Without imperfections one cannot become perfect!

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At every stage, we need to act, decide, guide, advice or seek advice! We all are fallible. So everyone can and will make mistakes. Without imperfections, one cannot become perfect! It is the ladder of mistakes, some people call it experience, that one needs to climb to become perfect. One can change or improve only if we accept our mistakes wholeheartedly. We should celebrate our mistakes; this helps us to remind where we went wrong.

Making mistakes is nothing new for humans. The error we make is that we focus on the wrong things. We try to reach our goals at any cost, including moral values. We take a wrong path, we steal, we cheat. We lie. We deceive others as well as ourselves. We are afraid to talk to others openly. We see crime or fraud and don’t speak out. But don’t forget that we may be proper persons but we may make a wrong judgment or take incorrect decisions. We may later find out that we have changed totally, we have evolved as humans, we are not the son that we are, we are not the father we are, our personality has changed. Ever wonder why this has happened? But don’t forget that this has occurred due to errors or mistakes. It can happen to the best of us! The good part is that if we accept our mistakes wholeheartedly, we can become the person we have been! When we lose our path the solace is that it does not happen permanently, it is reversible.

It’s essential that after making a mistake or error in judgement, we follow the correct path and choose good options. In younger days we get a few traffic tickets or get into incidents where police had to get involved. If we the person does not learn from these mistakes then there is a problem. We can come out of the issues if we accept responsibility, but if we do not take the blame for the error, then we end up into a vicious circle of incidents which ultimately might lead to major criminal issues.

It’s not that you stumble, it’s essential that you get up. It’s not that you did something wrong but that you realise what’s happening and change. It’s not that you messed up as a friend or lover, it’s that you see ways you can be better. Having the wrong priorities is terrible enough, but realising that and refusing to change is worse. It’s not that you never took the time to smell the roses and admire the sunset, it’s that once you realise this, you take the time to notice. You make mistakes in your business. You recognise what mistakes you have made. Still, you don’t try to mend ways. Instead, you try to cheat and move ahead. In our life, for every situation, there is a feedback loop. Take it in the correct spirit, don’t take it as criticism.

Mistakes made in personal life are too private, and everybody needs to find their own way. But there can be a plan for how errors in office environments can be corrected.

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Admit your mistake

The first step about mistakes is to accept them wholeheartedly. Immediately inform your superiors. Lies and mistakes tend to get exposed at the wrong time so never try to hide. The undeclared mistake will force you to do something wrong, it will indicate a lack of professionalism. Employers value this trait the most, from the employees.

Present you superior a plan to correct the error

Once the mistake is accepted, you need to work on priority to repair the same. A mistake can sometimes have domino effect too. The plan should include correction further down the line also! Reassure the superior that the solution is the right one.

After finalisation of the plan, present it to your superiors and mention the expected results. The details should also include the time needed and costs involved if any. The second time nobody is going to accept the evil consequences. But this can happen, and there should be a plan B in case plan A does not work out. While doing all this make sure others understand your problem-solving skills.

Don’t point fingers at someone else

When you are working as a team, the mistake may have happened while making combined efforts. Though people are waiting to take the credit, mistakes are orphans. Owning the mistake will be appreciated by your superiors. When the group meeting is called others may not be willing to accept the blame. Pointing fingers is not going to help. But rest assured that for a mistake made by the team, superiors are aware as to which persons have different responsibilities.

Apologise, but don’t keep on blaming your self

Accepting the mistake is the central part of the process but no point berating yourself for the mistake; don’t scold yourself publicly. After you have given your plan to the superiors talk about solutions; you want them to forget about the mistake in the first place.

Never brag about how you correct your mistake quickly. Don’t forget that you have made a mistake in the first place.

If possible correct the mistake in your own time

You may be paid overtime pay for additional work done. But extra work due to a mistake is because of the mistake. It may be a good idea not charge company overtime pay. Let your boss know that you do not cost the company additional expense.

Friends, you must remember that correcting your mistake is about fixing the mistake. It is about explaining to superiors why it happened in the first place. How you are going to repair it at the lowest possible expenses. For your own good, it should be done discretely for natural reasons.

