Home Sweet home!

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When do we really start missing home? What is home? Home is the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. In today’s world, we travel for work, holiday or to go and stay with your family, who have moved to different places from home, temporarily or permanently. We may go to see the seven wonders of the world, or we may go to travel to live in a small town or a village. We may go to a culturally advanced place, or we may go to a drab place. But after some time, we eagerly look forward to coming back home. Why does this happen?

 The thought process about home started when Deepti wrote,   after about 45 days in the US for work and holiday, that she was missing home!

Of all the places in the world, our home is the safest place in the world for us. We can do anything at home without the fear of repercussions. Our homes are our sanctuaries. We are kings and queens of our homes. We are undisputed leaders; nobody can touch us within the precincts of our homes.

We love everything about our homes; it may be a palace, or it could be a small condo. It could be a bungalow, or it could be a shanty. But this description is for others; for us, it is our kingdom.  But we should not forget one thing. The place where we live is home. Later on, with increasing prosperity, we may buy more properties, but those are not our homes. It is at this juncture things sometimes go wrong. We purchase properties for investment purpose, but we start treating them like home.

In our busy schedule during working days, we do not get time to go and visit these properties even once in a year. If the property is in another town, then it becomes even more challenging to manage. Beyond a time, as these properties become older, their valuation also does not increase the way we want it to rise, sometimes it diminishes.

But many people fall in love with such properties. I know of someone who had a property in a different town than where he lived. The property was a 40-year-old independent bungalow and had become too costly to manage because of taxes and low rent the property fetched. Someone suggested to him to dispose off the same. He had never lived there. His reply was, “Over my dead body!” It took some convincing by friends and relatives that helped him to make that decision. I asked him once about the same. His reply was, “It was my first property; it’s like the first child. How can one dispose off the same?” I did not tell that children also become old and move in life!

We should not forget that the concept of the home also changes. As we switch from studentship to professional work, we become independent of parents. We make our own home at some stage. I had written a blog on a similar subject sometime back.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/16th-august-1995-to-23rd-september-2018/

In this blog, I had written about concentric circles of our lives! When we have our family and children at some stage, we have our own home! The place which you called home in your younger days becomes your parent’s home. The same concept is going to be repeated when your children grow up, settle down and have their family. That is where the concept of ancestral home comes into the picture. In previous generations, people rarely travelled out of town for work; only girls moved to their husband’s home after marriage. The same property was home for many generations. But with today’s modern technology and way of living, the concept of ancestral home will be forgotten after a few generations. The reason for this is you had an ancestral home but moved to Bombay for work. Your children moved to London, New York or Timbuktu for their career. Some come back to India, but most don’t. The ancestral homes hence stop existing as a concept.

With increased mobility, days of ancestral homes concept is waning. But the home remains home for the nuclear families that get created in different generations. Probably we could say that longevity of the idea of home is reducing and ends with the parents who “created” the home.

Every home has its memories, its stories, the happy moments and the sad moments. I remember my first “home” which was at Dhobi talao in Bombay. What memories I have! Catching an early morning bus to go to school; it was G3 at 6.15 am and meeting Pradeep! Coming home by lunch-time; memories of listening to cricket test-match commentary of tied match between Australia and West Indies are still fresh in my mind. There was a rule at home not go to the Cross Maidan to play before 4.30 pm. But we used to sneak out under the garb of completing home-work at some friend’s place. Half the time my mother had to send someone to bring me back home from the ground though we had a rule that we should be back home when it started getting dark.

Our first home in Pune after marriage was the most fun part. Jaya and I were the first ones to get married in our group. Every day, some friends would barge in for a chat, food and whatever till they were thrown out. Some friends would come prepared to cook chicken; some would urge Jaya to plan on the previous day so that they could have Sabudana (Sago) Khichadi the next day.

Home is something which is a great leveller, makes everyone a family person. That person could be a famous Surgeon or a Scientist. She could be CEO of an organisation or a Minister in a Government. But at home, these same luminaries are converted into a different person. Their personality changes and they become mothers, fathers, uncles. They may also become sisters or brothers or aunts. My friends, this is the power of “Home”! Each home has its own Ramayana and Mahabharata which others rarely see or visualise.

We have all seen how people’s personalities are very different when they come from broken homes. They have no shoulder to cry on; they have nobody to share their sorrows. The home gives shade to the family like a banyan tree against the harshness, that is life; but when that tree itself falls, people seem to get exposed to the vagaries of nature. Home is an umbrella that prevents you from sudden rains. For us, home is only next to God. When a human is in turmoil, a person goes to a church or a mandir. It gives them mental peace and solace. You had a bad day office; you lost a big opportunity in business. You accidentally bumped your car into the one ahead of you! After reaching home and sitting in your favourite window or on a pet chair, your agitation tapers off.

