Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Indra Cafe, Mysore

Some time back while driving through Mysore and in need of a good breakfast, we decided to ask the locals for a local eatery - after some misguided directions and some silly suggestions - one good soul pointed us to the direction of Dhanwantari Road to Indra Bhavan. After a little bit of asking around, we found the place and then had to go around as parking was on the other side of the divided road.

Indra Cafe is a small clean place that served us *heavenly* dosas and really nice soft idlis made with finely ground batter. Along with that was good chutney and tasty sambar! I am really pleased to have found this place... my last few visits had led me to some newer eateries that looked fancy but food wasn't great. I would recommend this to most people!

Thinking about Indra Bhavan as most people seem to call it locally (and that's what you should ask for) led me to think of the other nice places to eat in Mysore that I had found.

One that comes to mind immediately is the Mylari Hotel in Nazarbad - a must try for dosas and idlis..

Came across this interesting list of places that I have now put on my "must try next time" list!

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell - book review

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. It's an analysis of why or how successful people become successful.

Although the idea is good and there are some interesting insights, overall I think the book didn't really get me very excited.

**following content suitable for someone who has read the book, some spoilers ahead**

Malcolm starts out pretty well with the insight that some people are successful because of opportunities that come their way in which they had no hand in it - primarily using Canadian hockey selection as an example that favors children born earlier in the year. This is very true and does apply to other areas too especially in schooling.

However, after that, I tended to think that he gets a little confused - at some places he seems to want to say that people are successful because of things that happened to them, at other places because of the environment/age they were born in and at other times because they worked hard at it. Finally he seems to summarize it all in and say that everything has a hand in it - but that we know already - there isn't much insight in that.

I thought initially in the book that he seemed to be saying that more than innate ability and hard work - it was the opportunities, environment and other people's efforts that made successful people successful. But since that can't explain everything - he tempers it by saying that "of course these people had natural ability and worked hard".

The stories about the time of birth and about the opportunities that came to Bill Joy, Bill Gates and others are good examples of this.

Then he turns that around a bit - and seems to suggest that the "opportunity for hard work" was itself an opportunity - for example for the Beatles and for the Jewish garment workers turned lawyers.

There are two definite areas that I disagree with him.

First, about the opportunity presenting itself which caused the person to become successful. Here, Malcolm cites the example of Bill Joy (BSD Unix) as having gotten immense opportunity to code because of time-sharing of computers and that he luckily enrolled at a college that allowed him this facility. He further gives the example of the Beatles getting an opportunity to play regularly in Hamburg which allowed them to practice hard and hone their skills. Finally of Bill Gates who was lucky enough to go to a school that had the latest computers. To quote from the book -
We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that's the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968. (emphasis mine).

I disagree with this hypothesis. I think Bill Joy must have been very hard working and talented. He was lucky that he went to University of Michigan that had a computer with time-sharing. But I think there were probably 50 other people who went to the same University that year and attended the same computer course and had the same opportunity to use that computer. And as Malcolm himself says - at least three other universities MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Dartmouth probably had that computer too and there would have been 50 odd people withe same opportunity to access the computer for long hours and who were born at the right time to be able to make use of that opportunity - so why did Bill Joy become the guy who wrote that Unix and become a legend? It can't just be because he was at the right place at the right time. Sure those were factors - but that is true for many others too. The same thing applies to Bill Gates and even to the Beatles. As Malcolm himself says that the Hamburg connection was to Liverpool and that there were many bands that went from Liverpool to play at Hamburg. It is conceivable that many of those bands also had the same opportunity to hone their skill and did practice for 10,000 hours each - but they didn't become the Beatles.

My second disagreement with him is with regards to the American schooling system and its concept of a long summer vacation. Malcolm makes the case that this is one of the primary reasons why American kids are falling behind. Now, this might be true and I can't positively say that the long summer vacation is right or wrong. But I definitely disagree with his emphatic bent to the other side. The other side being the Asian (Chinese/Japanese) concept of long hours and all time spent studying. It seems to me that what Malcolm is espousing makes kids work very hard and makes them pretty good at math - but it doesn't necessarily show me that it makes them capable to deal with life and to make a success of it. If I look at it from a different light - the Asian system makes kids "hard working" but not necessarily more "smarter or innovative".

