Shifting Milestones!

I was chatting with my cousin who is 72, three years older than me. They had taken a ten-day holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia. He said the youngest person in their group was 65! Of course, 65 is young, today! In our life, we have different milestones like births and deaths, education and work, marriage and children and so on. But there has been a tradition to celebrate when people reached certain age milestones like 50 or 60 or 75. Celebrating the hundred-year milestone is a rarity even today.  

When I was in school, celebrating the 50th birthday was a big event, and 60th was a significant. The importance of age milestones in our lives is decided by the average lifespan in society! Average life expectancy till the ’50s in the last century was well below 40, before 80’s it was below 50. It crossed 60’s in the year 2000! Currently, it is 67 and expected to cross 70 in the year 2050! Use this link to get details. 

http://www.me-jaa.com/October2015/LifeTable.pdf 

Now that the boring statistics are done, they were essential to know the meaning of celebration of 50th and 60th birthday while I was in school! Achieving these age milestones was indeed an event worth celebrating. When we talk of average expectancy it means the average age at which the people are expected to die; the people in families who can afford to eat healthier food, get better medical facilities and a cleaner environment, lived longer. It was no surprise to know that in my family, there were five deaths between 1976 and 1980; only my grandfather died at 89, all others were around sixty or below. These figures generally matched of the life expectancy of that period or were slightly above expectancy level. 

This indicates that the life expectancy in the type of families I have mentioned above has definitely gone up to 70 plus now. Better medical facilities of current times, have increased cure rates of cancers and heart attacks, it won’t be a surprise if the expectancy age crosses 80! Wow, this is extraordinarily rapid progress in a short period of 20 years. What could be the reasons other than those already mentioned? One definite and significant reason is the much-maligned social media! The FB’s and WA’s of this world have definitely helped. What the media has done is that one could locate old friends and foes alike! One could identify ex’s easily in the privacy of their own accounts.

In the old age in modern society, the first phase of the post-retirement period passes with fun. You really don’t have to wake up early every day and go to the office. (You can sleep in the afternoon too!) Being away from the grind is fun. At the same time, you may want to do things for which never got enough time. You travel, you meet friends and see places. But as the years pass, there can be some limitations which may come up with some deterioration of health. This is where the problems start coming up. Younger people from the family may not have time for you; maybe they live in different cities or countries. Not everybody can keep themselves happily or productively busy. Then you start feeling cut off! This is where social media has helped, provided it is used correctly.

When people start becoming lonely, they lose interest in their lives, and some even lose the will to continue to live! Social media has helped a great deal in last ten to fifteen years to provide the reason to get keen to meet “friends”, it has increased enthusiasm in people to chat/talk with each other. You always have something to look forward to when you wake up every day! Social media shares with us an enormous variety of music, songs, articles and videos!  

How did social media really help? 

  1. Friends 
    1. It has never been easier to make friends than it was before. Just a few decades ago it was pretty tough to connect with people unless you were the overly outgoing type able to make conversation with anyone at a party. 
    2. The rise of mobile phones helped change this, connecting people in a new way, but then social networks sprang up, and the whole idea of friendship changed again.  
    3. It’s entirely possible to have hundreds of friends on Facebook. They may not be friends you know on a personal level and spend time within the real world on a weekly basis. But they’re friends nonetheless. There are several people I consider friends who I have never met — in fact, I may never meet them — but that doesn’t lessen the connection we have thanks to social networks. 
  2. Empathy 
    1. Each of us spends a little too long talking about ourselves on social networking sites, even if we’re casually surfing. Which is perfectly natural. We’re sharing our lives — the ups and downs, the twists and turns — with people we think will care. 
    2. They generally do care and will tell you so. Friends will listen to what you have to say, and help you deal with any problems you may be facing. Your near  and dear ones do not have time, you interact with newer ones! 
    3. The point is that by all of us sharing our experiences, both good and bad, on social networking sites, we’re able to empathise with each other. A friend may have gone through a similar ordeal that you are currently going through, and they will be able to help you get through it. 
  3. Speedy communication 
    1. I really don’t have to say about this. It is a revolutionary change and is really inexpensive. 
  4. In touch with the world 
    1. You remain in touch with the world through most of the times virtually. Such relations honestly are not very close but between shallow contact and good (virtual) contact with the outside world and latter option is always better. 
  5. Building relationships 
    1. There is no doubting that social networking sites can lead to the breaking up of relations. But there is another side to the story, which is that people are moving onto other, perhaps better, relationships. Social networks can put you (back) in touch with people who you have lots in common with, and that common ground is often the starting point for long-lasting relationships. 
    2. As painful as breakups can be, they can sometimes be the right thing for all concerned. What’s to say that the new relationship, founded on the steps of Facebook, isn’t the one that will last? Even if it doesn’t turn into a spectacular coupling, it could be the friendship that is needed at the time. Which has to be a positive thing. After all even virtual friendship also keeps positivity. 
  6. Finding common ground in an open society 
    1. As previously mentioned, social networking sites can help you find people you share interests with. Facebook, for example, asks you to list who and what you are interested in right from the start. This makes it much easier to find common ground with other users. 
    2. Keeping key personal information private is necessary, but sharing your likes and dislikes, interests and obsessions, and thought and views actually contributes to an open society. 

