Free Press Journal

Wikipedia takes a bite, at Indian food and forts

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Chandigarh: Searching for an image from your area might soon cease to be a difficult task, thanks to hacks being worked on by an army of enthusiastic volunteers across India says.

“If burgers and wines can be visible on the internet, then why not Indian food too? Our region is rich in monuments too, and we’re also working on that,” said Sanket A. Oswal, a student in his early 20s preparing for his chartered accountancy finals and a volunteer with the Wikipedia from Koramangala in Bengaluru.

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Besides volunteering his skill with figures (he is the treasurer of the Wikimedia India Chapter), Oswal, along with others, has been promoting photography initiatives that could change the way India is seen in cyberspace. To create a bank of sharable photographic images from urban India, in 2011 and 2012, Wikipedians in India launched initiatives called ‘Wikipedia Takes Pune’. It did similar initiatives in Ahmedabad, Chennai and Kolkata.

Volunteers were asked to click and share good quality images of these cities and share them freely via the Wikipedia. “We got as many as 6,000 mostly good photographs from Pune itself,” says Oswal.

In 2014, this was followed up with a ‘Wiki Loves Food’ initiative.

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Community members were asked to contribute to a pilot attempt, and some 500 photographs of Indian food were collated and shared online. Once this worked, a pan-India project was launched, harvesting 10,000 photographs, out of which four out of every five images were adjudged to be of acceptable quality.

Wikipedia today has a set of postcards focusing on the Mysore dosa, the Bengali dessert of Narkel Naru (ball-shaped delicacies made from condensed milk and coconut), the thick milk-based

Banaras ki Lassi drink, the ubiquitous South Asian samosa (fried with a savoury filling), the Kerala breakfast of rice puttu with gram curry, and the jalebi sweet dish among others.

These images can be used by any Wikipedia community, in any language, including foreign. Others too can dip into this collection and reuse the same freely, provided the source is duly acknowledged.

The ‘food’ idea was a desi one. And when Oswal presented his findings at a Seoul Wikipedia conference, seven to eight countries thought it was good enough to try on their own. “We might see the same happen in countries like France and Italy, as they too feel their younger generation is moving over to globalised food and losing out on local culinary diversity,” he said.