Dance of the Seven Veils! 

Below is a poem by Oscar Wilde; reading the poem, brought out a flurry of thoughts in me.

She freed and floated on the air her arms

Above dim veils that hid her bosom’s charms…

The veils fell round her like thin coiling mists

Shot through by topaz suns and amethysts.

I read, the term of the title, when I was reading a book, where the recovery of a 22-year man was being discussed, after a significant accident. When asked by the father of the man, when his son will be discharged, the doctor said, with a smile, that before his discharge he is likely to be thrown out of the hospital. Father said, looking at a beautiful nurse, “Dance of the Seven Veils”.

The “Dance of the Seven Veils” is Salome‘s dance performed before Herod II. It is an elaboration on the biblical story of the execution of John the Baptist, which refers to Salome dancing before the king, but does not give the dance a name.

This term stuck into my mind, and I did a bit of research to understand the thoughts behind the same. I found the evolution of the term very interesting. Somewhere the term Dance of the Seven Veils was attributed to Oscar Wilde, based on the above poem, and he is supposedly the father of modern strip-tease dance! Wow, people’s imagination runs wild!

It is noteworthy that renowned actress Rita Hayworth did a strip-tease in the film Salome.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBKvfyEYFVk&w=854&h=480

What is the reference to “seven veils”? It is the number of layers of clothing worn by women and removed erotically while dancing. It’s an act which is sensual if performed in the right spirit, but it usually will be an erotic act. I had seen an act similar to this when we went to Dubai almost a decade ago. After the desert safari, there was dinner and dance show. Dinner was superb, and belly dance was sensual as well as erotic!

As usual, when I came back to the real world, instead of the dance of the lady, different thoughts started whirling around in my mind. They were of course about humans, my favourite topic. The human mind is veiled in many layers. The more you think you know an individual, the lesser you know them. The veils slowly start coming down or get thrown off, once you get to know them better. Of course, this is not true about all humans. But there are some complex people, and more you interact with them, you feel that you know them even lesser! Their persona is shrouded in veils, in some cases 3 to 4 deep but in some cases this numbers we will never know, probably like an infinite number of saris Lord Krishna provided to Draupadi, while she was being stripped by Dushasana.

Some appear dominant personalities but after you get to know them, and once the veils start dropping, you may find that there is a super soft human beneath. A Person will be strong from outside appearances, but their inside is a treat. Examples of Coconut fits such persons exactly. A coconut may fall from a tall tree but will hardly be damaged due to the hard outer layer. Remove that outer layer; there is still some bushy covering. Remove the bushy covering, and you will again come across a hard shell. Look at the beauty of nature’s design. Once we break open the hard inner shell, you get the best natural water full of different minerals, and of course the coconut, the white fleshy part of the fruit!

Some are like Mangoes; peel them and start eating them! But be careful inside there is a hardcore! Look at Jackfruit. Its outer skin is sharp to handle, but on pealing, you will get the choicest fruit. Again, inside the fruit, you get semi-hardcore. This core can be boiled in salty water, peel its hard, thin shell and yet it can be eaten — very useful but complex variety.

The human mind is complicated, but then it’s His design! Add to this one more degree of complexity, Gender, man or a woman! I don’t how many layers of complications get added when we consider women! Or is it that a man does not understand the gender complexity? Friends, the way we can never understand His ways, we will never understand the human mind. Veils after veils will get exposed one under another! In “The Dance of the Seven Veils”, if all seven veils are removed we hope to see the see “real” thing! But in the case of the human mind, it is tough to predict when we will see the “real” thing! In the meanwhile, in the lighter vein, send me your comments about Rita Hayworth’s dance!

Wish I were better…

Our son Sachin is older than our daughter Priya by 11 years. We used to have very interesting discussions on our dining table. Priya was in first grade and Sachin was in college. He would tell stories or share anecdotes of happenings in the college. The moment Sachin finished, Priya would start with “This is what happened in my school today!” She would then narrate something, of course imaginary, what happened with Dilip or Meena or whoever were her friends. Initially we would try to tell her not to spin stories. She would not stop but continue! Then we realized that it was her urge to take part in conversation and not feel left out. In retrospection, I felt that she developed the skills to narrate anecdotes as well as an ability of story telling, which is essential in life.

As I look back in life, I realized that people who were brought up in homes and families which were so called socially challenged, must have faced trauma, as life must have been difficult. In childhood, the child has no inhibitions. The child is bold and open minded, if allowed. But when there are challenges in life, healthy discussion is not a priority because the parents themselves never got such an opportunity and would suppress the urge in children. I was brought up in a family where openness was the norm. I luckily could convert this advantage in becoming, hopefully, a good individual! Jury is still out!