I am the best I never mistook self! 😀😀😀😀

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It’s Never too late, Pradeep!

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Our life is about people. It’s about our family, friends, acquaintances, and business associates. There are of course some people whom you meet during your travels! It is difficult to say how and why these relationships go forward in life. But sometimes you wonder why certain relationships did not blossom! Why did they not go to the next level? As usual, when we can’t explain something, we call it destiny. Yesterday 15th January 2019 was an important day in my life.

A couple of weeks back my friend Ram told me that our classmate, Pradeep Gavankar will be in India; he lives in Houston, Texas. I was thrilled when Ram said that another friend Milind is coordinating a lunch meeting with a group of friends so that Pradeep can meet them. I was, of course, thrilled and decided to go to Mumbai for lunch. I had no other work but to meet friends.

The thought of meeting Pradeep, face to face almost after 45 years took me down the memory lane. I had met him last when I attended his marriage. Later on, we were in touch randomly. A couple of times I talked to him on the phone when I had travelled to the USA. There were a couple of email exchanges, but I was always keen to know what was happening in his life.

It is interesting to know how I got in touch with him pre FB and WA days. One day I was surfing on the net, and I came across the photograph of Amol Gavankar. Amol was a student then. When I saw the photo, I saw some similarity with Pradeep. So I wrote Amol an email, “ If Pradeep is your dad then I am Pradeep’s classmate”. A couple of days later Pradeep wrote to me and as I have said that we have been in touch sporadically. Once we discussed about the death of our common friend Dilip Marathe. But still, the communications has remained on and off type. Honestly, there was no reason for this type of contact, but it continued that way.

Yesterday when we met for lunch, we had a lot talk and discuss and update. Let me tell you why I am thrilled. Pradeep and I go years back! We used to be neighbours, when we were in, now what can be called today, as Lower KinderGarten. If I remember correctly, it was a school run by a lady called, Avantika Kelkar, if I am not mistaken! We lived in the western suburb of Andheri in Bombay. I distinctly remember Pradeep and our homes! In late ’80 s of the last century, I had gone to visit another friend Sharad, in that area.

I made a round of the colony where we had our old homes; I was surprised to find that they still existed as old structures (which made me sad!) From Andheri my father was transferred out of Bombay, and I am sure both of us did not even understand the meaning of losing touch. My father later came back to Bombay, and I joined Ram Mohan School in the 7th grade. I lived in an area Dhobi talao, famous for its cricket maidans, and also renowned for brutal killing police officers in 26/11 attack. I started catching G3 bus for school, early morning at 6.15. Somehow I knew that Pradeep was in the same school. On the second day, I met a guy my age on the bus, he also went to my school. He took the bus before my stop. I asked him if he knew Pradeep Gavankar; I had asked this question to Pradeep! It was again the quirk of the destiny that brought us back. We passed our SSC from the school, and both of us joined Elphinstone College! Pradeep stood first in our school in the board exam. Post Inter Science Pradeep joined VJTI, and I came to COEP Pune for engineering. We used to know about each other on and off! I always have this question how did we keep track of people before the Internet? Pradeep invited me for his marriage. I attended it in Bombay.

While in school and later on during education, I used to go to Pradeep’s home in Colaba. It had a lovely terrace, and we used to have the fun, but I don’t remember what used to discuss and play. Later on, they moved to an area called Bombay Central. I visited that home too! I remember that Pradeep’s father was an art professional.

Though we were not in touch all these years, I had a perfect image of Pradeep as a person. The studious (in school he was known as a scholar!), a gentleman, soft-spoken, mature (even in school days) and of course mischievous. When we met yesterday, we were discussing my cancer treatment. He asked me, “Is rest to your throat not recommended? Oh! Sorry, that is out of the question! Nobody can ever tell you that”, he said with a smile!

Pradeep, let me tell you, now that long lost friends have been found, there is no way I am going to let you go missing again. In Cricket parlance, we did have a couple of innings but did not utilise them to score runs. But now in this new innings, that too in our Golden Period, let us not let go each other and have fun! As usual, I will be boisterous about it, and you will enjoy in your quiet fashion.

