Heart or Brain?

Many a times, humans take decisions in a way that it becomes difficult for others to fathom. Sometimes the brain is required to take precedence over heart and other times heart is supposed to take precedence over brain. In love, about family and friends, heart should take precedence over brain; emotions do overcome brain in these cases but in other cases it should be the reverse. But this sometimes does not happen.

Recently a term has been coined “Post Truth”

Post-truth relies solely on personal beliefs and ignores any facts that may conflict with those personal beliefs.

Initially, humans lived in small groups, with evolution many things changed. This included communication, travel, language and many other things. When small groups were not connected, most of the decisions taken were based on personal beliefs because knowledge acquired by other groups could hardly be known as inter group communications were either non-existent or were very poor and not wide spread. Human race has evolved over a period especially about communications.

In modern world, the knowledge and information gets spread so fast that we can know many things, if we want to. This gave the opportunity to know how people behave in different ways for same situations. Also many facts and figures became easily available. With this change, migration also increased. Initially people looked at migration as globalization; effect of globalization was assimilation of global population with different skills, to manufacture stuff/provide services from anywhere in the world at the lowest possible cost. Globalization did spread with the advent of knowledge and information and better communication. It had its great effects, initially. Second “industrial revolution” was even faster and more wide spread. This “industrial revolution” was digitalization and computerization of our world. Its effect has been to democratize the global economy to some extent.

But in recent couple of years, a different effect of this revolution was felt by the local population e.g. losing jobs to “outsiders”. Now the thought process has started changing from global to local. This has led to the creation of term “Post Truth”. So called “Global Thinking” people have started thinking “locally” to get their jobs back. The effect is for all of us to see e.g. Trump becoming President, Brexit and so on. Apparently Post Truth is more prevalent in Public Domain but sometimes it’s prevalent in personal domain too! We cannot say that US population is not aware of “could be effects” of  Trump presidency. Britishers are very much aware that coming out of large single market is not good for Britain. But in spite this knowledge, decisions have been most unexpected. 

EVM (Electronic Voting Machines) episode, challenging the Election commission by political parties was a typical Post Truth case. EVM voting sanctity was well proven over a period but Political parties did not look at the facts and just challenged the Authorities. In 1971 India Pakistan war, Pakistan had two very distant fronts to fight on, Mukti Bahini was strongly fighting the guerilla war, Indian Forces were far superior but Pakistanis had a notion that one Pakistani soldier is good enough for 10 Indian soldiers! Rest as you know is history. Alienating Qatar by other Gulf Countries is another Post Truth decision. Qatar is a small nation but is also the richest. All concerned countries on both sides openly support terrorist organizations. So most of these countries have same issues so how alienating Qatar is going to solve that areas problems is difficult to understand.  

Why the Post Truth? Under what circumstances does emotion take over the brain? At what stage “globalization” becomes less important than “localization”? One important aspect that has come forward is that very large part of population gives in to “Post Truth” phenomena. Is it because of fear psychosis? In many cases, the “Post Truth” thinking actually becomes believable. In case of Trump phenomena, it was real justified fear of the so called “White Trash” in America or “Rednecks” and Right supremacists. In case of Brexit it is probably the fear of Muslim refugees landing in Europe. In England already there is a large population of Asians which has come legally and has been causing stress to the white population and “Post Truth” thought process must have been simmering beneath the surface. In both cases the large population has ignored the facts and taken decision solely on personal beliefs; this phenomena is difficult to explain.

In case of personal relationships, life and decision making is too simple and emotional. When Jaya and I decided to get married, we were both students. Both had rudimentary information about each other’s families. Both of us were below 20 years of age, it was simple and “to hell with the consequences” was the attitude. But who any way knew what is marriage? That things turned out to be okay over a period was a different matter. Folks, what do you consider yourselves about things in public domain or even somethings in personal domain which needs brain over heart? Or are you a heart over brain person?

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Are you smart or dumb?

MAD is one of my favourite magazines from childhood. I remember one caricature from the magazine. A very thin guy is lying on the ground. Another guy is shooting him with a revolver. A passerby stops and asks the shooter, “What are you doing?” He replies, “This guy is under weight, so I am pumping lead in him to help him gain weight!” Such caricatures came under category “Smart or funny answers to dumb questions” or some such thing. In our life we come across such people. If you are lucky you don’t meet many such people!

