Wanderer’s surprises!

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I have been writing about early morning walks in the green areas, listening to the bird’s chirping and the exercise of walking. I missed mentioning one more significant benefit that we get by the wandering. You get to see the world. One can walk with friends; others walk with spouses, but I prefer walking alone. Each way has its benefit but has its downside too! With friends, you may end up having Chai after your walk, and with the spouse, your walking speeds may not match. You have a significant benefit of chatting in both these cases, but you may miss out observing certain things. Walking alone gives you the flexibility of changing routes, walking at your speed, walking as you feel like it.

Today I walked for one and a half times of my average time. I did the longer walk after a big gap and felt a little tired. But since I had changed my route I enjoyed it. Today’s most exciting aspect was that I saw a small procession. I was turning around a corner, and I could hear some hymns being sung. There were 10 to 15 people in a group which was followed by a minibus. The daylight was enough to observe details. At the center of the group was a man, their Guru, walking with them. Nothing special but yes, there was something special. The Guru was fully nude, including frontal nudity. He was about 45 years old. I was surprised and started thinking. What sect allows Guru to be fully nude, walking on a public road? Who were these people? Among these people, there were some ladies too. Rights, freedom of speech all are fine, but what about the rights of others? Can somebody sane and not a homeless person go around naked? Should’t he be arrested? Next question would be why not a nude Sadhvi’s on the road? People will then talk of woman’s modesty!

I am sharing another incident from today’s walk. I was passing by a Ganapati Mandir, of course illegal! Religious structures may be called illegal by authorities, but in the minds of people, all Mandir’s are legal. A newspaper vendor had kept his bike parked outside the Mandir. Since there was only one person inside the Mandir, I assumed that he was the vendor. I waited on the side to see what he was doing. I thought that the person must be very religious as he started his newspaper route after paying obeisance to Him. After he went away, I checked the inside of the empty Mandir. Our man was using the space to store his balance newspapers for the next round. The Mandir was his temporary storage!  Ganapati kept watch on the papers.

On the way, I saw a pharmacist’s shop which also was a general store. I saw a guy doing some work inside. I remembered that I had to buy Band-aids for home stocking. His sliding shutter was closed. I waited for him to open the shutter. When I attempted to open the shutter, he said, “Don’t open the shutter.” I said, “ok, I want to buy some band-aids.” He said that I could come inside. Till that time he had probably decided that I was a robber masquerading as an oldie with my morning walk gear! I was thrilled that finally, somebody was afraid of me! He did not have the stuff I wanted. While walking out, I offered to slide the shutter back in closed position; he said I need not bother!

Next one is a popular event. Various houses in our area have trees and bushes. Currently, these are in bloom, especially those with white flowers. People while taking a walk, stop at places where it is effortless to pluck flowers. The flowers are plucked for use while performing puja at home. This thought is very noble, but there is one small hitch. These flowers are not from your garden. So technically you are stealing them. Years back I had checked with someone who used to pluck flowers from our garden. He said, “ I am not taking these flowers for me; they are to be used while performing puja at home.” I said, “Puja will be performed in your home using your idols. It means that you are stealing the flowers.” He got annoyed and said, “How is it that you don’t understand such a simple thing? Flowers are for God!” I changed the expressions on my face and showed that finally, it dawned on me that the flowers are not for his personal use! In my mind, I apologised to his God!

On the route that I had taken, there were good footpaths some of them are quite recently made. Since decent foot paths are a new thing in Pune, people continue to walk on roads. Maybe people will start using pathways once they are used to seeing them free of vendors!

Another interesting aspect one can see are the walking gear that people wear. These are quite fancy and must be expensive. The fashion of carrying a walking stick is prevalent in our area. I asked a person using it; the person said that it is carried to prevent dog attacks. My observation is that dogs are busy in their activities. I have never seen any such attack.

Friends walk at different times to suit their routines. Working people take their walks early for obvious reasons but so do the retirees (they wake up early). But a friend has been walking after 9/9.30. I have suggested to the friend that it is not right to walk so late as heat could cause trouble.

At different corners, vendors sell fresh carrot or gourd juice. It appears to be the fashion these days. I remember one incident in which one 40-year-old lady drank similar juice after her walk, and within an hour she died. The juice was prepared at home.

Friends use your walks for exercise, to be near green trees. Use these occasions to look at the world. If you walk alone, you can really enjoy the human activities without any pressure of time. It’s fun, and of course in Pune, it’s the cool breeze and the birds chirping!

Other than points mentioned above morning walks

  1. Take you away from Diabetes
  2. With fresh mind you get better ideas
  3. With fresh mind you review your previous day and ask Him to forgive your errors

Happy wandering!

