Tango- the Elections!

My friends Nandu suggested I share my views about the Indian elections with others. I am allergic to politics, though I have voted in every election since I became eligible to vote. Maybe I am allergic to politicians! I don’t know; I am confused. Democracy is a necessity of our lives like Roti, Kapda and Makan (Now the latest additions to the need are cell phone and internet!), i.e. Food, Clothing and Home! (For my non-Indian friends!)

Why did I give the title, Tango – the Elections! Meaning of Tango is a ballroom dance originating in Buenos Aires, characterised by marked rhythms and postures and abrupt pauses. In a democracy we expect the ruling and opposition parties to perform the Tango, sharing their views of how to run the country; but our politicians have gone for the last part of the definition, “abrupt pauses”. They take abrupt pauses, change directions, from gentlemanly behaviour switch to use of nonsensical use of language. The attacks this time have become personal, and it appears that there is no end to it! Bad words are used against very senior leaders, Chief Ministers and Prime Ministers. What direction are we taking? There was a verbal diatribe on a lady candidate, below the belt, literally! No pun intended!

When I was in school, India had become independent, and people were thrilled to be allowed to vote. Democracy continues very successfully. (Except for a hitch in 1975) India has adopted electronic voting ahead of all the countries in a big way. We don’t use ballot papers.

I read a story told by Chidanand Rajghatta, TOI US correspondent. He was called in a University to speak about modern election systems in India. At the end of his speech, he was asked to advise the Americans. He said (tongue in cheek), “Outsource elections to India”! There were huge claps all around!

The voting method is where all confusion starts. When parties win elections using the current process, they are ok with the technique. But when they lose the elections, the same method is declared as the vilest system. It gets challenged in the Supreme Court- they have promptly thrown out the petition. Parties catch hold of some engineers who are supporters of that party. These engineers make a big drama of how hacking is simple etc. To overcome such issues, sometime back Election Commission declared a date on which all the parties could come together and prove to EC, how hacking could be done. Not even one political party registered for the event. We make millions of financial, purchasing transactions electronically. Passport system in India is entirely electronic. In India, Visa on arrival is given electronically. But our politicians periodically challenge the electronic process, as an election stunt!

Another issue that is seen this time is the defection from parties. It is on the rise and shows that people are only interested in standing for elections and not working for the party. The usual sprinkling of cine stars is there, and a retired cricketer has also joined the fray.

Another significant change, to worse, is attacking the independent institutions. Decisions given by Election Commission received comments that it is working for the ruling party. Similarly, Supreme Court judgments were twisted to make claims that suit the arguments of the parties. Supreme Court took these people to the task, is a different issue, but such twisted statements waste the time of the Supreme Court.

One state that has galloped ahead of others in “reforms” is West Bengal. Many summers ago, Gopal Krishna Gokhale had said, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.” Bengal is the land of Rabindra Nath Tagore, Swami Vivekanand,  Netaji Subhashchandra Bose; it is the Bhadralok (prosperous and educated people), Calcutta was India’s capital at the time of British in the initial phase. All industries started in Bengal first.

https://indiatoday.app.link/ylVjmRhPKW

The article in India Today tells us about the anarchy in Bengal. It is titled, “How to rig elections, Bengal style”! I will not go into details as the report covers what is happening today in Bengal during this election. It will suffice to say that the Election Commission acted “Suo Moto” or on its own and disallowed election campaign meetings on a day before the last day, to prevent further anarchy. The indication of such a situation was seen for many years. During the change of government last time, there were attacks and murder galore which continued all through. Shifting of Tata Nano factory to Gujarat was the clearcut signal to the powers that be! But they were too busy appeasing their electorate, and god knows who! I hope India does not start thinking like Bengal, in future!

Another first in this election is that none of the experts can predict anything. No waves are seen, no indication is seen from any patterns in voting. The voter is the ultimate God, who does not talk to anyone. As usual, the caste, religion equations are being discussed, but nobody can come to any conclusion. Most crucial conclusion every expert is saying is that an unstable government will bring chaos to India, but it appears that the opposition may not be able to form a stable government.

In large cities like Pune and Bangalore, voting % seems much lower than most other places. These two cities are cosmopolitan, and the migratory population is very high because of the easy availability of work. The community is young, and for both towns, the voting day created a long weekend. People went away on holiday. Plus transient nature did not allow people to change their voting location from their original city to the adopted city. Times of India has started a new slogan, “Let your vote travel with you”! In days of internet and computers, people should be able “to carry their vote” with them to where they are staying. Technologically it is possible, but the Election Commission needs to change its laws and people should be educated to change their thinking. This change can be connected to something straightforward and doable. For example, if you file your IT reruns from a city A, this can be shared with the Election Commission to change your place of voting. It is just a way it can be done, but it is doable.

What can be done about the criminal records of candidates? Our laws need to tighten further. Another observation is that many candidates become very rich in between two elections. Most of these people never go to the office like you and me; they are not known to have businesses, but where does the wealth come from?

I have discussed mainly systems in Indian elections. One more thing that needs to be tackled is why not hold national as well as state elections at the same time. It will save a lot of costs. Last national election cost Rs.3800/ crores i.e. US $ 0.5/ billion, in 2014! We can assume a 20% increase in five years. If both elections are held together, there will be substantial cost savings. But somehow many political parties are against this. Probably this the cost of democracy!

