Surprise Tool! Daily Routines & Rituals!

People take education; they train themselves in specialised areas. But few things impact your daily productivity, career path, and overall well-being as much as your routines. What daily routines are we talking about in this discussion? Each has his routines. I will explain what I mean.  

I write a little more than what I used to do in the olden days. I consider myself a bit of writer these days. In the year 2018, I have written 212,000 words as per WordPress site! In a day on an average, it is approximately 580 words or 1 ½ page. I published 180 blogs in 2018. As a writer, I have my routines set up. The routines are not right or wrong but these are my routines, and I follow them.  

Here is what I do. I do my fine-tuning, publishing and other entries related to publishing after I wake up early morning. Essential work takes about 45 minutes. When I wake up, I take my medicine, wake my laptop, heat water for drinking. I drink hot water with turmeric as per terrific suggestion by friend Jayprakash. It helps my throat. I  read what I wrote on the previous day; reading again aids in fine-tuning and getting into the groove. One of my rituals is to publish my blog at 5 am. Why five am? No reason, it is my routine. When I follow my routine, my published matter is generally free of errors, as my mind is fresh and helps me correct my mistakes. Will I make any mistakes if I don’t follow the routines? Will I be comfortable? I do not know. But If I am comfortable doing my work with a specific routine, I may not want to experiment.  

  ritual1

You may write down your own routines/rituals as displayed above!

In the office scenario we check our documents, our emails, we have one on one meetings. We have group meetings. We meet with outsiders. We have telephonic conversations. We are not robots. We take some time to switch from one task to another. Just imagine that you have come from a heated interdepartmental meeting. Next on the agenda is a one on one meeting with a talented colleague. She may be thinking regarding resigning due to some complex issue. A good idea will be to take a five-minute break. It could be tea break, washroom break (maybe to wash your face). This break will bring some normalcy in your mind, and you will be able to handle the one on one meeting better. 

You may have observed routines followed by batsmen during cricket matches. Some twirl their bat, some walk five steps away from stumps and come back. All such routines help them to keep their concentration. But there are some smart bowlers like Ravindra Jadeja. They bowl their balls one after another in quick succession if a run is not scored. The hastening up helps the bowler to break the concentration of batsmen as they are not able to twirl their bat or remove the hand gloves.  

Our persona or personality is made up of what we repeatedly do. If you are a voracious reader, then people may call you as a well-read man; because during the chats, you can give quotes or examples from what you read.  

The rituals aid the routines that we follow! Publishing my blog at 5 am is a ritual too! When we follow some rituals, it sends signals to our mind that we are planning to start some new activity. After using Laptop for emails, before one on one meeting, we can put the laptop in sleep mode by closing it down. After coming back from group meeting before looking into your computer, you may have a cup of tea to indicate the switch over. I had said above that we are not robots and this is what it means. Our attention doesn’t immediately follow the new task. Some thinking and part of our attention remain stuck in the original work. 

Such rituals are not connected directly to any task. These are parallel to some of the religious rituals we follow in our life. On a specific day after a death in the family, we invite people for lunch, as a ritual indicating that the mourning is over.  

When we perform two different tasks, our thinking can be entirely different. For example, you were creating a document, and then you are switching to a one on one meeting with a colleague. These two tasks require vastly different thinking. Writing will need referencing of old documents, talking to a colleague, looking for old emails. The one on one meeting will require you to switch to the understanding of the specific issues being discussed, and you may need to check something with your HR department. Mental changeover, information collection and preparation in general for every event is different. We have to find our ritual that makes the transition smooth. 

Each of us has a way of doing things. Our body cycles are different. Some of us are morning people, and some are night owls. There is no point trying to wake up at four in the morning because the CEO of a successful company in the line of your business does so. “Early to bed and early to rise” is the right thing to say. But your work requires that you take calls thrice a week that ends at midnight! You may not be able to follow this idiom.  

So how do routines and rituals fit into the modern workday? And how can we develop ones that maximise our ability to do meaningful work? One might ask do we need these routines and rituals to pass the day? We have to understand that in the modern world days can be long, tedious. Sometimes these can be boring too! Routines and rituals can introduce some break in the tedious nature of jobs.  

