personal


Hostgator is Post-Traitor

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Here’s why you should never use hostgator’s services. They are post-traitors. They lose mail data. And then you can never get it back. In short – they can not be relied upon for hosting your data, which is precisely what their job is.

I have been using Hostgator since 4 years now for my professional photography domain www.priyankasachar.com. I started with the US servers after which my account was shifted to India servers following their expansion into India just a month after I signed up.

Since then, my experience with HG has been a living hell! Their India team is the most unprofessional team I have EVER seen for ANY service, full of incompetent duds who know nothing, pass personal comments and now they have gone and lost 6 MONTHS OF MY MAIL DATA with the following solution – “Now it can not be retrieved”.

I have raised issues several times with hostgator in the last 4 years of my painful journey and have even received calls from their US branch thanks to the unprofessional behaviour of their India support staff. I thought that with time, things will improve with the India operation because they might just be having teething troubles. However I was being impractically hopeful! Their team was AS PATHETIC 4 years back as it is TODAY.

Right after shifting to India servers, they lost a lot of my professional mail data (of 2 weeks) in June 2011 because their servers marked my mail account as a “demo account” for some stupid reason. This caused me huge losses not just in terms of the overseas opportunities I lost, but also in terms of my repute. All my clients considered ME unprofessional because I wasn’t responding to their mails, instead it was HG that was unprofessional by dropping mails and I had no idea that mails were getting dropped! Now HG has lost 6 WHOLE months of my mail data and the previous incident of June 2011 seems minor in comparison because at least then, I was able to retrieve mails from the server & get back to those who had tried contacting me and pick up pieces of my reputation somewhat, bit by bit. Currently they say that “Nothing can be done about the data loss”!! How pathetic is this organisation that loses professional data (unheard of) – the very data they are supposed to be hosting and then their employees have the gall to say that nothing can be done about it!

For the purpose of this post, I will look past the various issues I’ve faced over the years including loss of mails in June 2011, difficulties faced during account transfer to India, hosted images not showing on the site, the site being too slow, various downtimes, global outages over the years, unavailability of SSH multiple times, Google adwords credit NEVER given till date, harassment at the time of renewal for 3 years in 2012, unprofessional behaviour by Indian staff, unavailability of their tech support senior people during all this time, etc – and – get to what all I have faced just THIS year.

1. On 11 Jan’15 I realised that my site had been down on 10th and decided to upgrade the wordpress software & plugins to the latest versions. I kept trying to upgrade and I kept getting server timeouts and other errors. I thought it was something to do with my internet service provider. Little did I know that it was HG all this while! I couldn’t even access it via SSH or FTP! Ultimately when I contacted HG – following are the issues I faced:

a) NO contact information available on their website. Raising support ticket fetched no response. Live chat was offline even though the website screams 24/7/365 support!! What a rubbish claim. No contact number mentioned for support requests – only for billing and abuse. Their Toll free number wasn’t mentioned anywhere AT ALL. I was ironically, fortunate enough that my past miseries with HG had made me store their toll free number in my phone and I used it after I got no response whatsoever from even their twitter handle!! Why do they even have twitter presence when the duds maintaining it get back to people AFTER THREE DAYS!! This is how pathetic HG’s accessibility is – to even get heard at the basic level.
b) I managed to call the toll free number which after great difficulty and very long holding times, connected me to someone who put me on hold and then the call was disconnected! And this wasn’t the only time this happened for me to think that it was an exception! I talked to 5 different people mostly because the tollfree number just disconnected multiple times! I must say that the technical support staff is MOST incompetent EVER. They do not know even the basics of what they are talking about.
Firstly, my website’s ports had just been blocked out of the blue – with no notification or email or sms or anything at all! With the amount of marketing spam these guys send, could they not have autogenerated an email which alerted me to the issue? The customer instead has to DISCOVER the issue first – time does not matter here, then bang her head against incompetent tech support staff and THEN get to the point where the issue is disclosed to begin with! I was told that there was some malware on my site which is why my site’s ports had been blocked!
Here’s what I found on running a 3rd party check on my site:

