Leave me alone!

Leave me alone; I am a private person. Who the hell is the world to know about my private affairs? My privacy is so important to me that I will not allow Aadhar interference. Finally, proponents of privacy won their battle in the Supreme Court, won the battle and ensured that Aadhar was delinked from many areas of our lives. The most surprising part is that financial institutes and banks have approached the Supreme Court to allow them to link their customers to Aadhar again. Why? Because they are idiots and do not know as the know-all gang knows. Mind you; I don’t want the Orwellian Big Brother watching me over my shoulders all the time.

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I was wondering what do the likes of Google know about us. Well, I can briefly say everything. Majority of cell phones in the world are android based. Whenever we do something on the phone, Google has its hand in it. It starts from unboxing the new phone to using apps, what you bought on Google Play, everywhere else. Whenever we perform these acts, the app seeks permission to access contacts, location, SMS, photos and God knows what! If we say no to anything, we get a message “Your cellphone or the app will not perform correctly.” 95 % of the people are like you and me. So we mutter a few expletives but say okay buddy take access to whatever you want. I don’t care, but Google cares. They use these permissions to monetise whatever they can. Honestly, I don’t care. I have no secrets to hide. It’s not only Google, but others like Facebook also do the same thing. I am searching for something on the net, and maybe I go to Amazon. The next day, advertisements for these products are seen on my Facebook account, while I serf.

Coming back to Google, it allows you to download the data about you that it has saved. The file can be enormous in Gigabytes, depending on our activity. The link includes your bookmarks, emails, contacts, your Google Drive files, all of the above information, your YouTube videos, the photos you’ve taken on your phone, the businesses you’ve bought from, the products you’ve purchased through Google.

These days I hear stories about men willing to accept their wives all demands if they find that the wife has the husbands cell phone in her hand. I understand that it is because the WhatsApp has quite a few “secrets” many times. Once you come to know what Google stores from your “activities”, well it saves everything. You will not allow your wife to touch your phone. It will store the details of the area you were roaming with your buddies or GF when you were supposed to be busy in the office meet the deadline. You would rather be dead if she knew where you were! You may say that Pramod is in a mood today to write some funny stuff; it’s nothing weird. I am very serious. You don’t believe it. Let me tell you all the secrets. If your spouse is in IT, then she knows the stuff anyway. But rest assured that she is ignoring your sojourns.

Here we go.

Google has data from your calendar, your Google hangout sessions, your location history, the music you listen to; they also have the Google books you’ve purchased, the Google groups you’re in, the websites you’ve created.

They also know the phones you’ve owned, the pages you’ve shared, how many steps you walk in a day.

Google stores your location (if you have location tracking turned on) every time you turn on your phone. You can see a timeline of where you’ve been from the very first day you started using Google on your phone.

Click on this link to see your data:

google.com/maps/timeline?…

Google stores search history across all your devices. That can mean that, even if you delete your search history and phone history on one device, it may still have data saved from other devices.

Click on this link to see your data:

myactivity.google.com/myactivity

Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight (need to lose 10 lb in one day?) and income.

Click on this link to see your data:

google.com/settings/ads/

Google stores information on every app and extension you use. They know how often you use them, where you use them, and who you use them to interact with. That means they know who you talk to on Facebook, what countries are you speaking with, what time you go to sleep.
Click on this link to see your data:

security.google.com/settings/secur…

Google stores all of your YouTube history, so they probably know whether you’re going to be a parent soon, if you’re a conservative, if you’re a progressive, if you’re Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, if you’re feeling depressed or suicidal, if you’re anorexic …

Click on this link to see your own data:

youtube.com/feed/history/s…

Do you believe in me now? Or you still have some doubts. Okay. I will share details about what Facebook stores about you, discretely.

Don’t worry, and I will not write about it. Are you feeling a bit weak in the knees; are you feeling thirsty? Do you need to see your doctor? Don’t panic. The feeling was the same for us guys when a copy of Playboy magazine was found in our school bag in our younger days. But in those days, nobody knew that our friend, okay I will name him xxx, used to tell XXX stories after we completed our cricket or badminton!

Will Google use such data for nasty purpose? I don’t think so, at least I hope so. A simple response of Yes to the seemingly innocent question has led to this problem. It is tricky. Many people in the world use birth dates, abcdef, 111111 or such simple variations as passwords. Accessing your accounts with these passwords can be done by you and me too!

The other extreme was a friend. We went and stayed with him for a couple of days; Jaya and I requested access to his wifi network. He collected our phones and laptop and went to his library at home. I said, “Don’t worry, I will punch the password.” He smiled and said, “I use a password which is 26 characters long”. Phew!

Is what Google and Facebook doing the right thing? They claim that they collect the data to make our experience personalised. Maybe! They ask for permission to access, and we give permission every time because it makes things more convenient. We use the Google map, and they need to know the location. But they save all the activity that we did. Many apps make our life easier. There is no doubt about that. So finally it comes to Privacy Vs Convenience!

All things have their plus and minus points. If you have no secrets to hide, if you easily handover your cell phone to your wife, you have no issues. But else…

You have already handed over the control to Google; mind you, I have not written about how Facebook watches you! Sleep well!

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Does our behaviour change as we age?

To me, life means people and people means life. The material things are transient, and people too go out of your life, either when they die or due to what we call life. There is a possibility that some of the people may come back in your life at different stages, but the context at that time could be different. It all depends on how one has behaved or interacted in the initial meetings that decide people’s opinion’s about you. But the people who really know you are close family and friends. In India, some families retain the services of maids or drivers for a long time. They also become part of your close-knit circle. Some families treat such support staff as family members, and others do not do it. That does not mean that the second category people are not good people.

Behind every face are grey cells, and those cells decide your behaviour. The brain has its ways of getting, analysing, processing, and storing the information. It is what we store during or after interactions that decides your behaviour. You meet a person after a long time. If you recognise that person, the deeply stored data about that person is retrieved. I will tell you an anecdote. I was in Modern High School in Pune, for a couple of years, when I was in primary school. Among many friends, there was a friend Vicky. He was a couple of years senior to me and was in a different school. We used to play together every day, after school and during holidays. He and his brothers used to call me, PRAMOD, pronouncing each letter distinctly, for whatever reason. Later I came back to Pune for studying engineering at COEP. One day, I saw someone on the sports ground. From a distance, I felt some familiarity and asked a friend, who that person was. He said that he was a sports goods vendor. I went near him; he said, “Are you not, PRAMOD?” I was so happy, hugged him, and said, “Oh, my god! It is you, Vicky!” In our relationship, the marker was PRAMOD! The whole picture of our grand old times came in front of me at that time.

Luckily, both of us had not changed much. Life’s vagaries had not come into the picture! Now we speak to each other, rarely, on the phone. Our paths had become different, but when we talk, I can still feel the warmth. But does that happen with everybody?