As I see it, a lot more innovations came out of the United States, the US has the largest number of billionaires and possibly the largest number of "successful" leaders who made it big. All these people came out of the same education system. Asians on the other hand are considered very hard working and smart (intellectually) but aren't necessarily innovative or successful and as a general opinion - I would say lesser innovative ideas have come out of Asia than out of the US. Isn't it then that Malcolm Gladwell is actually asking for a system that will take the success out of the US rather than the other way around - it at least sounds debatable to me. Could Bill Gates have been successful also because he had those long summer vacations where he could go and work for other companies like TRW? Aren't the Indian kids who keep winning the spelling bee year-on-year also part of the same education system and enjoy the same summer vacation?

In the ending of the book, Malcolm Gladwell quotes the story of his own family starting with his great grandmother to make the case of how opportunities and timing have so much to do with success... reading this made me think of my own father who was one of seven children of a refugee grandfather running away from Bangladesh to Kolkata; and who took the unusual step (at that time in 1978) of taking up an overseas job in faraway Jakarta where even English wasn't spoken. That step probably led him to jump out of his circumstances and do much better than the rest of his siblings and many other such families. Now, I could make a case that the timing was right - he had finished his education in time, an opportunity for overseas work came along, etc and that all this had a major hand in him becoming successful in his own right. On the other hand, he had gotten married 5 years before, had just finished his degree, had three small kids all under five and immense pressure from everyone around that this was a bad idea. Also, such opportunities existed for many people in Calcutta at the time since some businessmen were investing overseas in different locations and wanted people of their community to work there. To sum, I would say that the individual ambition and will to take that opportunity were few of the key factors that made him successful. Of course, the timing and presence of opportunity had a role to play - but I don't think they were the critical success factors.

In the internet dot com world, we now regularly come across the saying that the idea is no big deal - there will be multiple people with the same idea at any given point of time - it's what you do with that idea, how you do it and how fast you do it and your own individual interpretation of the idea that will make you successful.

Another good example in this discussion is a comparison I read of Infosys and it's peers. We all know what a success Infosys has been. We also know that they started out in 1982 and struggled all the way till 1991 almost shutting down in 1989 (10,000 hour rule). We also know that circumstances favored them significantly because of Manmohan Singh opening up the economy and abolishing the CCI and freeing up the stock pricing regime - which allowed Infosys to go public and also use ESOPs to attract talent. So we could argue that Infosys makes a good case for Malcolm's theories - opportunity to practise, environmental factors, timing, etc just as he explains it.

However, dig a little deeper. Take the example of Mastek - which was very similar to Infosys. It also started in 1982. It too went public in 1992 taking advantage of the new IPO opportunities, opened a US office in 1992 and offered ESOPS in 1993. But obviously it has not grown anywhere near the scale of what Infosys has done. Why? What was the difference? A key difference was that in 1989 after all the tough years - Infosys decided to focus its energies on the export of software and Mastek decided to focus its energies on the domestic software market. We all know where the two decisions took these two companies. Similarly, why didn't Patni (where the Infosys founders worked) and who also had the opportunity of the 10,000 practice hours grow to the levels that Infosys did? Or for that matter Digital Equipment Corp, ICIM Fujitsu or PSI Data - all of which had been around since the late 70s? Or those which came later like my own IT employer who started in 1992 and closed down twelve-thirteen years later at a small size?

I think the insights put forward by Malcolm Gladwell in his book are interesting but simplistic. They do not really offer enough to be able to help figure out success better or how to be more successful.

It still remains as elusive for most.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Insane Motorsport-endurance rickshaw rallying

Yep, that's how the organizers of this event describe their "Rickshaw challenge".

As part of the fund-raising programs for the free school that I am associated with, we provide logistical support annually for the Bangalore run of the challenge.

The thirteen autos arrived yesterday evening to our school to park their autos and were to leave this morning at a flag-off from the school.