Which means that HG has some beyond imagination parameters based on which malware is detected! Whatever it was – was NOT SO life threatening that my entire site had to be blocked due to some reason and that too WITHOUT NOTIFYING ME!!
c) Ultimately I had to tell their staff to at least fix SSH access which was previously working, so that I could at least upload files I wanted, into my hosting account and fix the malware issue. Even that had been disabled. Sadly their tech support staff was absolutely unaware of what I meant. One had no idea of how to enable the port used for SSH. The other told me to use putty instead! This was in spite of my sharing screenshots of the SSH command issued on terminal (In Mac OS). When I told her that I am on Mac OS and that putty was only for windows she started arguing with me! Instead of putty on Mac OS, one needs to run the SSH command from the terminal (app in Mac OS). Ultimately she consulted someone senior and came to the same conclusion that terminal has to be used. and FINALLY she managed to enable the port. It took me ALL day to get this mess sorted.
d) With every passing issue, I managed to unearth newer ones! this just shows how PATHETIC their tech support staff is and how unimportant PROCESSES are to hostgator! Now that my site was supposedly infected with malware which was mind you, NOT detected by any other malware detection software in the world, except for the one on HG, I was supposed to run a malware check through cpanel each time after changes, to see if the malware had been finally removed or not. In order to do this, I had to login to cpanel. I logged in only to realise to my horror that the credentials I had been using for years did not work – AGAIN NO NOTIFICATION for any resetting of the same had been sent.
e) I finally got my password for cpanel reset (do i need to add how difficult that was?) and then realised that “change password” option was NOT in cpanel at all! I AGAIN called their pathetic tech support staff and landed with another dud, who now told me that the very round about way of resetting one’s cpanel password, was NOW through the billing account! SERIOUSLY? AGAIN, so much marketing spam and these guys could not deem it fit to send ONE mail that mattered? One informing their customers that NOW they have to go through this roundabout way for changing the cpanel password?!! And to think that I wasted so much time trying to figure our where the hell that option went! I was told that this was for our own security and benefit. Well could the dumb unprofessional hacks i.e. HG’s tech support staff not think of sending a mass mail informing everyone about this so called benefit? If they are doing such a great service to their customers, why not brag about it? Refer to the numerous amount of marketing spam comment again.
f) Finally, i managed to change my password for the billing portal, then accessed it, changed the password for my cpanel, then accessed THAT and finally fixed the problem on my website which if you ask me – WAS NOT THERE TO BEGIN WITH. Also, their tech support staff was very very rude to me in this time frame and this one particular person was constantly muttering an exasperated “oh god!” under her breath. When I mentioned that the tollfree no was still NOT listed on their website she said “if you can google it what is the problem?”.. Their staff seems to have been trained to find faults with their customers rather than fix their issues! Appalling! I fixed my issues and thought that was the end of it but the next day my passwords did not work YET AGAIN and I had to reset them YET AGAIN. However this time I knew the elaborate process – no thanks to tech support staff. Why could these people not have sent ONE mail about how this worked now?!! Priorities much? What will I do with all the crappy marketing mails if I am already an unfortunate customer of theirs? What matters more to existing customers is what my data is going through at their hands! and needless to say that even the marketing spam is useless because all deals apply ONLY to new accounts and not existing ones! So why even send the stuff to existing accounts? Why the laxity in sending mails that matter? And How dense and rude does the support staff have to be in each call? Not to mention the average holding time of at least 20 minutes if you call them.
2. I had thought that HG would at least learn *something* from all this mess that they had created but I was so SO wrong! Also, I was dealing with a knee injury and consequent surgery + physiotherapy in this timeframe, so I let these incidents go without reporting them officially, even though I had been urged to do so by HG US twitter handle. On 27th May one of my clients alerted me that she had sent me some mails, some days back. which I never received and I fired up my mail client and realised that I had not been receiving ANY MAILS since the last 6 months+ ! I have put a forwarder on my mail id hosted by HG and even though the forwarder was working fine there were no mails received from the time period of 8th Dec 2014 to 27th May 2015 on my mail server in question!