Then there is the story of a family who became family friends after I married Jaya. We had a close relationship for almost fifty years, and the gentleman expired a few years back. His son is an orthopedic surgeon. We were in the US when he died. Later, Jaya and I went to meet them in Delhi. Our friend had suffered a lot, healthwise, during his final couple of years. I asked his son, “I am worried that if I have the same fate, will I also trouble my dear ones as badly as your Papa did?” He said, ” Uncle, it is not so! As a doctor, I can tell you that human nature does not change much from childhood as you age.” He smiled ruefully and said, ” Our Papa was adamant all his life, which only us and his very close friends knew. He was a terrific person, but the streak got more exposed during the illness! From what I know about you, it will never happen to you like it happened to Papa; it’s your nature to be accommodative.”

In life, why two people who are mismatched outwardly, become closest lovers, is difficult to explain. It is the same with our family and friends. We accept them as they are- quirks, warts and all! We like them, we love them, come what may! But others who are not close enough may find it challenging to deal with them. So what really defines the relationship? Is it some chemistry between the two people, as they say about movie couples? It must be so. It is your nature that makes you accommodate other people’s deficiencies.

I will tell you an old story about our stay in the Nainital area, in 2008. There was chaos in our hotel bookings. We reached late, during heavy rains, and a resort in Bhimtal accommodated us for a couple of days. Then they helped us move to another resort for our further stay for a week at Naukuchiatal. We were destined to meet Pran uncle and aunty. On the first day itself, we hit it off. Pran Uncle was Pran Chopra, a well-known media personality of older times. He had retired as Chief Editor of Tribune.

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They both used to come to the same resort every summer for fifteen days and would spend time sitting in the garden on the lakeshore. Look at the photo above; they both were soft, and one felt so comfortable in their presence. I am sure he must have been the same all through his life. I can not imagine Pran uncle losing temper or demanding something. He was around 82/83 at that time. We became family within two days. We always had evening tea together; they would wait for us till we came back from our local trips. After that, we started having dinner together. Both were well contented in life, but they loved people. He later died at the ripe old age of 92. A few years before he died, his family was celebrating some occasion. Aunty phoned Jaya and invited us to their Meharauli farmhouse for lunch. Their whole family treated us like we were the extended family members. Why were we treated with so much affection? Why was so much love showered on us? That is how Pran Uncle and aunty were made from childhood, and that is how they remained. It is sometimes impossible to fathom the meaning of such acts. The best thing is to accept what comes your way with grace.

Everybody goes through the ups and downs in life. But it is your inherent inner strength, your nature that sails you through. I wish that some more people are made like Chopras. The world would be an even better place. Forget COVID, economic slow-down, daily stupid discussions on the news channels. It looks like I am in the mood to share anecdotes today, the last one in this blog.

We had a family who used to support us by providing services for cleaning, cooking, and other things. After almost twenty years, they moved on in life. One day, Jaya got the cell number of one the ladies, and Jaya called her. Both were so happy, and the next day both ladies came to meet us with their younger children. Both the kids had become engineers and worked in the IT industry. Were they happy? We spent a couple of hours together as if we had just met them the previous week. The actual gap was fifteen years. We realised that neither of them nor we had changed. God was great, but it proved the theory that our nature from younger days continues to be the same, though all of us had gone through natural ups and downs of life!

In conclusion, we can say that nature and behaviour are separated by a very thin line. The behaviour will change with experience, but basic nature changes only marginally. It is a complex subject. We had a zoom meeting on this subject, and friends had different views, but more people thought that we mellow down as we age! Cheers!

 

Industry 4.0

COVID 19 is always there in the background of everybody’s mind, and it has hindered the overall thought process and thinking in human consciousness. It is easy to get caught up into the quagmire. My friend Vilas shared his life’s experiences with friends on a bi-weekly zoom meeting yesterday. His current work involves working on the high-end modern systems, including the concept of Industry 4.0. I had not written any blog recently, based on advanced technological concepts. Hence I thought this could be an excellent subject to discuss with friends. As usual, I will try to write in a language which makes it easy for non-technical people to understand too!

Let us as usual begin in the beginning. When we talk of something called Industry 4.0, what are 1.0/2.0/3.0? Industry 1.0 is assigned time between 1760 to 1840, give and take a decade or two. Till then, all the work was done manually. During this period the people started understanding the use of water and steam to help them perform some activities, instead of doing everything manually. It was the 1.0 of the sector which came to be known as Industry.

Industry 2.0, or the second industrial revolution or better known as the technological revolution, is the period between 1870 and 1914. The railroad networks, expressways and the telegraph allowed for faster transfer of people and ideas. Electricity generation had become routine, which allowed for factory electrification and the modern production lines. It is also a period of considerable economic growth, with an increase in productivity. It, however, caused a surge in unemployment since many workers were replaced by machines in factories. With every rise in the Industrial revolution, the pressure of laying off people arose. Along with this, medical facilities were also improving, which led to an increase in longevity, causing further stress on society for providing jobs to people.

Industry 3.0 started after the end of two world wars and later due to the introduction of computers in our day to day lives. It led to a wave of automation, further putting pressure on the workforce to retain their jobs. But at the same time, these fifty years saw an unprecedented wave of growth and wealth generation. From the early seventies, in China and then in nineties in India, these changes started taking effect. The effects were happening on the one-third population of this world. A large number of people came above the poverty line during this period.

Friends, you must be wondering that when everything is improving, where was the need for Industry 4.0? Well, nobody does these things with planning, these things just happen. When these things happen on a mass scale, a name is given to such a phenomenon. In 2011, a German engineer and economist, Klauss Schwab, used the term Industry 4.0. It was also the theme of the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos in 2016. People knew that something new had arrived, and everybody started taking Industry 4.0 seriously and with enthusiasm.

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What is Industry 4.0? It is something that is going to be useful to all the factories, manufacturing units to get more information about themselves. The process, I am sure, must have started ten years before. Because of improvement in the communication system, the managements the world over, approved budgets for systems to automatically collect the data about their manufacturing machines/equipment. Till then, most of such information was captured and displayed in tabular format. From registers and logbooks, the bosses got an idea of what was happening in their plants, but the data could be overwhelming. Analysing the data and finding the solution was a significant task. Industry 4.0 started coming into the picture to change this situation. Shown below is a representative graphical presentation.


A couple of buzzwords. Data Science is a multifaceted field used to gain insights from complex data. Data scientists use knowledge of Probability and Statistics, and many such sciences; in this phase, questions are asked. Business Intelligence is a stage where data analysed is being used to make decisions.

Suppose there is some equipment. It performs various functions. Some functions are electronically monitored, and others are manually noted. You have uptime and downtime! For downtime, there are reasons. The reasons could be process-related, mechanical, electrical problems, operator issues and many others. By capturing all this data, the manager or supervisor can know about the performance of the machine and productivity. Such data was conventionally collected in a logbook or a register. A group of people would sit together and get information about when, why and how- hopefully!

Now consider hundreds of such machines and the processes which are dependent on the previous process. The data in logbooks or registers would be huge and practically impossible to analyse as a whole. Big data calls for data science experts. They set up systems to check data for anomalies, and then process the anomalies as per the requirement of the organisation. The process data then is taken by BI or business intelligence. You can get the graphs, displays that are easily understandable. Then there is a facility called drill-down. The drill-down definition is to access successively deeper levels of a hierarchically organised database, set of files, etc. The process explained above analyses the issues threadbare and because these systems are “Intelligent” systems, they offer solutions too!

