Gopal Mansion!

You will wonder what Gopal Mansion is? The plain answer is that this is the building in which I lived since I was in fourth grade till I finished First Year Science, the first year after S S C, at Elphinstone College at Bombay in 1966. A couple of things happened yesterday.

My granddaughter Rhea saw a family photograph taken in the flat in 1960. She started asking me all sorts of questions about the home — family photo from Gopal Mansion. I am the youngest in the family!

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How many rooms were there in the home? How many washrooms were there? Where did I sleep? Where did I study? (I hid the secret from her that I never studied!) I went into a nostalgic trip while explaining to her many things. She was not surprised that there was a lift (elevator) in the building. She thinks that all buildings always have lifts! Gopal Mansion had six floors; we lived on the ground floor!

After our discussion during breakfast on the subject, I accidentally got into touch with a friend from Gopal Mansion. Sunil and I got in touch with each other after almost 50 years, thanks to Facebook. Sunil is elder to me by five years. He is a doctor and still practices as General Physician at Lilavati Hospital in Bombay. We spoke for more than half an hour and tried to update each other. We remembered the old friends, Shrikant, Satish, Vitthal and many others. He updated me about certain friends whose whereabouts were known to him, and I also did the same. Was it a trip down the memory lane? I was very happy to remember the old days, so was Sunil. We have now decided to meet when we both go back to India. He is with his daughter in Atlanta, in the US!

But this is not about the nostalgic trip that I had yesterday! It is about something else, but I will come to that in a little while. We had a watchman called Mahadu, who would not let us play cricket in the building; we broke many window panes. I remember how we deceived him and sometimes played in the afternoon. Azad Maidan and Cross Maidan were a two-minute walk from the building, and we used to play Cricket round the year and football in monsoons! During Dassara time, we used to go to the grounds to watch Ramlila on Azad Maidan; but the real reason for us to go there was to spy on young couples who spent some time on the ground, in the dark! At one of the gates of Gopal Mansion was a Ragda Pattice vendor! We were never allowed to eat there. But we used to envy the people who ate there.

Okay, enough nostalgia and let me come to the real subject of the blog. My niece used to live near Gopal Mansion, and when we stayed with her, I always used to go to Gopal Mansion. The last time I remember having been there was in 2012. The building had seen the glorious days of about 25 families living there, and many like me had spent the childhood there. In 2012, I saw that nobody lived there. For old time’s sake, I went inside to see but felt very sad to see a structure where nobody lived for many years.

I had never imagined that Gopal Mansion would be used for some impressive work by anyone. At some stage, the building was purchased by a charitable trust, Shivkishan Mindaram Charitable trust!

https://www.gopalmansion.com/index.php

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The facility at the Gopal Mansion near the Metro Cinema was inaugurated in 2018 and offers rooms on a first-come, first-served basis to the needy. The south Mumbai facility is being run by the Shivkishan Mindaram Damani Charitable Trust that Damani’s family owns.

The rates for stay and food are very much affordable.

  1. Breakfast 30
  2. Lunch Thaali 75
  3. Dinner Thaali  75
  4. Rooms at   800

Gopal Mansion today!

Radhakishan Damani, the promoter of DMart, has created a facility at “Gopal Mansion” near “Metro Cinema Queens Road Mumbai” containing 53 rooms for stay of the family of patients undergoing treatment in Mumbai. It was inaugurated on 15th March 2018. It’s very nicely done.

In India, we have the concept of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) for the corporates. The corporates are mandated to spend some % of their profits on society for needy persons or causes. Many companies do various things and decide as per their company policy. Damanis have created a permanent facility that helps people who have to come to Bombay for medical treatment. In the distance of about 10 to 12 km from Gopal Mansion, there many medical facilities, including Tata Cancer Hospital.

Along with patients, the family members are also required to stay in Mumbai for support. There has been a significant need for some affordable clean, and neat facilities. The trust has done a great job by creating this permanent facility, which will be used by people when they are required to come to Mumbai for treatment!

Many people have a lot of money, but this is the first time I remember an organisation that has created such a facility permanently! I hope more and more people do these activities.

I had written a blog sometime back, “Let’s all become Bill Gates”!

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

In the blog I have suggested that those who have money, which can be shared with the society for the betterment of the society, should do it. We all have it in us, but in some families for unknown reasons, such culture has never started. You can be the first person in your family to start the trend; it is not the amount but thought that is important. By performing such acts, you may change someone’s life for good!

To my understanding, to be a good human being, you need to have humility, empathy, and a little bit of extra money! Extra money is helpful, but I have known people who have been helping the society in various ways in spite of their needs not being completed.