What is smart or dumb? How does a human being become smart or dumb? His family, education, DNA, environment what is it? What attributes finally get converted to a smart or dumb person? It is rather difficult to decide. I think it starts from childhood but later on the human being acquires & improves many abilities through experience. But this only appears theoretical, real life things are different.

As usual I take the reference of my grand-daughter Rhea. She is all of 3 ½ years old, the way she asks questions, adapts to things, understands explanations it will be real surprise if she ever asks a dumb question. She watches videos while having her food. One day the video was taking time to load. To deceive her we used to tell her previously that now internet Baba is angry that is why we can’t see the video.  I told her the same story. She pointed her finger to the electrical switch for the Modem and told me “Aba put that switch on/off, then internet Baba will not be angry.” Now I am sure she has heard this discussion when we talk amongst ourselves when the Net is slow or not behaving! I am not able to understand how she could correlate this discussion with the problem on hand! Do I find this clarity in grown-ups? In fact I observe that some of the grown-ups can’t correlate things in their own subject. They are graduates and reasonably well educated. Is it because when there is a minor deviation, they cannot think out of the box? Or have they acquired this trait to think dumb!

We live on the 7th floor and while going down in the elevator, I pressed zero! Rhea asked me why I pressed zero. I said because we want to go there. She then asked me how does the elevator know it has reached zero? Well, well that definitely was a smart question for her age. I had shared a couple of photos, news item and a small write up in our group about the achievement by a friend. I got a message from another friend, Pramod could you explain what these photos are? He had read everything and it was all self-explanatory, so why did he ask this question? I have no explanation. I again sent him the explanation.

Recently I was told a story by my niece who is a gynecologists. There was a couple, husband was IIT trained, wife Post Graduate in nutrition science. They had difficulty in conceiving and were taking my niece’s treatment. Finally the wife became pregnant. They came to see my niece in the fifth month of pregnancy. It was winter time and weather was very cold. The husband asked my niece, “Doctor, can my wife use a blanket now?” She was surprised. She said it was very cold so you must use the blanket and why has your wife been not using one. Believe me, he said the dumbest possible thing, you may say that Pramod is cooking up some story for the heck of it. They said now that fetus has crossed fifth month it will be ok to use it. My niece still did not understand. The husband said if my wife had used blanket before the fetus would have been smothered, that is why they decided not to use blanket even though it was very cold! Had this statement come from a villager ….

Now read the next one. They asked my niece, “Can the lady now eat Jambhul or Indian Black Berry?” It’s a lovey and healthy fruit and pregnant ladies many a times have the urge to eat the same during pregnancy. Again our doctor was flummoxed. She said of course you can eat but why were you not eating? The answer was “Oh the baby’s skin could have become dark!”

I know that these two stories can also be told under the heading “Believe it or not”. But how does this educated couple ask such questions? It comes down to definition of “educated”. These two had gone to their respective education institute to get their degrees but were definitely NOT “educated”. The information they asked was not rocket science and you did not have to be doctor to understand these things. If the blanket could suffocate the fetus then the lady’s clothing also must have suffocated the baby! Did they avoid blackish colored soft drinks like colas or kala khatta during this period?

I asked my niece if this couple was exceptionally dumb.  She said, “No kaka, they were a reasonable representation of our society irrespective of education levels”.  I can understand people getting confused with highly technical or analytical issues. So now I am back to the question what makes people smart or dumb? I am watching my grand-daughter asking very smart questions at her age and I see the so called ‘educated’ asking dumb questions. Honestly I am dumb founded! Are you?

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Globalization effect on human thought process!

What is the effect of globalization on human thought process? We always read effects of globalization on economy, migration, wealth creation and so on. These are of course plus points for those who migrate from lesser economies to matured economies. Life style of people generally improves when people migrate to richer countries. How we define improvement? Material wise there is definite improvement, work satisfaction wise also there is definite improvement in some cases.

How does this process affect human mind or thought process? Since I have lived in India and that too mostly in Pune Mumbai area, I may not be the right person to comment, based on personal experience. I am attempting to analyze this phenomena from what I read, what I hear and sometimes what I experience. Attempt is definitely not to pass judgement but to try and understand the situation.