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I am humbled!

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Friends are going to call me and ask why I have used antonyms in the title. Most friends will pull my leg and tell me that the words Pramod and humble don’t go together. But I am sincerely humbled. I started as a tottering blogger somehow managing to write  400word blogs; what I wrote in those days and what write today are both called blogs! A captive audience of Jaya, Sachin and Priya encouraged me, initially! They would give me a star once in a while, as I was in KG stage of blog writing!  

During a dinner last evening with my college mates, a friend asked me, “You were never a literary type, how did you end up being a serious blogger?” I started thinking about my journey and how I ended up writing. We never know where we are going to end up in life, about the place where we finally settle down, what career is one going to choose, whom we would marry and so on. For my preengineering years, I was in Mumbai’s Elphinstone college. I stayed at the hostel with my dear friend Sharad. One day we just decided that we will move to COEP in Pune. The reason why did this is unknown but it is possible that we thought hostels in Mumbai and Pune would be the same, so why not! In plain English, we still do not know the reason.  

Our stay in hostels changed our view of looking at life. We learnt to absorb shocks while living, without any fuss. One night a friend slipped from the roof of the building and died; he was a stargazer. We had no option but to absorb that shock; we would show brave face as if nothing had happened. After a few months, there was an earthquake which shook the building, literally. Again, we handled this event as if nothing had happened. But we were shocked from inside. Someone or the other would always be short of funds at the month end. Others would ensure that he never felt the pinch. But all were vicious against those who were nasty and would cheat on others to save the money. Some did well in exams, and some did not. Friends and partners were always there to discuss and support while facing tough times. In most cases, we did not even know anything about the background of others; they were simply friends. The hostel has given me life-long friends, and I cannot write the names as the list in real loooong! Along with Sharad, Nayan was my room mate! 

Our stay at the hostels changed the horizon and gave us a different way of looking at life. The similar change I had felt when I moved to live on the 7th floor condo a few years ago. Before this, all our homes were on the ground floor. I had apprehensions about how I would feel by not being “grounded”! But then I don’t know when the perception changed into a broader (and taller) way of looking at life. When we moved to the 7thfloor apartment, I was taking cancer treatment. In the initial phase of the treatment and posttreatment, we had time on hand to sit in the balcony to observe the rolling hills, flying birds and movement of people and vehicles in the small bylane that was visible from the balcony! Jaya had retired just before my treatment started, but did not get even a few minutes of retired life; my granddaughter and I kept her very busy. But when we started sitting in the balcony for tea or chit-chat, we realised that unless we changed our thinking and took a new approach, our vision remained constant. By changing the fundamental approach to thinking, we look at life differently, it provides us a different perspective.   

I found my bearings with the blog “Dance of Civilisation”! It gave me confidence that I could write more and was not feeling intimidated by the thought of writing and publishing. This process of writing and publishing gave me pleasure, and it was enhanced by your comments, phones, WA messages and analysis. Recently people utterly unknown to me have become followers of the blogs. 

Friends, I am honoured by receiving comments from you on my blogs. Vijay gives his thoughts on most of my blogs and shares his thoughts. Vijay has almost become a blogger now and writes long comments and his opinions on what I write. Another friend Pradeep started reading my blogs a couple of months back, and he has read most of them. One great thing about Pradeep is that he does not mince words when he shares his opinions. Pradeep lives in the US and shares with me his views based on his stay in the US for the last 45 years. Some insights that he shares are the result of his extended stay in the US and his analytical mind.  

One comment which I liked the most is by a friend. He minced no words and declared, “You have started thinking that you are an expert in every field, but to me, it is pseudo expertise!” The comment made me think about the way I write. But on the same blog, another friend who met me for breakfast said, “You don’t write like an engineer and keep things very vague.” I told him, “I try to explain two sides of the same subject instead of stressing my viewpoint only.” Such conflicting comments confuse me. A friend is saying that I am a pseudo and I give my strong opinions without considering the other side; whereas the other friend blamed me for being too mild and not writing specifically what I want to say.  

To become a better writer, I have bought software that checks grammar and gives me suggestions and shows my errors. Similarly, I need to locate a software which will analyse the different comments and show me the way forward. One thing is confirmed that people think and talk about the same thing differently. It is like five blind men describing an elephant. The experience has also taught me that people comment about the content and not the way I write.  

In future, I am hoping to take formal training with online courses about creative writing and become a better writer. But the question is better than whom or better than what? As long as I am happy with the way I write, it is ok with me. But please don’t misunderstand. I am not claiming that I am the best blogger in town. I would rate myself as slightly below average on certain days and somewhat above average on a few days. Where would you rate me? 