Home is a powerful institution created by us, let us try to preserve it and not flog it! It can absorb many shocks but remember that this shock absorber cannot be just bought from a shop and replaced when damaged!

Deepti, you must be back home already; our flight just had taken off from Frankfurt today, when yours landed there on the way back to Pune. Take care and enjoy our dear Pune again!

The world is my Oyster!

Adab and Namaste!

My nephew Atul used to go to the UK to work as a doctor. He would go for a small duration, and every time he went to a new place. The English spoken in each area was so different that he sometimes wondered if he knew English at all! It took him a couple of days to get used to the pronunciations. In today’s world when your whole family may live world over but for that we all must understand the nuiances of human behaviour. We should not be judgmental about other people’s ways, rituals, methods and their way of life in general. Those who assimilate faster where they go can then say, “The World is my Oyster”!

The nature of humans, their behaviour, their way of handling life is different. We have similar differences in India too! Like Marathi spoken in Pune, Satara, Kolhapur have their distinct flavours and dialects. Aurangabad and Nagpur have their own variants. It all depends on the culture prevalent in that area. Aurangabad was more connected to Hyderabad and Nagpur is still more attached to Madhya Pradesh though both are in Maharashtra.

I was wondering why this happens, and there are reasons. Many times, the culture depends on the construct of the language spoken in that area. English is by far the most flexible language and has absorbed many words from other languages, mainly from Indian languages. It makes the language more vibrant, and people can express what they want more clearly.

French usually give a vague answer to queries, and they may start with a reply which may seem negative. The reason for this is that the French language has 70000 words compared to 500000 words in English. So answers in English can be more precise, where French replies are vague. The first and most important NO in French is the one that means ‘je ne sais pas’ the ‘I have no idea’ NO. It is estimated that nearly 75% of the NOS encountered are to conceal a lack of knowledge. It likely comes from the terror of ridicule for being wrong. The word non in French has its roots in the French obsession for protests. “The French Revolution was about the irrevocable right of all citizens to refuse, and ‘non’ has a quality of ‘revanche des petits contre les grands’ [revenge of the underclasses] that seems to satisfy the inner peasant or proletarian in every French person, of any class.

The unique Indian gesture that often leaves visitors to the country flummoxed is the Indian nod. One thing all travellers to India talk about – apart from the dreaded Delhi Belly, of course – is the great Indian head nod. It’s not exactly a nod (up and down from the neck, meant to indicate ‘yes’) – or a shake (straight side to side to convey ‘no’). It’s a smooth movement that involves tilting the head from side to side vertically, either gently or fiercely. Does it mean a definite, yes? Is that a kind no? A maybe? A sign of uncertainty? Annoyance perhaps? It is difficult to say without knowledge of the context. It is almost always a ‘yes’, or at least indicates agreement. “There is also an element of being friendly or being respectful, and it is difficult to say which unless you know the situation.” Indians are brought up to be pliant and polite, especially to guests and to elders, and do not like to say ‘no’ directly. Indians mumble incoherently; smile sheepishly, and nod vaguely, all to put off making a firm commitment. Indeed, the head nod is a gesture meant to convey ambiguity and does so effectively.

Finnish people have different ways. Finns think if there’s no important topic to discuss, there’s no conversation at all. One of their national sayings is ‘Silence is gold, talking is silver’. But read the next surprising aspect of the Finnish people. With two million saunas in the country, which are enjoyed fully nude (generally gender-segregated, although that rule tends to be thrown out in the company of friends), the Finnish seem to have no problem with getting up close and personal. But when clothes are on, the bets are off. Probably they don’t look at each other much while wearing clothes and hence don’t recognise them!

Germans and their language have different ways of expressing things. Many new words get created by combining more than one word. Schadenfreude means pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune. Schadenfreude puts together schaden (harm) and freude (pleasure) – but this is common. Compound words often can’t be directly translated into other languages, so jokes made with compound words simply won’t be funny to non-German speakers. For example, look at this joke below.

“Why can’t you pick up your watch if you’ve dropped it? Because no Urheberrecht.”

It is explained that Urheberrecht means ‘copyright’ – but German has another very similarly pronounced compound word – Uhreberrecht – which has a literal meaning of ‘watch-pickup-right’. When spoken aloud, it’s the dual implication that results in a comical effect. In English, there are no such similar-sounding words, so English speaking people simply won’t understand the joke.

