NGO, Designers Create Desk-cum-Backpack for Students in Rural India

NGO, Designers Create Desk-cum-Backpack for Students in Rural India

Most schools in rural India can’t afford basic supplies like desks, and most of the students attending them can’t afford backpacks. To address this, Bombay-based nonprofit Aarambh worked with designers to come up with an ingenious solution that can transform old cardboard boxes into a convertible desk and school bag.

The result, Help Desk, folds quickly from one thing to the other; at the end of the day, a few simple moves turn the desk back into a bag to carry books home. The design ended up costing only about 20 cents to make since it’s made from used cardboard. The designers prototyped a few different variations to test with the students, looking for a solution that would be ergonomically correct as a desk and is also easy to build. So far, the final design has been given to 10,000 students at 600 schools.

The desk-bags don’t last forever, especially since cardboard doesn’t stand up well to the rain. But the team is working on developing a low-cost material that can be coated on the surface to help it repel water. Right now, they only last about six months to a year. But anytime they need to be replaced, it’s simple to make again. Read more

The Afghan

The Afghan

The AfghanThe Afghan by international bestselling author Frederick Forsyth is definitely a superb one-time read. This was the first time I read Forsyth.

The fiction (published in 2006) is based on an Al-Qaeda attack on an unspecified location in the US and how the hero helps the intertwined US-UK government security agencies in preventing the country from being destroyed.

The plot

The novel begins in Pakistan where a joint US-UK-Pakistan security agencies’ raid against Al-Qaeda operatives uncovers documents concerning a planned, large terrorist attack in the US.

Mike Martin, a retired American secret agent, is chosen to impersonate an Afghan prisoner Izmat Khan (held at Guantanamo Bay) and enter the Al-Qaeda camp to find out the time and location of the planned attack. Martin is picked for the job as he was born and brought up in Iraq and therefore has a command of Arabic and Pashto languages.

Izmat Khan, popularly known as the Afghan at G. Bay and in Al-Qaeda, is portrayed as a heroic Afghan freedom fighter determined to have vengeance against America following the bombing of his village in the Tora Bora mountains which killed his family.

Martin impersonates “the Afghan” and from there on he travels alone into the unknown world of Al-Qaeda. He goes through various interrogations and checks by different Al-Qaeda members, including “the Sheikh”, Osama bin Laden.

As the story unfolds, Forsyth subtly unveils the general nature of the Al-Qaeda’s planned attack and leaves Martin to realize it and act.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Few things that I found interesting:

  • The descriptions—of the Afghan, Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda operations, US and UK security agencies and their operations, the Guantanamo Bay—are very detailed and interestingly put. You almost believe what the author has described.
  • The plot.
  • The in-depth research of the matter, cultures, languages, operations, and psychology depicted throughout.
  • The characters have been created with great detail and background information, making them almost come alive.
  • Different languages and cultures have been described very neatly, giving lot of exposure to the reader to adjust to different characters and their traits.
  • The momentum of the storyline, climax and the end is nicely maintained.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Few descriptions of the ship movements, security guards, and agents go on and on and that do not hold so much value as far as plot is concerned. I found them boring and had to skip a lot to read the crux.
  • The writing style goes back and forth and the shift is quite sudden at times, giving a sense of incompleteness.

In totality, The Afghan was interesting because of its subject and well researched writing, so much so that I would want to read Forsyth again.

Sprucing up Language

Sprucing up Language

It is strange how fast things change. Technology is ever evolving and so is language ¾ the change has become constant. In my school days we used to be taught that English language evolved over many years but now there were certain standard forms of words, letter writing, and phrases used in “formal” conversations and writings and denoted the usage of “good quality” language.

Now that school of thought is history. Everything has changed from what I learnt in school and the way I edit/write today. The language style, spellings, punctuation uses, and many such things have changed from the way I understood them in my childhood and used to be grilled in by the teachers. And I am not in my 30s yet!

As an editor, therefore, it has become imperative for me to keep updated with the changes in English language. I have been reading a lot past few weeks about editing lessons and what some of the forums have to say on editing guidelines. I found some good links which I thought it best to share here.