The effects of suppressed upbringing last a lifetime, with a few honourable exceptions. What would be the effects of suppression? One important effect would be even a successful individual with tough background, may always feel the need to check if they have done better than their peers! A good painter may keep on comparing with others. Am I good enough? A good writer may keep comparing with peers. Am I better than so and so? He may add a few spins to his writing, like Priya did in her childhood, to make it noteworthy. Classic example is recent gaffe by Arnab Goswami, when he claimed that he was physically present during an event during Godhra riots, in Gujrat. The event did occur but his colleague  Rajdeep Sardesai was physically present and not Arnab.

I read recently that actor Nawazuddin Siddiquie’s wife slammed him for writing false things about himself in discussion about their broken marriage. Since I don’t know him, I can’t comment on what type of person he is. But is it some trauma in his growing up stage that caused him to make false claims? I can’t say.

How does an individual overcome such issues? How does he stop making false claims? How does he overcome the habit of deceitful expressions? Only way to do it is to take help of friends or anyone who will help. Second way  is to try and forget the traumas of the childhood but it is easier said than done. When I wrote about writer above, if writing is his profession then he may attempt deceit but one need not do it if he is a professional in different field and writing is his hobby! In a hobby there is nothing to prove!

Finally, I will narrate a story about a very young daughter of our maid servant, who used to come to play with Priya, when she was young. Their family unfortunately came from a financially challenged background. While playing with Priya, she would tell stories of how they had many gadgets at home, how she had different toys to play at home and so on. One day I was sitting in the same room as they were. I heard her speak and my eyes moistened with sadness because I knew her background. I pray to God nobody is required to become a spin doctor to overcome  trauma of their childhood! Or teach us all to accept things as they are!

Your Final Ledger with HIM!  

A couple of days back, on one of our WhatsApp groups, a friend sent a forward about death of a person who was described as industrialist, businessman, philanthropist and everything possible. Paeans of praise were being heaped upon the person. I knew about this person. I wanted to understand my friend’s views about this person hence I wrote, saying “I would like to know the business that person was in!” My friend did not reply for a couple of days. When I reminded him, he was angry and said a few things about me, in parliamentary correct language. In huff he left the group. Poor me! I was inconsolable! 

The departed soul had started his life with a small business in tobacco and beedies, his family business. Later on, he graduated in to creating new tobacco based product, to which people got addicted very swiftly. This product after many years was banned by the Government. He has a huge factory near Pune but there was not a single board indicating what they manufactured! Why was this so, I never understood. One should be proud the product that you are making or marketing! If you are not then… 

With this background you will realize why my friend was angry and upset! 

Another friend Mukund shared with me a couple of stories. His uncle was Jail in-charge. In childhood, Mukund would visit his uncle during school holidays. Uncle had servants working for him. His uncle said that servants were all convicts who were in jail for long term. His uncle found it convenient as he could use them for longer period. Practical solution! They were normal people who in fit of anger had done an act of killing or seriously injuring someone. In due course they were sentenced; most of them were remorseful and repenting of what they had done. But unfortunately, in HIS ledger the debit entry against their name was ahead of all credits.  

Mukund shared another story of a Don! This Don was in Robinhood mold and would help needy. But his main reason for being in jail was kidnapping, murder and so on. Now the question arose, is Robinhood act above what he has done?  

There are deeds which people do where they break the law; some acts are done which don’t break the law but are as bad or worse than the acts in which laws are broken. How should these people be judged? What we discussed about the industrialist is definitely a big deal and have to be dealt morally. If one’s products are known to cause cancer, that organization and person will not be condoned by HIM! Their ledger with HIM will be in negative, always, whatever good deeds are done by such people, with money earned from immoral activity. What good is a hospital built with such money?  

Another issue, that comes to mind is about people, like my friend, who are praising industrialist’s good deeds, and get angry when asked about his real deeds! What was the reason for my friend to get angry? Does it mean that people like my friend agree to the deeds of such people? Why do newspapers write only about the good deeds and not about the main deeds? Is it to make sure that their advertisement revenue stream does not get affected? Those whose streams were not affected, reported in details about the products manufactured by the industrialist and actions taken by Government, recently. Why give only selective information about the departed soul? Why hide the fact that he was heading the organization which manufactured controversial products?  What is the job of the press? To hide unpalatable and unsuitable stuff?  

To conclude, I will say that whatever we do in this world, we should try to do our best not to break laws of the land. System will handle you if you cross the line. Similarly, one should not break HIS laws, which in earth’s language, are called moral laws. In this case, HE will take handle you! HE has our ledger with him, is it not? Once you start breaking the moral laws, these laws cross path at some stage with the law of the land! So, you will be punished either on earth or in final resting place!  

Transient State of Life!

I wrote a blog about Indices of Life and tried to analyze how we can define our status in life and our well-being. However, a friend Jay felt that we cannot define this so easily, as life is much more complex than the way I have tried to analyze it. Yes, it is not only complex but various states discussed are transient. When I said that if the sum total of life’s indices is nearer to 30, the highest number as per my definition, that number is over a period. It is not an absolute number and is transient like our life. The aim of Indices blog was to analyze all things in one basket at my today’s age and find where I stand. In this blog, I am trying to review,  at what stage I got the “feel” of the various indices.