a) I called up HG immediately and (after being on hold in 4 different calls due to their pathetic tollfree service, finally connected and) spoke to a tech support person, who pretty much like previous encounters with their unprofessional staff started blaming ME for not having reported this issue earlier! Excuse me but how is the onus of this on the customer? Then she went on to ask me WHAT I was doing in the past 6 months and if this was a professional id , I should have been checking it more frequently! Flabbergasted at this personal investigation, I even asked her what business she had asking me such personal questions! Seriously, do these guys not record ANY calls? Do these people not train staff on mere basics?
b)  I had dislocated my kneecap in december, fractured it, ruptured one of my ligaments as well, and had to undergo surgery followed by intense physiotherapy to fix these issues and was bedridden for quite some time. This summed up my time from all these lost months. So excuse me, the customer, for not being able to live up to the high standards that HG has for everyone except the quality of their hosting, processes or their support staff. I had placed my faith in HG and thought that if I make whatever changes I have been asked to, post server migration, at least the rest would function fine and wouldn’t need my intervention, especially if I have other things to deal with (surgery and post-op rehabilitation). Clearly that faith was wrongly placed. Once the tech support person, got to know the reason for my absence, she was quite apologetic but she wasn’t sure about retrieval of mails.
c) Since 27th May, several people have written to me in context of this support request and the ONLY answer they have repeatedly given to me in these 2 whole months, is that the mails can not be retrieved because that server has been shutdown. SO? how does that concern me? They should have retrieved mails from backups. How to fix this issue is the tech support staff’s problem! The mails have NOT EVEN BEEN BOUNCING. My clients told me that the mails have been sent and yet I did NOT get them. They did not get any mailer daemons. So they have gone SOMEWHERE. The last time this happened in 2011, the duration was 2 weeks and the mails had been retrieved. This time the duration is MORE THAN 6 MONTHS!! And their staff says “Nothing can be done”. Well who the hell is responsible for this mess?
d) At the time of their server migration on 8 december 2014, the mail that was sent to all customers did NOT mention that mail settings had to be changed! Yet this is what ultimately had to be done to even get my mail to start working again! This is what was sent. No mention of mail anywhere.

e) Why could an automated mail not be sent for the mail server changes required? Was their tech staff sleeping all this while? What caused this major oversight? In fact I was told by their staff that they had been fixing problems as and when they came in!!! THIS is beyond shocking! As can be seen by the previous examples as well, Hostgator as an organisation, WAITS for their customers to first DISCOVER that there’s an issue, then to discover WHAT ISSUE and THEN they bother to fix it – not without personal comments & incompetence! This is the most unprofessional practice I have ever seen. Not to mention that the likelihood of people discovering problems at a point when nothing can be done, is rather high. And this is not for the first time with HG either. This is after having seen various service providers in the business because I have been maintaining several websites since a decade now! As showcased in the 11 Jan incident, Hostgator has NO processes whatsoever. And this is a wordlclass MNC we are talking about. They just put the onus of all problems on their customers. Even for basics like changes in login details and password resets and mail server changes!
f) Most importantly, WHY is the staff busy making stupid excuses now to justify the data loss which in turn is an unheard of thing! If a server is being phased out , there are backups, there are processes, there is documentation. There is absolutely NOTHING that Hostgator has here.
g) I have been exchanging mails with their idiotic India staff over this issue, since 27 MAY 15 now but to no avail.

