Indian timezone

In India we go by Indian Standard Time, which means GMT+5.5. 

"GMT+5.5?!" You might be thinking. Yes, India, unlike most other places on earth, operates on a timezone that is not an even number of hours away from GMT. And this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to quirkiness of India and time.

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For the past week or so one of the most noticeable things have been the difference in the perception, and flow of time. First of all, most people that I'm working with here basically works all the time. They start early in the morning and end late at night. Saturdays? Absolutely. Sundays? Yes, often. However, the work is of a very different sort than I'm used to, it's a of a very different intensity. Maybe it's due to the heat and the monsoon, maybe it's just a cultural difference or maybe it's just the project we're working on,, but life and work here feels somehow slow at times. There are frequent breaks, waiting times, naps, discussions, long lunches punctuating the day so that the effective working time probably isn't more than your average 8 hour work day (if even that some days!).

Now, don't get me wrong, I think this might even be a better way of working than the nap-free, jam-packed work weeks that I'm used to. However, it certainly does take some getting used to. 

Just watched the launch of AIESECs midterm 2015 vision

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Watch on Posterous

It's simple, yet a pretty powerful (and definitely huge) ambition – AIESEC's goal until 2015 is to "Engage and develop every young person in the world". I wish AIESEC all the luck with that, and hopefully I can be a part of helping to realize in some way when I'm an intern in the next 6 months and after that alumni.

Video shows the delegate's of the conference (who had toiled for 10 days to discover & create the ambition), finally they got some time to dance 🙂

Building a compost plant, part 1

This is part 1 in series that I’m assuming will be extended with a couple of more entries as the next month goes by. As I’ve said previously, I’m currently in Bokaro Steel City, working together with my CEO on consulting a local NGO on building a compost plant.

 

Building a compost plant isn’t as easy as it might seem. First of all there are a number of questions that need to be answered – how many tons of waste per day should it handle? what is the organic content (vs. recyclables and other materials) of the waste? where do we have the land to build one? what kind of support do we have from the municipality? what are the funds available to build it? how should the design of the plant be to ensure best efficiency / lowest cost? what building materials to use? And so on and so on.

 

After a bit more than a week of work (albeit at a not too high pace – I’ll blog about Indian time-keeping shortly!), we’re now coming as far as that we have all the contractors in place, the land, the money and the design of the plant done, and the leveling of the ground has got underway. The plant will be built on a site next to the general dumpsite, which means that we don’t need to worry about any neighbors complaining (in case they’re not bothered by the dump site – I’m sure they won’t mind a composting site) and that space is ample.

 

Some tricky things we bumped into during the construction phase were trying to figure out a good design of the plant (none of us being construction engineers), finding the right materials and eventually getting the budget to be slim enough to fit our NGO partner.

 

Personally, I found one situation especially challenging. In India, one of the most commonly used materials for roofing is cement laden with asbestos. Asbestos cement is highly toxic, but very durable, fire-retardant and quite cheap. It’s by now forbidden in over 50 countries and would probably have been put on an international list of restricted materials were it not for Canada’s financial interest in asbestos mining. For the project – the most economic and simple option would be asbestos. Pragmatically, you could argue “this is not going to be the place where the workers are exposed to the most asbestos throughout their lives, and it’s an open area so there’s not going to be greatly increased exposure for the operators of the plants”. Arguing based on principle you would say “working with a sustainable venture means not creating built in risks that will be exposed when the asbestos eventually degrades and might create health problems as far as 20-30 years from now, the only way to stop asbestos from being used is not to buy it”.

 

I think I’m getting my position pretty clear by now – what’s yours?
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What leading a youth organization can look like

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People spending all their breaks working on creating exchange experiences for people all around the world 🙂

An insight into the Indian psyche

An early-morning sight-seeing trip to cooling pond #1 of Bokaro steel plant gave me a direct channel into a part of the Indian psyche. The cooling pond is a raised, artificial pond constructed to provide clean, cooling water for the steel plant. It is surrounded by a large raised wall and wetlands, as well as green areas. The pond is huge, somewhere on the scale of 22 km around, and has a number of planted fish living inside it (which you can fish at a fee per hook). 

As we traveled along the sides of the pond, we soon found ourselves surrounded by no-one, an event that so far been quite uncommon in my (limited, yes) Indian experience. We took the motorcycle all the way out to the edge of a small ridge jutting out into the lake. As we reached the end and got off the motorcycle to take some pictures, one of my colleagues proclaims "Not much people come here often, it's very, very lonely here" in a voice indicating this being a place that gave him the shudders (like an abandoned house or such).

His short statement left me thinking, "This would be exactly the place your average Swede would describe peaceful, beautiful, serene and, yes, even lonely". However, in the case of the average Swede standing there, lonely would indicate something positive, it would indicate a place where you could be left in peace with your thoughts. For my Indian friend there was nothing positive about his usage of the word lonel, rather he was clearly uncomfortable about not being surrounded by throngs of people.

When I explained that in Sweden, most places were like this (indeed, Sweden has a third as many inhabitants as small Jharkhand province and a tenth as many as neighboring Bihar), he shrugged and said Sweden must be a very lonely and sad place. 

In a country as crowded in India, his attitude is quite appropriate, and has undoubtedly developed through living life surrounded by a massive amount of people at all times. Thinking of it, it seems quite obvious, but it reminds me of how very subtle the differences in how we perceive the world can be and how markedly they are shaped by our surroundings.

Virtual leadership development workshops – join online at AIESEC IC Live, starting from 10:30 GMT+5.5!

Today I'm part of the hosting team for a virtual leadership development agenda that is going to happen connected to the AIESEC International Congress in Hyderabad. There are going to be several sessions on youth leadership and they're open for anyone to join.

The agenda is as follows:
  • 10:30 GMT+5.5 – Leading Yourself
  • 11:30 GMT+5.5 – Global Connections
  • 14:30 GMT+5.5 – Leading change
  • 16:00 GMT+5.5 – The Experience of Leaders
The sessions are going to be hosted by a group of individuals dedicated to leadership and change and I think it's going to be a pretty interesting day. Joining is easy, just go to http://www.aiesec.org and click "IC Live".

Loving the social business buzz at AIESEC’s International Congress

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Check more pictures from the conference here.