Thanks a million! I have reached a milestone of the 400th blog which I had never imagined I would!  

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Startups, Venture and Angel Investors!

I am venturing into an area where even angels are afraid to tread! For a long time, I have felt lost with the terms mentioned in the title. To my understanding as an oldie, anyone starting a new business is a start-up. Investopedia definition of a startup is below:

A startup is a young company that is just beginning to develop. Startups are usually small and initially financed and operated by a handful of founders or one individual. These companies offer a product or service that is not currently being provided elsewhere in the market, or that the founders believe is being offered in an inferior manner. 

If we go by the strict definition of startups then the names like Uber, Airbnb, Zomato, Oyo and their likes come to mind. These companies have provided a service or a facility which was never offered before. These facilities became possible because of the internet and IT. I wont call Tesla a startup because they are providing a variant of an existing product; that variant is no doubt a game changer as it will change and push the Petroleum economy. But the car itself is not a game changer. 

 

Unicorn1I read a news item today which said that Delhivery a startup has become a Unicorn company. Unicorn is a mythical animal depicted from thousands of years and appears unique; maybe that is the reason this name Unicorn, a unique company. Unicorn company is defined as a company whose valuation as per markets is One billion (One thousand million) US $, i.e. Rs Seven thousand crores. As a semi-retired person nearing 70, I feel out of depth to read such figures. But for records, all my life I have run a business (a dirty secret- a software business) and had consulting assignments. In both my activities, I have dealt with companies from a couple of billion dollars to nearly 40 billion dollars. So, these numbers don’t scare me, but personally these days I go to an ATM to withdraw money for myself, I am a small man.  

Many of these Unicorn companies have been based on the internet, and IT technologies but some of them are doing the work of brick and mortar things as mere mortals do. Here is a table that I got on the net and made me start thinking. 

US $ Million  Revenue 2018 Funding   Valuation  R/F  R/V  F/V 
BYJU  219  784  4000  0.28  0.055  0.196 
Swiggy  72  1500  3300  0.048  0.022  0.455 
Zomato  47  653  2500  0.072  0.019  0.26 
PayTM  51  2200  10000  0.023  0.005  0.22 
Oyo  400  1600  5000  0.25  0.08  0.32 
Policy Bazar  62  35  1000  1.77  0.062  0.035 
Udaan  4  285  1000  0.014  0.004  0.285 
Freshworks  14.5  249  1500  0.058  0.010  0.166 
Delhivery  15  365  1500  0.041  0.010  0.243 

 I will briefly mention what they do.  

  • BYJU is in online training– revenue from students 
  • Swiggy and Zomato are restaurant food delivery companies- revenue from the restaurants whose food they pick up and deliver. Tie up with restaurants and menu details is unique 
  • PayTM is a wallet plus allied things company
  • Oyo- helps book hotel rooms and takes money from hotels– this is unique 
  • Policy Bazar- helps you buy many policies online- commission on the sale 
  • Udaan is like Flipkart and sales products online 
  • Freshworks offers sales and support solutions 
  • DelhiveryPhysically delivers goods from place A to place B and has warehousing facilities.  

To me except Oyo, Swiggy and Zomato others do not fit the strictest of the definition. Are other companies providing products and services that did not exist before? No, still they are called startups! By this definition then, like other companies, my company was also a startup and faced the same problems as these companies are facing today. The only difference is that some experts in the world thinks that they are doing something extraordinary!  

As usual, my mind started whirring, and I have questions! What is so unique in becoming a company which some experts” feel is doing fantastic work; they have invested large sums of money in them. For an oldtimer like me what matters is how much I am selling and what is the profit that I make out of the business!  Is the business sustainable over a period of time?

I will introduce two more terms now for better understanding. 

Venture capital firms are investment companies that operate only to handle investments in business ventures that may be considered high risk. 

An angel investor (also known as a business angel, informal investor, angel funder, private investor, or seed investor) is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.  

Now that we are through with definitions, tables, please help me solve my queries. When the companies are creating variants of existing available services and products, how do they become startups? These companies are supposedly creating products and services which are not existing. So how do investors and angels analyse them, study them and invest considerable sums in them? Uber concept never existed, Airbnb is a new concept; so in these two cases, the investors seemed to do more right than wrong.  