The way their staff has been consistently unprofessional and technically incompetent, the way my experience has been over the last 4 years, needless to say I am not going to stick around with hostgator anymore. In this day and age, these guys are inaccessible be it social media channels or other traditional channels put up by them as their forefront. HG india twitter id got back to me after 3 whole days of the whole fiasco on 11 Jan. HG US twitter id however got back to me immediately. Why are the standards not same for both? Why are they even trying to run the HG India twitter id if the people handling it don’t operate as often as the social media world requires them to? Just shut it down. I would in fact, recommend shutting down Hostgator’s ENTIRE India operations because THIS PATHETIC an experience after shelling out so much money is not anyone’s cup of tea. In fact my local hosting service with no multinational operations has proved much better for the rest of my sites. At LEAST they don’t lose my data and then make stupid stories about it.

I would like to hear their Senior management’s comments on this. My hosting with Hostgator expires in 2 days. Knowing how unprofessional they can be, I won’t be surprised if they do nothing for the next 2 days, after which this issue will sort of become a moot point for them. But then there is consumer court for issues like this.
I don’t trust these people anymore. And going by my experience of last 4 years, neither should you. If you have faced any issues with your hosting provider, please share in the comments.


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Had a Kneecap dislocation & now need MPFL surgery 9

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It’s been a while since I’ve seriously blogged any personal stuff here or even blogged at all, for that matter. I’d been planning to get back to blogging since quite a while now (does anyone even read these blog updates anymore?) … but twitter always stood in the way of expressing myself in long form. Or even reading long form for that matter. I digress.

To cut a long story short, I’ve had a kneecap dislocation (patellar dislocation) & it turns out that one of my ligaments (MPFL) is now torn to such an extent that it needs reconstruction through an invasive surgery 🙁 The post op rehabilitation time is 3 months to say the least to get back to normal movement. It takes longer to get back to an active lifestyle. And I’ve already spent 24 days in a brace (Immobiliser) following the kneecap dislocation. So I’ve been planning all these mini-projects to do in this bedridden state. One of which is, not just getting back to blogging, but also blogging through this entire experience as a coping mechanism & also as an education to anyone else who needs to know the medical details of such an episode (there really isn’t much in terms of personal experience online). Other mini-projects include knitting a muffler (nothing to do with the fact that I support Kejru), editing a hell of a lot of photography stock that I’ve accumulated over the years, purging faltu data from all gadgets, formatting/upgrading all software on existing devices and may be learning how to code ios/android apps. I might even get back to some of my favourite activities as a child – decoupage, papier mache etc. Let’s see how it goes.

Now the long version of what exactly happened.