Bangalore isn't the small town it used to be and the traffic, traffic rules and road-conditions make it an extremely ardous affair to navigate through! The rickshaws promptly lost their way in trying to reach the school from the map provided with two of them breaking down enroute!

Anyways, they all made it to the school, parked and made their way to the hotel for the night. Came back (hopefully refreshed) this morning to our school, after an introduction of our school, some speeches, a flag-off from the local MLA Mr. Ramalinga Reddy - they were off to Mysore.

They were directed to find their way to the NICE road and take a smooth exit out to Mysore road. Problem: on reaching there - found the NICE road is too upmarket for them and doesn't permit autos on its carriageway :-)

So... all of them now were on their own - having to figure out how to get out of the city. Not easy, if you ask me.

Driving to work, I found one of the autos stranded on the roadside near the Bannerghatta road junction on Hosur road - broken down and getting repaired. The two rallyists (!) Alexis and Marie from the UK found someone to guide them to a repair shop - but somehow they were guided to a place half-way into town!

They showed me the map in thier lonely planet and said the map didn't show the place they were at - which is a common problem in Bangalore since the city has been growing faster than they can update the maps. Anyways, all ended well - I got them some directions, an updated map and helped them get back on to the right route.

The great thing about this challenge besides the fun for the participants is that they donate part of the money raised to projects like ours. This is their website - http://rickshawchallenge.com

Friday, July 24, 2009

Murder on Hosur Road....

My heart cringes everyday as I drive down from Anepalya/Neelasandra (where Bannerghatta Road actually starts) to Koramangala on Hosur Road. A once beautiful promenade stretching from the NIANP institute right upto Mico Corporate office at Koramangala full of beautiful old trees is being destroyed for road-widening. It's really sad to watch all these huge trees being cut down so mercilessly...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pinching anyone?

My two-and-a-half year old loves to pinch! He doesn't pinch everyone - just me and his mom. He does it to show affection and love when he is happy. And he only pinches elbows - rather the skin at the back of the elbow.

It's really cute and funny - he will say "Papa pinching beku" and then I should give him my elbow and he will grit his teeth and start pinching my elbows :-) and take his excess love out. If he is really excited and happy - I should offer both my hands!

A quick googling for pinchers turned up some results where the babies at this age do pinch - and its not so uncommon - but more out of frustration and anger. Mine doesn't really do it when he is frustrated or angry - then he just throws a tantrum and bawls.

I guess it will pass and is just another phase of growing up. But all-in-all - it's really cute watching him pinch away!

Incidentally, it's quite amazing too to see how kids pick-up their parent's OCDs :-) - I have a long-time habit that when I wear socks, I fold over the top portion of the sock where the elastic band would be... primarily so that I don't get those tight elastic marks around my leg. So as a matter of routine, when I put socks on my son's feet getting him ready for school, I did the same. This happened a couple of times. After that I was surprised to see that he was demanding that they be always folded over - from me in case I forgot and from my wife too - who couldn't figure out where he picked this funny habit from!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lists, lists and more lists!

Was just reviewing my list of things to do... are you that kind of a person?

I am a lost-case list-addict. I can't do without them. Can't function without them. If I lose my to-do - I honestly won't know what to do.

Although it has its share of critics, my view on this is that besides the fact that it helps me organize - it really clears up my head and leaves space to think of other things :-) Once I jot down an item on my list - I remove it from my thoughts - the list will remind me when I look at it next. This is a good thing - but very bad if I were to lose the list. It almost brings nightmares to my mind - as close to the feelings I get when I visualize sudenly losing my laptop.

On the other hand, there is nothing quite satisfying as being able to check off so many items from your list and watch them disappear of your to-do list! Some days, if I check four-five items off - I know that's been a good day!

I have a list for everything - for work, for personal, for life, for love, for issues, for things to buy, for projects; if there's something that needs more than one bullet to do - it's going on my list!

Given the importance of lists in my life, I spend a fair amount of time searching for a way to organize my lists and track them. At the moment, I am very happy to recommend ToDoList from http://www.abstractspoon.com - it's free, it's convenient, simple and I have been using it for a while with much satisfaction.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Coming up: papaya plants

Have been planning to try and see how papaya plants will do...

