Don’t ask me what my New Year’s resolutions are. I don’t make em.

January 5th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

No really, I don’t. Actually, I vehemently oppose the practice.

To understand why, we need to go back a bit. When I was a kid, every New Year’s Eve I’d be asked about my resolutions, and I’d loudly proclaim them, having thought about them in preparation.

By the time I was 10 or 12, I was completely disillusioned with the whole thing. Each year started with such promise, such optimism, yet a few months in, I’d feel like I was letting myself and people around me down.

So I stopped.

And here’s the thing – many years later, after being suspended from university and having to essentially start building from scratch, I came to two conclusions.

  1. We are made up of habits.
  2. I suck at lofty but well-intended, noble goals.

This wasn’t a sudden realisation. Oh no, not at all. It came from a dark time, the biggest failure I had faced, a shattered ego and sense of self, unforgiving intense inquiry into my self, my actions, the causes and reasons for getting where I was.

But that first point – that was a major lightbulb moment when I put it together. We get used to acting the way we act, reacting the way we do, living the way we live. We don’t even think about these things on a daily basis. Setting one huge goal for the sake of it blinds us from all the little tiny changes we need to make in order to get there. We set a result without mapping the route. In startup terms – we talk about exit strategies without having done the gruelling product and customer grind.

What works for me is having a vague goal coupled with piecemeal chipping away and constant vigilance. And experimentation. Oh, the glorious data collection! Touching up and tweaking as we go along. Knowing that the 31st of Dec isn’t a deadline. The fun ends when I die dammit!

I’ve been reflecting on and investigating the past year a lot (more on that soon…ish) and have been making use of these ‘processes’ a lot. Processes are consistent slow-release happy pills. That’s much much more than resolutions have ever been for me.

Thank you, and goodbye, Tiwariji

July 28th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

I have just been informed by a friend that my Hindi school principal, Tiwariji (that’s ‘Mr Tiwari’ in Hindi) passed away on Monday.

I’m feeling the loss. He made my life better, in ways I never truly got till now. Tiwariji, along with a few other visionaries like my father’s childhood friend Srinivas Rai, banded together and brought change in the days when Hindi was a minority language in Singapore, and therefore not recognised officially.

Some background: In the Singaporean educational system, all children have to learn English as a first language from the time they enter kindergarten. In additional, they have to learn a second language, designed to be the child’s mother-tongue. When I started school, the options were Malay, Chinese or Tamil. I might be wrong, but I think this followed the major ethnicities in terms of percentage of population. And studying a second language was, and is, compulsory all the way to pre-university level. As a result, I learnt Chinese in kindergarten and Malay in primary school, because being a minority, my own mother-tongue, Hindi, just wasn’t available.

This essentially meant that there was a whole bunch of second-generation immigrant kids who were cut off from their ethnic language and culture. Most could understand it, because their parents spoke to them in Hindi, some could converse in it, and barely a handful could read or write. Despite my mother’s repeated valiant attempts to teach us the script, my sis and I barely knew the alphabets by the time we were able to converse fluently in Malay.
Not being able to study Hindi as a second language also put us at a disadvantage in terms of overall scholastic achievement. Most of us struggled with the second languages we picked. I remember my mother having a conversation with my Malay teacher in Primary 1, basically to alert her that I had no background in the language, and to give me some special attention. My Cikgu was kind enough to repeat instructions to me in English the first few months, but boy did I have to scramble as the term went on. The big picture result was that most minority mother-tongued kids did worse on their overall O and A Level grades, which of course affected the colleges and university courses available to them subsequently.

This was the argument Tiwariji and cohort brought before the relevant authorities. Now, I’m basing this on a 10-yr old’s understanding of the events that happened, but from what I recall, it was a loooong and involved process. It took years of work, all on a voluntary basis, including presentations before Parliament. Once Hindi was allowed as a valid second language in the educational system, they had to solve the practical issues of introducing a minority language in schools – teaching, testing and examination. They set up the Hindi Society, roped volunteers in, and started (what I think was) the first official Hindi School in Singapore. It had to be centralised, as there were too few students to introduce classes in regular schools, and therefore had to be outside school and extra-curricular activity days. And this is how, when I was 10, I found myself whisked off to school on a Sunday morning.

There were two classes back then. One for the ‘big kids’, those in secondary school, one for the small kids, the primary-schoolers. Ages ranged from 10 to 15, starting Hindi knowledge went from those who didn’t speak a word to some who could write numbers in Hindi. Not to mention we were a rowdy bunch, most of us having known each other from childhood, and therefore treating this as play time, instead of ‘serious school’.

Tiwariji became the principal of the school. During the six years I was there, it went from two class rooms in a rented regular school to a class for each different standard in multiple classrooms spanning two different school buildings. Looking at their website now, they have SEVEN different locations, with something called In School Parallel Programming across the country. (I’m guessing that’s where they teach the language in regular school during regular school hours.) They now have school uniforms and text books with the school logo on it. (Fun fact – part of the school logo is from a design my sis and I submitted for the logo competition they had.) All this, and the whole organisation is still voluntary.