The German comedian Christian Schulte-Loh explains it well. Fully aware of the stereotype the Germans are labelled with, he writes in his new book, Zum Lachen auf die Insel (To England with Laughs), that Germans are too honest to be polite and the English are too polite, to be honest.

Why people behave in a certain way? Why people react in a certain way? One thing we must realise is that people world over are the same as everywhere else. The way we feel that the actions of other people as funny, other people also feel the same way about us. It is a popular notion in India to call a stingy person, Marwari! There is a reason. The Marwari people initially lived in Rajasthan in the desert region. It was the shortage of water and everything that made people care about using all resources. Now the Marwaris live all over India, they are a monied community, but their fundamental nature of minimum wastage has not changed.

I have seen that people in the Aurangabad area have a different way of communicating. People typically say namaskar whenever they meet. But in Aurangabad, I have seen people doing Adab, and their gesture is made in the way as is done in Muslim culture. Why is this so? Aurangabad is in Maharashtra. But the reason is that till ’60 s of the last century, there was no bridge on the river Godavari at Pravara Sangam. Bus from Pune would go up to the river, people crossed the river in a boat and took another bus from there to Aurangabad. Hence Aurangabad had more connection with Hyderabad, which has Muslim culture. By the way, one interesting observation. People from Aurangabad become परेशान  when they are troubled! A word typically used there.

People travel a lot these days, in India as well as abroad. I always tell friends to keep their mind open and accept what you find different in new places. Enjoy local food at those places. Go and see local plays and dances. The more we see these new things, the more we realise that people are the same all over the world!

वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् is the apt term in Sanskrit, meaning the whole world is a family!

Who wants to get bloody old?

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Last twenty years have changed this world so much that some of my contemporaries get overwhelmed. There are new technologies, new processes; different thinking is rapidly barging into our lives. On top of that, new buzzwords and new methods of communication are giving run for money to the older generation. Millennial is one word I often read these days. It means a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century. Such individuals have grown up with all new things. They are as comfortable with new ideas as we were with bullock carts, dial-up phones, using a notebook and pen for writing and yes, reading books too!

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But to me, we the people in the 7th decade of life are also millennials of the new world. Don’t worry! I know what I am talking, and my grey cells are active. The golden period of our lives is the time in our lives when we have time on hand; we have enough money (everybody’s definition of enough is different!). The situation is the result of one’s children settling down, and you are now a free bird! The real millennials are comfortable with new things in life but we millennials are comfortable with life itself. We don’t understand some new things; we don’t care. We have no worry about anything in this world. Who is bothered about death when there are so many things to do?

The traditional writings are treaties that say that Vanaprastha means “one who gives up worldly life”. It is also a concept in Hindu traditions, representing the third of four ashramas of human life, the other three being Brahmacharya, Grihastha and Sannyasa. Vanaprastha is part of the Vedic ashram system, which starts when a person hands over household responsibilities to the next generation, takes an advisory role, and gradually withdraws from the world.

Till handling of responsibilities to the next generation is fine by me. But what is the need for Vanaprastha? In olden times, I am not sure how long people lived, on average. Plus, until as recently as late as fifty years back, there was nothing to do in the evening of one’s life; the real-life evening ended with the Sunset. Now our evening begins with the Sunset! Though the indication to take advisory role and withdrawal from life is suggested, to me it’s a crappy piece of advice. But now we the new millennials are too busy doing and planning different things. Who has time to get old?

Higher life expectancy, better health adds to the change in the thought process. We want to go and see Raigad and Pratap gad. We want to go and see Machu Picchu and go and watch Wimbledon finals. We want to take a tour to see the whales and then go and see the midnight Sun. The list is unending; the bucket list keeps on getting longer. It was no surprise to see Charulata Patel on TV, all of 87 years old, enjoying the India-Pakistan world-cup cricket match. A ninety-nine-year-old lady, who was a wheelchair user, was enjoying all alone when we took Alaska cruise. There are examples galore, and the new millennials get more and more encouraged to try and do new things. See new places, get into new hobbies. Some are learning to play the organ and others are enjoying painting. I have joined a creative writing online course conducted by Oxford University.

During student life, humans are busy getting educated and later they are busy working and raising a family. Everybody had hidden from us what joy is waiting for us in our golden period. Some of us are unfortunate and remain unwell; sometimes, they are bedridden. But this can happen at a young age too! There are no writings; there are no treaties written on how to enjoy the golden period, which in conventional language is called old age. Why has this happened? It is simple. The golden age concept hardly existed until recently.

