Does anyone read your blog, Pramod?

I publish my blogs on WordPress and share them with friends on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and email. One friend from on a WhatsApp group wrote to me a poignant message, “Pramod? Anybody reading your blog? 😄😄” Honestly, I do not know how I should react to such comments. By the way, on our group itself, there was a big discussion on the blog referred by this friend, which was the result of many people reading my blog.

By remaining silent, I may encourage him to write more such remarks. If I had replied to my friend, I would not have gained anything. I don’t need to explain and justify to anyone why I write blogs. Writing has now become part of my daily routine. I feel very uncomfortable if I am not able to read or write on any day. So, it would be like explaining to my friend why I breathe!

Then a thought came to my mind; the WhatsApp group which I am talking about are my classmates who are mostly in the age group of 70 plus. Recently one of our classmates celebrated his 75th birthday. So, my friends are getting older. Old age brings specific difficulties as you age. A few friends have only biologically aged, but some have aged mentally also. Illnesses are something totally different. Diseases can catch you unawares at any age; nobody is ever prepared for serious illness. But I also want to share with you that some of my friends have remained quite fit; they still travel and work. Some others are mentally very alert and enjoy life fully in the golden phase of life.

I am sharing my thoughts about those friends who are unwell, not fit enough or those who have decided that they have become old. The idea came in my mind after reading the lovely message sent by my friend, which was discussed above. I feel bad for him. Is he unwell? Is he mentally disturbed for some reason? I am also going to share the experiences of other friends and how some of them handled tough situations.

Let me start with our friend. I had called him a few months back to find out how he was. He said that currently, he was not keeping good health and hence did not feel like attending group meetings. I assumed that he must be getting himself treated by doctors. But his messages on the group indicate that something is not right. He writes vague; he sometimes asks meaningless questions. Sometimes he asks queries about some messages after a week. Maybe he is not using WhatsApp regularly. But the quality of his messages indicates that he should take more care of his health. Initially, he used to send messages about some unproven non-conventional treatments on serious ailments like cancer! Even after suggesting to refrain from posting such messages, he continued. At the end of one group dinner, I had to publicly tell him the ill effects of sending details about unproven treatment for severe illnesses like cancer. Before he questioned me about my knowledge on the subject, I told him, “Last year, I was treated for cancer for three months. I am talking from my personal experience.”

I will share some good sides also from the group! All of us were together in Engineering College (COEP) in Pune. During our careers, many have done well. But it is interesting to know what some of us are doing during the golden phase of life. Vilas has become a well-known palmist and teaches palmistry. He is very busy doing what he enjoys. Vasant has gone into social work but never talks about it unless asked. Another friend is active in writing about Tatwadyan. A friend Suresh still works full time but takes Yoga courses in Sydney, Australia. Rajendra has kept himself busy in teaching Brahmavidya. I want to tell him jokingly that he is more active now than he used to be during his career.

I write blogs on varied subjects but never wrote anything about our group. Our friend Shashi is instrumental in getting and keeping people together. He comes up with novel ideas and starts some discussion on a subject. Such messages invoke a lot of comments and reviews which includes criticism too. But these things make the group lively. Another activity we have on the group is solving puzzles Sudhakar and Shriniwas are the maths wizards from the group. Hats off to them. They are very comfortable with anything to do with maths.

For obvious reasons I am not writing the names of some friends when I write about them. A couple of them are down with paralysis — one since about ten months and the other for almost two and a half years. One of them also needs the support of the pacemaker for his heart! Friends go and meet them because of the restrictions on the movement. A friend is going through chemotherapy every month. He has 15 bad days every month. But all of them are bravely facing what destiny has given them.

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I found this beautiful message on the internet and found that it is very appropriate. These friends who are going through significant illnesses, and are handling them bravely. One of our friends has almost become blind due to diabetes issues. How can we contribute to making their life a little more exciting? In the same vein as in the message above I will say, “Let our friends enjoy our WhatsApp banter. It is their only current way of communicating daily with many friends. We should show them empathy- I will never use the word “Sympathy”. These are our brave friends, so they need empathy. On the group, there are specific rules and regulation which all must follow, but if these friends break the norms once in a while, we can softly and personally inform them, or the best way will be to talk to them. Don’t forget that a friend has 15 bad days every month. Other friends are going through the tough grind every day. At least to me, their words will be like a beautiful song to me; let us not have cages made of stringent rules. We need not be very rigid!  Provide them with a tree to sit on! If in our golden period, we are not able to empathise and give love to others, when are we going to do it? We need to throw away that small word EGO from our system, which will make us softer and better human beings.

