Freedom and Responsibility!


Freedom means the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. Responsibility means the state or fact of being accountable, or to accept blame for something. We hear these words regularly, especially regarding the Press or the digital media. In the autocratic regimes, the word freedom is meaningless as everything right or wrong is decided by the governments. In a democracy, there are disputes about these words. Freedom is well explained by a funny anecdote. A Russian and an American are discussing freedom of expression in their countries. The American says, “In my country, I can bad mouth our President. Most likely, I will get away with it.” The Russian smiles and says, “We also have equal freedom in my country. I can curse the American President anytime. I will definitely get away with it.”

Two important events took place recently in India and the United States of America, the two largest democracies in the world. In India, the Press Trust of India published a news item; they interviewed the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi. In the interview, the Ambassador made a one-sided statement and blamed the Indian Government for the fracas that took place between the Indian Army and the Chinese Army at Galwan. PTI gave this news. With the current strong sentiments against China, Prasar Bharati, a government-controlled news agency, blamed PTI. They said that PTI published a news item which is anti-India. PTI is a cooperative which gives the yeomen service of news collection and distribution. It is established as a reliable news agency. Prasar Bharati pays about Rs.6.5/ crores (65 million) to PTI as its contribution every year. If Prasar Bharati breaks the pact with PTI, PTI will be in big trouble, financially.

The second event took place in the US. Based on the policies of Facebook, Coca Cola, Nike, and many other companies decided to stop advertising on Facebook. The reason was the policy about banning hate speeches or about the false news. FB started censoring hate speeches after Floyd episode, but they did not act on similar statements or expressions made by President Trump. Their argument was that when the President says something, it is a policy matter for the nation. Should the President’s policy statements be banned? So according to them, it was important news. But FB business is entirely dependent on the advertisements given by organisations like Nike and Coca Cola. Ultimately they have toed the line, and now Trump hate speeches also get banned.

It is a very critical situation, and honestly, I may not have the right answers. In the complex world, the news gets gathered in different ways. There are rules and regulations which many follow, but some do not comply. What is right or wrong, history will judge. It is a well-known fact that newspapers, news sites, TV channels have corporate policies. These policies are based on the “corporate board” or the owner. The news items will show the “colour” approved by the top bosses. In crude language, the entities are sold. So when you hop from A to B to C, we see different versions of the same news. At the end of the day, an average person gets confused. Then there are mouthpieces owned by some political parties. Mouthpieces “advice” the world on subjects of how to run the country. They teach the generals how to fight a war in the harsh terrain of Himalayas. It is okay if their party cannot run a city government efficiently. Such editors, the anchors of news channels and the “analysts” of all hues always ride on a high horse. For them, everything is one article away or one grilling interview away.

I am not saying that we should ban these entities. They have a definite role to play in a democracy. Many valuable news items that remain hidden in the debris of news that gets generated. Some organisations, some authorities or governments are trying to hide them. Investigative journalism helps bring out many such hidden items. Bofors case during Rajeev Gandhi’s time was a classic case which needed to be exposed. Such exposes are necessary for any society and must be brought out. Even this one example that I have quoted can become controversial because of the people connected with Rajeev Gandhi, and his party will not like what I have written. My idea is not to write something sensational or controversial but to try and analyse the need for such investigations. The investigations, in my opinion, are an essential part of our society. But I want to share a couple of stories that I saw on a news channel.

There was a piece of top breaking news sensationalising the failure of the central Government to procure sixty thousand ventilators in time. A tender was floated for this item and orders were placed on 14th May to be completed by 30th June. Ventilators till then, were all imported. Due to Corona pandemic, it would have been challenging to get them from abroad. Many companies developed them quickly, locally. Based on the feedback of their capabilities, orders were placed for fifty thousand ventilators. By 30th June only one company supplied its quota, and all others failed due to various reasons.