All said and done, warts and all, we all should be proud of the democratic process India is following. Voting this time is done in seven rounds; these many rounds are needed to manage logistics! After all, we have states like Bengal leading the nation!

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Election musings!

Dance of democracy is on, and words after words are written, spoken, shouted on TV. People are feeling happy about the largest democracy going through its rights, luckily now every five years! All this is bliss, what more do you want in life.  People are seen debating on TV to enlighten people of what, I am not sure; in the slanging matches you can’t understand what is being said. In public meetings the leaders, the candidates are offering schemes and money. It appears that even funds available with the World Bank may not be able to provide cash to fulfil promises given to people. A billion here and a billion there does it make any difference to the speakers? But one thing is for sure, despite the politicians the nation’s do progress, things change and improve, albeit slowly. Indian growth in the last twenty years has been phenomenal.

What are the feelings in the minds of the people? For those directly involved in politics are excited and are looking forward to winning the election. Why is the win so important? It is the ticket to wealth. Barring a minuscule % of candidates, most are millionaires and billionaires. During the five years after the previous election, the wealth of many of these candidates has galloped. They never seem to work the way all of us work on a day to day basis. The assets jump beyond imagination, but it appears that all are hand in glove; no politician is ever troubled by Income Tax people.

Percentage of people voting does not change much except in a few constituencies. Why does this happen? There are so-called middle class and higher middle-class people who are too busy to vote, and there are people too poor to have time think about elections.

People, in general, look at democracy and the process of justice as if it is a wild animal; they look at it as a mirror where they want to see the reflection of their own eyes, nose and teeth. The picture is not very pretty. Probably it brings a thought in their mind that there is no alternative to the situation and they accept that they get the candidate they deserve. The feeling of desolation comes to their mind after realising that things may never change. Optimism is good, but after seven decades of Indian democracy, it is observed that things are going from bad to worse. The ugly words are used to describe opponents, calling the head of state a thief, calling a senior leader and his family as a family of marauders. My knowledge tells me that Loksabha and Rajya Sabha are the highest bodies in India. The speeches made there and allegations thrown at each other cannot be taken to the court of law. But the statements made in public are equally terrible, but the action taken by election commission is to debar these people from making speeches for a few days during the election rallies!

People go to the voting centre with a frame of mind as they go to any government office; with half the expectation that their name may not be there in the official list. They are in the least bothered if voting is done electronically or using ballot paper. On the voting day, the voter gets up tying his shoelace and hopes that his vote will improve pollution in the city. Though the initial thought that comes to his mind is, from where will he get his next meal? The ideas in the minds of the candidates are when will they be able to get a BMW or a Mercedes after this election. The candidate does not have to worry about improving the condition of the poor; their party has already declared that they will give a dole of a few thousand Rupees in the bank account of the poor. It is a collective responsibility which is conveniently considered as nobody’s responsibility.

Why is this apathy shown? Why the numbers of people voting not to go up? The first significant reason could be errors in creating voter lists. Over a period, the errors have come down, but still, that apprehension of missing names does not go away. Jaya and I have been lucky that we have taken part in each election. In the last election, my name could not be located for a long time when I went to vote. Since we have the same home address and have always been listed together, how could my name got transferred to some other list is still a mystery to me? This time also our names have been found in the list when I did online checking. What can happen at the booth is another story.  Please read my blog on the similar subject written sometime back.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/my-voting-rights-were-on-hold-almost/

The second reason is that now a lot of people migrate within India. A person moving from Ahmednagar to Bhatinda does not know anything about local politics and candidates. Such people sometimes do not register themselves in the new place and don’t vote. In the days of the internet, a system can be created where people can have the option to vote at their original location. There will have to be checks and balances. But it is doable. A person’s vote should be able to travel along with the person.

This apathy of not taking part in the democratic process can lead to Brexit like situation. When the referendum was held in Britain, the young people stayed away from voting as they did not realise the meaning of the vote. When Britain voted to come out of the European Union, the young people and not so young people realised the folly of moving out of the EU. Being in the EU means to travel without a visa. There is easy access to around 25 countries in Europe for work and leisure. During our holiday travel to Europe a couple of years back, we have observed the ease with which travel is done. By stopping and checking at borders a tremendous amount of time is wasted. For those who are travelling for work, it is the waste of productive time. But now both Britain and the EU are in great turmoil as the majority in Britain want to remain within the EU. But it is not easy as there are laws and rules in an international relationship where it can not be based on whims.

There are liberals, prestitutes, bhakts. Liberals generally discuss the democracy with a glass of Chivas Regal. I am not sure if they are worried about the conditions of the downtrodden. But they support Naxalites movements and are generally anti-government. When the party in government lose an election, then they become partners with liberals. Prestitutes are “Intellectuals” and sometimes appear as if they are paid by someone to air their views. Somehow, they are anti-common view and anti-majority. There are bhakts present in every party who religiously follow whatever their  “God” will say. All these make for small but loud numbers; substantial numbers go by issues on hand, economy, development, international relations et al. But finally, it comes to a vast number of people who are swayed by money paid against each vote, as their primary need is to come out from jhuggi to at least a brick house. They don’t want the struggle of day to day living problems like power, food, water and sanitation. These are things which you and I take for granted. But will these people go and vote in large numbers if their problems are resolved? Maybe not, they will then treat the election day as a holiday like many people do and start enjoying a free holiday.