Since I do not want to get into technical aspects, I am not mentioning technical terms. It will suffice to say that the concept is not for maintaining some industry standards, to satisfy the customers. Industry 4.0 concept is for your own betterment. The systems will keep on improving with time, thereby improving the performance, but the basic idea behind this is to pinpoint issues.

I will explain to you with the help of an example. A factory has 20 machines of the same make and capacity. But the productivity of each device is varying. By capturing all possible data for each machine, the shop in charge would be able to understand what is going wrong. Different equipment will have various problems, and the degree of variance could also be varying. Problems could be related to maintenance, the accuracy of the process. The data may indicate that some machines need preventive maintenance in the current week, and others may need it next month and so on. If this work is carried out systematically, machine stoppage will reduce. Some data will show that the user is making mistakes; hence reports will indicate that a specific operator needs to be retrained. 🙂🙂 Data may show that temperature reading in some machines is faulty; correcting them would improve efficiency and reduce rejection. One can go on and on. By the way, the same principle can be applied to our own life too! I am talking about thought processes. One more thought to end the blog.

Has Industry 5.0 started without us knowing about it? Do you know what I am talking about? Yes, I am talking of Coronavirus pandemic. It has started a major overhaul in the thinking of doing work; the WFH- working from home concept is already there and it could continue even after the pandemic is over! Or is it the beginning of Business 1.0! Industry 4.0 is about efficiency, cost savings and thereby improvement in profitability. The same thing is going to happen now not by modern technology but by forced out of box thinking of business process, thanks to Corona!

Do you know what it could do? I definitely know! I need to write another blog!

 

Pragmatism at its best


The whole world was in sleep mode while China was conquering different frontiers with contract manufacturing, and direct production. Before the world realised, China had become the number 2 economy behind the US. They became number one in the car manufacture, new infrastructure, contract manufacturing and many other areas which included computer games.

But something has been definitely changing in China, and China has started flexing its muscles and is showing an expansionist tendency of late. China tried the same act with India in Ladakh, probably hoping that India will blink first. They made a significant error of judgment, and India pushed back hard. All these years, India was not mixing border disputes with the trade. But Galwan changed everything.

After Galwan skirmish, India is systematically trying to push China, where it hurts. It started with slowly not allowing the Chinese companies to take part in tenders for infrastructure. The masterstroke was banning gaming and other apps. If you read carefully, the gaming companies hardly make money by the usage, but they are after their valuation done by the market. The valuation of such companies is dependent on the number of downloads and the number of active users. As these numbers increases, their valuation increases proportionately.

TikTok has about two billion downloads. Their current valuation is the US $50/ billion. These are market figures, and in the event of sale of the TikTok, by the parent company, ByDance is expected to make the US $ 50/ billion. India ban and future US ban will reduce the active users from the current 800 million by 35%. This reduction can severely affect ByDance’s TikTok valuation.

India has shown a great pragmatism by acting against the apps, which include a search engine and a chat application. By doing so in India, we will be hardly affected, but the Chinese companies owning these apps will be definitely affected. People had doubts that by banning Chinese products, production of Indian manufacturing companies could get affected. But the Indian Government has been more pragmatic. They have not taken any such steps. The steps taken are well thought as they are being implemented.

Following the Indian action, the US government also declared that it is going to ban TikTok in the US. In a surprise move, Microsoft has announced that it is in the process of buying out TikTok operations in the US, Australia and New Zealand. (Today’s news is that they want to buy global services)Though the total active users may not be as large as in India, they would be substantial. Why do they want to buy TokTok? The reason is that there would be considerable consumer revenue from advertisements, an area where Microsoft is lagging way behind FB and Google. Customers will get a trusted and secure provider that all the governments trust. None of the other social media biggies, like Facebook, Google can buy due to the anti-trust investigation going on in the US senate. Whether Microsoft will buy it or not depends on many factors. The first of these would be who blinks first? Microsoft or TikTok? Is Microsoft more desperate to buy or is TikTok more desperate to sell? Microsoft is loaded with money. A few years back they bought out LinkedIn. Before that, they had acquired Nokia’s cell phone business- the acquisition which miserably failed. But looking at recent Microsoft functioning, they appear to be pretty much in control of what they are doing. With Azure/Cloud computing business taking off for Microsoft, they again seem to have got their act together.

I have written about the business side of it. But even the US government led by President Trump has taken a pragmatic decision for a change. Without saying so, they have declared that they will ban TikTok US operations from 15th September. It means they have given leeway and time to Microsoft till that date. It is a very pragmatic and practical decision. It could have quickly banned TikTok overnight, but it saw that Microsoft was trying to make a deal where they will pay some money to the US government in the form of taxes- the amount would be directly proportional to the size of the contract.

As against that, there was a news item which said that Tata Motors is trying to hive off their car business in India. It wants to sale 49% equity to some reputed car manufacturer but intends to retain controlling shares with them. Is it pragmatic? Hiving off is pragmatic but trying to maintain control is not! Why is Tata Motors diluting their stakes? The first reason that I see is that they feel that they can not become a serious player in the Indian market with the current quality of cars being produced. The Sierras, Estates, Indica, Nano have created a long list of products which became difficult to sale, even in India. It became apparent once the Suzukis and Hyundais of the world took a firm foothold in the Indian market. With the new range of cars like Tiago and others, Tata made a bit of comeback. But this is not going to be enough. It is always going to be a catch-up game.

With Suzuki and Toyota coming together in India for both the IC engine and Electric cars, it is going to be tough for the competition to challenge them. Suzuki is a well-proven numero uno in India. Money power and technology of Toyota will boost the operations further. The combination is going to be tough for the competitors. They have also decided to come together in Electric Vehicles. Their battery plant is well on its way in Gujarat, in collaboration with Toshiba. For EV’s, it is going to Toyota design, Suzuki manufacturing cars for both for themselves and Toyota too, in India. The engine- battery power pack, would be Toshiba technology, which will be a win-win situation for all.

As against this, Tata Motors is going to find it difficult if they do not become pragmatic and handover control to the new partner. Especially with JLR facing tough times in China and other international markets, pragmatism is what is going to help. Sometimes it is essential to bite that bullet. There is a history of two significant partners not being able to work together. Bajaj Auto and Kawasaki tried this for some time, but it did not work out. Once Hero became very big, they broke the collaboration with Honda. Aramco and Reliance have been trying to come together in India, but somehow it is not working out, yet. But looking at history, it seems complicated.

When a large company is looking for a world-class organisation for collaboration, seeking to control the new company is not a pragmatic approach. The other company is also going to be significant. So, friends let us wait and watch the fascinating battle in the market place.


Thodasa Cheating Ho Jai

Thodasa Cheating Ho Jai means, let us cheat a bit. While we were young, we were always taught that we should not lie, we should not cheat, and so on. Mahabharata is the epic in Hinduism, along with Ramayana. Both legends follow the extremes of human behaviour. Mahabharata displays the normal functioning of our real-life ways, whereas Ramayana displays idealistic behaviour. All of us, cheat or if you do not like the word, talk something untrue, all the time. I was going to say knowingly or unknowingly, but I will be cheating if I say unknowingly. When you know that something is untrue, how could you say it unknowingly?

