From Dyslexia to CEO

Learning disability?!

This is one word that most parents dread hearing.

Many of you may have heard of dyslexia.


Dyslexia is a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.

Understanding Dyslexia

There are two basic kinds of learners – verbal and nonverbal. Intelligence does not play a role in this distinction—it is simply a difference in learning and thinking styles.

Verbal learners mainly think in words rather than pictures, with a sort of internal dialogue. Verbal thought follows the structure of language. Thinking verbally consists of composing mental sentences, one word at a time, at about the same speed as speech.

Nonverbal learners mainly think in pictures. They think with 3-dimensional, multi-sensory images that evolve and grow as the thought process adds more information or concepts. They do not experience much internal dialogue. This thought process happens so much faster than verbal thinking, that it is usually subliminal. [read more at]


Here is something to really change your perspective of this ‘dreaded condition’.

Did you know that Virgin, Apple, Ikea, Tommy Hilfiger, HP are all companies founded by people with the learning disability dyslexia?

Brett Kopf is the CEO and co-founder of Remind 101, now called simply Remind: which is a safe way for teachers to connect with students and stay in touch with parents. It is among the top 15 downloaded apps now, a super success story.

From Dyslexia to CEO: How my learning disabilities taught me to be a successful entrepreneur

This is what he says “I was that kid. I was the envy or target among my peers because I got to leave class for a few hours to go somewhere else. My teacher was Mrs. Whitefield and the somewhere else was a quiet classroom where Mrs. Whitefield taught me the skills to manage my dyslexia and attention deficit disorder (ADD).”

Special needs teacher planted the seed for my company, Remind101. Now that we are off the ground, I am often asked what advice I would give to other aspiring entrepreneurs with learning disabilities. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

When you feel like the only person in a room who isn’t grasping a concept seemingly easy for everyone else to understand, you learn pretty quickly that if you want to keep up, you have to ask questions.

When I came up with the idea for Remind101, I was a university student struggling to manage my class load. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if students got text reminders about tests and assignments?

Because I had no idea how this texting/reminder thing would work, I stood on the sidewalks of Michigan State University (MSU) asking complete strangers for their syllabi. Then, I would combine the aggregated data of these 2,000 or so willing students into a spreadsheet to help notify them a week, a day, or a few hours ahead of upcoming exams.

If I’d been too intimidated to stand on a corner asking people to help develop my concept, this idea would have just remained a thought. Acting on your ideas takes courage, and you shouldn’t be afraid to accept help.

Listen to others’ needs

If it’s anything you can benefit from it’s that you must remember to 1) listen to your user, and 2) make a simple product.

Before launching Remind101, I spoke to more than 200 teachers via Skype, in-person coffee meetings, or phone calls trying to understand how I could help solve their problem. I gave them scenarios on how the app would work, and considered their input to problems that needed to be addressed.

Their answers helped us develop a better understanding as to how we can build a product that’s right for our target audience. The best types of apps aren’t always ones with the most features – they’re straight-forward, simple, and saves people time. Teachers are busy people!

Learn to have a thick skin

I look at my learning disabilities the same way other CEOs look at delays in product development or company setbacks – they’re just another hurdle in a chain of obstacles that need to be tackled on the way to success.

Fortunately, I had early support from people who believed in me and wanted to help develop the tools I needed to do what I wanted. Through my experiences – from special needs classes to learning to time manage in college – I had to become pretty self-aware to understand how exactly to use dyslexia and ADD to my advantage. It’s important to remember that my disabilities did not deter me from success – rather, they helped me find the skills I needed to rise to the top.

Although I have no problem asking questions, listening to others, or simplifying concepts, if we’re playing cards, I still don’t know if you’ve got a six or a nine. But that’s an easy one to get around. I just won’t bet my house on a card game.

The story of Remind so far:

Remind101 released mobile apps for Android and iOS last year [2013] to help bridge that communication gap, creating a mobile platform that enables teachers to send reminders to students and parents via text and email — be they about permission slips or deadlines — and that acts as a secure, private communications network. The app caught on quickly among teachers and the demand hasn’t slowed down since.


By September of last year, Remind101 had six million teacher, student and parent users, a number which today has grown to 10 million, and over 65 million messages are being sent via the Remind101 platform each month.


Do not forget to share, if you or someone you know has been diagnosed to have a learning disability.




Explained: How to apply for your Passport

Applying for a passport in India online: What you need to know, explained in real simple language.

As you may be knowing, since you are reading this online, presumably, you can apply for a passport online and finish the main formalities before presenting yourself to the nearest Passport Seva Kendra.

