T005: Madurai: A long wait

After the enchanting visit to the north, I got a chance to visit the south in the very next week! This time Madurai was the first halt. A 6 day long FDP was organised by the famous Thagarajar College of Engineering, at Madurai, and I was supposed to be there for a session on the 5th day and also on the concluding day (16-17 February)!

I flew early morning from Mumbai to Chennai, and was quite time consuming on the account of the recent attacks at Pulwama on 14 February. I then changed over to a plane headed towards Madurai. It was a short trip, and I was planning to catch some sleep, since I had left my home around 3:30 AM! I woke up to realise that we had landed at Madurai, and (as usual), I saw many of the passengers scrambling to get out of the plane as early as they can. This took a while, and there was no sign of the gates opening.

I could see that the passengers were now visibly (and vocally) disturbed, and started questioning the crew. Since it was mainly in Tamil, I could not participate, but could understand (and also share) their emotions. Somehow, it got resolved and we were out of the plane. As we were walking through the jet bridge, I realised that the volumes of the agitating passengers calmed down suddenly. I looked outside, to see a heart warming visual!

A coffin was being off leaded from a small military aircraft. The coffin was covered in tricolour, which made all of us realise the gravity of the matter… it was the body of a brave martyr, which was being received at Madurai.

Image Courtesy: The Hindu

As I came out of the gate I could see a lot of grim faces. Garlands, Indian flags, and placards bearing the name of the brave soldier. As I got in to the cab sent by the college, I saw a large crowd waiting on the road, and all over the parking area of the airport. My driver asked, “Flight was late Sir?”. “A little bit”, I replied, getting inside the cozy car.

He then told me that the people gathered all over the area, were the relatives and friends of the martyred soldier. They had come over to get him back to his village, where he was supposed to be cremated. He also added that they have been waiting for his body to arrive for last few hours, not aware of the exact timing of the military aircraft.

The driver put on his belt, and said, “Let us go, you are already late”, and was about to push the horn. “Wait!” I almost shouted…”Please don’t press the horn. Let us wait and see him go off”.

I just realised how, we often overreact to something which is happening for a genuine cause!

Read more about Flight Lieutenant K. Praveen in these articles appeared in The Hindu and The Times of India.


T004: Jammu (Part 2)

It was almost mid afternoon that we finally reached the top. It was chilly and no signs of the Sun, making it worse. SMVDU management had intimated the police officer at the shrine, and he greeted us with a broad smile. We took some rest in the cozy room, adjacent to his office. Soon, one of his policeman escorted us to the cave, where the devotees queue up for the darshan.

The shrine is situated at 5200 feet (above the sea level). The yatries are blessed with the Darshans of the Mother Goddess inside the Sanctum Sanctorum- the Holy Cave. These Darshans are in the shape of three natural rock formations called the Pindies. There are no statues or idols inside the Cave. The best part is that this is written on the boards outside the shrine, and the devotees can read them when in queue. It is important to know it, since the darshan time is so less, that those who are NOT aware often have a puzzled look when they come out of the cave, “Where was the Vaishno Devi Mata?”

After we finished the darshan, we came out of the cave and enjoyed the lovely scene outside. This place has a magnificent view of the valley. We had our time with some photo-opps, and started the descend. As mentioned earlier, there are multiple ways available, based on your preparedness! We chose to climb down the stairs, as we were excited to come down faster. It is not easy, unless you have good shoes to absorb the jerks. The easier way out is the slope road, which is quite a leisure walk!

All the time that we were climbing down, we had just one target in front of our eyes..and that was the hotel where we had the tasty and sumptuous breakfast. We were looking for the same one, but we missed it somewhere as we were busy jumping down the road. We were back to Adkumari, where we finally decided to stop and have food, at the first hotel we can see. It was a dhaba, and the tandoor was hot, with a cheerful boy excited to serve the food. We ordered our heart out, since we were too hungry to think rationally! The food come up, and was a marathon eating feat, that we finished everything on the table!!

We left the Dhaba with a heavy heart (and stomach), and touched the finishing line in the next hour and a half! Rain tried to play a spoil sport, and we had to change our track to a covered one to save ourselves. We could also shop around for the amazing walnut shops on the way.

