Saturday, November 26, 2011

Retrospective from Raichur

Two days of service for children from rural Karnataka, a lot of fun with a fantastic team bursting with enthusiasm , a trip to the historic Thungabadra river that witnessed the rise and fall of Vijayanagara empire , satisfaction that you were part of making a small difference in the life of a few children - all this made my trip as part of Project Samudaya to Raichur a unique experience.

Raichur, part of North Karnataka, is a small town that is 409 km away from Bangalore. Our plan is to conduct a health check up camp for about 1200 children from villages around Raichur. Raichur was worsly affected by the floods occurred in 2009 and the villages were almost destroyed. Cisco as part of project Samudaya adopted these schools around the area and also built houses for people whose houses were destroyed. This was the last program organized by Cisco in Raichur as part of project Samudaya. We started in Nanded express from Bangalore with a team of around 60 people. After a few minutes in the train I realized that I am in the company of a lot of energetic exciting people and all of a sudden the initial hesitation due to unfamiliarity went away.

We had a few briefings in the train with our team members and lead and yes you can't help attending meetings even in a trip :-). The whole trip was very well planned from the beginning and the facilities provided and co-ordination was excellent. As the train was late we reached Raichur by 10.00 AM and had to rush to the place after breakfast at hotel Kubera.


Our group of about 15 volunteers went to Thalmari a village about 40 kilometers far from Raichur. The destination was Kannada primary school Thalmari to conduct an eye check up camp. A team of refractionists accompanied us in the cab. The cab was going through the fields of cotton and paddy fields through the dry village road. After a while the Sun flower fields compensated for the journey through the bad road. We reached the school by 11.45 and rushed to set up the room and chairs for refractionists. We first screened children from 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Gireesha Shankar , Divya and Chitra were with me in the team and Satish joined later. Some children started crying after seeing us thinking we were there for vaccination :-). My job was most of the time to manage kids and noting down their names and issues after the initial screening. I was polishing my broken Kannada and most of the time it worked :-).
After the screening a list of children having issues with eye sight were identified and we handed over the list to the refractionists.

We had lunch followed by a meeting in the school where teachers and children expressed their thanks for conducting the check up.
In the evening while coming back we visited the Panchamuki Anjaneya temple. Reached back in Raichur by 7PM and roamed around Raichur town for some time with my friend Gireesh. While coming back we also met our friends roaming around the city.


The second day started very early. We started around 8.15 AM from Raichur. Our destination was the same school at Thalmari.
On the way we couldn't keep going seeing the beautiful Sun flower fields and there was a photo session by woman too :-). The second day our plan was to conduct a dental check up. Again we were separated into different groups and I joined a team of dentists with Anitha. Our job was noting down the names of children and the issues and we conducted check up for about 80 children. One disturbing thing was seeing a girl who came to school with her young sibling because mother was working away to support the family and nobody is there at home to look after the small child.

A meeting was followed and we left the school by around 1 PM. After lunch we went to see the Thungabadra river. The water level at Thungabadra was very less and villagers were crossing the river by foot, on tractors or on bikes. Watching it was a unique experience. We joined them for a while and crossed the river. Some one was telling that during the time of Vijayangara empire crossing the Thungabadra river was considered as a heroic act and they were rewarded by the king. Water is their or not we also joined those heros by crossing it by foot :-). We reached the hotel by 4.30 and had a small walk around Raichur town. Our train was late and we had a good time till reaching bangalore whether playing cards or singing songs while playing Antakshari.

My Take from Raichur

I had made a few trips to rural Karnataka in the last few years. Rural India is far behind whether it is education or health care facilities or living standards is my experience. Kerala may be an exception. Experience in Raichur was also the same.The government schools lack even the basic necessities. The disparity between the enrollment register and attendance shows that a lot of children are also dropping out in the middle. Most of the issues we face in urban life is not significant if we compare it with the rural life in India.