When we were in school, the first official cheating in many cases was about the date of birth. In those days, the record-keeping was almost non-existent. When and if the child went to school, the basis for registering the date of birth was compelling. As recording the delivery of a child was not mandatory, the system went by what the parents claimed. One method used was, “If I remember correctly, she was born two days after the Holi Poornima, when we had a big flood on our river.” In this case, one could use the word, unknowingly or unwittingly. But to be honest, the mother would never forget the birth of the child. It was interesting to note, there was a flood, “big” flood five years back and seven years back. So it was a matter of how good you were at poker to make such a statement. The seven-year child was registered as a five-year child; school certificate was treated as birth-certificate in those days.

Now here is the problem. Why cheat? The latest theory I heard was that then the child would be able to serve for additional years in government service. How does it become “additional”? Whatever was the age, the retirement age is fixed at 60. So, theoretically, you retired at 62 in place of 60. You got two additional years to make money. But life expectancy in those times was so low, that reaching 60 or even 50 was difficult. So if you died early, it hardly mattered.

There is a funny incident of those times. Because of this casual act of lowering the age, the elder of the sibling from a family was known to be only seven months older than the younger sibling! Any takers?

The ultimate in speaking truth was Dharmaraj, the eldest Pandav. He  always spoke the truth, it was claimed. But he was also human. He spoke half-truth once during the battle, as there was a rumour that Ashwathama, Dronacharya’s son, was killed. Dronacharya said that he would only believe in Dharma. When asked Dharma whispered, “नरो वा कुंजरो वा!” It means a human or an Elephant with the same name, he was not sure. It was a strategic reply to win the war as Dronacharya retired from the battle thinking that his son had died. Dharma’s chariot was supposed to float a couple of inches above the ground because he had supposedly earned the moral strength above all others because of his insisting to speak to truth all the time.

What is so great about lying or speaking the truth? Someone will argue that since everyone lies at some stage why we should insist about speaking the truth?


In real life, telling wrong things, hiding truth are normal things. It is especially true in business and politics. It was considered art to share with someone what is suitable for you, rather than what is right. There are many sayings of Chanakya, the genius from olden times. His treaties about the statecraft are famous for real insight. The above two labels are examples of his way of thinking. In one of them, he said, there was nothing like true friendship, and there was always some motive. The second one he said, avoid the person who talked sweetly with you, but he tries to ruin you behind your back. Friendship is supposed to be that relationship which is a close relationship between two people. But Chanakya’s wisdom says that there is nothing selfless in this world! These two saying are a setback to what wise people who preach us about speaking the truth, nothing but the truth!


Similarly, there is the story of Shakuni mama, the uncle of Duryodhan, in Mahabharat. He was an expert player of the game of dice. The main thing was that he cheated by using a pair of dice designed by him for cheating. Kauravas won the game, thanks to Shakunis cheating; the rest, as we know, is history. This game of dice is at the core of the story of Mahabharat. A term is coined in real life when something drastic happens in people’s life. Oh, Mahabharat has happened in his life!

If we look at the Mahabharat, it depicts everything that happens in real life. Situations may be different end results could be unimaginable. But the base of all the stories there is always some deceit or cheating. After Abhimanyu is killed, Arjun takes a vow that he will kill Jayadratha before sunset. Though it is the Sunset time, Jayadratha is hiding. Krishna plays one of his numerous deceits, in politics, it is called tactic. With his Sudarshan Chakra, he hides the Sun, and lo! Jayadratha comes out from hiding, and he is promptly killed.

Well, in real life, people hide their correct age, Cricketers do it to play in the younger age-group. False degree certificates, ration cards are submitted for getting some gain or jobs. The Harshad Mehta scam in Mumbai share market was based on fictitious fixed deposit created by Mehta to get initial loans.

Do all these stories justify speaking lies? Should the kids grow up on falsehood? Children learn how to behave from their family and teachers in the initial phases. Do not forget that most of the world operates on faith and truth. Unfortunately for small gains, people start telling little lies. Sometimes it is just to show off.

A friend used to lie discretely. A highly accomplished lady was his classmate. He had done his MSc, and the lady had become an engineer. He would casually say, “Oh, we were classmates!” The only point is they were classmates in school! His desire to become an engineer was, unfortunately, unfulfilled.

Well, I can confidently say that I have never lied in my life! Okay! I am lying!

And the winner is

The pandemic has changed the situation in our lives. It has changed the way our lives were as late as February 2020. But the changes are both subtle and sometimes drastic. Whether these changes are good or bad, permanent or temporary only time will tell. Current new norms of social life are going to continue for the time until the scientists find the cure and/or vaccine for Corona. The changes for senior citizens are going to be more permanent. Majority of our population lives in homes where quarantine facility if required, could be challenging to create. The impact of this situation has been severe. Full families have been infected by the pandemic, and there have been quick deaths in a few families where the people also had age-related issues or had comorbidities. Such events can occur only in epidemics.

There are significant changes in the mundane things we do in life. Are these changes for better or for worse? We have no answers. The senior citizens were spending the golden period of life with a lot of fun. Simple things like meeting friends, both new and old were great fun but now physically meeting friends is a distant dream for at least those who follow discipline. In the area where I live in Pune, there is a substantial population of senior citizens. The gardens, the tea stalls used to be full of friends enjoying the evening or anytime during the day. The time constraint had vanished from their lives. During travels in India and abroad, we could see hundreds of thousands of oldies filling up flights trains and resorts. The first casualty in this was the seniors.

I will write more about senior citizens, as they have a limitation about going out. Those who can use the services of others, paid or otherwise are doing okay. But those who do not have this facility run into difficulties. Some people from this group are not tech-savvy; hence online buying becomes tricky. Then on and off lockdowns, create different issues. Sweet shops like Chitale’s can keep a certain quantity of eatables. This causes stock-outs. Online sellers like Amazon also do not make deliveries during the lockdowns, adding to further difficulties.

The main problem faced by this group is while buying vegetables and fruits. Usually, when we go out to buy this stuff, we select the vegetables and fruits according to our choice. But in today’s times, these vendors sell online and offer package deals. In these package deals, every time most of the vegetables and fruits get repeated. The quality of some of the items is not good. Since these operations are remote, people have difficulty in sharing feedback with them. These sellers are also new to online business.

But the most complex system that is going to be affected by social distancing is the travel system. Consider the flying. At best, the airports are crowded. The name cattle class is given to the economy class is because we move around like cattle at the airports too! But coming into the airport is going to be okay even in future because social distancing can be handled. Checking in if not done online is also manageable as is handing over of bags. The airports will find difficulties in providing more space for these activities. But the worst affected system is going to be boarding the flights. Currently, this is handled in a typically honourable way; those paying higher charges get the benefit of boarding comfortably. But the cattle class is asked to board sector-wise, the last sectors first and so on. This is where social distancing goes to a toss. You will be surprised to know that when the flight takes off, the aeroplane filtering system is hospital class, and the air is replaced every five minutes. Such an arrangement would generally take care of the purification of air.

