MeToo or IToo!

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MeToo movement has caught everybody’s imagination, recently. We all know what MeToo is, but do you know what IToo is? IToo is an old movement followed by many experts who are “experts” without being experts! Expert is defined as a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area.

The recent trend is, people join the Google Academy and become experts in any field they want. I will tell you how the thought about writing on this subject came in my mind. I have selected the topic IToo because there are people who market themselves as experts in specific fields. They come in touch with some subject because of their career and start calling themselves experts. They are always in contact with newspaper reporters, they cultivate people who write in newspapers and magazines. Over a period, experts are named scientist or senior scientist and so on. I am not sure, but after some time “experts” really start thinking that they are the real experts.

I heard an interesting story from a friend. We have our homegrown “experts” in Pune. One computer expert went to the bay area on a visit, and he was invited to speak, by a group of people predominantly from Pune. (He is not known outside Pune) During the speech, he asked a question, “How many of you are from Pune”? Many hands went up. He asked them, “Now that you have lived away from Pune, for many years, which three top things you remember about Pune.” The obvious replies were Chitale Mithai wale, (Sweets Shop) PNG Jewellers, and Vaishali restaurant. Vaishali is Pune’s iconic adda for more than 50 years. It is a joint which serves mainly south Indian food like Dosa, Idli. Any of our brethren coming from foreign countries must visit Vaishali at least once during the visit. Our expert, after coming back told his Rotarian friends that he was surprised to see the great value of Vaishali brand name! Now can a Pune person not knowing  about Vaishali brand be called a Pune person? Experts are supposed to know a few things about things outside their area of expertise. But not knowing Vaisahli…. Then he went and met the owner of Vaishali and told him that he wants to honour him on behalf of his Rotary club because of such achievement. The owner said, “I don’t have time for such functions.”  They honoured him at the restaurant itself!

Such stories are found everywhere. Generally, people are decent hence they don’t challenge the pseudo’s about the knowledge. But why people want to be called an expert when they are not? I would not like to call myself an expert in anything because I am not! Why do you want to be known as, what you are not?

I found this interesting table which shows traits of pseudos in the field of science.

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Another field, where there are many self-professed experts, is diets! There are many dietary experts in this profession; their number is going up because of WA and FB. People will share before and after photos, write stories about the path they have followed. My meagre knowledge on the subject tells me a simple method. The human body is designed in such a way that human health depends on what we eat and what we spend in terms of calories. When there is a mismatch, either you lose weight, or you gain weight. Ok, it is not as simple as I have written. There are many other factors but generally what I have written is obvious. There are experts like Dixit, Bose, Tripathi, Divekar. The latest name I have been reading is Joshi. He is giving his theories, and according to him all other “experts” are a hoax or bogus. There is another group (in fact it is a company) which has created the “real expert” groups. They give you a book called “What Doctors do not know and understand” or some such name, to begin with. I thought that Doctors are the ones who study medicine, they study about our body, they generally know the basics. Some may become surgeons, others pathologists and so on. But I feel that they would know more than the “experts”, about our bodies in general.

There has been another group of experts. People from this group are generally from art, cinema etc. As being the members of such a visible group, they think that they are experts in the field of human freedom, censorship etc. They publicly speak like socialists or communists! They treat anybody and everybody from the government as a pariah. These experts don’t mind using government support for foreign jaunts to attend festivals. They do not remember getting land or homes from the government at a meagre price or maybe free. But when it suits them, they suddenly start attacking the government. Recently, an eminent personality from Pune was invited for a talk about an artist and his paintings. This gentleman started talking about how the government is secretly forcing censorship on the art groups, the selection of venues and so on. The organisers had called him to talk about the artist. The committee chief stood up while our friend was bombarding the government. The chief suggested, “We are meeting here to listen to you speak about an artist and your equation with the artist. So please stick to the main subject.” The gentleman got upset and said, “If I have no freedom to talk what I want, why did you call me?” The answer was simple he was told. “Sir, we have called you to talk about the artist and the function is not about government policies. You are free to talk about these policies on the right forum!” He is giving interviews and blaming the organisers for their censorship and high handedness.

There is a saying in Sanskrit, “येन केन प्रकारेण प्रसिध्द पुरुषो भवेत ”! This means that try and remain in public eye by hook or by crook! These “experts” become very much addicted to remaining in the public domain. They try and get some business or work out of their showmanship, but at some stage, their shallow knowledge gets exposed. Their changing the tune to suit the situation is proven many times. They do it only for their own benefit. Self comes before everything else.