Social media when used correctly is a companion, free of cost and with much fewer efforts. In 2018 we have read about security breaches on social media, but checks do evolve over a period. It might be a good idea not share things that matter, e.g. your bank details etc. But there is no harm in publishing your likes for dramas and books, hiking and playing musical instruments. You will make more friends. You get wide publicity to show and share your talent with others, free! Blogging is a classic example of this. 

This is going to definitely increase life expectancy in society. There will be more and more people celebrating the age-related milestones, past 70 and 80. All the time there are going to shifting milestones. I will end up with a small suggestion on my favourite topic.  

Friends, by all means, celebrate 70th / 75th   and 80th birthday. It is a matter of celebration. If you are going to spend Rs.1/ lac on the party, try and prune the budget to say Rs. Ten thousand. Give away remaining Rs.90000/. Ask your friends and dear ones to donate the money they were going to spend on you, to charities! Azim Premji has set an example in his son’s marriage. He gave the amount equivalent to collective gift amount given by friends and dear ones, to charities! Thank you, Premji for setting a great example.     

 

 

 

 

 

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The Art of Giving!

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26th December is an important day in Australian cricketing calendar. On this day begins every year, a test match which is called Boxing Day test match! The game is between Australia and a touring team. I used to wonder how come the games of Cricket and Boxing merge here?  

The tradition of boxing day started in England and has spread in the countries which were under British rule, the Commonwealth countries! There are different versions of Boxing tradition, but the one started in Britain was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for excellent service throughout the year.  This custom is linked to an older British tradition: since the servants would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.  

The fundamental question is why giving makes us happy? Doing things for others increases our own happiness. Through giving, we fulfil two of our basic needs as human beings, which is to connect and contribute. Giving also makes us happier by providing a sense of meaning to life, reducing stress, improving our mood, and helping us to take our minds off our own problems. The best part about giving is that it is contagious. When we see someone do something kind (or are the recipient of kindness) it inspires us to be kinder too. Kindness begets kindness.  

 

Scientists say that the happiness we feel after a particular event or activity diminishes each time, we experience that event. But giving to others may be the exception to this rule, according to some researchers. When we “give,” the happiness that we get lasts longer!  

What is giving culture dependent on? Does a human give away when he has more than necessary or when he wants to “give”? I feel that this is naturally predominant in communities who have been financially secure and well off. What kind of giving is better? Frankly, it is tough to judge this. But I have seen a few families who are not conventionally well-off. Still, they follow the culture of giving! Is it dependent on your upbringing? Is it dependent on family traditions?  

I feel that the tradition of Boxing is not the “real giving”! From the information found on the net, it appears that the Masters gave things away to their servants, on the next day of Christmas. But this was also supposed to be the payment, and a bit of bonus, plus a bit of giving away unneeded excess items. It was kind of remuneration given for the work performed during the year!  

Almost a year back, I had written a blog “Let us all become Bill Gates!”; the link is below. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/let-us-all-become-bill-gates/ 

In this blog, I had suggested that all of us can become Bill Gates! Gates has started a fantastic tradition of giving away a major portion of individual wealth to some causes of your choice. In recent times it is observed that many people world over are becoming millionaires and billionaires in a short period of times, thanks to IT business and startup culture. Gates has suggested to such people to give away the major portion of their personal wealth, as the kind of money many of them are making, can never be spent in a few lifetimes. Gates has an advantage of having the expertise and wherewithal to create a foundation and running it. He is doing it on a massive scale. In India, Azim Premji is also moving in the same direction. To me, these people are beacons to us who can guide society towards “giving culture”.  

Giving is done to the financially and intellectually challenged persons. The persons who have monetary assets and intellectual assets can “Give”! Giving does not necessarily mean giving money or food or shelter to the poor! Gates Foundation is doing fantastic work in disease eradication world over. Foundation’s expertise and drive help the nations to create efficient and sustainable delivery systems; this creates awareness in the people, rich or poor! Cleanliness and health issues are independent of the financial status of people in any society. Whether you are rich or poor, you can get malaria or Zika! As the size of these donations is large, their effectiveness is felt by small nations or even large societies like India!  

How to go about giving? First and foremost, there is no need to publicise your individual giving. Each family can support and guide one child, from a family to many families in the right path in life. Those from the so-called middle class can quickly achieve this. The most important aspect of giving is to do it consistently! There is no need to wait for a boxing day to give! You can start today!

