street – and then I realized what the tick tick tick beep beep beep sounds that the traffic lights in Hong Kong make were for. Even when I was crossing the road, I feared the traffic light would change, or I’d trip, or I wouldn’t know when to stop (you’ve to figure out when to stop by feeling the texture of the road/pavement through your shoes). There weren’t any cars to hit me there, which only drove home the point how much more challenging this is in real life. I tried to figure out what clothes were at a clothing store. Tried...

Interesting times at gyaan.in

By on Jun 9, 2010 in Personal | 1 comment

About a year ago, some of the brightest quizzers in the Delhi school quizzing circuit joined forces to launch gyaan.in – and boy have we come far! gyaan.in is holding its first ever quiz at IIT Delhi on 12th June 2010, and yes, it’s free to attend! You can participate solo, or form a team of up to four people. The gyaan.in moderator team has been putting a lot of effort into this and we hope to have incredibly well-organized and researched quiz this Saturday. I think this will be quite a nostalgic moment, for many who will be moving on to university this year after their class 12th Boards – and this is one event where you can meet up and participate for one last time as school quizzers, conducted by some of the best school quizzers in Delhi. We had a somewhat false start previously of having monthly gyaan.in quiz archives, but that is being restarted now with our brand-new gyaan.in newsletter (which you can sign up for free here). This will feature monthly ‘best of’ quiz archives, and articles written specially for the newsletter by moderators. It’s not just about quizzing! Given that so many of us are football fans and World Cup season is around, the theme of gyaan.in’s first newsletter is going to be World Cup Football. We’ll be pushing out the first newsletter to all subscribers over this weekend, so do join gyaan.in’s mailing list! Over the next few weeks as school quizzing season starts, gyaan.in plans to add new features to the website that will attempt to make it even easier for you to stay in touch with quizzing updates, from multiple sources. Among the ideas we have are SMS updates, mobile-friendly gyaan.in site, calendar of upcoming events, etc. We’re open to other suggestions too! Sometime later this month, we’ll also be holding an informal meetup, where moderators and members can congregate to discuss the future of the website / community. And the community continues to grow! When your members tell you that gyaan.in is more addictive than Facebook, it speaks a lot about the engaging content that the community is creating! You can see that while we are reaching out to a few hundred unique visitors daily, a majority of them spend a lot of time on the site – as evidenced by the breakdown here (shown in time spent per day), or according the number of page views being generated by our visitors. We owe it to you guys! So come for gyaan.in’s first quiz on June 12, 2010 if you’re in New Delhi. It’s open for all (not just school quizzers), any team combo goes, we’ll have...

About the first gyaan.in meetup

By on Sep 20, 2009 in Personal | 2 comments

At today’s gyaan.in meetup #1, I had a bit of an “Oh, I didn’t think of that” moment when someone suggested we should put up future invites on Facebook instead of Upcoming.org. Yes folks, gyaan.in meetup #1 was held today in, to borrow the words of Douglas Adams, “in a blaze of no publicity at all”. The odd dog barked. The odd begger outside Costa Coffee motioned towards his tummy and then towards his mouth. In the end, around 8-10 people or so showed up when we were optimistically expecting around 20. Anyway, we had a super phun thyme. Lots of chocolate fondues, wraps, mojitos and expressos – and a lot of discussion over the future of gyaan.in. I occassionally kept butting in with my PJs. When each of us walked in to Costa Coffee today at Connaught Place, we were a bit shocked to see the whole estabilshment pretty occupied! Costa is generally a cafe which runs on empty and where they’ll roll out a red carpet for you on a slow day (which is pretty much every day) if you show up as a customer. The staff told us that specifically Saturday evening was when Costa Coffee is always occupied. No other day, not even Sunday, do they get as many customers as they get on Saturday evening. This warrants investigation; I’m sure if the Freakonomics guys look into this they’ll find some freakish coincidence linking the Mumbai dabbawallahs to Costa Coffee’s occupancy rate in Delhi on a Saturday. One thing that we all agreed upon was that we need to take it up a notch. Sure, the response within these past two months has been amazing, but we can always do better. We have a good following online (thanks to all visitors of gyaan.in!) and we need to take this further. In the near future, we plan to do a lot more publicity by tieing up with school / college events and other quizzing-related websites / groups. Getting better content out there to more people is one of our primary objectives. While doing this, we are not going to forget the gyaan.in charter. We also plan to make gyaan.in meetups a regular event. To be frank, gyaan.in has faced a bit of a slump in the past few weeks because of the fact that many schools / colleges had exams going on – and most of our user base comprises of school / college students. However, this phase is now over (hope your exams went well!) and we expect activity to pick up on the forum now. We also plan to start SMS update services and a shared calendar that people can add events to for keeping track of events. Stay tuned to gyaan.in for more details. Some of you – visitors of gyaan.in and the moderator team – might be / are apprehensive about the future of gyaan.in once I leave to join university. I want to assure you that I remain committed to the gyaan.in project. This is something I’m really passionate about, and I’m going to provide whatever support I can. Hope to see a bright future for gyaan.in! South Park You know, I learned something today moment of the day: I found out that ‘spaghetti monster’ is a character on Sesame Street. Not just His Holy Noodliness. Maybe the former was the inspiration for the latter. PS – Happy International Talk Like A Pirate...