But the current arrangement of the flight boarding is a social distancing nightmare. So could this be improved? I think of many different ways, and a lot of research is going on in this subject. One way could be to start sector-wise loading, but alternate rows window seats could be filled first; then the middle seat and the aisle seats will be filled the last. Similarly, say a group of six to ten people can be taken at a time (experts can decide this better). When they reach the door, on scanning the boarding card, the seat can be allotted to the passengers. It will definitely make things random, and social distancing will be better. The main problem will be for those who are travelling together. I am sure the experts will find a solution to this issue too! Friends there could be many such solutions. Everybody has to think out of the box.

What do we do about train travel in Mumbai and Tokyo? These trains are full of people filled up like sardines. In Japan there are pushers, pushing people inside so that doors can close. In Mumbai trains, there is no such system. So how this method of travel can be changed? The only way I see it is to have more and more trains on different lines, create new lines. Without capacity enhancements, social distancing is never going to be achieved. Mind you, Corona is not going away anytime soon, so to start the train services in Mumbai is going to be extremely difficult.

What about local transport by buses in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and many others? We find the same problem of capacity on some routes. The same question will be faced in state transport buses. So what is going to be the solution? I will call it GKW! It means “God Knows What!”

My title for the blog, “And the winner is”, is searching for what new systems will improve this world, post-Corona? I am still not sure. Doctors are switching over to telemedicine. Bankers are working from home, IT folks can efficiently work from home. Vegetable vendors are trying to sell things online. But there would be areas where people must go to the workplace. These are areas where out of box thinking is essential. Robots? Saying robots is easy but getting a robot do things is a matter of development and investments!

To me, the winner is COVID 19! It has made the human race to rethink many things. It has taught people to get closer to their families and friends. It has brought people together.

It is teaching us to live without theatres, games without spectators! Things merely unimaginable a few months back! Young people who just started their careers in different cities are preferring to go back to their parents home, rather than fighting the tough times alone!

Lockdown is creating a new language of its own like, PPEs. It is teaching us the use of masks, we thought masks were only for doctors and nurses. But it has created new words! The best one I like is “CovIdiots”! Share with me such exciting words! I am told that the population of “CovIdiots” is more in the US than in India!

Am I really ancient?


You are old when you start making statements starting with, “when I was young” or “in our times” or some such words. But this happens to everything in our world, including processes, methods and items at home. The thought came to my mind when I read that RMS (Railway Mail Service) is being closed down at the end of August. The service was a section of the Posts and Telegraphs Department. The postal department had dedicated red bogies on various passenger trains. I used to be curious in my younger days just to have a peep in there to see many pigeon holes. The mail collected would be brought to these bogeys, people sorted them out and kept letters in these pigeon holes. Obviously, they had some method for doing it. I never dared to ask the people working there. I am sure they were distributing mail to various places like milk distribution on milk routes. See this video about RMS.

From the same department, there was another instrument, Telegram. The Last Telegram was sent on 15th July 2013. Telegrams in olden days meant bad news. The telegram walla, it is said, came to your door at midnight- it is just a saying. He could come at any time, but in most cases, the service was used to inform the bad news.

But another thing I remember was that the Telegram was sent by SSC board to inform students who came in the merit list. When I appeared for the SSC exam, I was always afraid that we would receive a Telegram, telling my family that I have failed. But when I investigated later, I was told as many people failed, it was not prudent to spend money on such endeavours.

Then, of course, I remember the Kalhai walla.

Using brass utensils for cooking was common in olden days. During usage, a chemical coating would form on the surface of utensils. These chemicals were detrimental to health, hence there used to be Kalhai wallas, who would coat Tin on the surface of  these utensils. In the video above, the air is blown using an electric blower, but I have seen hand blowers being used by Kalhai wallas. I used to love to watch this process. Was this the precursor of my taking up Metallurgical Engineering course in COEP- I could have started this business.

In olden days, and in some cases even now, the mattresses are made using cotton. The cotton was prepared in a certain way. But the exciting part is the gadget used for the preparation. The word used for this process in Marathi is पिंजणे! It means making the cotton fluffy or loose enough to be filled in mattresses or pillows. From around 40th second, the video shows the gadget being used. It also makes a typical sound. In those days, the vendors for पिंजणे used to move around cities and towns, making that typical sound with the gadget to tell people that they were around.

HAM radio is one concept that has lived its life. With the advent of cell phones plus Satellite phones, HAM technology lost its importance. HAM radio definitely had its use, in its time, before the technological advancements. During the disasters, mountain rallies HAM experts would help the authorities. But alas, at some stage the utility got over. HAM groups still enjoy coming together, for old times sake, probably.

FAX and Pager were two gadgets which came and disappeared fast. Those were, of course, useful in their time. But technology made them obsolete quickly. I understand that in the US, faxes are still used in business. But computers and scanning brought their demise quickly.

I used to live in Bombay during my school days. In those days, two vendors used to come every day. One was a fish vendor, and the other was a bread vendor. Bread in the local language was called PAV; hence the vendors were called Pav Walla. The fish used to be fresh from the sea. The bread was taken out freshly from the oven. Those vendors are now history.

There was another set of vendors which are not seen at all in today’s times. The vendors generally were ladies and were called बोहारीण​. These vendors would come home. Their business model was that they would take used things like clothes from customers and against that the customers were offered utensils. Naturally, these vendors were experts in judging the worth of used stuff that customers gave them.

Another different thing was assistants to help senior government officers at home. My father was a senior police officer in Bombay. We had four orderlies at home to help in domestic work. My parents were the only people living in our Bombay home. What would these four people do the whole day? My mother gave them duty for only three hours each though they were expected to do the work for eight hours every day. They arrived for work, only person at a time. I am talking of the year 1975 when my father retired. Besides these four orderlies- as they were called, my father also had a driver. The whole thing was a legacy of British times. It was a colossal waste of resources. Now we have a senior government officer in our family, but he is blessed with only two drivers!

Even today, in some homes, a person comes to wash their toilets. Oh, it is not Propah to clean your own toilet. But there are some unfortunate things still happening in India. Though the pieces of equipment are available, to clear the sewage lines, the corporations do not buy the machines. The drainage cleaning is still performed in many areas by men getting down in the sewer lines; many times, people have died due to suffocating gases that get generated in sewage systems.

Just to look at the funny side of orderlies that my father had, I will tell you an anecdote! My son was a baby at that time, and stayed with my parents for about six months. In those times, disposable diapers were not available. We used washable diapers. A maid used to perform the washing, and she would hang the diapers for drying. Most of the orderlies hardly had any work. So one of them would iron/press the diapers used by my son!

Well, I meandered from my first curiosity to various different subjects. That curiosity was the preparation of cotton for making mattresses and pillows using a gadget. Friends, I am sure you will remember many such things; please share with me. Cheers!

 

Being happy is in our hands

Most of us try to make decisions intended to bring us greater happiness. The problem is that we misunderstand how our choices really impact our well-being and end up making ones that have the opposite effect. We buy stuff that purports to inspire happiness and end up feeling depressed instead. Knowing some of the typical pitfalls in the search for happiness—especially the ones that seem to go against common sense—can help us improve our quality of life.

