996 or else!

9962

You must be wondering if I am going to start writing blogs in the digital language of 010101. Don’t worry; I am not doing it! But what is this 996? Chinese companies now expect their employees to work from 9 to 9, all six days of the week! For workaholics that sounds like great news. But 996 workaholics, by choice, are rare. People do work longer hours. But can that be the reason enough to work 996, all the time? I don’t think so. No sane person can follow that schedule. If you work 9 to 9, all six days of the week, where do have time for family life, time for personal chores? Time for enjoyment and time for quick picnics. Spending time with spouse and children on the seventh day is out of the question because it is likely, that one will sleep it out on the seventh day! Below is the status of 996 people on Sunday!

9965

How has this come up? Competition? Dictatorship? Fear of losing the job? Unrealistic goals? Or probably it is a combination of all the factors. Add to this, for international companies, with headquarters in America, and offices in Germany, Israel, India and China. Working with colleagues in different continents can play havoc on the lives of the people. In any organisation, the work is done by different teams in collaboration with each other. Hence there is a need for telephonic meetings regularly. But does it mean that 996 should be the norm? How longer hours will complete the complex jobs shown below, more efficiently?

9963

Jack Ma, the big boss of the Chinese company Alibaba, says, “The 996 schedule – which means working 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week – is “a huge blessing that many companies and employees do not have the opportunity to have.” He further says that if you don’t work this way when you are young, when are you going to work hard? The question comes to mind what the definition of young is In a group of 100 people if 80 members are young and 20 are not so young, then can you have different timings for young and the not so young? He also feels that such a work regime has allowed Alibaba to become a giant on the world stage.

Why do we work? To win our bread and butter, to learn new things, to go ahead in our careers. How many of us are bothered about the last aspect? The main thing is to achieve, is to steadily get our bread and butter, to pay our bills on time. Educate the children and pass life peacefully. Not everybody is looking to become highly successful in life. Would such people be interested in 996? Would they be able to sustain 996?

I remember about a young engineering graduate who was in the US for his master’s degree, for a couple of years. He joined a company in Pune, where the atmosphere was not 996 but hectic. It was a group of smart engineers working to do some great technical work. Three months later, he went and met his boss and said, “I cannot work with such a smart group of people; probably this is not my taking.” Later he started playing bridge and made his career as a professional bridge player!

9964

Is 996 feasible in the long term? I don’t think so. There is murmur going on, “family or ICU?” The 996 types of lifestyles are bound to create issues — even our 9 to 6, five days a week lifestyle is against the fundamental requirement of the human body. Before the industrial revolution, our lifestyle was based on nature. Sunrise and Sunset would decide the daily routine. 9 to 6, five days a week lifestyle also involves travel, business dinners and late meetings. So even this lifestyle is hectic. What made Jack Ma think that 996 is sustainable in the long term, I would not know.

Following two paragraphs are taken from a webpage

https://hub.packtpub.com/developers-lives-matter-chinese-developers-protest-over-the-996-work-schedule-on-github/

Working long hours at a company, devoid of any work-life balance, is rife in China’s tech industry. Earlier this week on Tuesday, a Github user with the name “996icu” created a webpage that he shared on GitHub, to protest against the “996” work culture in Chinese tech companies.

The 99icu webpage mentions the Labor Law of the People’s Republic of China, according to which, an employer can ask its employees to work long hours due to needs of production or businesses. But, the work time to be prolonged should not exceed 36 hours a week. Also, as per the Labor Law, employees following the “996” work schedule should be paid 2.275 times of their base salary. However, this is not the case in reality, and Chinese employees following the 996 work rule rarely get paid that much.

These two paragraphs indicate what is happening at the ground level. Can the developers come together and fight the system? I doubt, and it may not be possible even in the US as well as in India. But probably breaking laws in China appears to be blatant. Companies are getting away without being prosecuted by the authorities. The latest information says that 996 will be replaced by 10107! Ten AM to 10 PM seven days a week.

I understand the aspect of profitability in business. But will 996 achieve those numbers? It is evident that people are continuing this out of fear, and also because of no immediate options available. Years back I had met one engineer from Wipro on a flight. He said that his job was quite laid back, but every day he felt like changing his job. After office, he took 2 to 3 ½ hours to reach home. In 996 and 10107 the commute time is not even considered. I read on the website that someone changed residence and moved into not a very decent home, to reduce commute time.

Many companies are not into 996 or 10107, yet. But the number of hours put in plus the commute time makes it terrible. If both husband and wife are working, then the practical solution will be to look for jobs in areas nearby and move residence near the workplace. I know of a couple whose total daily commute time is six hours daily, minimum. One of them has a health issue and is required to exercise daily. But this is not possible due to commute time.