I will share with you some different routines/rituals that people follow. 

  • I have seen many roadside kiosk owners, after preparing their first cup of tea to dump it on the ground. On checking, I was told that it brings them good luck. 
  • Churchill used to take a nap at 5 p.m. This was his siesta, a habit gained in Cuba, allowed him to work 1 1/2 days in every 24 hours. At 6:30 p.m. he awoke, bathed again, and dressed for dinner at 8 p.m. 
  • Some athletes, don’t change their socks throughout a small tournament.  
  • Some cricketers always wear their gear in a specific sequence.  

You are what your routines are, and these are specific to you! So go ahead and follow them religiously.

I found one slide about rituals about our life! I thought it was interesting.

ritual2

  

  

  

 

Advertisements

Bappa’s Constitution!

Yesterday when we were going out, in the car Rhea asked a question to my daughter Priya.  She said, “Is it our flags birthday today?” It was not a simple question. Priya said, “No, it is our constitution’ s birthday!” For a five-year-old, the next inevitable question was what the constitution is? Priya said, “It is a rule book for all of us.” Rhea then asked, “Did Bappa write the rule book?” Bappa is the Marathi word for God.

In childhood everything is very straightforward, that includes life. Good things in life happen because of God, and the bad things occur because of the demons. They define everything as  0 & 1; things are either black or white. There are no shades of grey. Childhood naivety is responsible for an easy life. For kids, there are no complexities. When life is good, they laugh when it is sad, they cry.

But adult life is tricky and where everything is in shades of grey. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a book representing today’s times. For the benefit of those who are not aware of this book here is the link.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_of_Grey

This book is about sex, control, wealth and combination thereof. Wealth is about ownership. The concept of ownership started ten thousand years back when humans started organised farming.  With farming, the nomadic tribes began to settle into areas near the water, rivers or lakes. Many settlements also started near the sea, but the drinking water was a problem initially.

With the ownership started the issues of controls. In other species like monkeys, controls were mainly about leadership and females. There were no other assets hence things were and still are simple. But today humans need to control the area, then the city, state and nation. Further people want to control other countries. Controls are taken to get natural assets.

I was just trying to imagine a naïve world as seen through the child’s eyes. Life would be simple. Children can play, chat with each other. There are no language barriers; they don’t have territory issues. We should use Google Earth, metaphorically. When we open  Google Earth and see our home,  we can get to know the house distinctly when we zoom in. Start zooming out.  First, we see our colony, then the area, then the city.

Further zooming shows us the state where we live, then the nation. As we zoom further, we see our continent — finally the whole earth. What is the meaning of this change? These images take us away from the barriers we have created, the barriers crash. We go away from our small abode; we are taken far away from the language spoken and finally from the geography of our nation and the continent. We need to rewrite the Bappa’s Rules, as seen from Google earth as there are unnecessary barriers. We need to think out of box. We should become naïve like small kids.

If you think that Pramod is trying to visualise utopia because I am trying to say something that is impossible; no sir! It has already happened to some extent in our world. What is the European Union (EU) after all? EU was born in 1993. Most of the European nations joined the EU or agreed to be part of EU and share the same rules, currency, visa and so on. They have managed to remove the unnatural barriers. A couple of years back when we took an Alpine tour, we started in Germany, went to Austria, then to Italy.

Further, we travelled to Switzerland, again to Italy and back to Switzerland. Finally, we took our flight back home from Frankfurt in Germany. No border checks, no customs inspection, we could use the same currency Euro in most of the places.

When a big continent like Europe can survive using naïve rules where they tried to remove many unnatural barriers, I am sure other nations can also work to remove the obstacles. There are problems in EU, but questions had been worse when there were more barriers. Imagine a world free of passports, visas, x-ray machines and so on! There are problems galore like terrorism, refugees who made it necessary to create such complex systems.

When she was younger, Rhea had asked me one question in a Mandir. “How does the Bappa know when I ask him to make me wise, in Marathi? Does he understand all languages?” Bappa or God is our creation. He does not bother about barriers; he understands every language in the world. We know him as God, Jesus, Mohamad. The different species look different; some fly, some are underwater. Some are two-legged, most are four-legged. Except for humans, all other species follow nature’s rules. They die when they die. Nobody takes them to hospitals. Birth and death are natural processes and should be accepted as they come. I am sure some of the species must be feeling sad when one of them dies.