There is an adage that experiences make us happier than material things. But knowing is not the same as doing. In one area, this is all too apparent is when it comes to choosing where to live. You might think that it is essential how a home looks. It is vital to know how happy you are living in it. Wrong! The experience of living space is far more important than its appearance.

A couple worked in the IT industry, and their combined travel time daily was six hours. They were proud owners of their home. On my suggestion, they moved to an area to reduce daily travel time. The time got reduced to two hours, fifteen minutes as they gave their home on rent and paid rent for the new house. Everything must have been good. They got some tranquillity, I hope. I was right, the wife got pregnant the second time. When I last heard about them, they had switched back to the original arrangement. The wife has taken a sabbatical, and the husband travels four hours daily.

What logic could have made them this switch back to original home? Emotional? My own home? To my knowledge, both were apartment complexes, the difference would be more about emotions. But can one get used to four hours of the daily commute? No, you can never get used to it. It becomes daily drudgery and thoughts would come to mind about changing job, every day.

It seems that the influence of appearance many times takes precedence. Your home may be more modern, it may have a lovely garden and with the play area for the children. It may have great amenities, but if the shifting to a new house reduces travel time to one third, the gardens and play areas are meaningless.

I read a review of a Hindi movie which involved the hostel stay of students. There was always a big debate and competition between the students to get admitted to a specific hostel block. When the movie ended, it showed that it was more folklore than a fact. It is the way you enjoy your stay, it is the camaraderie between students that is more important. The hero and his gang discuss this when they grow old; it appears that their bond is strong if not more substantial, 25/30 years after college. I am sure these type of stories must be prevalent on every college campus. We had similar stories when we lived in COEP hostels fifty years ago. But now we have also realised that a better hostel block was only a hype. It was the nearness, closeness and bonding with friends that mattered.

About thirteen years back, we moved to a gated community. Our new house was beautiful, and we made a lot of new friends. We still have a great bond with them. It was about ten km from the main city area. During our stay, we had a great time. After several years of stay, we moved to another area of the city because of family reasons. But today, I cannot imagine living there. The traffic pattern has changed a lot. In those days, we took twenty to thirty minutes to reach home, but now it could be anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour and a quarter. In the next couple of years, traffic would become even worse due to the proposed construction of the Metro route. So was our decision not to move back correct? I am sure it was. It is the overall picture that is more important than mere architectural beauty of the home!

While a bigger garden and spare bedroom soon cease to be novel, every day’s commute is a little bit different, meaning we can never get quite used to it. There is a direct downward relationship between commute time and life satisfaction, but there’s no upwards correlation between house size and life satisfaction. The problem is, we consistently make decisions that suggest we are not so good at distinguishing between transient and lasting pleasures. We keep getting it wrong.

Take the case of living in larger Metropolises like Mumbai. There are various reasons why people live in a specific city or town. We keep on reading about nightmares of commuting and living in crowded localities. Over a period, in places like Mumbai, it becomes almost impossible for average citizens to buy newer and better homes. Homes with gardens are seen only in dreams. The work opportunities and many other things keep people glued to Mumbai. Then there are much-hyped stories about how the “Mumbai Spirit” overcomes all the difficulties residents face in times of disruption of life. Such stories are fascinating to read in newspapers or see on TV channels. But privately you ask any diehard Mumbai walla; he/or she would go to any more livable city if given an opportunity. My Mumbai friends would fight with me outwardly about how great Mumbai is, but in private they say something different.

Years back, I met a young man on a flight to Bangalore. During a chat, I asked him, “Are you enjoying your job?” His instant reply was, “I wish, I can change my job tomorrow. During the last five years, life quality has gone down drastically. I used to take about one hour or a bit more to reach home every day. Now that time has changed to two and a half to three and a half hours! I am simply fed up!”

What performance could an organisation expect from persons who are so unhappy? It is not the organisation’s fault. But the end result is predictable. While getting down the young man said, “It is not the job, it is the city that is getting on my nerves.” I told him, “Young man, you have analysed the problem correctly. Go ahead and follow your heart!”

Now my contemporaries and I are at a stage in life where doing specific changes in lifestyle may not be pragmatic. But do not become too emotional about your home. Go and live in a place which gives more life pleasures. My current home is a lovely modern apartment. But the view I see every day and especially in the evening makes it more than worth it, especially during pandemic home stay requirement!

In Hindi, there is a word माहोल, (the overall feel)that should fit your ecosystem to enjoy life! Look for माहोल, not the architectural beauty!


Let Sushant rest in peace

Writing a second blog about a film personality in two months is not my style! But events that are happening around forced me to write this piece. The disclaimer- Sushant was a good actor with personality, he always appeared to be happy! I have nothing personal about him; I am only sad that such a young man could not handle life and died very young!

China, COVID and Sushant have been three essential news items everywhere since June. The first two interchanged the positions intermittently, but Sushant was a strong third in the news. As has been happening after the advent of social media, we see instant psychologists, psychoanalysts galore mushrooming in society faster than the mushrooms themselves. I am sure all my psychiatrist friends have taken refreshers courses on the WhatsApp or FB university. The public attention and media attention are two amazing things, to say the least- these have worked themselves into a frenzy.

The discussions have extended beyond a reasonable time as a film personality was involved. A word that is used continually is nepotism. Nepotism means the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs. The discussion is about “Insiders” and “Outsiders”. To my understanding, this phenomenon has been there from the early seventies. The first insider, as I remember, was Randhir Kapoor. Then there was Rishi Kapoor, Abhishek Bacchan and Hrithik Roshan. Among ladies were Karishma and Kareena Kapoor.

If nepotism theory was correct, then Randhir Kapoor would have become Raj Kapoor II. Abhishek Bacchan would have become Amitabh II. Others mentioned above have become successful because they have been damn good anyway. Yes because these were “Insiders” they get opportunities quickly. Raj Kapoor produced Bobby to introduce Rishi Kapoor and not for Abhishek Bacchan. In the same movie Dimple Kapadia, the “outsider” was also launched. Raj Kapoor put his own money to back a family member, and Mukesh Ambani does not help even his brother Anil’s children to start their career. The empire is exclusively for his family.

For Bollywood families, being known to each other since childhood is an asset. You do not distribute family gold to outsiders. All the people criticising the system should tell how many “outsiders” they have launched in their family business. Have you heard the names, Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia? Being inside only helps initially. And do we mean to say that the insiders, once launched, are on the auto-pilot all through their career? No, they have to work hard, they need to keep on working hard all the time. They have to manage their work, their good looks and their availability all the time. For this, some have worked in two long shifts, every day for months and years together. Let us not be naïve! Arjun Tendulkar, the “Insider” from cricket fraternity is yet to get selected to Mumbai Ranji team.