Till the age of 20 only two Indices come into picture Happiness and Sadness but I somehow remember that Empathy was peeping out from the age of 10 or 12! Empathy probably is not so much related to age, as we think. I remember an event, I had gone for lunch at a family function. One kid from our family, all of ten years old, was standing at the counter with the serving staff. He was handing over the plates to each guest; with everyone he would make appropriate conversation! Pramodji make sure you will have Rasmalai, you will love it. Jayaji make sure that you don’t eat that so and so subji, it’s a bit too hot for your taste! He was talking with each guest appropriate things and let me tell you there were about 200 guests! Imagine a ten-year-old kid waiting, doing this for almost an hour and a half! He could do it only because he had tenderness, kindness and sensitivity within him, which is the hallmark of a person with Empathy. He has taken up  dentistry course now and I am sure he will be a great doctor, with 6.0 in empathy index!

Around the age of 30, I started my own business. In the initial phase of business everything was new to me. During that phase there were many friends who gave me orders just because I was Pramod! I started getting the feel of gratitude as well as humility. I am sharing one experience with you because it happened with a stranger! I was given a big order by a friend of mine working in a large organization. He specifically told me that he will place an order on me which will benefit his organization by about 15%. The item that I was to supply was a hardware item, it was not in my normal business lines. But my friend said, “Pramod, you supply for three months, the original vendor will fall in line during that time, and reduce rates drastically; Pramod you won’t ever be able to match the new rate”. That was my friends aim! So far so good! I went to the market and randomly went to a shop and met the owner, who was an experienced old man. He offered me tea; I explained to him my requirement; the rate he quoted was more than our Purchase Order rate. He smiled when he looked at my face. When I told him the quantity, he reduced the rate drastically. I smiled but again there was a problem. I did not have money to pay advance. When I told him the problem, he said I know that young man! But I believe in you. You pay me the day you get money from your customer! This incident activated the feelings of gratitude and humility in me. The owner also told me that these are my baby steps in the world of business and he felt that I would do ok in business. He said that my personality is that of an honest human being! Over a period, I meandered into different things in life, but this incident started thoughts about gratitude and humility in my mind!

In next ten years, I needed to adapt to various changes that were taking place and I developed an attitude to learn and use new things and techniques. Even though my Master’s Degree was in Metallurgical engineering, I ended up running my own software business. This was the result of  combination of attitude, adaptability and agility. Probably by another five years or so current persona had evolved in me and then remained stable. I did go through a major medical treatment when I was treated for cancer about four years back. But with my stable persona, I could take it in the right spirit and handle it as if was just one more serious incident in life!

Friends I started with a theoretical definition of life’s indices in my last blog and ended up finding how I evolved over a period. This is another self-analysis going into some  details of life, of my own experiences, and the things that I observed during the journey! I am sure you will also attempt to visualize the same and realize how fascinating our life’s journey is!

Life’s Indexes !

The other day after I woke up, I sat in our balcony enjoying lovely weather. I was wondering what kind of life I have lived. I came to a conclusion that I have lived a reasonably happy contented life. I was wondering why do I think the way I am thinking. Life’s journey starts with birth and ends with the death. The quality of life that we live, depends on the value of various indices in our lives. What is the Life’s index ?  

Life’s index is my term and  I thought why not define my own indices in life? I am grading them 0 to 6, from worst to the best. I have chosen the scale of 0 to 6 because I have chosen six indices. Total of 30 will be the best and –6 will be the worst because while adding I am going to deduct sadness index!  It is equally important to give different weightage to each index according to my judgment how important each index is! I am not going into a complex weighted average based formula, as I don’t want this blog to be mathematical treaties! These indices depend on good things, bad things, exciting things and boring things that happen during the journey of life. The whole journey ultimately depends on sum total of various values that can be assigned to indices. Some of these indices are not in our control and some are in our control. We can “handle” those in our control and we have to “manage” those which are not in our control. I think that the way we feel, is a combination of various factors. In our lives, only one event or one person does not decide the feeling of fulfillment.  

Which are these indices? Happiness, Gratitude, Humility, Attitude, Sadness and Empathy are the indices that we will consider; there are many more indices that we can look into. But we will consider only these indices. It is not the index value in our life that is important, but index values in lives of others from our ecosystem, are equally important. Happiness and Sadness are two indices that are dependent on the ecosystem. If a person is sad because of ill health, the spouse also will be sad. Similarly happiness is also a shared index. But other four indices are totally independent of environment, you and only you are responsible for the performance of these indices.

Let us start with happiness! Happiness and Sadness complement each, so I thought it will be a good idea to club them together. Happiness index and Sadness index directly decide our good life, when Happiness index is a plus sum game! But happiness does not really depend on any specific thing or event because it is the state of mind. Sadness can be due to specific events like deaths or major events like financial loss. Whereas births are specific events that give us joy and happiness. Other than such external events, everything is controllable. To make the sum of happiness and sadness index positive,  is in our hands! My weightage is 15% to each of these indexes. 