I have read that more than 90% of startups fail. What could be the reason? The reasons for failures are the same as the reasons for any failed businesses. These are 

  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Too much pride and ego; that you were a smart techie does not mean that you can create and run business 
  • Taking advice from wrong people (including advisors brought in by investors) 
  • Lack of general and specific domain knowledge in life finance, operations and marketing 
  • Raising too much money too soon. 
  • Lacking good mentorship  

From what I understand about the world of business, you need experience, maturity. How will young guns have this? Recently I read some story about a 15-year-old who has done something great in creating a platform for short story writers. He has two thousand hits to his short stories! Come on, its not two million hits. I also happen to be a blogger, and I know what hits are and how difficult it is to get them.

Similarly, how can 25 years old be know all? He may be brilliant both in his techie side and convincing the investors about his ideas about which others don’t know much, anyway. How do dollars get converted into a sustainable running company? 

The table above shows all the figures in million US dollars. It shows revenue, money pumped in and valuation! The revenue is tiny when compared to the money invested. Who does the valuation? What is the significance of the appraisal? I will tell you something about valuation. How can an unproven company, with unproven management, product or services with 4/15/14 million dollars have 1.5 billion dollars valuation?  Do investors not understand these things? But since private money is involved, who cares?  Is this gambling, horse racing equivalent?

Apple was the first company whose valuation reached one trillion (I can’t count zeroes) US dollars. But once the US-China trade war started, it appeared that Apple may have problems. Immediately its valuation has come down, now Microsoft is numero uno! Apple valuation with tons of money and great products and with proven track records can come down. The companies listed in the table above are both brick and mortar companies and IT companies with nothing proven. Their valuation is going up and up and up! Any logic? 

Friends I will introduce you to more things. What people called in olden days as an investment, is now called burn rate. These companies burn money, it’s not yours anyway. Then there are serial entrepreneurs a la serial killers! They create startups, burn money (a % goes to own pockets), take the company to a level and start looking for larger companies for merger and acquisition! Someone decides and declares them more valuable. So promoters, investors, angels all make money as a new set of people replaces the old team. The show goes on. Nobody keeps track of what happens to such companies. Since bank funds and financial institution money is not involved nobody cares. No Nirav Modis and Mallyas are created. Start next company and go through the same cycle, make a million or two. The cycle goes on.

The end result of all this is that “Startup Culture starts in your country. The startup language is a new language which most don’t understand and I am sure you have still a lot of questions on the subject discussed, even after you have read this piece!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manash Sen, the ultimate “family” leader!

 

SenHow does one describe a personality like Mr  Sen? For records, Mr Sen was my boss when I worked in Atlas Automotive components, way back from 1977 to 1981. He was the works manager and in-charge of an Aluminum Die  Casting plant. I had first met him in a conference of foundrymen the previous year. Yes, I was a foundryman in that avatar. In the first meeting itself, I liked him. I was 27 years of age, and he was 43 years old. Though he was senior to me, I never felt intimidated by him. I looked at him as a fatherly figure though he was not old enough to qualify for that. His son was probably in pre-engineering class at that time. I do not know why I felt that but he had an aura about him, but still, he was always people’s man.

When I met him for the second time, he told me, “Arey Panvalkar, why don’t you change your job and join us?” The first thought that came to my mind was what Aluminum casting does Atlas manufacture? So I asked him. He said, “We make Low pressure die casting, gravity die casting and sand casting”. I requested him to give me some time. At that time I worked in a company making Copper and Copper alloy products by a process called extrusion. After going through my college books, I concluded that I did not know anything about Aluminum casting except the very basics. He wanted me to join as a quality control manager. I called him and said, “Sen Ji, I do not know anything about the products made by Atlas so I will not join.” He knew that I had a Master’s degree in Metallurgy.

He called me to his office for a cup of coffee. I told him about my apprehensions. He smiled and said, “Look, I know that your experience is different, but I want someone with no casting experience because I want to change the way my team thinks. You have the educational credentials, so I am sure you will handle things easily.” I was still not sure when he said, “I want a go-getter like you!” I said, “How did you judge that I am a getter?” He said, “Panvalkar, my judgement about people has never gone wrong before, so believe in me and join. You will do well in Atlas.”

That was my “interview” for a post in Atlas, but this was how he judged people. In months after I joined Atlas, there was a significant upheaval in the organisation in post foundry production department. The whole team was removed. Mr Sen called me and said, “ From today you will also look after that department too.” I felt that these two responsibilities were conflicting in nature, but he said that professional in me would know how to handle conflicts. Never in my four years with Atlas, did I face the conflict between production and quality. To me, the quality was to be produced!

