Pathbreaking?  

We are lucky to be around in 2020, especially for those from my generation because we have used bullock carts, radios and we have used computers, cell phones, apps changing the world. I am comfortable using all the new technology, and I am not overwhelmed by various apps. The gadgets and apps galore are changing the way live. Sometimes I wonder how we survived during my childhood. But everything always has two sides. There is proverbial another side the society finds at some stage, once the euphoria dies down for anything new.

I am talking of Cell Phones, FB, WA and Instagrams and many such 21st century things; along with this, there are game-changing apps, too, like Air Bnb and Uber/Lyft/Ola. These were designed to create a lifestyle previously unknown to us. But you will be surprised how the apps get used for the purpose not thought of by the creators. Those who create such apps also make errors of judgement in the software will work, or users could use it. I know a bit about software as I ran a software product company for almost twenty years.

We had a product called DMS, dealership management system. The product did everything for authorised dealers who sold and serviced vehicles. The product created for such companies followed all statutory rules, but for private dealers, we modified it to suit their requirement in the initial launch phase. One problem these dealers faced was that some vehicles were brought for repairs by the drivers hired by owners. They would demand some easy money from dealership owners. We tweaked the system to include some spare parts in the bill but did not reflect on the inventory. The extra money was paid to the driver from the vehicle owner’s pocket. An enterprising dealer used this system for engine overhauling work. The user would replace 50 spare parts but display 70 spare parts in the bill and skim the money! Software users are smarter!

Let us consider Airbnb. It stands for Air-bed and breakfast, or Airbnb (“Air-b-n-b”) for short. Airbnb is an online community marketplace that connects people looking to rent their homes with people who are looking for accommodations while travelling. How does Airbnb workAirbnb lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests. Airbnb takes 3% commission of every booking from hosts, and between 6% and 12% from guests.

Okay, this is the business part. But what it means that I have a home where I have a room available for temporary renting. I make it available on the site. Travellers who are going to be in your city, look for accommodation. They see various options with the help of photos and writeups; the home may be an average home to fancy home. You advertise the rate for the stay. If people find it suitable, they will book and stay. When you leave, you bring it back to the condition you received it in and go. It is more like a homestay.

But in London, they found a big fraud had taken place in the system. A group of people came together and created a system whereby various “homes” were under the umbrella of an organisation. They got these properties on Airbnb and fictitious owner names of Jack, Daniel, and so on. They would rotate the same properties in the name of these people. Furniture, arrangements inside were similar, but they would publish photos taken from different angles so that homes looked different. Airbnb has a separate business company where they list hotels too! But Airbnb is only for individual households. The group in London was running a big fraud probably because Airbnb charges a small commission for such homes. People tried to take advantage of some loophole in the system to cheat the company. When people offer their homes, they generally provide with great care. But this group had poor cleanliness standards and in general, had the mentality of fly by night operators. Why people go to any extent to cheat for a few extra bucks? Such episodes bring different thoughts in mind. Should I save some dollars or book formal hotels? In these hotels, at least I know what I would get.

Let us now think about Ride-Hail apps. When talk of these apps, Lyft, Uber and Ola (in India) names come to mind. The apps were supposedly THE solution to pollution problems. What was expected from the apps? People would stop using personal vehicles; they would stop buying private cars in large numbers. Lower emission and lower pollution will make a happy world! But has it happened the way it was supposed to happen? Yes and mostly no.

Why is it so? It is because there was one assumption made in the model. These ride companies expected that a lot of their business would be given by sharing of the rides, because of cost-effectiveness. But in reality, it does not happen that way. To begin with, a person like me who is used to travelling in my own vehicle, I don’t even consider sharing a ride.

How does share work? Assume that you are going to the airport. The software maps your path; you then select a share option. The software would track a customer going in a similar direction with share option. Cab will pick up the customer or customers! They all could be going to the airport or in that direction. You are already late to catch the flight, and you might just make it. On the way, the Cab takes a five-minute detour to drop or pick up a customer. You become jittery. I hope that I have created an extreme situation. The situation may not be critical every time, but would you give an additional 15 minutes buffer to handle such eventualities? It is an individual choice. But data indicates that ride-sharing is very low though sharing ride could be cheaper for customers.

Another thing that the app designers did not consider was, would ladies share rides with unknown males? If you regularly share with your colleagues, it is another issue, but otherwise, this possibility is remote.