These are disturbing factors but I had the satisfaction that I was part of a group who was making a difference however small it is. The trip was very well organized and every one in the team showed dedication and enthusiasm for the jobs they were assigned. We had a lot of fun during the trip and every moment of the trip we enjoyed.

Kudos to Cisco Samudaya for this opportunity and a big thank you to every one who were part of it.

How to Reach Raichur

Raichur is the district headquarters and it is about 400 km away from Bangalore.
Trains are available from Bangalore to Raichur. KSRTC and Private buses are also available.

Places of Interest

See the following links for information about places to visit around Raichur:
Places of Interest in Raichur
Monuments in Raichur

Raichur is extremely hot so better to avoid visiting during peak summer.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Things you should know before getting a home loan

At some point most of us try to go for a home loan to buy a home. I was going through the process for the last one and half months and I didn't know anything about it till I started. I learned a lot of things on the way and learned that it is not a smooth process as shown in the advertisements or claimed by banks. I thought about documenting the same so that it will be useful for people like me who never bothered about similar things through out their life.

In my case I bought an already constructed house at my home town, so the process may be slightly different for getting a loan for constructing a house.

The process starts once you finalize the property and make a sale agreement with the seller regarding the price of the property. Then you need to find a financial institution or bank who is willing to finance the loan. Check with 3-4 banks and then proceed. Check with your friends or relatives regarding their experiences with different banks and choose one convenient for you.

Some points to consider at this stage:

* You need a margin money of at least 20 percent of the property value . Bank
will finance only the rest. Some banks will give you a loan of up to 90 percent, but it is bank's discretion.

* Note that what ever be the agreement between you and the seller, bank will finance only the value you are going to mention in the title deed. Some banks will give you an option to give a portion of the loan as home improvement, but again it is bank's discretion.

* Check the different interest rates for the loan. There are two kinds of interests rates fixed and floating. You can't say one is better than the other as it depends on the current interest rates and variation that may happen in the future.

* Check the pre-payment penalty you have to pay if you pre-pay the loan. Some banks doesn't have pre-payment penalty if you repay after the initial 6 months.

* Ensure that you have a good credit history and provide correct information in the loan application form so that your loan won't get rejected.

Initially you may have to provide the following documents.

1. Completed application form with passport size photo
2. Copy of identity and address Proof
3. Salary slip for the last 3 months
4. Bank statement for the past 6 months
5. Copy of the latest Form 16
6. Copy of PAN card

Once you fill up and submit the application form the bank may ask for a processing fee depending on the loan amount.

You have to submit the following property documents or copies:

1. Copy of the title deed
2. Copies of prior title deeds .
3. Location sketch
5. Possession certificate
6. Encumbrance certificate for last 13 yrs
7. Latest land tax receipt
8. Agreement for sale
10.Building tax receipt
11.Approved plan

At this stage when you have submitted a few or all the documents, bank officials will visit the location to verify the property and do an assessment. The sanctioning of the loan amount also depends on this assessment.

Your will get a sanction letter from the bank after this process. Once they get a report regarding the assessment, bank will send the documents to a lawyer for verification. Depending on that bank may also ask for additional documents.

Once the verification process is complete, the bank will issue a cheque in the sellers name. You need to fix a date for the registration and let the bank know. Then the cheque will be handed over to the seller on the day of the registration. The new title deed will be prepared by the bank's lawyer and a lawyer or his representative will accompany you during the registration process. You have to pay for the stamp paper charges to the bank's lawyer in advance or you need to buy it directly and give it to the bank one or two days prior to the registration date.

You need to bear the following charges.

* Stamp paper charges.
* Lawyer's fees for document preparation
* Registration charges

Once you complete the registration bank will keep the documents but will give you a copy attested by a notary.

Lessons learned:

There is not much difference between time required to process a loan between a public sector bank and private bank other than you will get a warm welcome in a private bank and you will get a cold response from a public sector bank official. Initially you will feel that getting a loan from a private bank will be more easy, but finally they will also take the same time and require the same documents asked by the public sector bank. They may ask more documents than they mention the first time.

