Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Distance Education- Distancing Students from Education…

When I decided to pursue my studies few years ago, there were lots of obstacles strewn on my path. First, I did not have any certificates of past, as my hubby dear in his fit of madness had once torn into pieces all my TC’s and marks cards. Gone with it were my birth certificate and rest of the important documents which were needed for enrollment in distance education. It was then that I remembered that I had not collected my TC and marks card from PUC earlier, because I was married off in middle of exams back then. So I went ahead and collected those certificates and applied for my B.A. exams.
I heard a lot about distance education which was a boon to students like me who wanted to pursue higher education but could not attend regular college. Unfortunately, my experience for the last three years has been quite contradictory. I have learned a hard way, that by Distance Education they mean creating distance between education and student.
As a hard working student, the evaluation of my papers has shocked me, especially the English papers. It is shocking that people, who are into distance education, do not take it seriously at all. In my first year, I was somewhat surprised with my English language marks which were just 60% because I had done my paper way better than that. As it was not a core subject, I ignored the issue. In second year, my marks in psychology (69), English optional (60) and English language (56) was again way below what I deserved. So I went for re-evaluation.  To my utter shock my marks were further reduced by 35%. When I called up to ask, the person from the evaluation department who is registrar of evaluation told me that this is what I get for not being satisfied with first class marks. He was quite rude to me and said it is the professors who do the corrections and we should be satisfied with the marks they give us. He was short tempered, childish and lacked even basic social skills. I got in touch with the VC who was surprisingly a bit helpful person who listened to my woes and tried to help. He finally could not do anything as the rules say that there is nothing a student can do to challenge the re-evaluation. I let the issue go and continued with my third year.
Once again for the third year in my English papers the marks were way below my expectations. I applied for a photocopy this time around, so that I could check it out with lecturers before going to re-evaluation. Actually, the university had succeeded in scaring me away from re-evaluation as I was afraid they may go ahead and fail me. I wanted to be sure I deserved better marks before going ahead. The photocopies were sent only after the date of the re-evaluation was past. When I consulted the English lecturers in college in Bangalore, they were all of opinion that my papers deserved a minimum of 75% marks where as I got just 44 and 56 percent in them. Nothing could be done as the day for applying for re-evaluation was past. Law and courts were tough things to handle with a special needs child at home. I surrendered to the results and said, let me work hard for M.Sc. now.
If anyone thinks, this is the end of the ordeal, hold your breath for the show stopper. When my marks card arrived, I could not believe my eyes when I saw the results as failed. They had given me 0% marks in two English papers.  I checked the name, the registration number etc just to be sure. Yes the evaluation dept. had done it again. I called up the evaluation department and talked to one of the responsible officers there, who was not willing to listen and said casually“send the entire marks card back to the university and let me see what can be done”. No explanation of what, where, when or how. I called up again, a different evaluator this time who would again not listen initially. I kept persisting with my calls, and finally got his attention. The conversation I had with him was unbelievable. He accused me of not studying, not writing exams etc until I could butt in, when he stopped to take breath, and told him I have the photocopies of my answers sheets that states I have passed the exams. This made him listen to me and he asked “what are your marks in the answer sheets and on the website”. When I explained it, he said it was my misfortune (not their mistake) that this has happened and asked me send the original marks card back to KSOU. I asked him which department it should be addressed to. That made him burst out in anger, that if I do not know this simple thing then how I passed the exam at all.
With the terrible mistake they had committed, there was not a drop of remorse in the evaluation registrars; instead they were trying to make me feel that it was my entire mistake. I had doubts about sending my marks card and waiting for them to correct it so I tried calling up the VC as I had a genuine reason to consult him regarding my situation. When I called his number, a woman representing his office picked up the call and told me that I cannot speak to the VC about marks card issues as this should be discussed only with the evaluation registrar. Though I tried very hard, I failed to convince them that it was necessary for me to talk to the VC.
As a last resort, I called up the VC through his personal number, wondering how he would respond. Fortunately, he was not like his subordinates, not only was he willing to listen carefully but assured me that he would resolve the issue as soon as possible if I could visit his office with required documents. I explained that it would be difficult for me visit him immediately as it  is tough to find a caretaker for my daughter, so he asked me send it along with someone or post it to his office. 
With great help from a Good Samaritan person in Mysore, who visited the university on my behalf quite often, the issue is resolved and finally I received my passing certificate.
What shocked me through my three years experience with KSOU is the attitude of the people who represent distance education. They do not have any respect for the system they are representing. I have heard from a reputed lecturer of KSOU that they hesitate to give marks above 70% in theory papers to students as it is not possible to score more than that in distance education. Though I have passed Psychology with a total aggregate of 73%, I know my papers deserved way more than that. 
With the attitude I have seen towards Distance Education in past three years not only from the educators, but also family and friends, I feel it will only create more distance between a student and education. The people, who seem to lend support for me even when I am down with headache, did not understand what trauma I was going through due to my results. Many rubbished it off, saying after all it is just distance education and such things do happen. Most of the people who were experienced in the field of education said that nothing can be done, and I should just write the supplementary exams. When I tried talking to my study center department, they were afraid to accuse the University of being unfair to a student even when I had proof with me. Thank God, I had the courage and patience to deal with this situation. Whew!
Now I wonder why have the system of distance education at all and make students go through the exercise of writing exam and getting a degree if it does not hold any value.