I am grateful for the friends and people that came into my life in Gopal Mansion. We have become family with one of the neighbours and still are in regular touch with each other. All our friends have generally done well in life. Shreekant is a famous psychiatrist in Thane. (I hope I never need his professional services) Many others became good professionals.

Nostalgia has brought back many names. Mario, Iqbal, Ajit, where are you guys? I have lost a few friends as they died in the last ten years, like Avi, Dilip and Satish! Gopal Mansion was like a big family, and I consider myself lucky to know that it got converted into a place which is going to support needy people who are required to come to Mumbai for medical treatment for a long period!

It feels as if Gopal Mansion has also grown with me, and my thoughts are matching with what Gopal Mansion will be used for, in the future!

Light your own path- Diwali!

Diwali12

I think this the second time in my 70 years, I am not at our home for Diwali. Someone asked me how I was celebrating Diwali in Montreal? My simple answer was this is the longest Diwali celebration we had, ever. We reached here end of August and will be back to Pune in early November. For Jaya and me, all these two months have been like Diwali. With Rhea, Priya and Nikhil around, every day was spent like Diwali. For me, Diwali is a mindset. We should have Diwali every day by being able to share the happiness with your loved ones; most of the times being with them itself is happiness!

In the conventional sense, Diwali is the festival of lights that celebrates the victory of good over evil. In ancient India, Diwali was a major harvest festival, and the lighting of the lamps was associated with the sun.

The meaning of Diwali is a festival of the light which dispels the darkness of our ignorance; it is a festival of the light which shows us the way on our journey through life. The purpose is not to glorify the light of the candle, or the light of the firecracker. The purpose is to glorify the light of God.

Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists, although for each faith it marks different historical events and stories. Nonetheless, the festival represents the same symbolic victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.

But the question that comes to mind is why there is evil in this world? There are, of course, some outright evil events, evil people. But the percentage of such people is small. People turn into evils over small issues or events. Jealousy, not being happy with what you have are some of the reasons. These are some of the small hurdles that can be easily overcome, especially by people like me who are in the golden period of life. But this is easier said than done.

We have a “beautiful” app called WhatsApp available to us, thanks to modern technology. Diwali time is the time where it is totally misused. I have received hundreds of Happy Diwali messages, but only two of them were specific. It was written,” Pramod, how you folks are spending Diwali in Montreal? You must be missing Pune and so on!” There were phone calls, and we made phone calls to wish people Happy Diwali. All other messages were “forwards.” Some were self-created greetings but again with no personalisation. Do we really feel happy or do we really mean it when we forward a Happy Diwali message? To me, at least it is as good as an automated message coming to me from my Bank or from online shops where I buy things! Some of them at least a take an effort in personalising the message (using the software) and say “Dear Pramod, bla bla bla!”

On one of the COEP groups, there is a rule of not sending forwards! But during Diwali so many Happy Diwali “forwards” were sent that my friend Sharad was exasperated and wrote,

It looks like all the Admins are tired of telling the members not to send greetings on this group. We have received so many happy Diwali messages that I am worried whether we will have indigestion of happy Diwali. 

Is Diwali something special that makes us forget the rules? There are about 150 people on this group so you can imagine the clutter that we managed to create.

I was trying to understand the tradition of burning crackers during Diwali. The tradition somehow started in old times with the idea of scaring away evil spirits; people forget that there are no evil spirits, physically; the evil spirit is in the mind of the people. Nowadays, the crackers that are burst have very high decibel noise; sometimes it is impossible to sit peacefully at home even with all windows shut! The style now is to burst a set of ten thousand crackers at a time, loosely linked to each other. World over, bursting crackers is a part of many celebrations. But in western countries, it is done at a safe, designated area like a ground or a stadium. But we….. just don’t want to learn.

There are so many good traditions but even with the spread of knowledge why do we stick old not so good traditions. During Diwali, families visit each other, give gifts, spread the joy. Some people paint their homes before Diwali. Then there has been a tradition of putting up beautiful lanterns at home. Though readymade ones are available, in some families there is still the tradition of making lanterns at home. It is a way of coming and staying together in our busy lives.

Diwali13

Rangoli is an art form from India in which patterns are created on the floor in living rooms or courtyards using materials such as coloured rice, dry flour, coloured sand or flower petals. It is usually made during Diwali, but it is also made in Onam, Pongal and other Indian festivals. Rangoli is done on any auspicious day during the year. I am not saying that this art is dying, but this could be easily followed by many more art-minded people!