What is the result? There are not many shared rides, but there are more and more cars on the roads. More importantly, the data says that cab drivers drive for 40% of the time on the streets, empty. Pollution is not reduced, and drivers are not happy. What has the app done for society? For people like me, when I feel that there could be a parking issue, I hail a Cab. Some of the younger folks don’t buy cars these days. They use these Cabs extensively. If the benefit expected was ten, then I think we have achieved between three and four!

Why such errors take place? Do people not think through correctly while designing the business model? These companies do not own cars, but their product is the software which runs their business. Sometime back Uber CEO had mentioned in an interview that he does not think Uber will ever make a profit! Currently, it is losing money heavily.

 What other effects does it have? As the number of cars has gone up, the peak time traffic speed has considerably reduced in all Metropolis areas. As these vehicles are available anywhere, they have sucked people away from buses and trains. People used to walk short distances, but now they hail a Cab. All these consequences were unintended, but the fact remains that it has happened!

What is the lesson for the future? Wait for any new system to show its results; immediate results are meaningless. Many VC’s have invested tons of money in these companies. Is it really worth it? Does it mean that product designers made mistakes and the VC’s also misjudged? How does the entire ecosystem make errors of judgment? Mind you, these are not small systems.  We have also seen the intended and actual use of social media apps. A classic example in India is the way people use “Missed Call” to send predefined messages.

In future, it is going to be tough for the human race to decide which new processes, products to use!

Titbits from real life 25022020!

Our life is full of interesting and annoying things. Some events create anguish in our minds, but life is good, in general. When you watch the video below, it will confirm that all is well with this world.

The incident took place in Pune. In Pune, the corporation is trying to do its best to make better footpaths, to start with, and in certain areas, the roads are getting converted into a walking plaza. For example, Fergusson road and J M road, main arteries in central Pune. Both are unidirectional roads, and the footpaths on both these roads are being widened. In India, we must have wide pathways because there are a considerable number of people walking. Before this widening, people would walk on roads because the footpaths were narrow and hawkers occupied a part of it. Since the traffic is unidirectional on these roads, the action taken will allow people to walk on the footpaths, comfortably.  Pictures of J M Road and Fergusson Road are given below.

But Pune has a unique road culture. Supreme Court has mandated that two-wheeler riders must wear a helmet. But wise people of Pune think otherwise. They don’t like to wear helmets, so they don’t. In between, there are drives to catch these rule-breakers. But even wiser politicians of Pune intervened and made the government stop such drives. Ultimately, it is my head! Who the hell is Supreme Court to tell me to wear a helmet?

The video above shows Mrs Gokhale from Pune. She did not take law in her hand. The wise riders in Pune treat the footpath as a unique way of riding bikes. Pedestrians don’t exist in Pune. Anyway to hell with them! Gokhale madam, one day decided to stand on a footpath and ensured that the bike riders got down from their High Horse position of riding on footpaths. There is a simple rule in life. If you need thirty minutes to reach somewhere, give at least ten minutes buffer. If you plan your schedule correctly, you don’t need to do stupid things like riding on footpaths. Yes, once in a while there could be an accident which would delay not only you but everybody. It should be treated as Force Majeure in business terms. Force Majeure is unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract and it is a legal term. But no events give you the freedom to break the fundamental laws with impunity. I have seen individuals helping traffic coordination in the absence of police. Mrs Gokhale and these good samaritans give you a good feeling about life. Way to go folks!

Then there was an exciting event about Usain Bolt of India. There was a news item in papers.

Srinivas Gowda, 28, broke the record in Kambala, a sport where people sprint 142m through paddy fields with buffalo. He is said to have finished in 13.42 seconds, while Bolt holds the world 100m record of 9.58 seconds.

People extrapolated the timing for a hundred meters, and it comes to 9.55 seconds. Wow! Incidentally, Gowda looks very fit in pictures. But we all start believing that this is true. Of course, it is printed in the newspapers. Immediately the government agencies woke up and sent him a train ticket to travel to Sports Authority of India office in Bangalore for trials- he did not go. Central Minister Rijju took notice and instructed experts to check.

Somehow in all this hallagulla, we forgot one thing. Gowda is 28 years of age, the age at which or before, the sprinters retire. Nobody gave a thought, how the timings were measured. Was the “start” tracked? No, it was not. Only the end was tracked,  of all the things, by a laser system. We have gone high-tech in buffalo racing!