Atlas was a smallish organisation but was making good castings. We were all proud of what we did. Mr Sen would back us to the hilt while dealing with customers, provided we were right. Once an over smart purchase officer from a large company said a few nasty things to me as well as about Atlas. The argument happened during a meeting. I reported the same to Mr Sen. He said, “I will deal with them for a few days.” After three days, Mr Sen called me to his office. To my surprise, the officer was sitting with him. When I entered, the officer got up and profusely apologised to me. I was surprised. Later in the day, Mr Sen told me that he had discussed the incident with the biggest boss of that organisation and ensured an apology. Such support gave me more confidence in dealing with large companies.

It used to be a treat to see Mr Sen in man management mode. He probably had in his mind, made categorisation of all our colleagues. He would tell someone in details about how to do something. He would shout at someone to pull up the socks and get things done. I had seen many impossible things achieved by his unique methods. After all these years he understood Marathi but would speak with people in English or Hindi. We had a few Bengali colleagues; he would converse them in Bengali. Were they scared of him? Interactions with him were always interesting, sometimes coaxing, at other times pushing hard. But work had to be completed. I never saw him telling someone not to go home until specific work was done. People would do it on their own; it was his fatherly figure that made a big difference.

My friend late Dilip and I were questioned all the time during our meetings. Mr Sen would get things reconfirmed from us sometimes. Once in exasperation, I asked him why two of us are treated differently. He called us back to the office after our morning meeting was over. There were the usual coffee and Bourbon biscuits, an indication that he was in a great mood. He explained that he considered two of us to be the best, so he did not want us to make mistakes. He said, “You guys are smart, but sometimes you want to achieve too many things. I want to make sure that you don’t end up making silly mistakes. That is the reason I reconfirm the tech side of the discussion. Other guys need spoon feeding most of the times so that they won’t make mistakes!” Young that we were, Dilip was even younger than me; we were happy that Mr Sen had so much confidence in us.

So many memories flowed in when I came to know that he passed at the age of 85, on 8th March 2019. After Atlas, he helped his sons to set up a very successful Vacuum impregnation processing and machinery manufacturing set-up. He was an excellent engineer but one of the best Managers I came across in my professional life. He always ensured that his colleagues did not have any personal issues; he would go out of the way to resolve such matters. I am sure he has passed on all his qualities to his sons. I will share one example. We attended his grandson’s marriage in February. There was a big crowd, as usually happens in Indian weddings. Later, his son called me to check whether I had met Mr Sen at the wedding. These are small personal touches that turn people from good to super!

God has generally been kind to Sen family. Both he and Mrs Sen looked in good health when we met them during the marriage. His grandson has also started taking part in the family business when he comes to India in the summer holidays. Mr Sen has seen it all, children doing well, grandson getting involved. The third generation doing well is the ultimate dream for a family man like Mr Sen. All through his career though he used to be very busy, the family was always first for Sen babu!

সেন বাবু আমরা আপনাকে মিস করব!

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Death has its own mind!

Main Zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya is a famous song from Hindi movie Hum Dono, picturised on evergreen hero Devanand. The first lines of the song are

I playfully went along in my life

But I always blew my worries up in smoke

These lines are significant in the Golden phase of life of humans, for that matter any phase. The song suggests that you  don’t bother about worries! (Ok don’t smoke like Devanand as shown in the song!)

During the last month, three of our batch mates “suddenly” expired. Why have I written suddenly in quotes? Was it so sudden? The meaning of sudden is, occurring or done quickly and unexpectedly or without warning. We are a group of engineers who passed out in 1971 from COEP. On the WhatsApp group, there are 140 of us. We came in touch with each other after 45 years. Thanks to modern technologies like WA and FB. Even after being on the group, most have interacted with about 15 % of friends on the group. Admins are in touch with more friends than others. Those who were known during college days and continued to interact even later, know each other very well. But most others are colleagues who “meet” on WA group. These friends also meet during breakfast lunch/dinner meetings.

After these deaths, the discussion on WA group was uneasy, and the mood was melancholy. The questions in the  mind would be why these sudden deaths? Who is next? When is my time getting over? A document was shared by a friend “When I should die!” It is a comprehensive document and explains and convinces you that the author’s theory is right! But what is the hurry?

Birth is an event which takes place where the person born has no control. Similarly, humans don’t have control over death. People say that one can commit suicide hence could have control over death. But someone does not wake up and commit suicide. The situation builds up; the person is giving the signals that there is something wrong. The person may talk to a friend about the wish to die. Friends may try and convince the person against such thoughts. It indicates that humans do not have control over death. On the subject of suicide, you owe a responsibility to others, like family anf friends!