The Chinese colloquial term for a developer is “码农. Its literal English translation is “code peasants” — not the most flattering or respectful way to call software engineers. I call them white-collar workers on the lines of blue-collar workers. Mr Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra group, had tweeted, “I feel as if I am a businessman from Dinosaur times.” He made this comment after he read a statement by Uber CEO that Uber will never become profitable! I have a run very small business all these years; I am also surprised that Amazon has never made any profits, ever! I am told that these are 996 companies!

Mr Naraynamurthy of Infosys had sent an email to all Infosys employees to make sure that they leave office on time. But his instructions have never been followed in the spirit! I have discussed with people working in larger companies, especially the coders. All of them have said that they can concentrate on their job for not more two hours at a time. If 996 culture is followed how much will be the real productivity is anybody’s guess.

996? 10107? To me, none of these makes sense but what is the option? We had apartheid! We had slavery! The only difference is that compensations are high in the new bondage! Hopefully, there will be an organised movement against these systems, so let us wait and see, fingers crossed!

End of the road for Diesel cars!

Maruti Suzuki declared today that they would not manufacture cars with diesel engines starting from 1st April 2020! That is the day on which BS 6 norms for pollution will be implemented in India. This time the government is very stringent, and it is declared that from this date, only the cars BS 6 norms will be registered. Forget the selling; there will be no registration of cars other than BS 6! It is a great thing that the government means business, now!

Engine1

But is this the beginning of the tumultuous scenario in the automobile domain? Is it a mini tsunami? Has this statement started indicating the way things would happen in the auto industry? All these years life was much more straightforward; introduce a new model, play around a bit with the price and periodically change pollution norms when government forces you. The smooth ride was the norm! But a statement by Maruti says that the cost of development of BS 6 compliant diesel engine and the cost of making the BS 6 engine will be so high that in the small car segment, customers may not be able to afford them. Currently, the price difference between petrol and diesel model of a car is around Rs. One Lac. They feel that this difference could be Rs.2/ lacs for BS 6 cars ( ten lacs is a Million). On a vehicle costing Rs. 5 to 6 lacs, difference of two lacs will be too much, and customers may not be able to afford these cars. For cars/SUV’s costing Rs.10/ lacs and above, though the difference will be similar, % increase would not be high. How this sector will perform from next financial year needs to be watched. For SUV (both mini/standard) good news is Maruti Brezza will not be sold; hence manufacturers will rush to pick up the market share up for grabs. Maruti, however, has left the option open for 1.5 L diesel engine cars, used in Brezza.

Diesel engine cost issue due to BS 6, was expected. Volvo has already declared that they will stop making diesel cars when the norms change from Euro 6 to Euro 7, because of the cost of development and the price of the vehicle. Compared to trucks, the number of cars sold is much higher hence a smaller number of diesel cars will be better from the pollution angle.

Why did people use small cars with diesel engines? The lower price of diesel was the main reason. These cars cost approximately Rs. One lacs, plus plus, more than petrol cars. If the usage of vehicles was not enough, then owning such a car was not cost effective. On top of this, diesel engines have periodic mandatory maintenance cost which petrol cars don’t have. In many cases, it was not viable to own a diesel engine car.

With the imminent entry of Electric Vehicles in large numbers, the market is expected to be shaken further. In the late ’90s of the last century, Toyota came up with Prius, their first Hybrid car. (For those new to this subject, a hybrid car is one which runs on petrol and battery combination; each manufacturer has its own combination of the technology) It was expected that Hybrid would be the future and Toyota was expected to be the leaders. Yes, they are still the leaders in Hybrids. But a maverick called Elon Musk decided to plunge into EV’s. General Motors had manufactured around 500 EV’s at the beginning of this century, but then what happened? Petroleum lobby made sure that this initiative was killed. A few years later GM scrapped the vehicles.

Engine2

Combination of Tesla’s efforts, cheaper battery sets (hopefully!) at some stage, fast charging technology are pushing humans towards EV’s. Range per charge still remains the primary concern. Add to this reduction in the price of solar systems is making cheaper fuel for the EV, the Electricity. Now, what is adding to making it more difficult for petroleum products further, are the pollution norms for diesel cars?

What will be the future of diesel engines in the car segment? In India, the overall car segment is under pressure. In the last financial year, four lac more old cars were sold than the number of new cars that were sold. It looks like more small vehicles are being sold in II and III tier cities. Will Maruti’s prediction about diesel engine cars affect thinking by other car manufacturers? Will they also go away from diesel engine cars? Only time will tell.

