Is this Popcorn or Caviar!

I went to the airport the other day to pick up my delayed bags. While coming back from airport, I again used Ola cab. There was a difference of Rs.35/ on the same trip, the return trip cost more. I checked the invoice and found that they had charged, airport pick-up charge. Ola and Uber both now have stands at the Pune airport. For this facility they pay yearly fees to the authorities. They are passing it on to the customers. At a time 8 to 10 cabs are always waiting at the airport!

The other day, we went to a multiplex to watch a movie! I did my booking on the website. Besides buying high priced tickets, I was charged convenience fees above the price of the tickets. I asked my young friends, who are savvy in such things! A friend suggested that we should use the website to check the tickets availability; if plenty of tickets are available, simply go the multiplex and buy the tickets. No convenience charges are applied.

So far so good. While watching the movie, we thought that we must follow the tradition and decided to eat popcorn, sandwiches and coke (diet of course!)  Popcorn was freshly made, sandwiches were ready to eat; probably made in the kitchen near the back office. Coke was from the fountain. None of the product sold were legally “packaged” food. “Packaged”  stuff under the law of MRP!  Non packaged products do not have MRP and there is no need to “declare” it price!

(MRP) Maximum Retail Price is a maximum price which can be charged to the consumers in India, as specified by the authority. Under the Consumer Goods (mandatory printing of date of Production and Maximum Retail Price) Act, 2006, consumers cannot be charged more than the MRP mentioned on the packing of the products.

When my card was charged I realized that there was not a single packaged item. Hence there was no MRP for whatever I bought. I realized that the multiplex owners must have had robbers as their ancestors! They simply robbed me on food prices, and there was nothing I could do about it. The total cost of food was much higher than the price of movie tickets. Since the items did not come under MRP laws, they could charge me whatever they wanted! Mind you there was a big queue to buy stuff and apparently people have money and do not mind spending money on entertainment. I asked my young friend later, the trick to overcome this issue. I asked her, if we could take stuff from home to eat. She said that we are not allowed to take outside food in the multiplexes due to security reasons; and that is the law! My theory about ancestry was proven!

So far so good, the movie was nice so we did have a good time in spite of meeting the  robbers! Now what is the law on this? Somebody has recently taken these multiplex guys to court. Arguments are going on in the court. The court has made an observation that when we go to five-star hotels, we pay whatever they ask for the food! We never expect the prices to be similar to other smaller restaurants. Similarly, I know that the prices of movie tickets in single screen theaters are much lower than what multiplexes charge. I am sure pop-corn, sandwiches also cost much less in single screen theaters. The court will check only the legality of billing done for food, if needed. Compliance of taxation will be checked by tax department! But nobody can tell them at what price they should sell the food!

The stories apart, is the high price for food charged by multiplexes justified? I am not sure but the multiplexes are projects by themselves and there is a lot of investment made in each such project. The movie business is unpredictable in general, so sell of tickets will depend on how popular the movie becomes! Their earning from movies is also unpredictable. The movie tickets are priced from Rs.80/ to Rs.400/ plus, for morning shows to most popular movies later in the day. I am not aware of their earning per ticket. So, what they are charging us for food is as per their business model. We are going to five-star movie theaters where we have fancy theaters, escalators and all the modern things. Prices will be high and we will have to accept them.

In India, when we travel by railways, we don’t pay extra luggage charges. But when we fly we are required to pay additional fees to the airlines as per rules. On some airlines they provide food free because the price of tickets is inclusive of the food. But on some low-cost airlines, we are required to pay for the food. Recently on our first leg back to India, on Seattle to Toronto flight, Air Canada was charging for food but they were serving coffees and cokes free, though it was an international flight! They probably decide based on the duration of the flight. On New York- San Francisco flight we were served food, since duration was 6 ½ hrs. So, each of the businesses have their own business model! We shouldn’t crib about it. We choose whatever is suitable to us, itinerary wise and price wise. So, we have options to see a movie in a multiplex! We have choices! Single screen theaters, YouTube, Netflix. We have to decide ourselves, nobody is forcing us.

What is the solution to this issue? For me there is no solution! But yesterday a party known for its rough politics, man handled a restaurant manager in a multiplex, for selling popcorn at  “high” price. Is it the right way to handle things? What can the manager do about it? The prices are decided by the management! Taking law into your hands is never justified whatever the reason!

There was one new Ranbir Kapoor movie being released! In the second week when the ticket prices are down, we can go for the movie. Tickets are on me, food is on you! Offer open only for multiplexes!  Are you game?

Plastic Bags! To be or not to be!

First time I came across the word plastic, was when a cousin of mine, who has settled in England, had come to India. He still lives there. I was in school in those days. He was in plastic industry and would pronounce plastic as “PLOSTIC”. All of us were highly impressed by that word. Little did I realize then that plastic will become so important in our lives. The real usage of plastic bags started world over in late 70’s, of the last century. All the super markets and Mom and Pop stores started giving plastic bags when purchases were made. Initially, it felt fancy that we had to stop using our own cloth bags. Over a period, the whole world became so much dependent on these bags, that other types of bags were passé.

As per human nature, people started manufacturing thinner and stronger bags. Thinner and thinner bags have really started causing problems of disposal. Thinner bags clog things easily and due to light weight float around. From 23rd June 2018, Government of Maharashtra has put a ban on usage of plastic bags for many usages. This ban is not only for vendors but for users like you and me. If you and I are found using plastic bags in public, we are liable to be punished with fines. There are a lot of discussions going on, about what is right and what is not right. Opinions floating are that, what government has done is correct, maybe a little tweaking will help, to blaming government for trying to cover up its failure of garbage collection policy. As usual the answer is somewhere in between but for me it is 80% towards first opinion. There are bound to be teething problems whenever new things are attempted.

I have tried to gather information without going into technical stuff. Here is some information about plastic bags. Since the studies of such nature are more prevalent in western countries, more information will be available from those countries. But to me India with such a large population must be up there in usage of plastic bags, also popularly known as carry bags.