For records purpose, Pradeep went to the US and did his PhD in Civil Engineering area. He is a renowned expert in harbours and other such areas. I am yet to get a full update on what he did Professionally. Rest assured that I am going to fill your inbox with links for my blogs. Pradeep, I know that a human has to write his quota of words during his lifetime. You did much more than what I am doing these days, during your education and professional work. You know that half the time I used to be in punishment mode while in school, standing outside the class! Destiny seems has caught up with me and making me complete the writing quota!

We got ourselves yesterday connected on WhatsApp when Pradeep sent me our photo (displayed at the top) taken during the lunch yesterday, and he captioned it as “Long lost friends!” My reply to him was

“Hey Pradeep, it was great to meet you and chat with you. But it was like we were given the wine for approval  before giving the go-ahead to serve our Dom Perignon! So let us makeup and finish our bottle of wine. I know the cellar is full of many more vintage bottles. Here is a link for word document where links for many of my blogs are given. Choose what you like.”

https://1drv.ms/w/s!Aq4ckSwupy2SmbgiEwplNlSwoIT0qg

I really mean it Pradeep, and my travel to Mumbai yesterday was really worth it! So long friend till my next message or the next call!

Habits or goals, Goals or habits!

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In our life, we try to achieve many things. These things will vary from your career goals to improving health, reducing weight, overcoming smoking, and reducing alcohol intake. To meet the aims, we create goals or targets. But are the objectives good enough to succeed? The main issue with the goals is that they are time-based. When we try to achieve intangible things like happiness, success, well being the beginning for this is to create tangible goals.

We want to try and run half a marathon within six months of starting the training. Making the goal is fine. But if you make it a habit of running eight hours per week which means at least an hour per day you are more likely to succeed. Once you fall into the habit of running every day, you have made it. You may even achieve your goal a little early too due to the practice of running every day. You may overshoot your goal of half a marathon to full marathon, who knows!

I wanted to read a book a week, and I tried to reach the goal in one year. I hardly read ten books in six months. There was always no time to buy the books when I went to book the specific book was not available. I bought myself a Kindle. Now I have at two to three books I want to read, downloaded on Kindle. I read for at least 15 to 20 minutes before I go to sleep plus as and when I get time during the day. I started carrying the Kindle while travelling and now I have far exceeded the target of 50 books per year target! It’s a habit of reading during travel, before going to sleep or waiting at the airports that put me on the path.

Having family time is the goal everybody has. It can become tricky with tight schedules. Jaya and I play cards every day for half an hour. (Now I am sharing a secret; we have both semi-retired!) This habit gives us time to discuss serious as well as mundane things. We play, we cheat, we cut jokes. We try not to take any phone calls during that half an hour.

How to choose between goals and habits?

  • Habit is an ongoing process. You set a goal to reduce 8 kgs of weight in three months. You manage to do so. But then your body and mind may relax. You may gain back 5 kgs in the next two months. But if you form a habit of exercising regularly, it becomes an ongoing process in your life, hopefully for your lifetime. So controlling weight remains a current project with no endpoint.
  • When we set a goal, the failures can be because of things beyond our control. You may travel a lot during those three months. You may hurt your leg due to a fall. An event in family or business or work may eat away a lot of your time. When you form the habit, the habit will absorb minor deviations. Once the event is over, your habits will bring you back on the path to what you want to achieve.
  • Goals depend on self-discipline and will power. The book Power of Habits says, “Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.” You have set a target to save money. Every time you buy something, you need the self-discipline to save money. It’s tough not to buy that mountain bike you always wanted. But if you get into the habit of saving say ten thousand rupees a month, then you know that you can buy that mountain bike at some stage.
  • Achieving a goal can put you back in an undisciplined life. It can also happen that we take a wrong path to reach a time-based goal especially if you have declared the intent publicly.

Stephen Covey has said, ”Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).”

Once we form some good habits, things work on auto-pilot. Your mind and body will encourage you to do things rather than you forcing yourself. Habit makes saving money easy. The habit makes you reach your goals in step by step manner.

What are the Benefits of habits?