Athletes like Bolt, practice with equipment, shoes and artificial track. They have special diets, coaches and a whole team of people supporting them and they practice, practice and practice. Their life revolves around athletics. Once these athletes show results, many of them get sponsorships.

Gowda has been running this buffalo race in a sport called Kambala. In the race, the buffaloes run, and persons like Gowda run behind them. They are definitely not pushing the animals, but animals are pulling them. He cannot be running in tandem with the animals. When he gets pulled, is it running? In athletics, the athletes use their toes while running while in Kambala the runner uses the heels for running. The Kambala is a sport where running is done in paddy fields full of water and mud!

Comparing Gowda and Bolt is like comparing Apples and Oranges! But how people fall for such traps? Why is such news even printed? Why a minister sends him an invite?

For records purpose, Anil Kumar Prakash (born 28 August 1978) is a retired Indian sprinter. He holds the current 100 metres national record of 10.30 s set at the National Circuit Athletic Meet held in New Delhi in 2005.

Can it be compared with the rumour of Ganesh Idol drinking milk? Why don’t we see through such items? It should start with news reporters. Poor Gowda may not have even heard of Usain Bolt.

Another surprising thing that we see in India is about the egos of people. For the formal banquet, in honour of President Trump, the opposition leader was invited. The opposition leader decided that because their “Interim” party president was not invited, he would not attend the banquet. Why the party president did not become the leader of the opposition is for that party to decide. Ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also chose not to join because of the same reason. Was he invited because he belonged to a party? No, he was not. He was invited because he was the Ex-Prime Minister. Party affiliation has nothing to do with the invite. It is because of sycophancy in Indian politics, such decisions are taken. Does it matter to President Trump? He will not even notice, either way. During the Namaste Trump event in Ahemdabad, Modi introduced Amit Shah to Trump. From his expression, Trump looked confused. He was asking Modi, ” Who is this guy?”

Another hilarious thing I read was a news item from Kolkata. Communist Party of India (Marxists) took out a procession shouting, “ Trump, Go Home!” What a joke! Who cares for them? People don’t even bother about them in West Bengal? Will their sloganeering matter globally? What is this group of people trying to do? What are they trying to show? Communism does not exist in Russia and China today!

We have all sorts of jokers in our public life so no point keeping the count of these people. They give us relaxation in our daily grind.

Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli Haaye! 

Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli Haaye  

Kabhi To Hansaaye Kabhi Yeh Rulaaye 

These are the lines of a famous song by Rajesh Khanna in the movie Anand and sung by Manna Dey. I am surprised that for different situations in our lives, we always have an appropriate song available from Hindi movies!  

The meaning of these two lines is  

Our life is a great puzzle. Sometimes it makes us laugh, and at other times it makes us cry! Out moods change with the situations we face in life.  

Today morning, I was in a great mood as we had crossed the figure of 200 friends and spouses participating in our COEP batch of 1971 Golden Jubilee celebrations. We are going to celebrate this grandly and are trying to get as many confirmations as possible. We are planning for a date one year hence, as many of our engineering batch mates live abroad. Some have confirmed, already. Besides this, many of our friends stay far away from Pune-Mumbai area. They also need time to plan. Some friends go and visit their children staying in foreign countries. We want to increase participation as much as possible. Now we are targeting 300 nos. I was delighted and by talking to others made more plans. I was happy! I was on cloud nine.

An hour after this, a childhood friend from my Bombay days called. I had a sore throat issue, so I sent him a message that I could not receive his call. He called me again after half an hour. So, I took the call. He said, “Pramod, you don’t speak. I understand your difficulty, but I want to share something with you.” Then he shared the plight of a common friend from childhood. We were a group of about ten to fifteen boys, and our fathers were police officers. Our families had typical middle-class ethos. The idea of living life in the early sixties of the last century was play like hell, whatever game we could play. Outdoor games were cricket and football. Indoor games were carrom, table-tennis and badminton. During exam times, all of us would study (our parents thought otherwise), and we did reasonably well in our education. Many became engineers, some doctors and a few became bankers. Now, this friend did his bachelor’s degree in science and joined Air India.  

With the usual twists in life, our friend was blessed with a child. The child was perennially sick. The child’s illness was a significant drain on his finances and his family life. He took early voluntary retirement (or was he coerced?) in the first decade of this century. Maybe he got a lump sum which he thought may be useful. (He forgot about improved longevity) He moved from Thane to rural area near Pune; probably he did not have enough money to live in a city. He would rarely come to Pune, which was natural. But my friend (who phoned) was in touch with him.  