Longevity plays an important in this discussion. Life expectancy in India is growing by leaps and bounds. In one or two generations it is observed that on an average, people in certain strata of society, live to an average age of 70 plus. But compared to the national average, all of us in the group are living bonus life! Is it surprising that people around the age of 70 are dying? Out of three friends who expired two had not been keeping well for some time. Third one died of a stroke. We all are aware that strokes can sometimes be fatal. When one looks at these events, except the third one, there were NO surprises. Since we were not in touch with friends regularly, we did not know about their health conditions daily. Hence, we had assumed that these were sudden deaths.

Is the reaction to study and find out what the right time is to die, a solution? These days on the internet, you have information about everything under the Sun. That does not mean we should bother about every new theory. In various hypothesis, there has been a description that humans live to the age of 100. It is a false hypothesis. A tiny percentage of people cross the century, world over. But on average the life expectancy is between 50 to 80 years globally. Ladies live a few years longer.

People who are fatalistic about life and generally have negative thinking may start thinking about death even at the age of 40! But what is the point? What is the point in thinking about something on which we don’t have any control? So instead, a good idea will be to think about enjoying life, in our golden period. At our age, for most of us, the family responsibilities are over. At this stage, we should be doing things that we could not do while we were busy in our careers.

Deathwish2

Money, health and positive thinking are things that are most important, not necessarily in the same order. I am not discussing money because at this stage we know about our financial status. We must spend within our means, which anyway would be the right thing to do. Staying positive is very important because with negative thinking one would be looking to discuss and think more about death. Is it going to help? Someone might argue that it is practical to think about the future. But if you think that 75 is the right age to die, then are you going to commit suicide on 75th birthday? No, you are not. So, don’t  bother about such milestones.

Since we do not know about our final day on the terra firma, the best course available is to try and maintain good health. There was some discussion on the group that if one becomes dependent or bed-ridden, then it is not worth living at all.  Though I may tend to agree, I knew of someone who could not stand up or sit. He used to run a business. He had got his vehicle modified and would go to major customers like Tata Motors in his car. The officers would come downstairs and hold meetings in his vehicle; he had altered his car for lying down. To me, it’s about will power. In the golden age period, there may not be something to look forward to if you are bed-ridden so maybe …

How to maintain your health? Take exercise daily and go for walks in green areas. The greenness of trees uplifts your mood. Meet a few friends, get to know new people. After your walks, don’t go and have fried stuff like bhajiyas (but occasionally that too is ok!) If your health allows lifting weights, go ahead and do it, under the guidance of doctors.

There is plenty of evidence that weight training can help us age well. By our early 40s, most of us start losing muscle mass, at a rate of about 5 per cent a decade, with the decline often precipitating a long slide toward frailty and dependence. Older people who lift weights can slow or reverse that descent. In many experiments, older people who start to lift weights typically gain muscle mass and strength, as well as better mobility, mental sharpness and metabolic health. With this noticeable gain, there will be an improvement in mental health too! I do both walks and lift weights, and I can vouch for the same.

Then there are many other things which one can do. Besides the obvious suggestions like photography, reading, travel there could be many things that can be attempted. I had never thought that I would blog seriously; my initial attempts were amateurish and quite infrequent. The passion of blogging gives me real pleasure. Besides the joy of writing and publishing, friends call me and share their views with me; this sometimes leads to intellectual discussion and simulation.

Friends, worrying about future and death is of no use. We don’t have any control over death, blow your worries to smithereens. Sing and Dance, have fun. If you are lucky you may die “suddenly”. Yes, let us use English correctly. Very few deaths are sudden because we are unaware that someone is unwell! The slide below tells us about the advantages of not so sudden deaths!

Deathwish1

One person’s dedication is Adhar (support) to many!

anuradha

In our society, we have a different type of people. Some are born to do social work for the community. Some of them get accolades and publicity. But a few dedicated people remain away from the limelight; they keep on giving back to the society without expecting any publicity or praise. From where do such people get their drive to work for society? One thing is sure, they are born unique. One such person was Late Mrs Anuradha Umrani.

She is the founder of the Trust “Adhar Mandal” and the School “Adhar Mook Badhir Vidyalaya”.  She was a 45 years old housewife, had a bit of time on her hand as her children had grown up; that is when the thoughts for doing something for the society started coming in her mind. She did a Diploma in Special Educations (For hearing impaired children). During the course, she realised the importance of the problems associated with hearing-impaired children. Therefore, she decided to devote the rest of her life for the upliftment of these children and founded a school for them. The result of her dedication, focus and drive, started an institution called “Adhar Mook Badhir Vidyalaya” in the year 1985. (School for hearing impaired children). As we have seen many times in this world, GOD also likes such persons. Anuradha tai died young, at the age of 53 on 16th April 1997.