To my dear friend who asked me if anyone reads my blogs! Friend, why not try and read some of my blogs. Especially read the current one. It is about love and empathy. Throw the ego and sarcasm away. Have you forgotten that we have two gems or diamonds, in our group, whichever way you want to describe? Sonya and Pravin! How much pleasure do they give us by sharing their paintings, poems, small gems of information from literature or old poems? Pravin has lately become शीघ्र कवी. He quickly writes poems on the current topics of discussions. He recited some of them during Poona Club lunch; you missed them.

Finally, reply to your query. First, there is one person who reads my blog, me! 🙂🙂 Friend one of my blogs last year was read by 675 people, and a recent one was read by 350 people. In a year, thousands read my blogs from the world over. How do I know this? Whenever anyone reads my blog, I get a message that is how I know the details. If you have the fear that I am making money on writing blogs, no, I am not! Are you even aware that Vijay Saheta has already written his first blog a couple of weeks back? Ravi Mahuli writes hundreds of blogs about Ved and Tatwadyan. So please try and keep your mind open. Try and read a few. Maybe you would start writing blogs about your favourite subject, Farmers and their issues!  Do some research, and you will know that the blog can be written in any language.

I love when people ask me questions about what I write. It helps me improve further and makes me think differently, thereby increasing my horizon. Your three or four words gave me a subject for the blog! A big thank you!

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Should Hindi be imposed?

My friend Shrikant wrote on Facebook a very sensible note about an alleged imposition of Hindi all over India. He is a മരുമകൻ– son in law of Kerala. So, I presume that he is in a better position than me to comment. This led me to read the original statement made by Amit Shah, our home minister on the subject. The gist of what he said is in the statement below. 

Mr Shah said, Hindi is spoken by most of the people and can unite the whole country. He said efforts would be made to expand Hindi to different parts of the country but not at the cost of other languages. Shah later also said that the foreign language English is predominant in India, so instead why not Hindi?  

I have not understood the controversy in the statement. Shah has not said that it should be promoted at the cost of the regional languages, anywhere in the statement.  

Culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behaviour, and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups.  

Even 200 years back, India was not known as India as it is recognised today. Till then there were Rajahs, Badshahs who used to run their own kingdom. In those times, travel and communication facilities were inferior. Going from place A to place B would take hours if not days. With these limitationsthe bouquet of knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals would remain disconnected with other cultures. The possibility of the merging of cultures must have been within a distance of about 50  to 75 km if the terrain was not steepWith rough terrain, that also would be difficult.  

1947 created India and Pakistan. British had started the railways; road transport had become better than before. Travel had become a bit easier. So some mixing of culture started automatically. If we consider only the state of Maharashtra, people spoke different Marathi in Bombay, Pune, Nagpur, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, JalgaonThe spoken languages were distinctly differentLocal dialects also merged with spoken wordsSo when we speak of Marathi, nobody is really sure Marathi of which region we are talking about.  

HIndi1

So why then the emotional reactions about Shah’s statement. In the year 1978, I remember that in Bangalore we had shared a taxi for a tour with two couples, one Tamil and the other Kannada. We communicated with each other in English. What Shah has suggested, instead of English, why not Hindi? It is just a suggestion; does it amount to imposition? Central Government has offices in all the states and Hindi day is celebrated in each office, irrespective of which state it is. What is the point in looking at every statement from a political angle? Are elections the only important aspect in life? Kashmir had even more serious issues due to decisions taken by Britishers. But the government has resolved it in one stroke. Rules and regulations must be enforced but culture? No way, but who is forcing the culture? A statement made at a function was not a policy declaration. 

Culture seeps on its own. Let us look at the airports. A large number of people travel by air these days. For some reason, almost all CISF personnel are Hindi speaking individuals. You got to any airport from Chennai, Kochi, Vizag to Guwahati. They communicate many times in Hindi, but nobody objects to that. Idli-Dosa is the South Indian staple food, but it is almost becoming national food. You are out and want to have some food quickly. You go to Idli-Dosa joint in any city, and you are out in 20 minutes. Even Mcdonalds has not been able to penetrate their market. Has anyone made it compulsory to eat Idli-Dosa? Hindi films is another medium which merges cultures beautifully! When Shah Rukh dances to the tune of Lungi Dance, Lungi Dance, the whole of India likes it, not only Tamils or Malayalis 

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=lungi+dance+video+youtube&view=detail&mid=4AAD8BE78B35602C090E4AAD8BE78B35602C090E&FORM=VIRE 

The so-called resistance to Hindi is in the Sothern States of India. Script for these languages is quite different compared to Hindi. But the alleged differences are historical as India became India for the first time in 1947! For reasons already discussed, these differenopinions were natural, and people thought that Hindi was being imposed on them. I will share one example which indicates the complexity due to the technological changes that have taken place in the last seventy years. The regional languages naturally could not keep pace with technological changes. The onslaught of technology was felt by German, French, Spanish and Chinese too! English has come back strongly and has now almost become a global language, thanks to Computerisation!  