Ten years back, his daughter passed away. It must have been a blessing on his finances, but emotionally the husband-wife must have been stretched to the maximum. My friend offered to help him with psychiatristhe also suggested that he move to an older people’s home. (My friend was willing to support there financially!) Things did not work out.

My friend got the news that our man had started waiting near ATM’s and had started asking for alms! ( He was falling short on his quota of cigarettes!) Even hearing this news brought numbness in me! It is the tears part of the Zindagi! How could person from such a background reach a nadir in his life?  

Humans always say that childhood is the best part of life! There are no responsibilities, and there are no plans. We meander in childhood, collecting joyous moments most of the time. The saddest part of childhood is when parents would not allow us to go out and play or it could be a tragic day was when we could not pinch that four ana coin to buy a cola! Life was straightforward during childhood. When we get into the humdrum of life, but we are not aware of it. We get many lessons during childhood that we ignore. Now when I retrospect, I realise that our friend was not sharp like most of the others in the groupDoes it mean that if we do not absorb the experiences at all the stages of life, it is going to hit us badly at some time?  

I had spoken to this friend a few months back after fifty years. (We had lost touch) He has three siblings, but they are not supporting him. It is, of course, one side of the story! But had the siblings helped him irrespective of friend’s response, matters would not have reached this stage. (Maybe!)  

Writing this piece has been stressful, but nowadays writing is a therapy that I have found which brings peace of mind back to me. Some people get it by going for a walk, and some go and climb hills. Luckily, most of my friends have remained away from alcohol in such situations. It is a drain on your pocket and your body.    

The filming of the song displayed above is done beautifully. The hero is down with cancer and is taking a stroll on a beach. The song starts with the hero playing with colourful balloons but never showing the churning going on in his mind. The churning is indicated by the waves which break on the shore. In the last part of the song, the lyricist says we have enjoyed the fun and frolic of life together. But in the end, we must go alone. That final part of the journey is always done alone!  

I am still not very sure how my friends’ life will move forward. At this stage of life, a shortage of funds, the stretched relations between husband and wife can create a tough situation. 

It looks like I am in a filmy mood today and the situation reminded of another Hindi song from the movie Guide. S D Burman sings it. I am giving below part of the lyrics. 

No one is there awaiting you 
No one is looking forward to your arrival nobody felt your pain, and no one shed a tear for you whom can you call your own? 
so where will you go, o traveller 

The video link of the song is below. 

I am awaiting my friend to give me the update, but honestly, I am not very hopeful. Once a person gives up hopes, it is difficult to bring him back.  

The latest update that I got is not very encouraging. Our man may require institutionalisation. Who would have thought that the situation will reach such a stage in life!

Regarding another blog of mine, a friend commented, “Pramod, we have crossed the threshold where we make can many changes to our life.” But maybe he is right or, maybe he is wrong too! One should keep on trying. Friend, some younger people also read my blogs so it may be useful to them to do the course correction.  

One thing for sure, this episode has churned my mind! The beauty is I consider myself a big optimist!  

Life is what you make it and how you make it! 

Quote 1 

When failure is expensive, plan carefully. 

When failure is cheap, act quickly. 

Quote 2 

The person who learns the most in any classroom is the teacher. 

If you want to learn a topic, then teach it.  

Write a book or teach a class. 

Build a product.  

Start a company. 

The act of making something will force you to learn more deeply than reading ever will. 

Quote 3 

Do not wait. If there is something you wish to do, do it. 

Death comes for busy people too. It will not pause and return at a more convenient time. 

I had read these quotes sometime back and thought that these were very basic but essential quotes. What does the first quote mean? It means that we should be adventurous but practical. If you let you let your life meander, then nothing worthwhile will happen in your life. Do you want to be a person who hopes that things will improve on their own? Do you like to leave everything to destiny? It could be destiny that you are made in such a way that you leave everything to fate. But you donknow your future when you dont know your future what the point in not trying is. There is another saying, “Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst!” Does this saying tell you not to make any attempt to improve yourself? No, it does not. You hope for the best only after you try!  

Consider a swimming pool. You are an outstanding swimmer. You see someone struggling to remain above water. You jump and help that person to come out of water. With your swimming expertise, there is minimum risk. Take it. But consider that you are on a beach. You have no experience of swimming in the sea. If you come across a similar situation, don’t jump and try to save the person. Quickly go and call the lifeguard. The lifeguard is the expert, and you are not. So don’t take the risk.  