  • Plastic bags are produced using petroleum, natural gas and other chemicals. Its production is toxic to the environment.
  • Plastic bags were introduced to supermarkets in 1977.
  • 160,000 plastic bags are used globally every second!
  • 5 trillion plastic bags are produced yearly. Side by side, they can encircle the world 7 times.
  • In 2008, a sperm whale was found beached in California. It died due to the more than 22 kilos of plastic found in its stomach.
  • Plastic will only start degrading after 700 years and will only fully degrade in 1000 years. This means that all the plastic that has ever been produced has not degraded yet.
  • Plastic bags remain toxic even after it breaks down. It doesn’t biodegrade, it photo-degrades. It means that after it degrades, it breaks down into smaller and smaller toxic bits of itself – and bleeds and contaminates the environment.
  • Thin plastic bags tend to spread all over, due to breeze, very easily even while they are being taken to the dumping grounds.
  • An average family will use 60 plastic bags on four visits to the supermarket.
  • Only 1 to 3% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide.
  • Plastic bags cause the death of many marine animals when bags are mistaken for food.

As far as India is concerned, the opinion that garbage collection should be improved to avoid plastic bag menace, does not hold good. Rather than talking of failure of garbage collection, we should look at our social behaviour; as a society we have very low discipline level. Dumping things in rivers has been our culture. The flowers used for Puja are next day thrown into river as “Nirmalya”, there is a tradition of dumping dead bodies in the river Ganga, after cremation we dump the bones in water bodies like rivers. With this kind of “tradition”, it will be impossible to expect people to behave and dump their garbage in dumpsters, if found on roads. Clearing the dumpsters full of garbage is another story!

I was traveling by train in Northern India. One could easily judge if we were nearing a station. A km or so before the stations, dumped plastic bags in hundreds, were visible on both sides of the track. Garbage disposal discipline, anyone?

I feel that government of Maharashtra is going in the right direction.  What can we do to support his movement?

  • Start by bringing your own Eco-Friendly bags.
  • Return all plastic bags with you to the corporation ward offices.
  • Patronize businesses that support the effort to reduce plastic bag usage. Don’t get mad at them for inconveniencing you if they don’t give you a plastic bag.
  • Spread awareness by not accepting plastic bags from retailers and reminding them that it’s toxic to our environment. We did that yesterday when a vendor was giving us to carry stuff, in a legally allowed thick plastic bag. We thanked him but used our own cloth bag.
  • Let’s start educating our children about the plastic bag problem so they will continue the efforts and go green themselves.
  • Stop using plastic carry bags altogether.

As the charity should begin at home, socially correct things, which will be good for all, should start with us. Honestly speaking heavens are not going to fall if plastic bags are not used. Till late 80’s plastic bags were a novelty. Everybody was using reusable bags made up of cloth. Even in those times, people bought fish, chicken and mutton when there were no plastic bags around. People were required to buy milk, cooking oil! They took the containers with them! To get food from outside, people carried their tiffin! Home delivery food business will obviously find a solution to overcome the plastic bags ban, after all they want to run their business! In olden days, during heavy rains there was clogging of drains, mostly due to tree leaves. Now majority of the clogging is due to plastic bags.

Some people have been doing a good job. I went to Pune zoo years back. Even in those times, they were environment friendly. At the gates, they would check the bags and would not allow visitors to carry any food stuff in plastic bags. For those who wanted to carry plastic water bottle, they would take Rs.10/ deposit; this would be returned on way out, when water bottle was displayed.

The need of the hour is to look for better ways of handling life, in absence plastic bags. There are ways of making bags which can be recycled. We must find ways to mass produce bio degradable bags, at low cost. I remember carrying cloth bags to get things from market when I was in school and college. We did not have to remember to carry the bags with us. It was a way of life. Humans want a steady state in life, change is always resisted. Going back to olden way of life is generally thought to be a retrograde step. But in this case, I think it is leap forward. It is path breaking stuff and let us all support the good path being trodden.

Women Power!

Important news being discussed today is that Jacinda Arden, New Zealand Prime Minister, gave birth to a child, while in office. She is the second prime minister of a nation to give birth to a child, while in office. First was Benazir Bhutto! Women in Saudi Arabia are allowed to drive cars now, is another news which is trending today. What is the big deal, skeptics will say? Hundreds of ladies give birth to a child, millions of lady’s drive cars, world over! But these news items are very significant looking at the history of suppression of women.  

All species world over, have males and females for continuity of their progeny! World history is always divided as before and after of some events. Classic definition is BC (before Christ) & AD (anno Domini). There can be another definition like before Wheel and after Wheel. To me this means that human life became much easier after the invention of Wheel!  

Another definition which is essential is Pre-Ownership and Post-Ownership. This to me is the most important landmark in human history. Let me explain. When humans learnt the farming, they started to live at preferred locations. As the humans were nomads before, they would move from place to place looking for food and shelter. Farming created a somewhat less nomadic, more organized stable society. The major social change that came about, was  people started to cultivate and produce things which were in surplus of what they needed; this was stored for the next season. With this change, the concept of ownership took birth. Ownership included farm, the land, females and everything within that ecosystem! This started a concept of same pair of male and female partners living at one location, for longer period. Before that, humans also moved around like other species. There were groups of humans, who would move from place to place. Weather, hunger, safety and sex were the main things that were required to be handled. With the nomadic behavior and no ownership, there was no concept of constant family. In due course of time women would procreate, I do not think that every time they knew the real father of the child.  

Because of their pregnancy and allied difficulties women would look after children and men folk would go out for collecting food. Monthly menstruation, even in those days added to general difficulties of women and their movement. I could not find how the society helped them during this tricky phase every month. In my grandfather’s time, I remember that women had to face humiliating stigma during this time, every month. I am really not sure how this was handled before agriculture. I am assuming that they were better off in those days as it was treated as a normal human body function. The organized society brought some etiquette’s about modesty, nudity and others. This may have brought more difficulties post agriculture. Though 21st century is more supporting, still in smaller cities and villages not much has changed.  