The way languages world over are facing the issue,  our regional languages also faced the same problem. These languages cannot cope up with the technological changes. But WhatsApp and Facebook have facilitated all local languages to be used for communication. Thereby the feared obscurity of the languages is gone. Now people chat in Tamil, Marathi and Telugu; and many other languages. Those who are English educated but know the mother tongue, use the Roman script to communicate in their language! “Barobar ahe na?” (Am I right?) I wrote Marathi in the roman script. So, nobody is going to kill local languages.  

How rich the regional languages will remain, depends on people using itAfter all most people “think” in the mother tongueDon’t worry too much. Tyre repair guy will be mostly Anna from Kerala! Idli-Dosa guy will be from Udupi! Recently I have observed that in the construction business, Bihari workers in Pune are being replaced by those from Bengal. In the hospitality industry, we see many ladies from North-East states working in large cities and even in distant hill stations like Mahabaleshwar. But mind you, most of them are conversant with the local language when their stay is long enough, but they also know Hindi!  

One thing we should never forget that language richness, quality and type changes with era. What was considered classic when I was in school, does not appear so today. The same thing is true with songs and movies too! Yesteryears classics seem a bit naïve today! Today’s generation loves today’s classics better than classics of my school daysThere is nothing wrong in that; tastes changevalue system changes! 

So friends, don’t get excited and start slanging matches; don’t begin your protests. Go and see a Hindi movie or a Tamil movie! You will love it! Nation’s unity is more important, not the regional language! 

Montreal- musing of the day to day life!

Nowadays travels have become more relaxed, comfortable and all of us try and create our bucket lists of things to do, places to visit. But one of my bucket list items is to try and understand the details and issues of living in different countries and cities. At my age now there is a zero chance that I would live in any other city than Pune. I am taking this opportunity of my longish stay in Montreal to understand the local details. Everybody writes about Niagara Falls, Golden Gate Bridge and Eiffel Tower, so I thought I will jot down my observations about day to day life in Montreal.

All over the world, basic things remain the same; human nature is the same. It is the reactions to the events, dialogues that make the difference. Human emotions and conflicts will always be there. It has nothing to do with the city, state or nation. But one interesting statistic that I read about Canada says that the crime rate compared to the US is very low, which makes life safer and the cities more livable.

It seems that there is a unique donation culture in this area. The boxes shown are to put the items people want to donate. From these boxes, the needy people can take whatever items they want and whatever quantity they want. The remaining items are taken to the shop. The shop mends the items, and these are then sold in the shop as used stuff at a very reasonable price.

Road repairs are a regular activity in any city. Depending on availability, technology is used to perform the activities. On the street where we live, major pipe repair work is going on. The first thing noticeable is how the safety of people is handled. After the digging is completed, wire mesh cages are put around the dug area. For one day, the water supply had to be stopped entirely. Two days in advance, every house was handed over a letter about the same. Small flags were put (middle photo) indicating which pipelines are to be changed and which were not to be touched. There were parking restrictions from seven to seven; proper no parking boards were prepared in advance and put everywhere. Also, bright colour markers were placed on the road to indicate the presence of safety cages.

Local transport of course changes with the city to city!  Montreal Metro and Bus service have a common pass which makes it a composite service, no big deal. But what I found interesting was that to buy that pass, I had to buy a ticket called Opus. It is valid for seven years, whether you are a citizen or a casual visitor. So next time when I visit Montreal, I only need to do the top up! Modern cities are expected to have different arrangments. But what I found interesting was the availability of cycles, electric cycles and electric scooters, like the ones used by kids. These are readily available, and like rental cars, these can be taken from a place and parked where one finishes the trip. These vehicles have marked areas with cycle stands. Using an app, these can be used by everybody.

One thing I am going to enjoy is the leaves changing colours. I have seen this change in Boston, Maine and Seattle area. Though we know why and how the colours change, each region has a different kaleidoscope of colours. The leaf above is what I found today, and the blood-red colour is marvellous! It is the famous maple leaf of Canada! I will share some more pictures later when autumn sets-in!

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Many western countries have arrangements in public areas where wheel-chair access is provided. In Montreal,  I found it on each footpath at the end of the footpath, there were slopes, which allowed easy access to wheelchairs, cycles, prams, electric scooters, and so on. On each footpath, there are poles provided to tie-up your cycles.  It is no rocket science but detailing is where these arrangements succeed! We know about the sad story in Pune when such cycles were made available, recently.