Second index is Gratitude index! Humans are generally good in nature and do things for each other! But how many of them display the gratitude, I am not really sure. You don’t need to express gratification in words but actions can show gratitude. It is not necessarily about something very big but we should always show gratitude especially about things very small . The workers who do the job of taking away trash, those who do the job of cleaning washrooms, those who clean the floors! These are not fancy jobs which everyone wants to do. But people do these jobs. We need to show gratitude to such people who are silently working in background. Of course, we should be gratified that HE has brought us in this lovely world. My weightage is 15% for Gratitude Index! 

Humility index is equally important index, especially from the persons who have succeeded in life, have reached pinnacle in their career. Any person’s success is due to support of colleagues, team and many others in background. Humility shown by successful persons brings a special aura to their persona! Persons who do not show humility may be respected but not out of love. Those who display humility will be both respected and loved! Such person’s team will go out of their way to support them. Person showing humility is always a couple of steps ahead in life’s respect ladder! My weightage for humility index will be 20%. 

Attitude includes openness, adaptability, accepting new things and courage of convictions.  This type of attitude gives satisfaction in life. In the world, things change very fast and if one does not have right attitude to adaptability and/or accepting new things, person may not be successful in whatever work is being done. This can lead to less happiness and /or  increase sadness. My weightage for Attitude is 10%. 

Last but not the least is empathy. Empathy plays a major role in our lives. An empathizer will always look at every situation with correct attitude. Do not mix up empathy with sympathy! In a tough situation, say of worker’s strike, decision has to be taken with empathy! Nobody expects sympathy! If one has the ability to understand worker’s issue, solution will always be just! Person with empathy always handles life’s situations in a smooth manner without disturbing the feathers!  To me weightage for empathy is maximum, 25%. 

Where am I on the index scale of 30? Maybe around 24 to 25! I am not really sure! I have written the blog but I have not seriously analyzed myself! But if the figures above are my correct analysis then I would like the figure to be near 27 to 28!  Where are you my friends on this scale? 

 

 

 

Pet the Whale!

When I heard Joel Sartore say, “Pet the Whale”, while giving a lecture on whales photography, I honestly did not understand the meaning of the line. Meaning of Pet is “stroke or pat (an animal) affectionately”. But when he explained it, I understood the real meaning of the same. In fact I understood the meaning of life in that one sentence. He is an expert photographer with many contributions in magazines like National Geographic! His job and profession is to take photographs. He was explaining about an expedition where other people were also there. These people were on the expedition to see the whales from close quarters! Sartore continued with his job of taking photographs. Others also started taking videos, photos of the whales. When they came back to the shore, our friend asked the whale watchers, “Did you pet the whale?” All said,” No, we were busy taking photos and videos!” This is where they lost the plot. They had gone to watch whales from close quarters, and even to touch the whales if they came close enough. Whales did come near the boat where people could have patted or touched the whales. That was once in a lifetime opportunity. Our friends kept themselves busy taking photos and videos, and lost a great opportunity!

Many times we take such approach to life. Instead of absorbing the particular moment of enjoyment or glory, we tend to do things which could have been done later or need not have been done. Whale watching group had a golden opportunity to see the whales from close quarters and maybe even pet the whale, touch the whale. But they lost such a great opportunity in view of the posterity, to have photos and videos! We sometimes miss out in judging what is more valuable.

In another incident  Sartore and his wife had decided that they will share the experience of their first child’s birth. He was in the labour room for the event but photographer in him took precedence. Instead of sharing the experience, with doctor’s permission he started clicking away. At the end of the event he rethought the whole thing. The great joy of sharing the experience of the birth of the child was lost! For their second child he took only one photo of the new child!

Our engineering college had a boat club. One of our friends was so competitive that his thoughts were always about racing and beating everyone, whichever boat he used. Competitive spirit is good but there are other joys of boating, singing, doing picnics or taking girls for moonlight boating! The atmosphere at the boat club was fantastic but our friend could never enjoy and soak himself in the atmosphere! 

With advent of technology we have formed groups of friends from alumni, office, colony and others on WhatsApp. The idea of these groups is to share with each other some interesting things and exchange views and ideas. But this never happens and most cases the plot is lost to  forwards that are sent. These forwards are on all the subjects in the world from magical remedies to cure cancer, how our ancestors had more knowledge than google and recipes for saving India from bad old enemies. The basic idea is that from our houses, where ever they are, we should be able to chat instead of face to face discussion. But where have we reached? If used well this tool could be really fun but… 

With the advent of camera in cell phones in last 10 years, people have lost the urge of enjoying life in the conventional sense! When young or old people go for holidays, for parties, for picnics, main thing they want to do is take photos or selfies instead of soaking themselves in whatever they are doing! Selfie shooting has turned into a dangerous game because people get so much involved, that some have fallen to death in the sea or from the mountains. Why has this happened? What is the big deal in selfies? The idea of soaking into atmosphere is becoming foreign to people. Their need to share on WhatsApp and Facebook whatever they are doing, is much stronger than the real enjoyment! 