She started the whole project from scratch; the entire concept was hers. As a housewife, she was not trained for teaching the deaf and dumb children. She decided to take formal training and did a diploma in special educations. The adage of “the woman behind a successful man” was true in her case too, in reverse. Her husband, Prof Umrani, has more than 45 years of experience in teaching various engineering colleges in around Pune. He steadfastly remained behind her and continuously supported Anuradha tai’s dream while still working as a Professor in colleges. He taught the courses in Electronics & Telecommunications! Jaya and I were his students while we were doing engineering in COEP. He had told us about the school for some time, but finally, I could find time from my not so busy schedule, a couple of days back. I was more than impressed.

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Umarani family is a family like ours, with a middle-class background and no political contacts. For Anuradha tai, the starting point was getting the land on lease from the Pune Municipal Corporation. With no political experience and contacts, she somehow managed to get a plot through sheer perseverance. After she got the plot, getting funds for the project had been the trickiest of the part. But somehow people started supporting her project. Umrani sir told me during the discussion that though they now get government grants, delays in getting money creates severe cash flow issues even today.

I went to see the school. Currently, there are around 120 students. Out of these 40 are residential students. The building is neat, spick and span and well looked after. The building area is 8000 square feet. They have a water filtration system for the full school. Boarding students are both girls and boys; they get good sumptuous meals. I visited the school on Holi. You guessed it right. I tasted piping hot Pooran Poli and Amti! All the students had hearing aids. Teachers had modern teaching aids — many of the classrooms have E-learning facility. Retaining teachers is not an easy task; these teachers must be specially trained to teach deaf and dumb students. But some teachers work pro bono and teach because they love teaching; it is their social work.

All students from the school are from financially low-income strata. Up to 4th grade, the school gets government aid. But after that, there is no government aid. The school gives education up to 7th grade. These students are also getting help to appear externally for SSC examination. The Adhar Mandal manages its expenses by collecting donations. Their main problem has been that the families do not send their physically challenged kids to such schools at a young age;  the tendency is not to take too many efforts on these kids and to leave such children to fate. Many children join the school at the age of 7 or 8. Umrani sir felt that these kids lose four years of specialised training they could have got, had they joined at the age of 3 or 4.

For such specialised training organisations generating funding and collecting donations is the main problem. Umrani family has been running the school by giving full-time support and advice which of course is pro bono! For the family, it is taking forward the inspired efforts of Anuradha tai! Umarani sirs son also helps him in the background; he is busy running his own software business. You may have already guessed Umrani sir is now 80 years of age, but his energy is unbelievable.

Through hardships and against all the odds, Anuradha tai’s leadership brought the school to a respectable position in the State of Maharashtra, India. I have yet to discuss with Umrani sir, but I would like to know in detail what inspired Anuradha tai to take up this venture. I know about people who were educated to start some venture, but in the case of Anuradha tai, she took the specialised education at the age of 45 to take up this venture.

I feel that she was a born management expert; otherwise, how can you start such a specialised venture continue to run it for 12-13 years; probably her experience of running and raising the family was her essential experience. Of course, after 1997 Umrani sir has taken over the baton!

I am also going to request Umrani sir to write how Anuradha tai managed to do it from scratch. It will be a case study for many. Even if one or two people get encouraged by this, it will be worth it. Creating such type of ventures by thinking out of the box is very important. I am sure many such hidden gems like Umrani family are among us, in need of being found out.

Let me share some details about the school below. They are available on the net too!

http://aadharschool.org/index.html

The aim of the trust:

The Trust aims to provide educational facilities to the physically disabled children from rural and economically backward families, rehabilitate and bring them in the mainstream of Society with respect.

Friends, I have written this piece as I was inspired to write about Adhar School. Please try and visit the Adhar School one of these days; maybe you will also get motivated to do something.

Money or Monies!

Some advantages of the internet, Google and their brethren are we come to know that we don’t know many things in this world. I had read the word monies many times but had never understood the exact meaning of the word. All I knew was that it had something to do with money. When funds come from different sources, we call them monies. Life is simpler when we are young. The other day I was playing a game of Market with my granddaughter Rhea. She took one rupee from me and said here are your ten kgs of potatoes. Then I gave her a ten rupee note, and she sold me a hundred mangoes. I was elated momentarily. I thought I had become Ambani! I believe that it is too far fetched. I thought again and concluded that I felt like a smalltime politician and had lots of money with me 

When did the concept of money start? It started about 3000 years back. Before that,  the world worked on barter. You go the market to dispose of your product. You bring back some vessels and clothes from respective traders. The situation must have been difficult in those times. You wanted to drive away an Elephant who was troubling you, and you had a stone axe to offer against the services. It must have been timeconsuming to convince the expert that “axe” was the correct price for driving away the elephant. What was the “axe” worth? Was it also worth a sack of grain? Was it the right value of services provided by a doctor?  Did those service providers want your axe?