It all looks so intimidating, people say. How can I know where to go, what to download, and how to fill and save and submit?

Well, relax, here I have tried to make it as simple as possible J

The first step is to locate the website!

Just type passport in Google search and viola… here it is, or click on the link here:

This is how it looks [as of today]

You need to register here if you are a new user, or login if you have applied here earlier. If you have forgotten your password, relax, they will send you a link to your email that you must use within two hours of your request, to change your password.

Once you log in, you must download the passport application form which is a pdf document. For this you need to do the following:

Online Form Submission

Step 1    Register through the Passport Seva Online Portal. (Click on “Register” link under the Apply section on the Home Page).

Step 2    Login to the Passport Seva Online Portal with the registered Login Id.

Step 3    Click “Apply for Fresh Passport/Re-issue of Passport” link.

Step 4    Fill in the required details in the form and submit.

Which form, you may ask!?

The form is a pdf which has blanks which you can fill is.

Download it to your PC from the link given on the website

Choose the form which applies to you, either fresh, or Diplomatic etc as shown below

Version 2 is the one available after 22nd August 2014 [now] and since I had filled version 1 a few months before, I had to copy paste from that pdf to this new one which I downloaded today the 29th of August 2014.

You need to fill in all the details accurately on your PC using adobe acrobat which is a free program for opening and editing this pdf file.

You can then save the pdf in the name of the person whose application it is or any file name of your choice. All your data will be safe in it, and you can even edit it at a later date if needed.


Once you have filled all the data in the pdf, you will need to go to the bottom of the pdf and click on the button shown above, the VALIDATE AND SAVE.

This will save your data in a file called xml. This is the file that you will need to upload when you apply online.



Note: Before uploading e-Form XML, please ensure that the XML has been generated using a compatible version of Adobe Reader (9 or above). We shall not be able to service your request in case the generated XML (from filled e-Form) is found to be tampered in anyway.


Once your xml has been uploaded, and you have confirmed the contents, clock ok and viola!

You will get this message…..


Your form has been submitted successfully.

Your Application Reference Number(ARN) is: 14-xyz1247980

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

 Pay and Schedule Appointment

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

 Print Application Receipt

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

 Upload Supporting Documents




The availability of appointments at the PSK is shown as below:

Appointment Availability #

RPO Mumbai

PSK Malad

Appointment available for 10/09/2014

PSK Lower Parel

Appointment available for 12/09/2014

PSK Andheri

Appointment available for 16/09/2014

Earliest appointment availability date is as per pool of normal appointment quota. However appointments against cancellation may become available prior to the displayed date.





So you can select the payment option you want as shown:



If you take too long to complete the payment [more than five minutes!], as it happened with me, you will get this message!


Now where is the ‘Schedule appointment’ link?? It is the one which says: View Saved/Submitted Applications! If only they would mention that in the first place!

Anyway, go there and select the application for which you have made the payment and wish to take an appointment.

It will show the earliest date available, and you have to select that. There is no option to select a date of your choice.



Once you book the appointment, you can print an application receipt and take it with you when you go to the PSK at the time selected.

Have fun applying for a passport and do let me know if you encountered any problems, or if this post helped you J

Thanks for reading!

Doctor, cricketer, engineer still top careers for urban kids: 7-city survey

What do our kids want to become these days?

Doctor, cricketer, engineer still top careers for urban kids: 7-city survey

 Aug 09 2014 : The Times of India (Mumbai)

Mumbai Children Are Most Open To Becoming Entrepreneurs

The country’s young minds are still preparing to be doctors, cricketers and engineers–the traditional career options for generations. A recent seven-city survey , based on the responses of 65,000 children aged between three and 12 years, shows that almost 29% of them dreamt of becoming a doctor when they grow up.

At 15.8%, cricket was [surprisingly] the second most preferred profession followed by engineering (11.6%), teaching (9.2%) and the police force or defence services (8.2%). The survey was conducted in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Pune and Hyderabad.


While being a doctor was as popular as being a cricketer among boys (23%), it was a clear choice for girls at 36% of the total respondents. At 14%, teaching was the second most preferred option.

Children chose the arts (7%) and government service (3%) over conventional career choices such as pilot (2%), scientist (2%) astronaut (1%) and law (1%). “While interest in government services and arts is a positive story, decline in takers for sciences indicates that we must promote research and pure sciences more. Everyone needs to know that there is more to sciences than just engineering and medicine,” said Jyoti Thakur, vice-principal, Jai Hind College, Churchgate.