Planting papaya is relatively easy... buy a papaya from the shop, see if you like it - if you do - then scoop out all the seeds from the center of the papaya. These aren't actually the seeds - the seeds are within them - these are essentially juice sacks encasing the seed itself.

Place these juice sacks-cum-seeds between a folded peice of newspaper and roll them with your hand till you pop the juice sacks - open the news paper and you will see smaller black coloured seed kernel - these are the actual seeds - clean them up and place aside on a dry paper, preferably in the sun, for at least a week. After this, they are good to use for planting and can be kept for almost a year!

When planting, choose a location and scatter some of the seeds in that spot. Choose some more spots similarly and scatter seeds in each of the spots. Scatter/sprinkle a few (10?) in each spot - not just one. Not all seeds may germinate - so you want to provide some extra. Cover the seeds with some mud/compost/mulch.

From those that germinate (which may take a couple of weeks) - see which ones are doing better and pull out those that don't look strong.

As they grow, you will have to see whether its a male or female papaya plant that you have got. Males don't give fruit - so you want to have a lot of females with maybe one male for every 15 females. You will be able to make out this by looking at the flower - the male will normally have long thin stalks coming out with flowers at the end of it whereas the females will have flowers right at the trunk of the plant itself.

Hope to try this soon!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Growing Mango Trees

A few weeks back I planted five mango trees!

I purchased the saplings for Rs. 50 each which albeit expensive, were apparently from good stock and of good "Mallika" variety. Mallika is native variety to India and is supposed to quite disease-resistant. Of course, the fruit itself I have tasted and like!

When buying the saplings, I was surprised to see that they are grown as graftings rather than from seeds and upon further reading, now understand that the best mango trees are grown as grafts from existing, proven and productive trees. Apparently, trees grown directly from a seed (albeit of a very tasty mango) will not give good fruit, take a long time to fruit and will be very fibrous. Some useful info is here http://www.tropicalrainflorist.com/mango_trees.htm

Mango trees can grow up to 90-100 ft in height and should start yeilding fruit in 3-4 years. They make excellent shade trees and grow a pretty large canopy so should be planted at least 50 feet away from existing structures. Although we have planted them fairly far apart - I didn't check the exact distance at the time - we chose five different spots and dug a hole and have planted them.

I hope to have more actual on-the-ground updates on my mango saplings going forward and hopefully will be eating its fruit in the forseeable future too!

All in all, a really satisfying activity! Much better than spending 250 bucks on a move ticket...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Take a bow Mr. Nilekani!

I am so impressed with Nandan Nilekani. It takes a lot of courage, guts and drive to make this big jump that he is making.

He and his wife have already been making significant contributions on the NGO side... but to do this full-time - kudos to him!

I have been reading also about the various "obstacles" that he is likely to face, how it's all going to be a failure and hearing from cynics about how Infosys will make money, and how this will never work out.

I say - put a good man with drive to do something - something good will come out of it - inspite of all the obstacles. Whatever Unique ID we get from the quirkily named Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) will be far better with Mr. Nilekani heading it...

Having said that - obstacles are there and duplication, errors, misuse, etc are all big ones.

My suggestion to the Chairman is that first attack at the base so that no new data gets generated wrongly. In other words - at hospitals at the time of birth - make it mandatory that every child when born gets a Unique ID - like a birth certificate - like a Social Security Number in the US.

Next attack the other end - people dying need a death certificate - make sure each such event gets logged into the UID - either to someone already in the system or by creation of a new record in the system.

This will at least get the new data correct - and then begins the onerous task of getting the existing population into the system.

For existing data, a good way to quickly get off the ground would be to provide a self-service portal where people with existing ID (like a passport) can logon and self-register, provide proof-of-ID and submit an application. This will make it much easier than to do a data collection effort. The applications can be scrutinized against the other ID database (passport) and if okay - can be integrated into the UID.

Of course that would take care of more urban than rural population - the primary political target for the UID. But there will be ways - for example take the Yashashwini database in Karnataka and you will get a good bunch of the population into the system with relatively "correct" info!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Wall of Equations

Have been reading Asimov's Second Foundation on my daily commute, it's quite engaging and sometimes don't feel like putting the book down and starting the car on the green light.