Habits are for life

When we form any habits, those can remain ingrained for life. Once the habits are part and parcel of our life, then goals become meaningless. Habits will continue lifelong and will help you surpass whatever goals you have set.

Habits can be tiny

Brushing your teeth before sleeping helps you improve your dental health. Drinking warm water just after waking up is also a good habit. These small habits together can assist you in general enhancement of your well being.

Habits have additional advantages

If you get into the habit of exercising regularly, your digestion can improve, you may eat better, your alcohol need may come down.

Habits are easy to complete

Once you form the habits, achieving them does need anybody’s permission; it happens automatically as your brain gives right signals to your body to perform whatever is your habit, at the right time.

When I started blogging, initially I wanted to reach 50 blogs in the first couple of years. Writing the blog was a significant effort for me initially. It took me much more than the two years I had allotted myself. In between came many travels, a considerably severe health issue and blog writing always got the last priority. Later on, it became a passion, and I formed the habit of writing blogs. Rest as they say is history! In the year 2018, I wrote 181 blogs which far exceeded my target or expectations. In the first four years I managed 170 blogs, and in one year I exceeded these numbers. Now there are no goals no targets only writing.

If we make the habits, ultimately habits will make us. I am sharing below a list of habits all should have.

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Modern Slum!

I have lived in Pune and Mumbai for most of my life. No doubt these are some of the better cities to live in India. Mumbai with its financial clout and Pune with its educational and cultural diversity are places people look forward to settling down. People feel that those who want to work will always find a job in these two cities. With this change, cosmopolitanism has captured roots in a big way in these cities. This change is especially felt in Pune as it had more “closed’ culture compared to Bombay when I moved to Pune in late ’60 s of the last century. I can tell many stories on this subject, but that is a subject for another blog.

About ten-twelve years back we wanted to move to an independent home, but from long term view, we decided to buy a townhouse in a new colony. It is a lovely colony. We lived in that colony till end 2013. Some family circumstances came up, we locked this home and moved to another locality, this time in an eleven-story condominium, it’s a rented home. The other day we went to visit the old house. Now both Jaya and I are nearing the age of 70. Hence there is a discussion going on regarding our stay in future. The old townhouse is an option, we have other properties too!

Yesterday, we took a call not to move there. The colony is modern with beautiful gardens for each home, with every 4th or 6th home having an extensive garden. The colony is maintained well, except for the gym amenities like swimming pool, children’s play areas, shared gardens, community hall et al. grace the society. Now you may ask me why we took a decision not to move back there.

Yesterday, while on the way out I saw that there was a group of people, men and women discussing heatedly on the beautiful well lighted tennis court. I was sure it must have been a general discussion about the celebrations for the festivals coming up shortly. I thought it was an excellent opportunity to meet some of them, so I got down from the car and entered the tennis court. Some of the ladies looked as if they had just finished a game of tennis but were not dressed up for it. They were red in the face. As I was nearing the group most common word that I heard was “Shit” shouted mainly by females. I am writing a sentence shouted, verbatim, during the discussion. “What the hell do you think of yourself”? and so on!

I was surprised. In my times, I was the Chairman of the society committee for five years. There were differences of opinion, there were heated arguments, but mature ways kept things civil. There was no shouting, there were no Shit words, and in general, people showed respect to each other. The birth of the first formal society committee happened at that time and systems were yet to be established. So there used to be some tricky issues which needed cooperation and maturity. There were awkward situations like the removal of one of the members from admin responsibilities. This person used to put Geneset diesel in his car. He used to skim money in connivance with the builder. There was no formal committee in those days. But the operative word was dignity.

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But the level to which the shouting and slanging match was heard yesterday indicated something had seriously gone wrong with the fabric of the society. I know all the involved parties personally. They do have strong views but have always been fun-loving and polite individuals. I don’t live there any more, since the last five years. In those five years, I had expected people to have become more mature and dignified! But where had the dignity gone?

