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The Bicycle Project

Riding a bicycle in the chaotic traffic of Pune is plain scary and unsafe. But some of us do buy bicycles for the sake of exercise. Of course, the enthusiasm quickly sags and the bicycle gathers dust.

If you are in such a situation (like I was, till a week ago), keep reading.

Some people from the Indian cities of Mumbai and Pune have come together to start an initiative called ‘The Bicycle Project’. They gather such dust-gathering bicycles from various households, repair them and distribute them to the unprivilaged poor children in the remote areas.

It’s a boon for the poor children who otherwise have to walk several miles every day just to reach their schools.

The Bicycle project aims to distribute 100,000 bicycles to the underprivilaged children in remote areas.

I donated my bicycle last week. If you wish to do the same, you can contact the Bicycle Project on the India numbers given below. Volenteers will come to your doorstep and collect the bicycles, repair them and distribute them.

Mumbai – Hemant Chhabra – 9820149022

Pune – Kiran Deolalkar – 9920769666

e-mail : thebicycleproject@gmail.com

Happy donating

Shirish

A Touching Poem

When we brought Mugdha home, SOFOSH presented us with a very beautiful, touching poem written by one of the previous parents. I do not know the name of the person who wrote it. All I could feel is how much heart and soul was poured into it.

Here it is. Read and tell me if you agree –

Once there were two women who never knew each other,

One you do not remember, the other you call Mother.

Two different lives shaped to make yours one,

One became your guiding star, the other one became your sun.

The first gave you life, the second taught you to live it,

The first gave you need for love, the second was there to give it.

One gives you nationality, the other gave you a name,

One gave you the seed of talent, the other gave you an aim.

One gave you emotion, the other calmed your fears,

One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried your tears.

One gave you up – it was all she could do,

The other prayed for a child and god led her straight to you.

And more you ask me through your tears,

The age old question throughout the years.

Heredity or environment, which are you the product of?

Neither my darling – neither. Just two different kinds of love!

A Little Fairy Arrives in our World!

Her name is ‘Mugdha’ (The giver of joy), and she has arrived in our home to touch our hearts and souls. She is only nearly two months old, but already has managed to fill our little world with her presence.

Mugdha is our little daughter. Me and Aparna adopted her from Shri Vatsa, the home of destitute children affiliated to Sassoon Hospital, Pune. She arrived in our home today, bringing with her immense joy and infinite dreams.

Let’s welcome her to our family, and hope she lives a much fulfilled life with us.

The Arrival

We first saw Mugdha on 2nd Oct 09 in the Shri Vatsa office, and there was instant bonding between her and her new parents.

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Saturday, 10th Oct 09. Me, Aparna and Aparna’s parents went to Shri Vatsa. Many children were playing in the court yard.

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We went into the office, where we were warmly welcomed. After some formalities were completed, Mugdha was handed over to us for familiarizing with her new family members. Dhruv was super-excited and wanted to play with his sister and hold her in his lap.

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Mugdha was absolutely an angel in her new mummy and daddy’s arms.

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The SOFOSH social workers had painted a Rangoli for giving a farewell to Mugdha (former name Shravani)

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Sharmila, the SOFOSH social worker, and Aparna’s mom performed certain rituals and presented Mugdha and Dhruv flower garlands.

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Then we arrived home to a enthusiastic welcome.

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Mugdha is now getting settled in her new family and surroundings. May her life be filled with great joy.

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India Adoption FAQ

Here I have collated answers to all the frequently asked questions on adoption process in India. This is not THE comprehensive list, but it gives a fair bit of idea about what process we went through (and are still going through) in the adoption, and our thought process behind it.

1. Why did we choose to adopt a baby?

Ans – Me and Aparna had decided even before we married, that we would have one biological child and one adopted child. Since we already had a son (who will soon turn 5 yrs), we decided to adopt a daughter.

2. What was the reaction to our decision from our respective families?

Ans – Fortunately, our families and friends were highly supportive. Our families, including my two elder sisters (Sadhana & her family and Swati), Aparna’s sister (Amruta & her family), and mine and Aparna’s parents were very supportive of us. All our efforts would be futile if not for their relentless support and love for us.

Many of our relatives and friends encouraged us during the long waiting period, and many of them told us that they were proud of us. Sometimes even we felt that we were praised a lot more than we deserved. But this support will definitely go a long way to give us strength and courage to tread over any rough patches we may face in the future.

