Latest Orwell!

You may think that Pramod is thinking like George Orwell! This is where the comparison ends. Orwell was a great British thinker whereas I am just a blogger!  But from what I have been reading and what I observe things, are going to get quite complex. Similar to Orwell’s theory of big brother watching, a group of companies are jointly becoming this New Big Brother (NBB). No, they are not coming together or forming a cartel or a caucus, nothing of that sort is happening. But Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook jointly have a large amount of information about us, stored on their servers.   

Orwell

The adjective “Orwellian” connotes an attitude and a policy of control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth and manipulation of the past. In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell described a totalitarian government that controlled thought by controlling language, making certain ideas literally unthinkable. Several words and phrases from Nineteen Eighty-Four have entered the popular language. “Newspeak” is a simplified and confusing language designed to make independent thought impossible. “Doublethink” means holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously. The “Thought Police” are those who suppress all dissenting opinion. “Prolefeed” is homogenised, manufactured superficial literature, film and music used to control and indoctrinate the populace through docility. “Big Brother” is a supreme dictator who watches everyone.   

All the liberals and radicals in India had raised a hue and cry about Aadhar data going to Government. Firstly, we have been sharing a lot of information about us through Income tax department, when we get our PAN card or Election card made. Aadhar additionally took biometric data. Apple, Microsoft has been encouraging biometric recognition using thumbprint and face recognition, we have not even thought for a second whether to share these details with them or not. This is going to create a more secure environment, we were told. We shared this info with no questions asked!  

The New Big Brother (NBB) is very powerful. They not only have our data but also have the wherewithal to use analytical tools and understand everything about us. Let me give a very intimate example, then you will know what I mean. Suppose a lady buys her sanitary requirements for her monthly period on Amazon. Amazon has her age and buying history, so don’t be surprised if she gets a reminder from them, “Hey, you seem to have forgotten to buy your Tampons!” Whether Amazon is using the data for such purpose, I don’t know, yet.   

You have been always taught since childhood not to accept chocolates or biscuits from strangers or never to talk with them. Here you become friends with hundreds of near strangers and share your very intimate details with the whole world. People share their cell number on FB wall! Is it not risky in the cyber world? Fraudsters can cheat you, with your money; some people use this for stalking!  There was a big scandal regarding data sharing and breach by a company called Cambridge Analytica! They were given data of US citizens by Facebook. This data was used to create a campaign against Hillary Clinton in her election campaign against Trump. Later on, it was found out that this company used data about sexual scandals to help a group of politicians in Sri Lanka! It seems the cyber tentacles have spread in all directions!   

How can the NBB be stopped from taking policy decisions which can be against the right to secrecy? The option is for workers, many having entered tech company with idealistic rather than financial motives, to help regulate and restrict their own employers. Many have already begun to express regret over the effectiveness of their innovations, a phenomenon perhaps best exemplified by the Center for Humane Technology, led by the former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris. But the problem in this method is that the employees who are protesting or are whistleblowers are ultimately products of the same system that created the issue in the first place.  

Less clear to most people, however, is the extent to which the companies that make the technology, apps, and browsers that we use are not just tracking but shaping our behaviour. Thanks to the border-breaking nature of these technologies, and particularly the smartphone, the success of the NBB companies has put an unfathomable amount of wealth, power, and direct influence on the consumer in the hands of just a few individuals – individuals who can affect billions of lives with a tweak in the code of their products.  

Self-driving and electric vehicles are expected to come in a big way. These vehicles will use a lot of onboard computers. Any issue reported in the vehicle will be instantaneously captured on servers. Experts will analyze and create a software solution. The correction software patch will be released simultaneously to hundreds of thousands of vehicles. Great, no more visits to the workshop; next time you start the car the patch will be auto-downloaded. Does this bother you? No. But it bothers me. In the same way, the patch is released, a malicious person can send a malicious program and release it in the computers of thousands of cars. You just put imagination glasses on and wonder how damaging this can be!   

NBB may be shaping our behaviour! This is where the fundamental democracy deficit comes from: you have this incredibly concentrated private power with zero transparency or accountability, and then they have this unprecedented wealth of data about their users to work with. We have allowed these private companies to take over a lot of functions that we have historically thought of as public functions or social goods, like letting Google be the world’s library. Microsoft runs our life by controlling the operating systems on computers. Android and IOS control our cell phone operating systems. Android has a remarkable share of 80% plus. Democracy and the very concept of social goods – that tradition is so eroded globally that people are ready to let these private companies assume control.   