The concept of male being bread winner has continued right to the current times. Some major changes have taken place in recent 30 to 50 years, where women are taking important part in family income and financial well-being. They are taking up important positions in many places including industries and government. The important positions need them to be busy and travel all over. But society has slowly started accepting this need and accepting the biological difference that exist! To me it is alright if the Prime Minister takes six to eight weeks of leave after child bearing! On top of that New Zealand Prime minister is not married to her partner! This is also setting a trend. Live-in, anyone? I feel that live-in concept did exist before farming phase as there were no marriages, anyway!  Even today, pregnancies do come in the way of women’s careers. Latest example is of Serena Williams, the super athlete! When she decided to take part in French Open tennis tournament, several hundred points were deducted from her career points, while considering her ranking, as she was joining post pregnancy!

World over, voting rights for women was anathema! Women in Switzerland gained the right to vote in federal elections after a referendum in February 1971. In 1991 following a decision by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, Appenzell Innerrhoden became the last Swiss canton to grant women the vote on local issues. Modern and developed country? So-called patriarchal society has been suppressing the rights of women. This has kept 50% population of the world in the form of women away from many things. There are some professions which are performed better by females yet  these were performed by men! 

Women are trying to change this, but bra burning is not the solution. What will be the advantages of bringing more and more women in main stream? One thing is sure that the working atmosphere will become softer. I am sure a woman boss will never say, “I don’t care” or Go to hell” or some such statements. One more thing men can learn from women is multi-tasking. They are masters of multi-taking managing kids, kitchen and jobs. On top of that managing family and relatives; it’s not an easy thing but women do it. They not only do it but they are masters of multi-tasking.  

Humans under the garb of patriarchy, are losing the benefits of this talent. They don’t want to do it because they will lose control of the situation. Society has taken advantage of traditions of thousands of years, to keep females away from mainstream. Jacinda Arden, Serena Williams, Kalpana Chawala are great role models for humans in general and females specifically! In my family this change has happened big way! Let us all support our wives, sisters, daughter in laws as much as possible to take up the career they like! Don’t forget that we have children, nephews and grandchildren because of these women! This is one area where males can never compete with females! So don’t forget that to reproduce, a complex system in female body is needed, we just need to support that!

 

  

 

Success Mantra!

After my previous blog “Titbits” my friend Subhash suggested that we should analyze the life’s successes vis a vis, education, studies, ranks earned and being a “scholar” during school/college times. One of the definitions of success is the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status. In Asian culture in recent times, there has been a big emphasis on taking good education, it may be in their own country or in other countries. There is a general thought process that education changes a human being and the human becomes more cultured, sophisticated and becomes a better person.  

Does it really happen that way? In most cases, it does happen. But how do you measure success? Is fame the pinnacle of success? Does amassing wealth make you successful? Do all these things take you to upper most layer in the society? Frankly there are no clear-cut answers because there is no real definition of success. One thing is always said that a person appears more successful if he or she is a good human being too! What is important, a good human being or a successful human being? It is important to be successful good human being!

In certain areas of life like sports, entertainment education or the lack of it has not apparently come in the way. If we take examples of Sachin Tendulkar, Priyanka Chopda, they have been at pinnacle of their careers in sports and acting. They have both been good humans, they got themselves trained for being excellent in language and general behaviour. On top of that they are extremely successful commercially! They have been in their field of excellence since a very early age of 16 to 18 and never had time to take “education”! Another important aspect is that they are successful for a long duration. But this does not mean that everybody should not get educated as it did not matter in these two cases.  

Another famous case of a college drop-out is Bill Gates. But he was a drop-out from Harvard! Getting admitted to Harvard itself is success! But looks like he had urge and drive to do something more than completing his degree and rest as they say is history! Recently he has been sharing his wealth of billions of dollars for well-being of human race. He is also encouraging other rich people to share wealth for betterment of society, in general. Yes, Bill Gates can be said to be one of the most successful persons, living. 

Then there was famous rivalry between Tesla and Edison, both scientists. Both have invented so many things that it is difficult to say who was better. But from the history that I have read, Edison had more business sense than Tesla. Edison was a cut throat competitor whereas Tesla was a naïve person. Edison monetized his inventions quite well but Tesla never did that. Edison was all the time trying to see if Tesla could be commercially ruined! But to me Tesla was more successful with his one invention! He invented that A C current was better than D C current (invention by Edison) in real world. This is a difficult case to judge, commercially Edison did much better than Tesla, invention wise  probably both were at par. As human being Tesla was better than Edison. Friends, it’s your take to decide who was more successful! 

That brings us back to the thought that we had in the first place. Does education make a person successful? In our school and college times, there have been colleagues who were successful in getting very high grades all through. After completing education, different areas of work was chosen by different people. Some reached pinnacle of their chosen path but it appears that in most cases the so called “toppers” did not remain “toppers” in real life! Many times, the path to success is also dependent on “being at the right place at the right time”! It also depends on grabbing the opportunity when it comes knocking on one’s door! Those who did this have been really “successful” in life. 

Being at the pinnacle of chosen path makes one successful but being a good human being adds to that success. But I have seen many “successful” persons who in real have been average in what they could achieve. But they have marketed themselves with the authorities who matter. The success in public sector areas and having done the right “marketing” with authorities have earned some people with national accolades like “Padma” awards in India. Some have been so strong in “marketing” themselves, that their mediocre achievements or pseudo achievements remain hidden!   

How to compare success in area A and area B? A friend became MD of one of largest company in India. He also continues to be a very good human being. So, he definitely achieved great success in life. Another friend started a manufacturing unit and manufactures world class products, again a very good human being! If we compare the two, then who is more successful? It is very difficult to judge. Both have worked in different environments in private sector. Both were classmates but were not known to be “scholars” in college days. Another person, a known “scholar” in college times became top boss of one of the India’s premier educational institute. He was always in touch with Govt bosses because of his work. He was awarded with a “Padma” award. This person was recently heard giving a speech about education policy and was found to have put forth average thoughts. Who is successful among the three? I don’t know.  