Migration to other countries from India started in 60’s; but in last 15/20 years this process is on overdrive. Number of people migrating permanently or for long duration has increased. With second generation and sometimes third generation of kids born outside India, picture becomes even more complex. In 60’s and 70’s, communication was not good; main mode of communication used to be snail mail. Proliferation of telephone systems in India was poor. So contact with people back home was pretty difficult and frequency also used to be low, in many cases once a year! Visits used to be once in 4/5 years. With this scenario, relationship with close ones including parents, would become fragmented. Ultimately, human beings who are in touch with each other regularly become close to each other. The distance and time can create a crevice in any relationship. If this situation continues crevice can become a valley!

The migratory birds do visit the nest, in some cases frequently but in many cases these visits are infrequent. A classmate of mine has touched the home base only once in 45 years. I asked him if he were so busy! He only gave me vague replies. On checking further I found that his one or two siblings are still around in Pune! What could be the reason for this? Honestly I do not know. What changes could have happened in his mind that did not prompt him not to come “home” oftener! Oh again definition of home is being challenged here. What is home? Where is home? I feel that many changes happen because definitions change. Definition of relationship itself changes. Parents are those who have given birth to you is probably the most appropriate definition in todays’ globalized world. Beyond that even this closest possible relation does not carry much meaning. The meaning of parent child relationship has evolved to suit the globalization.

 Why? What could be the reasons for these changes? Globalization has made everything very competitive. So everybody is left with very small amount of free time. Though communication has improved beyond imagination but other aspects are negating this improvement. If you take leave and your absence is not much felt by your organization work wise, then you can become redundant. Then there is additional important aspect. Out of the small free time available with you, you have to support your children’s activities, you have to take your yearly vacation with spouse and children. So you don’t travel “home” in one year, then maybe next year. With this your mind’s requirement to go “home” also reduces. Two years’ gap can become three/four years! Increase in this gap can further diminish the need to travel “home”! It’s tricky but justified from the point of view of migratory birds.

In some cases relationships don’t change in the initial phase. This is probably need based status quo. When children are growing you need back up system; that is where the parents can come into picture. But what happens when children grow and this need is not there? What happens when parents become older, have health and maybe sometimes have visa issue? It is not practical & pragmatic to handle medical expenses in foreign countries.  Then the definition of relationship changes to suit the practicalities of life. It may take any form and can be as unpredictable as our life. 

Years back Jaya and I were travelling with a Canadian friend of ours. We were on our way back to place where we were staying. Our friend said, “Pramod, is it ok if I take a detour?” I said “ok”! Then we reached a hospice where his mother lived. He parked the car. His wife then told him “You go and see YOUR mother”, we will wait in the car. That time we were shocked to hear this statement. Now I understand the meaning. His mother was not her mother so it was ok to wait in the hospital parking lot! Globalization and technology are putting a lot pressure on people and it looks like people are forced to retrain themselves just to keep their job. Similarly human beings also need to retrain themselves to keep their “job” of beings human beings. If they don’t do it they will be “jobless”. I recently heard a very appropriate story which opens a new avenue in human thought process. A gentleman expired and both his children, a son and a daughter, were in the USA. It was a sudden death and children were informed. The son had some Visa related issue. Family took a decision that the son need not come back “home”. His visa and future was more important as the father was already dead. His father would in any case not know that the son did not attend the funeral! Folks retrain yourselves to keep your “job” of being a human. Retrain yourself to become practical and pragmatic. Globalization has made family a corporate entity, emotions have no place in them!

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Low Aim is a Crime!

India got its independence in 1947. India missed the industrialization bus by a century because British allowed only a few benefits of industrialization to percolate to India.  Before independence educated Indians were interested in working for British, whatever work they could get, mostly they got clerical jobs; those were the only real jobs available anyway! British chose the people for senior admin positions and made them brown sahebs. These proxy Britishers were more British than the Britishers themselves.

This scenario put India under the gloom of disease of getting satisfied on achieving small things and doing mundane things. This led to metastatic mentality of under achievers; those who were trying to do something different were looked down upon and discouraged from doing anything different. Some of us from our generation were able to improve on this thought process and later generation became even more active and started taking risks.

IT sector was the first sector where India did pretty well, financially. Y2K issue was the one that gave impetus to Indian IT sector; middle class started growing faster than ever and large Indian populace started having money, living in foreign countries for work and started buying their own homes in a big way. This of course combined with official opening of Indian economy in 90’s. Effect of higher salaries in IT sector was seen in other sectors like engineering, pharma, finance and so on. But this success hid one thing from general populace and even from IT sector that the “great” work that we were doing was actually mundane work done for others as a service. This model kept on working well till about a couple of years back. Then the signals started coming that the mundane work that was outsourced to India can be automated so….