In many cases, when their time has come to go, they only go away from the clan and die.

Which constitution or the rules are the correct rules or better rules? Bappa’s Constitution or the nations’ constitution? A good idea will be to have a mix of the two the way EU manages their affairs. The nation should follow local rules for running the nation and God’s rule for international relations. Writing these two lines is quite simple and bringing them into practice will be tough.

Coming to the naivety of 50 years back, what has changed in the social fabric? In India, there used to regular riots between people of different religions, the number of riots have come down. But the social atmosphere, these days, is always either tense or very tense! In the United States, African Americans were not allowed to take part in beauty pageants. There used to be open discrimination till late ’60 s of the last centuries. Discrimination has reduced somewhat, but I feel that people have become subtle, they have not changed. The coarseness in the Americas is on the rise for the last few years. The stressed social fabric of current times is due to jingoistic social media and political atmosphere both in India and the USA.

Galloping technology is supposed to bring ease of living, but it also brings in a big gap in rich and poor! Besides the usual reasons for a socially tense atmosphere, this divide of haves and have nots is going to add to the stress — all the more reason why Bappa’s Constitution will make more sense.

Let us all pray to him in any language (he will understand) to bring naivety back to our society. Pray to Him to teach us to improve ourselves so we can remove disparity, hate and barriers!

Rhea, to me Bappa’s rules are always good!

Managing Moods!

mood2

Our life is about managing things, managing the boss, managing the wife and managing finances. If we can handle these things then probably we do not have to manage our mood. Yes, the mood is another crucial thing that we need to manage. Can we manage our mood? Is the mood control in our hands? Yes, it is! In our lives, nothing lasts forever. There could be a financial loss, there could be a death in the family, there could be a heartbreak; the human brain is designed to overcome such issues over some time.

Our mood changes on day to day basis! Serious events could catch you in a melancholy mood for some days. But on day to day basis, our mood can be good, bad and the average of good and bad. It can be nasty for a short period. Similarly, it can be boisterous too. Nobody would like to be in bad or a sad mood. If we attempt to come out of it, we can do it.

We generally think that we are disturbed because another individual said something to you, or thought you were doing your things correctly, but still, you have been wronged. You passed through when the green signal was turning yellow, but you were given a ticket because you jumped the signal. Yes, there will be annoying people or events, but that is always not the case. It is not others all the time who spoil our mood.

Some of the reasons for your foul mood can be

  • You have not slept well during the night
  • Weather is nasty
  • Traffic snarls due to which you almost missed your flight
  • You have to deal with an idiot at the workplace
  • You are unnecessarily insulted by a salesman or a clerk

These things are bound to happen. These incidents happen to healthy, wealthy or happy people all the time; such events occur in case of all the people. Before we can improve anything by way of correcting the process, we must understand what the problem is. We should not avoid things that destroy our mood. In life sometimes we need to confront people or situations. Human weakness is to avoid such things, but that does not solve the issue. So we must give priority to understand the problem first.

The event or the situation is not harmful, it is the human reaction to the situation, is what creates the foul mood. Many times adverse events can generate a response in us which can lead to improving the situation and getting into a better spirit. The good idea is to keep a log of such events for a period and analyse why it is happening. Keeping a record can help us understand ourselves better. There is no point in trying not to confront such situations.

Now that you know a bit about getting into the foul mood, it will be a good idea to know how to come out of it.

It’s simple. Come out of a lousy mood! Ok, it is not that simple. First and foremost is shrug off and don’t react. Let things cool down for at least some time. Why this needs to be done is because our first reaction to such situations is always emotional and not rational. Emotional response can further aggravate the situation rather than diffusing it. But at the same time, do not leave things open; there has to be a closure otherwise we stay in a foul mood for a long time.