A highly complex product was being tried by Indian companies, including some large organisations. But they collectively were unable to supply their quota within a stipulated time. Now the news headline is “Government failed to procure ventilators on time.” Twenty thousand ventilators were procured, and the completion date was 30th June. The news item was discussed on 5th July. One company completed its quota and must have told the news channel that we have no orders though we have completed our contract. (This company can supply 2500 ventilators per month) The news channel generalised the news and blamed it on the Government. The last date for completion was 30th June, the performance needs to be analysed. Based on this data, the new orders can be placed. TRP, jingoism, channel policy? Your decision, friends.

The same channel has this story about a COVID patient who died because the Ambulance came late. Bangalore has suddenly seen the surge of COVID patients. Ambulances have a protocol that after each COVID patient is taken in the vehicle, it is thoroughly disinfected and sanitised. Bangalore is not geared up for the surge; hence there is a shortage of ambulances. The Ambulance reached the home and was told to park away from their home. It was done to avoid neighbours knowing about Corona infection. Is Corona infection a stigma? The patient tried to walk towards the Ambulance. Half-way through he collapsed and died! So much for delay caused by the Ambulance. But the story continued in the same vein on the channel.

Why sensationalise something when there is no sensation? Could TRP be the only reason? Or the ego does not allow these channels to say, “Oh! Sorry, it was our mistake.” They are never wrong!

After writing the piece, I am still confused! What is important, the news or a piece of suitable news? Ultimately, FB and Twitter of this world check for the hate speech using algorithms. Algorithm before Trump episode condoned the President even if he promoted hate speech or shared the fake news. Specifications for the algorithms are written by a human being who follows the company policies. Is sharing the Chinese Ambassador’s blaming India right thing or it should be treated as anti-national? If political parties keep bickering about everything in this world, how the generated news should be treated? They talk against the Prime Minister of the country as well as the armed forces. Should this be treated as treason? I am not sure. The jury is still out!


The Real China Story!


Disclaimer: I have written this blog based on Mr Bambawale’s zoom meeting with Indian Express that I attended. If there is some incorrect explanation, it is because of my misunderstanding. It has nothing to do with Mr Bambawale’s views. His views were crystal clear!

Yesterday I heard Gautam Bambawale’s interview on the China situation. The Zoom meeting was arranged by the Indian Express; the interviewer was Shubhajit Roy. For records purposes, Gautam was India’s ambassador to China. Incidentally, another Indian Ambassador to China, Nalin Suri was my hostel mate, in Elphinstone, in the year 1967- he was in the arts stream!

Years back, Andy Grove used to teach at Stanford. Some students were asked how they felt when “THE” Andy Grove taught them. Their answer was simple. They said, ” We felt as if God was teaching us!” I will not take Gautam to that level about his knowledge of China, but he was almost there. He was soft-spoken, knowledgeable, and humble. He had the clarity that he had retired and politely replied to a question that it was not for him to comment on a specific tricky question about future policies. He also refrained from talking about political issues.

dragon

In the beginning, he explained beautifully, the difference in the Chinese philosophy of life and our philosophy—the meaning of word China means Zhong Guo (Middle Country). It means that they are at the centre of the Universe. The 21st century is not going to be the century of Asia, as per the Chinese. As per them, it is going to be the Century of China! Indian thinking is वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्, the world is one family! Gautam explained that because of the difference in basic thinking, Chinese are of expansionist mentality, and Indians want to get along smoothly with all others.

About the Galwan crisis, he said that it is the game-changer in the India/China relationship. Last so many years, both sides have shown restraint. There is an agreement that during any clash, bullets will not be fired. The practice was followed by both the parties during Galwan skirmish too. As a democracy, our government has shared the details of our casualties with all. The Chinese shared the details of losses on their side in the 1962 war in the year 1994. So we may never know the Chinese details about casualty anytime soon.

By game-changer, he meant that China now probably feels that India can be pushovers. Chinese GDP is almost 4 ½ times that of India, which could have given false notions to them about India’s weakness. According to Bambawale, the Indian army has given a fitting reply to the Chinese in Galwan, and we should be proud to have such strong armed forces. He also said that India had matched the Chinese buildup in Ladakh. All the previous events involved not more than 100 to 150 men, but this time buildup is enormous on both sides. Deaths have occurred in such events after more than forty years.