Let me share with you an anecdote. In the early days of computers a personal computer was the norm. An “expert” had bought five computers. Someone like me asked him about the multitasking capabilities of the systems. Without blinking an eyelid, he said, “Oh, I have hired separate computer operators for each shift!”

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Be Angry at Anger!

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We have so many emotions like sadness, happiness, anger, sourness and so on. All the feelings are universal, but like everything in the world, in various countries emotions are expressed differently. Anger is an emotion that can sometimes make or break people. Some people cannot control their anger over small things, and the result can be devastating. How does the anger start? How far reaching the result of anger can be? Is it worth getting very angry in a situation?

I don’t think so. I am not an angry person, but I have a habit of calling a spade a spade. When I interact with some not so smart people regularly, at some stage, I lose my temper. But I am lucky that this anger stays with me for a small duration. But when some brilliant people do not understand something during a discussion, I get upset and utter something which I should avoid. I am hoping to reduce it, but it is a reflex reaction. I think that venting what you want to say is important; unless we vent it out, we will seethe with it.

I have sometimes felt furious in business meetings, but somehow I have managed not to let it damage my business. But these are infrequent occasions. But on a personal level, I tend to handle such situations without getting angry. Once I was driving during monsoon time; it was not raining, but some dirt got splashed on my glass. I operated the wipers. When I stopped at the next signal a guy on a bike came from the left side and started banging my window on the other side. I wound the glass down and asked him the reason. While I used the wiper, some water got sprinkled on him as my water nozzle position had got disturbed. He told me this. Immediately I profusely apologised with folded hands and said to him that before reaching the office I would get the nozzle corrected, and I did get it fixed. By apologising, I avoided the angry exchange of words.

Am I talking of anger management? Or am I talking anger containment? What is the reason we get angry? Getting angry is a natural emotion; if we can contain it then we may not be required to manage it! When we feel that something unfair or unjust has happened, our blood pressure goes up, and we get mad. Add to this the way our brain is wired; if our family was an angry family when we grew up, we are likely to get angry fast. There is the main culprit we have not discussed, the Ego! The words, “When I say something how can xxx say no to me?” Fine, you have said something, but there are different views on the subject. We forget this, and we get angry. People are going to give their opinions.

I was reading about the expression of anger in different countries in the world and was interesting to find that there is a great variety.

Some sportsmen show their anger when they perform poorly or exceedingly well. When doing well, it is more of excitement.

Germans use a term slap in the face or backpfeifengesicht. “It’s like you’re so furious with someone that you look at their face, and it’s as if their face is urging you to punch them. In Marathi, there is an equivalent term, “कानाखाली द्यावी असं वाटल !”

Ancient Greeks differentiated between short-term anger that doesn’t stick around (ὀργή or orge ) with long-lasting anger that’s permanent (μῆνις or menin).

In India, we have different anger for politicians or your boss. Indians keep personal and political anger separate. Indians also describe anger as sizzling anger as if some vegetable is thrown in boiling oil while cooking.

Labelling your anger is one of the ways of controlling anger. Like different teas and wines, the anger is also of a different variety. What this technique does is to ask yourself to define and name the type of your anger during various incidents. When we think about it, analyse it our mind goes away from actual anger. We have to reason and find out why you got angry. During this thinking, you may find that you made an error of judgment by getting angry. Sometimes you may find out that the intensity of anger was way above what was required. This thought process can be described as a tool which regulates your anger. It is equivalent of counting ten or maybe hundred! It is equal to deep breathing which allows us to divert our mind elsewhere.

During work, we come across some problems. Some define the issue as a huge problem. But when this problem is broken down into small units, for each module involved in the process, many time we realise that the scale is not massive. Similarly, if we break the event when we get angry, step by step breaking down may show that we should have got mad for only a part of that event.

You can name your anger and then it is possible that you will be able to avoid incidents of anger. I have talked about getting angry at some people who are not wise enough. They may keep on asking questions and still may end up making mistakes. I call this stupid anger. Such incidents used to happen with a colleague, regularly in office. He was required to go out of the office for work. I decided that I must accept that he is going to ask questions even if instructions are given in writing. I accepted this fact and asked him to give me a call any time he had doubts. He would call me in 80 % cases for taking a final decision about size, colour, price et al. I consoled myself by saying if he had not called in those 80 % cases, what could have happened. If he had erred in all these cases, I would have been much angrier. Now by calling me, he was only following my instructions! Anger events came down drastically.