2014 has been a pathetic year in many ways & just when I was getting ready to bid it adieu, it gave me the worst blow of the year – or later as it turned out, perhaps much more. So on 31st Dec, I got ready, packed some stuff, set out from gurgaon for my parents’ place in Delhi. During the entire drive I felt some discomfort about something not being right. But I attributed it more to the car. Reached home, parked car in garage and then proceeded to take out the stuff from the backseat. My laptop was nearby but the main bag was far off towards the other end. The backseat part of the car was on an incline and my right foot was I think between incline and flat. I made one lunge to get to the bag.. and suddenly my right knee snapped and i was SHOCKED beyond belief. I screamed inadvertently in pain and also realised that my kneecap had dislocated like it had once earlier, 20 yrs back. At least this time I knew what was happening to me, but then it wasn’t relocating back at all unlike the last time when I was a teenager. This time the pain was excruciating cos the knee joint just wasn’t snapping back. Then in about a minute it managed to snap back and I slowly gained cognisance of what had happened & the world seemed to be crashing in front of me. I sat down in that very backseat and called my parents, who were two floors above, oblivious to what all had suddenly happened. And then another dislocation happened just when i was trying to straighten my knee! Each time the pain was excruciating and the knee joint just wouldn’t come back instantly either! Then it happened a 3rd time too! The conclusion now, was to somehow shift the car back out of the garage, shift myself completely into the backseat and go to a hospital like that. With great difficulty, I managed to drag myself in to the backseat and finally my parents & I, left for the hospital… and on the way another fucking dislocation happened AGAIN!!! The fact that it just wasn’t stopping was most disconcerting! And i worried about how much damage each dislocation was causing!
Once we got to the hospital, an immobiliser was tied to my right leg (which I still have on, 24 days later) and I was prescribed medicines to bring down the inflammation around the knee joint & address the pain. An X-ray was done but it was just basic & X-rays don’t show ligament injuries. At that point my knee joint was also too sore for it to be inspected physically and chances were that more dislocations would have happened if an attempt was made. So after this whole immobiliser, wheelchair, stretcher, xray, wheelchair session, we left for home. I was told to visit again after a few days when my knee joint had “quietened down”. Now the next hurdle – my parents live on the 2nd floor. I’d asked the doctor the procedure to climb stairs in this condition and with great difficulty managed 2 flights of stairs of our ancient ancestral house. Everyone had missed lunch due to this medical emergency and now we finally got home to take stock of the situation & what was left of our new year’s eve. I finally broke down & had a crying, hugging session. The shock of the whole thing was just too much. I was just going about my day as usual and suddenly I couldn’t even walk anymore, was bedridden and was looking at, at least 2-3 months of rehabilitation time. The unfairness of it all was just hitting me. The fact that it happened while doing something I’d done infinite number of times was very disconcerting. (More on what makes it happen, later). I knew that my extra flexible joints (I can twist both my thumbs outwards and touch them back to the wrist) made me vulnerable to this. In fact I’ve already had a kneecap dislocation 20 yrs back.. but that was a walk in the park compared to what had happened this time. Ultimately I tried to make myself believe that may be something worse had been averted and I got this “gifted” instead, but at that point I could barely reconcile myself to the situation.
Next up – after a week, MRI and digital x-rays were done. By this time I had reconciled to the situation and since I’d already dealt with a kneecap dislocation earlier, I knew the challenges. Back then the medical advice I had got was hardly anything. 20 yrs later, things had obviously advanced much more. Now there were ice packs, immobilisers, physiotherapy sessions, the internet as a huge resource and what not. As a teenager, I was just given a crepe bandage and sent off. It took around 6-9 months to get back to normal back then, but once it was ok, I forgot all about it. I thought this time the recuperation would be faster because I was equipped better. But when we showed the test results to the doctor – the first thing he said was, this would have to be cut open and operated. There is damage to the patella (kneecap) and the MPFL (the ligament towards the inner side of the knee) is torn and would need reconstructive surgery. Blood drained from our faces. There was shock once more. None of us could believe that the situation was THIS bad. We decided to take another opinion. Then another. And another. This includes a govt hospital, a sports injury doctor and a different hospital. They all say the same thing unfortunately. So here I am, gearing up for surgery now.
I’ll be writing in more detail about how these things happen, challenges & what to do in rehabilitation. But first a tiny note to all gyaanis, free advice givers, self appointed experts & well intentioned but ill informed wellwishers – kneecap dislocations have nothing to do with weight. Any surgery in the knee is not the same as “knee replacement”. Anything to do with a joint is not about weight. Yoga though an extremely beneficial regimen, can not cure everything.
As I wrote earlier, I’ll be updating my blog much more frequently and hope to hear from blogger fraands as well as people who have been through something similar.


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Making merry 1

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Ever since I arrived in London on 2nd June, we got busy with the tour around various departments at Kingston university campus. But it wasn’t just all work and no play. In fact right on the day we reached, after freshening up, we went to see the Graduate fashion week at Central London. On this particular day, the show was put up by the students of the Fashion department at Kingston university.

We reached the venue in Central London and the place was swarming with fashionistas of all shapes, sizes and genders. For me the latest fashions were already there to observe in the crowd itself. Once inside, I requested the people in charge to let me stand in the media box meant for photographers and clicked a few shots from there. The designs were quite interesting and some were extremely innovative and actually wearable. The fashion show was so professional in every way possible that I thought I had landed in a clip from FTv.

It didn’t look like some graduate students were behind this. And going by the kind of front row audience, it clearly meant serious business. Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic etc attend GFW, and the KU fashion grads are considered pretty employable by them. In fact this time,  the GFW was featured in times the next day!