Diwali is a good opportunity to get great gifts from others; it is a part of the tradition. Ladies don’t forget to get a big gift from your husbands on Padwa. Make some nice faral for them; you will get what you want. Brothers don’t be stingy. Give some lovely gifts to your sisters; they are the ones who really love you but cannot express it regularly because they have left “your home” after marriage. Give them lots of love and make them feel at home!

A new trend has started as per the information shared by some shop keepers. In olden times new clothes etc. were purchased before Diwali or before your school restarted if you had outgrown your school uniform. Now with increased incomes in many families, there is no Diwali purchase. People just go out on weekends and buy new stuff! There was a time when I was younger, my mother used to make Diwali special food items at home, just a week before Diwali. Now the trend has changed all these Diwali specials are available round the year.

Diwali11

But I will be pleased if you manage to keep the “Happy Diwali” state of mind all-round the year. There will be illnesses, there will be sad events but treat them like a blip, they are part of life;  but have Diwali round the year,  after all, by reaching the golden phase of life, we have earned it!

HAPPY DIWALI TO ALL MY FRIENDS!

Migration at what cost!

We always read about trafficking of humans. Sometimes it is done to use the “trafficked,” girls or women for forced prostitution. Many times, it is families that are running away from poverty or for political asylum due to conditions in their respective countries. 

I do not know what percentage of people successfully reach their proposed destination in the case of trafficking for a better life, and they really live normal life or live lifelong as aliens! 

But recent news items are definitely showing a disturbing trend. Three hundred Indian people were forcefully deported from Mexico to India. These people had reached Mexico using whatever route but their final destination was the USA. The US government has taken a strong stand with Mexico. Mexico was threatened that unless they take forceful action against potential illegal immigrants, Mexican goods will be taxed heavily. Mexican government chartered a plane to deport the three hundred Indians. 

Essex

In the UK, in Essex, a refrigerated tractor-trailer was found. To the horror of people, they discovered that there were thirty-nine Chinese people inside, who were all dead. The truck was registered in Bulgaria by an Irish company. The truck came to the UK from Belgian port of Zeebrugge. Death of illegal migrants due to capsizing of boats or the tragedy like the one in Essex are heard quite regularly. 

All of us want a better life, and we all strive for that. But what does it mean by a better life? What are the ways of achieving the same? 

Before taking desperate measures like illegal immigration, do we try to improve life in our own country? With better travel facilities, better communication it is reasonably easy to go other countries. But migration is not going to be as easy as people think. 

Each country has its own laws and requirements of skill sets suitable in their country. If you don’t fit into the criteria, migration will be difficult. 

But the desperate attempts are not new! Way back in 1981we were travelling in Texas in my brother’s car. The car had a problem, but luckily a Mexican family helped us to reach a motel. The Mexican family was very clear in thinking; they said there is only one Motel nearby that will let you all stay. All others would refuse admission for obvious reasons, racism. We were welcome by, who else, a Patel. Next day, we checked with him about breakfast. He told Jaya, “Bhabhi you make Poha for all of us, those will be my charges. I won’t charge you rent; you are from my home country.” His story was somehow he had managed to reach Miami through South America. He immediately took a bus and in 4/5 days reached San Fransisco. There through other Patels, he managed a driving license, which helped him get Social Security number and now he was running a Motel in Texas. He was living there without family, had not spoken to them in years. He said, “I am leading a good life, now I will buy one more Motel.” That was his definition of a good life! 

In today’s times such stories may be happening, but those will be less due to computerisation. But what is it that drives people to try desperate measures? India and China are two countries with the largest population. We generally know what is happening in India but in China there two are countries, one well to do and the other very poor. Workers in large factories in China are treated worse than slaves. They live in cramped accommodations and are allowed to go home, once in a year. 

If these people try to migrate in desperation, it is no surprise. In certain East European countries and African countries, conditions are desperate. 

Besides this in East European countries, there is a Mafia which is very active in the sex slave trade. They simply kidnap girls for their purpose and “sell” them. 

About the Essex incident, it was said that all these poor people had paid Euros ten thousand each for “immigration”. In such transactions, there are no guarantees. If you are lucky, you reach your destination. There is always a fear, that you may get caught later and be deported! Whether these poor, uneducated are aware of these aspects, I am really not sure. In the sex trade, young girls are never allowed any freedom to go anywhere else. They are simply tools of the sex trade! Once their shelf life is over, many times they are simply “wasted”! 

One question that always comes to my mind is that whenever we read stories of illegal immigration of Indians, why the people involved are mostly from Punjab side? What is different in Punjab that these people take big risks, including the risk of losing a life! 