Three cheers for democracy!

Please listen to me!

 

arguments4Argumentative Indian is a book by Nobel Prize-winning author, Amartya Sen.

The Argumentative Indian has brought together a selection of writings from Sen that outline the need to understand contemporary India in the light of its long argumentative tradition. The understanding and use of this argumentative tradition are critically important, Sen argues, for the success of India’s democracy, the defence of its secular politics, the removal of inequalities related to class, caste, gender and community, and the pursuit of sub-continental peace.

So far so good. But do we deserve to be allowed to argue? I have observed that in the public domain sometimes discussions are done for the sake of discussion. The level of such talks has reached the nadir; speakers have literally reached below the belt, pun intended. A male candidate talking about a female opposition member has made a statement, “I never knew that she was wearing a khaki chaddi (underwear) all these days.” Can one make an argument worse than this one?  Unfortunately, such statements are appreciated by their followers; nobody questioned the candidate while he spoke such vile words.

I am all for freedom of speech, but I would never like to live in an emergency like situation, nor would I like to live under a Hitler or a Mussolini. Everybody loves to argue, but it appears that the art of argument is lost at the altar of the new God, social media. The problem is that even in the public domain, the arguments done in Loksabha or Rajyasabha are more about personal attacks on each other from the ruling as well as opposition parties. Logical speeches are a rarity these days.

Another observation is that social media has created world-class commentators, in thousands. Everybody comments on politics, Indian cricket team selection, whether Priyanka Chopda is pregnant or not! Not only that but there are big fights shown on TV under the names like “Big Fight”, and the same gets reflected on WA groups. On Facebook, people write essays about how Modi is wrong or how Rahul Gandhi does not know anything. It is possible that the writer in every person is waking up, thanks to cell phone and easy to use keyboards in all languages.

About political arguments, the older you become rigid are your views. So on WA groups fighting tooth and nail about your point of view does not make sense. I have known of a few cases where childhood relationships became tense because of such arguments. Another important aspect we forget is that it is not worth fighting on issues on which we have no control. People take Alcohol; some like whisky and some like to drink wine. Some are fond of Beer, and some are Vodka fans. Of course, there are some teetotallers. Is it right that teetotaller calls others drunkards? Can teetotallers be called conservatives? Each person has his/her own way of living life; we should respect the views.

I recently read a poem धूप में घोडे पर बहस (Arguments about a Horse) by Kedarnath Singh. It is fascinating to understand how the poet has looked at the word बहस (argument or discussion).

Three friends were sitting in the Sun (must be winter time) discussing a horse. The first one said that the horse is lovely and the second friend added that the horse is sturdy! The third one said that if the horse is so sturdy then we should not even discuss it. The first friend shouted, “What do you mean we can’t discuss”? The second one said, “Of course, we can discuss.” The third friend looked pleased as he blew the cigarette smoke and said, “But where is the horse?” First one said, “So what if the horse is not there, we can always discuss about him.” The second one said, “I have never seen a horse in ages.” The third one said, “The population of horses is reducing fast”. The second one said, “Why is the population reducing?” The first one said, “That is because horses are being sold.” Now it is immaterial which friend said what. Just enjoy the arguments. “Who buys so many horses?” “We can get this number from somewhere!” “Why, why we can not get the numbers?” Then the first one whispered, “God knows what these numbers will reveal?” Finally, the third one shouted as if coming out of a trance, “Friends, one day we will know the correct numbers and the real story will come out.” After this statement, there was pin-drop silence for a long time. How did Kedarnath know that this will be the future quality level of arguments?

Inferior is the quality of arguments that we have on TV channels and social media. Subjects may be essential for discussion, but the treatment and direction given to subjects are abysmal, sometimes the arguments are nasty. The title of the blog “Please listen to me” is ironical. The word please is never used in discussions these days. In public domain people do and say anything to earn some brownie points.

What is an argument? There are many definitions of arguments, but I have chosen a couple of them.

  • a reason given for or against a matter under discussion
  • an angry quarrel or disagreement

The argument is a way of life and is used at home, in business, in education, in research besides many other areas. While arguing both sides are expected to be professional and polite, giving respect to each other. In science, the argument is put forth in trying to prove something new which may be compared with an existing method, process or a product. By arguing, different points of view come forward. The idea is to discuss and find the best possible solution or resolution to issue being discussed. But every time it may not be an issue. When two people from opposing political parties argue, they are putting their thoughts in front of us and are trying to prove how their party or candidate is better than the other.

I feel that the maturity, dignity, and style are more important while arguing. Shouting match starts when nobody has a better argument, or it reflects on that person’s culture! The discussion should be talking about the chosen subject matter and  unparliamentary words should never be used.