The car brought us back to the guesthouse, where we had a nice hot bath, and a light but tasty dinner! The legs were sore and the heart filled with joy!

T004: Jammu (Part 1)

Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University (SMVDU), has organised a one day Faculty Development Program (FDP), and had requested me be the resource person for the same. However, since I was supposed to travel from Pune, I was unable to reach Jammu before the start of the session. Therefore, I requested my colleague Dr. Kapil Kadam to be the resource person for the morning session, while I reach there for the post lunch session.

Well designed and maintained campus of SMVDU, Katra

As per the schedule, I reached Jammu airport and was picked up by the car to travel for the sprawling campus of SMVDU at Katra. The workshop was attended by teachers from various domains, and the participation was spontaneous and active.

After this workshop, the next agenda was to climb up the famous pilgrimage of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi! This shrine is situated at 5200 feet above the sea level, and a distance of ~13 KMs. Kapil and I started off at 7 AM, with a popular slogan: Jai Mata Di!

The ascend is not very easy, but the company of large number of devotees, ample number of ponies, 24×7 shops flanked on both the sides, and occasional chant of ‘Jai Mata Di‘…makes it look easy. The trick is to conserve your stamina as much as you can. We decide to take a pit stop a bit later, since we may slow down after that. It was chilling cold, and walking up the hill was better than climbing up the stairs. However, we ended up using the stairs at many places. We kept having some handy snacks and lots of water on the way up to delay the stoppage! The excellent landscapes of the pure form of mother nature helped us to have short resting opportunities (under the pretext of watching the panorama or clicking the photographs!).

We stretched ourselves till we got up to the half way mark which is called as Adhkuwari. It was 11 AM, and we were hungry as hell! The restaurant chain by the MVD trust had some awesome Chole, sans Bhature! A friendly Dhaba owner right in front of this restaurant was happy to sell us ONLY Bhature.. The crisp Bhature (direct from the hot oil) were simply heavenly when we had them with the tasty Chole! After a hot cuppa chai, we were off to the final destination: Bhawan!

At this point there is a comparatively simpler road which has NO stairs. It is also free from the horses, ponies, and the mules. We decided to take this route, and began our walk for the final lap of 8 KMs. The road is full of unique things! Firstly, you are surprised to find clean toilets every 500 meters. You also find a medical booth ready with an ambulance, stretcher, and medical officers (in clean white aprons). Clean (ultra filtered) waer in multiple forms are available: normal temperature, chilled, and warm! In addition there are monkeys to keep you alert, and watchful! We also met locals, who will offer a leg massage (the moment your face gives up your tired situation!). The most bizarre experience was when a local chap put his firm hand on to my back and asked, “Sir, support du kya?”. He literally WALKS with the person who avails his services, by providing support to the aching back, all the way to the top!! I was sure that I did not need it, therefore suggested him to find another client!

(To be continued)

T0001: Symbiosis, Pune

As I started my career as an independent consultant, the very first official visit was obviously to Symbiosis, Pune. I have taken up a position of an Adjunct Faculty here, however my role doesn’t expect me to teach students/offer course/s (at least currently). Instead, I am supposed to steer the design and development of the most awaited Symbiosis MOOCs!

This is going to be exciting, since I can apply my learning over the years of MOOC creation, and share my experience in content production to bring out the best of the faculty members at Symbiosis.

Symbiosis International (Deemed University) ranked 144 In BRICS Ranking and 247 amongst the top 250 universities in Asia by QS World University ranking agencies.

I joined on the 3rd December, and was greeted by the sprawling campus of Symbiosis International University (SIU) at Lavale. To make it better for the administrative purpose, I am attached to a department more closer to my task: Symbiosis Teaching Learning Resource Centre (STLRC). Prof. Sophia who is the Head of this Center arranged a initial meeting where I met Hon. Vice Chancellor of SIU, Dr. Rajani Gupte and the Dean of Academics, Dr. Bhama Venkatramani. We decide on the plan of action to follow for the MOOC creation, and I started off with it.

The 5 days at SIU were packed with many meetings (in person as well as virtual). However, the best part was the stay at the well appointed guest house on the hilltop. The view from the room is just mesmerising, and so is the interior. Each room is unique, since it represents the art and culture of an Indian state. I stayed in ‘Gujarat’ room this time, and as you ca see, the artifacts are exquisite! The staff is welcoming and serves delicious food!