The current financial year is going to be very tricky for car manufacturers. Let me explain what is involved, as the last date on which the BS IV car will be allowed to be registered. That date is 31/3/2020. To achieve this target, they will have to attempt and sell BS VI models from 1/1/2020. To meet this date, they will be required to push in BS VI vehicles from 1/10/2019. During this transition period, there will be tricky scenarios. BS IV cars will be produced less and less, but customers may want to buy them, as these will be cheaper than BS VI models. There is a possibility that in certain areas there will be customers and no cars; in other areas, there will be cars but no customers. All unsold BS IV cars will have to be sent back to manufacturers for conversion to BS VI at a considerable cost. Predicting requirement from 1/10/2019 to 31/3/2020 is going to be a nightmare for sales teams and along with them the dealers. The trend of lower sales is going to add to the difficulties further.

Will everything be hunky dory after 1/4/2020? That is again a very tough question. To achieve better fuel efficiencies and to go away from petroleum products, there will be efforts to introduce hybrid cars. But except Toyota, nobody has real expertise in this area. The predicted numbers for 2030 are 30 % EV’s, 30% Hybrids and balance IC engine cars, mostly petrol and CNG version. Does it mean that it is a death knell to diesel cars?

Another prediction by Maruti is that for small EV’s, where numbers are high in the typical small car segment, the volumes can be tricky as the price could be between 9 to 12 Lacs. This price is based on battery packs being manufacture in India. Larger cars will cost much more, but the high-price segment is less sensitive to the price tag. How the volumes will be achieved in EV’s, will be difficult to predict. I have not even discussed the charging station infrastructure issues! In India, most cars are parked on the roads for the night, so how and when will the charging be done?

At least in India, there is a significant turmoil about where the car market will go? Will Maruti continue to lead the pack? Will others follow Maruti and go away from small diesel engine cars? Only time will tell.

Yes, no! No, yes!

The classic conflict going on in our minds is whether to say Yes or to say No! Every day, many such situations come in our life when we must decide either way. The subject could be anything, but the situation arises where you need to take a call. We need to have clarity in our minds that No is a decision whereas Yes is a responsibility.

yn2

Life is full of things that keep you busy. Before the advent of FB and WA organising your life was much more manageable. Whenever you are doing anything, there will be a request from family, friends, colleagues and others to help them out with something. Our natural tendency is to say Yes! The reason for Yes is to make you look good in other people’s eyes. There is a slim chance that the help is genuinely needed. By this, I do not mean that other times the request is not genuine. But before we reply, our grey cells must work to check if the priority of what you are doing is above the requested work. In most cases, for obvious reasons, your work has more priority. Then your answer to the request should be No.

How to say No is also equally important. You should say No politely; you can briefly give the reason why you are saying No. Maybe you can suggest an alternative way of doing the job. After all, you also need help from others. In a work situation, people come to you because they have to reach their goals, but then you also have your intentions as well as targets! But one thing for sure when you say No, say it emphatically.

The secret of productivity is quite straight forward. Not required to doing anything is faster than doing something. There are situations where no action is necessary, but we tend to dabble into doing something. In software, “no code” is efficient than any code! No meeting is always more effective than any meeting. There is a saying, organising a meeting should follow the principle of ordering pizza. Pizza can be shared with only a certain number of people; similarly, invite only certain numbers for the meeting. In today’s digital calendar world, you get “Invites” to too many meetings; find out which meetings make a difference to your work and regret others. Do not forget that someone has called a meeting, does not mean that it is an essential meeting! I had a friend who was the Managing Director of a company. I did some work with him and was required to go to their office quite often. Once while having tea with him, I said, “You have too many meetings and must change the culture.” After some discussion, he agreed and called a meeting to decide how to reduce the number of meetings. After five meetings, they still did not arrive at any conclusion.

There is a thought process that saying No is a prerogative of the bosses. In a way it is correct, but others can also say No by being gracious!

How often do people ask you to do something and you reply, “Sure thing.” Three days later, you’re overwhelmed by how much is on your to-do list. We become frustrated by our obligations even though we were the ones who said Yes to them in the first place. It is the meaning of saying Yes without understanding the implications.

In the first place, what is the difference between Yes and No? These two words Yes and No are used so frequently that we tend to think that they have equal weight! But in reality, from the commitment angle, they have entirely different magnitude.

When you say No, you are only saying no to one option. When you say Yes, you are saying no to every other opportunity.

Assume that you have agreed to someone that you will help draft a document for her. You have given away your option to say No to her. You may become busier suddenly, but there is no way of coming out of the commitment. Your escape route to No is cut off in this case.