I hope and pray that people will change their attitude towards distance education and make it is really a boon for those people who due to some unfortunate circumstances cannot attend regular college. Thanks to the VC of KSOU Mr.Rangappa I can now move ahead with my dreams of higher education. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We Chat.. The New Communication Tool

Recently I signed up for the Sponsored Review program onBlogadda, and I am glad that I did. The first product I was shortlisted to review 'WeChat' on my blog which is an amazing app that is available for free to download from their website This communication tool, about which I had not heard before, supports my HTC Wildfire S Android mobile very well, allowing me to send voice, video, photos and text messages without any hassle from my mobile. Though I have been using Skype to chat with friends through my PC, the app had failed to work on my mobile.
WeChat includes Features like:
•             Voice Messaging
•             Shake
•             Look Around
•             Drift Bottle
•             Facebook Connect
•             Emoticons
•             Group Chat
As there is no restriction on distance, this allows me to chat with my friends who I have not called up in months due to the high call costs. All I did was log in through my facebook account and I could just start a demo chat with Rayyan who was helping me check the app from the next room.
The excellent Social Messaging App claims to have 200 million users’ worldwide across 24 countries, in addition it is the only app to offer Video/Audio calling and voice messaging for free. The app supports 17 languages including English, Hindi, Spanish, Arabic and others. It also supports all different types of mobile platforms like iOS, Android, Symbian (V3 & V5) and Windows.  Unfortunately the option is not yet available for Blackberry phones.
The new version of WeChat (4.3) supports Video and Audio calling so that we talk to friends and family face to face. It also supports Web WeChat which allows us to use the app from PC through the browser. It also comes with additional features like Push-to-Talk Voice Messaging, Group Chat-text & voice (up to 40 people) and Location based friend-discovery social features.  WeChat also offers engaging one-on-one and group chat sessions with an extensive range of animated and custom emoticon and emoji art, customizable backgrounds, and a Rock-Paper-Scissors mini-game.
The app allows user to apply artistic filters to photos and share with friends on chat and Moments wall instantly. In addition with this open API, WeChat users will able to allow user share photo, music, video, games, news and other kind of social content from other third party Application plug-ins without hassle.
The app also provides a secure and robust social networking platform that emphasizes user privacy and fast response performance, as well as it protects user data by offering on-demand contact list backup and retrieval to/from our cloud-based service.
One of the unique features that caught my attention was the Shake interface. All we had to do is shake our phones together to connect which was fun. With the feature Shake users can exchange contact information with nearby WeChat users, or connect with WeChat users worldwide to make new friends. It also enables users to discover WeChat users nearby through the feature Look Around.
This comes with so many additional features than Nimbuzz, Truphone or Fring which do not support video/audio messaging on my mobile phone.
It is time for me to ask my friends to connect with me through WeChat. I just hope the audio and video feature will not be abused where even mere acquaintances will start sending me audio and video messages in place of text messages which is socially considerate. 

