Last couple of weeks have been eventful. I traveled, attended two very different types of events and then there was the loss of my paternal grandmother. This is to capture some of the moments from the last few days.

jstorlogo 7th to 13th December, Bangalore:

As already mentioned I went to Bangalore to speak at the Jstor / Ithaka workshop on ‘Creating High Impact and Digital Initiatives in India.’ It was a 3 day workshop from 8th to 10th and on 7th evening there was a welcome dinner. Attending this workshop was a very different experience for me and I really had a good time with the team. The group largely consisted of academics, librarians and archivists from various parts of India. The profile and age group of these people were very different from what I am used to meet in any of the various blogging or social media related events and activities. You must have already read the live blogs here, do check them out if you haven’t already.

I was really looking forward to this event because I knew I would be able to make some really strong connections there in terms of my work with non profit sector and social media, and I did. What is even better is that I am now a bit closer to my goal of collecting smiles and hugs.

On the last day of the workshop when Dr. Kamalini Dutt, Director, Doordarshan Archives hugged me and said, “You are a very nice girl,” and blessed me like a mother; When Rahim S. Rajan, Content Development Manager at JSTOR and I shared fun moments about our co-presentation and how we prepared for it; When Subhash Rai, Web Editor of Economic and Political Weekly smiled at me and apologized for the very heated argument between us the previous day, about which I was visibly embarrassed and said sorry myself; And when Karma Khedup, Archivist of Tibetan Library and Archives shook hands with me for the fifth time before leaving, I knew I was going back to Delhi with a bag full of goodwill, hugs and smiles.

Many would say I am faking my benevolence here but this is all that has ever mattered to me, the professional connections and subsequent engagements being incidental.

Most participants had liked my presentation on social media and non profits. Judging by the audience reaction, it was the most interesting talk because the Q&A session ran for the longest. Rahim and I presented on the same topic in two parts. I started out by talking about what is social media, why and how is it significant for the nonprofit sector. I then gave a brief account of the last 6-7 years of history of social media in India. Even after 10 years of its existence in India, blogging, which is still one of the most important aspect of social media, has remained a niche online activity in terms of number of users, subjects blogged about, regions to which bloggers belong. And when significant people with access to information stay away from social media, it creates a serious adverse impact on digital content. Thus, it is now high time that each one of us working in sectors outside the niche start using social media tools like blogs, Facebook, twitter etc to create valuable and reliable content.

In the second part of the presentation, Rahim took the participants through some of the Global examples to show how various off beat entities like libraries and museums are using social media tools to engage with their existing members or attract new members and much more.

While I put focus on the importance of using social media by nonprofits, Rahim gave a demo on how exactly they can do so. Together we made a good team. We both hope more and more academics and Indian nonprofits take up social media.

More on my presentation in a separate post. Meanwhile you could look at the Power Point presentation that I have uploaded on SlideshareJstor presentation

11th December, Snigdha’s place, Bangalore: Obituary for my Grandmother

Visiting Bangalore by default means that I would visit Snigdha, my childhood friend, my hypothetical platonic wife. I wanted to check out of the hotel I staying on 10th evening itself but the luxuries of Pride Hotel, Bangalore were too dear to me to give up. Really, I have never been to such a costly hotel before. Finally, I checked out on 11th morning and reached Snigdha’s place by 10.30

DIDA WITH LAPTOPThere was a lot of fun and frolic to share with Snigdha plus baby Mishkah is such a playful sweetheart, I was naturally in a joyous and elated mood when my sister called me to inform that grandma, we call her dida, had passed away. Strange coincidences, this was the second time I got the news of losing someone while I was at Snigdha’s place. The last time it was our dog Jango. Both time the pain was eased because of Snigdha’s presence. Last time it was eased in anticipation of Mishkah’s coming into this world, this time it was eased by playing with her.

I was not very close to dida, most of us grand children were not. She was not your typical grandmother with fairy tales who playfulness. In fact, I cannot remember her taking care of babies much. In all my memories she is always either reading or writing or having conversations, with men women alike, on matters of importance, from political to personal to films, art and culture. She was a prolific reader and writer.

She never missed writing her personal diaries until the last couple of months of her life. In the last one year we saw her reading the newspaper and writing her diary all the time standing, because her back ache made it difficult for her to sit on a chair. Her journals are filled with interesting information on various topics. To name a few, list of Indian baby names, list of films by Uttam Kumar along with date of release, important dates related to political changes in the country – she noted everything she thought was relevant for an intelligent person. In short, that woman who never went to school beyond 10th grade was a walking talking Wikipedia at her mid 80s. With that passion for writing, I wish she had lived with us in Delhi so I could teach her to blog which I am confident she would have picked up.

Dida had an extremely sharp memory and was always concerned about people she met in a very positive way. If she met someone today and engaged in a conversation, she would probably be able to pick up the same conversation from where she left even after 5 years. This October when I met her in Jalpaiguri she enquired about everybody she met in the neighbourhood when she visited Delhi over 10 years back. She asked about people I myself don’t remember exist. But these were not curious questions of an idle mind but that of a mind very active and awake, a mind that still wanted to ‘know’ so much and do so much even though her body had lost its strength.