I have discussed this aspect with many friends. Different methods were followed by different families. In India, we get service support from many people for various aspects of cleaning, cooking and so on. Once you get to know these people well, you will realise that they are also equally good people. But there will be diversity in this group of people as is found in our society. Some will show happiness when we “give”, some will start thinking that it is their birthright that they should “get”! Do not get disheartened with this. Their attitude does not mean that they are not in need. Some rare people from this group will blow what they get, don’t stop in such cases! Change methods so that they are not able to misuse what they get. I am sharing what some of my friends and I have done over some time.  

  1. A friend said that he has given lumpsum amounts to four such people whom he knew well. Three of them ended up with their own homes. When you own a home you gain pride, you feel like doing better in life, working harder in life. All these families have come up in life now.  
  2. Another friend was supporting a person and his family for various things including money during the illnesses of their parents. He even gave away a scooter to him. But our receiver is a bit of a blower, though he is a simple man. Then the friend changed his method of giving. He now pays for the children’s education fees, including bus transport fees and tuition class fees.  
  3. Another friend started giving regularly. When this was known to his much younger colleagues, they also started doing the same and have still continued to “give”! Giving is definitely contagious!  
  4. One more person gives away knowledge, free! This person is a real technical pro, highly respected in the field, now retired. This person was asked by someone, “Why are you giving your speeches free? You will get whatever you demand.” The answer was a classic. “People give money, clothes and so on to the needy.  Needy people get from people and organisations, who have things in excess. Now I am retired, so I am giving my knowledge, which is my wealth! I am now in “giving” mode hence I do not charge fees!” 

Giving should be embedded in the family culture, so it gets passed on and on! But make sure that you “Give” in such a way that the receiver will not be benefitted on a temporary basis; long-term benefits make more sense. This also calls for consistency from the “Giver”!

Let us work hard and become a “Giver”!

 

 

Emotional Turmoil!

While writing two blogs about my friend Prakash regarding the major catastrophic event he and his family had gone through, I never realised the emotional turmoil I was going through. My endeavour while writing is always to make the least number of errors, both grammatical and factual. For this purpose, I had to refer to the book written by Kavita about the event, a few times. Every time I skimmed the book, the reading process did some more churning in my mind, as I read a few paragraphs. The pictures of what the family had gone through kept floating before me.  

Today’s blog came up as I read a news item in today’s newspapers, which rekindled the old memories and reminded me of the story of another friend. This story is again very touching! This friend of mine was a friend from my Bombay days. We were neighbours, he was one-year senior to me. As was typical of those days, we spent evenings playing tennis ball cricket on their terrace. He came from an upper-middle-class family, had a well-appointed home, went to a convent school. These things of course never came in between our friendship; honestly, I never realised his financial situation in those days. His father was our family doctor, so when the doctor was at home, we would be a little under pressure! The friend was ever smiling, but he was not what can be called as a mixing type.  

As so happens, we lost touch around the time when I was in tenth grade. A few years later, I moved for my engineering course to Pune. One of my classmates had also moved to join the medical curriculum at Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) in Pune. Once when we went there to meet my classmate, I bumped into this old friend, who was also learning to become a doctor. Our friendship was renewed, and we kept in touch intermittently.

As our education was getting completed, I heard that he got engaged to his classmate. I was so happy for him. Then came the news, later, that they had broken off! Later on, our friend went to England and settled there. Another 45 years passed as we again had lost touch. Once I was scanning the Facebook and searched for my friend and lo! There he was! I sent him a private message. I, of course, called him by the nickname from childhood. I shared my email id with him.  

A couple of weeks later, I received an email from him and was I happy! He said, “Pramod, it’s sheer luck that I got your message on Facebook; I was about to close my account on Facebook.” Then he gave details.  

He became a surgeon and lived in Northern England all his life. It appears that he did not travel much to India. He did quite well financially. He did not marry, he never explained hence I never asked. Then he was reminiscent about Bombay days. Our school days full of tennis ball cricket in the evenings. When it became dark, we would chat about everything in the world, until we were called home. Our email exchange continued sporadically, and we became comfortable with each other.  

Then in one of the emails, I shared with him how I went through Cancer treatment, end of 2013! Since he was a doctor, I shared with him as many medical details as possible. His reply was very positive and helped me to understand some more things from a medical perspective. I was surprised by his in-depth knowledge about cancer. He was a surgeon, but he was not an Onco Surgeon. From his next mail, I understood the background about his depth of knowledge. He had also suffered cancer of the throat region and had gone through massive doses of chemotherapy. Then he revealed a piece of very shocking information.

He wrote, “Pramod, after taking treatments for a few months, one of my doctor colleagues (who was my Onco surgeon) had a “doctor to doctor” talk with me. He said that the chances of my surviving beyond six weeks were remote. Why don’t you inform your family?” From what I knew, he did not have much contact with his family.  But he also wrote, “At the end of one month, a procedure was done. Suddenly after that procedure, my health started improving. The doctors have now removed me from the critical list and my current status at this time is “managing cancer”. I may require chemo once in a while as sustenance dose.” 