Saying No may look like a prerogative of the successful people, but for others, it can be a strategy to become successful! When you learn to say No, you are left with more time to continue to do what you are doing. There is a saying, “If you don’t guard your time, others will steal it!”

yn1

Saying No applies not only in regards to helping others. You are working on a particularly important work of your life. On the way, you will come across many more ideas, many more distractions. Not all other ideas will be wrong; they may be quite interesting, but you can not allow yourself to be distracted. Saying No to distractions is a focused way of saying Yes to your work! People will appreciate it when you say, “since I am busy with the current project, I can look at ideas suggested by you at a later stage after my project in hand is done.”

You need to “Upgrade” your No! As you continue to succeed and improve in your skill sets, you need to change your strategy of saying No. Upgrading your No doesn’t mean you’ll never say Yes. It just means you are programmed by default to saying No and only say Yes when it makes sense. Saying No is very powerful because it preserves the opportunity to say Yes.

How to say No is a million-dollar question and there are no easy answers! But one way of doing it is to ask yourself, “If I had to do this today will I agree to do it?” If the answer is Yes, then don’t say No. By postponing it to a future date, at some time, it is going to become imminent and you must do it. Writing a blog is much easier than saying No in real life. But do not forget to apply various suggestions discussed, every time someone asks your support. Remember it is easier to say No than coming out of the commitment at a later stage.

If an opportunity is exciting enough to drop whatever you’re doing right now, then it’s a yes. If it’s not, then perhaps you should think twice.

Friends, please remember that saying No is not a negative approach but a positive way of taking your own work forward. So do not hesistate to say No, if you feel that it is the right thing to do! Option of saying Yes is anyway open to you!

Traditions Galore!

What is death? How does one handle death? Is death good or evil? What is our understanding of death? Scientific knowledge of humans is much better than what it was a couple of thousand years back. Over a period, the thought process is changing. But underlying fear about death has not changed much. It is understandable because death is an irreversible process. We are left with memories of that person. We know that we will never see the person again; we will never interact with the person ever. That creates fear in mind. It is a genuine natural feeling.

But how far this fear psychosis should be stretched? Jaya and I went to visit a family after a death in the family. After the usual detail sharing, the discussion moved to the post-death Puja and other rituals. Each family has different methods and ways of doing this. But one thing is common in most Hindu families is that on the 13th day after the death, relatives and friends are invited for lunch. A specific Kheer is prepared for lunch. Kheer is an Indian sweet. The idea, behind making the kheer is to “declare” that mourning period is over and life is supposed to come back to normal. The family and a few close friends are going to miss the person for a longer period, but then life must go back to normal.

With a lack of knowledge and understanding about death, many awkward traditions were followed, in olden days. At least I thought so! How mistaken was I? These are followed even today. This family is going to travel to a holy place, away from Pune, for the rituals! The death I was discussing was of a person from the condo where I lived for 35 years. For the ritual, some guests are expected to be in town. Their son asked me if he could use our condo to accommodate guests. Unfortunately, our condo is stripped down as the building may go into redevelopment. I said, “Since our home cannot be used, I can help you get keys for another home which is also empty!”

The family said that the suggested house could not be used as there was a death in that family about three weeks back! I said, “That family has done the Puja for the 13th day; on top of that they have performed another Puja called Udak Shant! (Udak Shant is a Puja performed to drive away the evil of death which had visited that home)”. All Pujas were done for that home, “Evil Counter” was reset to zero but to our friends, the evil effect was still there! I could not understand the logic behind this thinking because this family wanted to use the facility for the people who were going to take part in rituals, post-death! Death in our home is holier than that in your home?

By way of explanation the son also told us that he does not visit any homes where the death has taken place. He said, “I am advised that if I visit any home where death has occurred then something bad will happen to me.” Let me share the background of this family. The father was a banker and was posted in the US for a few years, more than 20 years back. With this opportunity, all the children moved and stayed back in the US. This prodigal son, who is cursed by the evil spirits for a lifetime, has come back to India! Maybe nearer to our Gods! An educated family but their beliefs and thought processes are as ancient as Indian civilisation.

In the last thirty years,  a practical issue has started coming up. When a death occurs in a family, close relatives like children, brothers or sisters are staying in different places and can take between six to 24 hours to arrive. With this requirement, it has become essential to keep the body in a mortuary. Mortuary capacities are now falling short. The close ones want to see the body before the cremation takes place. Keeping the body in the morgue is a functional requirement and must be fulfilled.

Hindu death ceremony is the Teravih. It is a period of mourning observed by Indian people, starting from the day of the death of a person, whether male, female or children, to the 13th day after his /her funeral. During teravih death ritual, there are many rules that the family members of the deceased must observe. For instance, they are not supposed to attend religious functions, eat certain foods like sweets, wear new clothes or participate in any cultural activity or festivity.