We keep on getting text messages, emails which can create a tough situation. I will share an example. I had received an email from a business associate who was very unfair and nasty. There was no fault from my side. I wrote a nasty email which I did not send. I saved it in the draft folder. I slept over the email. Next day, I reread the mail. I realised that considering long term relationship, my original mail would have cost us dearly. I diluted my mail by 95% and sent it. Of course, I mildly registered my protest and also wrote how it was not our fault. Two things happened because of this. The gentleman called me and said that he was forced to write that mail due to some awkward situation in their organisation but he did not mean it. He made up for our loss in the next project. Secondly, since I had written a nasty mail and stored it in the draft file, I had blown up steam and had cooled down considerably. Two things together gave the situation a proper closure.

There are situations when you react, and in some cases, you don’t respond. You need to consider what is involved. Does this affect your integrity? Is your relationship with someone close and dear at stake? In such cases the action is necessary.

mood1

The relationship may involve your girlfriend or a boyfriend. If some angry words are used there can be overall disappointment with girlfriend refusing to talk to you. You get angrier because she does not speak to you and the situation may get out of control. It is a good idea not to let emotions take control of the situation. If you value your relationship, it is better not to say something harsh, though it might make you feel better at that time.

Managing your moods is tough, and you need to practice it. First few times you may not handle it well. But over a period you do!

But something is bound to trigger your bad mood. Try not to get soaked in that mood. Try to come out of it. Getting stuck in that lousy mood is a recipe for situation worsening. Overcome it, move on!

Life is about moving on! Try and set “Time Out T” like in a basketball game! Give yourself ten minutes, thirty minutes! Never allow yourself into foul mood indefinitely. Ultimately life has to go on!

It’s your life and unfortunately the only one you have. Try and enjoy it but remaining in a foul mood is not going to help.

Birds and the bees!

In the politically correct language when parents are supposed to talk to their children about sex education, the term “birds and the bees” is used. That reminds me of a joke. A Lord from London goes to Paris with his son for a week. The son has turned 18. After coming back, her ladyship is after the lord to teach their son about the Birds and Bees. Reluctantly he calls his son to his library. He says, “Son, we went to Paris to the night club. We had some drinks and later on met some beautiful ladies. Ahm! Next day, we had breakfast with them and later on went for a swim with them.” The son is confused and said, “Dad, what are you trying to tell me?”. The Lordship says, “That is what the birds and bees do!”

Human has many common traits with other living things. All are born and die. They procreate, eat food, travel, some species migrate. The main difference in humans and others is the development of brain and thumb on the hand. These two make humans different and superior to most species. Species coming closest to humans are monkeys. Humans are supposed to be enhanced version of monkeys.

I was thinking about how advanced we humans are but some things we do, always put me off! Why does the “advanced” brain work awkwardly and nastily these days? Humans tend to look down upon those with “lesser” brains! My favourite activity in the day is to watch birds keeping themselves busy. How do they know where to fly for their food and water? Which GPS are they using to travel back and forth to their destinations every day? Which alarm clock are they using to wake up every day on time? How do they understand the Sun’s movements? How do they understand Equinox and Solstice? Do the non-migratory birds change their daily travel times in line with the Sun’s moves?  How do the migratory birds have advanced GPS to travel thousands of miles, back and forth every year? They also understand Equinox and Solstice. Are they with “lesser” brain?

We can learn many things from other species. With our brains, we should be selective and pick-up good stuff from them. Take for example the Cat. It always tries to cover its poo with something. Some unfortunate humans don’t have access to toilets but they never even try to hide their poo after they are done. The other day I was watching some pigeons. In the next condo, there was an overflow of water on the terrace. The pigeons were making use of the water pool that had formed, to take their bath. But they made sure that water did not splash anywhere. They were doing it in an orderly manner. Pigeons don’t get such poodles every day. Look at the frenzy we have on common water taps. People have been murdered over the fight for the right to collect water on public taps.

I am sure the other species have their fights. There are altercations in humans too! But we humans sometimes cross the limits. I go with my daughter Priya to drop Rhea for school. With Sun’s direction change, the Sun rays on that spot where we wait were very bright. So, we stood inside an apartment complex, a few feet inside their area for shed. A man came, he was a resident there. He started speaking nastily about our entering their premises without permission etc. Priya and Rhea immediately started walking out. On the way out, I said, “Sir, we were standing only to avoid the bright Sun, for the child”! Something clicked in him. He started a tirade which took a nasty direction. It was a monologue which ended with a statement that we were trespassing. I said, “Sir, why don’t you call the Police and register a complaint!” The bus came, and we left that area. Friends, you will be shocked when you know the words he used! I have only written politically correct words.