Democratic governments can be changed through elections but how can you change ways NBB works, with lack of transparency? But at the same time for NBB, everything is not a walk in the park. They are multinationals, incidentally all having headquarters in the USA. But they are answerable to all governments in the world.  Zuckerberg faced the music in the US after Cambridge Analytica fiasco. He was called by the British Government but somehow managed to skip the “invite”! Sundar Pichai is being grilled by US Government about suppressing conservative views on Google search engine. European Union has been really pushing Google about their search engine monopoly. In China Google had to withdraw in 2010 because of censorship and other issues, thereby losing big business. The Indian government is pressurizing Microsoft/Amazon that cloud servers for Government data must be on Indian soil! They will have to relent, looking at the size of business that India operations can generate. Indian Government has been after WhatsApp and Apple about certain issues.  

NBB is forced to use freedom available to multinationals with care and responsibility because they are being forced to become transparent in their dealings by combined efforts of whistleblowers and governments. These checks and balances will fall in place over a period of time.   

Orwell’s theory of Totalitarianism gets challenged, every time we see somebody trying to control freedom. Indira Gandhi was forced to cancel emergency, Russian communism collapsed in the late 80’s/ early ’90s of the last century. Berlin Wall fell in 1989. How China and NBB fight with each other is a test case for the world. Both are trying to keep each other’s monopoly in check. Its early days of this battle but as computers become more and more powerful, as software becomes all compassing there can be spectacular battles. But as an optimist, I am sure the good will win in the end! By the way, I don’t believe in Orwellian thoughts!

GoodALwaysWins

  

  

  

  

  

   

Advertisements

The world with No Boundaries!

This is a beautiful song from Hindi movie Refugee (Year 2000) beautifully sung by Sonu Nigam and Alka Yagnik.   

youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nvTzT5hhD0&w=521&h=391

The lyrics are just superb. Birds, rivers and the breeze can never be stopped by any borders between the two nations. Borders are for us, humans! But my friend, give a thought, what you and me have achieved by being humans!  

Similarly, our life has gone under a major change; it has happened discretely over the last 10 to 15 years. Our world has become Cyberabad! Now “the world is a village” term fits aptly to our universe. In the late ’90s of the last century, the internet came into the public domain. Before this, it was being used by the scientific community since the early ’70s.  

But in the initial period, it was a special space, independent of our normal life. In those days, we went to our computers and entered the world of mystery. But the real revolution started with the advent of Smart Phones. A smartphone is a device which makes phones, sends a text message; but it is a computer. The first PC that I bought at home, in 1989 had 20 MB hard disc (Yes, MB!) and 640 kb RAM. My current smartphone has 128 GB storage and 6 GB RAM.   

With the smartphone, our life started changing and cyberspace started becoming our appendage! People must have their device with them all the time; they may go to the washroom, they may be taking a bath, they may be in bed with the wife but the phone will be there like a सवत or co-wife! It is applicable to both sexes!  

Consider an example of a piece of paper and a pen, which helps us remember things, a duty otherwise performed by the brain. The shopping list becomes part of our memory, this list helps us in not taxing our brain.  

On the same lines idea that our self is expanding through our phones is plausible, and that’s because our phones, and our digital devices generally – our smartwatches, our iPads – all these things have become a really intimate part of how we go about our daily lives. Intimate in the sense in which they’re not only on our body, but we sleep with them, we wake up with them, and the air we breathe is filled, in both a literal and figurative sense, with the trails of ones and zeros that these devices leave behind.”  

One of the essential differences between a smartphone and a piece of paper is that our relationship with our phones is reciprocal; we not only put information into the device, we also receive information from it, and, in that sense, it shapes our lives far more actively than would a shopping list. The shopping list isn’t suggesting to us, based on algorithmic responses to our past and current shopping behaviour, what we should buy; the phone can suggest.  

Everything has two sides good and bad! Our life has changed very much due to the internet. There is no point in comparing current life with pre-internet days. Life Before Internet (LBI) and Life After Internet (LAI) are two different species. Many of the day to day activities, like banking, purchasing, communication, photos have changed completely. Some things which were almost impossible during LBI are now possible after LAI! Camera has become democratic as it is available to almost everyone. Locating old friends, communicating with people living in different places, countries is just a click away. With the internet being available on flights, that dark connection less tunnel is slowly becoming history. You are now connected 24/7/365!   

But LAI has its downside too! We forget that we are supposed to rest, we are supposed to sleep soundly every night. If you get up to go to the washroom at night, you go with your cell phone. During that window of wakefulness, you see the WhatsApp messages, Email and Instagram! Whatever notification you have received from any App, you access it! As if not seeing these will cause a tsunami in your life! This many time results in insufficient sleep!  

Since childhood, we have been taught basic rules. LAI is full of breaking rules, making foul in the language of my granddaughter. She is being taught the importance of remaining away from “screens” as much as possible. When eating food, no screen, got nothing to do, no screen; screen time is limited, and  has to be earned. But do we adults follow the same rules? If we manage to come to the dining table together, everybody is looking at his/her screen. We make these fouls without fail. We have hundreds of “friends” but we don’t know most of the people in our condo, including our neighbours!