One of the greatest achievements of money was to fix the value of driving away the elephant or for treatment by a doctor. Initially, a type of prehistoric currency involving easily traded goods like animal skins, salt and weapons developed over the centuries. These traded goods served as the medium of exchange even though the unit values were still negotiable. This system of barter and trade spread across the world, and it still survives today in some parts of the globe. Since the goods did not have a fixed value, the value decided was need-based. It was sometimes like short sell done in today’s times. We do short sale when we need to liquidate the assets in an emergency 

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Sometime around 1100 B.C., instead of using the actual tools for barter, people  started creating small replicas of the same weapons in bronze. But this led to another issue. Carrying and storing sharp tools (currency) became difficult though they were easy to carry. Since they were replicas sharpness was still there. People would get hurt using them. Hence, they switched over to making round coins. But first minted coins were created in Lydia in today’s Turkey. Minted coins started in 600 B.C. The coins were made of a mixture of silver and gold as it occurred naturally. The denominations were fixed by stamping pictures like owl and snake, and were used to differentiate denominations. An earthen jar would cost two owls plus one snake! Standard currency brought ease of doing business in Lydia, and it became one of the wealthiest empires of those times. But the active trade and wealth could not stop attacks from strong Persian armies who attacked and destroyed them, in turn looting the wealth.  

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While Lydia was leading in currency developments, around 700 B.C., the Chinese moved from coins to paper money. By 1270 A.D., the emperor had good control of both money supply and various denominations. The Chinese inscription on notes warned, “All counterfeiters will be decapitated.” Europeans kept using coins till 16thcentury thanks basically to their control on precious metal mines in their colonies. Banks started using currency notes due to ease of handling. But in those days notes were issued by banks and private institutions and not by governments as is done today. 

First paper currency appeared in colonial America. Since the distance between headquarters in Europe and the Americas was considerable, banks would run out of currency. So they started issuing IOU’s which in turn were used as currency. The way coins increased business, usage of notes also had similar effect. Today there is a lot of standardisation world over in currency, where governments control the currency and mints. International conversion rates are decided by markets and various other factors 

After the stability of bank notes, monetary transactions started to take place, in a big way,  using credit cards. This system grew and ran smoothly throughout for about 40 years. But the credit cards are now challenged by debit cards, net banking where money gets transferred from a bank account to another , without any interruptions by banks. Users are gaining more control over transferring money.  

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Credit cards came in different avatars. Initially, cards had raised numbers; and these were captured on paper like we use the stencil. Initially, authorisation was not instantaneous; hence very few people had been issued cards. Then swiping cards came which could be authorised online. Now we have the same cards with “chips” for improved safety. 

The currency system is now coming under different disrupting forces, like Bitcoins. Bitcoins have not made the impact as was expected by some people, and many governments are still not supporting them.  

Now many wallets have come and offering a simpler method of making and receiving payments. Easier payments systems like UPI have come. The onset of online payment has been the real market disruptor. Now State Bank of India has come up with an easier modified system for ATM withdrawals. While leaving home, you can create a request on the mobile app provided by SBI. You get an OTP. The OTP is valid for half an hour. You go to the ATM. Punch OTP at the ATM and your money is in your hands! It looks like the physical presence of cards is going to be history in future. A new method of QR code  reading instead of swiping cards is expected to come up in the next couple of years. You have a credit card; you go to an establishment. Card details will be stored on your cell phone; the app will read the QR code, you punch the amount and vendor gets his money. Easy? No sharing of card number every time on the net, will lead to more secure transactions and hopefully less hacking.  

What is waiting for us in near future? Payment methods started from bartering to, a replica of tools, to round coins with pictures of tools; this was followed by minted coins, then IOU notes, credit card and online transactions. I understand that in future two transacting entities will need onetime authentication using block-chain technology. Their accounts will be linked permenantly by an irreversible process. Making a transfer to each other will be something like sending an SMS! Is it real? Are we dreaming? No, it is coming for sure. When? I don’t know, only the future can tell!  

Later that day, when I was playing with Rhea, she had changed her transaction system She would not accept cash! I had to hand over my card to herShe would swipe it and give me the imaginary machine to punch the  PIN!