Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Return of the Organic Indian

I’m back! This post marks the glorious and triumphant return of my summer blog. We’ve (and by ‘we’, I mean ‘me’) got a lot of new and exciting things planned, so stay tuned for an action-packed few months.

This year I will be In Ahmedabad, Gujarat working with an NGO called Development Support Center (DSC). I will officially be employed by IBM Research India, so I’ll also be spending some time at their Delhi lab. At a high level, this summer’s research will be somewhat of an extension of last summer, when I was thinking about information systems for smallholding farmers. But more details about what I’ll be doing in a future post.

For now, let’s talk about other important things, like this blog. Last summer’s blog turned out to be beneficial in many ways:
  • It helped me stay in contact with friends and family; to let them know what I’m up to and to discuss the happenings
  • I captured wonderful memories that I will share with my grandkids or whoever else cares to listen. Recording memories, thoughts, and experiences in time is big for me… I intend to look back on this blog throughout my life
  • I improved my skills as a writer
I also received rave reviews about the blog from you, my gentle readers. My favorite reaction was, “I just saw your blog, and I read all three month’s posts in one sitting”, which I got in one flavor or another from several people. That’s a huge compliment. Also, Most Loyal Reader Award goes to my uncle Babumama, who was hooked on the blog and would bring it up to his friends and family during the normal course of the day.

Due to the positive response, I will be sticking to the same general format this summer; keep things light, funny, off-the-cuff (I had a policy of just writing without looking back/editing too much so that the posts are raw and perhaps more genuine). The same disclaimer from before applies: I reserve the right to take back anything I say on this blog. It was fun writing this way mostly because I channeled a few writers whom I greatly admire. Here are the most important ones- you may want to check them out yourself:

  • Bill Simmons, who writes a sports column for ESPN.com Page 2. I’m starting to come to grips with the reality that he is my favorite writer (novelist or journalist, fiction or non-fiction), period. That’s kind of sad when you consider that he is basically a joker and writes about pretty trivial things like sports and pop culture (he once did a masterful 5,000-word piece on the Karate Kid trilogy). But he’s an extremely entertaining writer and he’s the only person I’ve ever consistently read. Whether I try or not, the way I write most things today is influenced by him.
  • Niniane’s Blog. She is a random Asian chick that works at Google but blogs about everyday, non-techie stuff in her life. Another really thoughtful, humorous writer
  • Robert X. Cringley. He writes a tech/media column for PBS which is really smart. He’s just got a totally powerful brain and writes well
  • Michael Pollan. I just finished Omnivore’s Dilemma, which is an instant top-3 favorite for me. This article was also awesome.
  • Nipun Mehta. One of my personal heroes, I also admire his writing on the Charityfocus blog. In the past, he kept an extraordinary blog during his walking pilgrimage in India; my favorite writings of his include this interview from Sumaya’s magazine, his speech "Impossible Times", and the phenomenal must-read CharityFocus manifesto.

I had some decidedly different emotions going into this summer compared to last. It was much harder this time to leave, mostly because when I get back to the Bay in September, many close friends will not be there. Joachim and Choks will be in SoCal for school and work, respectively. Sunil and Millie will be on the east coast. I’ll be moving out of the house I’ve lived in for the last four years. So things will not be the same, and it was sad saying so many goodbyes.

It also feels a little more daunting to look ahead to three months here, since I have gone through it once and know a little about what to expect. It is a long time, and there will be ups and downs. Unlike last summer, I will have to manage more things on my own; I will not be living in the ashram, where I had clean surroundings and food was provided. This time I will have to manage food myself, which will be a challenge. Also, I loved having my Masi in Baroda, who I could stay with when I needed a “vacation” from the ashram. Finally, I’m single now, so there’s less support in that sense.

On the positive side, though, I think that working in Ahmedabad will be a lot of fun because of the people who are around. My Ba is there, as well as my aunt & uncle and my cousin who is my age. I also plan on hanging out at Manav Sadhna and Indicorps. And in general, I think having done this before will help with getting work done. Already it has helped with just getting ready to come here. This time I knew exactly what to pack: I only took clothes that were going to be possible to hand-wash. Also, I have been taking Hindi for two years now, and my Gujarati will only improve. To top it all off, I got a retro back-to-7th grade haircut (head shaved with #4 clipper) to avoid dealing with hair while I’m here. Yes Amit, you know what that means... widow's peak.

I’m in Delhi for the next week or so to orient myself with my research group. I should also get to meet up with some friends who are around, so there should be some fun adventures. I’ll keep you posted.


  1. neil this is william wallace. I noticed you did not mention me as one of your heros. I enjoyed your letter to all your kids. Remember that fight and you may die, run and you'll live. At least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives.... but they'll never take our FREEDOM!!

  2. This is Maximus! =) Just kidding! Love the blog and im gonna read this religiously over the next few months since now I am moving and you are in India for now! Thanks for gchat and my bberry, so I am not worried about keeping in touch daily! =) Be strong and have fun! Always, Choks!

  3. I like the new haircut. Looking forward to keeping up with this. In fact, just now read your letter to your future children. Might have to to copy and paste that one ;-)

    Have fun out there!

  4. nice! definitely will keep track of you ...


  5. Head shaved = (Peanut Head)^2. Yay!

  6. Hey farmboy, leave some of that organic luvin for us back home.

  7. awesome! looking forward to reading over the summer, give us the cutting edge info!

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  9. Definitely looking to keep up with his! I'm glad you finished Omnivorre's Dilemma too...are you on to In Defense of Food just yet? Fantastic books!

    If you want some hookups in Ahmedabad let me know. I have lots of family there who would definitely be welcoming! - millie