All the fun from college days and professional times are relived by the oldies. Now we do it without feeling any guilt. I am sure that we will soon have books and article deluge on this subject. At 9 am, take your breakfast and suddenly decide that you want to go and see a movie starring Dev Anand, Nargis, Waheeda or whoever. Sit in your car or Riksha, call an Uber and go the multiplex and see the 9.30 am movie. In the meanwhile, send a WhatsApp message to a few more friends and check if they can join you for an Idli-Dosa or a thali. Why not brunch at the Marriot? You have not had that famous missal-pav for some time, have it. Oh, don’t forget to end with the latest craze of Yevale Chai!

Do I want to become old? Do I feel old? Do I have to grow old? The answer to all the questions is no! The simple reason is I don’t have time to become old in the sense of older thinking. That biologically we are growing older is a fact of life, but that does not mean that we must advertise it, we don’t have to show it. One important aspect we forget about the ladies. They are years past their menopause, and their life must be very comfortable. Handling “monthly issues” during work and travel was never a joke for the ladies. It is real freedom for them.

What stupid things you will have to bear with other than some chronic diseases? Maybe you may have to wear some thick glasses, but with current developments in eye surgeries, you may get back the 20/20 eyesight. The world again looks brighter, and you can look at the lovely ladies without staring at them! You can let the time pass by, the way you want! You can wear some stupid clothes or hats and get away with it. People will just murmur, he has become old! I forgot one thing, buy yourself a fancy walking stick!

Would you want to go to a bar where there is loud music? You usually would avoid but now who cares? Don’t take your hearing aid with you! Live the life you want to live! Don’t bother about wasting your time; you have enough time on hand!

All the literature, all the wisdom always did not talk about the benefits of old age! It is because such things never were known to people, and many things did not even exist. The best sign of ageing, though, is that you are still you and people will accept you as you are! If they don’t, who cares?

Deep Discounts or Deep Distress?

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I am as usual caught in a conundrum when I read some stories. On the 15th of August National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) launched a logout campaign against the deep discount coupons that are offered by these five aggregators Zomato, EazyDinerNearbuyMagicPin and DineoutSince then, more than 2300 restaurants across the country de-listed themselves from these food apps claiming that “discount structure, terms and conditions, by the food tech companies are unjust and unsustainable.” The president of NRAI said that to stay competitive in the market, some aggregators give discount of buy one and get one free. Others have done the same thing differently; they have straight away offered a 50% discount, which means the same.  

The story does not end here. On particular Gold Card membership, such discounts are allowed on one itemBut our desi brain works interestingly. The people go to restaurant A and take starters- 50% discount. They go to another restaurant to take drinks- buy two get two free! Finally, they go to the third restaurant and order the main course- buy one get one free! Using this method, they get the whole meal at 50% discount which kills the business.   

The worst part of the whole thing is that the discounts are being borne by the restaurants and not the aggregators. The association wants these discounts to be removed so that customers get used to not getting high discounts. It is a sort of detox action that is essential, according to the association. It appears that both the sides have understood the problems created by deep discounts and they also know that it will take some time to reach normalcy and come out of the deep discount issue.  

You and I are naturally going to be unhappy with these changes. We have to now look for happy hours or special days to get good discounts. Now, these changes are going to take my outflow back to normal, which I do not like. But we should not forget that such gimmicks never work in the long term.  

I always felt as if I am an uneducated person, though I have run a small business for more than 35 years. Giant organisations like Amazon and Flipkart have been in the deep discount game for quite some time. The difference is that they give deep discounts from their pocket. For years, they offer deep discounts, give Prime memberships and so on. They keep on investing billions of dollars for years. Amazon has never made profits in the last twenty years. But they continue to invest in the business to get more and more customers all the time. Uber CEO has recently made a statement that Uber may never make profits. What is the business model of such companies? Jeff Bozos has become “poor” when he settled his divorce, and his wealth is at lowly US $ 65/ billions. He bought some time back Washington post for an all-cash deal of US $ 250/ million.  

Uneducated me does not understand the principles used in these businesses. Uber charges higher rates when demand is up. But I have seen that as a routine, they charge about 10 to 15 % more than an Auto Riksha in Pune. The price difference between an Auto Riksha and a car can be three lacs of rupees. Many Rikshas give mileage about 1.5 times more than the cars. 

On top of that, Uber takes 30% of the amount we pay to the driver. To me, the driver may break even, Uber’s figures show that they make losses. Other than making vehicles available quickly to us, are they running a charity organisation? Is it not similar to deep discounts offered by Zomato or Amazon?  Or for that matter, Oyo?