Circa 2017! Large Indian IT companies are sitting on big pile of US Dollars. This indicates their past success, financially. But it appears that these large “successful” companies were run more by accountants than by entrepreneurs! So they have made big money, hundreds of thousands of millions, many of them in dollar terms. But since the scenario started changing a couple of years back, it is obvious that if you don’t move up the value chain, you are going to come down as fast as you have gone up! The fact that these companies are sitting on a big pile of dollars shows that our mentality of mundane “services” type of work has not changed. This pile of money should not have been there; it should have been invested in going up the value chain! But even today this money is being used to buy back shares! The big bosses have not thought in terms of creating own IPR’s or products in any field, IT or Engineering or Pharma! When “services” are generating money why bother.

To give an example of how things are changing, when you “talk” to say Amazon on chat about some issues, the “Ravindra” or “Asha” who is taking to you may be a “BOT”. What is a BOT? An Internet Bot, also known as web robot, WWW robot or simply bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone. The largest use of bots is in web spidering (web crawler), in which an automated script fetches, analyzes and files information from web servers at many times the speed of a human. More than half of all web traffic is made up of bots. (This is Wikipedia definition of BOT)

How this is typically done is very similar to self-check-out counters in big departmental stores. At these check-out stations, for a group of ten such stations there is one supervisor helping, if you need any help. So what this system does is, instead ten people manning ten checkout stations, one person is sufficient. These BOTS also do the same thing. Now do you understand how the nature of business is changing? If your business is dependent on someone else’s way of working, you are in trouble if automation comes into picture.

What is the way out? Going up the value chain; but if you are a company with 100 to 150 thousand employees with “service” level skills you have tough task on hand. Basically it’s a tough call for the senior management to change its own ways from accountant based running module to technologist based running module. Who runs highly successful companies? Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Nvidia, you just list such companies and will see that these are technology driven companies. Yes, finances are very important but if the company is run by accountants they will never take risks! But when you don’t take risks and try and don’t keep abreast with new technologies or create new technologies, you will never know what hit you! How many of us know that Google and Apple are spending big money on Car technology, and they are creating newer technology in cars which was never even thought of. Nvidia is already a big auto system vendor to VW’s, Audis and Mercs of this world. They have invented technologies which are forcing these Auto giants to use new technologies to remain competitive in business. Elon Musk of Tesla had the audacity to start making Electric Cars and even start making space vehicles using venture capital.

Of course there is silver lining to each dark cloud! The surprise is that the silver lining is coming not from private sector but Government sector. ISRO, Metro projects implementation, Solar Energy project implementations, highways all over India are sign of we Indians have started getting hang of the situation. On IT side one of the success stories of product selling is Tally ERP. Yes it has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and is unquestionably India’s “Numero Uno” product on IT side! If Tally is doable why can’t others do it? India is the largest democracy and is the only country in the world where all elections use EVM’s- electronic voting machines! Paper ballots are Passe’ in India! The EVM’s were developed by C-DAC! Aadhar card is one such initiative that has become pride of the nation! All these projects indicate that we are slowly coming out of the Chalta Hai mentality! Chalta Hai is a phrase indicating Small achievement is good enough! We should have Sachin Tendulkar’s in each field then only we as a nation can start achieving things!

So friends we started with discussion about Indian mentality of being happy with whatever little is achieved! Will our giants survive the onslaught of market changes? They have the money but do they have the wherewithal other than money? Do they have the mind set? Do they have the technological willpower to go up the value chain? Going up value chain is real hard and smart work. I hope these giants do it, but we are still discussing US H1B visa rules, which is the backbone of current business model of sending people on site to provide services! I hope our current young generation and future generation are as audacious as Elon Musk!

 

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Feudalism

I and Jaya were travelling by Uber the other day. When the trip started, the windows were down and AC was OFF. It was stifling hot. Jaya told the driver to put the AC on. Our journey was not for more than 20 minutes. The driver said that he cannot put the AC on as the fuel level in the car was very low. He in fact told us that he will take a diversion to fill up the petrol in the car. From where we started, trip to petrol station and back, with queue at the station, would have taken at least 25 minutes. I said please stop the car and cancel the trip we do not have spare 25 minutes for a 20 minute journey. He said he will continue and reluctantly put the AC on.