Sometimes we want results quickly. I used to push my programming guys. In a hurry, they would say that the work was done. Hurry only led to customer issues later, leading to angry discussions. I stopped asking them and started allocating time estimate as per their judgment plus 25% more time. In 90 % of cases, there were no customer complaints hence less angry discussions. You can call this passenger train anger.

Like instant coffee, there is instant anger too! I used to get angry in some situations instantly. Maturity made me think of futility of such instant anger. Recently, I walked off a nasty situation. When I discussed this with a young friend, he said, “backpfeifengesicht or कानाखाली द्यावी असं वाटल !” Yes, maturity is important especially in work atmosphere where a lot of people are reporting to you. At the back of the mind, we are aware that colleagues will not argue hence one tends to get angry a little more frequently. But in such cases, we should think about empathy. Do we get angry with your near and dear ones so quickly? Do you get angry quickly with your pets? If the answer to both questions is “No” ….

When we meet to have a drink together, we raise the glasses and clink them to say cheers! In the angry situations, train your angry mind and cool mind to raise the glass and say a big CHEERS!

Bappa’s Constitution!

Yesterday when we were going out, in the car Rhea asked a question to my daughter Priya.  She said, “Is it our flags birthday today?” It was not a simple question. Priya said, “No, it is our constitution’ s birthday!” For a five-year-old, the next inevitable question was what the constitution is? Priya said, “It is a rule book for all of us.” Rhea then asked, “Did Bappa write the rule book?” Bappa is the Marathi word for God.

In childhood everything is very straightforward, that includes life. Good things in life happen because of God, and the bad things occur because of the demons. They define everything as  0 & 1; things are either black or white. There are no shades of grey. Childhood naivety is responsible for an easy life. For kids, there are no complexities. When life is good, they laugh when it is sad, they cry.

But adult life is tricky and where everything is in shades of grey. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a book representing today’s times. For the benefit of those who are not aware of this book here is the link.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_of_Grey

This book is about sex, control, wealth and combination thereof. Wealth is about ownership. The concept of ownership started ten thousand years back when humans started organised farming.  With farming, the nomadic tribes began to settle into areas near the water, rivers or lakes. Many settlements also started near the sea, but the drinking water was a problem initially.

With the ownership started the issues of controls. In other species like monkeys, controls were mainly about leadership and females. There were no other assets hence things were and still are simple. But today humans need to control the area, then the city, state and nation. Further people want to control other countries. Controls are taken to get natural assets.

I was just trying to imagine a naïve world as seen through the child’s eyes. Life would be simple. Children can play, chat with each other. There are no language barriers; they don’t have territory issues. We should use Google Earth, metaphorically. When we open  Google Earth and see our home,  we can get to know the house distinctly when we zoom in. Start zooming out.  First, we see our colony, then the area, then the city.

Further zooming shows us the state where we live, then the nation. As we zoom further, we see our continent — finally the whole earth. What is the meaning of this change? These images take us away from the barriers we have created, the barriers crash. We go away from our small abode; we are taken far away from the language spoken and finally from the geography of our nation and the continent. We need to rewrite the Bappa’s Rules, as seen from Google earth as there are unnecessary barriers. We need to think out of box. We should become naïve like small kids.

If you think that Pramod is trying to visualise utopia because I am trying to say something that is impossible; no sir! It has already happened to some extent in our world. What is the European Union (EU) after all? EU was born in 1993. Most of the European nations joined the EU or agreed to be part of EU and share the same rules, currency, visa and so on. They have managed to remove the unnatural barriers. A couple of years back when we took an Alpine tour, we started in Germany, went to Austria, then to Italy.

Further, we travelled to Switzerland, again to Italy and back to Switzerland. Finally, we took our flight back home from Frankfurt in Germany. No border checks, no customs inspection, we could use the same currency Euro in most of the places.

When a big continent like Europe can survive using naïve rules where they tried to remove many unnatural barriers, I am sure other nations can also work to remove the obstacles. There are problems in EU, but questions had been worse when there were more barriers. Imagine a world free of passports, visas, x-ray machines and so on! There are problems galore like terrorism, refugees who made it necessary to create such complex systems.