Unfortunately, Sushant was suffering from bipolar disorder. The information is now coming out from the doctors who were interviewed.

https://zeenews.india.com/people/sushant-singh-rajput-had-bipolar-disorder-was-stressed-and-not-taking-medicines-regularly-actors-psychiatrists-tell-mumbai-police-2297209.html

For a Bihar boy from a well-to-do family living in Mumbai, must have been tough. It must have become complicated with his psychological issues. He lived alone, and he had a breakup, plus he had a new girlfriend too- life was too complicated! From the news that one reads, he must have made appr Rs. 15 crores during the short span he worked in Bollywood. I will not go into details about his expenses as read from various news items- suffice to say that he had expensive tastes. A close friend’s wife had this disorder. My friend told me that when she came out, temporarily, from depression, she would become extraordinarily euphoric and spend large amounts of money.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355955

Money could have become a problem because of excessive spending to maintain the Bollywood lifestyle. Sushant was ill, and he did not have any projects going. It was a classic case for trundling down the slopes to disaster. He was away from his family, and I do not know why nobody helped even before Corona. Such mental conditions are challenging to understand from a distance. Add to this the lockdowns starting from 22nd March due to Corona! He barely survived the isolation due to lockdowns.

On top of that, he, unfortunately, was not taking his medicines regularly. (Read Zee report above) The fear of the unknown and the fear of shortage of funds is a terrible concoction for anybody. Bollywood has a history of such cases since olden times. Nowadays, the Bollywood people get good financial advice about investing money. They start throwing money around after they have put aside big money. Amitabh Bacchan had reached the nadir of his finances in the early ’90s. Kaun Banega Crorepati saved him. He slipped down from becoming the superhero to zero, and back to doing well financially. From movies, he came back to TV- it must take courage to do so. Bharat Bhushan, the hero from my childhood, had many bungalows and fancy cars. He put his money into producing movies. After initial success, he did not realise how frail was the crown of a successful movie maker. He died a pauper. Bhagwan, the “Sham Dhale” fame, also died a pauper. He lived in a chawl in Parel area in his old days.

Bollywood is a bad, bad boy of business. Many critics and TRP wallas discuss as if Bollywood specifically ganged up against Sushant. Kangana Ranaut has taken up the mantel to take up the nepotism debate to a different level. Recently videos of her interviews are coming out from archives, where she was all for the current system that is in place. Now suddenly she is opposing the regime. In 2019, she was asked who the top three male actors were in that year. Sushant’s name was not there. Now she is arguing how the top most talent like Sushant was hounded out, and finally killed by a faction in Bollywood. It appears that police also have nothing better to do; they have interrogated around 40 people to find out if Sushant was targeted by a group! Do not forget that at the end of the day, it is business. Getting part in a movie is like receiving a purchase order in business. One has to learn the art of getting those orders.

On WhatsApp groups, it is fashionable to blame the whole world for Sushant’s death (his world, of course). But we should not forget that in an industry that is run like a family business, we know of Dev Anand’s and Dharmendra’s of this world had slept on footpaths before they made it. For every Dharmendra, there have been hundreds who struggled all their life or went back home. I will not say that they were made of different fabric, but they were lucky to have managed to remain sane, though weak. Sushant was unfortunate that he got stressed out and could never come out. People forget THE OUTSIDER of them all, Shah Rukh did not come from Delhi and straight away bought Mannat! Everybody has to struggle, some have less struggle! That I feel is nepotism. Be pragmatic! At least let Sushant rest in peace, knowing that he was hounded by his demons during the lifetime.

Sushant, kiddo, if there is next life, come back with a bit stronger mind- ask HIM before your future birth. HE knows how you have suffered and will be kind to you next time! Rest in peace!

P.S. Sushant’s father has registered an FIR in Bihar against Rhea Chakravarty saying she stole his money, and abetted to his suicide!


Let us become an expensive nation

My friend Saibal and I exchange views on different things, and his brother Probal also takes part in discussions. He is a young man, as defined in Indian politics- he is on the wrong side of fifty. He has earned his spurs in the fierce market place and has got a good experience and knowledge of of the prevailing market conditions. Once in a while he also gets upset like any other proud person. I am sharing with you verbatim, his feelings about the Indian and international market place.

The Japanese management companies in India, have developed this new policy of saying that if they switch over from an imported component to an Indian part, then the spare part should be at least 30% lower in price.

I was wondering why? Are we so cheap as a country or as a community? Are we cheap people? Are we as a country, responsible for this situation? Over the years, we have perhaps unnecessarily announced that our labour and designers are cheap. Indian IT professionals charge much lower rates, minimum wages have been horribly low in India, something like 126th in the world today ( used to be 144th only a few years ago ), the manufacturing cost is low in India etc.

We should all ponder, and our next generation should ensure that they command more respect and charge rates commensurate with their talent. Hope we become an expensive country someday, and the costly tag does not only belong to the Mercs and BMW’s.

I have no intention to insult anyone, but the end result has been unfortunate. I will share with you some examples from the automotive industry. The doyen of the Indian business announced years ago that his company would come up with the cheapest car in the world. This was the beginning of gaffes galore. What does the word cheap indicate? Though the intention was good, in practice, it was a marketing disaster! Why was the term cheapest used, instead of affordable? It was a matter of perception. Are we poor at English or we think that we are destined to manufacture cheap cars? Sometime after the introduction of this vehicle, a vehicle caught fire on the road, while someone was driving. The next day, there were photos splashed in all the newspapers. On the same day in Pune, a brand new Japanese sedan also caught fire while it was parked and entirely burned down. But this news was not allowed to splash the way the cheap car caught fire. One more marketing failure? One more marketing failure was the highest version of this car sold the most! In India, cars are bought and used as a status symbol! Who would want to purchase something tagged as “Cheap”?

If such is the thinking in a large company, then many of their decisions also follow the same path. The results also follow a similar trajectory. The whole ecosystem becomes “Cheap”. Now the question is why Japanese and German products are expensive? A simple explanation would be that their products are top of the line products. I will not write about the details of their industry at the end of the second world war. When I was in school, there was a derogatory term used for Japanese toys- in Marathi the word used was कचकड्याची. If you wanted to buy cheap / कचकड्याची buy Japanese toys; this was the reputation of Japan in the early ’50s. In a couple of generations, people started recognising Japanese products as top-end products. How did this happen? Pride, hard work and urge to become the top country for manufactured goods. Cars, Electronics and other products were the areas where the Japanese concentrated. Toyota, Honda, Sony, Toshiba became household names globally. They decided the group of products, and competed hard with global players and beat most of them. Germans were the ones who fought hard with the Japanese. In their range, the products were superior in quality and with competitive costs. Like the Germans have Mercs, and BMW’s, the expensive cars, the Japanese have their Shinkansen trains. These are superior quality trains and are very expensive.

I will share a couple of anecdotes. Someone was going to travel to Japan for work, and he was going to move from place A to place B in Shinkansen. He wrote to the Japanese, “I am going to catch a flight from B. How much buffer time should I keep so that I do not miss the train?” He got a reply, ” From the train station at B, the airport is 30 minutes away. You do not need buffer time because Shinkansen is late only when there is a major earthquake.” I am sure this was written with pride.