PDA (Public Display of Affection) is a new phenomenon. It has become fashionable to display how much you love your spouse! This includes photos kissing each other! Honestly who else cares about your affections? Why these things are shared publicly when that person is next to you, probably with you in the bed!   

You have been always taught since childhood not to accept chocolates or biscuits from strangers or never to talk with them. Here you become friends with hundreds of them whom you may have just met, and share your very intimate details with the whole world. People share their cell number on FB wall! Is it not risky in the cyber world? Fraudsters can cheat you, with your money; some people use this information for stalking! We raised a hue and cry when the government collected our data in the form of the Aadhar card. Most of the same data is shared by us easily with big fives of this world, including biometrics. Of course, I am talking of Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon. They not only have our data but also have the wherewithal to use analytical tools and understand everything about us.

I am techno-savvy and have used social media regularly for years. I have reached a conclusion that I need to do social media detox, in fact, everybody needs to do that. Social Media has some fantastic usages, by all means, use them. I use it these days mainly to make my blogs available to as many people as possible. Some people are surprised that I am on the detox but SMS is also equally good if you want to exchange messages, using WA is too addictive!   

Going back the song mentioned above, it’s great to have borderless life but to me, there are more pitfalls than advantages. The life after LAI is as addictive as cocaine or maybe worse. To get drugs, you need an unlimited supply of money but for cyber addiction you only need the latest drug that has come on Indian cyberspace called “Jio” and let me assure you it is inexpensive. To detox is like joining AA (Alcoholic Anonymous), discipline yourself along with your child and but is tough. To not share very personal intimate personal thing is as tough as giving up smoking. Use this borderless space like birds take the flights at random (भरारी), rivers simply don’t bother about borders and meander, like the breeze which cannot be prevented by a thousand feet tall wall to cross the border! But don’t forget that birds can get caught in the crossfire generated by cyber wars and cyber thieves!   

  

  

  

  

  

 

Busy, busy busy!

I was having a cup of coffee with a friend of mine. He was the CMD of an organization. One of the GM’s came to meet him about some crisis that had cropped up. They discussed it quickly and my friend told him, “You give this assignment to so and so!”. The GM said that the suggested person was very busy so he will give it to another person. But the boss told him to give such assignments to the busiest person. Busy persons are very organized and efficient hence will finish  the assignment in a jiffy! Half an hour later the GM informed him that the issue was resolved. He said, “This fellow came up with a unique solution and everything is back to normal!”  

Busy2

It is always said that the busiest person has the maximum time with him. We should not take literal meaning of the statement. What it means is that the person who is busy is generally well organized. That person knows the importance of work-life balance. My classmate Hemant Nerurkar was MD of Tata Steel and was a very busy person. He and I used to keep in touch on phone a few times in a year. He handled it this way. Generally, I would call; he would pick the phone if possible but if he were busy, which was by default, whenever he got some free time, he would text a message to me, “Pramod, I will call you on Thursday, 7.30 pm if it is ok with you”. He would call 100% of the times on the day and time given. It was simple, he probably just put it in his calendar and be done with it! He had to be well organized with so much work to do; at the same time, he also understood the importance of “me time”.   

Being busy is a state of mind. People do get busy and many times they get overloaded. Many people have a lot of work. The situation becomes complex in the case of modern families. Along with ladies, some men have also started taking home responsibilities. Office work, home chores, socializing, holidays can be a handful for everybody. But then that is modern life. We should learn to handle modern life and its pressures, things do get busy. But there are pitfalls in this situation.   How can we avoid them?

Stop showing off  

Some of us have the habit of showing how busy we are. But probably there are more people who are equally busy or busier. Showing off does not really help because only a few others are really concerned about you. Nobody is really bothered about your being busy. In your profession, you may be very good but there are equally competent people around. If you become famous for not being available, people simply stop coming to you. I know of a professional who used to go to foreign countries for a couple of months at a time for some assignments. Over a period, he reduced such assignments but his reputation had spread that he is not available most of the times. He took a few years to establish that he is readily available for consultations.

Prioritize the work but don’t procrastinate  

Above two messages show the importance of not being too busy!

Everybody has a list of “To Do” things. Everybody makes his or her list as per their method. But we should remember what must be done and what may be done on that day. Everything cannot be in the must do list. In office situation there can be routine replies to communications; all are not must do! There are some things which can be done the next day but at the same time do not procrastinate and push things forward. In this list, there are some occasional events which are a must. We need to budget for these. For example, birthdays of colleagues. In some offices, birthdays are celebrated with a small get together. One must budget for these events. Never skip such events as these are absolute must-do events. At home, you have decided to do spring cleaning. But somehow on that day many other things have popped up and you cannot do it; your child may fall sick so going to the doctor is a must. Some guests arrive uninformed, they need to be attended to! Its ok do spring cleaning some other day. Don’t fret over not being able to do the spring cleaning. But mind you, cleaning has to be done at some stage. Don’t procrastinate!  