When she was younger, Rhea had asked me one question in a Mandir. “How does the Bappa know when I ask him to make me wise, in Marathi? Does he understand all languages?” Bappa or God is our creation. He does not bother about barriers; he understands every language in the world. We know him as God, Jesus, Mohamad. The different species look different; some fly, some are underwater. Some are two-legged, most are four-legged. Except for humans, all other species follow nature’s rules. They die when they die. Nobody takes them to hospitals. Birth and death are natural processes and should be accepted as they come. I am sure some of the species must be feeling sad when one of them dies.

In many cases, when their time has come to go, they only go away from the clan and die.

Which constitution or the rules are the correct rules or better rules? Bappa’s Constitution or the nations’ constitution? A good idea will be to have a mix of the two the way EU manages their affairs. The nation should follow local rules for running the nation and God’s rule for international relations. Writing these two lines is quite simple and bringing them into practice will be tough.

Coming to the naivety of 50 years back, what has changed in the social fabric? In India, there used to regular riots between people of different religions, the number of riots have come down. But the social atmosphere, these days, is always either tense or very tense! In the United States, African Americans were not allowed to take part in beauty pageants. There used to be open discrimination till late ’60 s of the last centuries. Discrimination has reduced somewhat, but I feel that people have become subtle, they have not changed. The coarseness in the Americas is on the rise for the last few years. The stressed social fabric of current times is due to jingoistic social media and political atmosphere both in India and the USA.

Galloping technology is supposed to bring ease of living, but it also brings in a big gap in rich and poor! Besides the usual reasons for a socially tense atmosphere, this divide of haves and have nots is going to add to the stress — all the more reason why Bappa’s Constitution will make more sense.

Let us all pray to him in any language (he will understand) to bring naivety back to our society. Pray to Him to teach us to improve ourselves so we can remove disparity, hate and barriers!

Rhea, to me Bappa’s rules are always good!

Birds and the bees!

In the politically correct language when parents are supposed to talk to their children about sex education, the term “birds and the bees” is used. That reminds me of a joke. A Lord from London goes to Paris with his son for a week. The son has turned 18. After coming back, her ladyship is after the lord to teach their son about the Birds and Bees. Reluctantly he calls his son to his library. He says, “Son, we went to Paris to the night club. We had some drinks and later on met some beautiful ladies. Ahm! Next day, we had breakfast with them and later on went for a swim with them.” The son is confused and said, “Dad, what are you trying to tell me?”. The Lordship says, “That is what the birds and bees do!”

Human has many common traits with other living things. All are born and die. They procreate, eat food, travel, some species migrate. The main difference in humans and others is the development of brain and thumb on the hand. These two make humans different and superior to most species. Species coming closest to humans are monkeys. Humans are supposed to be enhanced version of monkeys.

I was thinking about how advanced we humans are but some things we do, always put me off! Why does the “advanced” brain work awkwardly and nastily these days? Humans tend to look down upon those with “lesser” brains! My favourite activity in the day is to watch birds keeping themselves busy. How do they know where to fly for their food and water? Which GPS are they using to travel back and forth to their destinations every day? Which alarm clock are they using to wake up every day on time? How do they understand the Sun’s movements? How do they understand Equinox and Solstice? Do the non-migratory birds change their daily travel times in line with the Sun’s moves?  How do the migratory birds have advanced GPS to travel thousands of miles, back and forth every year? They also understand Equinox and Solstice. Are they with “lesser” brain?

We can learn many things from other species. With our brains, we should be selective and pick-up good stuff from them. Take for example the Cat. It always tries to cover its poo with something. Some unfortunate humans don’t have access to toilets but they never even try to hide their poo after they are done. The other day I was watching some pigeons. In the next condo, there was an overflow of water on the terrace. The pigeons were making use of the water pool that had formed, to take their bath. But they made sure that water did not splash anywhere. They were doing it in an orderly manner. Pigeons don’t get such poodles every day. Look at the frenzy we have on common water taps. People have been murdered over the fight for the right to collect water on public taps.