Well, this is not the story! The story started after this, at least for me! He once informed me that he was coming down to Pune for his medical college reunion. I was thrilled, and I said that we should meet. I told him, “Taj Blue Diamond will be the convenient hotel for you!” He said, “Pramod, there is one issue that I have not shared with you. When I was told that my days were numbered to six weeks, I got my lawyer and liquidated my fixed assets quickly, and I had substantial liquid money too! I organised and distributed 90% of assets to charities. Kept about 10% for unseen expenses, if required, after my death. Now with my health improving, I am seriously short of funds, but luckily, I have a pension! So, I am managing somehow. I came to know about this reunion and decided to attend, probably my first and the last one! So, staying at Taj is out of the question!” 

I thought, Oh, my god! How has this happened? He had many expenses, but luckily his most medical costs were covered under British Medical System. But overall, he was going through tough times. Other than his pension, he had no income. What turn can life take!  As he was past retirement age and in ill health, he could not work again.

This story again put me in severe turmoil, my mind was churning, and I did not know how to handle this. There was no way I could pay for his stay in Pune, he just would have refused.  

There is another twist to the story. I knew the dates for my friend’s stay in Pune. He had said that he would call me when he came to Pune. He did call, but somehow, I missed the call. During that period there were many phone calls to me from unknown numbers. So, I wrote him an email. He wrote back to me saying that he was sad that we missed out on meeting each other in Pune. He was back in England.  

After this episode, the frequency of our communication has dwindled down to a trickle; this has nothing to do with missing each other in Pune. My last couple of emails have remained unanswered. I must find out about our friend, and I hope that he is doing alright.

I am still very uneasy! Emotional turmoil continues!

Value of Ignorance!

 

Ignorance is bliss translates to “ignorantia sit beatitudo” in Latin! But is it true? Unless we humans accept that we do not know many things in this world we cannot become smarter, knowledgeable and wise! 

Everybody in the world is “blessed” with lack of knowledge! The list includes Einstein, Mozart, Chanakya, Tesla and all greats in their field. Ok, I am still sane but I wanted to make a sensational statement. What I am trying to say is that the greats in their field have terrific subject knowledge, maybe the ultimate knowledge but it is limited to their own field. In other areas, their knowledge could be from limited to zero. I am a Metallurgist by training, worked in foundries, business development and marketing area in my career; did reasonable work in the software area. But my knowledge in these fields is limited and in all other fields closer to nil. I am not shy to talk about it. It’s a fact of life.

 

How much can one learn during the lifetime? After you learn something, unless it is tested in real life, you cannot be sure if the knowledge gained is deep enough! So, with exception of a few people, most have the knowledge or are well versed in one to three areas. Rarest of the rare persons will be highly knowledgeable about more than one areas. But what all this indicates or suggests? This suggests that all of us must be humble enough to realize that this is true status in life and have the humility to accept our general lack of knowledge about everything else!  

What could be a way to attempt to correct this situation? First and foremost is the accept this with humility. The second method, I read somewhere recently about it, and I liked it. Someone suggested that you buy as many books as you can, both physical or e-books. These can be on your favourite subject as well as other subjects which you like, but naturally, you are not an expert in. What does this do? This keeps on giving you reminders of how many things you don’t know, we remain humble! At the same time, should the need arise the books can be referred to readily and we will be able to improve our knowledge?

During your career period, you may not really get time to read books but you can always skim through them. But at the same time, a habit must be cultivated to read something every year, every month and every week! Unless you are 100% sure that you are never going to read any of the books that you buy, keep on buying. Till you develop this habit of reading, maybe joining a library can be a good idea!  

Lifelong learning will help you to be happier, and even stay healthier. Plus, plenty of the smartest names in the business, from Bill Gates to Elon Musk, insist that the best way to get smarter is to read. So, what do you do? You go out and buy books, lots of them. 

But life is busy, and intentions are one thing, actions another. Soon you find your shelves (or e-reader) overflowing with titles you intend to read one day, or books you flipped through once but then abandoned. Is this a disaster for your project to become a smarter, wiser person? 

You might want to read up on tricks to squeeze more reading into your hectic life and why it pays to commit a few hours every week to learning. To start the process why not buy a book which will teach you “how to do” about book reading? But after learning this, it is still possible that your book reading in no way keeps pace with your book buying. Your overstuffed library isn’t a sign of failure or ignorance, but it is a sign that you want and hope to delve in the knowledge bank you have with you. Yes! Your library or can it be called “Virtual library”! It is virtual because though it is there it is not there till you access it!  

Are you actually going to read all those books in your lifetime? Of course not, but that isn’t the point of surrounding yourself with so much potential but as-yet-unrealized knowledge. By providing a constant reminder of all the things you don’t know, your library will keep you intellectually hungry and perpetually curious. An ever-growing collection of books you haven’t yet read can do the same for you.  