I would be spending third calendar week every month in SIU.
Looking forward for some interesting interaction!

Made my day!

I come across many responses from the learners of my courses, however many are not seen. This is simply because it is not possible to read each and every comment on the discussion forums of my 8 courses having 30000+ learners! That’s where my team of discussion forum moderators comes in handy.

Just today, when one of my colleague was distilling the responses received, he found one interesting response. Elated, he forwarded me a screenshot of this! I extremely happy to read it! This one is a feedback about my course from a learner in Iran:

“after a week of viewing all the videos, I feel I’m in love with Dr. Sameer Sahasrabudhe, and his beautiful accent and looks :)) thank you all for the course. and I’m really sorry I live in Iran and because of political sanctions, there is actually no way that I can pay the course fee. “

Apart from the nice words, what caught my attention is the pain he mentions of not being able to pay for the certificate, which he would like to have. It is saddening to see that knowledge available at your doorstep cannot be picked up, just because the political situation restricts it! I felt really good for two things: one that we are living in a society, which has no such barriers, and secondly, I am extremely proud to work for IITBombayX, which actually gives out the certification also for FREE.

2018 | Year in numbers

It was indeed an year of too many happenings! Just thought of it, and so many numbers started to flash..! Practically not possible to capture all of them, however I have tried to capture some of them in these cards. Have a look, and comment on the ones you have been with me for!

Most of these are the professional achievements, and are only possible to achieve with the unstinted support of my family and colleagues! I could not have imagined a fraction of these, without their support!

Waiting for your comments!

T002: Chennai for T4E 2018

I visited Chennai for the conference Technology for education (T4E). This was a memorable trip in more than one way! The trip had many interesting experiences: Stay at my student’s house, conducting a workshop, shooting for my new documentary, and many more!

My homestay: First and the foremost was my stay at one of my student’s home: Romey Christo’s house in Adambakkam. From the moment I finalised my plan for this visit, Romey had suggested that I stay at his home, and I agreed instantly! The house is cozy, nestled in a typical residential area. I went straight to his house from the airport, however I had to leave almost immediately, in order to get at the conference. Romey’s parents were rather disappointed that I did not have breakfast and was also not coming home for the dinner! 

Next day morning made me realise, what I missed the earlier day..! Romey’s mom prepared a elaborate breakfast having multiple varieties! We had soft puffed idlis with authentic sambhar and cocunut chutney, crisp dosai, rawa kesari (sheera), and even the pongal! The food was coming out from the kitchen one after another, that I actually forgot to click a snap of this awesome menu!

Romey’s dad (BTech Mech, IITM), is a tech geek, and one can see interesting examples of his installations all through the house! He has even installed a motion sensor tap to regulate the waterflow!

By the time I was leaving, my bag was full of sweets and other goodies, and my mind full of loving memories of the two days I spent with them!

T4E Conference at IITMadras:  The conference venue was IITMadras, which is one of the largest and the most scenic IITs that I have seen. With frequent sightings of the black buck and monkeys, it actually a jungle out there! The place had many culture shocks (as compared to IITBombay), but nevertheless, the scenic beauty and long walks in the greens made it memorable.

The conference was also good for me personally, since I had participation everyday! I offered a workshop on the Day 0 (pre-conference day), followed by a poster presentation on Day 1 (co-authored with Romey). I was not present for Day 3 and 4, where I had two research papers to be presented. The highlight for me was the paper on the Learner-Centric MOOC model, which has co-authors such as: Prof. Sridhar, Prof. Sahana, and Dr. Jayakrishnan! This is the very first ‘idea’ paper about this model, which is becoming increasingly popular!

The food: The Chennai stay is incomplete without a visit to the famous ‘Murugan Idli’. The ET alum (JK, YP and SS) came together and literally ‘raided’ the outlet, and tasted almost ALL the possible varieties that they had to offer! The finale was the equally famous ‘Jigardhandaa’ from Madurai! This overeating required a nice walk which was enjoyable since we had a beach nearby!

All in all, it was a memorable Trip 002! The next one coming up is T003: Hyderabad!