I was amazed at the "wall of equations" which jump to life as you speak and gesture described in the book; leave no shadows as you move around in front of it... zoom-in and zoom-out based on your finger movements, have vibrant color and graphics! Amazing... because technology like that is actually now looking like a reality and some interesting prototypes are visible in the tech world.

Wonder if these guys read his description and then got inspired!

Here's the extract:
He depressed a lever on his side of the desk and the room was in darkness. But only for a moment, since with a gradually livening flush, the two long walls of the room glowed to life. First, a pearly white, unrelieved, then a trace of faint darkness here and there, and finally, the fine neatly printed equations in black, with an occasional red hairline that wavered through the darker forest like a staggering rillet.

"Come, my boy, step here before the wall. You will not cast a shadow. This light does not radiate from the Radiant in an ordinary manner. To tell you the truth, I do not know even faintly by what medium this effect is produced, but you will not cast a shadow. I know that."

They stood together in the light. Each wall was thirty feet long, and ten high. The writing was small and covered every inch.

A slow silence. The student pointed a finger and as he did so, the line of equations marched down the wall, until the single series of functions he had thought of - one could scarcely consider the quick, generalized gesture of the finger to have been sufficiently precise - was at eye-level.

"Before you obtain your Speakerhood," continued the First Speaker, "you yourself will have to make an original contribution to the Plan. It is not such great blasphemy. Every red mark you see on the wall is the contribution of a man among us who lived since Seldon. Why ... why-" He looked upward, "There!"

The whole wall seemed to whirl down upon him.

"This," he said, "is mine." A fine red line encircled two forking arrows and included six square feet of deductions along each path. Between the two were a series of equations in red.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Should buses stop at bus stops?

A daily sight (and source of frustration) on my commute is seeing bus after bus lined up in the center of the road, traffic piling up behind it; trying to edge in to the right lane and traffic piling up in that lane - all the while, the driver nonchalantly awaits for passengers to get on and get off - and a swarm of commuters spreading in multiple directions - everywhere but inside the bus stand.

Why is it that we are not able to wait inside the bus stand and feel the need to reach out into the middle of the road to examine every bus that comes by?

Why is it that buses are not willing to come to a halt at a bus stop and feel the need to halt in the center of the road / or further away / or much before the bus stand?

Do buses stop like this because people are crowding around all over in front of the bus stop and leave no space for the bus? Or do people come out on to the road because buses never stop at the right place?

I don't know.

What I do know is that either which way, we shouldn't have this situation. Other cities in India itself are far better able to manage this simple issue - forget large ones like Bombay, even cities like Mangalore have it down pat - even down to queuing up (can we even think about such a possibility in Bangalore??).

If at all a start has to be made, it has to be made at BMTC - they need to strictly instruct their drivers to stop the buses at bus stops - not in the center, not before, not after - AT the bus stop.

Will Mr. Syed Zameer Pasha, MD of BMTC please hear my plea and do something about it?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Disruptive technologies

Dwelling further on yesterday's ideas, another way to look at it is that man might solve these problems through some disruptive technologies.

For example, water-hydrogen/solar powered cars, heating, etc. will make energy from an infinite source. If we believe that most sci-fi is really not fiction but reality ahead of its time - then Asimov's ideas of mineral recoonstruction - from iron ore to gold, etc will make commodities infinitely more available... and existing technologies like reverse osmosis might become cheaper to make water more available...

Hmm... wonder which way things will go forward...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fund managers should become farmers??

A very interesting interview with Jim Rogers in the Economic Times. It was like he was saying whatever I have been saying/feeling. There are two excerpts below. The full article is here: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Opinion/Interviews/Fund-Managers-can-become-farmers-Jim-Rogers/articleshow/4610704.cms

He touches upon two of my other thoughts - the coming commodities boom due to its finite availability and the collapse of the US dollar.

Global population is close to its peak and genetically-modified crops will increase productivity. What makes you so bullish on agriculture?