Later on the driver was cribbing all the time and I asked him why he had taken a trip though fuel was low? He had no answer. He also did not know the faster/shorter routes other than those shown by the GPS. When I started giving him the direction, he was unhappy and told me that he lived in the same area as I did and had a Rs.10/ million bungalow of his own. He also said that he was the “Barathe Patil” of that area, a title given in olden times to the local rulers. I told him that I did not understand the significance of this information. He felt that I was treating him poorly because he was a driver! But I only was looking to reach my destination in 20 minutes!

Now I understood his problem. Probably life was not treating him well moneywise, he had a property which must be in dispute; about 10/15 years back the same property was not even worth half a million Rupees. But in the minds of our friend he was still from the ruling class, though he may not get much time to rule, after driving an Uber taxi for the whole day. The titles from the olden days are now only for name sake and persons holding them have no real power in today’s modern society.

When a decision was taken in India to do away with Red Beacon on top of cars of VIP’s, the ruling class (Read politicians, govt employees)  was very unhappy because their so called importance was just taken away. That was the feeling in the mind of ruling class. Government thought that only a couple of people in India need this beacon along with ambulances, and fire-fighting trucks. A couple of months after this directive was published, I saw one vehicle with a beacon; I knew that the vehicle was being  used by middle level officer in the Government, known to me. I asked the driver why the beacon was not removed. He said their office had not received the directive, yet. Come on, the whole world including chief ministers are moving around without beacons but this guy with middle management title did not want to remove it. Loss of power? What power? Why did these people think that they got power just by putting a beacon on top of their cars? But these folks just wanted to cling to so-called power till the last moment.

What power does this beacon give? I was never intimidated by these cars and people using them but there must be a large number of people in the society who must be showing them respect because of the beacon. These guys were allowed to pass through toll booths without paying toll. They could park their vehicles in no parking zone, police would be afraid to touch them.

In olden days, we had various small states which were ruled by many small time kings. At the time of independence these kingdoms were dissolved and merged into India. In 1971, the 26th amendment to the Constitution of India withdrew official recognition of all official symbols of princely India, including titles and privileges, and abolished the remuneration of the princes by privy purses. As a result, even titular heads of the former princely states ceased to exist. Years after this was achieved, many of the so called Rajas call themselves by old titles and behave the same way. Many people also treat them with “respect”  mainly out of fear!

Why does this happen? These titles have got embedded into DNAs of Rajas and they cannot think otherwise. Some people, even today, put the title of Raje at the end of their name! For example Ashok Raje and then their surname! They are so much used to take advantage of their position that they now feel helpless without titles. In northern and eastern India feudal system of zamindari/ subhedari (Land owners & favored people who were gifted lands by the then kings) existed for a few centuries. These landlords behaved like Kings and could get away with murder, literally. They used wives of their laborers as sex tools. The whole family would just live on the mercy of these Subhedars/Zamindars. Changing their way of life, achieved  through land reforms,  from their DNA was like changing their blood group! But this change has taken place.

In olden respect was achieved by titles and in modern times by red beacon on the car! In life one needs to earn respect by own behavior, achievements (not monetary), and humility.  It is how you get along with all strata of people in the society, that is more important than your so called title of Ex Raje or MP or MLA. Those who have achieved in life earn their respect and they don’t keep people as if they own them! I know of an ex-Mayor of Pune. One day I was driving in a car somewhere and a person went on his bike in the opposite direction. The face looked familiar but I could not place him. Later on it suddenly struck me. He was Mr. Ankush Kakade whose Mayor ship term had ended only the previous day; on the next day he was going somewhere on his own bike, no showmanship. No tantrums! Probably in public life we need more Ankush Kakade’s! An idea struck me suddenly. In the beaconless cars Government must put photograph of Ankush Kakade to give everybody reminder to all modern day Rajas, that they should emulate Kakade and not some Ashok Raje! Return their official cars and homes when their term is over and not to cling to benefits offered by the position! My friends I will say that India is progressing when this is achieved.

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Life’s Journey!

We have different phases in our lives from childhood, youthful student, working professional, married person with family, and retired person. All these phases are like mini journeys that we take up in life. Longest and most enjoyable journey that I remember is our so called “educational tour” I had taken during final year of engineering. It was a train journey for three weeks where we had one bogey to ourselves and did we have fun! But it’s not the journey that I am writing about today. It’s the end of journey that I am writing about.