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During the third week of October, there are federal elections in Canada. I remembered our election campaigns, but here I saw only small posters of the candidates hung on the poles on roads or I saw one small sticker fixed in a bus. On further checking, I was told that the campaign is mainly done on radio shows where the candidates give speeches or have debates. It is about the thought process. I remember having read an article by one of the leaders of a very aggressive party in India. He had gone to the US for the first time with a delegation. In the article, he wrote, “How do people make protests here? How do they take out processions? I could not see a single area where stones were available for pelting.”

There are of course equivalent of Deep Mini markets available for buying day to day stuff. But these are much larger though they may not be from a chain of stores. Standard facilities like trolleys and baskets were visible facilities, but they had provided entry and exit doors with motion control sensors. Doors opened with a motion sensor so that people going out with bags or a trolley found it easy. Again no rocket science! Yesterday we wanted to buy an item which we could not locate. Their employee spent 15 minutes with us and found it; it was worth only six dollars!

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Since many people don’t use cars in Montreal, I saw many of them using a trolley. You buy your stuff, fill up your trolley, and you are on the way though there was one difficulty. In certain areas in the Metro system, escalators are not provided. One has to pick up the trolley and take it up or down! I asked my daughter how does she manage this when going with her daughter. Yesterday I helped her carry on the stairs. She said that she uses it only when her husband is with her!

I feel that modern society is one where detailing is done for the comfort of people who live in the city, these need not be fancy or elaborate. These are to create ease in our day to day chores, like buying, throwing garbage, managing road repairs! It has its humane angles where poor and needy are also looked after, and there is a system for that. I saw a young Gora beggar who looked fit, was about 30 but these things probably remain the same world over. Why this would happen in the advanced world is a surprise. Those who want to work can get a job in these cities; they have almost free medical system for all citizens. We talk about the diversity of people in India and our cities. But slowly, I see similar diversity in many so-called western countries due to migration and refugee issues. But one thing you need to do, assimilate. My daughter is in Montreal, Quebec, since three months. Here the first language is French. Her immigration advisor told her, “Doctor, you will be dealing with the local population so you must know French well. You start work after you have mastered French.” In three months she has picked it pretty well and understand at least 80% of what is spoken when she goes out. By the way, the Montreal population is about one point eight million!  One important thing, people looking at their phones on public transport is much lower about 35%!

Want to be miserable, it’s easy!

I am fed up with positive articles and positivity in life! I have heard enough of lectures and written enough blogs on the subject. So, I thought, let me enjoy negativity! I was wondering what could be top three things in the list of things that make you miserable? Use of chemicals/alcohol that changes your mood, envy and resentment. The order might change for individuals, but for most people, this would be the sequence!

How many families have been devastated using such a substance? There is always the first time, which is risky, but it also depends on the company we keep. Mind you; these don’t depend on if someone has money, or there is a shortage of funds. These substances are addictive, and a person always feels that he or she is not addicted. They think that they could easily give up the habit. But it does not work out this way. Key to overcoming such a situation is first to accept that one is addicted.

I will share with you two stories. We were in a restaurant, and a family was sitting on the table next to ours. Two couples, one of them having two kids and the other couple, was having a kid with a pregnant wife. Luckily the couple was not allowing their twelve-year-old kid to taste the liquor. After some time, the lady wanted to use the washroom. She had lost control of her walk, and the son held momma’s hand and took her to the restroom. Any guesses what that child’s thoughts would be about alcohol, ten years later! Momma is always right!

An eighteen-year-old boy would hang outside his college premises, and the friends would have beers, sitting in their car once it started getting dark. The boy’s mother went and met one of his teachers. He was a favourite student of the teacher. The mother explained about beer drinking and requested help from the teacher. The next day the teacher called the boy and asked him about the beer drinking. He was surprised and said, “My mother seems to have met you.  What is wrong in having a couple of beers?” The teacher was surprised by this statement. When she further probed the boy said, “I have been watching my father having his drinks every evening after coming back home. So I assumed that it is a way of life.” The teacher explained to him the details about addiction etc. After further discussion, the boy said, “Madam, now I have understood the meaning of what I was doing. Now I will never touch alcohol in life!”

These two anecdotes explain what can happen in life due to addiction. So, go for these substances, and you will be surely miserable!

Next guaranteed way of becoming miserable is to become an envious person! Once you change your thought and become an envious person, nothing can stop you from being miserable. To make sure that you become and remain miserable, ensure that you look for new avenues for envy. Keep a diary of events that make you envious of someone. Some colleague was promoted above you, though you thought that you were a better candidate, note down your feelings in your diary. You can maintain an index page and details page like a book. When you don’t get enough time to remember events that made you envious, at least read the index so your fire of envy will remain stoked all the time. Later it may so happen that you will get a much better and higher paying job than your friend, but do not erase the entry from the diary. After all, this friend’s promotion was the cause of your envy!