I cannot remember dida ever saying a bad thing about anybody, never a gossip, never a complaint. I never saw her being judgmental, she never forced her daughter in laws to follow norms or tradition. She herself lived a strong and liberated life and gave the same to her daughter in laws.

Dida was born way ahead of our times. I think I owe my feminist blood to her and my mom. Every home have great examples of how grandmother’s are all about love care and affection, but how many have such examples where grandmothers are about intellect, confidence and power.

Sadly, I could never fully tell her any of the things I felt about her. I never had a conversation with her about who she was or why I admired her because I couldn’t articulate myself. I couldn’t have possibly told her how I think the role she played in our lives was very gender-deconstructed. She probably didn’t even know what is ‘gender.’ I believe she was special without realizing that it was a big deal to be special.

A few thoughts on death…

dida with laptop 2A large part of our memories are made of smells and sounds. This year when I visited Jalpaiguri to meet Dida, I was shockingly bumped out of my memories of that home. As far as I can remember in that home, I had always woken up to the loud and clear voice of Dida talking to some or the other breakfast time visitor or service guy. This time I could barely hear her. In her last few months, she spoke to people only when they entered her room. She was so silent that at times I almost forgot she was still living in that house. But her mind was still strong to hear, see and feel everything. She noticed the time when people left and returned home (her room is just next to our main door), when they did return she wanted to talk to them about the day but no body had time for her and that is understandable. I could afford to spend time with her because I was visiting Jalpaiguri on a vacation but other’s have more important things to run for.

On the Durgapuja days she used to notice that I was not going out much. So she used to ask me to go out for protima darshan. On Maha Saptami she even gave me tips as to which pandals to visit. She herself couldn’t go out though and that was really sad. We wanted to arrange for a wheelchair but she will never sit on it. Dida never accepted that she was old and weak. She would rather not go out than sit on a wheelchair.

I am actually glad dida didn’t have to live in that state for too long. I always believed that death never really kills the person deceased, it kills people who are left behind to mourn. If there is any life after death, if there is another life, I wish she comes back as a woman of the 21st or 22nd century.

And for this life I have, I will remember her as an extremely interesting woman I wish I could know more.

17th December, Official Live Blogger at India Social Summit 2010

If it is something related to Social Media I have got to be there, but the ISS10 was a bit costly and unlike TEDxDelhi no body invited me for it either so I almost didn’t make it. But then I wrote a mail to Rajesh Lalwani and a few things worked out and I was there as the official live blogger for the event.

My posts are available on the India Social blog archived by my name here.

At the close of the day the India Social and Blogworks team gave an overwhelming note of thanks to me for taking up the role of live blogger. Rajesh Lalwani, founder of Blogworks, was particularly nice. Not only did he thank me when he was still on the stage which made the whole audience turn back at me sitting in the last row with the India Social team, he also personally handed me a nice gift from S.Oliver. I didn’t expect them to be so thankful after all it was no big deal that I was writing the live blog. I felt nice anyway and came back home very happy and totally kicked.

A few thoughts on Social Media Baithak…

At the summit I caught up with quite a few known faces from the Delhi social media scene and that brings me to Social Media Baithak. The thing is everybody been asking me when am I going organize the next Baithak and I don’t have a good answer to that. As much as I want to organize another, why another, a series of Baithaks but I just can’t seem to figure out a way to sustain it. In the long run, Social Media Baithak would have to be an event organised by me or some other entity and there would have to be a way to recover the organizer’s cost. At this point it is important for me to breakeven with my enterprise Samyukta Media and till then philanthropic activity would perhaps have to wait. Unless, I get someone to fund / sponsor the event.

A few thoughts on Samyukta Media and its role in Indian nonprofits sector…

The India Social Summit focused on Social Media and India and pretty much covered every aspect of social media, marketing and strategies. The only thing missing from the summit was the cognition of a world which exists outside the profit making corporate industry. After attending the summit I am once again convinced that social media is great, but just like most resources in the world, whether man made or natural, are mostly used for the benefit of the class sitting towards the upper section of the social pyramid, so is the case with social media. And really, I cannot let that happen. Perhaps I sound too presumptuous when I say I can make a difference, but I surely will try. It has not been easy so far for me to quit my job and plunge into entrepreneurship with zero idea of business but am learning. I know there is a great demand in the non-profit / unorganized / informal sectors for social media consultancy and these entities cannot afford the existing costly social media consultants who are not even that competent given that they only recently made a shift from marketing and PR to social media. I am the only one around with the original experience of being a social media user from as long as it has existed in India which is, say over 6 years, and who has the understanding of these sectors, particularly non-profits. I owe it to myself and to the sectors.

I think that’s a lot for today. Next posts are going to be on some parting thoughts for 2010, my presentations at the Jstor workshop and some thoughts on entereprenuership since I also attended the TiE Entrepreneurial Summit.