I am sure the other species have their fights. There are altercations in humans too! But we humans sometimes cross the limits. I go with my daughter Priya to drop Rhea for school. With Sun’s direction change, the Sun rays on that spot where we wait were very bright. So, we stood inside an apartment complex, a few feet inside their area for shed. A man came, he was a resident there. He started speaking nastily about our entering their premises without permission etc. Priya and Rhea immediately started walking out. On the way out, I said, “Sir, we were standing only to avoid the bright Sun, for the child”! Something clicked in him. He started a tirade which took a nasty direction. It was a monologue which ended with a statement that we were trespassing. I said, “Sir, why don’t you call the Police and register a complaint!” The bus came, and we left that area. Friends, you will be shocked when you know the words he used! I have only written politically correct words.

I am sure the other species have their unwritten rules, which they understand. We see some battles and fights among them about the ownership of the territory. But we brainy humans have made better and or more sensible rules to create better habitat. We have an elementary practice of giving the right of way to the pedestrians, to cross on the zebra crossings. Near our home, we have a zebra crossing, freshly repainted. I was crossing the road, and a motorcycle guy came at a speed. I was indicating to him to slow down. But he shouted at me and said, “Don’t you see I am going at speed, you xxx!” He zipped in front of me.

I have seen the cats feeding the kittens, the birds giving food to their babies! Do they check WhatsApp while feeding them? Are they sometimes late because they have attended kitty parties? Do parents not have time to take their kids to doctors because “Oh! They are in IT!”

I am sure there are some extraordinarily capable and as well as dull species like we have in humans. But to my knowledge, they never fail to do their basic things. The nests they build, the colonies they create, the hives they construct are the classic examples of the essential work done by species. You will never see a bee without a hive, or an ant without the hill unless of course damaged by us smart humans. Why don’t we follow our primary responsibilities? Why do we create a situation where a large group of humans will be homeless? Another large group will be forced to live in poverty? Is it because a small group of people own substantial assets?

Keeping track of our health is in our hands. But we flog our bodies so much that we fall sick. Getting sufficient sleep is one the primary requirement. But we humans are experts in getting less sleep. Only rarely this sleep deficit can be work-related, but mostly it is fun related like partying and drinking. I will share with you how Polar Bears stick with nature’s requirements. Due to extreme cold, they are required to go into hibernation. Scientists have done studies about the sleeping habits of the bears. They found out a fascinating phenomenon. The polar bears in an area go into hibernation precisely at the same time, though they may be dispersed over an area! Going into hibernation at the precisely same time is impressive. Lights out in the army barracks?

The human race has progressed a lot compared to other species. But with these developments, we do some things that cross the limits of wasting time! Syncing with nature and enjoying the fruits of development and research can go hand in hand, provided we want to do it. Let’s be humane and not only humans!

In future, I am sure that whenever the Lordship tells his son about the birds and the bees, he will also say how the other species rest well, how they take care of their young ones, how they do not flog their body to enjoy vices. He will also suggest to his son to be in sync with nature!

Happy Republic Day!

Ram Mohan fun days in ’60 s! -Part 1

 

Folks  this was our prayer or our प्रार्थना in Ram Mohan School!

This week appears to be one full of nostalgia. At the beginning of the week, my school friend Pradeep Gavankar was in India; we met in Thane over lunch with friends. Later my brother Shrikant (1959 batch) came and stayed with me. Both live in the US, and both were in Ram Mohan school in Girgaum, Bombay. Naturally, we remembered and chatted about friends and the school. I am into a long nostalgic trip, and I thought the only way to try and come out of the trip is to write a few things in the form of a blog. So here goes.

I joined Ram Mohan in the 7th grade and passed my SSC exam in 1965. It was sheer fun all through. First and foremost, I was not a “scholar” and was considered one of the naughtier students. Most teachers were ok with the naughtiness. When I overdid it, it was gifted a slap on the hand or standing outside the classroom! After joining the school my first friend was Abhay Kelkar, he was very similar to me in most things. We had a great time all through those years. In a few days after joining the school, I had a reunion with Pradeep Gavankar who traveled with me on the same bus. There were rarely any school buses in those days; I would catch a bus at 6.15 in the morning.

Our judgment about teachers was restricted to understanding if they were interested in us; yes they were all interested. We were too young to understand as they were all excellent humans and humane to the core. But we rarely found any teachers who showed their human traits while dealing with us. The whole world was so bright, so shiny for us that we never realized that teachers could have had their problems in life. For us, nobody had any issues in this world.