We really enjoyed it and headed back to our hotel. On the way we got a tiny glimpse of Central London as well – The London eye, The shard and The Gherkin. During the Kingston tour days we always had lunch & dinner with Indian faculty or Indian students or Indian alumni. It was interesting to see their insights into the process & it was good to see them doing well for themselves.

On the third day of our visit we were taken for a ride (no pun intended) on a ferry along Thames. We got in at the pier right outside Kingston University’s international office and went up till Hampton court palace & back. We were the only occupants of the ferry so it was more like a private tour! It was very scenic and peaceful. The houses along the banks looked extremely lovely in the glowing sun. The Hampton court palace glistened beautifully as well. It was a nice break in between academic discussions.

On all the nights, we ate out at various interesting places, including (but not limited to) Jamie Oliver’s Kingston’s branch.

Got a chance to visit THE Jamie oliver’s restaurant .. The food was great – the service left much to be desired! Sadly didn’t bump into Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson or Heston Blumenthal on the streets of London :).
The ultimate culinary treat was given to us by Kingston university on the last day of our visit. On this day, we were introduced to a proper English afternoon tea experience at the over-300-year-old Fortnum and Mason! After reading about tea and scones throughout my Enid blyton-ised childhood I finally had the experience  and at a very posh place at that!

We had finger sandwiches, lots of different kinds of cakes, scones (both sweet and savoury) with clotted cream, lemon curd and jam & of course tea. There was a plethora of variety in the tea and I chose a flavour called “the wedding celebration” , marking the wedding of prince William and Kate. After this we checked out some other variety of cake that was kept for patrons .. Even though we were all really full, we took a slice of exquisite looking cake topped with raspberries on the top and sponge fingers on the side. It looked like a piece of art! All this while there was a pianist playing some lovely music. I requested him to play “Skyfall” and he complied happily. It was transcendental.
The day ended on an exciting note, with us hopping onto a hop on-hop off bus and taking in the sights of the city. The weather was thankfully playing a good sport and it was lovely to be outside! Overall, the trip was a great combination of enriching academia & interesting outings. I am thankful to KU for providing me this opportunity.
Though the Harry Belafonte “Kingston town” song is about Jamaica, some of the words hold true even in this case. “But I’m sad to say,
I’m on my way, won’t be back for many a day” .. Hope to visit another day!

(this is the 3rd post in a 3 part series. Click here for the 1st part & here for the 2nd part)


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Education expedition 1

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I arrived in London on the 2nd June. We were quickly whisked away to Antoinette Hotel right next to Kingston University. Kingston is a quaint little place with cosy little houses. Lots of roses growing in everyone’s yard. The weather was perfect unlike the many predictions of rains. In fact it seems we got along a little sunshine here because it was after quite a gap that the rains had stopped. After freshening up, we went to see the Graduate fashion week at Central london. On this particular day, the show was put up by the students of the Fashion department at Kingston university. (More on that in the next post).

Nelson Mandela Said “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. How true are those words!

Right from day one, My colleague (a journalist) & I were taken to various departments at Kingston university, to get a taste of what all courses they have to offer. I must say that each and every department is highly specialised in its field with the latest machines, facilities & techniques to impart knowledge. We also saw the outcome of such knowledge at various places, especially the arts & design show put up by various sub departments of the art & design faculty. It was really interesting to say the least.

On day one, we met Fiona Curran, Senior Lecturer, School of Performance & Screen, to talk about the Performance, Screen & Film Making courses. Accompanying her were two Indian students as well. Both of them were quite confident about their prospects after the course completion. We were told  by them that making a movie without a sponsor is no mean feat, not to forget the difficulties faced as a female film maker, but they had ample help from the film making student community itself. It is a perfectly balanced ecosystem where everyone helps each other promptly knowing that one day they would be asking for help as well.