I am not sure what had gone wrong yesterday. I am sure it must have been simmering for some time. I have seen glimpses of these behaviours on the WhatsApp group. But I was quite sure that when people meet face to face, the exchange of views is generally soft. WhatsApp group exchange involved writing. The way people express themselves in writing sometimes feels harsh because of the writing style. But when you are face to face, this exchange is a combination of spoken words, intonation, facial expressions and body language. Yesterday’s discussion showed the worst of all these traits in both men and women.

Let me tell you a little about the background of the people in the colony in general. Many of them are double income families, and most are having 15 to 20 years experience in their field, mostly in IT. The average new car these folks would now buy will be in the region of about a million rupees. Resold homes in the colony cost 15 million rupees.

The subject for discussion was, as my one minute stay allowed me to understand was the use of assets, in this case, the tennis court. As usual, my grey cells started whirring, and I was trying to know (I was going to use word understand, but I felt that I would never guess what was happening.) why it was happening?

  • Was it due to wealth?
  • Was it the senior positions they have achieved their respective jobs?
  • Was it due to a shortage of assets? There are 121 townhouses, and if we consider average one child per home, now there are 121 children of different ages. Some families would need a play area for kids, some would require a swimming pool and some would need a tennis court. The tennis court is the only large open area for parties, tennis, cricket, football and what have you. Even if only 30 children need to use the arena, it is going to be tricky. Then there are groups of young professionals around 25/26 years of age. These folks also need this area to play outdoors during weekends. On some Sundays, parents also play Cricket matches or Football matches. There is a significant shortfall of assets like open spaces.
  • In society, all are from the higher middle class with good income. Is it possible that some people can not handle the rapid increase in salary?

But does it mean that shouting match (or was it slanging match) is justified? During the evenings with a glass of Chivas Regal, we all curse the politicians for their crass behaviour. How would this shouting match (in front of kids) be explained? The so-called blamed person was very dignified, and his demeanour was very graceful against the rude behaviour of the ladies. I don’t know what happened later in the evening.

Where does one go from here? Can society tell the members not to behave obnoxiously? Does society have powers with them to handle personal behaviour? I don’t think so. Women’s rights organisations would have been shocked to see the response of the so-called highly educated and sophisticated ladies. Unfortunately, ladies have joined the bandwagon of rudeness in MeToo days!

I don’t want to move back to this high-end slum again!

भातुकलीचा खेळ-Winding down!

भातुकलीच्या खेळामधले राजा आणिक राणी is a lovely song sung by veteran Marathi singer Arun Date, who died last year. भातुकलीचा खेळ is the game kids play with toy kitchen set. Children play with this set in the childhood and are the favourite game of the girls. I have the pleasure of playing the game currently with my granddaughter. There is so much fun. The girls exactly follow what their mothers do. Mothers be careful, your babies are watching you. I won’t be surprised if I am told to look after the baby while their “Mumma” checks her WhatsApp messages. My granddaughter Rhea plays different roles, sometimes she is cooking and sometimes she is making tea for the guests. Sometimes Rhea goes out to the clinic while I look after her baby. After “coming home” she checks if the baby had eaten well and slept well. How realistically they play such games.

Sometimes her play acting is over in ten minutes, and at other times she is done in thirty minutes. The minute the game is over, her mind switches over completely, 100%. If I ask her something about her previous playacting, she says, “Now don’t ask. I am painting”. How quickly the children can switch over. To me, this is an art. Are we adults able to make this switch so quickly? Can we entirely withdraw from what our children and grandchildren are doing? Do we stop playing भातुकली? Are we ready to retire 100%? No, we are not able to do so!

Rhea never takes any help from me. She is very clear about what she wants to on that day. Sometimes Rhea has two kids, and sometimes one. She does not like interference from me. I have to sit there and play act as per her wishes. While setting up her भातुकली, she sometimes makes errors, sometimes she can set up things the way she likes. But she does not allow me to interfere.

Are you getting what I am saying? Our children grow up, start working get married and start leading their own lives. They may or may not seek your advice. But are we able to handle this and remain away from suggesting a few things to them? My son got married before both of them were 25 years of age. We had sent them a formal email, even in those days. We said in the mail, “Now that both of you have crossed the age of 25, we feel that you have matured well. In future, we will not give you any unsolicited advice. Now that you are gaining your world view, we may seek some suggestions from you, if it is ok with you!” In this way, we expressed that our भातुकली was over as far as they were concerned. We have continued to follow the method we had suggested, and I feel that it is a great success.