Among the teachers, we had Kuwadekar sir, who had a great smile and would wear coats made of Sharkskin fabric. Then we had Ashok Karhade sir; he was very young and pleasant. He died at a young age, a few years later. We had Vaidya teacher, she was always smartly dressed, and she had different wristwatches of various shapes. That was a real novelty in those days. I forgot to mention. We used to call male teachers as “Sir” and lady teachers as “Teacher”!

I have seen the world, and I am now nearing 70. I can proudly say that we were lucky to have some outstanding teachers in the school! Mayekar sir for English, Joshi sir for Sanskrit and Kundaikar sir for Maths are some of the names that come to the fore. Pandit sir for Hindi was equally good. In those days, we did not understand much, but now I know the dedication these teachers showed.

I have some different memories of the Ram Mohan. Apte sir was my father’s classmate in S P College in Pune. When we went for a trip to Matheran while in SSC, he told me the story of how he remained thin due to some ragging during his college days. Wadke teacher never taught me as I came in Ram Mohan in the 7th grade. But I somehow had a special affinity for her as she was involved in sports activities on the grounds on Marine Drive. Her daughter Mangal was my classmate, but I remained in sporadic communication with her. More than ten years back she came and stayed with me in Pune, for a couple of days.

Another exciting memory that I have is an incident. On the last day of a month, one of the teachers could not take a class due to ill health. We made a lot of दंगा (noise). Kukalkar teacher was passing by, and she came to the class. She punished us by making us wait for the full timing of the school. On the last day of the month (it is called महिना अख़ेर in Marathi) we used to have half day school. After about 30 minutes I told all that I will manage to get us free. I went to the teacher and said, “ Teacher, we don’t have tiffin as the school timing was half day! We are hungry. Please let us go.” Kukalkar teacher was a very kind person. As I broke the rule by leaving the class, she punished me with two slaps on my hand. Then she said with false anger, “Ok! You all now go home!”

Looking back, the teachers had a lot of work besides teaching. There was administrative work about the students. Managing teacher training courses, checking notebooks for homework. Setting and correcting papers for four examinations held during the year. They used to help and guide students in elocution competitions, dramatics, annual gathering, sports. Ram Mohan did not have own ground, so we were taken to Wilson high school ground, a mile away from school! There we would perform marching practice. Marching practice was the responsibility of the PT teachers. That reminds me of Malekar sir! Outwardly he looked very tough, but if students had some personal issue, he would guide them with love. I met him once after passing out, and he was very  soft with me! He reminded how I used to be naughty during PT period too!

From the friends, I remember Prakash Naik distinctly. He used to play cricket for school. Later on, he played for Bombay University along with Sunil Gavaskar. He was very agile on his feet and a great prankster. He used to make paper arrows in class and had a good aim. Once a while, he would fit a pin the front! This made the arrow a lethal weapon. Another thing is that he would always be having bandages somewhere on the body. I remember one incident specifically. He had a fight with someone. Prakash was chased for two stories and was cornered in one of the classrooms. This happened during snack break. We thought that finally Prakash was caught by someone. You will not believe what happened next. Prakash simply ran towards a window, slipped out of it, he grabbed the rain pipe and slid back to the ground floor! All of us were aghast!

I remember that I used to remain away from essay writing competitions, elocution competitions. But later in my life, I had created a lot of documents. I conducted meetings and had to speak and explain various subjects regularly. When I picked up these skills, I am not sure. I find that blogging and essay writing are quite similar. But I remember one thing; even the school I was a good storyteller!

I can go on and on and on. I will share a great surprise I had in school. One of the teachers thought I was good enough to sing सुसंगती सदा…

Maybe that was the only way to keep me away from mischief!

भातुकलीचा खेळ-Winding down!

भातुकलीच्या खेळामधले राजा आणिक राणी is a lovely song sung by veteran Marathi singer Arun Date, who died last year. भातुकलीचा खेळ is the game kids play with toy kitchen set. Children play with this set in the childhood and are the favourite game of the girls. I have the pleasure of playing the game currently with my granddaughter. There is so much fun. The girls exactly follow what their mothers do. Mothers be careful, your babies are watching you. I won’t be surprised if I am told to look after the baby while their “Mumma” checks her WhatsApp messages. My granddaughter Rhea plays different roles, sometimes she is cooking and sometimes she is making tea for the guests. Sometimes Rhea goes out to the clinic while I look after her baby. After “coming home” she checks if the baby had eaten well and slept well. How realistically they play such games.