I am sure the other species have their unwritten rules, which they understand. We see some battles and fights among them about the ownership of the territory. But we brainy humans have made better and or more sensible rules to create better habitat. We have an elementary practice of giving the right of way to the pedestrians, to cross on the zebra crossings. Near our home, we have a zebra crossing, freshly repainted. I was crossing the road, and a motorcycle guy came at a speed. I was indicating to him to slow down. But he shouted at me and said, “Don’t you see I am going at speed, you xxx!” He zipped in front of me.

I have seen the cats feeding the kittens, the birds giving food to their babies! Do they check WhatsApp while feeding them? Are they sometimes late because they have attended kitty parties? Do parents not have time to take their kids to doctors because “Oh! They are in IT!”

I am sure there are some extraordinarily capable and as well as dull species like we have in humans. But to my knowledge, they never fail to do their basic things. The nests they build, the colonies they create, the hives they construct are the classic examples of the essential work done by species. You will never see a bee without a hive, or an ant without the hill unless of course damaged by us smart humans. Why don’t we follow our primary responsibilities? Why do we create a situation where a large group of humans will be homeless? Another large group will be forced to live in poverty? Is it because a small group of people own substantial assets?

Keeping track of our health is in our hands. But we flog our bodies so much that we fall sick. Getting sufficient sleep is one the primary requirement. But we humans are experts in getting less sleep. Only rarely this sleep deficit can be work-related, but mostly it is fun related like partying and drinking. I will share with you how Polar Bears stick with nature’s requirements. Due to extreme cold, they are required to go into hibernation. Scientists have done studies about the sleeping habits of the bears. They found out a fascinating phenomenon. The polar bears in an area go into hibernation precisely at the same time, though they may be dispersed over an area! Going into hibernation at the precisely same time is impressive. Lights out in the army barracks?

The human race has progressed a lot compared to other species. But with these developments, we do some things that cross the limits of wasting time! Syncing with nature and enjoying the fruits of development and research can go hand in hand, provided we want to do it. Let’s be humane and not only humans!

In future, I am sure that whenever the Lordship tells his son about the birds and the bees, he will also say how the other species rest well, how they take care of their young ones, how they do not flog their body to enjoy vices. He will also suggest to his son to be in sync with nature!

Happy Republic Day!

Small is also big!

Whenever we discuss progress, we talk about the contribution of large-scale projects; they help the nations in a big way. Yes, the contribution of such projects is enormous, but we tend to forget the small contributions made by the tiny business. Their changes can be called incremental or delta changes (In mathematical terms). There are hundreds of thousands of small companies that also help society and nation to grow. These small businesses together also make a significant contribution.

In Marathi, there is a term called खारीचा वाटा, a contribution made by a Squirrel. Squirrels are very tiny, and they can carry small things held their mouth. But they are busy animals and do a lot of work in a short period. The term खारीचा वाटा has come from a mythological story. Lord Ram was trying to cross the sea to go to Sri Lanka. Sita was taken to Lanka by the demon Ravana. An army of monkeys led by Hanuman was putting large boulders in the sea to make a bridge. A squirrel saw this and helped in her own way to build the bridge. He picked up small twigs and made many trips to support the bridge creation. Ram was impressed by squirrel’s contribution. He picked him up and caressed him by using three fingers on the back. Squirrels have three lines on the back as a result of this caress. Ok, enough of mythology.

Small contributions, small improvements, small habits can all contribute in a big way if done consistently. Small continuous improvements are made famous by the Japanese technique of Kaizen. (カイゼン) Kaizen is the Japanese word for “efficiency”. In business, kaizen refers to activities that continually improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. It also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics, that cross organisational boundaries into the supply chain. Healthcare, psychotherapy, life-coaching, government and banking sectors implement Kaizen.