One new aspect has been noticed by me recently. In the US, many educated people have been working on a work permit. Because of the current quota system of the US Government, many of these people may never get their green card in their lifetime. Will these people continue to live in this stress all their life? 

There is an article I read recently which says, when the children (not born in the US) of these H1b visa people become adults, their visa status as good as comes back to square one. Till they were not adults, they were on a dependent visa; they could continue their stay on dependent visa. 

Every migrant is looking for his El Dorado! (A mythical city made up of Gold!) Nothing wrong in that, but should people take the risk where your odds of reaching are not very high. After reaching the destination, one’s chances of getting caught are also high. Most of such people are not having high skills or education. So the employers take the risk of employing aliens, a term used for illegal immigrants. Taking advantage of the situation, they are paid salaries well below normal salaries. 

Now European nations and the US are in the process of tightening visa rules. Canada offers visas to skilled people. With computers used at every stage, the chances of getting caught while trying illegal immigration become high. So, is it worth it? Or their situation is like “between a rock and a hard place”? Maybe that is the reason people are taking chances. 

Other aspects of migration are political and continuous war-like situation, in many countries. Such migrations are more in European countries. 

These issues have their own complications, but these arise due to situations beyond people’s controls. These people are treated humanely by many nations, but they have their quota for absorbing refugees. 

Human migration has become a significant phenomenon of the last fifty years but is increasing day by day. Whether this will happen legally or illegally is going to be the key to such situations. 

The latest news today says, that 39 dead people found in Essex lorry could even be Vietnamese. No identification is available on the bodies of any of the victims. To me these are the saddest immigration events! 

In olden days people used to move from education or jobs, within their country to different cities. Such migration still continues in a big way, but international migration temporary or permanent is on the rise. I sincerely hope no more Essex type of accidents happen again! 

  

 

 

 

Beggars and Survivors!

I came across two articles today. Topic in one of them was how much money should we have in savings so that we survive in emergencies. The second was about homeless people in California. I have recently written a blog about people for whom thousands of crores of Rupees are also not enough.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/cheats-frauds-or-failed-businesses/

So, I am talking about the three ends of the spectrum. Super rich people are at one end and homeless are on the other end. You and I are in between where discussion about emergency funds can happen!

Panati1

Besides this, I also read one more story about a poor young girl who was standing in line to buy cooking oil for her home. People were buying in terms of half a litre, one litre and so on. When the girl reached the counter, she said, “I want to buy oil worth ten paise (like ten cents).” She put forth a पणती (picture above) – it is a lamp made out of the mud and generally lit with the help of a wick which is dipped in oil. The shopkeeper got irritated and said, “I don’t sell oil in such small quantities”. The girl said, “ But I have only so much money to buy oil; if you don’t sell me the oil, then we will not be able to cook anything at home tonight.” The shop keeper yielded to her request and filled up the lamp with oil. The girl insisted that he must take ten paise from her.

Various thoughts started coming to my mind. On one side, we have homeless people; then some people barely survive like the young girl. You and I come next in the line and then there are super-rich people. What must be going through the minds of each of these groups of people, every day? About the homeless in California, some unexpected things were revealed. In Los Angeles, as per official count, there are fifty-nine thousand homeless people.

In a rich country like the US, in LA out of a population of 4 million people, 59000 are officially homeless, but this number could easily be one hundred thousand. It means 2.5 % of the population is homeless. There would be about 15% who barely survive. If this is the statistic in LA, then what would be statistic world over? How are the homeless treated in California? You will be shocked to know about it. The following paragraph shows the extreme views of a person who is against the homeless.

Gene Gorelik, a property developer in Oakland and an aggressive critic of the homeless, recently suggested luring the thousands of homeless people in the San Francisco Bay Area onto party buses stocked with alcohol and sending them on a one-way trip to Mexico. “Refugee camps in Syria are cleaner than where these people live.”  

As against this, residents had installed big boulders on the sidewalks in San Fransisco to deter homeless people from erecting tents where they could live in tents. In Los Angeles, homeowners installed prickly plants for the same purpose.  This is the picture of authorities removing boulders from sidewalks!

Panati2

I understand that everybody wants the area surrounding their homes should be clean and beautiful. But unfortunately, homeless people are also a fact of life. How to handle these conflicting situations? The funds sanctioned by a town council in California were not allowed to be spent by citizens to buy a shelter for homeless people.

In India, we have heard of many stories where rehabilitation of people living in shanties created different issues. These people were given properly built homes with amenities. These people took possession of the houses, then sold the houses and moved back to shanties.