In a housing society committee except for the head, all were young people. This head used to shout to prove his points. In the first meeting after I joined the committee, this person started shouting to prove his point. I told him to speak normally, but he argued that his voice was loud. I told him “Sir, learn to speak softly and then speak, otherwise you need not to speak.” After this incident, he never shouted again.

arguments1

Now regarding the arguments/ shouting match on social media, above mentioned rules should be followed more rigidly. The groups that are formed are for a specific reason. The groups can be an alumni group, office groups, ex-office groups, society group, and many more. But all these people come together because of a specific reason. On such groups, one should not make unnecessary political arguments; these are uncalled for and counterproductive. For those who are politically minded, should form a separate group and keep on doing what they feel is right. My observation is that all groups 90 to 95% are not interested in such arguments.

Kedarnath Singhji has found it long back the way people argue. He has explained it in a light-hearted manner. So, let us go by his advice and suggestions, refrain from arguing on social media and if you are in an argument, use the word “Please”! Let me assure you good arguments are fun, and they are enjoyable, if done the right way!

Life’s Priorities!

As said in the English nursery rhyme Soloman Grundy, he was born on Monday and died on a Sunday. The idea of writing this nursery rhyme was to teach the kids to know the days of the week; besides this all the landmark events of our life are mentioned in verse, starting with birth and ending, naturally, with death. In real life, we take this journey in various ways. When we talk about anybody, we talk about where the person lives, what car he uses or what education the person has taken. But during these discussions, we never talk about the non-tangible aspects of human life. We might say he is a right person or a wrong person. (this matters) Again we might say rich or poor, tangible things! Fair or dark are immaterial aspects used to describe a human. Tall or short, fat or thin similarly describe the person but not his persona.

Do all these things matter in life? What does matter in life? It is how we take the journey of life, how we interact with each other matters much, more rather than how long we live. In the end, when our time comes to go, we go empty-handed the same way we have come in this life. Don’t forget that when we are born, every second that we live, is a precious second that we use from our allotted life span. Some make charity and social work as a way of life. To achieve something good in a career is also a way of life. To give back to society should be life’s important goal. To be a good human being one need not be a poor person, one need not refrain from enjoying joys of life.

At the end when our time comes to go, we go empty-handed the same way we have come in this life.

The above line should be the byline of our life! Why is that so? In our life, we are never going to take with us, anything earned by us on the earth. There may be accolades or brickbats. There could be praise or taunts. Under both these circumstances, there is only one thing in common; we have lost some more moments from our precious life. When we know that we must go empty-handed why should we worry? Why should we bother? By worrying about these things, you will lose even more precious moments of life. We will miss out on the beauty of life!

We keep on darning the torn fabric that is our life, but we know that even these are wasted efforts. Life is like a pocket of our clothing, and we try to fill up these pockets with beautiful moments of life. But in spite of our best efforts and trying to darn the pocket, some beautiful moments still slip out of our shallow pocket!

Our life is a battle of aspirations, and we would not accept anything less than what we deserve. Nobody wants to recognise that life is full of enjoyment and sorrow. But we are not prepared to accept the sadness. We forget that these are two sides of the same coin. Take a journey, understanding the others point of view, by trying to communicate with them. People may not respond to your calls, but you will have the satisfaction of trying your best.

We hardly have any control over the events in our life. It is like the fading of colours from a beautiful painting; you may get the feeling as if you are sitting on a twig blown by the wind. But the truth of life is that one’s background is shown by the way you speak and behave; the way one argues shows the level of one’s knowledge. One tries to show attitude by throwing one’s weight around and by being a show-off.

Friends life is like that, it is neither happy with you nor is it unhappy with you, it is just there! How do we reach fulfilment in life? What will make us happy? Money and wealth are vehicles to have a smooth ride of life. It will be a good idea to have sufficient funds to enjoy life, at the same time going only after the money is not going to increase the fulfilment index. You will always be anxious about how you are going to make next Rupee, and you will still be hoping that your next car is going to be a Mercedes. This anxiety and dissatisfaction are going to waste more precious seconds from your life.

Learn to take life in stride; enjoy when it is enjoyable. Feel sad when it is not a happy situation. Being happy is not the only life; being unhappy is also part and parcel of the same. You may not feel either joy or sadness, that too is life. But live life. Not reacting to the situation is a sign of no life! I went to meet a friend who is unwell for some time. He needs physical support all the time besides the mental support. I went to see him; he was lying in bed. After a few minutes, he was not very comfortable in my presence and told me to go and sit in another room. He was angry. His reaction indicated that he was reacting to his ill health. But another friend who had similar health issue behaved differently. I went to see him at the hospital. He was lying in bed. When he was told by a support person to move a bit to adjust the pillow, he did not move. He did not move at all and almost did not react. I felt that he was not angry with his health condition. This non-reaction from him indicated, at least to me, his lack of will in getting well. It appeared as if he had just given up on being alive. He died after four months. The first friend I mentioned is still fighting and trying to improve his health.

Nature brings us in this world, and we go back to nature when our journey is over. The path in between is both beautiful and rough, happy and sad, exciting and boring. All these combinations are part of life. Take it in stride and live with zest. The enthusiasm should not be to become a collector of money, art, properties. Don’t waste time on becoming an accumulator. Don’t lose precious seconds on quarrels and fights. Winning and losing is part of life but don’t lose the will to win; at the same time don’t waste time on brooding if you lose!