Sometimes her play acting is over in ten minutes, and at other times she is done in thirty minutes. The minute the game is over, her mind switches over completely, 100%. If I ask her something about her previous playacting, she says, “Now don’t ask. I am painting”. How quickly the children can switch over. To me, this is an art. Are we adults able to make this switch so quickly? Can we entirely withdraw from what our children and grandchildren are doing? Do we stop playing भातुकली? Are we ready to retire 100%? No, we are not able to do so!

Rhea never takes any help from me. She is very clear about what she wants to on that day. Sometimes Rhea has two kids, and sometimes one. She does not like interference from me. I have to sit there and play act as per her wishes. While setting up her भातुकली, she sometimes makes errors, sometimes she can set up things the way she likes. But she does not allow me to interfere.

Are you getting what I am saying? Our children grow up, start working get married and start leading their own lives. They may or may not seek your advice. But are we able to handle this and remain away from suggesting a few things to them? My son got married before both of them were 25 years of age. We had sent them a formal email, even in those days. We said in the mail, “Now that both of you have crossed the age of 25, we feel that you have matured well. In future, we will not give you any unsolicited advice. Now that you are gaining your world view, we may seek some suggestions from you, if it is ok with you!” In this way, we expressed that our भातुकली was over as far as they were concerned. We have continued to follow the method we had suggested, and I feel that it is a great success.

Each person or a couple gets their own experience in life, once they start their life. I had mentioned in one of my blogs about concentric circle theory about our lives.

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

We begin in a circle with our parents. Once we marry, our parents go in the outer circle. If and when children are born they come in our inner circle. Children create their circle when they marry, and we go in the outer circle. So life goes on! Shifting to outer circle is a changing point in our lives, that is when our भातुकली should taper off and over as early as possible. We should create our new circles and life will go on!

Each generation has their way of living life. No two generations live the same experience. How many of us can switch our thoughts 100% to the modern times? If we can’t do it then is it not our way of thinking that we are carrying forward as baggage? How does this baggage help us? If we do not interfere in our children’s affairs, the worst thing that can happen is they might get a setback, but they will learn from mistakes. We also had our setbacks when we were young. The current young generation is a bit lucky that some of us were in similar fields as them, during our working days. We never had that advantage.

At some stage, we need to a take a call about the storage of unused but perfectly usable stuff that we have at home. Give things away to whoever wants, your children or maybe some needy people. I am sure your cellar is full of them. Let the needy enjoy things. Your children may want them for emotional reasons. In many homes, children live in distant countries and have spent half their life abroad. What relevance will an old study table have to them? Do they need your भातुकली? Do they have a connection to even modern homes or cars we may have?

While writing this blog, I thought about Wordsworth’s poem “My heart leaps up when I see the rainbow in the sky” has a line, “The child is the father of the man”! One of the meanings of this line is

  • The exact nature of a person doesn’t change with time or age.
  • The conduct of a child indicates what he will become when he grows up.

These two meanings of the line are clear but why is the human not able to withdraw from his भातुकली as he grows older. Girls do it beautifully while play acting. Does it mean that Wordsworth misjudged human nature? I am sure that Wordsworth must have suggested this to be a general statement, but a substantial percentage of people are not able to practice what they did so well in the childhood!

I feel that it makes sense to be practical about our life. After a certain age, when HIS call will come for us to shut our भातुकली, we do not know! Why not make it easy for others by winding down in time?

Death Rituals Revisited!

Hinduism and for that matter, the human race has been full of rituals. But the event of death is handled by humanity in many ways. Birth and death are two things common to humankind, irrespective of caste, creed and religion. We are following same rituals which have started thousands of years back. The birth rituals do not seem to be elaborate compared to death rituals. Why is it so? Even with modern scientific knowledge, we only know about the science part of the death process. But we do not understand the moral component, the dilemma of handling the death of loved ones. What happens after death? Is death good, bad or evil?  

One thing is for sure; death is an irreversible event that we cannot change, we cannot get the dead person back among us. Humans have different views about what happens after death. There are various stages in the rituals followed. Rituals probably start with the actual passing of a person. In modern times, some people donate their whole body to research. Some offer their organs which can be used by the needy. I am not sure what rituals take place when the entire human body is donated. But when the person gives away organs like the eyes, the medical procedure gets precedence over the rituals. Another change that I have seen in recent times is that we perform some rituals at home. So when we take the body to the cremation ground, no pooja is performed. We put the body directly for the cremation.  