Among all the seven cities, Mumbai registered the highest percentage of children wanting to be entrepreneurs. While the national average was 3%, in Mumbai, more than 11% of the children said they wanted to become entrepreneurs. Mumbai included 11,253 of the total respondents. Mumbai’s boys preferred cricket (25.2%) to medicine (18.4%).

The survey also asked parents whether they were preparing to financially support the child’s dream. As many as 81% of them admitted to not knowing what the cost of higher education would be in future. According to the survey, conducted by Aviva Life Insurance, parents save around Rs 4.7 lakh for the child’s higher education even as the cost is expected to be much higher.

Financial experts, though, say the trend is changing and parents are beginning to save ahead of time. “For the past two years, a lot of parents of children sometimes as young as three are also setting their aim on specific universities abroad and beginning to save accordingly. The trend is only picking up now and is expected to grow rapidly, ” said Prasad Chitre who specializes in financial planning for education.




Dr. Mathew who has graduated from the most sought after Medical College in Mumbai, Seth G. S. Medical College, feels that if the motive for becoming a Doctor is to heal people then it is a good thing for society.

Gritty residents save 429 acres of mangroves

Real education is all about making a difference in the real world. Here is what some of us have done in North Mumbai in the last few years. 

Gritty residents save 429 acres of mangroves
Aug 02 2014 : The Times of India (Mumbai)

The sight of thick mangroves stretching for kilometres from Dahisar to Gorai may appear commonplace. However, behind their lushness is a tale of extraordinary grit exhibited by a handful of ordinary residents of the area who, braving threats for years, battled in courts and outside to restore the green lungs from the brink of near ruination.


Figure 1 Ordinary residents faced up to the powerful lobby destroying mangroves and won

The reclaimed mangroves, spread over 429 acres, had fallen victim about five years ago to the avarice of a builder.
Transgressing a Supreme Court order, he began cutting the trees down and pouring debris on them. The rampant damage created six large bald patches on the land. Further destruction was imminent, had a group of residents of New Link Road not stood up and begun a fight. Their collective effort forced the government to act and prompted the Supreme Court to order the restoration of the mangroves. Left untouched for years and nursed by nature, the area is today returning to life.

“I would daily go to the land for morning walks, but I didn’t know many of the others who came there. It was the mangroves that got us talking. Next thing we knew we were together fighting to save them,” remembers Harishchandra Pande, looking out at the foliage from his sixth-floor window. He points to patches of green that seem like grass but are mangroves growing back.

Pande had moved into his house on New Link Road in 2001 and the most beautiful part of it then, he says, was the view. In 2009, when labourers began chopping the mangroves, he was disturbed. On his morning walks, he realized so were many others like David Suse. Pande filed a complaint with the MHB Colony police, but nothing happened. Soon debris was found dumped on the plot and a ring road was created around the mangroves. It was then that residents realised something sinister was underway–the land was being reclaimed.

Alarmed, the residents filed complaints with the BMC and the suburban collector’s office. While local ward officer P R Masurkar surveyed the land and reported illegal debris dumping and mangrove-felling, the collector’s office remained mum. Meanwhile, the residents started receiving threats, nearly daily.

A core team of residents was formed and inquiries made. The mangroves, it was discovered then, was notified as a protected forest in 1998. The 429 acres, the residents realized, was allotted to a family in the 1950s who cultivated salt till the 1980s. The termination of saltpan activities allowed lush mangroves to grow. In 2006, a builder, Jayesh Shah, obtained power of attorney from the family and approached the SC, seeking permission to restart saltpan activities. In 2009, he was granted permission on the ground that mangroves would not be destroyed. But that is precisely what happened. In 2010, the residents intervened in the matter along with BEAG, informing the SC about its order’s violation. They went back to the court later and it directed principal judge M Tahiliyani of sessions court to submit a report.
In 2011, the SC reversed its order that allowed saltpan activities and directed the builder to restore the area. When he refused to do so, the court asked the collector to clear the debris, attach the builder’s properties, freeze his accounts and recover Rs 1.17 crore.

Nearly 85% of the debris was removed by 2012. The remainder could not be taken away because it would have led to mass destruction of the mangroves. Untouched by human hands, the area has been nursed back to health by nature.


This is a heart-warming story that holds out hope for Mumbai.
Concerted efforts by determined individuals, if supported even by a few in the administration, can turn things around. We hope this serves as an example for other neighbourhoods where things may look bad right now. has more details on this and many other issues we can tackle as citizens of Mumbai, or for that matter anywhere you stay.