This was followed by a meeting with Shabana Ansari, an Indian student doing MA in creative writing. She told us that all courses are paired with another course which is more vocational in nature and can help students get a job till the time their primary occupation doesn’t get them started on a regular income. That is a very good strategy especially as far as the “subjective” skills like writing, film making, design etc go. Shabana has just come out with a book published by her as part of her curriculum and the pride was evident on her face.

After lunch, we went to a different campus of Kingston university (various departments are housed in the vicinity and some are a little distance away as well). This particular department was dedicated to Art & Design courses & facilities. We met Jake Abrams, Principal Lecturer in Illustration & Animation, who gave us a tour of the Art and Design studios and workshop facilities. The entire building was one large beehive of creativity. Various courses like Photography, Fashion, Architecture, Fine art, Graphic design, Illustration & Animation, Interior design, Product and furniture design, etc are offered here. Unlike the other campus, this whole department looked like one giant art installation. There was a show called the “moving image” going on, where all the departments had put up the creme de la creme works of each department. It was really amazing. It is not only interesting to see a new person’s perspective on something old, it is interesting to note the difference that new culture brings on Art. One example of an art installation is

It reminds me of childhood!

And a glimpse of the photography exhibition.

The next day, we met Professor Julius Weinberg, Vice Chancellor, Kingston University – who is ALSO doing an undergraduate course at Kingston university himself! Due to this fact, he knows the ins and outs of all situations faced by students. He told us quite a few interesting achievements of Students from KU. For eg. Kingston produces the most graduate startup companies in UK. Facebook – yes THE facebook invited product & furniture design students of KU to furnish their conference space with prototypes & they liked the pieces so much that they made them permanent. The illustration & animation students have received worldwide acclaim by being featured in the “creative review”. Photography grad student’s work was acquired by Tate gallery. There are so many accolades & achievements that they can’t be listed here. But one thing is apparent for sure. The students get a global platform to stand out on and they made full use of it.  He was also interviewed by my journalist colleague. The interview can be read here.

This was followed by a showcase of MBA, business courses and tour of Business School. Again this was a separate campus and a very green one at that. We met Kent Springdal – Senior Lecturer, Department of Strategy, Marketing & Innovation and more Indian students again. They were all very confident and had already started working on their startups. Most had prior work experience as well. Needless to say, this department seemed to provide them the perfect skills that all entrepreneurs need. They are all guided by dedicated mentors who are with them throughout the process. It’s a very good way of landing a job before the student visa expires!

We also met Dwain Reid – Entrepreneurship Project Officer whose main job is to assist budding entrepreneurs of KU. There are courses like the Enterprise programme that help students learn right from the basics of how to register as self employed to the toughies like Intellectual property protection, applying for funding, cashflow, PR, social media etc. The course can be attended by students of sister universities of KU as well. All in all it’s a very good bootcamp for all those who dream big.

On the final day we visited the Science, Engineering & Computing department & met Dr. Steve Barton who showed us around the campus. Needless to say, the faculty was very well equipped with all kinds of machines & devices – be it bio-medical or chemical. It was freaky seeing very large electromagnets and huge tanks full of liquid nitrogen for cryogenics etc! We also visited various labs & saw the students working on preciser than precise machinery to ascertain things that are eventually life altering. A very popular picture from the science department is this picture of lockers depicting the periodic table!

As part of the final touch, we did one of the most interesting things ever. We did a Tour of Forensics House including a crime scene! Well, the crime scene had been “fixed” for us, as is done for students of the forensics department. But it was really exciting as expected. Accompanying us was Tracy Davies, Senior Technician, Faculty of Science, Engineering & Computing. The forensics department at KU has a forensics house where they use animal entrails, real (animal) blood and a lot of other stuff to depict a crime scene. The students have to be “on job” complete in the required suits, collecting evidence etc. The crime scene set up for us wasn’t as gory thankfully. It had a toppled chair, a knife strewn about, strands of hair, half filled beer glasses and a tiny blood spatter to show trickle from weapon or trickle from finger. Here’s an example

 We guessed a couple of things based on the clues and felt really suave as if we were starring in CSI. However, those who do this in real life have a huge responsibility on their shoulders! Not to forget seeing so much graphic detail in the job, must be tough mentally as well. Sadly, We missed out on the lie detector test that had been planned for us earlier.