When we entered Maharashtra on the way back to Bombay, I remember someone got down at Bhusawal, then Nasik, Thane, Dadar and finally VT. The reason for there getting down was  that these friends’ homes were at these places. So it was natural for them to get down there. But in our life’s journey we all have the same final home, address is known, “station” to get down is same for all! But it is like musical chair and when music stops those who are “left standing”  have to go. Though the “station” is one, the timings to get down are different in perpetual journey of life.

These thoughts came to mind when I came to understand about Prakash’s death this morning. Some are lucky enough like us, who have reached “retirement” phase, though we may not actually retire physically. When our “ultimate” time comes, though we may not know ourselves, we have to get down from life’s train and there is no option.

The difference between all our previous “journey’s” and the ultimate journey is that knowing the exact time when our journey is ending. In all previous journey’s sometimes we remember the end, sometimes we don’t. When I completed my first two years in college in Elphinstone Mumbai, I simply don’t remember when this journey ended. There are many very happy memories of those two years but for some reason I don’t remember the end distinctly. Same thing happened with my COEP journey. After I completed my Bachelor’s degree, I continued with my Master’s degree. The ending phase also coincided with my courtship with Jaya, in fact six months before ME we got married. Most of the friends left COEP and started new life of professionals. My being busy in Master’s degree and courtship, made the end of journey at COEP a bit hazy.

I distinctly remember my last day of working for someone. I was in Bombay with Premier Automobiles on company work. My boss had requested me to complete one pending issue! Since then I am on own and continue to work full time in my “retirement” phase.

For around last 15 years sporadic information about friends and relatives going on their ultimate journey started trickling in. But 2017 has been watershed year. Swati Ekbote (Sudhir Ekbote’s wife) on 1st January, Pappy Deshmukh, Maheshbhai my friend and mentor, Dilip Panjikar, Chandar Mekhale, Pendse- Jaya’s guru in computers and now Prakash Karandikar; so many till date.

When I heard about Prakash’s death today I felt empty the way I felt when people were getting down on different railway stations at the end of educational tour, as I got down last at VT and  I was feeling empty! But at that time I knew that I am going to meet all these guys again after a few days. Today I know that I am not going to meet these guys again, ever!

Every person handles death in a different way. But I am sure all of us get that melancholy feeling when we hear about death of friends and dear ones. Today morning things looked dark and bleak, I was mechanically getting ready for office and was trying to write this piece. Out of blue one of my seniors from industry, he is ten years elder to me, called and said, “Hey Panvalkar, how are you doing?” I was happy to hear his usual pleasant voice and chatted with him for about ten minutes. I asked him,” Sir, is there any specific reason you called me?”. He said, “No, since we had not spoken for sometime I thought why not speak to you today! I keep on reading your blogs and I am keeping track of what you write.” We ended our conversation and he invited me for a chit chat at his home! This event, I feel was the God’s way of trying to bring me back to normal and this chat was definitely a bright light that suddenly shone through the dark clouds surrounding me. Thank you Doctor for bringing me back almost to normal through this melancholy period.

God has designed the human in such a way that probably in a day or two we will all be back to normal. In our retirement phase we should try different things to keep ourselves busy besides the normal things like walking, yoga, religious stuff. With the help of net we can study new languages, start writing own experiences, not necessarily for sharing with others! My friend Sudhakar has taken up painting in big way. Try to complete your wish list which in modern language is called bucket list! Travel, read, listen to music do something which you could not do before.

One good thing about the end of journey is when ones time comes, that person does not know that his/her time has come! So live your life King size as if there is no end! Happy journey folks! Every day try to talk a friend or a cousin or an  uncle on phone! You never know ……

 

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I am getting a Toyota Prius!

One of the most important aspect of human civilization is that nobody can stop the technological advancements. Technology, the right one, is simply unstoppable. Humans do not change and they most of the time feel that so and so technology cannot become popular. There are very few visionaries who can guess, predict what can happen after a couple of decades. Initially when any technology comes the cost of its implementation as well as usage is always very high. This cost does come down with increased volume.

Let us consider the scenario in solar energy globally. Germany recently on a particular day produced, 85% of its total electricity produced, by Solar. The energy market in Germany runs like a trade market and the rate at which power is bought by distribution companies is based on demand and supply. On that particular day the rate went below zero! California on one day recently produced 67% of its electricity by Solar. US being a very large country will take a long time to reach Germany’s level as a country but it will happen in pockets. India & China are galloping fast towards solar energy in a big way.