What is the solution? When we go out for food, enjoy the food and ambience and people. When lovers meet don’t look into own cell phone screens! Life is beautiful  if you look into each other’s eyes. When you go for a walk, listen to chirping of birds and watch Sun rising from behind the hills. The headphones in your ears block this chirping! While talking on phone during morning walk, you will miss out on Sunrise! Last two years, I have been lucky. First heavy showers of the monsoon came during my morning walk. I literally soaked in the rain, no pun intended! I saw a few young people trying to stand in the shade or using an umbrella! They missed out on life’s small but important pleasures. Folks, do the things  like enjoying the picnic, dancing in the disco, meeting old friends! For such joys of the life the whole path you travel is important not something that you catch up in the camera!   

 

 

Life’s Station or Status!

Yesterday during Diwali celebrations and chit chat, a very interesting subject suddenly came up for discussion. The discussion became hotter than heat generated by Diwali crackers. Situ told a story of a lady doctor who married a plumber, in America. He also said that such events are pretty regular in foreign countries. He further said that in foreign countries like the US, the social fabric is such that people from different professions in life can be close friends. I said that this a rare case even in America . Jaya and Ashwini were pro this and I was against this thought process. I said that there are two points we are discussing simultaneously and mixing them. One is the respect given to professions/professionals and the other is social friendships, getting married as mentioned about the doctor’s marriage.

My point is that in India, there is no respect given to professions other than the engineers, doctors, pilots, architects and in certain professions. Our society does not give respect to technicians or artisans like carpenters, plumbers, lock smiths and so on. In fact such professions are treated as “lowly”, unfortunately. In foreign countries these trades are definitely respected. But the point being disputed was when it comes to the social status or a social station of these people, will they be treated equally in one’s mind? Will a top notch brain surgeon be a friend of an electrician?  It may so happen that they were classmates in school/college. A small percentage, very small one, will continue to be friends but as a norm this does not happen in real life! Let’s be honest! Utopian thinking says that this happens but will a guy living on Malabar Hills in Mumbai be weekly drink mate of a guy living in Virar or Kalyan! These names written by me are for explanation, please do not take this as my opinion.

Let us look at the background in India, the oldest civilization! There were four Varnas described in Hinduism.

  • Brahmins: priests, scholars and teachers.
  • Kshatriyas: rulers, warriors and administrators.
  • Vaishyas: agriculturalists and merchants.
  • Shudras: laborers and service providers.

These are called savarnas and are supposedly forward classes; remaining are tribes and scheduled tribes are avarnas, with no Varnas and are supposedly backward classes. These are not to be mixed up with Jatis or Castes. With this separation in India for thousands of years, the so called discrimination always happened discretely and many times not so discretely. Does this happen in foreign countries? My opinion is it happens but mostly discretely. To give example of British royalty, Queen Elizabeth’s sister Margaret, fell love with Snowden, a commoner and a photographer. Well, the family was graceful in allowing the marriage (there was no honour killing the way we have in India!) but Snowden was made Lord Snowden. How can Margaret’s husband be a commoner? This is how the discretion was resolved!

World over, there are different types of discretions and discriminations. In India, it is so ingrained in our blood, it’s embedded in our DNA. Coming back to subject of respect for courses or professions, it changes from region to region. It is the parents wish that the child gets well settled as early as possible, after education. In Maharashtra there have been many industries existing for a long time hence engineering course was a top runner. Doctors anyway are respected hence that was another course respected. But up north previously not many industries were around. Jobs were mostly available in government, so there the aim was to a take a basic degree and appear for competitive examinations.

A person’s success is measured by where the person reaches on the ladder to success.  Utopian thinking says that someone is successful in life when one gets to do things in life that the person loves. People love to sing, dance, and paint, play instruments or become writers of travelogues. In their goal to achieve success what are the steps of the ladder made up of! Are steps made up of the quality, in what you are doing; are you the best in your field and are also commercially successful! But the world is not utopia, so my thinking tells me that people go by quality as well as commercial success. To give an example you may be doing quality stuff in what you are doing but you are not able to buy a car to move around. 99% people will say he is damn good but not successful. That my friends is a fact of life! In whatever you are doing longevity is also equally important. One song wonder or one movie wonders are never called successful and it is said that the person did not live up to the potential, which in other ways is unsuccessful. A person who is already “successful” in something and achieves moderate success in some other field is considered more successful than someone who has achieved more, only in the second field!