Declog your schedules  

Sometimes we make our schedules so complex that we are not able to give justice to any assignment or a chore. Our mind is clogged and this reduces our ability to think properly and we tend to make errors. Errors put more pressure on your time and our schedules are further clogged. There is, of course, a side effect, a lecture from the boss or the wife! Make sure that you keep sufficient time between events (sometimes it is not in our hands) so that you get a break from the hectic schedule as well as time to prepare for the next event.   

Don’t give too much importance to being busy  

Keep your life simple. Do your work seriously but do not take yourself seriously. Everybody has a lot of things to do at the office as well as at home. But never check your emails while having food. Look at the food while eating. This will create good gastric juices and your digestion will be good. Always keep a bit of free time for your coffee break and enjoy banter with colleagues. Keep free time at home for family members including spouse, kids and parents. TV, FB and WA can always wait. Make the rule of no work in the bedroom. Social media is the main killer of your free time and reducing social media usage will increase your free time. This free time can be used for declogging your schedules and enjoy the banter!   

I will share one more story of how busy people find the time. One of our family friends was a personal friend of Narayan Murthy. The friend had called Murthy’s PA to find when Murthy could be available. Luckily both were in the same city. The PA called and said, ” Mr Murthy can meet you around 6.30 pm at xyz location. Then he can have half an hour of gupshup time with you in the car, as he is going to the airport. The car will drop you back to your hotel.”

Let me say Sayonara with a lovely message.  

Busy4

I will attempt to translate this Marathi message. 

I would have so much loved to write  

But you don’t have time to read 

We could have chatted for hours together 

But you have no time to listen 

We could have walked into the horizon 

But you have no time to walk 

My ears are very eager to listen to you 

But you have no time to talk 

        

 

Irrational Thinking!

My nephew is a senior Air Force pilot. Years back when we were discussing something, he said, “Pramod Kaka, this has to be true. It was there in yesterday’s newspapers.” I told him that I would put an advertisement is a newspaper, saying that he is an idiot. Will that be true? He realized the folly of his argument. All of us make similar errors in our lives when we are taking a decision. We always try to go by existing norms or “truths”. It is very easy to compare the current situation with the existing norms. We don’t want to deviate from these norms. Many times the decision based on this thinking could be wrong but the status quo in thinking is what we opt for. 

Humans always take pride in saying that they are always very rational and take decisions based on logical well considered thought. But there are many times when we make emotional, irrational, and confusing choices. But there are some very obvious errors we make while taking decisions like my nephew did!  

Ostrich1

Follow the leader tendency 

On the internet we see articles with titles like “8 Things Successful People Do Every day” or “The Best Advice Richard Branson Ever Received” or “How Tendulkar followed an exercise regime since childhood”. These articles give pointers to you to understand the path used by successful people. 

Follow the leader tendency is to focus on the winners in a particular area and try to learn from them while completely forgetting about hundreds of losers who are employing the same strategy. 

A similar example is “Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of school and became billionaires! You don’t need school to succeed. Entrepreneurs just need to stop wasting time in class and get started.” It’s possible that Richard Branson succeeded in spite of his path and not because of it. For every Branson, Gates, and Zuckerberg, there are thousands of other entrepreneurs with failed projects, debt-heavy bank accounts, and half-finished degrees. Follow the leader tendency isn’t merely saying that a strategy may not work well for you, it’s also saying that we don’t really know if the strategy works well at all. 

When the winners are remembered and the losers are forgotten it becomes very difficult to say if a particular strategy leads to success.  Ten thousand to one may be the ratio of forgotten and remembered people. For hundreds of thousand failed cricketers, we think about a Tendulkar. It’s good to aim to be a Tendulkar. We only know a general path Tendulkar took to succeed but we don’t know ALL the details of what he did! Tendulkar also never went to college, so not going to college to become a successful cricketer is not the path for everybody. Tendulkar did not go to college because he was already an international player when he reached college age and never got time to go to college! 

Loss Aversion 

We have been taught from childhood be a topper, be a winner all the time in whatever we do! But life is never that simple. In an exam, you must come first, in races you should win, in singing you should be the best. But to be a winner in every aspect of life is simply not possible. But then how do you learn to lose? Nobody teaches you how to lose. One avenue where you win some and lose some is the sports arena! Every individual or every team in any sports activity they play wins and loses! The winning and losing games is a great education. This teaches us that life is the same as any game. You win some and lose some!

When we become overly competitive, every aspect of life becomes a competition! On a toll booth, if other lines move fast, we get upset. Consider two transactions, in one we gain Rs.100/ and in the other we lose Rs.100/. In one case we are elated and in the other, we feel a loss. But the intensity of elation and loss for the same amount is different. Humans don’t like to lose. I bought a pair of shoes a few days back but I did not feel like disposing of my old shoes. That is human nature. In today’s startup scenario it is considered that you do not have sufficient experience if your CV does not show a couple of failed ventures in your name. Failures are the path to success.  