Success is not dependent on whether one is successful in private sector or as an entrepreneur or in govt sector. Success is independent of the field you are in. It could be business, sports, art, job, armed forces, scientist, social worker or a politician. You must do a great job in what you do and remain a good human being even at the pinnacle; you must retain humbleness and show empathy for others. To be successful in life, one needs to be sincere, consistent, must have perseverance, must be able to take others with you.   

How you achieve these parameters, defines your success. More successful or less successful are comparisons done by others. It is probably impossible to compare success in two different fields. It is not possible to compare a great gymnast with a great scientist! People will always compare between brain and the brawn! Like in studies it is always said that those who are good at Math are very smart. I don’t think so. One who is very at good music is equally smart in his own field!  

This discussion and comparisons are unending; but one thing is sure that the world becomes a better place with successful people. But this success should not be a “marketed” success, it is the success of the human who has contributed to the society, keeping core values intact. But one thing is sure that “success” list is not the same as list of successful candidates declared after college, school level exams. It gets mixed up and many a “back benchers” end up at the top!  

 

Titbits from an inter-continental dash!

Travel does many things but the experience you get, the knowledge it gives you can never be gotten in any school or on the internet in such a short duration and on different subjects! We made a quick dash to the US to attend our grandson Suaysh’s graduation ceremony which took place on 18th June. We reached on Saturday, 16th June, and travelled back on 20th June. You will ask me where did I acquire so many new things? Well, it was during the journey and waiting at airports and of course, chatting with my grandson.

My son lives in a Seattle suburb called Sammamish, which has a population of 75 K. It’s a well to do suburb. There were 600 students from my grandsons class of 2018. I went through the list, there were about 15% Indians, 20/22% Chinese. Rest was others! Out of 600, about 100 did IB Diploma. International Baccalaureate® (IB) programmes aim to do more than other curricula by developing inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/diploma-programme/ . Out of 100 students, 80 were Indian or Chinese!

On the flight back home, from Seattle to Toronto, an Irish American was sitting next to me. He was accompanying his son, who had also completed his 12th-grade graduation. The gentleman was a civil engineer by profession. When the subject of education came up for discussion, he said their family came to the US about 125 years back and he was the first from their family to go to a college. He rued, that his family and clan never realized the importance of education before his generation. He was shocked to know the statistics mentioned above.

Another important point came out in conversation. Gun laws in the USA. He agreed that the laws were bad, so I asked him a hypothetical question. In the mid-size city like Seattle, in an area, 25 km around, how many people will really need a gun? He said that in some remote area a few wild animals do come but if you let them be, you don’t need guns; otherwise, almost nobody would need a gun. I then asked him, how many guns would be there in the Seattle area? He said there could be hundreds of guns! That is the gun story in the USA.

Then I found some interesting things at airports. Removing shoes, Laptops etc at security varies from country to country, as per equipment available. We landed in Vancouver, Canada and US immigration and customs formalities were completed there itself. After the formalities were done, nobody took the customs form that we had filled up. On Seattle Toronto flight, similar customs form was filled up but passport details were not required. Nobody collected this form too! When we transited after reaching Canada, there was no security check, though we had crossed the international border! There was a very long moving walkway, maybe about 300 meters long. It was the worst one I have seen at any airport. It was continuously making noise, dhad, dhad and I got a feeling that one of the links of the conveyor would break, anytime. Also, the walkway was not moving in a flat plane; it was jumping a few millimetres at every dhad. It was very uncomfortable to use.

SeattleToronto2

The images above show the funny side of lack of quality control at some stage. We were flying Seattle to Toronto but two images were showing reverse information. Instead of showing distance to Toronto, it was showing the distance to Seattle! This hardly made any difference but it was surprising to such basic errors.

Back home in Delhi, there was a pleasant surprise! We stayed at night at the Holiday Inn Express transit hotel at the airport. That day was Jaya’s birthday and I had ordered a cake when I had booked the room a month back. When we reached, the cake was ready and they offered it on the house!

On Delhi Pune flight I had a Britisher sitting next to me. He was in the education business. They send students from the UK for an internship to India, during summer. He said every year one or two students go back home halfway, as they cannot handle India! Especially from the Chennai area. He was not sure about the reason and why from this area! I got many insights about Brexit, borderless travel and business issues!

After a long time, we ran into baggage missing episode. I am trying various things, let’s see when we get the bags at home!

But all in all one could see that the US and Canada are really up there as far developments are concerned!  But to top everything else was the reaction of our granddaughter Rhea, when we met back home! The way she squeaked, jumped, danced was a sight to behold! Why do we mature? Why don’t we show reactions like the small kids do? We are losing real fun and joys of life by becoming mature!

 

 

World Class!

One keeps on hearing the word World Class, these days! What is World Class anyway? World Class means (an activity, a thing or a person of or among) the best in the world! The world is full of people, with thought processes or activities where someone is trying to do something or to produce something even better than its quality level at that time. This thought process came in my mind when my friend Shyam visited another friend Vijay’s manufacturing unit. Shyam said that Vijay has created a World Class facility. 

How does one become world class? How does one create World Class facility or products? Simply by being world class. To become world class, one needs to be open to the idea that there is someone always better than you! There is always something better than what you produce. You need design, product or service, consistency, ability to convince people to buy ideas or products at the price such that the organization remains continuously and highly profitable. The reason for this is that world class companies reinvest large % of their profits into R&D! This indicates continued resolve to improve on quality. Apple and Nvidia are such companies which are relentlessly going for better and improved products. They reinvest huge amounts in R&D. Another thing such companies do is to change their thought process 180 degrees, if required. Classic example is Microsoft. Once they realized that they will not be able to compete with Android and IOS, in cell phone arena, they changed their policies in such a way that they call themselves company making software products which are support systems for other Software companies. 