We also had interaction with the teams that prepare the students to get placements as well as the ones that help the students with their visa paper work right from pre-arrival days, till the final placement days. The work permit after graduation is THE number one issue all Non-EU students face. But the good news is that it’s not all that difficult if the job application process is done systematically in advance. Typically students have 3 months after graduation (down from 2 years limit earlier) but many land jobs before that.  Many students end up in unskilled jobs (eg. as waiters) just to support maintenance costs & the grad degree clearly doesn’t add anything in these cases. Understandably it can get difficult with a new culture, geography, environment etc as add on factors, but this sort of a thing is frowned upon and students are encouraged to plan their job applications in advance. All the student entrepreneurs, who don’t land jobs, also have an opportunity to get a Tier 1 entrepreneur visa given by KU to 15 deserving students each year. KU has the International student advisory centre set up specifically for helping out in these immigration and work permit issues.

Overall, the little slice of life that we saw at Kingston university was very enriching. I am sure the students here get world class education and seeing the track record of the univ, their students also get placed rather well. As someone said, Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. Even for us, non-students, it was a very enlightening experience.

Up next – the fun stuff at KU!

(this is the 2nd post in a 3 part series. Click here for the first part)


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London Thumakda

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A few months back I was contacted by Kingston university. They wanted to invite me to take a tour of their campus, check out the various courses offered and see what life is like out there. Now, I don’t have any direct connection to universities or the profession of teaching (except for being the daughter of one), but I have been contemplating since quite a few years about doing a course on photography (the art, not the technique) from London or Paris. That would give me a global perspective, get me exposure to many more luminaries in the field as well as allow me to globe-trot more often. On hearing the details of what all Kingston University has to offer to their students, I must say, it took me no time in saying yes to their generous offer!

As some of you on twitter might have guessed by my tweets, I have already reached London and Well, now is the time to strike off London from my bucket list! London and New york are two cities I have always been in love with, without having visiting them!

The plan at Kingston university is quite exciting. I’ll be interacting with faculty, students and departments indulging in Creative writing, Illustration & Animation, Art and Design, MBA, Strategy, Marketing & Innovation, Marketing Communications & Advertising etc. – basically quite a few areas of my interest. I’ll also be interacting with Faculty staff connected with India & some Kingston University Alums from India to hear about their experiences and see the kind of support they get in their respective endeavours. I am however, most excited about yet another interaction, which is a Tour of Forensics House on the campus, including a crime scene. Female Sherlock Holmes, anyone?

The KU interaction is not just all work and no play. There will be a boat ride on the river Thames as well as a fashion show put up by the graduate students.

The planned duration of the official trip is from 2nd June – 5th June. I am also planning to explore London on my own, in the patches of free time I get. I wish I was here longer, because knowing a city needs some living in it. I am also extending my trip beyond the touring of Kingston university and plan to visit places in/around London as well as Scotland, Ireland till 13th June. Those nearby, give a shoutout!

In the meanwhile, KU is planning some overseas interaction for the benefit of prospective students. The list of events in India is here.

The purpose of this post is (like previous similar activities) not just to talk about the university I am visiting, but also to present my perspective of a prospective student, hopeful of learning more about the Art scene in Europe. Needless to say there will be lots of intertwined bits to do with experiencing a new city, a new country, a new culture – one that I am particularly excited about because of our “common” heritage. The hashtag for the event is #KUexperience but I am NOT planning to use it for every single tweet I write while in London. For the record, this is NOT a contest or a paid event. Here’s hoping for clear skies, pristine locales & interesting experiences. I hope you would enjoy “virtual traveling” with me as much as I would on ground. And hopefully, this should get me back on the blogging track as well!


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