Ages back, I completed my degree in engineering. Immediately after that, I completed my Master’s degree. After I got my first degree, I thought that I had become an engineer. But as studied for my Master’s degree and did my project work, I realised how much I did not know. In the last six months of Masters degree, I worked as a Lab assistant to help undergraduate students. During this adventure, I started understanding my shortcomings. I started studying like hell because I did not want to fall short of the expectations of the students. Some of them were my teammates in sports. I juggled my thesis work and the studies for lab work, simultaneously.  

I am talking about the second quote. It is what precisely happened to me. When I started teaching, I had to studyI needed to understand the topic well, and I also needed to anticipate questions from my students. Okay, I never wrote a book. But I worked much harder than I used to. It helped in my thesis work. I started going deeper into the subject. I would try and find additional references and journals to understand the matter thoroughly.  

For the first eight years of my career, I worked in a couple of non-ferrous foundries. In my first job, I was raw from the college and had bookish knowledge of the subject. After about a month or so, my boss had asked me for something. I tried to take the help of my chargehand, but he was a smart cookie and would tell me only half the things. He had earned his knowledge on the shop floor. I got stuck in my work, and ultimately decided to go back to my boss for the solution. The boss smiled and said, “If you cannot find your solution, and you need my help every time, then I don’t need you.” I gave a sheepish smile and went back to the shop floor. I learnt two things that day. Never ask for any solution from the boss and never ask anything to the chargehand. From that day onwards, I became self-sufficient. After a month, once the chargehand, who was elderly, and I was having tea. He said, “Sir, you are highly educated and smart. I purposely was not sharing details with you. I knew that you would pick up and start teaching me within one month!” That is what exactly happened from that day.  

Teaching, working with your own hands and maybe writing a book makes one thorough. I have not written any books, but since I started blogging regularly, I find that my thinking is clear. Once I start writing a blog, generally I know how it will end up. 

Similarly, in life, in work situation or business situation, the old saying always works. “Time and Tide wait for no one!” There many things we want to do in life. We wish to visit places. We want to call that old friend with whom you have not spoken due to a minor misunderstanding. You want to buy a camera and take those photos which you were hoping to take. But you are always so busy that you don’t find the time. 

But that you are busy is not understood by Death. It will come when it comes. So, don’t wait and do things when you want to do. Don’t wait for tomorrow or next month or a year. Do it now! In today’s language, it means asap- as soon as possible!  

Let me end with an exciting story. A man is sitting in his office, and suddenly sees “Death”! He is not prepared. He says to “Death”, “Why don’t you look at the latest products I have created.” Death gets busy in looking at the presentation and the product range. The guy is sharp. He takes the death warrants brought by Death. He shuffles them and puts his own warrant at the end of the stack. The Death God is impressed, and he says, “I am impressed with your products. So today I will change the order and start execution in reverse. Today, I will use the last warrant first!”  

Cheers friends! Get going and learn whatever you and do your things asap!  

 

 

 

 

Eh! Non! 

I remembered something. In a village in Turkey, people communicate with each other by whistling.

Languages, gestures are ways of communicating with each other. Humans and other species have been communicating with each other since old times. Now things have supposedly evolved, but there are some words and gestures which may have a long history or may have a history about which we do not know. How and when the terms get to mean what really means today, is sometimes difficult to understand.

Non is a word used in French, which means Not in English. It is said that the French appear to be negative in their approach to everything in life. For most of the discussions, if a query gets raised or a question comes up, the answer is most of the time Non. For some questions like a son asking his mother, “Can I start taking drugs?” The answer Non means a firm No! But in most other cases, Non is the first volley of opening-up of further discussion. Why does this happen? French as a language is not a clear language like English. English has absorbed hundreds of thousands of words from other languages, over a period. Jungle and Bazzar are common words that English has absorbed from Hindi. Has it diluted the language? Non! It has made English more vibrant. French has only seventy thousand words, whereas English has five hundred thousand words (5 Lacs). In French, since there are not many words, some sentences can become vague. The Fench cannot sometimes precisely explain what they want to say as there are words which have a double meaning.