3 sided Football!?

Imagine Football where you have to co-operate with another team to win? Read on! This epitomizes alternative education and life in so many ways, that I felt I must share this on my blog.


A game of three halves

Figure 1 A hexagonal pitch at the first Three-Sided World Cup in Denmark Photo © Flickr member Aurdur

All the attention may be on Brazil this summer of 2014, but in Denmark a version of football that requires cooperation between teams is being pioneered. Will Simpson reports from the first ever Three-Sided Football World Cup

We are at the World Cup, but this isn’t Brazil. In a field in the Danish town of Silkeborg, three football teams are playing on a hexagonal pitch with three goals. It sounds like a Monty Python sketch, but it’s no joke.

Three-sided football resides in the rarely explored no-man’s land between performance art, left-wing philosophy and sport. In part, the idea is to counter the confrontational nature of traditional football. Teams can collaborate together and the winner is the team that concedes the least goals.

The game was conceived by the 20th century Danish artist and situationist Asger Jorn, born 100 years ago. He based it on a variation of the Marxist theory of dialectic materialism: the idea that society is driven forward by the struggle between haves and have-nots. Since then it has been played occasionally at festivals and embraced by the quirkier end of the anti-globalisation movement.

The first Three-Sided World Cup may be being played in Denmark but it took a couple of Englishmen to get this weekend’s event off the ground: Fabian Tompsett and Mark Dyson.

Tompsett is an author and academic, specialising in situationist game strategy. He organised the first game on British soil in Glasgow in 1994. He discovered the concept of three-sided football when translating one of Jorn’s texts. “I read a throwaway comment saying ‘of course nobody would ever play it’ and thought ‘hmm, don’t know about that’,” he says.

Meanwhile Dyson is the motivating force behind Britain’s first three-sided football club Deptford 3FC, founded in 2012.

If you cannot have a play ground, here are some options to play in a smaller setting.

Figure 2 If you wish to play this game at home


This is a great way to have fun and at the same time learn to co-operate as in the real world.

The idea for the Three-Sided Football World Cup began in the pub. “We were having a drink after one game and Fabian suggested ‘wouldn’t it be good to have a tournament in Denmark in 2014 to celebrate the centenary of Jorn’s birth?'” says Dyson.

Dyson contacted the Jorn museum in Silkeborg, suggesting that the tournament be incorporated into its centenary celebrations. When they agreed, he was left with the task of finding the teams; not easy when the game is still in its early stages of development worldwide.

And so this weekend there are teams here from France, Germany, Denmark, Poland, England, and a group of Lithuanians who have decided that they want to represent Uruguay instead, hoping perhaps to emulate the winners of the first two-sided World Cup in 1930.

By the end of the Saturday the champions had been crowned: the hosts Silkeborg KFUM, coincidentally the team Jorn played for in his youth.

Dyson seems content about what the weekend has achieved. “This will help three-sided football grow internationally, though what it ends up being I don’t know. I have a sneaking suspicion it will split in two between being a proper sport and performance art. But there will be definitely be another Three-Sided Football World Cup, we’re already talking about Germany hosting it in three years’ time.”

And what would Asger Jorn have made it all? “Well, he did have a strange take on things,” chuckles Tompsett. “But he liked to see people having fun and so I think ultimately he would have approved.”


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09 JUL 2014



Worry over safety of girl students on campus – SCHOOLING IN SAFE CONFINES OF HOME

Vidya.Iyengar TWEETS @BangaloreMirror


India group For Homeschoolers and Alternative Education has received 160 enquiries -60 per cent from the city -since the rape of a six-year-old girl student came to light

Following the alleged rape of a six-year-old girl student at an upmarket school in the city, the last two weeks have seen a sudden increase in the number of parents wanting to homeschool their children. Dr. S. P. Mathew, the Mumbai-based group administrator for the India group For Homeschoolers and Alternative Education, says he was surprised at the “sudden increase in the number of enquiries”. Previously, he would get around five enquiries a day, of which only one would be from Bangalore. Ever since the rape incident came to light, though, Mathew has received a total of 160 calls -60 per cent of them from the city.

“To homeschool one’s child is a major decision”says Mathew, who homeschools his three children aged 15, 11 and eight. “But seeing what’s happening in Bangalore, parents are beginning to feel homeschooling might be a safer option”

Rekha (name changed on request), a software professional, is one such parent from Bangalore, who reached out to Mathew for help. Her six-year old son is a class I student at the same school where the six-year-old was allegedly raped in the school premises by a staff member. While the school is set to re-open next week, Rekha is still debating whether to send her son back to school. “The school is saying that they will install more CCTV cameras and enhance security,” Rekha said.