How do small changes improve things? How are they helpful? I read about the British Cycling team. Till the year 2003 British team was also-ran team in all the tournaments. Their reputation was so bad that the reputed cycle companies avoided selling any bikes to them. In the year 2003, the British Cycling Association appointed Dave Brailsford as new performance director. Since 1908 they had one gold medal in the Olympics and had never won the Tour de France race in 110 years.

https://www.letour.fr/en/

Brailsford had a relentless policy known as “the aggregation of marginal gains”. He felt that everything involved in cycling should be looked into for improvement. Even if it gave 1% improvement, it was used. They tried different massage gels which improved recovery time of muscles. They determined what type of pillows and mattresses should be used so that athletes slept well. Many more such changes indirectly affecting the cycling performance were made. But these things improved the lifestyle of athletes which in turn helped them develop better cycling skills. They also used improved seats, quality of tyres and such things which directly affected the performance.

In five years after Brailsford took over, the British team dominated the track and field event in 2008 Beijing Olympics and won 60% of all the Gold medals. In 2012 London Olympics, the group broke nine Olympic records and seven world records. That same year, Bradley Wiggins became the first Britisher to win Tour de France race for the first time. Next year his team-mate Chris Froome won the race and went on winning for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017! Between 2007 and 2017 the British team won 178 world championships, 66 Olympic medals.

The above records show the contribution of 1% improvement model. Sometimes improvements are quite small, sometimes these are not even noticed. These minor improvements are helpful when they are done consistently. Imagine 1% improvement every day for one year, i.e. 365 days. See the maths. There will be an astounding improvement of 3.7 times compared to what you were doing on the first day. The reverse is all equally true. Imagine you are doing 1% worse every day. You will not take much time to reach the zero level.

The small habits that we form are like compound interest earned on money deposited in the bank. It is better than the simple interest earned. Don’t do good things once in a while; if you want to become a good reader, read every day, every week.  If you’re going to remain fit go to the gym every week. Go for those long walks you tried to take, regularly. Maybe going on every Sunday is a good idea.

Look at the way how Kaizen helps. Consider a process in which the operator has to bend twice, per cycle. At some stage, the operator will get tired, and his efficiency will go down. Study the process and try to eliminate at least one time bending to start with the improvement. The change is bound to improve productivity. All the Kaizen methods are based on common sense and are quite cost-effective. But for this, a detailed review has to be made for the process. There is a case study where using common sense, a significant cost saving was achieved. Two equipments were kept next to each other. A component processed on the first machine was fed to the next device. It was done manually. The simple solution was provided by increasing the height of the first machine. The component was pushed to the following equipment by providing a chute!

I wrote about habits in details in my blog last week.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/habits-or-goals-goals-or-habits/

A group of about 12 bees in their lifetime will produce a teaspoon of honey between them. The quantity is a negligible quantity, but thousands of bees together produce honey which is commercially sold. Similarly, an ant individually is tiny. But all of them together build their large colonies, take away things from our homes. It is the small contribution that does this work.

Friends, I have shared some of the methods about which I have come across, and I found out that consistent, small contributions are crucial to the success of individuals personally and professionally. Large companies are equally important, but that does not mean that small enterprises can be neglected. Both should be treated on par!

Think small consistently and improve significantly in the long run!

Ram Mohan fun days in ’60 s! -Part 1

 

Folks  this was our prayer or our प्रार्थना in Ram Mohan School!

This week appears to be one full of nostalgia. At the beginning of the week, my school friend Pradeep Gavankar was in India; we met in Thane over lunch with friends. Later my brother Shrikant (1959 batch) came and stayed with me. Both live in the US, and both were in Ram Mohan school in Girgaum, Bombay. Naturally, we remembered and chatted about friends and the school. I am into a long nostalgic trip, and I thought the only way to try and come out of the trip is to write a few things in the form of a blog. So here goes.

I joined Ram Mohan in the 7th grade and passed my SSC exam in 1965. It was sheer fun all through. First and foremost, I was not a “scholar” and was considered one of the naughtier students. Most teachers were ok with the naughtiness. When I overdid it, it was gifted a slap on the hand or standing outside the classroom! After joining the school my first friend was Abhay Kelkar, he was very similar to me in most things. We had a great time all through those years. In a few days after joining the school, I had a reunion with Pradeep Gavankar who traveled with me on the same bus. There were rarely any school buses in those days; I would catch a bus at 6.15 in the morning.