The basic idea behind the Indians’ following all these funeral traditions is to show reverence to the deceased person. Normally during this time, all the family members share each other’s sorrows and pray, so that the soul of the deceased person rests peacefully. Though it’s basically during the first 13 days that the death rites are strictly observed, but traditionally, the death rites in Hindu religion extended up to a year.

But do we show reverence to a deceased person? I have seen some incidents where very close people show flamboyance. When I attended a cremation, there was another body ahead of us. One person who appeared to be a close family member was busy talking on his cell phone all the time. Next day when went to collect ashes, this gentleman was again talking on a cell phone. If the person is so busy with work and cannot show respect to the departed soul, he need not be present. Such crass behaviour disturbs others and creates restlessness among those present.

Changes in the traditions with times are practical. Sticking to age-old traditions which were meaningful in old times, sometimes appear irrelevant. There is one tradition of offering cooked rice to crows after the 10th day Puja on river banks. With a large population number of people dying is also significant. It is thought that if the crow eats rice, it is considered that the departed soul, had all his wishes fulfilled on the earth! People wait till the crows touch the rice!

There is a tradition of immersing the ash and some bones the next day at the river confluence is something that needs to change — immersing leads to more pollution in already heavily polluted Indian rivers. Why can’t we bury these in the ground? The quantity is tiny. There is already a tradition of dumping the dead bodies in the Ganges which is extremely unhealthy. I understand that it is slowly changing.

The so-called educated, foreign-trained people follow bizarre traditions and follow the advice given by equally strange gurus based on age-old methods and traditions. How do you expect the ordinary people who have not seen the changing world to change their ways? The significant improvement in knowledge and scientific thought rarely reaches ordinary people. There needs to be a drive to change these things. Let the practical people meet and come together, even if the black cat has crossed your path on the way to the meeting.

Stuttering Longevity! When to shut the tap?

A couple of years back, I had written a blog titled “Longevity bane or boon!” The link for the blog is given below.  In a couple of years, our thought processes change, situations change, more information becomes available. The present blog can be considered as an addendum to the old blog.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/longevity-bane-or-boon/

Last fifty to seventy years have seen life expectancy go up and up and up! Obvious reasons for this are better medical treatment, higher incomes allowing families to afford treatments for managing illnesses. Add to this better diagnostics and a better understanding of the diseases. Life has become interesting; knowledge about exercise and diets is also improving. All this has led to improved longevity.

But everything in life always has two sides. The sides are good and evil, rosy and dark. Like the pros and cons, we have a positive way of looking at things and a negative way of looking at things. One important aspect of humans is emotions. The human brain is supposedly more advanced than that of most species, and it is seemingly flexible in thinking. Hence we look at death and maybe death like situation, in a different way.

Are we practical in our thinking? Are we pragmatic in our thinking? In most cases, the answer is no! In the last couple of months, three persons known to me, between the age of 67 to 75, died “suddenly”! The 75-year old person was leading a bonus life as he had escaped the death a few years back, miraculously. Another person did die “suddenly” as we knew her quite well and know the details. She had normal health issues which never indicated she is passing shortly. Then there was one more “sudden” death! We never knew his “real” health situation, but he looked quite unwell about ten days back. I am talking about my neighbours from the condo where I lived for 35 years of my life! Out of the three, two looked normal, moved around or travelled unattended. They attended our society meetings and took part in the proceedings.

My point is would their close ones, or they have a preferred death after they got into full assist mode? Knowing them, I do not think they would have liked to live a life where they were dependent on someone else all the time. Am I talking of euthanasia? Yes and No! What is the point in being around in this world when you do not and cannot contribute anything? By contribution, I do not mean writing some stories or treaties. But live life with minimum assistance. No harm in taking help but if you need help like we help babies to grow, then it is not worth it. I may be a little blunt, and you may think I am crude and rude! But I am not, I am pragmatic! Would an “intelligent” human being like to live like a stuttering engine? Would someone splutter all the time and love to continue living? I don’t think so!

Sometimes, it is the near and dear ones who take decisions leading to such situations. Emotions take precedence over pragmatism. Medical practitioners take Hippocratic oath when they complete their degree. I am giving below the definition of Hippocratic oath!

The Hippocratic Oath is a symbol of a collective moral and ethical promise from doctors united in a singular purpose to bring healing to their patients. It is named after Hippocrates, a Greek physician who was born in 460 BC.

This oath ensures that the doctors try their best to save the life of the patient who has come to them for the treatment. The oath in today’s times becomes a double-edged tool. Many times it so happens that patient is taken in for condition A and then condition B evolves. Since doctors are under the Hippocratic Oath, they try different drugs, procedures and support systems to keep the patient alive. At this point, the moral dilemma starts. How much intervention should be done to keep the patient alive? What aspects should be pondered until the decisions are taken? Doctor’s Hippocratic Oath is on one side, the family’s moral conflict and trauma are on the other side! These two conflicting thoughts clash. In real life, they don’t clash. The family tries to decide in such a way that life is not lost, though it is hanging by a single thread!