Venture capitalists, angel investors, put in their money in such companies. Venture capital is defined as capital invested in a project in which there is a substantial element of risk, typically a new or expanding business. I am sure that those who invest in such companies expect reasonable returns on their capital. By what I have described above, there are no returns, then why are the investments continued? Where is the source for such unlimited funds?  

There is no doubt that Amazon, Uber, Zomato are market disruptors. They have shown the world a new way of doing business, which even 25 years back did not exist. New methods, new ways of doing things make a lot of difference in day to day life. Consider AirbnbThe concept is so good that it is helping people all over the worldIt reduces the cost of travel and uses people’s assets which have been remaining idle.  

Amazon, WalmartJio are gamechanging companies which have made a big difference in our lives. But they are making these changes with their own money or at the cost of competitors. They are disrupting the market and making their competitors think; I am sure the competitors will come up with even newer ideas.  

But this deep discount business with own money or someone else’s money is not sustainable business model. I am not surprised that NRAI has revolted against it. I was talking to someone about these aggregators. It was felt that the aggregators probably sell the data of their customers to make money! When companies like Facebook have done it, what will stop the aggregators from selling data!  

Ultimately, market disruptors come with ideas and business models which were never seen before. But one thing will never changeSuch organisations have to make profits at some stage. Unless, of course, you are an Amazon or an Uber. But don’t forget that Amazon is the market leader in Cloud Computing business; so as a group, they make profitsBecoming Unicorn company (market value exceeding One Billion US $) is fine for publicity; it will help companies get more VC fundingBut if they don’t start making profits, such companies fall in the group of 95 % plus companies, which close down sometimes even without a whimper.  

 

Recession or Cyclic downturn?

The automotive sector in India is under significant stress. Sales are going down drastically in unprecedented numbers. It is a vast sector and has already started giving layoffs, having non-production days- a euphemism for plant closures. A large number of dealerships have cancelled their tie-ups as the business does not appear to be lucrative. On top of this, BS-VI norms will be starting from 1/4/2020, which will cause further stress as no BS-IV vehicle will be even registered from 1/4/2020.

More difficulties will come up during this year and maybe even next year. The reasons for this is that CAFÉ norms will come into the picture from 2022. There is already a discussion of auto companies going slow on investments, but statutory requirements are mandatory, and these companies cannot avoid them. BS-VI norms and CAFÉ norms will increase the prices of cars. One thing that never comes into the discussion is the sale of old vehicles. It is not that people are not buying cars. People suddenly don’t change their habits. But people become practical and smarter.

George Mathew

I will tell you what I mean. I read an article from Indian Express which was discussing the sales pattern in the industry in general. The data in the table is for two thousand plus companies. The table above shows the business figures for April-June quarter comparison of 2018 and 2019. Sales of AC’s are generally seasonal. But other items like TV’s, Microwaves have not shown any decline. Sales are almost normal and have only shown seasonal changes.

I want to write a disclaimer. I cannot “read” the financial data, and hence, I cannot analyse it too! But as a layman, I thought there is not much difference for these two years. The sales have gone up in 2019.  Operating margins have reduced slightly. Depreciation is quite high in 2019, indicating the investments done in the that year. Hence interest paid has gone up maybe due to investments in plant and machinery. Proportionately tax paid has gone down, and profit has gone down. These figures do not show any drastic changes happening in the market. Companies considered in this table exclude banking and finance companies.

Then why is the auto sector in distress? I have mentioned that people have become smarter and practical. In the last financial year, the total number of vehicles sold was large. But the sales of new cars have come down. There is a secondary market where people buy used cars. The total number of old vehicles sold was four lacs more than new cars. Why is this happening? Small cars like Alto are now sold more in three-tier towns. Young people in big cities want to buy bigger vehicles. I understand that a 3 to the 4-year-old big sedan is now available for the price of an Alto. The trend of buying used fancy cars is affecting the sale of new cars.

I am not arguing that there is no recession in the auto sector. But we should not forget that it is one of the most protected sectors in India. Customs duty on cars below US $ 40000/ is 60 % and above this value 100%. The used cars have a customs duty of 125%.  For various reasons, this sector has remained inefficient. After many international companies started coming to India and opened their factories in India, the auto sector had a tough time. Some Indian companies took 15 years to reach the quality levels of global companies. One company that followed a correct way of doing business is Bajaj Auto. They currently export 1.8 million motorcycles every year. It gives them a buffer when the local market sales dip!