If we think about steam engines and trains, initially people were just curious and felt that trains cannot compete with carts pulled by animals. Once the fear in people’s mind reduced, time of travel decreased and more and more people started travelling in trains and rest as they say is history. My first travel to USA was in 1981 and I had paid US $ 1076/ for return journey. Even today we pay hardly more than that in Dollar terms, for return ticket to USA. Why this happened? Because of safer, faster, larger airplanes increased the volume.

Cell phone is another classic example of technology that made it a disruptive device! When I first got my cell in late 90’s the cell phone was quite heavy, almost ugly, and it cost Rs.16/ minute to receive and make calls! In twenty years Cell phones have become sleek, they are much more powerful than computers specs ten years ago! Ten years ago GB was a word very rarely used even in computers. On top of that making calls is now free! Technologically in 20 years cell phones have gone places! Who would have thought of these changes? In the initial phase cell phone was the so called rich person’s toy. The beauty is that land line telephones have been there for more than 100 years doing same basic work that cell phones do, talking to each other. But other than becoming sleeker, land line phones did not change much in technology. Hence the landline phone population is on the wane world over.

Next classic battle that I visualize is between IC engine cars and Electric/Hybrid cars. The usual naysayers are saying that the current car companies are so powerful that they will just not allow this to happen. What are the parameters that will come into picture? Current volume of Electric/Hybrid cars is miniscule and their yearly volumes are nothing to write home about. So what is it that is needed for the picture to reverse, if it does! Fuel costs is one important parameter. Petrol/Diesel costs have come down from highs of US$ 150/ per barrel and have stabilized around US $50/. The original cartel led by Arab countries is finding it difficult to keep high rates due to new people coming in, huge American & Canadian reserves which were not known even ten years back, have suddenly become available. Their cost of production of extracting oil is also coming down. The fear of Petroleum products simply getting exhausted from the world has gone. So fuel cost may not be THE thing that will trouble current cars. But on the other hand, the cost of producing electricity is definitely going down fast. As more and more countries including India go strongly after solar energy, this cost will come down further. The countries which have lot sunlight round the year can become major players in producing next “Petroleum” for cars. Along with this wind energy is also playing a major role. One thing is for sure compared to petroleum products “Sunlight & Wind” are definitely never going to get exhausted. What all this will also do is pollution levels caused by burning Petroleum products will also come down. On top of this when more and more Electric/Hybrid cars get into use pollution levels will further go down.

Largest component of Electric/Hybrid cars is battery pack. Tesla is already building a Giga battery factory in Nevada where they will be able produce battery packs for five hundred thousand cars a year, at naturally very low cost. Already, Tesla is talking of producing cars that will be only slightly more expensive than sedans. Another limitation currently is the distance the car can travel with one charge. In cell phones  already fast charging systems have come, so I am sure it will happen in Electric cars too! So maybe when you have coffee break or wash room break, you can recharge your batteries. Once these cars are reasonably priced people may use such cars the way we use scooters in India, to travel smaller distances. For last hundred years there has been not much improvement in battery storage technology, compared to other fields and same is the case with IC engine cars. I am sure in batteries the break through is just round the corner! If automotive technology had improved as much as electronics, a car would have travelled round the globe in one liter of fuel!

If we summarize this battle, cost of production of fuel (electricity) to charge the electric cars is going down, cost of battery packs is going down ( it is like engine price going down), battery pack capacity will slowly start going up like some Tesla cars go beyond 350 km per charge, pollution improvement is a bonus. On the other side Volvo has already declared that they will not produce diesel cars from 2023 because cost of using technology for pollution compliance will go up exponentially. Volkswagen has already claimed that they will not produce IC engine cars beyond 2030. In India Suzuki & Toyota have joined hands to manufacture hybrid cars for Indian market. Suzuki and Toshiba have joined hands in India to build Lithium Ion battery mega plant. In USA GM and Ford also have big plans for electric cars. BMW i3 model electric car was quite visible when I last travelled to USA. Along with that a lot work is being done by Google and Apple in driverless car. I feel that controlling an electric car with computers will be much easier than IC engine cars! Will humanity be able to stop Electric/Hybrid car technology? Only time will tell. But in the end right technology will win!

So my next car is definitely going to be a Toyota Hybrid Prius! There is small issue of money in the bank but I will generously accept it, if someone wants to gift me a Prius! I will put big donor name sticker on the car! Happy (electric) motoring!

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