Decisions based on limited knowledge 

To believe in things that are easily available and visible is a common mistake that our brains make, by assuming that the examples which come to mind easily are the most important or prevalent things.  

We are living in the most peaceful time in history, and also the best reported time in history. Information on any disaster or crime is more widely available than ever before. A quick search on the Internet will pull up more information about the most recent terrorist attack than any newspaper could have ever delivered 100 years ago. The recent killing of the Police Officer in UP is a classic case. A lot of information is coming up everywhere in the form of visuals, videos, sound bites; views of different leaders, social scientists are heard and read continuously. This creates an atmosphere as if the world as we know is going down the drain. Yes, what happened was extremely bad but the things are in reasonable control. Social media is equally responsible for creating such a tense atmosphere.  

The overall percentage of dangerous events is decreasing, but the likelihood that you hear about one of them (or many of them) is increasing. And because these events are readily available in our mind, our brains assume that they happen with greater frequency than they actually do. We overvalue and overestimate the impact of things that we can remember and we undervalue and underestimate the prevalence of the events we hear nothing about.  

The end result of all this euphoria is while taking decisions about things we only go by what is currently discussed and what is discussed boldly but is not necessarily correct. Sometimes I feel that social media was designed by Goebbels.

Bias 

We go by what we believe in and what we want to believe in. If we believe that demonetization was good for the economy, we will look at every statement and article and speech against it, as some stupidity or we will call it paid news. If we believe in climate changes, anything against your view, you  will tend to ignore. Similarly, while taking decisions, we go by what we believe is right and nothing else.  

Friends, I have discussed something which is the issue with all of us. So, we will think that we need to change and be more rational. But it is easier said than done. Changing our way of thinking is one of the toughest things in this world. Sometimes this is also called Ego! But to be on the practical side, we should try to realize that we should be more rational while thinking on any subject. We may have grown up in a family, where paying taxes was considered irrational. But when we think rationally….

We are all self-centred. We always think in our own cocoons or silos! The best example is the famous sentence, “What my nation has done for me?”; but we never think of the counter question, “What have I done for my nation?” Be rational, don’t be self-centred. Let us not be an Ostrich and bury our head in the sand! 

Ostrich2

Hats Off!

I read an article about a song and dance program held in Cipla Center of Palliative Care, in Pune. The article was written by the lady who was the main performer. She knew that this centre gives palliative care for Cancer probably terminal patients. The program was for the entertainment of these patients. She was apprehensive as she had never done this before. She was wondering how these patients will accept her program. The program was to create the joyous atmosphere in these patient’s lives. She reached the venue and the hall started filling up with patients. Some walking in, carrying their own drips, some coming in the wheelchairs. Then a few beds were brought in. The lady was awed by what was happening and she did not know what to expect. Patients were brought in to the arena on gurneys and transferred to their beds!

The program started and the rhythm picked up! Some of the patients started blowing whistles, as is the tradition in Tamasha songs. People started clapping and shouting. The peak of the show was when one of the lady patients, lying on an inclined bed started moving to the rhythm. She was very ill. She was wearing a Saree. In her bed, she did some sensuous movements using Pallu of her Saree! What courage? What attitude?

Here was a lady, very sick. Maybe terminally sick and I am sure she knew it! But she was not only enjoying the moment but her attitude must have given encouragement to other patients. It is such people who make this world a great place to be in! These people are the beacons of society. The lady did what was unthinkable though at the back of her mind she must have known that these were her last months on the earth. How do such people have the courage to look death in the face? Yamraj must have thought after tracking her activity, why not keep this lady on this earth for a longer time and make earth a better place! I am writing this based on the article written by the performer. I do not know anything about the lady but I feel like getting up and to go and give the lady a hug! Hats Off Mam!

Hatsoff2

We have read about historical accounts where people have reacted bravely knowing that their action would result in an imminent death for them. The battle of Sinhagad fort during Shivaji’s time is the classic case. Tanaji and his cousin Suryaji attacked at night and climbed the treacherous fort using ropes. In the battle, Tanaji died and Suryaji took over. The soldiers panicked and started to run back towards the ropes. Tanaji’s uncle Shelar mama cut the ropes. Soldiers had no option but to come back and fight. Marathas won that battle. Shelar mama took the action of cutting the ropes thereby he took a grave risk where his own life was also in danger. He knew that they could lose and that he would surely get killed. But he was not afraid of this eventuality. He took this decision knowing the grave risk to him. Such people make the armies that win the battles. Picture of Sinhgad Fort below.