Some Hindu organisations have modified the rituals to suit the modern times. These organisations want the family to understand what the procedures are. The priests explain these procedures to the family and the near ones. But all these rituals are not so elaborate compared to what we follow in old rituals.  

From olden times the 13th day after death has been crucial for Hindus. This day marks the end of the mourning period. The ceremonial feast marks the end of the mourning period by inviting family and close ones. This meal is an excellent way of trying to come back to normal after a death. After lunch, the guests are expected to give a small gift to the hosts — good idea of continuing with normal life.  

The younger generation does not prefer even this semi-modern ritual. This generation feels that this method is not ok. I discussed this with a young couple, who thought that all this was unnecessary. The couple had attended one such ceremony. The priest chanted the shlokas, the mantras, the hymns in Sanskrit, translated it in Marathi during the explanation where necessary. More than 50% of people present were not involved in the proceedings. The venue selection also added to non-involvement, as the peaceful atmosphere was absent.  

I always have questions in mind about all these rituals. I tend towards being an atheist, but I respect other people’s views too! There is no doubt that death is a sad event or I can say that it is not a happy event. But should the passing away be treated as something evil? When death occurs at a young age (There can be a difference of opinion about the word young), or I can say out of turn death, there is a shock, awe at the event! It becomes tough for all to accept such deaths. Under these circumstances coming back to normalcy can be tough but as usual, there is no option! Such deaths are painful to take. Others will find it difficult to tell the family of the dead person to overcome their sorrows; others will accept them for trying to find solace in some rituals. Ultimately everybody concedes such deaths as destiny. 

But when death occurs at an acceptable age, (Ok, Ok what is acceptable?) situations should be handled differently. Current average age at the time of death in India is around 67; with this reference, if the death occurs past 80, that should be acceptable. Everybody is going to die at some stage. So if death happens while the person is not bed-ridden, or if the person has had no long, painful years of illness, death should be celebrated! In certain parts of England, death beyond 80 years under the circumstances mentioned above, is observed formally as an event for celebration. It is called Golden Death party. 

I am not talking about aping the west, but why not celebrate such deaths?  Writer and Editor Dilip Padgaonkar’s family threw a party to family and friends, after his death, as per wishes of Dilip. In the party, food and alcohol loved by Dilip were flowing. Changes are happening in society, but they are very slow. The number of people taking part in such changes is minuscule, considering our population.   

From my discussions with people, and what I read, the traditional rituals are performed because, well they are being conducted all these years. The old methods of rituals need three to four days to be completed. In olden days, everybody had enough time. Going to work or office did not consume much time. Hence the rituals were elaborate and time-consuming.

In most cases, people performed rituals out of fear. Society looked at death as evil, an impure happening. If a cause of death was a contagious disease then considering death as polluted was understandable, though the description is incorrect. Hygiene standards in olden days were poor; these poor standards were the cause of contagious diseases. People performed many purification rituals (even today these are followed). I remember the death of a 74-year-old person who died a natural death. He was a non-believer. His family cremated him as per his wishes; cremation did not involve religious stuff. Nobody expected major rituals on the 13th day. When we got an invite to the 13th-day event, we had a surprise in store. They have two homes, one his bungalow and other his family home. The family performed the same ritual called “Shant”, twice. One at each house. When we checked the reason for the change, they performed the rituals because marriage was supposed to take place in the family at a later date. The evil in the form of death had visited their home; hence the residences were “purified”. Are we in the 18th Century? The family is supposedly highly educated.  

In today’s newspaper, I read a piece of exciting news. I am always excited when humans go away from rituals in which they don’t believe. A couple did a very noble deed. The husband lost his father due to old age. The couple calculated the cost of all the rituals. They arrived at a figure of Rs fifty thousand. They donated a much-needed hot water solar system to a residential school. Kudos Sir! The couple is from a small town, and we cannot describe them as a modern couple. Such people are showing the way to society. 

Friends, don’t become only outwardly modern. Change internally, follow your instincts. Look at the whole thing from wastage point of view. In various rituals Hindus perform यज्ञ; they sacrifice multiple items to the fire God. Every year millions die. We sacrifice many things like Ghee, Oil. These things are a total waste. We have a lot of people who do not get sufficient food regularly. People should donate the wasted food to the needy. Is the wastage of such priceless resources done because of fear? Is it justified?