विलास मामा | Vilas Mama

आत्ताच ‘हिचकी’ हा सर्वांगसुंदर चित्रपट पाहिला! Tourette Syndrome नामक आजारामुळे विचित्र आवाज करणारी आणि त्या मुळे सातत्याने टीका आणि उपहास सहन करणारी नयना माथुर पाहिली, आणि तक्षणी मला आमच्या जवळ राहणारा विलास मामा आठवला. मला माहित नाही की विलास मामाला Tourette Syndrome आहे की अजून कुठला आजार, परंतु बोलता बोलता मानेला झटके दिलेले आम्ही अनेकदा पाहिलेलं आहे. आम्हाला त्याची सवय होण्यासाठी काही दिवस लागले.

हा मामा काही तरी वेगळेच हावभाव करतो, हे आमच्या लक्षात यायचे. पण त्याचे कारण एखादा Tourette सारखा आजार असू शकतो, हे कळलंच नाही. आम्ही मुलं त्याची नक्कल करायचो, चेष्टा करायचो. त्यामागे त्याला त्रास देण्याचा हेतू कधीही नव्हता, पण त्याचे विचित्र हावभाव आणि त्या मागचे खरं कारण माहित नसल्यामुळे न कळत्या वयात झालेली ती एक चूकच होती! आज पडद्यावर राणी मुखर्जीचा अभिनय बघताना विलास मामाची आठवण झाली, आणि स्वतः ची खूप लाज वाटली.

ह्या काळात मला प्रकर्षाने जाणवलेली गोष्ट म्हणजे माझ्या आजीने विलास मामाला दिलेली वागणूक! विलास मामा मराठी पुस्तकांचे घरपोच वाचनालय चालवत असे. आठवड्यातील दोन दिवस पुस्तकांनी भरलेली पिशवी घेऊन तो आमच्या घरी यायचा. आजी दरवेळेस अगदी आठवणीने त्याच्या हातावर लाडू / वडी ठेवायची. माझ्या आठवणीत तिने कधीही त्याच्या सवयींचा बाऊ केल्याचे पाहिले नाही. नंतर आम्हालाही त्याच्या विचित्र हालचालींची सवय झाली.


आज ‘हिचकी’ मुळे ह्या सर्व आठवणी पुनश्च जाग्या झाल्या! नयना माथुर प्रमाणेच अक्षरधन वाटणारा विलास मामा आम्हांला तसा उशिराच समजला, ह्याचे वाईट वाटते!


Just back from the theatre where we watched ‘Hichki‘. A brilliant movie depicting the struggle of Nayna Mathur, who suffers from Tourette syndrome. The movie reminded me of Vilas Mama, who was our neighbour, and I suspect he also suffered from this syndrome. We were too young and not aware of the exact name of the ailment, however I distinctly remember his mannerism of the ‘shocks’ he had out of the blue.

We realised that this person has peculiar mannerism, however we were too young to decipher the reasons. We used to make fun of him and also imitate him. It was the age I suppose, which was unable to process incidents rationally, however,  remembering it today leaves me with immense guilt! I don’t think we should have done it!

One striking thing which I remember is the behavior of my grandmother towards Vilas Mama. Actually, none of the elders ever pointed out his mannerism, however my grandmother was extremely affectionate to him. I remember Vilas Mama visiting our home twice a week, since he ran a door-to-door library. My grandmother always had the sweets ready for hm on those stipulated days of his visit! As time passed on, we became accustomed to his mannerism, and found nothing abnormal in that. Today, Hichki reminded me of him. Similar to Nayna Mathur, Vilas Mama offered knowledge to us.

I feel sorry, that we fail to recognise the real person, going beyond the appearance and mannerisms!



Lifelong Learner!