When you are born, and when you die, you don’t see these events taking place. But for others around you, these are happy and sad moments of life. You look at each event as a bird’s eye view. Don’t get involved but perform whatever you do with intensity. Learn to look at the same event from a different perspective. A game of tennis is work for a professional player, but for others it is enjoyment. Sex is enjoyment but watching porn is a counterfeit pleasure.

So friends, each of us has his/her way of enjoying; you can’t compare pleasures. There is no equivalence in pleasure; for someone eating strawberries is a pleasure but for others looking at strawberry gardens is a pleasure. Don’t forget that for every pleasure there is a pain, but each pain does not give pleasure! Don’t forget the Bhagwad Gita saying, “Keep on doing your stuff without expecting any returns!

karmanyeVadhi

Mayday! Mayday!

Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency primarily by aviators and mariners, but in some countries, local organisations such as firefighters, police forces, and transportation organisations also use the term. 

 My buddy Nayan shared with me an interesting article! It was under a mundane title “Thought for the day.” The writeup was summarised well in the last sentence! 

“Don’t forget that while you are busy growing up, your parents are growing older!”  

Our biological age increases every second which is known to us. The phenomenon is as natural as a tree grows. The basic fabric of today’s society started to form around ten thousand years back when humans took up farming. Farming meant that you sowed something, which would take a month or two to be ready. So, when you planted, you stayed put at that place. Starting of organised farming was the process of the switchover from a nomadic society to a stable community which is rooted at a site, though this happened slowly. You liked the surroundings; there was a river nearby with plenty of trees! You had your plot for farming and built a shelter. That was home. More people came and stayed put in that area; this was the creation of the village.  

Organised society created stability but took centuries to reach today’s format. With stability, came revolutions of a better kind, Industrial revolutions. This revolution brought scientific thinking and research in society. In the last hundred years, there has been tremendous progress in the medical field, treatment, and healthcare. We are becoming a healthier society. The population has grown in substantial numbers. The phenomenon of “parents also growing” is a recent one from the last 30/40 years, at least in India. This problem has been existing in countries like Japan for a much longer time. 

As usual, I will blame everything to longevity, improved food quantity and quality, better medical facilities (though affordability can be an issue). Are all these changes bane or a boon? Of course, they are a boon! The only point is that we are not used to them. A few years back a Japanese friend requested me to send some chikki for him to Delhi. Chikki is an Indian sweet made of Jaggery and peanuts. My friend wanted to take it to Japan for his mother who was around ninety years of age. In Japan, they used to get similar sweet in olden days when his parents were younger. My friend shared with me that his father was 93 years old and would go and buy grocery a couple of times in a week, travelling in a Metro.  

Coming back to the article Nayan shared with me, in India another significant change is taking place. Along with longevity of parents, the children are travelling to greener pastures in different countries of the world. Some migrate permanently or go on projects for a few years; then get better opportunities and continue staying away from “Home”! Definition of the home has also changed. Children move out of the “Home” many times after 12th grade, so technically they have left home to take up professional courses. Post education, they start their career in India or abroad. At that juncture, the parents may be busy in their jobs and could be in the age group of 50 and 60. Around 50 years back, males died 3 to 4 years after retirement. Now they don’t, which is good news. But this has led to the issues for which Indian society is not mentally prepared. Parents are living much longer than at any time before, and our community is not prepared for it. We do not know how to handle this, and there are no fixed norms. Do old parents live away from their children? Should they live in old people’s homes? The problem becomes even more complicated when one of the spouses dies! Who will look after parents if they become weak and cannot handle their activities? What would be the support system? There is no organised support system, at least in India.  

Elderly1

So, the article suggested and shared a story of using modern technology, not for automation but to remain in touch. A group of very senior citizens created a WA group, and it was mandatory for each member to send Good morning, Good afternoon and Good night message to the group at a particular time, allowing for some deviation. Messages made sure that persons in the group are ok. If a message from someone was not received for a specified time duration, they had formed a system to go and physically check with that person. In the story, somebody did not send a message, and his friends rushed to him and found out that he was unwell. They rushed him to the hospital. Later when the son came, they explained to him that providing for is not the only need of the parents, but they need to interact with someone, meet someone when possible. They asked the son, “When did you last talk to your father?” “See, that’s why we have this group. Otherwise, we people would be talking to walls and windows”, the couple said as they left. This was the whole point.

Nayan and I were room partners in COEP hostel; later during the day our third partner, Sharad sent me a story about a lady from Switzerland. In Switzerland, people get sufficient pension for their retired life. But they have a concept called “Time Bank”. The lady, who had retired and aged 67, was helping some people who were 80 plus. When she retired, she took up an assignment of supporting these old people. She does not charge any money. Whatever time she puts in is added to her “Time” account. This “Time” can be withdrawn when she will need support in her older days. There will be someone to support her who will put in “Time” which will get added to the next person’s account and the cycle will go on. What a fantastic way of supporting older adults in need of support.  

It struck me with an idea of combining two different stories which are two very similar thought processes. Today our group of college friends are of the age around 70, but at some stage, some help will be needed, so here is what we can do. These are preliminary thoughts but can be converted into a full-fledged system. 