“But how does that assure the safety of my child?” Already having paid an annual fee of Rs 25,000 and the fee of Rs 18,000 each for two quarters, she says that changing schools “now would mean shelling out a lakh of rupees”.

But money is not the main criteria for Rekha to think about homeschooling.

“We have lost confidence in the school,” she says. “They are so unethical.” For instance, she points out that there is no clarity as to whether the sports and performing arts activities will be continued at the school. “They offer skating classes. The instructor wanted us to buy a new pair of skates. And when I asked my son what he had learnt in the last one month, he says that they were shown videos on skating. Is that what I send my son to school for?”

Rekha has reached out to home school support groups. “My son wants to go to school. But with the same staff and management, I’ll never be at peace. With what faith can I send my son to be taken care of by the same coordinators under whose nose this (rape) incident has taken place?” Rekha, who has been contemplating quitting her job for a while now, is now seriously considering that decision. “Although homeschooling has several advantages, one of the reasons I’m taking time to decide is because my son is an only child. I don’t want him to get lonely,” she says.

In the last three years — between nursery, LKG and UKG — Rekha has spent Rs 3 lakh on her son’s education.

“I don’t see where all that money went. I myself could have taught him all that he has learnt in school.” She feels that the school has “washed off its hands” and shirked its responsibility. “We got a circular from the school on Friday stating that they will cooperate with the police and management to ensure that the culprit is brought to book. Even so, my problem is that they are not shouldering any responsibility. Now, it’s time for decisions; to think about alternate schooling.” As per Mathew’s estimate, in India between 1,000 and 2,000 parents homeschool their children.


When Rohini George, a medical physicist with the University of Maryland returned from the US three years ago, she felt that schools in Bangalore were too “business-oriented”. So convinced was she about it that she refused to even send her children to playschool.

Today, she homeschools her son fouryear-old son Isaac and three-year-old daughter Ziva .

George, who is part of homseschool support groups — India Group for Homeschoolers, Swashikshan —says that other parents who homeschool their children post their suggestions on these groups and the corresponding social networking sites and “it’s for

parents to pick up the books/methods they recommend.” At George’s home, school begins between 7 and 7: 30 am “with some bible time”, where her husband reads the kids a story and asks them questions after that. “My husband is also involved in teaching the kids,” she says.

During the first half of the day, they work on activities — threading beads, colouring, painting, playing with blocks, writing — and twice a week, they attend dance, art and soccer classes.

While George feels that she can manage teaching some of the subjects, like maths and science until class 10, she says that she might need to get a tutor for English and the languages.

“The results have been great. My son is happy and like most other homeschooled children — independent.” George insists that her children are not growing up in isolation. “Not at all.” She reasons that the children meet with many friends at the art, dance and soccer classes. Besides, they interact with adults at home.

“I don’t understand why children always have to be with those their own age. When they start working, they will have to work with those younger and older than them,” says the 37-year old mother.

Stop rescuing street kids

Government asks orphanage to shut down:

Vision in Social Arena aka VISA is an orphanage for approximately 40 children aged 6-18 situated in Mira Road north of Mumbai. It was started in 2000 by John Abraham who was moved by compassion for abandoned street children. Now the government has served him a notice asking him to shut down the organization, leaving the children crying and refusing to eat food, and John running from pillar to post to save the kids future.

Figure 1 The plight of abandoned street children in India

The kids call him Daddy, and he treats them like his own children. They get the love of a father, food, clothing and shelter.

Now all of that is threatened.

Why does the Government make it so hard for someone who wants to do some good work like this?

It turns out that you need to have a license to take care of street kids, and despite his best efforts John Abraham has not been granted a license yet. There are over 15 requirements that have to be fulfilled, including a Two Lakh Rupees Bank Guarantee. In fact, John Abraham has himself stated that the biggest bottleneck that prevents him from serving more children are Government regulations.

But no license is needed to dump your kids anywhere at all, abandoned to the wild world outside!?

How many kids are there on the streets today? No one knows exactly, but John Abraham himself has admitted that what he is doing is but a drop in the bucket.

What can you do to help?

Here are his contact details:

Vision in Social Arena


You can see a video of VISA at

Hope this moves you to consider the plight of street children. God bless you.

John’s motivation has been this verse from the book of James in the Bible: A religion that is pure and stainless according to God the Father is this: to take care of orphans and widows who are suffering, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

(James 1:27)