3. Are we doing it as a social service?

Ans – No. We are doing it to satisfy our parental instincts, and to complete our family. If it helps a social cause, we are happy for it. We are also very happy to give Mugdha a good life amongst a loving family. But we do not feel we are doing anyone a favor here. And we feel anyone adopting a baby should approach the process with the same mindset.

4. Why the name Mugdha?

Ans – The name is very nice, has a pleasant sound and meaning to it. Also, as any married person can tell you, it’s near impossible to have a uniform opinion on these naming matters between any married couple, and for once, me and Aparna did agree on this name.

5. When did we start the adoption process?

Ans – Adoption is a very long process and there’s a big waiting list. We applied for adoption of baby on 20th Apr 2008, and finally got our chance in Oct 2009.

We are adopting baby via an adoption agency called SOFOSH (Society of Friends of Sassoon Hospitals)

6. Why does it take so long?

Ans – Well, there are a lot of documents for the adoption agency to verify, interviews to be conducted, government regulations to be fulfilled, and then, there’s the long waiting list.

7. What happens if the child’s biological parents come looking later?

Ans – According to Indian law, only non-identifying details of biological and adoptive parents can be shared with each other, e.g. social and economic background, religion etc. So the biological and adoptive parents do not know about each other, ever.

Once the legal adoption process is completed (which may take another six months or so), the child is given a birth certificate with the adopting parents’ names, and everyone else’s rights on the child are relinquished.

8. So, what is Mugdha’s original social background?

Ans – The social worker did disclose it to me and Aparna. But we both prefer to keep it to ourselves only, and not to share with ANY third person, no exceptions.

To us, Mugdha is our daughter from the day we saw her first, and that’s all that matters to us.

9. How did the adoption process start?

Ans – The adoption process started with a basic interview with the SOFOSH representative. We completed an application form and a whole lot of documentation including

    1. Health checkup certificates for me and Aparna
    2. Income certificates for both of us
    3. Character certificates for both of us
    4. Recommendation letters from three families for us
    5. An affidavit from a blood relative couple promising to take care of the adopted child in case something happens to us.
    6. Family photographs
    7. Police clearance (similar to one required in obtaining a passport)
    8. Answers to a big customized questionnaire asking us the about the thought process behind adoption decision, and many family related questions.

10 .What came next?

Ans – Well, after our documents were submitted and verified by SOFOSH, nothing really happened for nearly 16 months, since we were in the waiting list.

At the beginning of Sep 2009, we got a letter from SOFOSH, inviting us for a full day seminar on adoption. The seminar was scheduled on 11th Sep 09.

Many aspiring parents were invited in the seminar, which covered varied topics like legal and medical processes followed while giving babies for adoption, how do these babies land up in the adoption agency, social and family issues faced by adopting parents and children, positive parenting and child psychology etc.

The seminar was highly motivational and informational, and cleared many concerns of the aspiring parents. The best part of the seminar was visits by adopting parents and their adopted children (apart from the delicious food, of course).

During the seminar, we were pleasantly surprised to know that our turn for adoption had finally come, and we would soon be invited to select a baby.

A social worker from a government agency (http://www.adoptionindia.nic.in) contacted us next week, and invited us to their office on a weekend.

The social worker, Shubhada interviewed me and Aparna, first together, then separately, during which she asked many open ended questions about our family background, upbringing, financial position, and decision making process in the family.

A couple of weeks after the interview, SOFOSH invited us to see the baby. The complete known medical and social history of the baby was shown to us. We spent some time with the baby. It was adoration at first sight, and we decided to have her as our daughter. After a couple of additional medical tests, we conveyed our consent to the SOFOSH, and fixed the date 10th Oct 09 as the date of arrival.

11. So, is this all? Is the baby ours now completely?

Ans – The legal process is expected to go on further for at least six months. Mugdha will be in our custody for next three months, during which we are allowed to take care of her, but not make any permanent markings like body piercing and tattoos on her.

During the next three months, SOFOSH social workers will periodically visit us to make sure she is well taken care of. Simultaneous to this ‘probation period’, a petition will be submitted to the court, asking for permanent custody of Mugdha to us. After nearly 4-5 months, there will be a hearing in court, after which Mugdha will become our child. She will be given a birth certificate with me and Aparna mentioned as her parents.

12. What happens when she grows up? Are we going to tell her she is adopted?

Ans – Absolutely! It’s better for her and us that she knows the reality about her from her parents rather than strangers. In our counseling sessions, we were specifically told how this delicate subject should be handled without hurting anyone’s sentiments. We are sure we will be the best parents for her, and she will understand.