  1. Create a WhatsApp group- use it for daily tracking as mentioned above 
  2. There are some apps available to track the user’s location all the time, and certain people like his family and a few close friends can know where the person is located. (Ok, those who are going meet the girlfriends will also be tracked!)  
  3. I don’t know how far this is practical, but one must have a landline at home. Sometimes the mobile phone doesn’t connect!  
  4. Include likeminded younger people who have just retired. They will be volunteers who can physically take up support responsibilities. 
  5. Subgroups can be formed based on the locations. But the basic system alerts could be used by all.  
  6. There can be a team of volunteers of much younger people who are willing to take up a social cause. They can take it up as once in a month activity. The volunteers can 
    1. Take the elderly to shops, banks or small purchases 
    2. Take them to movies, dramas 
    3. Arrange community get-together for the elderly 
    4. Help them go to local offices 
    5. Train them with the usage of new gadgets and technologies 
    6. Play games or solve puzzles with them- find your way of spending time with them.  
  7. I read one interesting but touching story of an old woman whom a volunteer would meet once in a month. They got very close to each other. One day she said that she wanted a promise from him. He was surprised as she had never demanded anything from him before. He said, “Ok, tell me.” She said, “Will you promise me that you will shade some tears when I die?” 
  8. Give them love and affection.  

Your question is right why the title is Mayday! Mayday! It is not an emergency situation, yet. The situation I have described above is the real-life situation, and it needs to be treated with the same priority we give to the distress signal. Else? I don’t know.  

Looks like destiny is going to bring Sharad, Nayan and me back together though Nayan is in California and we are in Mumbai-Pune area.  

Friends, you will hear much more from me on this subject, in future. 

Elderly2

 

 

Pulwama-War or Peace?

War1

                 जंग तो खुद ही एक मसला है, जंग क्‍या मसअलोंका हल देगी? 

                 आग और खून आज बक्‍शेगी, भूक और एहतीयाज कल देगी। 

                        इसलिए ऐ शरीफ इन्सानों, जंग टलती रहे तो बेहतर है। 

                  आप और हम सभी के आंगन में, शमा जलती रहे तो बेहतर है।

These are the lyrics of a poem by Sahir Ludhiyanvi, the famous poet and lyricist. These lines aptly fit the stand-off between India and Pakistan after the Pulwama incident. Pakistan has been following the policy of thousand small cuts against India and has succeeded. In between these small terrorist attacks, they have made significant attacks like Pathankot in 2016 and the recent one at Pulwama. With the latest attack, the whole Indian nation came together, and the atmosphere in India became very tense. Some print media newspapers, web newspapers and TV stations started making jingoistic statements. The frenzy led to people making statements like, “Let’s teach the enemy a lesson!” It is easy to get swerved, but the Indian government remained steadfast in their stand and said that they were studying the matter and would take appropriate action at the right time.

The poem brings reason to our thinking in such tough situations. The gist of the poem is in the first line. “When the war itself is an issue, how can we use war to resolve other issues.” Hence, the poet says, gentlemen try and avoid war! It is better if we have the Candles burning in our courtyards! The candles burning signifies peace.  Let us not burn candles for martyrs.

What does war do? In recent times we had one in Kargil and before that 1971 war which gave birth to Bangla Desh. Pakistan had been morally hurt due to the 1971 war where ninety thousand of its soldiers were required to surrender to the Indian army. Unfortunately, none of the Pakistani leaders had the mentality of trying for peace. Bhutto was suave but was a hawk who wanted one thousand years of war with India. Zia Ul Haque was a religious fanatic and gave birth to the thought of troubling India under the garb of religion. Kafirs must be punished was his theory. Musharaff was equally terrible with a hawkish mentality like Bhutto.

Sine the 1971 war, India has always offered to discuss and resolve the issues but Pakistan all the time wanted to take the Kashmir problem on the global forums; India has always said that it is a bilateral problem. Pakistan has all the time had a so-called democracy in which the government was controlled by ISI and the military; successive governments were in denial about the terrorism problem.

Various Indian governments tried peaceful negotiations, including a visit by Modi to wish Nawaz Sharif on his birthday. When Musharraf was the prime minister, cricket match diplomacy was attempted, but results have been continued terrorist attacks. What is the solution to this? War? No way. Jingoistic sabre rattling by social media, TV anchors is not a solution.  They only vitiate already tense atmosphere. The anchors and their brethren have crossed the LOC many times in discussions; they have bombed the bases and won the wars in their dreams. I understand that TV anchors have a job like you and me. But they shout, “We don’t want condemnation, but we want blood, enemy blood!” These folks think that it is like moving around on a film set with a toy gun and kill the enemy, Rambo style! Red paint on the chest and all! It is like playing soldier-soldier! In war, somebody’s brother or father or son dies. We should not forget that it’s a human being like you and me that dies, whether he is Indian or a Pakistani is secondary. Villages and towns on the borders are also damaged, people get killed.

It is excellent for TRP’s with simulated atom bombs blowing the mushroom cloud. But do these anchors know how many people died in the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? It is estimated that approximately One hundred and fifty thousand people died in Hiroshima and about seventy thousand people died in Nagasaki! Are we prepared to take the human losses on this scale? With more powerful bombs and a much larger population than 75 years ago, the number of deaths is unimaginable, if the bombs are dropped today.

