Monthly Archives: January 2011


We set off today with not a great expectation from the computer skills 8 day academy. There were 2 reasons for this:

1) Although the parents ‘speak/read/write’ english, they do so for only the 5 sentences that they have been taught. Their knowledge or vocabulary in english is non-existance outside of what they have been taught. This means that we need a translator around to help Masarat and I (who can speak hindi and english) in every session which we have tried to run.

2) Only 1-2 of the 25-30 parents can read or write bangla or english with a poor level of fluency, let alone reasonable level of fluency. Even though they have been having english classes for about 2 years, most of them still cannot write their name in english.

The above two points brought about a major issue – to use a PC, you need to have the ability to read the menus…. How else will you recognise what you can do through each option? The issue is that the parents do not have the ability or knowledge on how to construct or read new words (although this is not the parent’s fault).

The 2 sessions on Computer skills that we ran today were quite tough. We started with something basic – MS paint. We asked the classes to create the bangladesh flag. Obviously since it was the first time that most of them came close to touching a computer, let alone use it, so there was a definite shock factor involved especially in the hand eye coordination required to move the mouse and see what it does on the screen – teething problems, no worries.

The bangladesh flag is simple – it looks like the japanese flag – rectangle and a circle in the middle of it. We drew out the flag on paper (no board available) but it was SO difficult to explain the shapes to the parents. Now here is where the biggest problem that I see-when we want to translate what we are teaching, from english/hindi to bengali, we have 2 options- ask the kids (but they are at school during the computer skills session),or the manager of the project…. Who is just not interested in participating unless he is ‘forced’ to.

So, teaching adults who cannot read/write english or bengali and nobody around to translate english/hindi into the language that they understand was immensely difficult. Add to that the fact that computer skills requires the ability to read/recognize words – it is a course a little too soon even for those who have potential (about 5/25) purely because they cannot read english or bengali at a basic moment.

But there are so many positives too. The public speaking and communication skills 8 day academies are getting a great review. The parents who were dead nervous on day 1 have developed well on day 2; they are speaking (in Bengali) with much more structure and confidence. Their voice, gestures are improving and they are wanting to learn.

It is a shame that the people who want to push the program forward are kids, and the people who should be organising and running the show are literally not bothered about the outcome of the 8 Day Academies and how it can be re-run with other people in the community.

Day 3 will not have a computer skills academy, but the bar of the communication skills sessions has been raised; 2 kids (12-13yo) want to join in the session too, and present skills that they haven’t picked up over the first 2 days.

Let’s see how it goes!

January 23, 2010

Today was the first day in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We went into an area
called Gawair which many referred to as the ‘slums’. Many parts of
Gawair remind me of home Fatehpur Shekhavati and just made me more
nostalgic. Luckily, the trip to Rajasthan is a week away. My husband,
Tauqeer, and I headed to the small school in an autorickshaw. We were
warned that people would charge us 20 times more so we had asked
around and got a list of prices for things/services we might be using.
We knew that we shouldn’t pay more than 30 takas for the autorickshaw
ride. The guy charged us 40 takas which is fine. I don’t mind paying
that extra bit.

The day was very challenging because most of the students (who are
parents of at least four kids!) cannot write any language (Hindi,
Bangla or English). Because they have been part of Maria’s Project
(who had founded The Dhaka Project), they got to study English, so
most of them cannot speak Hindi but can speak very broken English. So
today, I taught in Hindi and English along with a local person who did
the Bangla translation.

Tomorrow, I’ll be teaching two batches (different timings) Computers.
The language is going to a challenge and most likely, I will have to
remove the people who cannot read or write because it is impossible to
teach them Computers when they cannot read the menu and options. I
don’t think it is rendering them hopeless but I think these people
need to be ‘worked on’ before they can move to Computers. However,
they are still a part of my 8DA of Communications & Public Speaking.

I have a few more concerns on my mind but I will keep them to myself.
Only thing I can say is that if these community people change after
this 8DA, it really will be magical!

It’s been an interesting day in Dhaka. After a long journey from
London with the connecting flight being a little congested with its
seats, Tauqeer and I were eager to see how different the place looked
like. While landing, we could muddy water-like patches and then dense
greenery in the middle of huts. Lots of canals here and
there–probably man-made.

I’m a little disappointed at the way the team, who should have
organised the teaching space and schedule, was clueless. We had aimed
to teach two 8DAs but even if we can do one and organise a small TEDx
and teach English, I’d consider this trip successful.

Tomorrow, I head out near the slums and into the school, so fingers crossed!

Btw, advice of the day by three 13-year-old kids: “Don’t go anywhere
without us because there is a big risk of being kidnapped. No part of
Bangladesh is safe.”

Really? I wonder what others think.

As many of you know that my husband, Tauqeer Jamadar, and I are going to Bangladesh to teach two 8DAs (8-Day Academy). We’ll be then heading to Rajasthan, India to organise two TEDx event in ONE day! That is, TEDxShekhavati and TEDxYouth@Shekhavati on February 5, 2011.

The event is not of appeal to many companies, so nobody has come forward to sponsor the event. This left me with the option of fundraising between family and friends–just like last year. Only this year, because I have moved to London where I have no social circle yet, I have to remote-manage organising 8DA and TEDxShekhavati alongwith coordinating fundraisers in UAE.

I am deeply touched by many people who contributed through online payment system to help me reach out to these thousands of people through 8DA and TEDx. When the donations were pouring in, a part of me melted in humility because I wondered how would I ever repay back all these contributors? I realized that the only thing I could do was to make sure this money went to the best use possible. That this money touched and changed lives.

I am very sad as I write this blog post. Many of you must have read the trials of organising TEDx Shekhavati 2010. Somehow, I felt that this year wouldn’t be that tough but it has come as a sad surprise that this year is worse than the last. So far, the four venue choices I had for TEDx Shekhavati have been rejected by the owners. The place where I had held the event last year have also said they are ‘not interested’ in hosting TEDx Shekhavati this year. This only compounded my sadness because already, the work I had done through my 8-Day Academy (teaching Computers and starting a library) have met a brick wall too. My students are not allowed to use those facilities because I went against many people to organise TEDx Shekhavati.

I feel like I am pushed out of my own village. I had made-up my mind to move my work to another district in Rajasthan until my own people realize the value of progress. I was almost convinced that this was the best idea, until I received a message from a reporter who had visited children and teachers taught by me through 8DA. When she told me about my students, I wondered if I was abandoning them. The students never opposed me; they saw me as hope. I can’t back off, can I?

And so today, when I got the phone call saying we have no venue and two weeks left for the event, I felt sad but decided that I cannot let this take over me.

Thank you for all your contributions. It makes one part of my struggle easier. I was wondering what does one say when a ‘thank you’ isn’t enough. I tweeted my questions and some replies said ‘Prayers’. I pray for all of you who help me and I promise to give it the best I can. I return your kindness with this.