The problem starts here. Suppose there is a situation which can be resolved by discussions, the French feel that it best to say Non with an intonation that can mean different things. One could be, I have not understood what you have said. Another could be, tell me more about what you are saying. Instead of Non if they say Oui, then the discussion is over, and you cannot change again as you have accepted something. Non is a starting point of further discussions, or an open-ended invitation to discuss further. At the end of many “Non” will come out a real “Oui”! Do you get what I am saying? Non? 🙂🙂

It is similar when Canadians use the word, Eh! What does Eh mean? As a word, it is just an exclamatory word! But it has a different meaning again with context and intonation! How did it become associated with Canada? In languages, there is what known as a tag. A tag, in linguistics, is a word or sound or short phrase added after a thought which changes that thought in some way. The most common tags are question tags, which transform a thought into a question. “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?” would be one example. The tag “isn’t it” turns that statement of fact into something that could prompt a response; the speaker is asking for confirmation or rejection. “Eh” is known as an invariant tag—something added to the end of a sentence that’s the same every time it’s used.

But “isn’t it” is a variant tag. If used in the plural, it will become “aren’t they”. If you talk about something that was in the past, you will say, “wasn’t it”. But usage of Eh will never change with anything; hence it is called an invariant tag.

There are different ways a Canadian could use “eh.” The first is while stating an opinion: “It’s a nice day, eh?” Another would be as an exclamation tag, added to a sentence to indicate surprise: “What a game, eh?” Or you could use it for a request or command: “Put it over here, eh?” And then there’s the odd example of using it within a criticism: “You messed that one up, eh?”

The beauty of all this is that as a word, Eh does not mean anything. Is it like some spice that we use while cooking? We can make the food to taste differently by adding various spices! Like the simple word Eh, you add a dash of that spice in your food, to give different culinary experiences.

According to some linguists, these “Ehs” a word by itself. “All of these uses have one pragmatic purpose in common: they all show politeness,”. Using “eh” to end the statement is a way for the speaker to express solidarity with the listener. It’s not exactly asking for reassurance or confirmation, but it’s not far off: the speaker is saying, hey, we’re on the same page here, we agree on this. So instead of saying all this, he just says, “Eh” in the end!

These different ways of saying, Eh, bring out different meanings. We can compare it with various methods which are used to prepare a food item. In India, we have chutney as a side dish. It can be slightly hot to very hot, but always tasty. We make groundnut chutney by putting the mixture in a grinder. It makes finely grated chutney but is the least delicious. Then we make the same chutney in a manual device called Khalbatta.

Okay, I am not a culinary expert, but I know a few things. Chutney made in a mixer had groundnuts in finely flaked, chopped format.

Eh1

The chutney made in Khalbatta brings out some oil out of the nuts because of stomping action.  Those used for making chutney are much larger.

eh2

Pata-Warvanta brings out the most oil from the nuts. It is used for crushing the nuts multiple times. The taste and the aroma of the chutney are best when the oil from the nuts is brought out. In the mixer-grinder, only the chopping action takes place; hence no oil is brought out.

An unusual Indian way of saying yes, without uttering the word, Yes! When we mean yes, we always give our neck a lateral movement, from left to right and back. Internationally, it is an action to say NO! Many times I have seen non-Indians who are confused by our No-Yes!

The stereotype of Canadians saying “eh” is so strong that Canadians have ended up reclaiming the word for themselves, even those Canadians who don’t use it very often. Eh is now part of Canadian culture. Citi-bred Canadians don’t use Eh! A popular children’s book about Canadian culture is titled “From Eh? To Zed.” The first prime minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald, is often referred to as “Sir John Eh.”

Probably this is the reason Harry and Meghan have chosen Canada to live in future. They got fed up of impolite tabloids in Britain and chose a polite Canada.

Friends do you know such interesting titbits from other languages from other culture or language?

Bliss and Joy! 

Life is full of ups and downs, joys, and sorrows. It is natural for us to feel joy when we are at the top of the world. We reach the trough of our feelings when we go through the sad events in life. Does this feeling change with age? Is it different when we are young? Was our thought process different when we were in a busy phase of life? I think that these emotions do not change. What changes is how we express our feelings. Basics remain the same. The expressions are controlled by neurons in our brains.  