Update on gyaan.in meetup #1

By on Sep 18, 2009 in Personal | 0 comments

Just an FYI blog post. In case you haven’t heard of gyaan.in meetup #1 happening this Saturday, read about it on my blog post on it. Almost all moderators on gyaan.in forums will be there, along with other quizzers – so in all I expect around 20 people will be attending. I look forward to meeting you folks one last time (at least for the forseeable future!) before I leave on 22nd September. :)

gyaan.in meetup #1

By on Sep 14, 2009 in Personal | 3 comments

When gyaan.in was launched around two months ago, one of the points in our charter was to hold ‘offline’ meets in which quizzers could interact and get to know each other in real life, beyond the environs of cut-throat competition. We, the gyaan.in team, haven’t forgotten that part and are now working towards making gyaan.in meetups a reality. The response that gyaan.in has got within the past two months has been, to put it simply, amazing. I am overwhelmed by the enthusiasm that the quizzing community has shown towards this (and I mean that in a good way!). So I would, on behalf of the gyaan.in team, like to thank every member of the gyaan.in community – moderators, forum members, regular and casual visitors – for making this possible. We plan to hold the first gyaan.in meetup at Connaught Place on Saturday, 19th September 2009. We had a tough time adjusting the event day/timing so that it did not clash with any school exams (many schools have their mid-term exams going on right now). In the end we felt that 19th Sept was a good compromise. No coaching institute has scheduled diagnostic tests around this time because of school exams, so that’s one issue solved. It’s a ‘long’ weekend since 21st September is a holiday (Idu’l Fitr); that way, even if you have exams on 22nd of September you will be able to take a few hours off on Saturday. And in case you have an exam on that Saturday, we’re scheduling the event in the evening so that you can still make it. Here are the details: Date: 19th September 2009 Venue: Costa Coffee, Connaught Place (Outer Circle) Time: 5pm to 7pm gyaan.in meetup #1 on Upcoming Costa Coffee is close to the Nirula’s outlet in the Outer Circle. There’s apparently a pretty popular dhaba called Kake Da Dhaba right across the road in case you need to ask someone for directions. (An auto-wallah will probably recognize that as a landmark rather than Costa Coffee). In case you need directions or have any other queries, please leave a comment here or call me (Ankur Banerjee) at 9871604101. Agenda There is no agenda for the meetup as such. We’re initially modelling this along the lines of ‘tweetups’ – meetups where people who know each other on Twitter can meet and get know each other, or catch up with people they already know in real life. So basically this event is for socialising with other Delhi-based quizzers (but if you’re dropping in from some other city, you’re more than welcome!). You don’t have to be a gyaan.in forum member to attend – anyone and everyone’s invited. So you can drop in any time between 5-7pm because there’s no strict ‘schedule’. Once again, I request you to register for the meetup at Upcoming. Of course, you can still drop-in without registering too. :) About gyaan.in gyaan.in is a newly-launched quizzing forum started by a few Delhi-based quizzers, with the intention of promoting school quizzing in Delhi, holding meetups so that quizzers (not just schools quizzers) get to know each other in real life, and quizzing not for points but for the sheer joy of knowledge. We have an official(-looking) charter too. To find out more about us, visit gyaan.in for daily question of the day threads, quiz archives, notification about upcoming quizzes, and random...