My feet are tired. My throat is somewhat sore. I yearn to sleep because my body is tired. But what I have experienced in the past two days and the last few weeks is unflagging spirit and a great deal of strength. My words, what I am putting down here, are the result of one of the most humbling experiences I have had in recent times.
I haven’t been running since the past three months now. Ever since my return from Ladakh and the run at The High, life has been a different episode altogether. I got back from Ladakh, refreshed, ready to start off on writing and finishing up my thesis. It was around the same time that Kiran and his baby – HasGeek – began picking momentum which had much greater velocity for my liking. Here I was – slow, thinking, frustrated that the words were not exactly translating my thoughts, and simultaneously experiencing the highs of intellectual wrestling. Despite the hitches, the hiccups, the highs and the lows, I was turning into a very focused person. In the months of September and October, I was in such an intense state of writing that even sleep eluded me. I was always thinking about my work, about my research during my sleep and as soon as I was awake, I was alive with fresh thoughts, new ideas and deep insights I hadn’t thought of.
As much as this sounds like a blissful state for a PhD student, I was also struggling to keep pace with my husband who was intensely engrossed with nurturing his baby – HasGeek – and the two events he was to pull off in the following months – jsFoo Bangalore and Droidcon India. My journey with him and his work started somewhere around end of September / early October when I realized that in the struggle to create boundaries so that my slow pace is not interfered by his fast pace, I was becoming counterproductive to my own relationship with him. It is important to create boundaries, but with loved ones, there is a need for better understanding and more communication.
Kiran hadn’t been sleeping in the months since our return from Ladakh. Each night, he would work tirelessly to tie various loose ends, pull things together, and by the time I woke up in the morning, around 6 AM to go for a short run or to cycle, he would be readying himself to sleep for a few hours before some phone call or the other would wake him up and get him started on his work all over again. I was worried for Kiran and his health. But as a little girl, I had seen my father live his life similarly during the early years of his business. I guess I managed to take some heart from my father’s example. Yet, my heart kept fluttering in this period … … …
In relationships, there is no ego is what I was told at one time by a loved one. In my case, I had the hurry, the worry and the ego to get past my husband quickly and be done with my thesis. But life has its own ways of teaching you how to slow down. And most importantly, in my case, life has always given me the experiences that have led me to think through my research and my thesis in very fundamental and radical ways.
Off late, I have been advocating the importance of relationships over laws and how we, as a society and as people in different places need to learn to develop and nurture relationships if we are to preserve our freedoms. I am not sure at what point I got pulled into working with Kiran on Droidcon India. It was perhaps that one evening when Kiran was very, very exhausted. That evening, I was attending a meeting on communities and information which I decided to get out of quickly because I was concerned for Kiran’s health and sleep. I went over to the coffee shop where he was sitting. All I did that evening/night was to hang around while he did his work. It was perhaps then that I realized that relationships don’t really require you to ‘do’ tangible things all the time. Most of the times, you simply need to be around for the one you love because you believe that that is the simplest and the most profound thing you can do for him and for yourself. It is these little things that I learnt during the organization of Droidcon India that I believe have changed me as a person.
During Droidcon India, I filled in various kinds of roles and did different kinds of things. Droidcon India being a large event, one which had to match international standards, we needed more manpower, efforts, innovative ideas and initiative than we had ever needed in any of our other events. I got introduced to Aravind Krishnaswamy at some point when I first started helping Kiran. Arvi, as he is known, was chairing the programme committee for this event. As I started knowing Arvi, the one thing that I appreciated much about him was the clarity of his thoughts and the remarkable ability he has in being able to stand by his thoughts and convictions. One can often ‘hold’ on to one’s thoughts and convictions because they are correct. But ‘holding’ on to them can cause you to become rigid and even defensive. Here was Arvi who was able to get people around to his thoughts and ideas, be firm, be patient, listen, and all of this without the hint of ego. As I reflect on the experience of working with Arvi, it is remarkable how one person can bring so much to an event of this scale and magnitude with such a solid, grounded personality.
The other person I was introduced to and started working with was Noufal Ibrahim. Noufal’s name was suggested one evening, over coffee, as we were discussing how to get people to help with organizing Droidcon India. I remember meeting Noufal at the first Geek-Up event which HasGeek had organized. We spoke to each other at that meeting at which point I think I expressed my apprehensions to Noufal about not knowing how to get people to be motivated to help. Noufal has a cool and patient attitude, all of this backed with solid experience. He was always around to respond to every little doubt I had. He presented his own ideas with a sense detachment and thought, never for one insisting that only his ideas must be followed. It has been most humbling for me to work with Noufal who is a very humble, yet firm and grounded person. It is not everyday that one gets to work with people like Noufal and come out feeling so enriched and grounded.