The link below is a link for an interview in Indian Express. IE team interviewed Gautam Bambawale who was the High Commissioner of India in Pakistan in 2016/2017 and was in China in 2018, post-Doklam controversy. As per the current practice anchors and politicians may not believe some of the facts shared by Gautam. Style these days is to ask for proof. Gautam, by the way, is a Puneite, and his parents lived in Chaturshringi area.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/one-surgical-or-aerial-strike-may-not-force-pak-to-stop-aiding-terror-but-we-have-raised-the-costs-gautam-bambawale-5618709/

After every incident, there are a lot of discussions in the government agencies, within them and with each other. These discussions are held under the leadership of the head of the government. Armed Forces are consulted for preparedness and options. External affairs ministry starts dialogues with the different international governments to explain India’s thinking and possible action. These friends are requested to support India openly as well as in the bodies like the United Nations. Coordinating with other governments is a real tough and confidential work that takes place in the background. Mr Bambawale has said in the interview that after Pathankot some action was imminent.  (it was known only to a very few people on the need to know basis) The ministry of External affairs had advised him to be prepared to ensure that all embassy staff was safe by locking down in a safe place. Lockdown was essential as the reactions within Pakistan could not be predicted.

Blood for blood is a slogan good for TRP. What terrorists do can never be justified. But in the conventional war, thousands of soldiers from both sides can die! Let us not forget that Pakistanis are also human beings like you and me. Their powerless and hence unreasonable government’s acts, cannot be replied with a full-fledged war. What India did post Pulwama was to show Pakistan that now it means business. It hit the terrorist camps deep inside Pakistan territory! When India made a land-based surgical strike after Pathankot attack, Pakistan went into denial. But this time they tried to react with an air attack, which led to combat and they lost an F 16 fighter, and we lost MIG 21. Indian pilot Abhinandan was captured after he bailed out in Pakistan territory. Under international pressure, Pakistan released him in a couple of days to win a few brownie points.

Mr Bambawale has said in his interview, “With the (surgical strikes) for the first time in 2016, and now again in 2019, what we have indicated is that the people of India have had it up to their necks in suffering from terrorist activities. Also, we have indicated — and the government can take credit for the bold and brave decision — that if Pakistan does not control terrorists, then we will go and strike them inside Pakistan. That is what has changed. A lot of people are describing it as a new template that has been brought to the table. I agree with that assessment. It is no one’s case that one surgical strike, or one aerial strike, would force Pakistan to stop aiding and abetting terrorism. But we have increased and raised the costs for them to do this.”

Our brilliant opposition members in politics seem to have mentally become Pakistani supporters. One of the leaders said in an interview that Pulwama mastermind was Mr Modi. This clip was continuously being shown on Pakistan TV. Some opposition leaders initially made statements that we are together with the government. But later they congratulated the air force for the strike. Such attacks are approved by the head of government was conveniently forgotten. Then they started challenging the attack itself and said where is the body count. It seems that opposition expects that, after a surprise attack some Indians will go to the location and take the body count. Another leader also said the same thing. We will support the air force, but we will never help the Prime Minister. The raising of severe doubts about Indian State and its actions using the Air Force was the height of stupidity. The meaning of what they said was that the Air Force was in connivance with the government to cook a story of the air strike. Pakistanis must have been laughing; they must have said we don’t need Chinese or US support, our Indian friends are supporting our cause.

Mr Bambawale’s interview gives you a deep insight into how the crisis is handled. I sincerely wish and hope that for once the opposition leaders will stop talking in a frenzy as if they were Pakistani supporters. But in spite of opposition, our government has handled the situation well especially on the international stage. Propaganda made in other countries is putting pressure on Pakistan to act against the terrorist camps and the outfits.

war2

“One surgical or aerial strike may not force Pak to stop aiding terror. But we have raised the costs”. One sentence summarises Gautam Bambawale’s interview.  The idiom “One Swallow does not make a summer” perfectly fits the situation. India has finally changed its policy which will make Pakistan think about continuing with its current strategy of supporting terrorism. Individual terrorist attacks may continue for some time, but audacious attacks like Pathankot and Pulwama may not happen again because they know that India is going to hit back discretely, at their own will.

To conclude, Rajwardhan Rathore, Indian Minister,  has summed up the situation in cricketing parlance! He said, “Now in the terrorism game, India is now doing batting also. All these days we were just fielding!”

A Ray of hopes?

With the India-Pakistan skirmish of the last few days, is there a hope finally for the sanity to prevail? This blog is just taking a reference to the critical event happening in our sub-continent! A little miscalculation could have led to a war between the two nations having nuclear weapons. (Fingers crossed) The hyphen that I used above to mention the two countries is only in the perspective that indicates similarity of massive war machines and nuclear weapons the two countries have.