If you want to get it processed fast it is better to go through the loan agent in the bank than going directly. In my case, I realized that most of the time I ended up doing most things myself because I didn't go through an agent and many times I didn't get proper guidance.

Note: I don't claim to be an expert in details regarding a home loan. This post is based on my experiences while taking home loan. There may be variations in the process from bank to bank . Also the process may vary depending on the type of home you are buying.

Useful links:

4 home loan facts by Manish Chouhan
Loan EMI calculator from HDFC
tips while buying house by Manish Chouhan

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Freedom , Debian Pure Blends and Jonaas Smedagaard

Freedom box uh !!! - what kind of box it is one wonders. Free as in free speech or free as in free box. How can you package freedom in a box? All set of questions arise in our mind.. But I had my answer after listening to an inspiring talk yesterday. Freedom box, Debian, philosophy about life, rocket science, correlation between mathematics and music full of divergent ideas ... what a great Saturday it was. All thanks to Jonas Smedagaard - Debian developer from Denmark. It was fun, It was entertaining and it was informative.

Waking up early in the morning and traveling two and half hours on a weekend is a crazy thing to do for a late night fellow like me. I thought twice before going to the talk if it is worth missing the relaxing extra two hours sleep I enjoy on a Saturday morning. Somehow I made up my mind in the morning and the the talk was just started when we reached there.

A man who matches all the features of a geek was speaking and an audience of about 100 students were there to listen to him. Jonas introduced himself in a funny way and slowly moved in to the technical stuff. I was surprised to hear that he has only 12 years of schooling and not much formal education. May be due to the quality of education system in Scandinavian countries like Denmark I haven't met any one from the universities in India who can deliver a passionate talk like Jonas. See this Video about the education system in Finland.

I was fortunate to hear Eben Moglan one of the best inspirational speakers in the world. I had written about that in one of my previous blog posts. Both of them are at different levels and Eben Moglan is much more publicly accepted person the free software community through out the world. But out of the tech talks I have heard Jonas may be only secondary to Eben Moglan in making an impact in the audience. Jonas's talk was full of fun with funny real life examples. He captured the attention of his audience with his effective body language, voice modulation and instilling passion into every word he said.

His passion towards free software and his passion towards life was visible in every word he delivered. He started with how the concept of Freedom box evolved from a tech talk delivered by Eben Moglan one and half years back. You can listen to Eben Moglan's talk here.

Freedom box is a small box that can be considered as a personal server running a free software operating system and free applications. It is designed to create and preserve personal privacy by providing a secure platform upon which social networks can be constructed. You can find the details about the Freedom box project at Debian Wiki. One of the point Jonas emphasized was simplifying technologies so that they can be used by an ordinary user so that projects like Freedom box gets more acceptance among ordinary users.

The talk also touched upon Debian community and the work the community is doing for the past several years. Visit the Debian Wiki here for more information about Debian project. Debian pure blends - the project to improve Debian for specific purposes and blend it back with the Debian project was also briefly explained. Jonas emphasized the need of simplifying technology to reach a wide audience.

The talk was followed by an interactive discussion where he not only answered queries but also tried to explain his vision of life. He spoke about we can make this world a better place if every one tries to convert his passion into his job. We can do the things much better if we are passionate about it. The discussions touched up on a wide range of topic from signal processing, designing, software development, rocket science, space ships to connection between music and mathematics. When one of the students asked a question how much practical freedom box is in a country like India where lack of infrastructure like less bandwidth exists. Jonas answered it in a philosophical way. He said problems can be approached only once we start. People like us also should study how things work and sort out ways to improve it rather than and not starting it. He quoted the example when they had to deal with less bandwidth in the university a few years back. The way he interacted with the students something that we all should try to emulate. He was able to instill his passion and energy into students and inspire them.

Finally we parted after a photo session A day full of intellectual stimulation, entertainment and fun - It was one of the best days I will cherish in my life.
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