To Be Dinesh

tbd2

We have many friends in India, some we know well and who feel like family to us, and others we know less intimately but are fairly certain will become lifelong colleagues and conspirators. One of the dearest of them is TB Dinesh, the CharityFocus coordinator in Bangalore.

We met Dinesh in Bangalore two years ago. It was one of those friendships that goes from meeting to marriage without ever passing through the courtship phase. (How Indian!) He met us at the train station on our arrival in Bang’town, we moved in with him, and almost never left.

Dinesh is a difficult man to explain in a few short sentences – or even in a single blog entry. He is multi-dimensional and multi-talented. His one constancy is that he is unconventional – or unwaveringly inappropriate, depending on your point of view.

Dinesh grew up on a beautiful small farm in a town about an hour west of Bangalore, the son of a physician. A bona fide geek, he holds a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in artificial languages and runs a software company in Bang’town that develops a brilliant open-source information system (Pantoto) of his own creation. Or maybe that’s how his industrialist sister might introduce him.

Dinesh actually winds up giving his software and services away more often than selling them. His aim is to service the non-profit community, and particularly NGOs working in rural development. He is not much of a businessman; and he knows it. In fact, he could care less. Dinesh’s first instincts are of generosity, whether to his friends of to complete strangers.

Bang’town is a funny place for a guy like Dinesh. Though the tech bubble has burst here for the time being, the yuppification of the young, overpaid techies here is every bit as prevalent and unattractive as it was in Silicon Valley a few years back. Living in this aquisitive environment, and sporting such underdeveloped materialist tendencies, Yoo-Mi and I refuse to call Dinesh a “technologist” or “entrepreneur” – it just doesn’t capture him. Instead, we call him a “performance artist.” Our friend Jason has gone us one better, dubbing him a “non-performance artist” for his lack of business drive.

What makes Bang’town a fabulously interesting place is its undercurrent of very smart, socially engaged, extremely creative people who are looking to break from the shallow glam of “Page Three,” (on which is found the young “society” column in the Times of India). Dinesh is completely plugged into this fascinating community. Indeed, he often seems at the heart of things.

Getting beat up while protesting the cutting of a several hundred year old tree; riding 12 hours in the back of an open-bed goods carrier to bring relief supplies to tsunami devastated villages on India’s south coast; distributing religious amulets for use as condom holders to raise awareness about India’s growing HIV/Aids problem; posing for a photo with his zipper down next to a sign on a wall advising, “No Urinals.” These are snapshots of our funny, irreverent friend.

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4 Responses to “To Be Dinesh”


  1. 1 Anonymous 20 February 2008 at 5:53 am

    Obviously you have had a different experience. Depending on who you ask this man is either a saint or a complete lune and a very unkind man. I say very unkind due to personal experience

  2. 2 mbjesq 21 February 2008 at 12:16 am

    What an excellent example of a completely chicken-shit comment. Not only is it posted anonymously, but the writer even falsified the required email address. The comment itself is all vaguely slanderous characterization, with nothing of substance.

    I’ll leave it up as a testiment to cowardice.

    MBJ

  3. 3 Sanjay M 4 June 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Hey I’m in Bangalore and esp after reading this post I can’t just wait to meet this ‘unkind lune’ ;) On a more serious note, I happen to want to use my IT skills to do good things for society and want to meet him as recommended by the other post. Please pass on my email id to him – thank you!


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