When we express our joys and sorrows without any hindrance, we may sometimes be called immature. There are certain things that brighten up our moods every time some good thing happens. After summer heat, we suddenly get winds, the sky becomes dark, and rain gods bless us. It is an event that occurs every year and gives you the ultimate feeling when you get drenched in the first shower. The same thing happens every year when the king of fruits, the mango, starts arriving at the market, and finally, we buy our first dozen! I was present in the hospital when my granddaughter Rhea came into this world and gave us the ultimate joy of our life. Of course, we had the same pleasure when our children Sachin and Priya landed on the terra firmaIt indicates that there are some pleasant events that keep on happening not every year, but we still love them every time 

Being with nature is a similar thing that gives us the ultimate, any time, every time! Recently, we took a holiday in Karnataka. We visited Mysuru and Madikeri, which is in the hills of Coorg. Mysuru is well known for its historical places, monuments, and absolute cleanliness. It has tree-lined streets and vast gardens. But the bliss we felt was different when we reach Madikeri. We stayed inside a Club Mahindra resort. In the real sense, we had our rooms inside a jungle. The jungle was, of course, made safe from wildlife, and snakes. In such settings, we get a serene feeling. We are taken over by nature.  

The first thing we would get every day was a wake-up call by the chirping birds. The way different birds communicate with each other is fantasticWhy a specific bird is loud on a day, subdued the next day, is not known to us. I could record a wake-up call one morning, and it still brings peace in this world. Listen to the recording I have done.

The jungle where we lived was full of early morning cool breeze, and sometimes even a gust made way for the breeze. The music brought in by the rustling leaves accompanied by the chorus of chirping birds, was the ultimate of all the feelings. The weather was not cold, but a slight chill was always around till we went for breakfast. One day there were some clouds, and somehow there was no wake-up call by the birds! Did it mean that the birds did not wake up as they were not sure if the day had started depending on the intensity of light? Or they also like to sleep a little more cloudy days as we do 

I managed a few phots of the birds but obviously, my lens was not powerful enough.

Both Jaya and I are retired now, but a few days enclosed by nature was like an elixir for us. During our stay, we moved around on the paths inside. The variety of trees was breathtaking. The season was such that there were not many flowers, but there were some that grew away from the trails. These days I claim that I am a photographer! I have bought a biggish lens. I met a young person from Thane; we discussed taking photographs of trees, bushes, and some birds. Birds were always elusive. The next day I met his wife too! She said, “Uncle, my husband told me that you are into photography.” I told her, “Come on, finally, I was able to impress others; I am a showoff!” I said, “ I do dabble in photography, but I am very much an amateur!” Here are some photos which I could manage. One thing I have realised is that to have one good picture, I need to take many. In the end, I select which ones I can display.  

On the resort, there were two swimming pools. One of them was well hidden from the public view. While walking on the trail near this poolwe could listen to typical water flow sound. Initially, I was not aware that there was a swimming pool, so I thought that it was a natural water stream that was flowing. I felt as if there is a burbling stream. Once I sat there listening to the water music, babbles and rappels, for half an hour!  

Ultimately, what brings us joy? What brings us happiness?  

First and foremost is that you should want to be happy. The neural circuit of some of us built in such a way that some of us don’t enjoy anything. Why does nature bring out the best out of us? Is nature the only thing that brings out the best out of us? Are other things in life not important; is our health equally important? Is financial stability not necessary?  

I feel that all other things being okay, nature is the best therapy to bring joy out of us. If we give the scores out of ten, nature could get a score of 10/10!  

Friends, my general theory of going back to nature, comes into the picture. But does this thought process happen when we become senior citizens? Certain things give us joy right through our life. Birth of our children or grandchildren, India winning a world cup, career achievements are not regular events. But first rain of the season, birds chirping, birds flying to gather their food and water are everyday events. We get the feeling of joy every time we see or feel them. You don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to be with nature. You can wakeup to Kuhu Kuhu of Cukoo in summer. You can set your clock to flying in and out of the birds. But we should not forget that theirs is a Solar calendar, and flight timings are dependent on the sunlight, the temperature at the predetermined times. 

One experience I must share with you. I went to the spa at the resort. I walked through the woods for about fifteen minutes to reach the Spa. After body massage for about 45 minutes, there was head massage therapy using dripping warm water. All the atmosphere relaxed me so much that I dozed off for ten minutes on the massage table!

 

 

 

 

Yeh Kahan Aa Gaye Him! 

Video of the song ये कहाँ आ गये हम!

Where have I arrived? Let me pinch myself. We have been travelling a bit recently. Here I am sitting on a train, travelling from Bengaluru to Pune after a holiday. With enough time on hands, we have now decided to go by trains instead of flying out. Our first venture is worth it. Indian Railways is the biggest network of trains in the world. I have read a lot about modern coaches, Made in India, advanced engines and so on. They do matter, but it is how the stations, trains look and feel that matters the most. The outside station chaos is another story!