In one of my regular visits to, website for journalists and editors, I happen to click on News University. And that opened a plethora of lessons on editing, writing and what not. A must see.

I registered and took a course on “Cleaning Your Copy”. The course teaches everything an editor needs to be skilled with: Grammar, Style, Punctuation, and Spellings. Each section is a pack of lessons. It also teaches you things like proper sentence construction, active/passive voice, modifiers, pronouns, etc. Moreover, the website offers tips on reporting, writing, management, and everything you can imagine related with journalism and media.

Obviously books are a big help when it comes to editing. Style manuals such as Chicago Manual of Style are followed by most (non-technical) publishing houses in India. But to test yourself or for a fast access to grammar lessons you can visit I found this website’s grammar archives very useful. You can get some very good language tips here.

Wanted to provide a video on books editing, but there’s nobody there giving tips on that one.

Here’s one from me: It is always good to keep grooming your language skills and the best way is to keep practicing (conversing) with people who speak the language better and more fluently than you do. And sign up with some good language forums. Hope this helps. I may suggest some such forums next time.

While I go back to reading some more grammar newsletters, enjoy life!


Useful Links

Mayfield Handboolk

Good Grammar, Good Style Archive at

Human Psyche Put in Plain Words

Human Psyche Put in Plain Words

Reading a book is not an easy task for me. Reason: As an editor I read all day long and therefore bedtime reading is mostly for getting a good sleep… in five minutes (average speed: 1-2 pages)!

Last week I finished reading Blink: the power of thinking without thinking, the bestselling book written by Malcolm Gladwell.

Well, the book is very well written without doubt. The way he has described human psyche is not only very true but wonderfully explained.

Although I don’t read much of such kinds of books because they are too loaded with examples to prove the same point, this one was interesting in the following ways:

  • It is an easy read. Its matter-of-fact tone helps an average reader like me to easily understand some aspects of human psychology and how it works. 

  • The examples cited in the book are very basic and are explained interestingly, so it is easy to understand and remember them when they are cited later in the book. 

  • There is one major argument that flows through the book – thin slicing – and each minor argument connects to the major argument, making it more realistic, grounded, and digestible.

Although I took almost three months to read the book, I liked it when I finished reading it. For a fast reader, I am sure it is a good book. For a slow reader like me, it is a good book if read in less than two months!

And since we are speaking about the human psyche here, unlike Gladwell, Mark Gungor talks about it in a funny way:


Watch the video from to understand the difference between male brain and female brain. Get a laugh!

Time to Celebrate

Time to Celebrate


The week gone by was extremely busy yet successful. Many things came to fruition for which I had been waiting. To begin with, although it happened in the last, the first project of my newly set up book division came out fresh from the printing press. The eight-months of hard work and the apprehensions about the book’s successful completion at last came to a happy end and gained ‘big eyes’ response from everyone – at the press and in office.


101 Great Careers for the 21st Century – that’s what the book is called. It is a good compilation of various careers available to the youth in India, and lists some good institutes of each career field. Why the book is so special to me? It is because I came in my current job to start a book division for the company. This was the first project that I began with from the scratch – editing, proofing, budgeting, getting it typeset, cover design, sponsors, marketing strategy, sales targets, etc. – and, being a one woman army, it took me a long time to send it to press. Gladly, the wait is over and results are better than expected.


The second good thing that happened this week was to get associated with Astronomy Without Borders, an organization that is working on astronomy projects and trying to bring in people from across the globe, exactly what the name suggests. It is working towards celebrating the International Astronomy Year 2009.


I managed to become a volunteer writer for them this week onwards. It was a prestigious thing to get it in my lap out of the blue as science reporting has been my interest since my reporting years and I had always been interested in bringing astronomy closer to common man through my writings. The story I have recently submitted (in draft form yet) is about Iran and Iraq astronomy groups coming together to share their common interest in astronomy. When the story is finally done, I shall post it here for you and will be happy to get your feedback. I hope you enjoy reading it.


And finally, the navratras began this week. This means the festivals are here! What more does one need other than to celebrate what life offers!