It doesn't matter. The world has been consuming more than it produced. Food inventories are at a multi-decade low. And we haven't had any bad weather. We had isolated cases of droughts and things. That may never happen again. But if it does, the prices of food would go through the roof.

If there is climate change taking place, the best way to participate is through agriculture or through agriculture products. There are many positive things happening. Right now, there is a shortage of everything in agriculture — seeds, fertilisers, tractors, tractor tyres. We have a shortage of farmers because farming has been a horrible business for the past 30 years.

What will you tell a confused fund manager who seeks your advice?

Become a farmer. The world has tens of thousands of hotshot fund managers right now. If I am correct, the financial community is not going to be a great place to be in for the next 30 years. We have many periods in history when financial people were in charge, we had many periods when people who produced real goods were in charge — miners, farmers, etc.

The world, in my view, is changing and is shifting away from the financial types to producers of real goods, and this is going to last for several decades as it always has. This may sound strange but it always happens this way. Ten years from now, it may be farmers who will drive the Lamborghinis and the stock brokers will drive tractors or taxis at best.

P.S. Two posts in a row... the reason is that I am thinking these days I need to write my thoughts down more - to organize and to not forget :-) - memory is failing!

Food, Inc

Saw a news report yesterday about a new documentary about the american food system called Food, Inc.

On my way home - bumped into my building's association president - we were discussing our current big problem - our water charges take up 2/3rds of our already high building maintenance fees - and yet the water is not enough. I was very much against his suggestion that we dig another borewell... besides the environmental issue - most borewells are drying up in any case.

On a more promising note - the MoEF seems to have atleast caused some delay in approving the Gundya hydro power plant - complicated issue - because of the usual "dam" related concerns and also because it is relatively "micro" compared to other such projects - and I do believe run-of-the-river micro power plants may be a better alternative...

Food, Energy, Water - our next big three worries? conflicts? opportunities? all of them?

I am convinced it's all of them. And we all need to do something about it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Citizen Police

A recurring irritant on my daily commute is seeing so many people disobeying the traffic rules. The ones who irritate me the most are the people who go down one-ways, park on main roads under no-parking signs, stop during peak hours on the road with a driver inside as though that is not equivalent to parking and people who cause log-jams at traffic junctions by approaching from the wrong lane.

I keep thinking the fines should be increased so that it pinches. Then I think that there aren't enough cops on the roads to monitor all these... which in turn leads me to think that there should be a way to empower citizens to fine such law-breakers. But that option has too many grey areas - who should be empowered, who selects this empowered set and how do you prevent them from misusing that empowerment?

One idea that I think has a lot of potential is to create a public website which allows citizens to post photos of such law-breaking incidents. The traffic police can then send tickets for fines on the basis of such evidence - if required with a print of the incriminating image!

Anyone out there who can help get the approvals for such a system from the Police commissioner?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

School updates

It now appears it is quite difficult for getting admission even for a 2-year old! Out of the five other people that we know who also applied to the same school - none have made it so far. One has got "prospective admission" for three months which will be reviewed after that... another has got a second interaction lined up - because a sibling is already in that school - so they are going to give it another go...

Now I am feeling luckier... and empathizing with my friends' stresses...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

School hunting!

We have been school hunting for the last few months. Well actually, we looked around for schools in September, made up our mind for a particular one and then applied to it when "bookings" opened in November.

It's been an interesting experience and stressful too.

It appears there is a huge demand for schooling and most people keep telling me that Education is the best business to be in. In fact, few of my friends have started a play-school on a franchise from a national brand!

Initially, we thought it's too early to look for a school since he is just ready for play-school... but then realized that most schools are "admitting" students earlier and earlier... the 2 schools we shortlisted both belonged to the same group and had a play/kindergarten school that was a feeder school to the 2 primary schools. So it made sense if he got into their play school since he would automatically then go on to their regular primary school as well...

We kept a look out for when the school would start issuing application forms and on the appointed day in November, my wife to the school early at 6:30 am to stand in a queue to accept the forms which would be sold from 9:00 am.