13. How should one contact SOFOSH in case they want to adopt?

Ans – You may contact SOFOSH on the following address / phone number

Address:

Society of Friends of Sasoon Hospitals

Room # 87, Sasoon Hospital

Pune 411052, Maharashtra, India

Phone : +91-20-26124660

Fax: +91-20-26128219

E-mail: sofosh@vsnl.net

Website: http://www.sofosh.org

Welcome to HuesAndTones

Finally the version 1.0 of HuesAndTones is ready to be distributed to the world.

It has been a tireless (actually, very tiring) and very fulfilling journey till now. More and more features and design elements are in the pipeline.

Awaiting your candid responses and feedbacks on the site design and content

Lettering 2 – Speech Balloons. Making them look ‘Hand Drawn’

This is part 2 of the lettering process. Here, we will see how to finish up the speech balloons nicely with that ‘squashed’ look.

At the end of last procedure, the caption texts are grouped together with their bordering rectangles. The speech balloons are still not grouped with the ellipses bordering them.

Now it’s time to draw ‘monkey tails’.

Selecy the ‘Benzier curve’ tool as shown circled in the picture below. Draw the 3 points as shown in this picture. Let the lines intersect ellipse shape.

benzier curve

While keeping the benzier curve selected, press ‘F2’ on the keyboard, or select ‘Edit paths by nodes’ tool as shown below. This enables us to curve out the tails as we wish.

edit paths

Click and drag to curve the monkey tail to desired shape.

curved tail

Once the monkey tail is appropriately shaped, select it and the ellipse for speech balloon. Select Path->Union from menu. This combines the tail and ellipse to form a speech balloon. You will notice that the line overlaps between ellipse and tail are also gone.

path union

Now it’s time to ‘squash’ the balloon to give it a handmade look. Select the balloon, click on the Benzier curve tool, and adjust the balloon dimensions, so that balloon is aligned nicely with the text inside.

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Keep the speech balloon selected, select the text inside it as well, and then group these objects. The speech balloon is (finally) ready.

Coming up – Desktop publishing in Scribus.

Lettering 1 – Text, Captions and Basic Speech Baloons Outlines

As mentioned in the eariler posts, Inkscape is a free Vector graphic drawing program, and is excellent for lettering. I import the TIFF file into this file. This TIFF file has only the graphic part, and no text. I resize the TIFF file within my page, such that the width of TIFF is exactly 8 inches. This is how the page will look now.

inkscape opening screen

This makes sure it has enough margin for printing. The actual graphic size is less than the TIFF file, since it’s enclosed in panels. This adds a bit to the margins. (A4 paper width is 8.3 inches, while US letter paper width is 8 inches.). So regardless of paper, the image width is always 8 inches. Now click menu items File->Document Properties. The following dialogue will come up

fit page to selection

Click ‘Fit Page to Selection’, and now the graphic size is exactly 8 inches (width) X 10.667 (height). This graphic, once completed, can easily fit in A4 size or US letter size paper.

Now it’s time to start lettering.

Step 1 – Typing out the text.

I first type out the entire text over the imported graphic at predefined places. The JPG files saved eariler with the original text act as a reference here.

For typing, I use Comic Sans MS font at size 11. If I need to emphasize something in the text, I use Comic Sans MS in bold type at size 13. There are a lot of people on the web advocating not to use Comic Sans MS, as it’s a bit overused, and there are a lot of alternatives available on web, free or charged. However, I decided to stick with Comic Sans MS for now.

After the whole text is typed, the page looks like this.

text_only

Step 2 – Covering the text boxes with caption boxes and word baloon eclipses.

Select the rectangle tool (for text boxes) or eclipse tool (for word baloons). Draw the rectangle / eclipse around the text. No need to be too accurate at this stage. Cover the whole text with the shape.

Double click on the lower left side of screen (circled in red below) to get Fill and Stroke dialogue up.

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Keep the Fill and Stroke settings as shown below.

fill

stroke

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Press the Page Down button on your keyboard while this shape is selected. This will send the shape behind the text. Now we have a text box / baloon surrounding the text, as shown below.

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Select the reactancle/eclipse, and adjust it so that is looks good. Make sure you give some “breathing space” to the text.

For caption boxes, do the following and you are done.