I remember an incident many years back shared by a doctor with me. A friend called him early morning for advice. The person’s father was in a hospital, all of 88 years of age. He was kept alive by use of a ventilator for a month. Hippocratic Oath and commercial side of the hospital wanted to continue the treatment. The prognosis was weak, and doctors had said that without ventilator the patient would die in 24 hours. The emotional turmoil of the family was not allowing practical decision. The friend finally decided to remove the ventilator. The old man died in 12 hours. The friend was caught in an emotional whirlpool for a lifetime, thinking “I am responsible for the death”!

What is the right age to allow someone to die without intervention? How does one know that the health condition is irreversible? How to know when to let go?  These questions arise, and they need to be answered. Else one may see a top-notch professional, a top-class cricketer or a dashing prime minister of a nation being kept alive in a condition which is traumatic even to know!

Discussion brings one to the good old question of who should look after whom? In the ordinary course of time, parents look after the children once they are born. They are looked after until the child becomes independent. When does a child become independent? Do we have an answer for that? When life expectancy was low, humans would support their children for almost 35 to 40 % of the child’s life span. In other species, this support could be there for about 10 to 15% of their life span. Is this an advantage or a disadvantage? To me, it is more emotional. Because of low life expectancy, the children did not have to look after their parents. Nowadays it is common to have “children” who are 50 and parents around 80. Is it children’s responsibility to look after their parents? This thought goes against the basic thinking of how we want our children to be!

Yesterday at a mall, Rhea and I were going to an escalator. I jokingly told her that I am not very confident about using the escalator. She “taught” me how to do it! That is how she has been brought up. I had a similar anecdote with my grandson Suyash. He was 2 ½ years old. I was seeing him for the first time;  we went to the escalator he simply said, “I want to go up”!  He did.

Confidence with which the children and grandchildren are brought up, the things we teach them are done for a specific reason. We want them to try to do better than what we have achieved in our lives. We want them to become better persons; we want them to become global citizens with no limits. Then we become 80, do we want them to come where ever we are living, to support us? In India, systems for handling old people are still evolving. Society will find a way of doing these things. What is the point in restricting the career path of children so that they can look after us in our old age? The same question again, what is old age? When does one reach that age?

In conclusion, I can say that each individual handles life in a certain way. There can be hired support or system support. But it is not correct or mandatory for near and dear ones to give up everything whatever they are doing, to help parents in old age. The simple reason for this is we don’t know how long the help will be needed. But I am quite sure that the near and dear ones will shed a tear or two when one is gone; they do not need to feel guilty for not being around.

Society Living!

First things first! My sincere apologies to my friends who read this blog yesterday! I was trying the WordPress site on my cell phone; after finishing a couple of paragraphs, I inadvertently pressed the “Publish” button.  The incomplete blog got published. I am now completing my blog; I am sure that those who read it were surprised, but can reread it if they want to!

The modern life has created a new way of living together, cooperative societies, condos or colonies. The concept started taking off in ’70 s of the last century. The idea is kicking and alive. In Mumbai before this was “Chawls” where people lived and in Pune there were “Wadas”. The main thing common in those structures was common toilets. Some homes had bathing places within the homes, and others used a small washing area in kitchens as a place to take a bath. I am now old enough to talk of “Olden Days” or “When I was young”. But I have realised over a period that each era had its fun and difficulties, joys and sorrows. I will meander through these times and share some incidents, anecdotes or narratives.

Now with several people migrating all over India, all the new societies have become mini India’s. These homes have become “homes away from homes”. The neighbours replace relatives, and people celebrate festivals from all religions and areas of India. We see cosmopolitanism at its best!  Later another wave of migration starts and parents of the young ones move in with their children. You have kity parties, Daru parties, senior citizen parties, kids having fun together.  The evenings are full of gala times, and many children are seen playing physical games and remain away from screens of all types. All in all, these are modern mini villages!

The first home I remember was in Mumbai, at Dhobi Talao behind Metro. It was a six-story building. All were two-bedroom flats, and each had its bath and washroom areas like in flats. My father worked for the police force, and the flats were rented by the Government from the owner. The name of the building was Gopal Mansion! We kids had a real time in those days. A fascinating thing happened in the life of Gopal Mansion.

http://gopalmansion.com/

A few years back, S.M.D Charitable trust purchased this building and converted it into a very neat and clean low-cost living facility for people who travel from outside Mumbai for the medical treatment of their near and dear ones. There are many hospitals around this area, and the people get to stay in Gopal Mansion for supporting people under medication and treatment.