The awesome features of WeChat


Voice Chat

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Fatal Blow

I, who faced all alone
Each of my enemy’s attacking stone
I, who always stood strong,
To prove my every opponent wrong
I, who never fell down,
But had seeds of my victory sown
I, whom even a rock,
Failed to give a mild shock
I who made everything rebound
And yet stood safe and sound
I, who was very proud,
Of not receiving even bruises
By a pebble thrown by the one I loved
Was broken into pieces

(Dated 13/10/1996)

The one who can hurt you very deeply can only be the person who you have loved. At times I write down something because I love to write but at times my feelings just flows out in form of words... This is one of those feelings. I weakest and most vulnerable I felt was the time when I went through the last cycles of Chemotherapy. Shaken, tired and broken, I almost threw in the towel but then all of sudden there was surge of energy in me, which has kept me pushing even to this day, nearly 16 years down the line. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

IMPROV thinks Pink.. Don't miss the event!

The Cancer Touch.. is all about how cancer affected my life

After surviving cancer for more than 16 years, I want to give back something to people who are walking down the road I have. I like to share information on cancer, along with stories about people like me who have overcome it. If you have something to share please get in touch with me. 

Greetings from HCG Foundation!

HCG Foundation is pleased to bring your attention to our fundraising event in aid of Breast Cancer Awareness, " Improv'- An Improvisational Comedy, with 6 actors, NO Script, For and By the Audience, On October 21st 2012. Please find enclosed our poster for further details.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

October - Month of breast cancer awareness.

Spread Breast Cancer Awareness
When I say you need not think you are dying when you hear the doctor say the word cancer you can trust me on that because I am a survivor of invasive breast cancer, III stage, diagnosed at an young age of 29 with history of Cancer in family. I heard those exact dreaded words “ You have got cancer” 16 years ago, as I held a breast feeding girl who was just 11 months old in my hands. She was a special needs girl with multiple disabilities who surely needed a mom to take care of her. So I did not hear the words “you are dying”. Instead I only heard the words "You have cancer". Well, I said let us keep it that way.. I will have cancer but cancer will never have me. My kids need me and I am going to be there for them. 
First, no one have to die of cancer if we ever have it. Cancer is a dreaded disease, but the fear often arises out of ignorance and misconceptions, rather than any reality. So I had to search for positive facts. They were quite hard to find and when found not very encouraging. But my kids were my support and encouragement when they looked at me lovingly, or full of worry at times. So they were the strong push which held up my will power along with my parents. My parents had just lost their first born loving daughter to BC and I could not make them go through that agony again. So I decided to stay alive and fight hard and dirty if need be ;). I would have kicked the cancer hard in the crouch without blinking if only I could see it.
What saved my life was timely detection of lump through self breast examination. It was hard to believe at first that the pea sized knot I felt in my left breast could be life threatening. It appeared quite harmless because of the absence of pain, but to be on safer side I decided to go for medical advice. Doctors advised to go for a biopsy. The Biopsy reports said it was Invasive ductal carcinoma .. stage III. I was sure it was some kind of mistake, but the doctors said they were sure. From that moment onward life has never been the same. 
I went through the treatment and all procedures my doctor suggested. By the grace of God and everyone around me – here I am today. Mom of two teenagers and that 11 month old baby is growing up into a pretty young lady.
We need not surrender to cancer. We can beat it with all our might. All we need is timely intervention from efficient doctors and strong will to kick the cancer butt.

Some information on breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the one of the commonest malignancies afflicting women. In some parts it is the most common malignancy, and in India at present it is the most deadliest cancer found in women. It is currently estimated that one in 14 of all female children born will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

Breast cancer causes:
Despite extensive investigation into the cause of breast cancer there is still no known cause. However, a combination of environmental factors and genetic mutations are thought to be responsible for this cancer. In familial breast cancers, a molecular change in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 play a major role in the onset of the disease.

Breast Cancer Types
Breast cancer is mainly of two types:
  • Ductal carcinoma- occurs in milk ducts
  • Lobular carcinoma- occurs in the milk secreting breast lobules
Categorically breast cancer can also be divided into following types:
  • In-situ breast cancer- cancer cells remains confined within their place of origin and do not attack surrounding breast tissue.
  • Invasive or metastatic breast cancer- cancer cells break free of their place of origin, and spread to different parts of the body.
Like all cancer types, breast cancer also progresses through different stages. Breast cancer stages are based on the size of the breast lump or tumor, whether the cancer is in-situ type or malignant, and considering the cancer has spread beyond the breast tissue or not.