Our judgment about teachers was restricted to understanding if they were interested in us; yes they were all interested. We were too young to understand as they were all excellent humans and humane to the core. But we rarely found any teachers who showed their human traits while dealing with us. The whole world was so bright, so shiny for us that we never realized that teachers could have had their problems in life. For us, nobody had any issues in this world.

Among the teachers, we had Kuwadekar sir, who had a great smile and would wear coats made of Sharkskin fabric. Then we had Ashok Karhade sir; he was very young and pleasant. He died at a young age, a few years later. We had Vaidya teacher, she was always smartly dressed, and she had different wristwatches of various shapes. That was a real novelty in those days. I forgot to mention. We used to call male teachers as “Sir” and lady teachers as “Teacher”!

I have seen the world, and I am now nearing 70. I can proudly say that we were lucky to have some outstanding teachers in the school! Mayekar sir for English, Joshi sir for Sanskrit and Kundaikar sir for Maths are some of the names that come to the fore. Pandit sir for Hindi was equally good. In those days, we did not understand much, but now I know the dedication these teachers showed.

I have some different memories of the Ram Mohan. Apte sir was my father’s classmate in S P College in Pune. When we went for a trip to Matheran while in SSC, he told me the story of how he remained thin due to some ragging during his college days. Wadke teacher never taught me as I came in Ram Mohan in the 7th grade. But I somehow had a special affinity for her as she was involved in sports activities on the grounds on Marine Drive. Her daughter Mangal was my classmate, but I remained in sporadic communication with her. More than ten years back she came and stayed with me in Pune, for a couple of days.

Another exciting memory that I have is an incident. On the last day of a month, one of the teachers could not take a class due to ill health. We made a lot of दंगा (noise). Kukalkar teacher was passing by, and she came to the class. She punished us by making us wait for the full timing of the school. On the last day of the month (it is called महिना अख़ेर in Marathi) we used to have half day school. After about 30 minutes I told all that I will manage to get us free. I went to the teacher and said, “ Teacher, we don’t have tiffin as the school timing was half day! We are hungry. Please let us go.” Kukalkar teacher was a very kind person. As I broke the rule by leaving the class, she punished me with two slaps on my hand. Then she said with false anger, “Ok! You all now go home!”

Looking back, the teachers had a lot of work besides teaching. There was administrative work about the students. Managing teacher training courses, checking notebooks for homework. Setting and correcting papers for four examinations held during the year. They used to help and guide students in elocution competitions, dramatics, annual gathering, sports. Ram Mohan did not have own ground, so we were taken to Wilson high school ground, a mile away from school! There we would perform marching practice. Marching practice was the responsibility of the PT teachers. That reminds me of Malekar sir! Outwardly he looked very tough, but if students had some personal issue, he would guide them with love. I met him once after passing out, and he was very  soft with me! He reminded how I used to be naughty during PT period too!

From the friends, I remember Prakash Naik distinctly. He used to play cricket for school. Later on, he played for Bombay University along with Sunil Gavaskar. He was very agile on his feet and a great prankster. He used to make paper arrows in class and had a good aim. Once a while, he would fit a pin the front! This made the arrow a lethal weapon. Another thing is that he would always be having bandages somewhere on the body. I remember one incident specifically. He had a fight with someone. Prakash was chased for two stories and was cornered in one of the classrooms. This happened during snack break. We thought that finally Prakash was caught by someone. You will not believe what happened next. Prakash simply ran towards a window, slipped out of it, he grabbed the rain pipe and slid back to the ground floor! All of us were aghast!

I remember that I used to remain away from essay writing competitions, elocution competitions. But later in my life, I had created a lot of documents. I conducted meetings and had to speak and explain various subjects regularly. When I picked up these skills, I am not sure. I find that blogging and essay writing are quite similar. But I remember one thing; even the school I was a good storyteller!

I can go on and on and on. I will share a great surprise I had in school. One of the teachers thought I was good enough to sing सुसंगती सदा…

Maybe that was the only way to keep me away from mischief!

US Government Shut down!

Currently, there is shut down going on in specific departments of the US government. From what I have been reading it appears that the United States is the only country where such shutdowns can occur. All other nations have alternative methods of keeping the departments working. Why has this shutdown occurred?