Select the rectangle and the text within it simultaneously. You can do this by selecting the rectangle, pressing the ‘Ctrl’ key on keyboard, and then selecting the text.

Keep both selected, and click on the menu item Object -> Group, or simply press the ‘Ctrl-G’ keyboard combination. This groups these two objects, making it very convinient to move them around together without disturbing their relative alignment.

For speech baloons, there’s some more

Coming up – Lettering 2 – Speech Baloons and Monkey Tails.

Workflow employed for the making of my first comics and technical details. (This may drastically change in the future productions)

Create panels, pencil sketches, inks and initial speech balloons/captions in GIMP. Graphic size – 3300 X 4400 pixels, 1200 PPI. When creating a new file, click ‘+’ sign next to the ‘Advanced Options’ and enter values as following:

GIMP_screenshot

Creating panels, pencil sketches and inks has been discussed in previous posts.

Something about the speech balloons and captions.

GIMP has a fairly lousy text tool. Once you select the Text tool in GIMP toolbox and type in something in it, it creates a separate layer on top of current layer. This is the only good thing about this tool, as you can easily make it invisible for later use.

I create various speech layers like this, one layer for each speech balloon / caption. All captions are left justified and all speech balloon text is centrally aligned. All these speech layers are kept at the topmost of all graphics layer stacks (panels, pencils, inks etc). I am not overtly careful while placing the text, nor much worried about the look and feel. These speech balloons are only placeholders and help me in ‘reading’ the story as I draw next pages.

After typing in all the text (Font size – 50, Font – Comics San MS normal), I insert a layer above all inks layers, and just below the lowest text layer. I name this layer text_bg.

I draw all speech balloons and caption backgrounds on this layer. This makes it easy for me to make them disappear in one click later.

After all the text is typed, the page looks like the following.

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I select the text_bg layer, and start drawing balloons / rectangles on it. The process is repeated for all texts within the page.

1. Using the Selection tools, I drag an oval (for speech balloon) or rectangle (for caption) which will encompass the text. At this stage, a selection ‘running ants’ shape will appear around the chosen text, but everything below that text and the oval / rectangular shape will be visible. Draw the shape at such a size that the text below it will have some ‘breathing space’ (white space) around it.

2. Then I fill the selection with white color.

3. I keep the shape selected, choose the brush tool, select brush of size 5 pixels and keep black as foreground color.

4. I click the menu items as follows: Edit -> Stroke Selection. The stroke selection dialog box appears. Choose the radio button against the ‘Stroke Selection’ option as shown below.

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This draws a 5 pixel stroke within the boundaries of selection. Now we have a background for our text.

5. I unselect the shape, and repeat this process for every text item, remaining on text_bg layer.

6. Now it’s time to draw tails for speech balloons. I draw fairly rough tails here, just to get an idea how the final ones will look. Select the text_bg layer, select brush tool, 5 pixel brush. Keep pressure sensitivity off, and draw the balloon tails freehand. Let them invade in the balloon space a bit. If you are fussy about the look (like me), you may fill them with white color, stroke with black color, and clean up the overlapping bits.

When this is done for the entire page, I save the file as a JPG image. This image serves as a reference when doing the actual lettering.

Now I make all text layers and text_bg layer invisible, and save the image as a TIFF file with maximum resolution. TIFF format employs a lossless compression (unlike JPG) and is ideal for final printing.

Now we have a full resolution image with no text and no speech balloons / captions. This image is ready for lettering.

Coming up – Lettering using Inkscape.

Difference between Raster Graphics and Vector Graphics

Two kinds of graphic formats are used in electronic mediums. Raster and Vector.

Raster graphics are stored as a bunch of pixels, while Vector graphics are stored as a bunch of shapes and nodes.

Raster graphics start losing their clarity as they are stretched beyond their original maximum size. Vector graphics can be (theoretically) stretched to any size without loss of clarity.

Vector graphics van also be used to draw precise shapes, since each stroke can be tweaked separately. But Raster graphics have a better color reproduction.

Photoshop and GIMP are examples of Raster graphics editors.

Illustrator, Inkscape, CorelDraw are some of the vector graphics editors.

Vector graphics can be exported to raster graphics.

Inkscape is a open source, free vector graphics editor I use for lettering. More on this in the workflow discussions.

Question: If vector graphics editors create so much accurate, scalable graphics, why don’t I produce the complete artwork in Inkscape?

Answer: That’s something on my agenda for future. Currently I am learning Inkscape.