Breast Cancer Symptoms
Following abnormalities in the breast anatomy are suggestive breast cancer symptoms:
  • Unusual swelling of all or one specific part of the breast
  • Continuous skin irritation or dimpling
  • Persisting pain in breast
  • Persisting nipple pain or inversion of nipple
  • Inflammation or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • An unusual discharge from the nipple other than breast milk
  • Lump in the underarm area
What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
The exact cause of breast cancer is not known, but statistics suggest that breast cancer likely involves many factors like:

Geographical: It is much more common in the western world.

Gender: Women are a hundred times more likely to have breast cancer as compared to men.

Age: Breast cancer risk increases with age. 16% of women aged between 40-60 years have breast-related problems, and complain of breast lumps. In most of the cases, these breast lumps may carry a potential breast cancer risk.

Genetic: A family history of breast cancer will increase the risk of developing breast cancer in a woman by three to five times. Recently, a breast cancer gene (BR CA 1) has been identified. If a woman has this gene present in her chromosomes, there is an 85% chance of developing either breast or ovarian cancer, or both in her lifetime.

Hormonal: It appears to be more common in women who did not bear children. It is also less common in women who have their first child at early age.

Women who started their menstrual periods before age 12, those who delayed menopause until after age 55, and those who had their first pregnancy after age 30 have a mildly increased risk of developing breast cancer (less than two times the normal risk).

Fitness levels and life style related factors such as smoking are also some of the most commonly known breast cancer risk factors that can be checked.

Breast Cancer Prevention:
Cancer prevention though a very ambiguous concept due to their molecular cause of origin, can be achieved through small but effective changes made to lifestyle:
  • Restricted alcohol consumption
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Inclusion of limited fat in diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Avoiding unnecessary consumption of antibiotics
  • Reverting to organic food free of pesticides
Besides, long-tern hormone therapy may also undermine breast cancer. But screening is by far the best breast cancer prevention method.

What factors have a protective effect?
Pregnancy and breast feeding have a protective effect in preventing breast cancer.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

The prognosis of breast cancer is closely related to the stage of disease at the time of diagnosis, therefore screening for breast cancer is extremely important. Numerous studies have confirmed that populations which get screened for breast cancer yield patients having much smaller tumors with much better prognosis. Currently, mammography and breast examination serve as the foundation in screening for breast cancer. Mammography is an x-ray examination of the breast. It has the ability to detect a cancer in the breast when it is quite small, long before it may be felt by breast examination. Eighty-five to 90% of all breast cancers are detectable by mammography. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of breast cancers are not visible on mammography, but can be felt on physical examination of the breast.

The importance of Breast Self Examination cannot be over stressed. A percentage of breast cancers is not seen on mammography and it is extremely important for a woman to perform Breast Self Examinations.

Currently, it is recommended that a woman should have a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40 years. Between 40 and 50 years of age mammograms are recommended every other year. After age 50 years, yearly mammograms are recommended at women's health care centers.

Other diagnostic tests and procedures:
Ultrasound: An ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to visualize structures inside the body. It is often used to distinguish between cysts and solid tumors in the breast. Fluid within cysts can be aspirated (withdrawn with a needle and syringe) for analysis in the laboratory.

Biopsy: It is a procedure which involves removal of a piece of tissue to analyze under the microscope. Biopsy still remains the only confirmatory test for breast cancer. If an area of the breast is suspicious for a cancer, a biopsy is usually performed to confirm or deny the diagnosis.

Breast Cancer Treatment:
In recent years, there has been an overwhelming explosion of life-saving treatment advances against breast cancer. So, once breast cancer is detected, one should go for the following treatment options:
  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Surgery followed by Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Combined Therapy
  • Adjuvant and Neoadjuvant Therapy for Breast Cancer
  • Hormonal Therapy - Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Targeted Therapies
  • Complimentary and Holistic Medicines
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors Therapy
Breast Cancer Awareness:
A pink ribbon is universally accepted as the emblem of breast cancer awareness campaign. It denotes the struggle of the breast cancer patients. It was in 1996, when the pink and the blue ribbon was first designed to create awareness of the fact that "Men Get Breast Cancer Too!”

Join hands dear friends and spread awareness about Breast cancer.

My sisters in survival...



Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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