Talking of Vijay’s organization Connectwell, he was always thinking big and bold for more than 20 years. 20 years back the company was much smaller, but they were bold and could see eye to eye with large world class players. How did they do it? They have been taking part in Hannover Messe, exhibition of industrial products since 1997. This has been a huge investment. This shows that they have been profitable, bold and confident! I am sure initially they must have felt a bit down, looking at international competitor’s products. But they continued to take part with better products; I am sure the competitors must now be getting weary. Vijay’s continued and relentless drive to become and remain world class makes his company work harder, smarter and sharper!  

As against these, companies like TCS & Infosys have chosen to follow a different a path. I am not blaming anyone but it is a path that they wanted to choose. Recently, they used their cash kitty of 2 to 3 billion US dollars to buy back shares from public. If there were a threat of some other company buying them out, then it would be a smart strategy. But I feel that they don’t know what to do with the stock pile of dollars, they did not probably know how to profitably invest this kind of money to reinvent themselves. They probably want remain followers, instead of becoming leaders. There are Indian companies who have shown the hunger to become world class. Tally and Quick heal names come to the fore. They have relentlessly done things and kept their flag flying high with quality of their products!  

You don’t become World Class just like that. It is the people who make companies and societies World Class. Taking example from cricket, in the early 70’s Sunil Gavaskar, World Class diminutive Indian cricketer looked into the eyes of the opponents. He created a culture that Indians can become World Class. He was bold in his game but was a gentleman too! In early 80’s, after India won three consecutive major tournaments in three years, an Australian reporter asked him in an interview the secret of India’s success. Gavaskar asked the reporter, ” Have you seen the movies Jaws 1 and Jaws 2 and so on? ” Reporter was confused and said, ” I have not understood what you are saying.” Gavaskar said tongue in cheek, ” India’s success was same like Jaws, Luck 1, Luck 2 and Luck 3″. Gavaskar had in him to take on the world. Normally he showed it with his bat. 

Sachin Tendulkar story is even better known as he became a World Class act from the age of 16. He again was diminutive but his motto was practice, practice, and practice. He was never afraid to attack deadly bowlers looking into their face! He gave nightmares to the world class spinner Shane Warne! Sachin simply wanted to be world class. From these small islands of Gavaskars, and Tendulars India is becoming a super power in cricket and has created an assembly line of World Class players and the team! This is how nations become World Class. 

Whenever I travel internationally using Delhi or Mumbai airport, I can see that we have World Class infrastructure. Getting into other airports, I feel that India is getting better and better, in islands of supremacy. But this drive has to start in people, should percolate to more and more people. With success, we get confidence and confidence leads you to become World Class.  

What has people got to do becoming a World Class nation? Everything! If people are World Class, the nation can become World Class. To become World Class not everybody has to be World Class, but everybody in the system must be disciplined, knowledgeable in what they do. They should be passionate about what they do. It could be a policeman, it could be a pedestrian crossing the road. If you don’t cross roads by following basic discipline, the system gets chaotic. A construction site worker should be proud of his method of pouring concrete, the planner should be proud of the way he has planned. A grocer should be proud that he is not cheating his customers, profits will come automatically if he gets more and more customers because of quality of products he sells and quality of service he offers. His quality of service will improve only when all people in the shop are proud of the work they are doing.  

I will share with you how confidence about ones own quality helps. A team from India was to travel to Japan to visit an organization. They asked the hosts how much buffer time they should keep after traveling by Shinkansen before catching a flight. They got a reply that they need not keep any buffer because Shinkansen never gets late. It gets late only if  there is a major earthquake.

The system becomes World Class when the lowest denominator in the system becomes World Class, when the lowest denominator is proud of what he or she is doing! I see this attitude in many places world over, people will go out of their way to please the customer. Do we see this in India? Yes,  but only in islands. But for this to become a way of life, attitude of everybody towards public discipline, public cleanliness must change. This is because these are the most visible things in any society. We do see islands of such places in India but these islands must get connected and become a society of World Class things, services and products. It is Vijay’s of our society who have done it. Connectwell  (http://www.connectwell.com/global/home.aspx?lang=en&reg=IN) is doing it and I am sure this is passed on to the next generation. If all of us try to make an attempt, to make the small eco system around you, world class, it is doable. You can have surroundings around your home clean and neat; you can make your personal service providers like milkman, newspaper vendor, car cleaner, home support servants do things in a better way. Once they understand that it is doable, they in turn will tell their own eco system how to do things better. How to be relentless in improving quality of what we do, how we do. The chain has to continue.

It is pretty simple. When you wake up every day, tidy up your own bed….. yes, it starts with you. Make it tidy as if your work is going to be inspected every day! And yes, you yourself inspect it. It better be World Class!  

Confluence of Goodness!

अगर धीरे चलो
वह तुम्हे छू लेगी
दौड़ो तो छूट जाएगी नदी
अगर ले लो साथ
वह चलती चली जाएगी कहीं भी
यहाँ तक- कि कबाड़ी की दुकान तक भी
छोड़ दो 

These are a few lines from the Poet Kedarnath Singhji’s poem नदी. नदी means a river. The poet has used the river as a metaphor for background support that we get from different people in our life’s journey. Our life’s journey begins with our coming into this world in the mother’s womb. Beginning of our existence is not known even to our parents for some time! In normal course, no couple is thinking of a child being created, when they are in an intimate embrace. It is the nature that supports you during this phase of anonymity. This is our first river in the form of Amniotic fluid in the mothers womb! How can someone support you, help you, when they don’t even know that you exist?  

In the lines above, the poet says that you go with the river, you meander with its flow and it will let you go where you want to go, it will follow you, where ever you go. Her support will be unstinting, with no returns expected. You need to understand it’s rhythm. The poet has explained it beautifully and says that if you take the river to a scrap collector, it will go with you. If you go to flea market, it will follow you. A flea market (or swap meet) is a type of bazaar that rents or provides space to people who want to sell or barter merchandise. Used goods, cheap items, collectibles, and antiques are commonly sold. This is how unstinting the river support is! But you take up wrong way of  life and the river may break its umbilical cord with you.  