Does one like to become homeless? I don’t think so. I am sure each individual would have a different tale. Some could be penniless due to their drug habits, some may have physical disabilities, and their family does not want to support them. But one heart rendering story of a nurse is touching. She had a regular job, she was alone, and her home was free of mortgage. She was in her fifties. She was detected with a very rare form of cancer.  She was treated for nearly two years. The treatment was so expensive that her insurance coverage was insufficient. She sold her home and moved to a rented apartment. By the time she was in remission, she had no money left, even to pay the rent and she became homeless!

How should society handle such cases? If such things can happen in a prosperous state like California in the US, what would be the status in other countries in the world? During my current stay in Montreal, whenever I go out, I see a beggar or two. Some are begging, others scavenging the garbage cans!

I am sure that not every homeless person is a druggy, and they may have their true stories like that of the nurse. During my childhood in Pune and Mumbai, I used to see hundreds of beggars and homeless. One thing is sure that at least in Pune and Mumbai, the number of beggars has drastically reduced.

I am sure that the number of homeless is still significant. Many graduate, from homeless status to move to shanties. Many of these poor people do some job or the other. If there is a will, they can get some job in large cities.

But how to handle such situations? Humans have progressed, with progress come factories and other businesses. Then there is service industry which is needed to service various items. But technology is such that robots are created and automation is done to reduce the costs, thereby reducing employment. So, it is a vicious circle!

But are reactions shown by people in California justified? Is it possible for the society to keep on feeding and providing shelter to such people, lifelong? In this discussion, we have not talked about people like us. When we live a normal life, take up a job after education, save money, buy homes, pay mortgages and follow the normal life pattern. But we can also have emergencies in our lives. Suppose our income becomes zero for a short duration. How should we prepare for such eventualities? Experts say that we should keep aside money which will see us through at least for six months. By that hopefully, things will be back to normal. According to me, in the US savings done by people are small, so they think in terms of six months. But in countries like India, saving rates are higher. People would be more comfortable with savings that will see us through for a couple of years. These safety margins will change from nation to nation or society to society.

Friends after a lot of thinking, I am still not able to understand how to handle the problem of homeless people very poor people. One way could be to help them train in some skills, so they become employable. But there will be some who will never want to work for which there is no solution. But I am quite sure that in most other countries people will not treat the homeless the way they treat in them in California.

Least predictable thing- human mind and reactions!

Many things in the world are unpredictable, and these include weather,  economy, performances but the most unpredictable thing is the human mind and its reactions! What could be the reason for this?  

Social, family, organisational, public behaviour are some of the common areas where people react. Do people react the same way, always? What are things that decides these reactions? Humans from birth to their death interact with many people. In between that span, they meet different type of people. We meet people in different situations. If we try to create the hierarchy of closeness, it could be family, friends, (a few friends can be on par with family) acquaintances, colleagues in your workplace. There could be some people whom you meet during your vacation or your travels. But circumstances cannot be defined, nor can they be predicted.  

With so many variables predicting human reaction is almost next to impossible. One of the most crucial aspects is perceptionPerception means the ability to see, hear or become aware of something through the senses. When an event occurs, in individual minds, some perception is created based on ones previous experiences. The perception can form differently depending on who is involvedTo my mind, these will differ on how close you are to the others involved in that event. A parent will be softer in the reaction to the child, and vice versa is also expected because of the closeness. A teen is refused something that she feels is essential to have, but the parent may feel otherwise. This difference in opinion can be an event. In my judgement in 9% cases, it will be forgotten. But there could be some children who will form a permanent grudge. Their future behaviour with parents could change completely. Why does this happen? It can happen not because of the event but because of the perceptions!  

In the case of people in relation with you in life, the reactions could be different. In business areas, it becomes a tricky situation. It could be about your boss, your colleague; it could be in relationship as vendor-customer. Ultimately these things depend on reactions from people depending on the stakes involved. It is also dependent on the people involved. 

During my professional work, one of the customers was a large company. Their big boss in purchase department was a tricky person to deal with. He also had a habit of passing nasty remarks. But stakes involved for my organisation were too high. Hence, we had to be very careful in dealing with him. He had formed a particular view of our organisation, and he always assumed that we were the ones who were always making blunders. As a policy, we had decided to ignore his behaviour and nasty statements. In the same organisation, the head of another department made a specific awkward statement about the quality of products. I requested him to give me a day to share all the details with him. When I met him the next day again, he said, “Pramod, it was my error because my team had given me the wrong feedback. I apologise to you!” His graceful behaviour was what is expected from senior officers.  