Another friend was profoundly dyslexic when we were in school. We used to trouble him and tease him. We used to think that he was an idiot, and we were all smart guys. Later on, I met him at a social function. I felt that he must have become a slightly brighter version of the idiot he was. While parting, he gave me his business card. He had become a Managing Director of a multi-national and lived in Singapore. His two sons were studying at Harvard and Oxford. That is when I realised the real meaning of resentment. Friends, this is when really understood the meaning of the word, and I was miserable how I could have missed such an extraordinary feeling. On that day, I felt like a complete person who could resent anything and everything in life.

I went home, opened the bottle of my favourite poison and started drinking. I did not feel like eating any snacks along with my drink as I had envy and resentment to accompany me! But I felt like a complete person. How much had I achieved by meeting my old friend? By drinking alcohol and envying others for everything, I had fulfilment, but I felt that there was some shortcoming. Today, I became a complete person. I became so miserable that night that, the next day, I woke up with a big hangover but had the satisfaction of achieving my goal.

There are other small ways to reach your goal. Another prescription for misery is to learn everything you possibly can from your own experience, minimising what you learn from the good and bad experience of others, living and dead. Such prescription is a sure-shot producer of misery and second-rate achievement.

The results of not learning from others’ mistakes are fascinating. Get into the habit of entering the frequent disasters of humanity -drunk driving deaths, reckless driving maiming’s, incurable venereal diseases, conversion of bright college students into brainwashed zombies as members of destructive cults, business failures through repetition of obvious mistakes made by predecessors, various forms of crowd folly, and so on.

My additional prescription for misery is to go down and stay down when you get your first, second, third severe reverse in the battle of life. Because there is so much adversity out there, even for the lucky and wise, this will guarantee that, in due course, you will be permanently stuck in misery.

I recently read a story about a rustic who said: “I wish I knew where I was going to die, and then I’d never go there.” Most people smile (as you also must have done) at the rustic’s ignorance and ignore his basic wisdom. If my experience is any guide, the rustic’s approach is to be avoided at all cost by someone bent on misery. To help fail, you should discount as a mere quirk, with no useful message, the method of the rustic.

Friends, I envy and resent all of you who keep on thinking you are smarter than me but don’t worry, I have a solution, my chemical poison!

Matured Traditions?

Does our great five-thousand-year-old civilisation has matured traditions? Tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation or the fact of being passed on in this way.

These traditions are like fruit. Fruits must be eaten, consumed; otherwise, they will get spoiled or rotten. But we forget that to begin with some of these traditions are despicable and are not like a ripe fruit!  Like fruit, traditions become rotten if not changed with time.

I was reminded of a friend who died a few years back, all of a sudden. He was in the early 60 s, and his wife was in the late 50 s. It took its own time for things to stabilise in the family. The sudden death had changed many things in the family, but they were financially comfortable. Life for the lady changed drastically, socially. From Mrs, her title changed to the widow for the society. On one side, she was grieving, and on the social side, things became topsy turvy! In India, all through the year, there are a lot of festivals. Suddenly she realised that people stopped inviting her for celebrations because she had become a widow. The first change expected of the widow is that she should not put vermillion or कुंकू (Marathi custom of putting vermillion) on her forehead when the husband dies. It is supposed to be a privilege of married women or unmarried women. But widows are not supposed to follow that custom. By the way, the lady was running one company as a professional, so honestly, she did not care.

The custom explained above must have started ages back, and continues in most homes, irrespective of the lady’s stature in the society. When and why the tradition started is difficult to predict. But in olden days, a lady without a husband was a liability to the family, and she had no rights. Widow marriages were taboo. In fact, in certain areas in India, the wife would jump into the burning pyre of the husband’s body (many times she was pushed into the pyre). The unfortunate tradition known as Sati was prevalent until about 200 years back.

Opposition to the practice of Sati by Christian evangelists, such as Carey, and Hindu reformers such as Ram Mohan Roy, ultimately led the Governor-General of India Lord William Bentinck to enact the Bengal Sati Regulation, 1829, declaring the practice of burning or burying alive of Hindu widows to be punishable by the criminal courts. These were followed up with other legislation, countering what the British perceived to be interrelated issues involving violence against Hindu women, including Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act, 1856, Female Infanticide Prevention Act, 1870, and Age of Consent Act, 1891. Despite government laws, Sati practice was reported in certain parts of Rajasthan even in the 20th century.