Each person or a couple gets their own experience in life, once they start their life. I had mentioned in one of my blogs about concentric circle theory about our lives.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/16th-august-1995-to-23rd-september-2018/

We begin in a circle with our parents. Once we marry, our parents go in the outer circle. If and when children are born they come in our inner circle. Children create their circle when they marry, and we go in the outer circle. So life goes on! Shifting to outer circle is a changing point in our lives, that is when our भातुकली should taper off and over as early as possible. We should create our new circles and life will go on!

Each generation has their way of living life. No two generations live the same experience. How many of us can switch our thoughts 100% to the modern times? If we can’t do it then is it not our way of thinking that we are carrying forward as baggage? How does this baggage help us? If we do not interfere in our children’s affairs, the worst thing that can happen is they might get a setback, but they will learn from mistakes. We also had our setbacks when we were young. The current young generation is a bit lucky that some of us were in similar fields as them, during our working days. We never had that advantage.

At some stage, we need to a take a call about the storage of unused but perfectly usable stuff that we have at home. Give things away to whoever wants, your children or maybe some needy people. I am sure your cellar is full of them. Let the needy enjoy things. Your children may want them for emotional reasons. In many homes, children live in distant countries and have spent half their life abroad. What relevance will an old study table have to them? Do they need your भातुकली? Do they have a connection to even modern homes or cars we may have?

While writing this blog, I thought about Wordsworth’s poem “My heart leaps up when I see the rainbow in the sky” has a line, “The child is the father of the man”! One of the meanings of this line is

  • The exact nature of a person doesn’t change with time or age.
  • The conduct of a child indicates what he will become when he grows up.

These two meanings of the line are clear but why is the human not able to withdraw from his भातुकली as he grows older. Girls do it beautifully while play acting. Does it mean that Wordsworth misjudged human nature? I am sure that Wordsworth must have suggested this to be a general statement, but a substantial percentage of people are not able to practice what they did so well in the childhood!

I feel that it makes sense to be practical about our life. After a certain age, when HIS call will come for us to shut our भातुकली, we do not know! Why not make it easy for others by winding down in time?

Musings-The Life’s ways!

When you are in semi-retirement or retirement phase, you have time to look at the world with open eyes, ears and mind. Jaya and I take our grand-daughter Rhea for gymnastics training. We take our car to drop her. The lane where we go is narrow; last week the road was dug for pipeline work. Only God knows when it will back to its original condition! There are ups and downs and parking the car has become very difficult. Hence we take an auto-rickshaw to pick her up. While Jaya goes inside to pick up Rhea, I sit in the auto chatting with drivers. These chats give me a lot of insight into the life of different people.

Today’s driver had taken training as a Millwright fitter. He had worked in factories like Ruston & Hornsby and Cummins diesel. His general knowledge was quite good. I asked him why he did not continue with his regular jobs. He said that there was no one to guide him in his younger days, he is now around fifty. He wanted to become an actor and was a part of a troupe performing street shows. He never took his day jobs sincerely and lost them. If he had continued working in Cummins, he would have found himself comfortably settled, financially. But wrong decisions led him on a path of no return. Here he is now driving an auto-rickshaw to earn his living. He knew a lot about how actors had struggled in the film industry and art in general. I would have been happier if I had met him under different circumstances, where he had succeeded in his acting career. But I also found that he was not bitter about it. He was philosophical, “I am aware that only one ten thousand have reasonable success. In my case, it was not to be.” He said that their troupe continues to perform street shows for social causes.

A few days back, I met another guy. We had taken an auto and went about five meters. The auto guy had some issue, so we asked him to terminate the trip. This other guy was just behind us and immediately stopped. He said, “Please hop in, I will take you where ever you are going!” We sat in his auto and started our short journey. He said that he does not like when the auto guys refuse the fare while moving around with “On Hire” meter! He looked quite polished and chatty. I was trying to gauge his background. He said, “I only drive the auto between six pm and ten pm.”