The form had strict guidelines on when it has to be submitted - approximately four days from when it had been issued. The trickiest portion was that we had to decide which of the 2 primary schools we wanted to opt for him to finally go to after four years of play/kindergarten school. This decision cannot be changed once the form is submitted and so entailed a fair amount of debate, discussion on the schools, their methods, facilities, fees and so on. Plus discussions with friends whose children went to these schools about which is better. One school is better established, older but also follows the older system of education. It also has smaller school grounds and lower fees. The other one is newer, bigger grounds and follows a more contemporary education system but also has much higher fees. It also seems to have more "rich-kids" and hence the worry that our child may not fit-in or even worse, get spoiled!

To further complicate matters, the demand for the two schools differ - the older school has far higher demand from parents and therefore the chances of your child getting admitted in the playschool are much lesser if you selected the older school!

Working out all the permutations and combinations, ifs-and-buts, positives and negatives - didn't really take us forward towards a clear decision.

Finally, we decided at the time the form was being submitted, when my wife was at the school office to submit the form - over the phone and she filled it in and submitted the form. We opted for the new school. Positives were the education system that we liked - negatives were the high cost of fees and the possibility of the child getting spoiled... and of course a positive - potentially better chance at admission into the play school.

Then started the wait for the interview call which we received only in January. Meanwhile, came the distressing news of a common friends' child having been refused on an earlier day when their interview call had come. Apparently, the child did everything well but other kids did better than him. Stress levels were rising for me now!

My son isn't even two years old and we haven't really pressured him to "learn" per se - things like numbers, alphabets, nursery rhymes, etc. And then came various reports of how other kids his age could do many of these things - talk about pressure!

Anyhow, our interview call came. That morning, we made sure he was dressed nicely and looked like a nice little boy :-) and then we made sure we were well turned out and dressed well to! Then a quick prayer and off we went to the school!

The entire "interaction" was fairly well organized and stress-free as far as the child was concerned. There were quite a few other parents as well and you could tell from the forced care-free expressions that all the parents were worried - their child shouldn't suddenly get into a bad mood, should suddenly decide to behave badly, etc... and so were we!

Soon we were called inside - they told us only one parent can accompany the child inside - which we did know earlier . The plan was for my wife to take him in - but the previous night she suggested I should take him in - so along with him, I went in.

We were ushered to a table with toys and they asked that the child be seated and allowed to interact with the items available. Luckily my son played with the various toys - and seemed to know what to do with them. There were a few scary moments - when I didn't know what one toy was and when he suddenly refused to leave once we were done - he wanted to continue playing! Anyway, we made our way out - said Thank you and left.

We were under the impression that we would need to wait a week before the results would be announced and I was working at calming myself to not get stressed till we heard the results. Thoughts like the fact we had not applied to any other schools, or that they may suggest other kids did better than him, etc. played on my mind all that morning.

I was relieved of my misery later that afternoon though - my wife called and said she had received a call that our son was selected! Thank god for that!

It's been an interesting and learning experience... two things that I got out of it are:
1. The first debate was about the kind of school and the type of children that went to that school. Based on all the discussions and introspection, I have come to the conclusion that basic grounding of a child such as humility, care for others, ability to cope with different situations, rounded-ness, etc will come from the home... the school will have an impact - but a large part of this is not really dependent on the school but on the parents.

2. There was a lot of debate about the fees and whether you should opt for an expensive school which will pinch far more on the pocket and require you to stretch more. It seems to me that if we want our next generation to do better than us - we must send them to better school - which might invariably be a little more expensive that what you can comfortably afford. It's not just the quality of education - many schools may have equal or better and may be less expensive - I think it's the whole package - the kind of teachers, the kind of students who attend, the infrastructure, the culture, etc - everything put together will create an eco-system that moulds the child in certain way .

3. There was also a lot of debate about the whole system per se - and how the schools are making money, have unreasonable demands, etc. My view on the subject is that if a school is better, it will have more demand - the more the demand for the school, the more it can choose to dictate the rules and choose its pupils. Hence to be fair to the demands of a free market - we must recognize that they have a right to frame their rules - and play by them if we want to send our children to these schools.