Some of the reasons for the downturn could be that main barrier for transport vehicles like octroi has been removed. The action has speeded up the turnaround time of vehicles  substantially. The effect would be that the number of trucks needed to transport material would be less than those previously required. Another reason that is making rounds is that demonetisation effect causing the sales to drop. Is such a large industry dependent on cash? In the rural areas cash was being used to buy vehicles; even large SUV’s were bought using cash. If people had so much cash with them why did they not use bank instruments to pay? The answer is obvious. Not paying taxes honestly is a habit that does go away quickly.

What was the auto industry turnover 20 years back? How much has this industry grown? The auto industry has made decent profits all these years, so I am sure they have reserves. Pollution norms have been known to everybody, so no point in raising hue and cry about investments needed.

Any sector that is in stress always talks of alarming results of the recessionary trends in their business. Should the government give selective help to the stressed industry? Is such action fair to other sectors which are doing okay in their business? The financial stimulus can be a solution, but such money gets diverted from equally essential areas. We should not forget that high tariff on imported vehicles has helped the industry for a long time.

All the companies in the automotive sector are large organisations, and they have the wherewithal to overcome current tough times. Asking for a reduction in GST is a short-term major and is taking a myopic view of the situation. In the last couple of years, the government has been receiving feedback from business about GST. Government has already made changes for the benefit of both industry and the government. Making changes for a specific industry for a short duration is an incorrect way. The auto industry has been generating decent profit for the last few years. Some things have changed; some new variables have come into play. There are who experts can find a solution and suggest corrective actions. I am sure the industry will come out of it.

Raising the alarm, making statements like “It is the wake-up call for the Government of the day” does not solve issues. But the government help should be an exception but not a rule. There is an interesting story about General Motors and Chrysler. When they were in serious financial trouble, a decade ago, the senior executives of both companies were called to Washington DC for discussions. In the initial informal chat, they were asked if they reached Washington the previous night. The surprised executives said, “Oh, we landed only about 45 minutes back. We chartered a plane to come here.” The government official was aghast!

So where is the vendor conference this year? Italy, Las Vegas, Macau? How can you have the conference inside your factory? Cost cutting is for others. I have attended General Motors vendor conference once in Pune. It was at the Oxford club and there were at least six helicopters used by GM bosses to arrive at the venue! It is not a surprise that GM closed their shop in India.

Racism-the uncouth behaviour!

https://www.indiatoday.in/trending-news/story/conductor-asks-girl-to-get-off-train-in-new-zealand-for-abusing-indian-passenger-speaking-in-hindi-1580618-2019-08-14 

I read this disturbing news in India Today, the other day. A person of Indian origin was travelling on a train in New Zealand. He was speaking on his cell phone to someone in Hindi. A sixteen-year Caucasian girl did not like this and told him, “You go home to your country.” The incident was reported by another passenger to the lady train conductor. The lady reached that compartment. The girl was still ranting. There were arguments, but the conductor was very firm. She made the girl get down mid-way. She also said that the girl might be paying customer, but that does not give the girl a right to misbehave with other passengers. The train was held up for almost twenty minutes, but other passengers did not mind that.  

I had complex thoughts in mind. I was pleased with the approach of the conductor; at the same time, I was distraught with the behaviour of the sixteen-year. The young girl has hardly had any worldly experience, but what made her behave the way she did. In the modern world, we see a lot of immigration. People migrate for better opportunities, or for seeking political asylums. People get posted to different countries on projects for three to six years. But then I realised that there are various  “isms” in our lives since time immemorial. We have casteism; we have “colour” ism!  

The most famous incident of racism was when Mahatma Gandhi was asked to get down from the train in South Africa in 1893 from “whites only” compartment. The event made a remarkable influence on Gandhi’s thinking about racial discrimination. But it took another hundred years for apartheid to end in South Africa. The trouble with these changes is that they sometimes go to other extremes. Cricket team in South Africa must now have a certain percentage of people of colour. The result is that many white players in South Africa now retire at a young age when they see that they may never get to play for the nation and move to England to play county cricket. 

It is very similar to casteism issues in India. But all these isms are there from mythological days in Indian history. The origins of the caste system in India are shrouded, but it seems to have originated more than two thousand years ago. Under this system, which is associated with Hinduism, people were categorised by their occupations. Although originally caste depended upon a person’s work, it soon became hereditary.  

ism1.jpg

All the points mentioned in the above slide are self-explanatory. But I was not aware of the Guild theory.  