Sinhagad

There was the similar battle of Pavan Khind. Shivaji Maharaj was trapped on Panhala fort and decided to try and escape to Vishalgad. But his escape was found by the enemy quickly. They started hot pursuit to capture Shivaji. Baji Prabhu Deshpande suggested to Shivaji to move further and waited at Pavan Khind which was a narrow pass. He fought with a small army and fought the enemy till Shivaji reached Vishalgad. When Shivaji reached Vishalgad he ordered two gunshots to be fired as a signal of safe arrival, to Baji Prabhu. Baji Prabhu though was severely hurt fought valiantly till he heard the signal. His death was imminent but still, he volunteered to save Shivaji. Painting depicting Pavan Khind battle.

PawanKhind

Next is one example which gives me goose pimples, even thinking about it! This is about a friend of mine Prakash. He is a happy guy but I never knew that he was made of steel! Rather his mind was made of steel, his body was not! He has been trekking and used to travel all over India. After completing one of his treks, he was returning to Delhi to fly back to Pune. After the episode, he remembered that there was some scratch mark on his right hand which started the episode. He ignored it as he thought that it was a scratch due to something pointed from a bush.

As he reached near Delhi, he started feeling very uneasy. Within a matter of hours, he realized that skin on his right-hand was looking different. It looked very harsh and gangrenous. His hand looked shocking to the naked eye. He reached Delhi and went straight to the airport and wanted to travel back to Pune. Airline staff correctly refused to take him on the flight. He spoke with home and within a short period of time things got organized. He immediately rushed to a major hospital where some family friends also arrived. Luckily the correct treatment in ICU was started immediately. His family travelled immediately to Delhi but I am sure that nobody was prepared to the saga that was to unravel!

He was diagnosed with Necrotizing Fasciitis (Flesh-Eating Bacteria)! One of the rarest things that can happen to humans. The death rate in such cases is as high as 30%. He was lucky to be in Delhi where excellent doctors and facilities were available. The link below gives details of this condition.

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/necrotizing-fasciitis-flesh-eating-bacteria#2

During the treatment, most of the flesh from his right arm, about 3 to 4 inches from shoulder, had to be removed and bones were totally exposed. Doctors could arrest the progress of the attack. What happened was simply horrible. A normal person would have been extremely nervous, could have gone into depression. But not our Pakya. He and his family took it in a very positive way. Just guess how much time it took for the arm to get to almost normal? About 4 years maybe more! His arm was rebuilt stage by stage with plastic surgeries. I am sure you will agree with me that Pakya is made of steel! I will just share one detail which will show Prakash’s grit and determination. During the final rebuilding phase of his hand, his right hand was stitched, yes stitched to the stomach for a couple of weeks so that proper skin grafting could take place!

What makes such people so strong? We read a lot of war stories where kids in their early 20’s show valour that will make any society proud! What gives them the inner strength? Since Prakash is a friend from college days, I know him quite well. But I never thought that he would have such a steely determination. This strait is only in a very few people and I consider it is my luck and honour that Pakya is my friend! Hats Off Buddy!

Hatsoff1

 

Musings Circa 60’s! Eateries in my life!

My friend Suresh wrote something about canteens in COEP, on our WA group;  that took me back to my childhood and college days. My first visit to an eatery that I remember was when I was a child; I had gone with my mother and other family members to a place on Tilak Road, in Pune, called Jeevan! I was on the 7th cloud and I ate a Ghavan! Now I am not really sure if it was a dosa or the ghavan, both very thin roti type of bread, made of completely different batters. Later, I asked my mother a few times if we could go to Jeevan again. But she did not even bother to reply. Eating out in those days was something very rarely done. Then, of course, there was Diwadkar’s batata Wada (Patty) eaten during travel between Bombay and Pune. I used to eagerly wait for Karjat station to arrive. I think they used to give garlic chutney also along with hot wadas! This was the beginning of my journey about eateries, in 50’s.

My schooling was done in Bombay and I used to live in Dhobi Talao behind Metro Cinema. I used to go to school by us. Monsoon was the season I would eagerly await. I would cook a story that due to heavy rains buses were delayed and I had to walk home, a distance of about 25 minutes! Those four annas were used to eat Masala Dosa at a place called Kelkar or Batata Bhaji, yes only bhaji, no puris! This bhaji was the speciality of a place called Kulkarni’s, bang opposite our school at Prarthana Samaj in Girgaum. Both these places have gone away with time.

Eatery1

One iconic place near our home in Dhobi Talao was Kyani’s. (The photo above) Bun Maska, chai, pastries and Omelette was their speciality. But how much money could one pinch from home? Once I managed to pinch money for an Omelette and a few times for bun Maska/chai, a couple of times for pastries. Ten years back I went there and had a full feed of everything, finally. Kyani is still around. My Mumbai story will not be completed without writing about Milk Bar behind Elphinstone College; custards, puddings and jellies and what have you! The last one in my list was Napoli Bistro opposite Brabourne Stadium. We used to go there during my Telang Memorial hostel stay on C road at Churchgate. We used to get expresso for a princely sum of Rs.1/, which we used to have once in a while. There was a jukebox in the restaurant which made us hang around for some time. One naughty guy called Nitin Khot took a bet with someone and somehow managed to pinch a chair from the restaurant. It was returned the next day!