A private library is not an ego-boosting extension but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as much as your pocket allows you.  You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books.  

The virtual library is a powerful reminder of your limitations — the vast quantity of things you don’t know, half-know, or will one day realize you’re wrong about. By living with that reminder daily you can nudge yourself toward the kind of intellectual humility that improves decision-making and drives learning. 

So, stop worrying yourself for buying too many books or for having a to-read list that you could never get through in three lifetimes. All those books you haven’t read are indeed a sign of your ignorance. But if you know how ignorant you are, you’re way ahead of the vast majority of other people. 

At two ends of the spectrum, there are “know all” people and there are “know nothing” people. You and I are in between. Like knowledge of different things, you will realize the real meaning of buying and keeping a large number of books on different subjects.  

“Curiosity killed the cat” is a proverb used to warn of the dangers of unnecessary investigation or experimentation. But in the case of a virtual library that we are talking about, this proverb is not true! Unless you are curious, you won’t feel the urge to know more about different things that we don’t know or areas where your knowledge is limited.

In the current scenario, it makes a lot of sense to understand and know the new things, that are mushrooming around us in IT/Digital area. If we don’t track these things for five years, you will be left far, far behind and will find it difficult to catch up; then you will tend to ignore the subject further because you are left behind. Whether we like it or not, we will have to know about these new things. The situation of being left out is not good. Knowledge about these new IT/Digital things is going to be essential and mandatory. It is going to be like learning of basic reading and writing, of yesterday.

Friends, in pre-modern IT/Digital era, knowledge was essential to remain smarter, knowledgeable and wiser and books have been a major source for that. But post IT/Digital era, this requirement of knowledge update is going to remain but it’s going to be mandatory to continuously update yourself to survive or you may perish! The virtual library in future will be needed to survive! So start downloading or buying those books!

 

 

 

 

 

  

Prakash Nirgudkar, the ever smiling Buddha! Part II

This is the part two of the saga my friend Prakash Nirgudkar went through. The link for the Part I is below. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/12/21/prakash-nirgudkar-the-ever-smiling-buddha-part-i/

Pensive Prakash

PakyaPhoto2

What is destiny? What is the definition of destiny? Prakash’s story is what destiny is all about. Destiny took Prakash through a journey which he may never have imagined when he left Pune for the trek in September 2012. At the same time the doctors, the family members were all the time hoping against hope that Prakash will overcome this illness. It was Kavita’s destiny that she was to win the impossible battle. It was the doctor’s destiny that they were supposed to cure a most difficult case. The destiny to me is crossing of destinies of various people, some of your dear ones and some unknown to you!

Prakash is made of different stuff is now taken. On a personal level, I feel that Prakash is nothing less than Havaldar Abdul Hamid, Captain Batra who fought the war for our country and won the battle against all odds! They were honoured with Paramveer Chakra! Prakash is nothing less than that. Prakash’s family background is very normal with various professionals, including him, who did well in professional life. But from where did this special trait blossom out? I am sure it was hidden in him all the time and but he never had to face such a tough situation in life where his indomitable spirit was tested to the limit.  

Healthy, hale and hearty Prakash left Pune in September 2012 but when he came back to Pune, was taken straight to a hospital for further treatment fighting the toughest battle of his life! Pune doctors had the advantage of knowing details of what Delhi doctors had done. They took over seamlessly. But life for Kavita and Nandita continued to remain tough as there were continuous ups and downs. The only advantage was that they were in their own city Pune. Going home was distant as Prakash was far from normalcy. Every day and sometimes night would come up with a different twist in the story. Kavita had decided to stay with Prakash in the hospital, would go home very rarely. Homefront was managed by young Nandita. 

The first aim of the treatment was to remove the infection completely and increase Prakash’s strength! Any procedure or surgery was accompanied by extremely severe bouts of pain. This was accompanied by strong Anti-biotics and painkillers! Trauma took him one step backwards after every surgery but Prakash is the epitome of a person who appears to have reached Nirvana. Of course, he must have felt the pain but how he could bear it without showing any emotions is one thing even Kavita may not be able to explain. This is one aspect of the human attribute which is always difficult for me to understand. Where is this power hidden? How does it come out? Where is the trigger for that? Natural human tendency is to squirm when in pain, and howl when in extreme pain. Pakya, tell me one of these days how you managed that! I feel that this is internal training and gift from HIM! 

Two major things that had remained to be done were curing the toe injury and rebuilding of the right hand. For me, it was simple, “rebuilding of hand”! But what did it involve? Since the arm was in a fully exposed state, to rebuild it in a step by step manner was an ordeal! Planning the surgery also must have been tough because things look different on paper! Doctors had decided to rebuild his right arm after the infection was gone. They decided to do the skin grafting by removing the skin from the thigh and groin area. This was an extremely delicate procedure handled skillfully by the Pune Doctors. The family and Prakash had to undergo the same pain and trauma during every surgery. 