But life is never pretty and fair. You get different unexpected reactions from people. I will share with you a story about a friend. His nature is such that he would remain incommunicado with us for an extended period. Over a period, we realised that when things were normal in his life, his friends were a different set of people. But when he needed help, he would communicate with us. We have never tried to analyse his behaviour as he is a friend from childhood. A few years back, we came to know through someone that he had a critical health issue. I coolly re-entered his life. I visited him very frequently until I felt it was necessary. But once he started getting better, I realised that my presence in his life was not needed. I have become mature enough not to overthink about this; for me, he is my friend is a good enough reason to be with him when needed.  

Another friend came to me once, and he was upset. Over a cup of tea, we discussed life; I was waiting for him to open up. He and his wife are our dear friends for ages. Then he said, “My child does not talk about us nicely to a few other persons, who are close to us; he creates a bad picture of us. We don’t know what to do!” My friend is the same age as me. His son left India as soon as he finished his basic education and lives abroad. The son makes infrequent visits to them, mostly a weekend jaunt during business trips. As a whole family, their visit is planned after ten years since the last visit. They are all very busy at work, education of children, and leading their own life! I told my friend in jest, “You would have probably done the same thing, but you were lucky that your parents died early!” He smiled ruefully and said, “Now I realise what you mean! Let them live their lives; I never looked at this aspect of life, we will live ours.” I then said, “The only issue remains is bad-mouthing! Are you going to start explaining your side of the story to everybody? Are you going to try and change your son’s perceptions? You have better things to do in life. He has lived in your home until he was a young student. Later on, he has formed his perceptions, his thinking about you as an adult. His wife’s thoughts and perceptions also must have added to his view of life and perception of people in general. So, in future, try and start treating him as an acquaintance.” My friend met me again after a year. I asked him, “How are things on the perception front?” He laughed and said, “Oh! You are talking about Mr XXXX! Well, nowadays we have our common subjects to discuss, like Trump, Brexit, Baseball but nothing about family. As far as we are concerned, our personal issues are well under control as “now we never fall sick!  There could be surgery or two, but that is never discussed!” As we are retired, nothing interesting happens in our lives anyway! Life is fine, and we are enjoying our golden period!”  He had changed his perceptions about his son, and that helped him improve his life.

The human mind and human perceptions are a combination of the circumstance in which you live, the people you are in touch with, regularly. Your spouse’s thinking and perceptions are naturally going to have significant effect on your way of thinking. A specific lifechanging event, like sudden death, may change your thinking, but once the perceptions are etched on your mind, there is no eraser available in this world which can erase it!  

It is always jokingly said that it is challenging to understand women because they say one thing but mean something else. But this true of all human beings. It is impossible to understand or predict how males will react to the same situation at different times! It is ultimately based on perception.

 

 

Cheats, Frauds or Failed Businesses!

Last few years have seen unprecedented situations in the construction business where tens of thousands of customers like you and me have been cheated by non-completion of the projects en mass and people are left in limbo. For many, their life’s savings have gone, on top of that, they have to pay the instalments against the loans taken by them.

Unitech, HDIL, DSK, Sahara, Amrapali group, Jaypee group are some of the companies who have cheated approximately 575000 flat owners all over India. Many cases may not have been reported for various reasons. But it is not only the builders who have done cheating. In other cases, the government and banks are cheated, the prime examples being Nirav Modi and Mallya. Recently it is found that in education “industry” too, this trend has started with staff not being paid their salaries for months together.

What is common in all these companies and individuals behind these affairs? After they started business initially, during rising markets, profits were enormous, and probably all of them felt that they had become Gods. Profits are never very high in the industry except in some IT and software related business and Narcotics! I know of an IT/Software global company who are absolute leaders in what they are doing. Even Intel is doing catchup game with them for the last 20 years. Their gross margins are 53%. So yes, the core group of people do buy Ferraris and have huge mansions. But they keep on working 24/7, 365 days. They also invest 30% of their profits every year in R & D. Recently one of their senior executives donated close to 40 million US dollars to start a Computer centre for teaching modern software technologies, at his alma mater. It was from his personal wealth.

All the cheats I am mentioning never bothered about such things and went beyond this, and started treating the companies as their private fiefdom. They diverted funds to personal accounts in hundreds of crores; additionally, they diverted money to different personally owned companies. So everything used at home, including their toilet papers, was spent by some company or the other.

The question that comes to mind is like the title of Count Leo Tolstoy story. “How much land  does a man need?” On the same lines, how much money does a family need? One crore, ten crores, hundred crores, a thousand crores? Maybe my assets are so small that I don’t understand what thousands of crores can do?