Eatery5

That brings me back to Pune of my engineering college days. Good Luck is like Kyani’s of Mumbai and served the similar foodstuff. There used to be a little more money in pockets during this phase which allowed us to eat chicken masala and roti! Wow! Mouth still waters! Bowing to the father time, now they serve Idli Sambhar also. Another joint for us night owls, was Olympia opposite Pune Corporation. We used to be awake with our other studious guys but most of the time was spent on serious discussions of the world at large, with special reference to girls! When we had some time free from these discussions, we would be busy in Rummy or Teen Patti (Flush). These serious activities would make us hungry past midnight and the only option was Olympia, famous for its Baida Masala! Boiled eggs cooked in a lovely curry! A couple months back I ate this dish at Fountain hotel near Vasai but I could not remember where I had eaten this beauty before! Of course, it was Olympia!

Eatery2
Modern Café was our main Adda! Modern Café kept our gastric juices in control by providing us with piping hot Shira (something similar to porridge) and coffee at 5.30 am after all-night sessions of Teen Patti! In the afternoon the cafe would provide us with Idli, Dosa etc. At night around 10 pm we would go there for a cup of tea, theoretically to keep us awake for studies; oh yea! I also managed a Master’s Degree in Engineering too! Our main sessions in Modern Café were during our annual day functions. Preparations were done for a couple of months! I used to take part in these activities to hang around as Jaya used to play major roles in dramas. I was kept busy doing the backstage activity. Modern café had created a new facility at their backside called Bamboo House! This was a real cosy place where they had a charming manager called Shekhar. He was very talkative, we used to regularly have parties where someone from the group of 15 /20 of us would pay. Shekhar used to keep track of who had not paid for a long time and remind us that person’s name. The advantage of these parties was we could skip food in our common hostel mess! The money saved was money gained, which was fruitfully used on going to movies.

Out COEP hostel mess was very famous for the quality of food. Students and their relatives, friends from different colleges would come here for the Sunday feast. There were messes based on veg/non-veg food. Two of them, A & F were famous for non-vegetarian stuff. C was Maharashtrian, D was Gujarati type, E was Maharashtrian Kolhapur style hot food. Then later was born O club which had a mix of everything. A & F usually had the cosmopolitan crowd and the so-called Bombay crowd. I was in A club for two years. We had a guy called Aziz who used treat us to some lovely Biryanis and chicken Masala. Coke with Ice cream was the famous dessert of those times. I was friendly with all cooks and head waiters from all clubs. So, we could always “borrow” something from other clubs. My 3rd and 4th year were in C club. I was not admitted to this club in the first year because I was wearing a bold striped shirt for the interview. Medhekar and I used to be the first guys every day for breakfast for our morning quota of eggs. Another interesting thing used to be carrom games in the mess hall. There were some guys who used to be experts. But Bhave and I used to be Killers and we would beat the so-called champs. Just at the entrance of the hostel was a canteen run by Seva Sadan! It was really inexpensive and would sell home-made laddoos and Shankar pale! Next to that was table tennis room where would spend a lot of time. Even after marriage, we had opted for packed hostel food during exam time! We got married while we were doing our Masters!

Our major past time used to be watching movies! This would take us to different parts of Pune. Bedekar Misal, Sweet Home Khichadi and burun and tea at George’s in the camp were some of the famous places we would visit in those days before or after a movie! Pastries at NCR, opposite Jangali Maharaj Temple, were a treat. Near mandai we used to go Asara for very hot chicken! For us COEP gang Vaishali was just coming up on the horizon and was the place to see the Fergusson College girls!

Eatery3

I could go on and on! But I must mention two places in camp! First one was Dorabajis where one of our gang, Nayan, Sharad, Ashok and others used to go for breakfast to celebrate birthdays! It was a real ritual. We used to sit in the area on the mezzanine floor. Then there was Latif’s. This has a special significance. Jaya and I used to go there as we were almost sure that no known persons will find us there. For Jaya from Sadashiv Peth to Latif’s was a big cultural jump! Until I told my friends, during my first year of post-graduation, about our marriage,  nobody had any inkling of our courtship. Latif’s was a great place “away from everything” in those days!

Let me find out if Latif’s still exists; its high time Jaya and I went there!

Meditation!

We lead a complex life and there are many reasons for it. There can be a real-life situation like a death or a birth or a perceived situation. In birth and death there is nothing perceived. Many situations arise in our life but situations are perceived differently by each person. Many times, perceptions are different because we observe things or get information about situations out of context. “Pramod is a terrible person to deal with, even his enemies will never say this!” My close was talking with someone about me. That someone only heard “Pramod is a terrible person to deal with”, and not the complete sentence; he thought that if a close friend of Pramod is saying this, then it must be true! This is how the perceptions get created.   