In many cultures the river is like one’s mother, caring, supporting, she is always there in the background. A child is tethered to the mother. This is world’s closest relationship and mother always wants to keep on supporting the child irrespective of situation, age. This is the everlasting or evergreen relationship. In this relationship virtual umbilical cord always remains in place, at least from mother’s side.  

In our life, we have many people supporting us, they are there in the background. They will go with you even on the rough path of your journey! How does this happen? How are such relationships formed? Mother child relationship is the most natural relationship, it just exists like the universe. Bearing and giving birth to a child is nature for female species; this closeness creates such a close relationship between the two. In this relationship nothing needs to be done to attain the level of closeness, it just happens. But for other relationships this is to be nurtured over a period.   

As our journey starts from childhood to adulthood we meet different people. We meet them in different situations, under different circumstances. We live with siblings in our home but as we grow older, each develops into a different person and has own personality, own thought process. Do siblings always have very close relationship? They grow up in the same house, they grow up with the same background. But are they behind each other to support? Not necessarily. Except for parents all other relationships need to be cultivated, nurtured. One cannot assume that others will be there in the background to support you like the river. 

Why is river important in life? The river encompasses our lives, it absorbs whatever we throw at it. Its water body is big and fluid all the time; so, it has a great absorbing capacity. Its flow purifies all bad things dumped into it. Similarly, our mind should also have fluid thought process, it should be able to absorb new things, it should be able to absorb changes in the way situation demands. It should be able to throw out bad things from our life. Our mind, like river, has incredible capacity to take good or bad things. Our mind should learn the process of turning bad into good, like the river.  

In our life, we have many sets of rivers in the form of different persons like friends, acquaintances, relatives. To absorb good from these people, is in our hands. There is a saying that birds with the same feathers flock together. Similarly, good will always prefer to be with good; the good have power to absorb bad! In Varanasi, there is a tradition to dump dead bodies in the river in the river Ganga; we dump drainage water in the river without treating it. But the flow of the river, and the volume of water (which is the goodness) takes care of these things and water remains pure!  

Friends, life is full of things which are good, bad and ugly. But if we as a society, get the humans together like confluence of rivers, bad and ugly things will get defeated. The society, a group of people, a colony, people in a building should come together and form river of goodness, there will be confluence of these rivers and we will be able to create a quietly flowing big river of goodness.  

 

 

Work Life Balance!

When I was in school, I used to come to Pune during holidays to my grandfather’s house. He had perfect Work-Life balance in those days. He retired before I was born. But from what I have heard, he used to go to office around 9 and be back home by 4.30. He was one of the luckier persons who had a steady job. When I started going to Pune, he had just started his retired life and would go to sleep by 7 in the evening and wake up at 4! Before going to sleep he used to listen to local news on radio, which would start at 7 pm. All others at home would have dinner by 8 pm and simply go to sleep by 8.30 pm. Cozy life, lovely life; there was nothing to do anyway. There was no TV, going for movies was rarity.  

This reminds me of Gulzarji’s lines 

अब दिन रातपे ही आके रुकता है 

मुझे याद है… 

पहले एक शाम भी हुआ करती थी 

Lifestyle has taken a tumble of 180 degrees since those days. Things have reached the other extreme, discussions have started on Work-life balance, which is a concept that supports the efforts of employees to split their time and energy between work and the other important aspects of their lives. Why has this imbalance come in our life? Who is responsible? Do managements expect too much from employees? Is work being done with the help of less number of people? On home front, families have become nuclear, both husband and wife are working, and it has become a norm. There is less support system available from elderly. We have too many commitments on social front, too much time is “productively” spent on social media.    

Times have changed, work pressure on individuals has gone up. Pressure to perform is nothing new, it was always there and it will be always there. Why does the imbalance take place? It is simply because we have 24 hours in a day to do so many things. It is how productively we use that time which is important.  

First and foremost is the travel time. Home to workplace travel time is the most unproductive and tiring time. People these days travel anything between one to 2 ½ hours one way, to work. Traffic is going to become more complex and heavy, so there may not be respite from traffic. But yes, there is a solution. When people take up a new job in a different city, they rent a house as near to work place as possible. But in your own city you probably own a house or have been living in an area from childhood. So, you don’t want to change the house.  Solution, cut the emotion, be a little open minded about shifting to stay near the work place, be pragmatic. I was talking about this issue with my young friend Abhay.

Abhay rues that his generation has all the material stuff but no time to enjoy it. He said that if he moves to stay near his work place, he will save two hours every day! Multiply by 250 days. 500 hrs a year. It is as good as getting 50 days of additional leave to be with the family, maybe hit the gym, which today is not possible today. I told Abhay, after shifting near office, don’t spend additional two hours at office. Deepti wanted to take a new office. I suggested to her that it should not be more than 3 kms from her home, she had that option. Now her total travel time is 15 minutes. Hours gained, anxiety reduced? I don’t think you need any consultant to evaluate value addition done by making these changes. If you have financial need, rent out the “owned” flat. 

Now about the most unproductive thing! Social media. FB and WA are the biggest culprits causing the imbalance. Everybody wants to look at the cell phone at every opportunity available. Waiting for the red signal to turn green, open the device. You are doing serious work in office, you get a ding or a dong, ting or a tong! You stop the work to at least send a message, “I will come back to you”! Heavens are not going to fall if you don’t reply. Of course, friends may think that you have died since you did not respond in 30 seconds.  