One thing is for sure, all of them become very arrogant and think that doors anywhere will open to them by saying “Open Sesame”! Probably they did open in specific corridors but current government in India, since 2014, is closing doors of their cells in jails. Or they have formally been declared fugitives. If this were to happen to me for such reasons, I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror! But not these people.

How do they operate? How did they manage to cheat? In many cases, with the help of someone in the banks, in some cases by defrauding the bank. First major cheat located was Harshad Mehta, 25 years back. In connivance with officers in Bank of Karad, he magically created FD of Rs. 200/ crores and rest we know what happened.  In some instances, senior bank management may have no business sense, or they were bought with some quid pro quo deals! Chanda Kochar of ICICI appears to be the case of quid pro deal where her husbands business was helped against sanctioning of massive loans in Videocon case. In the case of Neerav Modi, there was one middle-level officer who knew the systems well. He helped Modi by doing paperwork outside the computer system. Modi would take every time even higher loans to return previous loans and balance money for himself. I had read the news that he was also in the business of fake diamonds! So maybe his working capital requirement was not high!

In the recent classic case, owners of HDIL in Mumbai joined hands with Bank Management of PM Coop Bank. The bank management ended up giving HDIL loans which were 73% of total loans sanctioned by the bank to all customers. Luckily sleuths have located 1100 acres of land purchased in last few years which is now attached. If there is a delay from the government side to find out the misdeeds, the money trail becomes very weak, and it becomes hard to track assets that can be attached. On Rs.600/ crores turnover, the family had bought two small aeroplanes, a yacht, and huge bungalow in Alibag which was used to invite makers and shakers of Mumbai and Bollywood for parties; also maybe there were collateral benefits (not damages 🙂🙂)

It also appears that these “business people” forget the basic principles once they become big. DSK is one such case from Pune. He came up with the really hard way of doing business. From small projects, he graduated to create a big condo project of about six thousand condos. He handed over the homes in time and had become famous in Pune. After this, he wanted to make a township which was worth more than Rs. Ten thousand crores (the US $ 1.6 billion). He realised that he would fall short of funds big time. Hence, he started raising money. Because of his excellent track record, people in Maharashtra gave him the money, but many internal issues were going on, which came out too late. He used the caste card and convinced Maharashtrian brahmins to keep fixed deposits with him. The deposits were serviced well initially, but later it almost looked like a Ponzi scheme. He forgot the main principle that FD’s are to be returned back to people. Interests need to be paid regularly. He started treating FD’s like equity. I have been told by a friend, one of DSK’s vendor, that vendors were treated shabbily. Kulkarni’s wife would treat vendor’s like beggars. Financially, they were already in doldrums and rumours started spreading; these were not rumours, things had gone out of control. Thousands of customers were cheated; hundreds of fixed depositors were cheated. But obviously, there was no change in his and his family’s lifestyle, they had 46 high-end cars. Their almost ready condos were also found to be under lien! The whole family went into jail. But there is no relief as most of his assets are already under some claim or the other. With all this, there was hardly any progress in the 1.6 billion dollar project!

Ranbaxy is a classic case of cheats. The promoters sold their company to Dai Itchi of Japan. But Ranbaxy concealed and misrepresented many things and finally lost their case with due arbitration in Singapore. But biggest fraud was that one of the brothers could not pay his dues to Dai Itchi as he had diverted Rs. 6700/ crores (the US $1 billion) to a Guru! It is honestly beyond my understanding what these people are trying to do and why they do it!

So it brings me back to the same question? How much money does one need? All these so-called big shots are in jail. There are huge problems faced by courts and the government as the assets of most of them cannot be sold for one reason or the other. So who will complete these stalled projects? How will the people at least get their money back?

I must share one story I was told by someone about a well-known industrialist. He had bought a Rolls Royce; after a few months, he ordered another one. When the industrialist was asked, “Why the need for the second car so soon?” The industrialist replied, ” We had dinner at my home yesterday. A well-known politician said that the car looked superb. I jokingly said, take it if you want. The person drove away in my car at night”! Quid pro quo?

Can one really spend the amount of money that is diverted in such projects? So-called fame, bungalows, homes in foreign countries, planes, yachts, but finally jail! Is the urge to mingle with movers and shakers so strong that they want to “arrive” by any means? I presume that all these are not bad people, but they lost control over their thinking. They all started thinking that the setbacks can be overcome by borrowing more, most of the time, fraudulently! Some of them have fled from India, but the government is making strong efforts to bring them back to India.

The main reason for this situation is that they all started thinking that they had become Gods; all doors to where ever they went would open with their money and fame. But only doors that finally opened for them were jail doors.

Have humans improved?