The origin of patriarchal society must have begun from the days when humans started farming. The male body has always been more massive and robust than the female body. But the female body is designed for the most important and the most stringent function in our lives, the childbearing. Females have been mentally and even physically stronger than males in some respects! I am sure that most of the males won’t even think about giving birth themselves!

Males would perform functions outside the home, and the females would manage home and children. Somehow this got converted into a thought process that males are strong and vital, and females are weak and not so important in the society. But history had forgotten that human life expectancy was low in olden days when these traditions started. The real strength or weakness of a human is known past the age of 50 or now maybe 60!

Now consider my friend’s wife, overall situations have now changed. People live longer and healthier. The age of 60 is now new 50, and people keep on working, living normal lives. They drive, they go to the gyms, and they work professionally or run businesses. They travel locally and internationally. For people residing in cities whether you are strong or not hardly matters; people want to be healthy to work hard and enjoy life. In rural areas, though there is a lot of physical work still needed, things are slowly getting mechanised; so, the strength is not going to be so important over some time!

With such changes in society, why our so-called traditions should not change? When a spouse dies, it is tough and challenging for the remaining spouse to manage life. So, should our traditions try to help them back to normalcy or should we follow old methods to make their life difficult? Traditions are nothing but a way of life, but when the way of life changes, traditions also should be changed. There are no written rules in our religious scripts that after the death of the spouse, certain things should not be done. Death is life’s process, like birth or falling ill. It is like migrating to some other place in their own country or a different country. The difference is that this migration is permanent. We don’t see or meet that person again, ever!

I read one interesting story. Times of India, ex-chief editor Dileep Padgaonkar died some years back. His wife organised a party for Dileep’s friends and family a month after his death. Dileep had suggested that she should invite people and prepare food, and serve drinks that he preferred. I am sure that these people must have really liked the idea suggested by Dileep. In some parts in the UK, if a person dies past the age 80 after living a healthy life, the family throws a party called Golden death party!

People’s thinking is changing, albeit slowly. Our friends now openly discuss falling terminally ill or dying. What does this mean? People are trying to modify the way we live, the traditions! Some of my friends have already told their children about their sickness in old age. They have said that there should be no mechanical intervention like ventilator support!

On the similar lines why the widowed wife of my friend should not be invited for festivals, celebrations and functions? Is it a crime that her husband died? Why do we treat death with deference? Why are we afraid of death? Yes, death is the final adieu to life. Death is the last life process but should it be used to make living difficult for those living? It is a matter for those living to decide how to tackle the situation and manage things. Death should not be used to cut off the living from society! It is a personal matter for that family; tradition should be to take death in stride! I am very much aware that handling sudden demise of young people is tough!

Canadian siesta!

Friends, before I go to the main subject, I want to inform you that for the next few weeks, there could be a delay in publishing my blogs. I have joined an online course at Oxford University, which has a ten-week duration. I need to study, attend discussions, and so on! The course is an advanced course in creative writing. I have never attended such a course before for obvious reasons, but I thought the course would help me become a better writer, it will help me organise my thoughts better. I have no ambition to become a professional writer, but whatever little I write, I will feel happy if I become more accomplished in what I do in future. Some friends will thank me for writing less! 🙂🙂

You must be wondering why I have used the word siesta! A siesta ([ˈsjesta]) (Spanish, meaning “nap”) is a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal. Such a period of sleep is a common tradition in some countries, particularly those where the weather is warm. The word is used in the context of Mediterranean countries where the siesta is a part of the culture. But for Jaya and me, the cold weather puts us in Siesta mode whenever there is an opportunity. Cold is how I am defining the weather, but some of the young gang is seen on the road, moving around in shorts and T-shirts! We both manage to sleep deeply at any time of the day; all one needs is a warm blanket. At 5 am the temperature is 8.5 deg! It is only the beginning of September.

I am, of course taking feedback from Nikhil and Priya from their short stay in Montreal of 3 to 9 months. I have visited advanced societies world over, many times, but I am every time amazed the way these societies operate. I am not talking about technical aspects but the human elements. I have written a blog about Indian psyche a few days back.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/new-rto-regime-and-indian-psyche/

I always feel that we are in denial mode and are proud of the chaos and lack of self-discipline that we show in the society. Maybe sometimes we are even proud of these things. We feel that basic indiscipline is our birthright. The other day I was in Model Colony for some work. In Deep bungalow Chowk they have put up dividers, some temporary and others permanent to smoothen the traffic flow. Ganapati pandals are supposedly allowed to cover 1/3 of the road during the festival period. The pandal did cover 1/3 of the road, but the organisers are not bothered that the road now has a divider. Simple maths says that currently only two-wheelers and autos can pass through that area of the road. How do other vehicles go? Obviously on the wrong side of the divider!  Is anyone bothered? I don’t think so.