But I will not use the hyphen again when I mention India and Pakistan. The hyphen is used when two entities are equal in most respects. Till 1971 war, both countries were equally poor, but India handled the situation deftly at that time and split Pakistan, waiting to be divided. Cultures in the then West and East Pakistan were so different that only the might of the army and police state could not keep them together. After this war, both the nations followed a different path which was a typical Asian chaotic path and both succeeded. India has now become a significant economic power having a reasonable say, in world affairs. (With cows and Mandirs still around) Pakistan became a haven for terrorists and terrorism; it has done better than India and has reached the top! India started the journey by transferring its gold reserves to Bank of England as surety for taking loans, and now it has become the fourth largest economy in the world. Pakistan tried to ride the tiger helping the USA against Russians in Afghanistan; this conflict sowed the seeds for mercenaries and in the end, the so-called faith-based terrorists. Osama Bin Laden as the most dreaded non-state actor was born under such environment and rest, as they say, is history.

But I am not going to write about terrorism. Last year I had written a blog

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/democracy-mobocracy-lynching/

Today my friend Pradeep wrote his comments on this blog, as below. Pradeep lives in the US.

This blog addresses the unfortunate consequences of fake news, but the initiation and spreading of fake news seem like the fundamental problem which needs real and immediate solutions. None are on the horizon in spite of some recent efforts. At least in the US, anything goes under “freedom of expression”, but there are those who will believe anything. Some are gullible, some are naive, but many are opportunists waiting to advance their agenda under any guise.

Today’s blog is mainly about good changes that seem to have taken place in India during the last few days. The whole electronic media was sober in reporting the news, compared to the usual jingoistic discussions. They were reporting only confirmed news, or no speculative news was reported. The news coming from Pakistan was also taken from their official sites or official twitter handle. For news from Pakistan media, the words used were “Pakistan Claimed” to describe the news item. I am quite sure there must have been hundreds of rumours, spiked videos circulating on the net. But the WA groups where I am a member hardly circulated such fake items. If someone attempted to share fake or rumoured news, members were immediately asked by the admin to delete such items. The usual sharing of laddoos and sweets was shown on videos on WhatsApp, but this was also done quietly.

Rumours and fake news spread has been mainly because of the advent of social media. India has the highest number of WA users in the world. Indians have taken up to WA like fish in the water. But the Indian government has been pushing WA management to find technical solutions to prevent misuse. A few months back WA came up with a restriction that a message could be forwarded to only five entities, at a time. This restriction has helped in reducing the forward’s people used to make. Now spreading fake item or rumours is not as simple as it used to be. On top of that the WA management is putting up advertisements in newspapers, all over India, in local languages; they are encouraging people to avoid misuse of WA. They are saying, “Use us for joy and enjoy!”

The government of India is also talking to media companies like Twitter, Facebook and is trying to get their big bosses to meet the parliamentary committees, specially formed to prevent the issues created by misuse of social media. These are multinational organisations, so they will take some time to meet. But ultimately they know that volume of business is going to come from India, in future. In India already 400 million people have access to the Internet. This number is larger than the population of the USA. I feel that the so-called freedom of doing anything is misused in the USA more than any other country in the world. In California, a few years back during gunfire, police felt that a terrorist could be involved. The US government tried to get the data from one persons iPhone. Even the courts could not force Apple to give access to his records. So much for freedom!  Freedom is more important than a few deaths at the hand of terrorists. On the other side, the US government has a terrific tracking system of suspected terrorists. One name on the US list is Shah Rukh Khan. Famous Indian superstar has to face interrogation every time he enters the United States at any port. No exceptions.

Are we changing as a society? No, we are not. We glorify many things from olden times, even though many theories are still unproven. More than ten years back a rumour started spreading in India that a Ganesha Idol was drinking milk. India came to a standstill with this rumour. Check this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MG64rk6qkg

Almost 30 years back, there used to be TV serials Ramayana and Mahabharat. Their timing was 9 am to 10 am. The traffic on roads at that time would be zero! So much for faith. Indian society has unbelievable faith in mythological stories. Another remark that I hear is that if it is in writing, then it must be true. In today’s scenario, if there is a video of something, then it must be true. Such blind faith is ideal for rumour mongering.

Let me remind you of something which you must be aware. People of all strata of life believed in the Ganesha rumour; education wise, financial status wise there was no discrimination. Everybody believed in that story. This story reached my ears when a friend of mine Managing Director of a company. He is highly educated and sophisticated. He called me early morning to tell me the story. I said, “Come on buddy, you don’t believe it.” He tried to convince me how it was true.

Good things have come out of this skirmish. Pakistan initially showed a video of the blindfolded felled pilot. After a couple of hours, this video was removed. There were 10 to 15 videos on youtube which Indian government felt were not proper for a peaceful atmosphere. Youtube quietly removed those videos. On WhatsApp, some messages circulating were about how not spread hate messages. Whom to report if such a message was observed. There were messages to all to remain peaceful and let the government do its work. This definitely is a welcome change.

But this has happened during a national crisis. Will we behave maturely in future, in the normal course of life? Will we as a society maintain decorum and be sensible? Honestly, I am not sure. Let the black clouds of Pulwama disperse and let us see how our society behaves. Lynchings based on Cow vigilantes or rumoured kidnappings of babies are not going away very soon. We are capable of blindly believing and following anything. Kalburgis and Dabholkars of this world have been murdered because they were against rituals and trying to teach people to stay away from them.

Pradeep, yes, a good beginning has been made in the backdrop of Pulwama, and it shows a tiny ray of hope that is breaking through dark clouds! That too in India, of all the places! Amen!