A Rolls Royce car engine failed in Paris, and the car was towed to a dealership. After inspecting the vehicle, the customer’s driver was told that he could collect the car at 9 am the next morning. He did get the car at the appointed time, all running and it was neatly washed and cleaned. How did they manage it? Pride, coordination and excellent customer service plus marketing. They had found out that repairing the engine within such a small period was impossible. They spoke to their headquarters in the UK. A brand new engine was shipped to Paris in a chartered plane, and a happy customer took his car back the next day morning.

Saibal, we need to become expensive in our thinking and our deeds. We should have pride in what we are doing. If your sense of achievement gets hurt, you should be able to walk away from the situation. Your business plan should consider such costs. Airlifting of the engine from London to Paris was such an event where financial damages were immaterial. I have walked out of such situations in our software business a couple of times.

Indians are still mentally two hundred years behind. In Northern India, people boast about how they haggle about the price of vegetables. If the vendor says fifty Rupees, people demand it for ten Rupees and ultimately buy for thirty Rupees. It is our thought process of buying everything cheap; it does not make us competitive it makes us “Cheap”. It gets converted into a mindset of selling and buying low-quality stuff. When I buy apples, I buy top quality apples. I choose the apples and then ask the price. A bit of haggling is ok, but if you want a product for less than half the price, the quality of the same will be proportionately bad. When we buy a car, the first question asked is कितनी देती है? – what is the mileage it gives? We do not bother about other specifications and performance. In short, we are the least bothered about quality. All we want is “Cheap” everything!

Till we, as a society, do not change our mentality, how will we get the quality products? Here I have discussed only a couple of products, but there are products like fans, mixers, refrigerators and so on. There is the service industry. IT industry is a big player in services. After twenty years of a good run, they want to remain the service providers; we do not want to make world-class products. These companies are flush with funds, but since they do not have any roadmap to come out of the service industry and make their own products, they spend this money on repurchasing their own shares. These acts are big negatives for the share market. Hence their valuation also does not change- a sorry state of affairs.

When you do not want to go up the value chain, how shall we become an expensive country? It is our mindset that needs to change first. In many foreign countries, I have seen plumbers, electricians who are proud of their trade. It is slowly happening in our country too! My electrician is a superb artisan, but I had to teach him to clean up the work area after finishing the work. Our big shots in the IT industry, who do not want to go up the value chain, need to clean up their cobwebs. They should want to become proud and say, “We are expensive, but once you come to us, you will not go anywhere else!” I have heard the Japanese saying this often!


It is a free world

After a war-like situation in India recently, the armed forces have declared a new policy for all the people working within the troops. It stated that for Armed Forces 89 apps, including WhatsApp and Facebook, should be removed by all the people from their cell phones. Cell phones are a reality of life, but when you have different apps on the cell, these can be easily hacked. Once these are hacked, it can lead to any avoidable situation. A Lt Colonel in the army went to the Supreme Court against the order. Supreme Court resolved the matter quickly. They told the officer, “If you like Facebook so much, why not resign from your job?”

I know it is a free world but does an army person not understand the matter of national security? What was he trying to achieve? He is a senior officer in the armed forces, does he not know that honey trapping is also part of warfare these days? For those who are not aware of honey trapping, here is how it works. You have an account on any of these apps. Somebody wants to get in touch with you. After a brief exchange of messages, that someone turns out to be a beautiful lady. One step leads to another, and more and more interactions take place. Sometimes the lure of sex is used or maybe money. In the secret liaison, the compromised photos are shared or exchanged. In the end, or is it the beginning you are “Trapped” in a compromising situation, it could be monetary or in an awkward physical stage, leading to threats of exposure. It is a trap led by the enemy, and I am sure that a small % of people must be walking into such situations. This could lead to information sharing or security breach.

It is an age-old trick where the security of your nation is breached. I am unsure if the Colonel is not intelligent enough to understand the meaning of the order. Or probably the way people get caught into the honey trap, their thinking goes haywire for that moment. I am not challenging the statement by that officer claiming that he would use the apps responsibly. But sometimes one may inadvertently publish something innocent- I am standing on the shores of the serene lake and so and so. It is merely letting your family see the beautiful landscape in the Himalayas. But if your account is hacked, the enemy would know that the officer is placed at a location. It will also indicate how many troops are there etc. Colonel saheb, let us not get into an unnecessary argument and get upset that the Supreme Court dismissed your case.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/indian-navy-bans-facebook-espionage-racket-pakistan-6191139/

Given below are a few lines from the link above.

Days after an espionage racket was busted and 11 sailors were arrested for passing on sensitive information to a Pakistani handler, the Indian Navy has banned the use of Facebook by its personnel. Besides, the Navy has also barred usage of smartphones at naval bases, dockyards and on warships.

“The stringent step has been taken by the force soon after seven naval personnel were caught leaking sensitive information to enemy intelligence agencies over social media,” ANI quoted an official as saying.

The spy racket was busted on December 19 by the Andhra Pradesh Intelligence Department, which claimed that the sailors, recruited in 2017, allegedly passed information like locations of naval ships and submarines after they fell into a honey trap.

Similar arguments, like those of Colonel Saheb, are made by many people and organisations. National Rifle Association of America is one such organisation. The association under the garb of training people to use rifles, and holding competitions strongly supports the right to own and if required use guns for self-protection. The argument made sense during the wild-west days of America. In those days, people were moving from the east coast of the US to the west coast looking for land and what else, Gold. Those were the days of gold-digging. The West was really wild, and one was on his own. There was hardly any rule of law. Now the same USA is the second-largest democracy in the world, the wealthiest nation in the world. Now you need not go to wild-west. The west coast of the US is the most prosperous area in the US. You make money by being on Wall Street and by running Ponzi schemes. You make money by starting new technology startups, and venture capitalists give you money. You need a smart plan and a smooth tongue. It is okay if 98% of startups fail; failed companies on your resume are supposed to make you look smarter. In short, you do not need guns, but the rifle association begs (or brags is the right word?) to differ. Whenever there is a discussion about mass killings in the malls or the schools in America, the association’s argument is simple. People kill people, guns do not. It is the lax gun laws, it is the arms makers lobby that pushes such a stupid argument.

Another act that comes in a similar category is comments and actions about Coronavirus. I know of someone who is a smart guy living in the US currently- even today talks of it is just another flu and that people are unnecessarily scared about the pandemic. I do not see a difference in his thinking and that of Trump and his administration. The affected figure in the US is four million-plus and counting. Even today, in many areas in the US, wearing a mask is not mandatory. Trump started wearing a mask in public only a few days ago!

What happens to the so-called educated people? I am aware that there is a vast difference between those who take education and those who are educated. Being educated is a mindset. One may have studied up to high school but could be an educated person. It is what you absorb, that is important. The free knowledge and experience are available in this world, but you need to keep your eyes and ears open.

But most importantly, one should have an open mindset. There is no mathematical proof that wearing a mask helps in controlling the pandemic. But all the scientific communities are convinced that mask is the first line of defence. But since the topmost executive of the country is setting a wrong example, others follow suit. There was an incident in California. A customer was suggested by a restaurant owner to wear a mask even inside the restaurant. He pulled out a gun. Luckily, the owner was an ex-marine. He quickly disarmed the person. But what do you expect from the people who say that “Guns do not kill people, people kill people.”

After all, it is a free world!