In between, Prakash was allowed to go home. Taking Prakash home was also a major event. The complete home had to be cleaned and thoroughly disinfected as Prakash’s immunity was very low. But I am sure going home after the great trauma must have helped the spirits of the family!  

Such major health events, being treated over a long period of time has its own problems. At one stage the doctor who had performed all the surgeries in Pune was on a holiday for about three weeks. Prakash started having issues with his toe injury during this period. Kavita took a decision to see another doctor; he was competent. But doubts started creeping up if the decision to see another doctor was correct. Since the main doctor was away for a long duration there was no choice. Minor surgery on the toe bone was done, successfully.  

 

There remained many such complex issues and had to be tackled. It is simply unimaginable how Prakash and Kavita handled these repetitive but new issues. I am sure that the whole family was always operated on reserve energy because it was always a small period of peace, followed by something or the other which caused and took them into a vicious circle of operation/procedure, followed by a couple of days of anxiety, followed by the dressing of the wound.  This is like running a marathon, one after another, with almost no break! 

The last and the most complex part of the saga was the final stage of the restoration of Prakash’s right hand. He was in better health and was responding quite well to procedures. In the last major operation, after completing the surgery, his hand was stitched to his stomach; it was held in that position for about 25 days. This would help proper assimilation of the graft with the whole body! Being around in such a position for 25 days is something impossible to visualize. After the hand was stitched, putting Prakash in bed from the gurney also became a complex procedure!  

It is now almost five years! Those who do not know what Prakash had gone through, would never know that he has come back from the brink of death if they meet him. He is now busy doing normal things in life and takes life as it comes. (Narmada Parikrama trek was one such activity! That is Prakash for you!) Kavita and Nandita also have gone through a major stressful period in life! But I am told that ladies handle the stressful situation much better than men. They are more expressive and men generally go into a shell during extreme stress! Finally, Nirgudkar family is back to normal life. 

Prakash, I consider myself lucky and proud that we met many moons back and became friends! I am sure we will continue to meet and share the life’s experiences and stories, and remember our COEP days, of course I am talking of Metallurgy! In case, any one of you want to get in touch with Prakash, do write to me!

This blog cannot be complete without the slide below. 

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Prakash Nirgudkar, the ever smiling Buddha! Part I

We read many stories in mythology, where someone gets a curse from a sage or a king! Then later the same person is given boon, conditions attached! In today’s world where everything you do is saved somewhere on a computer server, in text or image format! So, probably 2000 years hence there will not be any mythological story about Prakash, all hard facts are known and recorded. When unbelievable things were performed by humans, these turned into stories and such miracles were explained in terms of curses and boons! To me, such boons can be explained as courage shown by Nirgudkar family and by Prakash in particular to overcome impossible odds. The curses to me are destiny!

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I got my Master’s Degree in Metallurgical Engineering from COEP, the famed 150 plus years old institute from Pune. One thing I learned during those two years of Post Graduate studies was to do everything sincerely and keep the commitments. Prakash Nirgudkar urf Pakya was one-year senior to me in the Metallurgy department. We used to live in the dormitory. He is a pleasant person with an ever-smiling face. He is smart and very cooperative. After our first degree, there were very few students in the Master’s course. We were both busy and still had enough time. One thing we had decided was to brush up card playing skills, mainly Rummy. We had one more partner in this endeavour, Naidu urf “Todya”! Why he was given this nick name “Todya” is still a mystery to me. Three of us mostly had our sessions, in the afternoon. We had decided that our course timings were flexible, contrary to college rules. Sometimes we erroneously committed to play cards which clashed with some course. But the commitment was a commitment, nobody ever broke it!  

Prakash had so many good things in him but I had never imagined that he would be a great fighter, a survivor. The main trait that came up during the recent catastrophe in his life, was the indomitable spirit. What a human is capable of only comes out during tough times one faces in life. The old cliché of “When things get tough, tough get going” fits perfectly to Prakash and his family. I had written about Prakash in my blog a couple of weeks back, the link for which is given below. 

https://wordpress.com/post/panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/5910 

Yesterday, I read the book written by Kavita, his wife. The name of the book is “Surviving the toxic frostbite”. Below is the e link for the book for purchase.  

https://www.bookganga.com/R/7VXM8 

It needs downloading of book reader by Book Ganga. It can not be read on other readers.

The book is captivating, it is about the journey of Prakash when he went for a Himalayan trek; the second part is the horrendous event that happened in his life. He was a victim of severe frostbite; along with that he caught an extremely rare infection called necrotizing-fasciitis or in common language flesh eating bacteria attacked his right hand. The link about the infection is given below. 