Before I could ask him, he said that he had a day job in Pune Water Works. I thought maybe he works as stores clerk or in some such administrative position. He said, “Sir, I have done my M Sc in analytical chemistry. I work in the Lab where we keep on checking the chemistry of the city water supply.” I was pleasantly surprised. Before I could ask him why he was driving an auto in the evening, he said, “I am still unmarried. I have come from a background where most of my family and friends are not much educated. They while away their time during the day and in the evenings doing nothing. Auto driving keeps me busy, and I get to meet people like you!” I asked him, “What is so special about me? How do you know what I have done in my life?” Promptly came the reply, “ The way you were curious about my life, the way you were asking questions, I was sure you had done a lot of things in life! You were asking the questions with a lot of empathy. In my day to day life, nobody talks to me the way you did.” He thanked both of us profusely for the interaction.

These two people were not run of the mill auto-rikshaw drivers. They had something different in their DNA. The older one had the clarity that it was too late in his life for any change to take place. But still, he mentioned that he had decided to ply the auto to the best of abilities. The younger was a real gem, and I hope he continues to do better in his day job. From the ten minute talk I had with him, I felt that he was sincere; he was hard working. I hope that destiny will pull him out of his current strata and give his traits justice.

Friends, you need to put your apprehensions away and take the opportunity to speak with unknown people. You may not meet them in your life again, ever. You can get priceless information from them. You can know about their aspirations, you may find a person who wanted to become an actor but failed. Still, he did not show bitterness. But one thing I realised that even though his acting career failed, he continued with his passion for acting. I sincerely hope that at the least young man’s dreams will be fulfilled.

In the year 1973, I joined the industry as a trainee along with two of my friends. We were all Metallurgists by training. I had done my Masters too! (But to be honest, we had zero knowledge of the real world) For the first couple of years, we worked in non-ferrous foundry section. We had a guy called Sakharam Gund, he was leading the pack of workers. He had worked in this foundry for five years and had reasonable, practical knowledge. We always took his help to learn the ropes. Our works manager generally had an attitude that we had to learn things on our own! We came very close to Sakharam during that period. One day Gund’s father expired. He lived nearby. We went to meet him. We sat with him for fifteen-twenty minutes. As we were about to take his leave, he said, “Sir, you have come to our house for the first time, and I don’t know if you will ever come again. Please have some tea.” It was very embarrassing. The body was still in the house! Under these trying circumstances, we drank tea to honour his request; it also showed his love! We had met on a personal level for the first time!

People express their feelings about you in different ways. These are small gestures done subtly! In my thinking, I would have never have offered tea in similar circumstances. But when Gund offered tea, I had to think out of the box and accept his love! To me, everything else is immaterial other than the respect and love for each other. I distinctly remembered this incident which had trained me for my future about interpersonal relationship! Life goes on, but it is the people that matter!

Death Rituals Revisited!

Hinduism and for that matter, the human race has been full of rituals. But the event of death is handled by humanity in many ways. Birth and death are two things common to humankind, irrespective of caste, creed and religion. We are following same rituals which have started thousands of years back. The birth rituals do not seem to be elaborate compared to death rituals. Why is it so? Even with modern scientific knowledge, we only know about the science part of the death process. But we do not understand the moral component, the dilemma of handling the death of loved ones. What happens after death? Is death good, bad or evil?  

One thing is for sure; death is an irreversible event that we cannot change, we cannot get the dead person back among us. Humans have different views about what happens after death. There are various stages in the rituals followed. Rituals probably start with the actual passing of a person. In modern times, some people donate their whole body to research. Some offer their organs which can be used by the needy. I am not sure what rituals take place when the entire human body is donated. But when the person gives away organs like the eyes, the medical procedure gets precedence over the rituals. Another change that I have seen in recent times is that we perform some rituals at home. So when we take the body to the cremation ground, no pooja is performed. We put the body directly for the cremation.  

Some Hindu organisations have modified the rituals to suit the modern times. These organisations want the family to understand what the procedures are. The priests explain these procedures to the family and the near ones. But all these rituals are not so elaborate compared to what we follow in old rituals.  