Montreal Marathi Mandal program was held in a church, where there was a decent hall available. The enthusiasm of all was seen to be believed. I met a few people who started this activity in Montreal in the year 1982! Kudos to them for the consistency. Montreal appears to have a smallish Indian community so continuing it for more than 35 years is creditable. More than 100 people were present. A group of young and not so young volunteers did all work including logistics, arrangement and later cleaning etc. Great job, guys!

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Similar programs are done in India but the general confusion, deafening music, and we have unnecessary disagreements with authorities on everything, taking shelter behind religion!  India’s population is so large that a huge crowd is always present, and generally, there is reasonable discipline during programs. Why is the behaviour of the crowd disciplined to chaotic? What reasons could be there for this changeover?

I have seen a large crowd and their behaviour during the Cricket World cup finals (2015) at Melbourne, Australia. A total number of people present were 93000 plus. Right from arrival of spectators at the stadium, to dispersal after the end of the match was very organised. In between people were also disciplined during the usage of food courts and washrooms. There were long queues but there no jostling and pushing.

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Whatever little I have seen in Montreal till now was found very neat and proper. There is a lot of road repair work going on everywhere. On checking,  I found out that during harsh winters due to snow, road repair is not practical. Add to this maximum temperature of 35 deg in summer to -35 deg in winter must be creating road and pipeline issues regularly.

Comparisons of small things always are made in mind. On particular days, the garbage trucks come in to pick up the garbage in Montreal; okay nothing great about it. But In Pune, the vehicles come every day, but in certain areas, they run a song requesting people to come out with garbage bags! Why do people need to be coaxed every day to put away their garbage? Don’t we brush our teeth every day? We don’t put on an alarm to remind us to brush!  In olden days a guy used to work in my office. Those were the days of the pager. He had a field job and would come to my office every day at 9; we would discuss the work, and then he would go on the field. He would fit his pager in the trouser belt. One day, I saw that he had know pager. So, I asked him where his pager was? He lamely said that he had forgotten. I told him that since he had come to the office wearing a trouser and the belt, there was no way he could give the lame excuse of “forgot.”  Some of the things in our lives become our second nature like driving a  car, using a washroom, crossing the road when we have the right signal. But why do people break so many small rules so easily?

One interesting thing I saw in Montreal. People of different age were seen running on the footpath so that they didn’t miss the bus which was arriving. Once I was standing on the bus stop watching people (my favourite past time!). The people had already done their job of getting down and getting inside. Almost for one minute, the bus did not move! Then I observed that the bus driver had seen a lady running to catch the bus; he waited till she reached and climbed in safely! What can we call this? Basic courtesy? The natural thing to do? I have not seen this courtesy in most other cities.

Before I travelled to Montreal, I was told that French is the first language, and so on. But for visitors like me, when I start speaking in English, people reply in English. The reason could be, computerisation has made English a global language and secondly I could see people of many nationalities present on the streets. Canada’s liberal policies of immigration and support to refugees are increasing the number of people speaking different languages, making English a common link.

I will share more about culture and traditions as I explore more of Montreal in the coming weeks.

New RTO regime and Indian psyche!

From 1st September 2019 Government of India started applying modified rules and regulations to people breaking laws on Indian roadsRTO is road transport organisationIndians as a society have remained fixated to oldtime India when bullock-carts or walking was the primary mode of going from place A to place B. There have been laws and rules even before 1st September 2019, but the fines and punishment had not been modified with changing times. To give you a better perspective of the penalties, I will share some information. I paid Rs 110/ as my term fee for engineering course. A new car would cost 8 to 10 thousand rupees. The year was in early ’70 s of the last centuryNow I am told that the fees are rupees one hundred and fifty thousand and the new car costs in the region of Rs five hundred thousand. But the fines for breaking laws remained Rs one hundred to Rs five hundred. 

I am writing this blog with real anguish and frustration about our brethren’s views about these changes. Not one person has openly said that he entirely agrees with what the Government has done. We always talk about our fivethousand-year-old culture, of which we are rightly proud. But any system needs to change with time. It needs to be modified as we move forward. We talk about having fantastic places from snowclad mountains, to beaches, to forests in India! Why many small countries still attract more tourists than India? Reasons are simple and obvious. No area in India looks neat, organised and modern. By these words I do no talk of shining new skyscrapers, I am not talking of gleaming Metros or buses. I mean that we do not have a disciplined society, people and systems! Our cities look archaic and chaotic. 

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It was always said that the government has been too weak; there is too much corruption at the lower level. How can we ever change? We had the same attitude about the Kashmir issue. When the British left India in 1947, they created a big mess which continued till 5th August 2019. The similar mess could continue till 31st August on our roads. With low fines, poor implementation of laws, Indian road traffic has been chaotic to talk generously. But the government took decisive and bold steps. 