Later when I bought my properties, those were in the Societies or Condos. The experience of living and interacting with people is fascinating. I have lived my life after education, in Pune. Shortage of water is common in most areas. In one of the societies, we had severe water shortage. The committee decided to call a plumber and get every water connection in all houses checked. The society consisted of 120-row houses/ townhouses with interconnected terraces for a group of home. One of the persons simply refused to allow checking of his taps on the terraces. One enterprising person suggested that we could go to his terrace from the next house. The tap in his water tank was leaking and water flowing all the time. Leakage must have happened for quite some time, as a lot of Moss had grown up in that area! So much for responsible, educated citizens! He was fined heavily!

In the city of Aurangabad, one fancy condo complex came up, and the homes were quite expensive. It was expected that people would have two cars and a couple of scooters. The facility was provided for these numbers. One guy had 16 cars, either BMW’s or Mercedes! He would park all of them on the premises. There used to be minor disputes on the subject, but recently a dispute blew into something huge. People got embroiled and had fist fights followed by police complaints. Next part is interesting. People had doubts about 16 cars and all and were not sure what business he used to run. Complaints were made to the Election Officer that person is handling cash for distribution in the ongoing elections. There were counter complaints. At the end, when the police came, they found out that the person was already in jail for some other reason! Let me tell you from my experience that the committee is going to find it very difficult to handle this person.

In another society where I have a condo, there lives a known bad element. I don’t live there. I am told that the person uses the house for nefarious activities; he probably runs a high end escorting service. On top of this, initially, whenever he entered the society, he would come brandishing a gun! (In India, Gun laws are extremely stringent!) The committee team went and met him, and they requested him not to display his gun, at least! Luckily he agreed to it! He does not pay his monthly subscription on time! Recently, a committee member saw his car in the society. (the person does not live there) By the time a few people came together (for obvious reasons they meet him in a group!) he was gone! Who will bell the cat?

In another society where I used to live, the nasty person used to live. He was hands in glove with the builder! In the initial phase when the builder used to handle day to day work, this person used to take his cut on money collected from members. During cooperative society formation, he used to help the builder by sharing details of internal meetings with the builder. When he sold his home, he made sure that the society would be required to go into litigation for the money that was due during the transfer! He used to steal diesel purchased to run the generators!

In another society, there was a funny incident. The usual water shortage was tackled by some people coming together to go to each home for checking the leaking taps! While they were doing the checking, they found out that one of the taps in a home was leaking heavily. The lady of the house was suitably embarrassed and immediately got it repaired. The funny part was that the lady was part of the group who were volunteering to do the checking. How can one miss such leakages is a mystery to me!

I know of a person, living in an independent bungalow. He was the maintenance in charge of a large engineering plant! Whenever we went to his house, we would always find taps having serious leakage. He used an ancient 50-year pump (maybe installed by his father) to pump water into the main tank!

My observation is that people have been learning to live in modern homes but have to share responsibilities. One important aspect is that you cannot choose your neighbour! Secondly in modern careers, people travel outside India for work and look for better and better facilities. But they forget that costs are involved and many times pay reluctantly, though they have high double incomes, sometimes. Most are becoming mature but now main issue that comes to the fore is their egos! There are unnecessary disputes and fights just to satisfy egos! But all in all, it is fun to live in these modern villages or towns tucked away in major cities! Merging of languages and citizens for various places in India happens very smoothly.

Salute to common, modern “Society Living!”

Dental Gum!

For this blog, I have used the title as Dental Gum (गम in Hindi). गम in Hindi means sorrows. People usually connect dental treatment with fear, pain, and sorrows. First, let me make a disclaimer or two. 

  • My daughter Priya is a Pediatric Dentist 
  • I had my first dental treatment at the age of 65, that too because I went through cancer treatment and had 34 radiation sittings. I was treated for dental caries. 

I somehow have the feeling that a person’s dental health quality is hereditary! My grandmother could eat raw mango (Kairi) easily in her eighties. I have the same ability, but I have a way to go.  

I chose the subject because I read an article about horror stories about dentists, in the US. Well, as in any field some people do not follow the ethics and can be called black sheep. Making a general statement about any whole group of professionals is incorrect. But not that I am not going to tell any horror stories (as I have taken dental treatment only once), but I will share with you some anecdotes shared by Priya with me.  

First things first, I have been brushing my teeth only once a day, I don’t do any flossing. I have never used any special brushes or toothpaste. I have had my share of chocolates and ice-creams, colas and candies. I have a sweet tooth, but now I don’t consume these things. So my heridetary theory should be ok!