Coming back to our “hot” discussion that we had yesterday, in India there is a discrimination in the type of work a person is doing; they are respected as per hierarchy of professions which got defined over a period. At the same time, success of a person is dependent on how that person has commercially succeeded in field rather the quality that has been achieved. But in western countries there is a respect to ALL professionals irrespective of the profession. But the success of the person is still judged the same way as is done by us.

GST ground realities!

Some human emotions and reactions are excitement, frustration, ignorance, arguments! I never thought that GST, Goods and Services Tax, a drab subject will invoke so much of emotions. GST was implemented by Government of India effective from 1st July 2017. Before GST, the tax structure was extremely complicated and each state had its own tax rates and taxes. Doing business and managing tax compliance was an extremely complex thing with many different tax agencies, with many obstacles in doing business, it was almost like a hurdle race. I am not going to write about technicalities of implementation or real life details but about the human angle in GST implementation.

This change is supposed to be a game changer in the business ecosystem of India. GST was being planned since last ten years. But usual political lack of will, government change and horse trading delayed the implementation. First date declared for implementation was 1/10/2016 which was changed to 1/4/2017 then finally to 1/7/2017. Humans are of different types and the tendency in some is to crib about everything. On one side people said how can this government implement GST when they cannot even fix up the date of implementation! Though GST is being discussed for more than 10 years, when it really happened main refrain was “we were not given enough time”. How do you define enough time? Main preparation required for any business reform, other than infrastructure, is the change in mental setup. If you are mentally not ready, 20 years also will not be good enough time for getting ready!

All the big industry and many in trade have been under some tax regime all the time. Laws under excise regime were very strong but it was easier to play around in other tax types. Why do people avoid taxes? Is it with the noble cause of selling goods at a cheaper rate? No way! They do it basically to avoid showing the real volume of business they do, thereby saving on income tax. This is the so called parallel economy or cash economy. This is nothing new and it happens world over. When you have complex laws and equally complex systems, those who want to play around are happy because they can tweak the system and reach their ultimate goal, hide the real income. A friend Mahesh always used to say, “Pramod excise is the best thing that has happened to India.” Mahesh headed a manufacturing organization. He would say, “These laws mandated people to complete their work every day, only because of fear of going to jail!” Many people will be sloppy if allowed and would not complete their daily! It is fear that mandated people to complete the work.

GST compared to previous tax regime before 1/7/2017, is a very simple system. It is addressing many demands of business groups about cascading effect of taxes, causing heavy/double taxation on end products and services. Tax levels all over India for same product are same, so are tax levels on services. When the government decided to go ahead with GST, it was required to fix tax rates for each item based on available information, knowledge and discussions with trade and business groups. With such a large exercise there can never be 100% acceptance and there are bound to be changes over a period, and modifications made on the fly. The affected groups were bound to be unhappy and made a lot of noise! Authorities listened to most but some demands were unreasonable, so government ignored them. Human learns from birth that if you cry loudly mother will give you milk. These people are crying loudly to grab attention. The implementation phase saw cribbing at its best!

In some cases, there were errors and flaws which were not corrected even on approaching helplines, writing to right authorities and making genuine attempts. There were no resolutions coming, initially. This is a small group of businesses and these are the groups that are bound make maximum noise, in some cases justifiable. There were interpretation errors by consultants which resulted in chaos. But there are some groups who on one side say that GST is the best thing that has happened to India but and in the same breath say that it is a draconian system! The system has just started  since last ¾ months. How draconian nature of system can be viewed or experienced by these people in such a short period? I doubt that other than non-resolution of their queries there is hardly any interaction with government agencies. Government is already publishing advertisements in newpapers showing FAQ’s for various group of businesses. I get a feeling that GST system will make life difficult for those who want to avoid taxes, but nobody can openly say so! So beat the drums and trumpets against the system!

People tend to tell false stories to complain against the changes. One person claimed that he was required to spend Rs. 80000/ for getting his organization registered for GST. There are no fees for registration. Governments drive for digitalization requires digital signature during registration. This person claimed that Rs. 30000/ was spent for digital signature process. It is false, consultants charge Rs.1500/ to get this done. Digital signature is valid for two years! So real expense was Rs.1500/. On asking about Rs.50000/ expense he claimed that he could not take Rs.50000/ tax credit because of the delay. This is again false because he could easily have taken it had he registered on time, maybe he did not know the right procedure or his consultant was not competent. Such false stories are floated because of lack of knowledge. Throwing tantrums due to lack of knowledge pretty easy.

Humans don’t want a change, if it is possible, as per Newton’s law of inertia. They will make statements like “Change is the only constant!” But in real life change management needs new systems, processes, retraining and change in thought process. This needs leadership to encourage people to change. Absence of these things will create situation where it is easy to blame everything on GST! Government or GST is a faceless entity so it is very easy to make such a drama if you get an audience. Some people have reached very high in life’s station, but this does not mean that they have total knowledge about GST. In cocktail parties they will make “knowledgeable” statements. When they meet a person with knowledge they tend to drift to join another group for discussion!