The guild is an association of craftsmen or merchants formed for mutual aid and protection and the furtherance of their professional interests. Guilds flourished in Europe between the 11th and 16th centuries and formed an essential part of the economic and social fabric in that era. 

The details of evolutions explain to us how such practices came into existence, but the natural differentiation based on various things were used by some groups of people to their advantage. Some over a period decided that a particular group of people was better than some other groups. A specific trade was thought to be superior to other groups. You had fishmongers and ironsmiths. You had traders, and you had warriors. As time passed, some of these trades started appearing sexy! A warrior was always thought to be superior to most other people. They started looking down at other people. Many things and events were not understood by people due to lack of scientific knowledge. Some people who had better intellect started the concept of God to explain mysterious things in terms of God’s wrath. You had floods, the rain God was angry with you. You had significant fires; fire God must be appeased.  

This concept of God and religion was taken over by some smart people. They learned the written scripts and became priests. Religion and Priests created Brahmins who took the position at the top of the pecking order. They chanted hymns; they had an explanation for unexplained troubles. They were considered one rung below God. Such pecking orders became caste systems and depending on their importance,  the people earned respect 

At some stage, people also started understanding that nature has an evolutionary system. Theory of Darwin, The Survival of the Fittest, began to be recognised by humanity. In some cases, the humans became physically healthy, and in other cases, they became mentally superior.  

The classic definition of Brahmanism is the complex sacrificial religion that emerged in post-Vedic India (900 bc) under the influence of the dominant priesthood (Brahmans), an early stage in the development of Hinduism. 

But any group of people who had better intellect created progeny with even more superior humans as far as intelligence was concerned. It was well explained by Darwin’s theory. Families of warriors produced even better warriors. Families in trade had better traders in the next generation. The evolution continued.  

But worst of the thinking in evolution remained based on colour. The Gods shown in pictures always had fair skin; demons had dark skin. Male Gods were cleanshaven, but the demons had big moustaches! Scientifically, the colour of the skin was explained by the areas where humans lived. Where the Sun was harsher, the more Melanin was present under the human skin. The people living in cold climate had less Melanin as the Sun was rarely harsh. So we have Goras and KalasOn top of this, the white race became meat eaters because of the weather conditions and other circumstances. The eating habits lead to the white race becoming bigger and stronger. The white people because their colour and healthy physique were looked at as a superior race. Let us not forget that the discrimination based on colour is followed everywhere. The Dilliwalas call people from Southern states in India as “Madrasis”, as people from old Madras have been traditionally dark in colour. Ratna Rajaiah, my favourite blogger, who lives in Mysore, has written a funny take on how South Indian ladies use talcum powder to look fairer, called “Ode to Talcum”!  

https://ratnarajaiahblogs.blogspot.com/search?q=let+us+talc 

Will these “isms” ever go away? I don’t think so. After a couple of hundred years after the abolition of slavery in the USA, do you think that thinking about darkskinned people changed in the Southern States of America? In northern states in India, especially in Bihar and Bengal do you think feudalism is dead? No way! You need to go 30 km from major cities, and you would know that things have hardly changed. The hierarchies will continue based on Caste, Colour, Occupation and Religious hierarchy. Mind you, some things never change.  

I will share a story with you. Jaya had led a team of engineers more than 30 years back to the USA. There was one smart engineer who was from the state of Bihar. During training class, he would have his coffee with a loud slurping soundAfter a couple of days, at the hotel, Jaya brought this out in discussion and explained to the gentleman to avoid the noise. He immediately agreed. He said, “Madam, you know that I come from Bihar and nobody ever told us about public manners. But now that you have explained, I will immediately change. For me, coming to Pune for the job itself was like coming to the US! Now in the US, for me, it is like arriving on the Moon. How much can a person change? But I will try my best!”  

But my blog cannot be an ode, but it shows the bad aspects of our beautiful world! 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do I blog?

 

blogI will tell you why I am writing this blog. But let me start with what is a blog. A blog is a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style. 

The subject of my blog writing came up recently when we batchmates from COEP met for lunch. The current blog is my 474th blog. A friend asked me, “Hey, Pramod! What is your target for writing blogs? 500 or a thousand or what?” I told him, “Look, I never started writing the blogs with any thoughts. I started fiddling around in 2011. In the first 3 to 4 years, maybe I wrote about fifty blogs. Later on, when I was recuperating from my cancer treatment in 2014, I had time on hand. I was in retrospection mode. I realised that I had started enjoying blog writing. I have written blogs to put together thoughts that come to mind. The idea was never to have any target for the number of blogs I wanted to write. At that time, I would have been most pleased if I had reached a figure of 150.