From olden times the 13th day after death has been crucial for Hindus. This day marks the end of the mourning period. The ceremonial feast marks the end of the mourning period by inviting family and close ones. This meal is an excellent way of trying to come back to normal after a death. After lunch, the guests are expected to give a small gift to the hosts — good idea of continuing with normal life.  

The younger generation does not prefer even this semi-modern ritual. This generation feels that this method is not ok. I discussed this with a young couple, who thought that all this was unnecessary. The couple had attended one such ceremony. The priest chanted the shlokas, the mantras, the hymns in Sanskrit, translated it in Marathi during the explanation where necessary. More than 50% of people present were not involved in the proceedings. The venue selection also added to non-involvement, as the peaceful atmosphere was absent.  

I always have questions in mind about all these rituals. I tend towards being an atheist, but I respect other people’s views too! There is no doubt that death is a sad event or I can say that it is not a happy event. But should the passing away be treated as something evil? When death occurs at a young age (There can be a difference of opinion about the word young), or I can say out of turn death, there is a shock, awe at the event! It becomes tough for all to accept such deaths. Under these circumstances coming back to normalcy can be tough but as usual, there is no option! Such deaths are painful to take. Others will find it difficult to tell the family of the dead person to overcome their sorrows; others will accept them for trying to find solace in some rituals. Ultimately everybody concedes such deaths as destiny. 

But when death occurs at an acceptable age, (Ok, Ok what is acceptable?) situations should be handled differently. Current average age at the time of death in India is around 67; with this reference, if the death occurs past 80, that should be acceptable. Everybody is going to die at some stage. So if death happens while the person is not bed-ridden, or if the person has had no long, painful years of illness, death should be celebrated! In certain parts of England, death beyond 80 years under the circumstances mentioned above, is observed formally as an event for celebration. It is called Golden Death party. 

I am not talking about aping the west, but why not celebrate such deaths?  Writer and Editor Dilip Padgaonkar’s family threw a party to family and friends, after his death, as per wishes of Dilip. In the party, food and alcohol loved by Dilip were flowing. Changes are happening in society, but they are very slow. The number of people taking part in such changes is minuscule, considering our population.   

From my discussions with people, and what I read, the traditional rituals are performed because, well they are being conducted all these years. The old methods of rituals need three to four days to be completed. In olden days, everybody had enough time. Going to work or office did not consume much time. Hence the rituals were elaborate and time-consuming.

In most cases, people performed rituals out of fear. Society looked at death as evil, an impure happening. If a cause of death was a contagious disease then considering death as polluted was understandable, though the description is incorrect. Hygiene standards in olden days were poor; these poor standards were the cause of contagious diseases. People performed many purification rituals (even today these are followed). I remember the death of a 74-year-old person who died a natural death. He was a non-believer. His family cremated him as per his wishes; cremation did not involve religious stuff. Nobody expected major rituals on the 13th day. When we got an invite to the 13th-day event, we had a surprise in store. They have two homes, one his bungalow and other his family home. The family performed the same ritual called “Shant”, twice. One at each house. When we checked the reason for the change, they performed the rituals because marriage was supposed to take place in the family at a later date. The evil in the form of death had visited their home; hence the residences were “purified”. Are we in the 18th Century? The family is supposedly highly educated.  

In today’s newspaper, I read a piece of exciting news. I am always excited when humans go away from rituals in which they don’t believe. A couple did a very noble deed. The husband lost his father due to old age. The couple calculated the cost of all the rituals. They arrived at a figure of Rs fifty thousand. They donated a much-needed hot water solar system to a residential school. Kudos Sir! The couple is from a small town, and we cannot describe them as a modern couple. Such people are showing the way to society. 

Friends, don’t become only outwardly modern. Change internally, follow your instincts. Look at the whole thing from wastage point of view. In various rituals Hindus perform यज्ञ; they sacrifice multiple items to the fire God. Every year millions die. We sacrifice many things like Ghee, Oil. These things are a total waste. We have a lot of people who do not get sufficient food regularly. People should donate the wasted food to the needy. Is the wastage of such priceless resources done because of fear? Is it justified?