In the course of organizing Droidcon India with Kiran, I had the opportunity to work with my dearest friend Francesca. It always bothers me when friends start to work together because either the work gets spoilt or the friendship is soured. In this case, we have managed fine and have also produced lemon chicken, tamrind eggplant and our relationship has been anything but sour. We have had the opportunity to tell each other about our work styles and our shortcomings without ever the feeling of ill-will. I have learnt a good deal about processes and communication by working with Francesca during Droidcon India. At the same time, if someone ever held me up during several moments of feeling down, it was Fra. She was one among the few people who helped me realize how worry was as good as chewing bubblegum over an alegra problem as if worrying would solve the problem. If I feel lighter at the end of Droidcon, it is due in big part to her.
I also had the opportunity to work with people who have been friends of Kiran’s and in some way or the other, have either become my friends or at least acquaintances. Sajjad, who I was introduced to by Kiran and then over twitter, has been remarkable with his enthusiasm, his sense of initiative and his ability to perceive. Francesca, Sajjad and I have been a trio who have clung on to each other for support, friendship, fish and fun.
Hobbes aka Kingsly (I got the spelling of your name right) has been an incredible discovery during the last few days of Droidcon. I was first introduced to him in 2007. We met a few times in between and somewhat recently too. But it was in the last few days of Droidcon that I learnt how patient and meticulous he is and how he has a way of expressing care which is simple, profound and touching. He has been a real hero for me during the last two days of Droidcon and anything I say is not even going to touch the sentiment I feel for the rock that he has been. This afternoon, he sat with me to help me key in the data for the NFC card readers which was tedious work because it meant entering the number assigned to every card handed out to participants from hard copy to soft copy. It is unintelligent work but he sat with me diligently, read out each number as I keyed it in. Kingsly is a master at the work he does. For a master to sit with me and do something as tedious and boring as data entry is nothing less than an experience in humility and groundedness.
I have similarly appreciated the little interactions I have had with Praneeth during Droidcon. Praneeth runs a start-up which produces hardware for NFC infrastructure. Praneeth has been patient, solid, and round the clock. Above all, there has never been a time when I have seen him without his magnanimous smile, one that gives so much character to his persona.
I worked with about 15-20 individuals who volunteered for Droidcon India. It is tough to work with people despite my passionate advocacy for relationships over laws in order for there to be greater responsiveness and freedom in society. People are tricky cookies. But some of the people who volunteered for Droidcon India have reinforced my belief that the world is not a bad place to be in despite all the crises. I have enjoyed each interaction with Vamsee who supported us a lot throughout this event. This morning, Vamsee was tired and I was keen to see him relieved. Despite us not assigning him any duty, he was working round the clock in the auditorium to help run the sessions smoothly. I have a great deal to learn from his commitment and willingness to be present at important moments when help is needed.
I have equally enjoyed interactions with Rasagy who has displayed incredible initiative and maturity in executing every task that I sought his help for. Of course, I will most remember him for teaching me how two A5s make one A4 and how two A4s make one A3, etc.
I guess interactions with people like Sajjad, Haris, Praneeth, Kingsly, Noufal, Vamsee, Sidharth, Rasagy, Parag, Vineet, Ankita, Sujith, Aral and many others has showed me how reposing trust in people and their ability to deliver / be there when needed can work wonders in the bigger scheme of things. In the two days of the Droidcon India event, I felt that the show was running on its own because the base of trust, initiative and respect was already there. After the first half day of stressing, I realized how things were running smoothly, on their own, and that all that was required was to sit back and watch the show as it magically unfolded on its own.
Besides supporting coordination with volunteers, one of the other tasks I keenly took on was assistance with ticket bookings, cancelations and transfers. It’s been amazing how much I learnt on this task. One of the primary things that was reinforced was the despite automation and computerization of ticket bookings, what matters is hearing a human voice at the end of the telephone line and having someone respond to all sorts of queries about ticket bookings, cancellations and support. What matters to most people is that their needs and queries are responded to, especially when there is a breakdown in any of the component parts of the system.
Personally, helping with the organization and final delivery of Droidcon India was a great challenge. In the process of putting this event together, we also moved house, and my health showed signs of worry as older medical conditions began to re-emerge because of the stress of everything happening at the same time. Here is where I feel it is the spirit and the energy that each person brings to the table that keeps others going.
Technology can perhaps aid in enhancing relationships and processes. It cannot substitute relationships and processes. People and relationships are our greatest resource and infrastructure. At the end of the day, what matters most is the ability to communicate, listen, respond, take risks, create, initiate and nurture the spirit of inquiry. These are the some of the lessons that I have internalized during the process of helping organize Droidcon India.