On a personal level, I received an A1 grade for my Hindi O Levels. Had I continued with Malay, it definitely wouldn’t have been that. My aggregate O Level score would have gone from a single digit to double digits for sure. I wouldn’t have been writing letters to my mother in Singapore and extended family in India in Hindi when I moved to Australia. I wouldn’t have many of the cultural and historical references one only acquires by studying the language.

And I’m not the only one. My sis, my brother, my childhood friends, and thousands of other kids have benefited from to Tiwariji’s efforts. I’m not sure I ever thanked him. I mean seriously thanked him for all he has done. I remember the last time I met him, but I can’t remember what I said to him. The next time I return to Singapore, I’m gonna make a point to track down all the other elders and thank them in person. Although this is too late, thank you Tiwariji. I’m gonna do my best to leave the world a better place, thanks to you showing me how it’s done.

*ding ding* End of Round 1 – Dek in SF

June 10th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Well, technically I’m in the Bay Area, but pandering to an international audience here 😛

So, my visa’s up tomorrow, am flying back to Sydney today.

I’m sitting in my version of heaven, Red Rock Coffee, for one last blast of smooth coffee goodness, and my mind’s whirring with a dozen thoughts and emotions.

  • I don’t wanna leave. The more I stay here, the more I wanna live here. (And it’s not just because of the coffee too :P)
  • The best thing about this trip were the people. I’ve met so many awesome people I now consider friends. So many people both here in the US and back in Aust have been so generous with their care, time and efforts. It’s truly humbling. I got lucky that way 🙂
  • It was a hard slog. Being in a strange place, not knowing many people at the beginning, withdrawals from leaving work I truly loved, the highs and lows of job hunting, being crap at networking, not having a clue, the uncertainty…. Now that I think about it, no wonder there were times I felt overwhelmed!
  • I would do it all again, even though I’m returning without a job. (There are a few things on the burner, but nothing’s confirmed yet). So I will. I’m gonna come back in July and give it another go. I feel like I haven’t given it my absolute all, and that bugs me.
  • Wheeee! The adventure continues! 😀

  • I would say to anyone considering doing the same – Go for it! It ain’t easy, but it is (mainly) fun, and at the every least, it’s a good experience. Oh, and drop me a line, we’ll talk. 🙂

    So it’s goodbye from me… and à demain from dekrazee1

    January 29th, 2010 § 7 comments § permalink

    So it’s my last day at Tangler. That’s right, I actually resigned from my position. Who woulda thunk it?!
    Occasions such as these tend to trigger reflections, and I’ve had a fair few running through my head. Gotta get em out before brain implodes.

    First up, a beeeg Thank You to my awesome team – everyone I had the pleasure of working with. (I shan’t name names right now, they know who they are!) You’ve become my teachers, my friends, my mentors, my supporters. I’ve been thinking back to my first day at work, and the thing that stands out to me is what an incredibly educational journey the past 3+ years have been. Turned a N00b into a semi-geek, you did. 🙂

    I also have to acknowledge all the amazing people I’ve met through my stint at Tangler. There’s a special group of cool, crazy and charming people I couldn’t imagine life without – my fellow Tangler and TanglerLive addicts. [See ya in our forums ;)] Also, the ever helpful and generous Sydney and beyond startup/geek/web community. So many people have gone beyond the call of duty for me. I owe many a *insert cold/hot beverage of choice*.

    The immediate question I get when I tell someone about this is “What’s next?”. The simple answer – another startup: Me!
    I’m not completely done with Tangler; I’ll be consulting with them on an ongoing basis. And I fly to San Francisco in about a month. The long term goal is to work and live there.
    ~Flashback~ I remember a couple of weeks after I started working at Tangler, I turned to Marty and said, “This is it. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’m a startupper!”
    Nothing’s changed. I love the startup life, it’s what I wanna do forever and ever and ever. I love the roller-coaster ride that it is, the teamwork it requires, the innovation and improvisation it lets me indulge in.
    Hence San Francisco. Can’t wait to being smack in the middle of Startup Central! 😀

    We’ll see what happens. It’s both thrilling and terrifying – what in the world am I getting meself into?! Egads!! – but I’m chuffed that I’m giving it a shot. After all, that’s what matters doesn’t it?

    I’m done staring at the screen

    December 4th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

    ^^That comic, it’s a scene right out of my life. ‘Cept I only have one screen.

    It’s Friday, end of a long and difficult week for various reasons, and I’m done staring at the screen. As in, I don’t have it in me, physically, to even look at it. In an hour or so, I’ll take a deep breath, exhale slowly, close the lid of the lappie and think “No more…. can’t do it”. Will walk to my car, unwind on the drive home, step into the house, put my bag down…. and lift the lid of the lappie. This happens a lot.

    Well, I’m done. No more.
    See ya in half an hour

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