I feel that by Diwali next year, these strong emotions, discussions, reactions will taper off. People will then start singing praise of GST as if the whole world is reformed by GST, it is only a change in tax system! People will get used to GST, Newton’s law of inertia will set in and discussions during next Diwali maybe about North Korean nuclear bomb!

[PP1]

Blog or an Article?

Blog is defined as a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group that is written in an informal or conversational style. And an article is a piece of writing included with others in a newspaper, magazine, or other publication.  I don’t publish anything in any newspaper but I publish all my writings on my BlogSpot panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com, so now I am in two minds when to call, what I write, a blog or an article. I simply publish when I think that I am ready with my stuff. These thoughts came to my mind because after my last blog “Traditionally speaking…” Jaya felt that it did not feel like a blog. Yes I had also felt the same thing when I published it. I did not want to express my deep thoughts or conflicts and concerns in my mind, on the subject of Tradition. But it was something I felt, I must write about. When any subject starts churning in my mind, the churning stops only when I write about it.

We can say that blog is like IT industry where most are on first name basis and things are pretty informal. Article is like Finance or Engineering industry with stiff upper lip! What is easier to write? I feel that article writing is easier for me to write, because it rarely contains deep thoughts, at least for me. It is woven around  major public events or a public figure. Whereas blogs are generally about small events in personal life. It’s really funny that major public events invoke dry, maybe indifferent, thought process in me. Whereas, a very small personal event invokes a major thought process deep in my mind. In both cases it is my own writing but treatment it gets from my mind is different or maybe even indifferent! End result is also different. Why does it happen that way?

I feel that blog and article are siblings from the same mould, who think different, look different. Siblings are born from same parent but their behavior or look is quite different. This made me think of various famous pairs that exist in the world. They are very significant in our lives because of the messages they send you and thoughts they generate in our mind.

First and foremost pair that comes to mind is “Adam & Eve”! This pair has supposedly started our world and have created the society as we know it today. None of the pairs can be as dissimilar but as tightly bound as Adam and Eve. This pair is very much alike in certain aspects but totally dissimilar in many others. They have supposedly come from Venus and Mars! They are very similar about loving their kids but are totally opposite in social behavior, just to give an example. What does this relation tell us about life? Persons having totally different nature, still can work together very closely and raise the most difficult product in the world, the family! Theirs is a relationship which can be ideal relationship in the sense they have their ups and downs but finally they reach their ultimate goal in spite of differences!

 Another pair is that of Rabbit and Tortoise from the childhood stories that we hear. They are obviously very different; look at the Rabbit looking swift and sharp and young. Tortoise looking steady, and mature. What message do they give; obvious message is slow and steady wins the race! But with time, many things have changed and along with that the interpretation has also changed. Now in the fast world that we live in, the saying is be fast and furious but also make sure that you don’t relent in what your goal is! Don’t go to sleep like the rabbit did, on the way to glory!

Sun and the Moon is another pair in the same mold. These two are celestial bodies formed millions of years ago but compliment each other. We say that it is  day when we can see the Sun, but it is not night every time we see the moon. They are a pair where Sun is the boss and the Moon reports to him. Sun always shines and Moon can shine only when Sun is not there. Moon has to always follow subordinates’ role but never minds to stay in background when Sun is around. Sun sometimes totally hides or overwhelms the Moon, during eclipse. But Moon keeps on doing its routine job, always. It never gets flustered with his job or with the Sun. Consistently doing your job without ever getting into limelight is what we learn from this pair!

Santaji and Dhanaji were two warriors from the time of Shivaji. They were brave, brilliant and were not afraid to die for their king! The enemies were so afraid of this pair that enemies could not sleep well. Even when the enemies were at the water holes for a drink, any slight unknown movement would cause panic in them and they would think that Santaji/Dhanaji have come. This would make them run helter-skelter! How did this happen? This pair was the epitome of loyalty, bravado of Shivaji’s sardars and made sure that enemy was under great fear all the time. These are the qualities that can be beneficial for all us. This also indicated the fruits of being excellent and focussed in ones field.

Friends from my confusion in deciding about my piece of writing, if it is a blog or an article, I ended up writing a blog about different pairs that we encounter in real world. I was able to extract the meaning of the existence of such and tried to analyze their relevance and importance. There are many such pairs like, Hitler & Mussolini, Gilchrist and Hall, Ramanathan Krishnan and Jaydeep Mukherjee. These are not necessarily “good” pairs!  These pairs are always complement each other as individuals and manage to change the equation 1 plus 1 is not 2 but 11!

 Oh! I ended up writing blog, that is for sure!

