Sunday, July 29, 2007


Welcome to my India blog! I’ve been here in Baroda, Gujarat for over a month, but have only recently had access to a reliable Internet connection. So though this blog is very late, there is some good news: In anticipation of this moment, I have over 20 pages of blog posts in a Word document that have just been transferred up here. Combine that with over 500 pictures which I have added from where appropriate, and you will be caught up in no time!

I’m not sure what the theme of this blog is, but so far my writing has been a bunch of experiences and reflections during my day-to-day life here in India. Some of the stuff will be related to my research internship (explained below), but I’d say the majority of it is about observations and memories that I think are cool. In the past I’ve blogged about service, but since this blog has a bunch of random and (attempted) humorous material nothing to do with service, I’ve decided to keep these posts in a separate blog. And also unlike in that blog where I had a clear point to my posts (for my own personal reflection and recollection, and also secondly to let people know what I’m up to), in this case I’m sometimes writing for my own recount of events (like when I go into deep detail of my one and only bout with stomach illness), and in other cases I’m writing with the vain hope of entertaining you, the gentle reader. So please bear with me. I like journal writing to have very limited editing and review, meaning I tend to write posts quickly without looking back and editing for coherency or to make sure I’m making my point exactly how it is in my head or heart. I think that although this at times makes things nonsensical, open to misinterpretation, or miscommunicated on my part, it also leaves the thoughts unadulterated which is nice. But please keep this in consideration when you read… I may offend people or say something non-PC, but that’s not purposeful. I reserve the right to take back anything I write here and to change my stance at any future time that’s convenient to me.

So now that all that admin is out of the way, I thought you might want to know a little about why I’m here, so you’ll get a context to the posts which in many cases is necessary. In case you didn’t know/I didn’t tell you, I am a grad student in the CS department at Stanford. I chose to pursue academic Computer Science research in the hope of developing an understanding (and attention in general) to the Information Technology needs of underserved populations, particularly in the so-called developing world. You can also read my homepage for more on all of that. Anyway, in the pursuit of this research direction, I scored an internship with a grassroots technology company in India called Ekgaon through a colleague of mine named Tapan Parikh, who actually was a big inspiration of mine to make the decision to come to grad school to pursue research in technology for development. Tap and Ekgaon connected me with Kapil Shah in Baroda, who runs an NGO called Jatan which leads the organic farming movement in Gujarat. Jatan trains, educates, and supports farmers in organic farming (called “Sajiv Kheti” which literally translated means "living agriculture") techniques. Kapilbhai is a legendary guy from a legendary family of social workers in Gujarat, and together with his brother Bharatbhai live at the Vinoba Bhave Ashram in Baroda. Bharatbhai is an MD and runs a Naturopathy hospital out of the ashram where patients receive “nature cure” treatments including massage, steam and mud bath, acupuncture, yoga, diet consultation, meditation, etc. The results are pretty impressive, including diabetes patients who left no longer needing insulin shots, and stroke patients whose paralysis has been cured. So impressive in fact, that my mom will be coming here in a week or so to get treatment after her diagnosis of GBS.

Anyway, I’m working with Kapilbhai to develop IT systems to help small farmers, particularly organic farmers. Organic farming essentially means farming free of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and GMOs, but Sajiv Kheti is more that just that; it’s a life philosophy in which a farmer takes care to look after all of the living organisms in the land through practices that do not exploit natural resources or result in long-term harm to the environment while still producing competitive yields. There are social as welll as environmental aspects to Sajiv Kheti. Essentially my hypothesis is that because organic farming is a knowledge-intensive way of farming (compared to input-intensive chemical farming), information systems may play a useful role in the way in which farmers practice it. Currently we are working on a bunch of ideas, including a certification and labeling system, an organic farmer and produce tracking system for consumers, tools for farmers to share techniques and advice, and others. If you want to know more about the work side of things, it’s better if you email me and we can talk; I don’t see that being the focus of this blog.

Note that I have back-dated posts to coincide with when they were written.

So I think that’s it. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I've never heard you describe your research like that...good stuff!