With new laws, there will be fear in the mind of people. Even if the police continue to take bribes, because of the high level of fines“settlement” will be expensive! Many educated people have suddenly started feeling about poor people who will have to pay the hefty fines, which may also include confiscation of vehicles. When I argued with people why worry about hefty fines, people should not break the rules! People have no answers or have lame replies.  

Kashmir situation and Indian road situations are very similar. A similar situation was present in the building/construction industry too! The sector was breaking the rules at every stage, cheating customers with impunity. They were getting away with murder, figuratively. With the introduction of RERAit ensured that the industry follows laws or else! In Delhi NCR area before RERA introduction, 2/3 large construction companies cheated almost hundred thousand people; they took advance money and never gave them homesThe directors and promoters of these companies are now in jail.  

Indian roads and automotive users are breaking basic laws without any fear. Entering from the wrong direction in one-way streets, parking vehicle below the No Parking boards, driving Motorcycles on footpaths is common sight. I have seen young gentlemen throwing five hundred rupees note at the policeman who caught them.  

Pune is a unique city where socalled intellectuals are born with an extraordinary brain. It is the only city in India where people are formally demanding to cancel the helmet usage rule for two-wheelers. The demand is led by a trained engineer who has lived in the US for about 15 years. Statistically, it is proven that when the helmet is worn, in 90 % cases death is avoided, if an accident takes placeBut the counterargument is, it is our life! (Extraordinary brain!)  

Now the fines are so hefty that once the stories of penalties and punishment start trickling down, people will think ten times before casually breaking the law. Some people on our WhatsApp group are arguing differently. It is group of engineering college batchmates who have seen the world and done well in life. The government which cannot give potholefree roads, good traffic signals has no moral rights to punish people for breaking the rules. Are you entering the wrong direction on oneway entry road because of pot-holesIs it due to bad traffic signals? Are you driving your motorcycle on foot-path for these same reasons? Are you going helmetless on two-wheelers for these reasons? 

These two are independent subjects and need to be discussed separately. By all means, agitate against these issues. Make sure your non-performing representative loses the next electionBut here again, there is a problem. Who has time to go for voting every five years? Is it not easy to simply break the traffic rules 

Friends, we have no justification for our acts whatever you may argue. Some years backour flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai was announced with a request to allow passengers using wheelchair to board first. It took ten minutes for the airport staff to literally push away people who were not allowing wheel-chair bound passengers to board first. 95% of the passengers were Indians. What were we protesting against at Frankfurt airport 

Since last two days, there is road repair work on the street where my daughter lives in MontrealBoards are saying, “No parking from 7 am to 7 pm.” Never saw a single car parked there during this period.  I am not saying people don’t break the rules in other countries, but the percentage of such people is minimal.  

On one side in India, we have the Lutyens gang, the liberals who protest against anything done by the government. When courts gave death punishment to a terrorist, many years back, there were protests about human rights. When Kashmiri youth were pelting stones at the soldiers, there were protests when pellet guns were used. There were no protests against stone-pelting. Pakistan based terrorists made attacks in Kashmir; objections were raised if terrorists were killed but not when soldiers were killed. Kashmir used to be under lock-down for to 3 months at a time due to strikes made by people against some actions taken by the government. Now after 5th August, there is a government lock-down and liberals are protesting.  

Some of the mainstream leaders have made statements against the government act about article 370India is a democracy; we have rights to protest. But these people could have protested against the method used, the procedure followed during this act. But when Pakistan was following the doctrine of 1000 cuts against India, nobody complained much, in fact, they challenged the retaliations made by the Indian government.  

To me, all such people are hollow people; these are vain people. When the government does not act, blame them correctly. But finally, when the government acts, they are now saying, old things were better. Rules from the times of bullock cart days were the best. In Pune, I have observed that the traffic jams are mainly due to indisciplined driving habits of the people.  

One day, I was taking a right turn at a signal at Nal Stop Chowk in Pune. Suddenly, about 20 two-wheeler riders decided that they were too much in a hurry and simply drove through the red signal; the policeman was standing near the signal naturally could not react! Is it not a classic case to reduce fines back to 50 and hundred rupees?  

You naysayers, please look at your face in the mirror first and then show the mirror to someone else. How many of us can say, by putting a  hand on our heart, that I have never broken any basic traffic rule?  

This is a random photo, taken today,  of the street which is being repaired in Montreal in front of my daughter’s home!

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I have only one item on my bucket list. To see people in India follow basic rules in public in general and traffic in particular! Jaihind