People meditate or pray to connect with our creator! Each has his own way of doing things in life. To me, a pursuit of anything where there is no benefit commercial or otherwise, is meditation. Why meditation is done? Meditation is done to achieve peace of mind; our mind is flustered many times because most of the situations in life are not under our control. We are travelling and the flight or the bus is late. You want to attend a meeting and there is a big traffic jam! You want to buy that house but you are way short of funds. There are situations galore and you want to remain cool! Is it possible? Is it practical? What does a near atheist like me do? I generally never pray, I never meditate in the conventional way. How do I relieve my stress? In the last few years, I have found that when I am writing my blogs, I feel serene! I am very much engrossed in writing and during this phase, I am not flustered. This is especially true when I am writing early morning after I have had my quota of sleep.  

What happens when we meditate? There are any number of methods for meditating but the end result is expected to be the same. The peace of mind! Once we master our own technique for meditation, we are sort of floating on a different level! The atmosphere is relaxed and we feel that there is positive energy around us. Meditation brings control on our mind to some extent. Controlling mind is one of the toughest things in this world. To me meditation and control of mind are synonyms. Why does our mind waver? There are many things happening in our life, simultaneously. Our mind has its own way of arranging and rearranging things going on in our mind. It prioritizes in its own way.

You may be going to office by bus or by train. Your mind will not bother about this event, normally. But you need to be in your office at least half an hour before your normal time to prepare for an important meeting. Then this simple event of going to the office on that particular day will be on the top of the agenda in your mind! This is because it is an important event for that day. Similarly, there may be more than one thing on priority on a day. You have had a major disagreement with your spouse or the partner, you have lost money on the share market, your boss has given you a piece of mind for no fault of yours; the list can be unending on a particular day! This is when your mind goes into a spin, you toss and tumble, you remain agitated.   

You try to meditate but you cannot concentrate! Your thoughts are jumping from one end of the spectrum to the other. You need to practice to meditate. You cannot learn to meditate overnight. Meditation, after all, is getting control on the mind! Your mind is a funny thing. You get waves of thoughts like sea waves are generated by the wind, one after the other. Your mind is like a small bird, at one instance it is on the terrace of the building opposite you and the next moment it flies to sit on the tree! There is saying in Marathi about the mind, “मन चिंती ते वैरी न चिंती!” What it means is that when our mind goes into a spin, the thoughts or conclusions it generates, will not come into the mind of even our worst enemy! Yes, during this stage we are not in a position to think properly, we are not able to decide properly. Meditation comes into the picture at this stage!  

Why we are not able to meditate? Why we remain in the vicious circle of so many thoughts in mind, hence the indecisive state of mind? Ability to meditate with your own method is very important in life, both professional and personal. In our “busy” life we forget this most important aspect of life! We go for walks or Gym (hopefully) to keep our body fit. Meditation is a way of keeping your mind fit for your life’s journey! Our journey is much more pleasant when both our body and mind are kept fit! It is in our hands.  But many of us forget or say that they don’t have time for the fitness of the body as well as the mind. Almost none have time to keep their mind fit! Meditation is for Sadhus, Gurus, Monks and oldies. Humans cannot be more wrong!   

What can we compare meditation with? Is it like a river? No, a river in monsoon is turbulent like our mind. Is like a lovely summer breeze? Cyclones show us the fury of the wind like our mind. Is it like clouds, those serene ones which show nature in its full glory at the sunrise or sunset? No, the monsoon clouds can really give us a feel of Lord Shankara’s Tandav Nrutya!   

But yes, we can compare it with our travel by air. The flight takes off and if you are lucky you go to sleep! Except for the mild whine of the engines, the daytime atmosphere can be serene outside. You may see some beautiful Sunrise, which I saw while landing at Bucharest once. Once while travelling from Pune to Delhi in monsoon, there were dark clouds at Pune and they continued for an hour. But once we reached the cruising height, I could see the nature at its best. After an hour we crossed into white cloud zone and the beauty continued. I was travelling alone, seated in the window seat and felt out of this world. There were no other thoughts in my mind and whatever anxiety I had while at Pune airport, about next day’s meeting, simply vanished.   

Lack of meditation and exercise changes your persona. I have a friend who has gone through a lot of ups and downs in life. While in college days, he was a jolly and happy person. I met him a couple of times after 45 years. He has not tried to correct his physical fitness. The way he talks and writes, one feels pity for such a person. He is neither here nor there in life. I am sure he does not meditate, this is reflected in his frustrated behaviour with others. I feel that he has other difficulties in life, which we don’t know about. But I feel that he will get peace of mind in the golden phase of life if keeps himself bodily and mentally fit!   

Saying prayers, saying OM, singing bhajans, writing, painting, singing, dancing, observing nature are various ways to meditate. You may add your method to the list. But please, please meditate regularly. Find time for keeping your body and mind in top gear!