Traditionally speaking…

Tradition means a long-established custom or belief that has been passed on from one generation to another. This is a great thing that we humans do. Traditions have been formed and continued based on what we have been doing year after year. But what has now happened is that traditions and their real meaning, and their relevance getting is lost in translation. Many of the traditions started in olden times with a specific thought process which was relevant at that time, within the knowledge level of those times but we want to continue using them without thinking! We also know that technology is the boon given to human race by intelligence and hard work of various people. But in case of tradition sometimes technology is becoming a  bane, a cause of great distress or annoyance:

What I feel is that instead of using technology in the right way, it is being used in such a way that it is causing harm. Take the case of crackers. Supreme Court has recently come up with a directive not to burst crackers in Delhi region due to serious pollution issues. There is a big discussion and people are upset about “heavy handed” action against traditions. But a close look at the situation in that area will tell us that traditionally farmers burn their chaff, people burst crackers of Diwali and the air purity goes to an absolute toss! Chaff can be disposed off by using different methods but we don’t want to change the tradition! Instead of being adamant about traditions, people should come together find out ways and means to enhance the joy of traditions, by lighting lovely wick lamps or diyas! Light thousands of them and enjoy the beauty and serenity!

delhi_smog_1478513562325diyas

Bursting crackers and enjoying decorative lighting is part of celebration but crackers without much smoke and cacophony is the order of the day. In olden days what was the population size? How many people burst the crackers? There was no car pollution, there was no coal power plants pollution. With all these modern changes if millions start bursting crackers we have seen what has happened. On top of that people buy crackers which are tied up as 10000 fire cracker garland. With technology the bursting strength and sound has gone up by many decibels. On top of that smoke generated by 10000 crackers is enormous! In my childhood 60 years back I remember about 7/8 of us kids would burst about 80 crackers in one hour, one at a time! These garlands were never our tradition because they never existed. We are making wrong innovations in the right tradition.

10000crackers1

Take the case of Dassara festival. It is naturally celebrated with big fanfare with a lot of flowers, garlands new clothes, it is a total celebration. This is celebrated for nine days with gusto. People dance with gay abandon to celebrate different form of the Goddess on each day! They take out processions, all fine! Now comes the misuse of technology. Since last 20 years or so procession also has big bank of huge speakers generating god knows how many decibels. During such procession which used to pass by our home, we would close the windows tightly shut, even with the windows tightly shut we could not hear a single word on TV at full volume. Only option left to us was to call police. Then the speakers would be toned down to normal volume for 200 feet and then… of course they would go full blast!

Speakers

Sabarimala devasthanam in Kerala is a temple existing from 12th century. It is in a very remote area in hills of Kerala. From olden times due to remoteness and difficult terrain,  and no roads women have avoided to go there. This practice somehow turned into tradition and was surprisingly ratified by High Court in 1991 saying that women within age group of 15 & 50 i.e. their menstruating age should not enter the Mandir as they will desecrate it. Even today in the year 2017 this practice is followed. It is a great mercy on people that Supreme Court has taken up this issue and is reviewing it. Tradition! What tradition? It is well proven beyond doubt that women are equal to men in ALL fields in spite of their monthly difficulties and difficult times during child bearing. The official spokes person of the devsthananam had the gumption to say that, “If women mentioned in above age group were  allowed to enter, then it will turn into Thailand, the Sex Tourism spot!” It is really stretching things too far!  If there is a law that says that this practice be allowed, change the damn law!

sabarimala

High profile and fearless persons, especially ladies, have to face smear campaign if they speak something about overcoming wrong practices followed under the garb of tradition. Why not let the ladies join the funeral pyre as Sati? Why not make her sit away from everybody during that time? Thank god such stupid things are done away with. Traditional thinking still has not changed as can be seen from looking at the sex ratio many states in India, females are between 85 to 92% of male population. Illegal sex tests and abortion are still rampant though governments are trying to do their best. Why? Traditionally one must have at least one son! 

Let us take a vow that we all will break the so called traditions which were practices that are existing but cannot withstand today’s scrutiny of science, knowledge and analysis. It’s fine to write “Happy Diwali” instead of “शुभ दीपावली”. We learnt English in last 100 years but it’s blatantly ok to break such an old tradition. Of course I am joking, these are not traditions but a way of communicating with each other.

Let me tell a story how traditions start. In a place of worship, a priest used to take discourse once in week. Over a period the priest developed breathing difficulties. Then just before one discourse a cat came and sat near the place where the priest sat for his discourse. The priest used to love cats but once the crowd started arriving it would run away. Priest would request someone to get the cat back out of sheer love for the animal. A tradition started that if the cat is not there, no discourse. Later the priest was transferred to be replaced by another priest.

The new Priest started coughing and sneezing when the cat was brought but somehow managed to complete his discourse. He went to a doctor and was told that these bouts were probably because of the furry friend. From next time onwards, before the discourse could start the people thought that the cat needs to be shooed away but it was breaking tradition, so cat was allowed to hang in, with same results to the priest. Over a period tradition continued that discourse would not start without the cat and the priest suffered. Finally people realized that the cat had to go away and priests’ health improved. This priest was transferred and old priest came back…. Tradition?