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/necrotizing-fasciitis-flesh-eating-bacteria#2 

Even though I knew sketchy details of what Prakash went through, while reading the book I felt very tense in the second half. One suggestion! The photos of necrotizing-fasciitis shared in the book are not for weak hearted persons; I am not really sure if even many doctors have ever handled such severe infection. Obviously, the details of the treatment are all there in the book by Kavita. Hence I will not write about the details; but I am writing about human reactions, their behaviour, families and goodness of people under such tyring situations. Such good stories about humans help and support, bring back confidence in us that all is well with this world! Terrorists, accidents, economic crises are aberrations in real life!  

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Kavita, their daughter Nandita and son Prasanna have handled the major crisis in the Nirgudkar family bravely! Kavita is the person around whom the whole saga was revolving, she was the General. She was pushed into a battle which we will never hope or  want even our enemies to fight! Prakash in the initial period was as good as in trance! Even later he was so weak that Kavita was the one who held the fort! Kavita Salute! I can also understand the predicament of Prasanna who lives in the USA. He could rush for  sometime a couple of times but worrying long distance is a tough call. Nandita has handled everything with aplomb at a very young age!  

Human touch in the saga started right in the Himalayas. The team had gone twenty thousand feet above sea level, in an extremely difficult weather and terrain. At that height, Prakash had started feeling weak and his stomach problems started. Stomach issue had started draining his reserve energy really fast. As it is, at the height of 20000 feet, the body functions on reserve energy. The porters and his colleagues physically lifted him and brought Prakash down to the manageable heights. From there he was brought him into civilization in trucks and jeeps provided by ITBP. His colleagues were equally tired but had no illnesses, luckily. They rushed him to Delhi airport. During the journey, he had become so weak that his soiled clothing was required to be changed by his colleagues.  

His right hand showed a rash and had started swelling, and its colour had become ominously dark. All airlines refused to give him the boarding card. The airport doctor gave him a fitness certificate but still, he was denied boarding, looking at his hand. It was a blessing a disguise because when Delhi doctors diagnosed him for necrotizing-fasciitis, they said that air travel under these circumstances would have proved fatal. The doctors in casualty area at the hospital, where Prakash was taken were following routine procedures. The doctor from the airport came behind the ambulance on his own and told the doctors to treat the case as a serious emergency. Prakash was then put on the fast track and without even entering his name anywhere he was wheeled into Operation Theater for emergency surgery. Had this surgery got delayed, Prakash was already having a dialogue with Chitragupt; anything could have happened. This was Prakash’s first close shave with death, with many more to follow later. Airport doctor was the first of many souls who went out of their way to help Prakash. 

At this juncture, Kavita was unaware of the seriousness of the situation. She and Nandita rushed to Delhi from Pune, expecting to come back in a few days. They could never have budgeted what they had to go through even in their dreams! In terms of human goodness, the trek coordinator from Delhi, who was just an acquaintance but he went out of the way to help Kavita to get a base close to the hospital. Initially, he put them up for a few days with a lady; it was a god sent gift for them in the unknown territory of Delhi, that too under really trying circumstances.   

Delhi doctors managed to bring Prakash to the level of taking a journey to Pune. Flying was out of the question for medical reasons. They took a twenty-hour journey to Pune by train. Prakash was allowed to travel by Delhi doctors under two conditions. First was that a male nurse must accompany and second was Prakash was to be taken from Pune railway station to a major hospital! Luckily no events took place during this journey made arduous because of Prakash’s health.

I follow a rule of limiting my blogs to a certain number of words for it to remain readable. But this human saga that my friend Prakash and his family had to go through is making it difficult for me stick to my rules. I will share the concluding part of this event with you in two parts!  Tomorrow, I will publish the second part!

In the second part, I will write about Prakash getting back from the brink (his condition was still very delicate) and rehabilitation which was another journey for one plus year. 

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 Link for Part II is below!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/prakash-nirgudkar-the-ever-smiling-buddha-part-ii/

 

         

Jack of All Trades!

Jack of all trades and Master of none is a figure of speech that has been very famous for a long time. Since I am not an Etymologist, I had to work hard to understand how this figure of speech came up. 

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The shortened version “a jack of all trades” is often a compliment for a person who is good at fixing things, and has a very good broad knowledge. A “Jack of all trades” may be a master of integration, as such an individual who knows enough from many learned trades and skills to be able to bring the individual’s disciplines together in a practical manner. This person is a generalist rather than a specialist.  

There is also a longer version “Jack of all trades, master of none, but oftentimes better than master of one” which refers to a person who is not the best at all skills, but is better than someone who is only a master of one.  

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The “master of none” element appears to have been added later; which made the statement less flattering to the person receiving. Today, the phrase used in its entirety generally describes a person whose knowledge, while covering a number of areas, is superficial in all of them. When abbreviated as simply “jack of all trades”, it is an ambiguous statement; the user’s intention is then dependent on context. However, when “master of none” is added this is unflattering and sometimes added in jest. 