Once I asked Priya about her young patients. I asked her, “How tough is it to handle the kids on the  chair?” She said, Baba, once my patients get confidence about me, they are straightforward to handle. It is their mothers who are difficult to handle. 

I am going to share anecdotes about patients, their parents, general situations in dentistry. Sometimes it is funny, many times it is surprising, but probably human behaviour remains very similar in different situations.  

Priya was treating a fouryearboy. He was very cooperative, but sometimes he needed a kid-glove treatment, pun, of course, is intended. One day he came inside, goggles and all; a la Salman Khan. He was a big fan of Salman. He came inside, sat on the chair and Priya started the work. After about ten minutes he signalled to Priya to stop. Priya stopped and asked him the reason. Without replying he indicated her to allow him to get down from the chair. Priya complied, he got down. He put on his goggles, put both his thumbs in the trouser pockets. He danced to the tune of the Hindi song, “Hud Hud Dabangg, Dabangg; after a couple of minutes, he stopped, climbed back in the chair and signalled Priya to restart the work! 

Some patients are too busy to take their kids to the doctor. There was one such lady, the same age as that of Priya. She always claimed that only time she could get her child to the clinic was 8 pm on a Saturday. After all, she was in IT. She would always tell Priya how difficult it was in IT and so on. Once the lady came almost twenty minutes late for the appointment and Priya had her next patient in another clinic. They met on the staircase; the lady started her usual dialogues of being in IT, but her hands were full of stuff bought in the malls. Priya apologised and said that she could not treat her child as her next patient was waiting at another clinic. The lady was upset, and before she could start her diatribe, Priya told her, “Look, I am a doctor, and I don’t know anything about IT. But let me share some personal information with you. My mother is handling Nvidia operations in Pune, my father runs his software business for the last 15 years, and my elder brother is working in Microsoft at Seattle for some time. So, there is a possibility that I may know a few things about IT, by induction. One more thing, when I was a child, my parents used to take me to doctors, whenever it was needed, without bothering about time and the day. Thank you!” The lady never spoke about IT stuff with Priya again. 

One lady came with her child. The child was fitted with a crown, and the child was not supposed to eat chocolates for obvious reasons. While eating the chocolate, the crown came out and was misplaced. Priya told her, “ I had told you not to give chocolates to the kid. Why did you not follow instructions?”  The treatment was done, and the crown fitted again; when she was asked to pay the money, she simply refused to pay saying that it was Priya’s fault, chocolate was incidental. Priya let her go and instructed her team not to give an appointment to that patient again!  

The next episode could be an incorrect diagnosis or was it the socalled horror story; I am not sure! I felt that it was a case of the wrong diagnosis. An eightmonthold child was brought to the clinic; Priya was surprised, as generally such small babies rarely have any teeth. The mother told her the following story. A couple of days back while the mother was cleaning the babies mouth, she saw a gold tooth in the baby’s mouth. She took the baby to three or four doctors, and all of them said that the gold tooth needs to extracted; treatment needed to be done under general anaesthesia. Since the baby was very young parents were not too keen about the procedure. Somebody suggested to them Priya’s name, and they came to the clinic. Priya looked at the child and saw what was inside. She had a small instrument in her hand. She put the instrument in the babies mouth and plucked the golden “Tooth”; it a piece of gold that was stuck in the baby’s gum. Out came a small earring. Priya gave it to the mother. It was the mother’s earring; she had never realised that it was missing. Somehow it had fallen and went into the baby’s mouth and became the “Golden Tooth”! The tears of joy came in the parent’s eyes! The father asked Priya “Doctor what will be the charges?” Priya said, “No charges; I am happy that I could do this without any anaesthesia”!  

How trial by media can affect a professional career can be seen in the following anecdote. A child was being treated by a dentist. He checked up with parents if any medicine was being given to the child. The mother said that they were not giving any other medicines. The doctor gave the local anaesthesia and started the treatment. After some time he felt that the child was becoming listless. They rushed the child, to the next door paediatrician. From there they rushed to the hospital. But the child died. The trial by media started; the newspapers showed the doctors name and the photograph of the clinic. The baby’s parents gave statements and hid the fact that there was another treatment being given to the child! The medical council did its investigations and in the end, found out that the dentist and the paediatrician had followed the correct procedures. But all the media trial and photographs in the newspapers made life very difficult for the dentist. He left Pune and moved to another city!  

Friends, life can be exciting, rewarding and tough at the same time for professionals. But some times, one loses control over the situation, and things do get haywire. Customer is always the king or a queen; the kings and the queens also can go overboard and need to be told so. But at the end of the day, professionals have to remain true to their profession and continue to perform! Don’t forget to show the smiling face, especially when a child is being treated.