When we reached the Mysuru station from Madikeri, I felt as if I am entering a palace.

Mysuru1

Architecture is beautiful, but it is the neatness and the cleanliness of the premises that surprised me on arrival. There was no usual cacophony, hordes of Auto-Rickshaws parked at will. Porters (Hamals) were hardly visible. We had a difficult time locating one both at Mysuru and Bengaluru. We had a similar problem at Pune station. We have been travelling for around ten days, and our baggage was suited for air travel. But for train travel, there was a difficulty as we had to climb the stairs. Apparently, on platform one at Mysuru, we had to climb the staircase, but for the other four platforms, there were lifts/escalators! The last platform where we needed to go had an escalator. Were the platforms clean?

Were the waiting rooms clean? Oh sure! Washrooms were ok. But I feel that the reason for this is the number of people that use the facility is very high. There is a possibility that people are not yet used to the different facilities.

Apparently for the Mysuru-Bengaluru journey they had used an ancient coach. The coach on the Bengaluru-Pune journey was pleasant. I am aware all the stocks cannot be replaced in one go. I have read that there is privatisation on cards and a particular sector of trains will have modern coaches. Long-distance trains are not in that scheme of things, yet. But such things happen all over the world. In Montreal, we saw that there were old and new coaches on the Metro.

But the coach during Bengaluru/Pune travel was of the old design. Washrooms were ok and both western and Indian; there was a separate washbasin. But taps were the old crude type.

Almost all actions are computerised from buying tickets to entering the train. In the train, they only ask the name. The e-ticket was not checked nor was Aadhar! There is a facility to check the real-time delay/on-time status using the software. When we came to the train for the night journey, a pillow, bedsheet, blanket and napkin were in place. They were neat and clean. The compartment was also fresh. We had a small coupe to ourselves, and it had a wastepaper basket too!

Inside the Coupe!

I think the last I had travelled by train was way back in 2005 from Kanyakumari to Madurai. The only issue I now had was that I could not see the seating chart, on the system. It appears that since night travel was involved, I had assumed a coupe for four. Hence I had chosen two lower berths. That probably caused some issue, as we were allotted a coupe for two with lower and upper berth. I am learning.

Whenever we travel outside India, we always get that feeling, why in the public domain, systems are still shabby in India? But I have read that all the Metros in India look clean and neat. The same people who misuse the other public systems, use the Metros properly. What could be the reason for this change of behaviour? The moment we land in Dubai or Singapore, we behave. Probably the same reasons change the mindset of people while using neat Indian systems.

The song has nothing to do with the blog. But observing the train system after a long time, these words automatically came to my mind. I was pleasantly surprised. Now, you are going to say that you were travelling in First Class AC! So I not did have to go through hassles that others pass through. It is partly true. But the cleanliness of the overall system, the intention to do the work sincerely was observed at every stage. People travel these days lightly, it seems. We were not geared up for light travel as we moved in multiple modes. Initially by flight, then by car and in the end by train. We had an issue while travelling from Zurich to Frankfurt. It was a direct train when I booked the tickets a few months beforehand. But when we reached Zurich station, the authorities told us that due to an emergency repair to track, we needed to change trains thrice, including one small journey by bus. At Basel station, there were no elevators; we had to drag our bags on a staircase. We had a tough time. We had four suitcases, including winter clothing. Only at the next stop railways provided free porter services for senior citizens!

Our total journey was for ten days, with three breaks. That made us have more sets of clothes. We were not sure what type of food we will get during the train journey, but we got functional food.

I was happy to listen to the hawkers selling their ware on the train. But what I found was they did not disturb the privacy while they were going about their job.

When we reached Pune station, we probably arrived at the peak hour. On the platform, pedestrian bridges, and outside the station, there was a huge crowd. As the station is old, it has no place to expand the crowd handling facility. Everything, including catching Uber/Ola was chaotic. The other taxi chaps who were parked refused to accept the fare. I had to use my Indian rope-trick and charm to get some transport.

What is the way to improve our systems? The main issue is the population as our numbers are huge. Our population is from socially and financially dispersed categories. The facilities these diverse people use are also varied. At different levels, the behaviour norms are different. That also creates different acceptance norms.

I hope at some stage we will reach a median where these patterns at least reach the median level. But, Yes! I am quite confident about the changes!