Over the last fifty years, things are going in the direction of specialization. I am told that in the medical field this specialization is quite deep. General Surgeons, Orthopedic Surgeons was the initial norm. Now we have Surgeons for different Organs. We have Spline Surgeon or maybe a Spleen Surgeon. We have Knee Surgeons and we have Shoulder specialists. In dentistry now we have a Pediatric dentist and Implant Dentist. We have experts for our 7th tooth and so on. What happened was that these experts got themselves trained in specialities and later they became such experts that they continued to work only in their specialized areas. Don’t be surprised if you have an expert surgeon who works only middle finger of the left hand!  

But all this is likely to change over a period. At the same time in the times of super specialities, there have been generalists who have done well. There are certain areas in life which need the human being to have knowledge of many things. Super specialization occurs when humans work with their own hands, or they do research in a very specific area e.g. molecular biology. But there are many general-purpose work areas which need cross-functional knowledge, leadership, understanding of commercial aspects. (I have just mentioned a few disciplines.) A superb knee surgeon may not be able to run a hospital. A nerdy computer expert like Steve Jobs came up with fantastic products. But Apple as an organization was way beyond him, though he was one of the founder members.  It requires deep knowledge of the area in which you are an expert, but you need to get the ideas on paper, converted into reality. The specialist may not be an expert in getting these ideas to become a commercial success or be able to convert it into a publicly usable product.  

A new concept is already on the horizon for knowledge of those like you and me, but it is existence since last 10 to 15. But now it is discussed more openly. It is an idea of making use of Supercomputing power, Data Sciences as powerful tools which will help humans to cross new boundaries. How will this happen? In which area could this happen? What are the views of experts?  

Human biology is one area where the impact could be the maximum. We have had great thinkers, great designers in history but to me, HE is the greatest of them all by miles. Human body is a real complex design made by HIM! We have now started understanding many things about humans, the functioning of the human body, diseases, repairs and so on. Ageing of the human body is one area where a lot of work is being done. Why does a human die other than by diseases, accidents? The main reason is old age. Though ultimately the death could be because of heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure; but generally, the reason for death can be described as multiple organ failure. As we grow in age, things start going wrong.

Let us understand how the word “Age” is used. As a noun, it means “the length of time that a person has lived or a thing has existed.” As a verb, it means “grow old or older.” So, when we Age, as in the verb, our body also ages, its functions slowly start diminishing. One area where humans have always been fascinated is overcoming death. Immortality with aged organs, bent back, poor digestion, joints creaking, not able to see and hear properly will be meaningless. Hence there is a lot of research going on in the area of overcoming death and consequent research in the area of reversing ageing of our organs. We already know that knee joint and hip joint replacements are reasonably common surgeries. Some heart replacements are taking place but are not very common.  

Imagine the new Ashwathama who never dies,  having a weak heart. I am sure that there is research going on somewhere to make an artificial heart at a reasonable price. Will this be made by a heart surgeon? Will this be made by a hydraulics engineer? Will it be designed by an electrical engineer, as heart gets electrical impulses to keep pumping on and on! To me, this person will be a generalist or a jack of many (if not all) trades but may be master of none. That entity has to understand hydraulics for a heart pumping, medical knowledge to understand the concept of what heart does and an electrical engineer to understand impulses. (I have considered only a few areas for the purpose of discussion) This generalist will also need to have good computer programming knowledge required for simulating the concept of an artificial heart. 

Jack of all trades term said in jest can become history. You need a jack of all trades. The knowledge of how the huge collected data can be processed using data science will also be useful! Are we talking of a Superman? Are we talking of a “Super specialist Generalist”? Is it already getting complicated? But to overcome the Yamaraj (the god of death) humans need to work hard, work smarter. It is definitely not a job of a super specialist but a super generalist!  

In the medical field, results of the Jack of All trade concept has become commonly known to us. Knee joints, Hip joints, putting stainless rods in place of bones, words like Stainless Steel and Titanium have become common. This is a language of a mechanical engineer and a metallurgist! Then there are teeth implants! Use of Gold in dentistry is quite common for years! Scattered usage of such combination of expert generalist has been happening for quite some time. 

But AI and supercomputing are going to give a real boost to such efforts as these are powerful tools. AI is self-learning as it can learn from historical data generated, as the project progresses. What will Immortality project involve? To start with, stop ageing of your skin, a 150-year-old person would also like to have young looking skin. Then stop the ageing of joints! Revive heart function, revive brain function and so on. This means the whole-body function will need revival. This will involve more generalists than having super specialists! Combination cross functional knowledge comes into picture. 

So, stop calling “Jack of All Trades” to someone in jest! That is going to be the need of the hour! Do you know who can replace the super specialist? It can be Robot made by Super generalists! Amen!

To me the best example of Jack of All Trades:

JACK OF ALL TRADES

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MASTER OF ALL