Maria Athaide left us on the 3rd March 2018. A news that rekindled many memories of hers, during the span of interaction last few years. I met her first time when she was an academic consultant with the Azim Premji Foundation. I went to meet her at her office, and the moment she came to know that I had come to Bangalore for a conference to present a paper on educational animations, she immediately set up my interactive session at her office, and called her colleagues over. It was a classic example of her pursuit for knowledge! During my interactions later, I got many such examples!

She then invited me to her house and cooked most wonderful roasted eggplant slices, and choicest of chocolates as dessert! This meeting was also a trigger to a series of events, and her son Noel who was (just) a friend, became my brother-in-law (as he married my cousin: Pallavi).

During that stay with them, I realised that she was a curious learner. She not only wanted to know about new things (be it a craft, poem, teaching method, or even a new software), but also know it thoroughly! Every meeting always started with her question: What’s new?

After many years, when I shared the news of my first MOOC being launched on IITBombayX, she not only congratulated me, but also floored me when she said,

“I am going to enroll in your course. I have been thinking of learning animation for a long time now. It is a good time to start!”

She was 65+ that time, and an accomplished teacher already. She did not stop at mere verbal assurance, but surprised me one night, by asking about the installation process of the software I was using in the course. “I saw your first lecture”, she said, and added, “but I am unable to install the software”. I explained her the process, and she was up and going! I later reminded her to give feedback on my teaching, which she shared with some very pertinent comments!

Although technically, she was a ‘student’ in one of my online courses, Maria has taught me one of the most fundamental principles: Learning is a life-long process!

Rest in peace, You will always remain my inspiration to learn!

Congratulations: Padmashri Arvind Gupta

Extremely happy to know that Shri Arvind Gupta has been declared as a recipient of Padmashri for the year 2018! This is an apt recognition of this yogi  who has been an evangelist of science popularization among children, using the most unexpected commodity: trash! His ‘Toys from trash’, series has over 500 toys which can be made easily by learners (of all ages!), to ENJOY the science hidden in it. As he says always, ‘Don’t complicate the joy of playing with a toy by loading it with scientific principle, let the child discover it on their own’.


He is a living legend, and I was fortunate to spend time with him at his lab at IUCAA, in Pune University! We had gone there to video shoot the toy making process and releasing them for hand held devices. During the shoot, (using our high-end cameras), he was inquisitive in knowing the medium, and diligently wrote down the technical specifications of the equipment.

Later, when we were back, we completed the post production and uploaded the videos. After a while, I saw that those videos had a healthy number of viewers. Excited, I mailed him a screenshot of the website. He sent me a link for his website, where he had created videos of over 200 toys, during that period, and the video aggregation website was showing a viewership more than 6 digits! Moreover, he did not forget to give credit to his team (Dr. Vidula and Ashok). That was an important lesson to learn!

“The best thing a child can do with a toy is break it” – Arvind Gupta

I requested him to speak a few lines in the film, where we wanted to show the ICT application for his website. He agreed immediately, and we decided to start the shoot. Before any other plan came up, he sat on the ground in front of his office, and said, ‘You can start, I am comfortable!’. Similar experience was when he visited us at our IIT residence. He was visiting the campus to accompany his daughter, who appeared for some exam, and the KVIIT was the center. I requested him to come home, instead of spending the entire time in the hot sun, and he agreed. He entered the house, and saw my daughter (7 year old that time). He instantly told us that he is going to talk ONLY to my daughter now. Literally, next 2 hours, he was showing all sorts of toy making to her, and both had a gala time.

My daughter learnt the ‘ship-and-cap’ story, and presented it every possible gathering! After one such successful ‘performance’, she actually wrote back to him and thanked him for teaching such nice story! He promptly responded! He also sent a DVD containing best animated films, when he learnt about Kaumudi!

Recently, I contacted him when I was leading a project in science popularization among speech and hearing disabled. We planned to create videos using the ‘sign language’, and chose Arvind Gupta Toys as the content. The power of science toys was once again evident, when we were showing the video to the science teachers!

Wishing him a healthy life!!!