Social Media has changed the society in such a way that there is fear in the minds of mafia that they may lose out to Social Media cartel. Take a back-seat Heroin’s, and ganjas of this world. You cannot compete with us! Smoking? What is that? I can have my new drug on my person all the time, police are not going to arrest me for that, parents are not bothered (they themselves are busy with addiction), lovers tiff no way. Why are you not talking to me? You don’t love me anymore. Did you see my new necklace? These words are passé! Both are busy looking at their own screens, looking into each other’s eyes? No way. Looking into his or her screen, yes of course. Did you see this video? Did you read this quote? Recently I saw photo of a group of friends, who met for chit chat! All were looking at their cell phone! Chatting? No way!  

To manage the Work Life balance, another thing we should analyze is how much time we are spending on social media. 2 hours, four hours? How many free hours do we have after deducting time for work, travel, sleep, and day to day chores? Do you want most of the waking time to be spent on social media? In fact, we are cutting into family time, sleeping time, causing sleep deprivation, or even  going out time. Your mind is never into what you are actually doing!  

Not in the distant past, a cranky child was given a pacifier in his mouth. Now the child is given a cell phone or a tablet to pacify the child. When the child crosses a certain age, the parents start cribbing, “Oh, my child cannot spend a single minute without cell phone”. I have seen mothers looking at WA while feeding a child, not breast feed but regular meal. A child needs a bit of attention and diversion. A song, or a story used to be the name of the game while feeding kids! When the mothers themselves indulge so much in WA/FB what do you expect the child to do?  

When we attempt something differently, it should start with you! Will you remain, away from social media for some time? Will you remain away from kitty parties? I am not saying that you shun these things. Anything in moderation is always good. A Mac Burger once in six months, a glass of wine, a cup of your favourite tea or coffee, for that matter any drink in moderation will always give you joy! Please think in a positive way! If we don’t use social media for some time, is it really going to affect your life?

Work pressures will be there, but can these be 24/7 and 365, no there are never such pressures. I have known of a person who went to US for work for a month, then 2 months and then continued his stay for three months. From there he was told to go to Germany for another three months. There were many problems at his home including illnesses; he should have told his boss that he will travel back after a quick visit back home, at least a couple of times. I don’t think his boss would have said no! But our friend just wanted to shun his home responsibilities. I am so busy syndrome!

Firstly, one has to decide if you really want work life balance! If you want it, there are always ways, you can find your own different methods too! Will will find a way! I forgot to tell you; I have promised Abhay that I will have a cup of tea with him one day, after his son has gone to school and before Abhay goes to office! Five minutes is all Abhay needs to go to office. The other day we went in the area where Deepti lives, we barged in to see her mother. Her mother called Deepti, she came home from office to have coffee with us. Utopia?  

                                                                                                                       

 

 

Why, why, why why?

I know that every why, has no reply, but this question still comes to mind! Some years back, my grandson Suyash had come to Pune, he lives in Seattle. We were chatting in our balcony. He asked me, “Aba, why many of the buildings around us are not painted? Are these very old buildings?” Well, the buildings around us were not very old, these were definitely not dilapidated buildings! They were not more than 15 years old! For fixed assets like condos, or bungalows care has to be taken to maintain them properly. Each property has its own design, the exteriors get spoiled due to rains and heat combination. If you visit these condos from inside, the homes are generally well kept and some are really fancy. People are just not bothered how the outer walls look.  

These are mostly middle class and upper middle-class properties. The income levels are decent, these folks work in offices which are reasonably well maintained. They have their vehicles which are maintained in a reasonably good condition. Then why the apathy towards the exterior? To me this is the last mile concept. We as a society are least bothered about the last mile of everything.  

You look at the roads, the bridges, the infrastructure in general. These are always poorly maintained, at least in some areas. Every year we read the stories of corporations missing their deadlines for cleaning gutters before monsoons! Rains in India are seasonal and generally fall during a specific period. Gutters get filled with muck, leaves and what not, all through the year. In Maharashtra, end of the first week of June is the time for the rains to start. So, our friends should be ready with cleaning by end of May. It is not rocket science. But are we ready? Never. Same story is published every year. First rains in any city causes havoc! There is water logging, flooding, power outages, trees falling! The things which are in our control should be done but they are completed only 95%! Last mile concept? Or who cares concept? Why do we not challenge the authorities as a society? Simple, because we never do these things in our own lives, we are poor in implementing last mile solution.  

We strongly talk about our heritage, our history; we sing songs like मेरे देश की धरती! My great country where streets were paved with Gold, where we saw diamonds and pearls spread on road sides! I have shown above pictures of “Gold, Diamonds and Pearls” spread on our roads. In olden days when everybody lived in villages, there was no concrete, we had plain soil everywhere. Cleaning homes was very simple. You clean your home and push all the dust into adjoining soil. In those days there were no plastics, there was no biodegradable stuff! Dust to dust to Soil! But we are so proud of our heritage that we continue to follow the same practice even today.  

We clean our homes and throw things out of balconies! We water our pots in the balcony and water falls on the cleaned cars every day, as some idiots park them below the balcony. Area below the balcony is the official trash can to throw stuff, pour water indiscriminately. In fact, I come to know every day what my friends staying above us, feed their dog on that day! It can be bread or rice and of course meat once in a while. The pieces fall on my car every day. The title of the blog shows my frustration! Mind you, the condos where I live are high rise modern apartments and are very expensive.  

But money has nothing to do with this last mile concept. Forty years back we lived in an apartment where we had a watchman who lived with his family. They were financially poor. We used to give them, besides the salary, all seconds from our home. Curtains, bed sheets and sometimes food which we could not consume fully. In fact, Jaya used make additional food many times, just to give to them. I still remember their small dwelling. It was a replica of our home as all the things were handed over to them by us. (It is not the story about what we did for them in those days.) Their home used to be spic and span, well-kept and properly maintained. When once asked, the lady said when we have an example in front of us, how can we not follow it?

Just a side story! This family was of two brothers. One child of each of them has become an engineer and currently working in IT industry! It is the will to do well, excel in whatever you do, to keep your surroundings clean, it is will to be part of solution and not a part of the problem, that endures you through the tough times of the last mile. In the game of cricket, it is the ability of crossing the invisible line to score a century, that differentiates the best from the good. It is the strong will to do well, that takes you forward.  