I am not talking about technology or other advances. In the facilities and technology, we have improved. In poverty eradication, health, hygiene and medical sciences, we have improved.

Many advances reach low-income countries and people because of the different actions taken by humans. But I am talking of social aspects. Especially in the caste, racial and religious issues, though tolerances have improved, to some extent, it is difficult to predict when things will erupt.

Take the classic case of a football match between Bulgaria and England, a couple of days back. England team had a couple of players of African origin. The game was in Bulgaria, and suddenly the racial comments were being shouted by spectators. Things went out of control a couple of times in the first half, and the match was almost abandoned twice during that session. The police took control of the situation and threw out a  group of spectators. To the credit of Government of Bulgaria, their President acted swiftly, and within an hour of the match finishing, he suggested to the President of their football association to resign, and he did. World football Association will take further action on Bulgaria is the good part. But my worry is why such things suddenly erupt? Does it mean that such things are dormant and waiting for some spark to inflame the situation?

“Us and Them,” thought process world over has reduced, but bad situations erupt suddenly, and it can happen anywhere in the world. It can happen in the most advanced countries to the most backward countries. In this respect, the world has not changed.

Today I read one incident on Facebook. It is written by someone known me and not the usual “forward”! A family runs a business, and their washroom is outside their premises, in a condo. Another family staying in that condo were to start painting their condo. About half a dozen workers were expected to do the work. The gentleman approached the owner of the business and requested him for the key to their washroom for ten days. When he was asked why he wanted their washroom keys, he said, “Those people will be doing the painting for about ten days. I don’t want them to use our washroom. Since yours is a common washroom used by your employees; I need the key.” The business owner asked, “Why not let them use your washroom?” The condo owner replied, “How can I let “them” use our bathroom?” By his logic, their own bathroom was too pure to be used by “them”! Hence the request was made.

The business owner politely refused the request, and the condo owner is now furious! The incident is a classic case of caste incidents that occur in India. The event is from a very “forward” city of Pune which has led India in the social reforms during the last century. Social reformers like Karve and Phule were from Pune, and they have been pioneers in the social changes. I am worried that if the incident mentioned above can happen in Pune, what will be the situation in smaller towns, villages? What would be the situation in socially backward states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar?

The world over attempts is always made to correct historical errors. But sometimes it goes to the other extreme, and things get overcorrected. The actions of the South African government post-apartheid regimen shows the result of overcorrection. The apartheid government collapsed in early 90 s of the last century. Rules have been made to reserve the seats for people of African origin — nothing wrong in that, we do the same in India. In India, in some instances, reservations % has become as high as 76%. Whether this is right or wrong only time will tell. But there are no reservations in sports or the armed forces. But in South Africa there is a reserved quota for people of African origin in their Cricket team- I am unaware of other sports. Due to this, many good cricketers who do not fit into the quota would never get a chance to represent their country. What do they do?

They take help of Kolpak ruling. What is Kolpak ruling? The Kolpak ruling is a European Court of Justice ruling handed down on 8 May 2003 in favour of Maroš Kolpak, a Slovak handball player. It declared that citizens of countries which have signed European Union Association Agreements, have the same right to freedom of work and movement within the EU as EU citizens. Thus any restrictions placed on their right to work (such as quotas setting maximum numbers of such foreign players in sports teams) are deemed illegal under EU law. The legal actions in Germany set a precedent for professional sports in Europe, which have had a wide-ranging effect, especially regarding English county cricket and European professional rugby.

The South African white cricketers when they do not get the opportunity to play for the nation, formally retire and move to England and make contracts with counties. The counties are waiting for such players because they are excellent cricketers. I am aware that sports are a tiny part of our lives; so decisions can be quickly taken as a minimal number of people are involved.

In the US an attempt was made by a Supreme Court ruling, referred to as busing! The ruling made it mandatory for students from an area to go to the same school, irrespective of race. The attempt by the Supreme Court helped to some extent, initially. But then white people started moving from cities to predominantly white suburbs. Those who could afford put the children in private schools. These actions of white negated the effect of busing!

The subject is vast and cannot be discussed in details in a blog. But racial prejudice is followed world over, including in India, sometimes blatantly and most of the times discreetly. I know enough Indian people who live in different countries, and they have all said such practice is followed world over, not in any particular nation. The reason for such action may differ, but the act continues, and I don’t think that it will ever stop.

Religious discriminations have political reasons, and these are going to be tough to handle. Let us hope that people all over the world change their attitudes and live in harmony. But it is a serious subject that needs to be dealt; social media does not help in such situations! But let us hope that better offices will prevail and people will live in harmony.