Conference coming up: Appeal to researchers

icaltlogoThis post is an urgent announcement about an international conference coming up in July 2018. The 18th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies ICALT2018 is scheduled at IITBombay. This conference is an annual international conference on Advanced Learning Technologies Technology-enhanced Learning organized by the IEEE Computer Society and the IEEE Technical Committee on Learning Technology.

Since many teachers follow my blog, I take this opportunity to invite them to participate by submitting research papers on the exciting tracks of ICALT’18:

Track 1. Technologies for Open Learning and Education (i-OPENLearn)

Track 2. Adaptive and Personalized Technology-Enhanced Learning (APTeL)

Track 3. Wireless, Mobile, Pervasive and Ubiquitous Technologies for Learning (WMUTE)

Track 4. Digital Game and Intelligent Toy Enhanced Learning (DIGITEL)

Track 5. Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL)

Track 6. Big Data in Education and Learning Analytics (BDELA)

Track 7. Technology-Enhanced Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education (TeSTEM)

Track 8. Technology Enhanced Language Learning (TELL)

Track 9. Technology Enabled Learning of Thinking Skills (TELoTS)

Track 10. Technology Supported Education for People with Disabilities (TeDISABLE)

Track 11. Artificial Intelligence and Smart Learning Environments (AISLE)

Track 12. Augmented Reality and Virtual Worlds in Education and Training (ARVWET)

Track 13. Motivational and Affective Aspects in Technology-enhanced Learning (MA-TEL)

Track 14. Applications of Semantic Web technologies for Learning (SW-EL)

Please download the official call for papers here: ICALT2018_CFP

ABC of Ph D


Few years back, I was invited to speak to masters students at a college of Mumbai University. The college administration had communicated to me that the students were anxious to know the process, pitfalls, advantages, disadvantages, and many other aspects of PhD. Based on this user requirement, I designed a talk by curating few well known concepts. The talk went well (according to me), and the students were quite interactive during the talk. I was bombarded with many questions during and in the end, which was a good sign!

Unfortunately, this talk wasn’t recorded, however the slide presentation for the same is available for you to download. Please go through it, and let me know your views about it.

Slides can be downloaded from here: ABCofPhD

In remembrance

Since morning, the date, 23rd September was ringing a bell in my head. I wasn’t able to recollect why is that. Until, I opened my old diary having birthdays noted, to see that it was the birthday of one of the most beloved teacher of all times: Prof. I S Mathur.


I still remember him meeting us two days before the inaugural function of ZICA. He was busy planning the program with meticulous details. Most striking was his ability to communicate with each and every person. Be it the Telugu speaking stage decorator, or the Russian faculty member. He used to make it look super easy, and each one of them had a smile on their faces after the conversation!

I personally feel, planning the 1st batch, is something ZICA should have documented better! The program design, curriculum, time tables, even finer details such as the room allotment had a ‘designer’ mark of ISM on it! I realised this when we were told that the room partners CANNOT be changed! I was extremely happy with my partner (Pankaj Srivastav), since he was a musician, but later did I know that this was by design!

His classes on film language were worth recording. Now when I see mediocre ‘experts’ uploading badly shot/edited/composited videos on ‘YouTube’, I feel we have done a gross injustice to the excellent teachers, by not documenting their lectures.

This is more shameful, when it happens in a media school, having all the facilities in the world. We are bad in documenting, and I really repent on that!

I remember going to him before the Diwali vacation with a request. I wanted to video shoot the proceedings at the institute. He permitted me immediately, and I still have that recording, which I think is the ONLY one existing, which shows glimpses of the humble beginnings! We should have done the recordings of his Film language course, aah, but that is an after thought! I appalled by the current ZICA site, which doesn’t even mention the founding Director. However, I think Prof. Mathur was much beyond that, and he still lives in the hearts of his innumerable students and colleagues!

Remembering you Sir on your Birthday!