A government shut down occurs when non-essential discretionary federal programs close. It occurs when Congress fails to appropriate funds. In the normal budget process, Congress appropriates funds by September 30 for the following fiscal year. When that doesn’t happen, it enacts a continuing funding resolution. If Congress can’t even agree on that, it forces a shutdown. That signals a complete breakdown in the budget process.

In the United States, the financial year is from 1st January to 31st December. These shutdowns can occur if certain political adjustments do not happen in time. Current shutdown is the longest ever shut down in the US history. Before ’80 s of the last centuries, such events did not occur because though people did not get paid during the shutdown, they could continue to work without pay. At the beginning of ’80 s, the then attorney general gave a legal opinion that during the shutdown nobody can work. In today’s reference, this means that the affected government employees need to return the government issued electronic devices like cell phones and laptops. They cannot even access their official emails. Not allowed to access the official emails is a real “shut down”. If you have some work pending it will not get done until the government resolves the issue.

Imagine day to day problems in the USA. The flights have taken off, and the Air Traffic controllers come under the shutdown. The flights will not be able to land. (Ok, I am exaggerating!) Assume that security guys come under the shutdown, no flights can take off. I need to check up with my niece; she works for the US government in Washington DC if she is under the shutdown. What will be the effect on people? They will not be paid during this period. Some departments may use their emergency funds to pay the employees for this period, but that has limits. Then they will have to keep on working without pay. The contract workers are the worst hit. They do not get back pay. They go home and await instructions. The people who are on pay cheque to pay cheque budget will be walloped. Their loan default will start. Loan default, in turn, will decrease their credit ratings. There will be a mad rush to look for temporary jobs to handle the financial crisis. Three hundred eighty thousand non-critical employees have been told to go home, but 50000 out of these have been called back, without pay. Four hundred twenty thousand critical employees are already working without pay.

On January 8, 2019, the president Trump addressed the nation. He said a $5.7 billion wall on the border with Mexico is the only solution for a growing crisis at the border. The wall is a crucial piece of Trump’s immigration policy. Since November, the number of migrant families applying for asylum at the border has increased. Homeland Security does not have the funding to process the new surge. Many are showing up in remote areas.

The House had approved a bill on January 3, that would fund all departments except Homeland Security. It would support that department through February 8, 2019. The Senate won’t vote on the bill because Trump opposes it.

On January 4, 2019, President Trump announced that he would continue the shutdown until Congress included $5.7 billion for the wall. He has threatened to declare a national emergency. Trump could then readjust military spending to build the wall without Congressional approval. The administration is also exploring whether it could adjust the funds from the Army Core of Engineers designated for hurricane disaster relief.

But the main problem in all this is that along with Democrats many Republicans also are against the Mexican Wall proposed by Trump. How this will get resolved is anybody’s guess because this issue has now taken a political turn. Republicans say that the wall may not work; there is a need for additional security forces. Democrats say that these funds should be used to improve medical health support given to the public in Obamacare.

There are still a lot of federal cybersecurity workers at their posts carrying out what has been deemed “essential” operations, like defending government networks from attacks and keeping confidential documents from being compromised. But experts warn that trying to thwart hackers at less than full strength is risky. It is evident that cyber threats don’t operate on Washington’s political timetable, and they don’t stop because of a shutdown.

What are the similarities and differences between the world’s two largest democracies? Indian parliament many times does not do any work and is suspended because of chaos. Parliamentary chaos affects future lawmaking and future policies. Non-functional parliament makes sure that the new proposals are not taken for discussion. In the US, the government does not allow the day to day functioning of departments. Who are critical workers and who are non-critical? If workers are non-critical, does it mean that they are surplus?  By this action, there must be a small dent in the GDP too! The conclusion is because government spending is also a part of GDP.

shutdown3

In the US, the system stops current working and in India system allows the future to be delayed. What system are we discussing? It is the politicians who do all this under the garb of principles. But when it comes to horse trading, politicians in both countries are replicas of each other. Their first priority is always their own seat, then their party and finally their nation. Nation first is a slogan for election times. But then there are many things said in the election time. Elected representatives follow their chosen path, self before everything else!