I started getting more and more time as my professional work tapered off, and now that I am almost retired, blogging keeps me busy and interested. I discuss a subject with someone, I read somewhere, and there you are. I realised that there is a blog lurking behind any event that is happening in our beautiful, and sometimes not so beautiful world. Sometimes, it is personal; at other times, it is general. Sometimes it is about something of national or global nature. But there is no dearth of subjects. I am also lucky that I had Mr Mayekar as my English teacher in school. I have done my education till 11th grade in Marathi medium, but I started learning English from 7th grade. Mayekar sir’s encouragement made me comfortable in English. I am sure he would have been happy to read a few of my blogs. He would always say, “Written words become interesting if you put your heart in your writing.” Blogging is now my passion.  

Now the title, why do I blog? There is a reason why this question has come up. A friend from our WhatsApp group seems to be having some issues with my sharing of the blog on the group. Honestly, I do not have any problem with this, but since he is my batchmate, and known to me, I am a little worried about his questioning. I get a feeling that he has some health issues which creates his reactions that look awkward on the group. Now, some other friends from the group have been writing comments on my writing, but I feel that this friend needs to understand what a blog is and why people write a blog.  

First and foremostblogs are written for commercial purpose to make money, but many people, like me, blog for non-monetary considerations. There are many such reasons. One of them is passion. In India, the blogging culture is yet to spread as it has spread in western countries.  

At its core, writing is a form of communication. It is about recording thoughts on paper and making others think, argue and sometimes even agree with the writing. To that end, writing (just like every other form of communication that has ever existed) improves with practice. Blogging will not force you to become a better writer; it’ll just happen as you do it. And becoming a better writer holds significant benefits for the rest of your life—whether you are creating a book, a presentation, a résumé, or an anniversary card for your spouse. 

You’ll become a better thinker. Because the process of writing includes recording thoughts on paper, the blogging process encourages you to stop and think deeper. You will delve deeper into the matters of your life and the worldview that shapes them. Unfortunately, at this point, many will choose not to blog (or write at all) based on the faulty reasoning that they “have nothing to say.” But to that line of thinking, I always respond the same way, maybe you just haven’t discovered yet what you have to say. 

You’ll develop an eye for meaningful things. By necessity, blogging requires a filter. It’s simply not possible to write about every event, every thought, and every happening in your life. Instead, blogging is a never-ending process of choosing to articulate the most meaningful events and the most critical ideas; but this a personal perspectiveThe process of selecting a subject helps you develop an eye for important things. And remember that sometimes the most useful things appear to be most mundane—but you’ll see what I mean once you get started. 

Blog writing is either convergent or divergent. By convergent, it means that the subject is vast to start with, but in the end, the discussion narrows down to a tiny part of the issueBy divergent, it means that one starts with a small event like a sentence we read somewhere, and end up writing about a broad subject. A few times, you know what you are going to write in a particular blog, but many times you start writing, and vistas open up as you write!   

What are the positives of blog writing? It allows one to express the passion for one’s thinking. I have written a few blogs about how I handled my cancer treatment. If these blogs have helped to make a difference in the life of a few people, I will be delighted. My blogs bring me in touch with new people and old friends. Many times, there is an intellectual interaction. I can share my knowledge; I have had all my career in the Automotive field. I can share my experience and explain what is expected in future in the automotive field, with others. I come in touch with like-minded people. Consistent blogging helps me improve my writing skills. An essential aspect of blogging is it improves my knowledge. In my recent blog about article 370, my knowledge on the subject was not much. I researched and understood a lot of things on the subject. 

There are many commercial advantages of blogging like an improved business, networking etc. But for me, it is of no use as I don’t blog for those reasons.  

Last but not least, blogging has now become a passion for me. It is an addiction; it is my alcohol, and it is my cigarette. I never look for any subject or topic for writing a blog. But when I read books, or newspapers something clicks within. When I watch TV, some words or sentences hit me, and my mind starts whirring. It settles down only when I put my thoughts on paper! Somehow, I can find time even during my travels, but work-wise now I am pretty much relaxed. 

My friends, I am not looking for numbers, nor have I any target! I will keep on writing until I enjoy it. Famous cartoonist R K Laxman used to publish a cartoon every day in times of India, “You Said It”! He was once asked, “How can you do this day in and day out for so many years?” He said, “There is no dearth of “cartoons” in this world, so it is quite simple.” In the same vein for me, there are so many things happening the world over; my problem sometimes is that some blogs remain pending for days together, like this blog!