In Mumbai, when many flyovers were built, the situation was bad. Diversion road quality was poor. Let me assure you all these things are doable. When flyovers and Metro were under construction in Delhi, the diversions created were as smooth as the original roads.  In Mumbai there are low lying areas; when it rains, the water logging is bad due to topography. But corporation has installed high capacity pumps, permanently.      

How can one like to live in shabby buildings? There a couple of reasons for this. When there is a group of people living together, there will always be someone who will bother only about money or it is possible that some of them will have financial difficulties. But both these obstacles need to be overcome and can be overcome. It is the will to do it! It is your home after all!  When we water the plants in balcony, we don’t bother if water is carrying the mud with it, on the outside walls of the balcony. Expense for painting a building from outside every 7/ 8 years is not prohibitive.

Similarly, about city infrastructure, it is your own city. We elect representatives to handle the administration. Do they treat it as their own city? Or they are interested only in plundering the resources? Are they proud of their home? I have seen these representatives providing benches for people to rest. These are stainless steel benches, very nicely made. There are bus stops which are nicely designed but do we have buses to match quality of the bus stops? Do we have the discipline in keeping the fleet running? Last mile for the bus system is maintenance of buses and cleanliness of buses. The quality is terrible. 

Friends, in the Hindi Film “Munnabhai MBBS”, the hero sees a sweeper in a hospital sweeping the floor. Hero tells him, “Sir, you are doing an excellent job and you are making all of us proud, please keep doing it”. There are tears of joy in the eyes of the sweeper! Nobody had ever told him this. But when it is our own home, our own city, is there a need to be told by someone? Every day, we bathe and comb to make ourselves presentable, every day we have someone to clean our homes from inside. But how can we forget outside? How can roads, bridges remain in poor state in our own city? Let’s all join hands make it happen! Cheers!  

 

 

Brave Art!

Sometime back I read an article, in two parts, by Manasi Sagar of Nasik. She is a trained painter and took a passion for painting nudes. We have generally read about nudes being painted by male painters, with females as models. Society treats nudity from a different angle. The human body, especially the female body, is an artwork which only He could create. The way Manasi had explained the path she took and how she managed to follow her passion is something to be read to be believed. From the articles she had written, I felt that she came from a normal Maharashtrian middle-class family. Such families have  ethos of bringing up children in which girl child is always told to take care of her modesty. It probably starts at the age of around five; and the child would always listen to statements from her mother, “Don’t do this, don’t do that! Sit “properly”! Be careful when men are around and so on!” There are historical reasons for this, some justified but when a Manasi blooms like a Lotus amidst such orthodoxy, it’s a pleasant surprise! To her family, it must have been a shock, at least in the beginning!

I had discussed the article by Manasi, with my friend Sudhakar, from Nasik. Sudhakar is a painter by heart but a builder by profession. Yesterday he met Manasi. I had told Sudhakar to tell Manasi, when he meets her, that I am honoured to know about such a brave artist. Incidentally, I came across a poem by Kedarnath Singhji, when I received a message from Sudhakar today, that he met Manasi! Various thoughts came to my mind, which I am sharing with you.

Why is female nudity so beautiful? What pleasures can you get by looking at such paintings? Kedarnath Singhji poem बारिश में स्त्री in Hindi, A Woman in the Rains, is par excellence. I know that I will never be able to come close to the way he has written the poem, the lyrics, the expressions and the refinement. Nowhere in the poem, we feel that he is talking of something vulgar! (Yes, in our society nudity is talked about in hushed tones) It’s sheer poetry, pun intended!

The poet says that he saw a woman who was getting drenched in the rains! It was as if a new book was being opened where the existing written words were getting washed away and were lost in the mist! Raindrops were dripping on her breasts, her shoulders and her chin! It felt as if a new script was getting created; a poem was being written! It was as if her body was giving birth to a new Alphabet! It was as if the body was creating its ink and printing the words, rat, tat, tat. The whole body was slowly getting converted into an Epic! The poet felt that the frog in him forgot to utter its famous “ribit ribit” when it enjoys the rains! The frog was dumbstruck looking at this smooth transition into work of art!

What a way to look at the beauty created by nature, by Him! Concept of vulgarity, exposure, are recent phenomena, in the history of the human race. I always feel that the threshold for certain good and bad things started when the concept of “ownership” started in human history. Till this phase in history, humans lived in flocks like other species. Like in other species, males and females were created by nature for procreation, to take the race forward. The concept of nudity hardly existed as everybody was nude! With the concept of ownership, the ownership of females started and with that started the first known modern dress, fig leaf, from Adam and Eve’s times!

Manasi went against this trend in her paintings. She wanted to paint nudes but who would be the model? It is not so common in India to be a nude female model, and in a city like Nasik, it was almost impossible. Solution? Simple. She decided that she will be her model. She started sitting in front of a mirror at home, late in the night, when everybody went to sleep. The concept itself was taboo! She would have a tough time “hiding” these paintings during the creation phase. What if my parents see? How will I explain? She somehow managed to complete a few paintings and entered an art competition! When she won the coveted prize, she got a communication from the organisers. She was thrilled about it; at the same time, she was worried about her parent’s reactions. Ultimately art won over orthodoxy! She could come out in the open! She still had some problems initially, even after this event, as she could not get models! But she convinced some women, and hopefully, now she will also be able to paint nudes along with her other paintings!

What is it that Manasi’s of the world have in them? Do they eat differently? Where do they get the strength from? Where does the passion come from? When you are doing something unconventional, when your path is not so well-trodden, things can be tough. In olden days, such people were castrated by society; some were even killed. When people are ahead of times, they face various difficulties. We know what happened to Aristotle for talking against the flat earth concept. Manasi has done something similar in the field of art! Will she succeed commercially? Will she become an international name? Will she be known as one of the better artists? Only time can tell. Kudos to you Manasi! Way to go!