One of the reasons for disputes is that there is no clear cut border demarcation. During the last few decades, border disputes and trade disputes have been handled independently of each other. The border disputes were sorted out over a period, but that did not put brakes to the trade activity. Now the trade between the two countries has reached a level of 100 billion US dollars. According to Gautam, the time has come to delink border disputes and the business. China sent a message to India in no uncertain terms about their intentions. Probably they misjudged the bravery and courage of our troops. They may try to push us again anywhere on the 3400 km border.

But India is also in the preparation mode to give it back to Chinese all along the border. India should reset all the previous ways and give a fresh thought about handling the situation. India’s sharp reply to a brutal Chinese attack is a message sent to China in no uncertain terms. Just after I exited the Zoom meeting, I saw the news on TV that the Indian government has banned 59 Chinese apps from India. It has given instructions to service providers and Google/Apple not to allow users to use or download the apps- they are given 48 hours to do it.

The naysayers will, of course, ask how India will be benefitted from this action. There may not be severe damage financially, but it is the first clear message to China to behave. Commercially there are many things that government can do. But the society in general and the business houses also have this responsibility. He gave a couple of examples. In India, Chinese cell phones have a 60 to 70 % market share. For our next phone, all of us can switch to Samsung- he jokingly said that he is not the agent for Samsung. He also further noted that individual components, products may become expensive for the initial period. It is the cost we as a nation may have to bear to reset our equations vis a vis China.

He was asked why China has started the border dispute? Firstly, he felt that China wants to bring all the Asian countries under their hegemony. This thinking has probably started because there is a global pressure from the world regarding Corona Wuhan’s episode. On the side, the US and China trade war has been going on for a couple of years. China is also in conflict with Japan. But China also gets into fights with the outside world when it has internal or party clashes going on within China. These are their standard diversionary tactics. Overall it seems that China is driven by their wish to show that they are going to be number one in the world over a period.

From here onwards, I will write my two cents on the subject. Why do political parties not come together even in an event when there is a threat to national security? Is tweeter a medium to air one’s views on security matters? Do opposition political parties expect the government to share information about Galwan in the public domain? The government needs to think, discuss, plan execute plans ruthlessly if required. We should not make any decisions emotionally, but we should not forget that the effect of this reset is going to be long term. Colossal money will have to be budgeted for the expenses on the armed forces.

Even if there is a four-day war, we cannot afford it because the economy is already fully stretched due to the pandemic. But if the need arises, we may be forced to make the ultimate decision. If we hesitate, China will try to go for a kill which we can ill afford!


Get Well Soon, Ramdev Baba!


You have jaundice, your eyes look yellow! You go to your allopathic doctor. Your bilirubin is checked, and it predictably high. You go to your chemist, he says, “Liv 52! Jaundice!” Period, discussion over. In India, when you have jaundice doctors generally prescribe Liv 52. There is no other medicine. Other drugs would only be supplementary things. There could be some cure in Homeopathy, but Liv 52 specified in Ayurved is THE drug! It cures jaundice. There are no medicines for jaundice in Allopathy!

In the year 2017, Jaya and I had decided to take a holiday in Europe. Ten days before the journey date, Jaya had a pain in the right foot. The orthopaedic doctor advised her to stop using heels and gave her some pain killers. He said that only a long rest could help her. We went to our homoeopathic doctor. He was very confident that he would be able to cure Jaya. The only advice he gave was to take a wheelchair at Frankfurt airport as it is vast and you need to walk a lot. We were to also take a train from Frankfurt to Munich, which added to the distance. But later we could climb up and down the mountains in cold weather. Thanks to our doctor! By the time we were back, Jaya had almost forgotten the problem.

Allopathy cured me of Cancer in the year 2013. Otherwise too, we have taken different allopathic treatments for various ailments. Now the usual disclaimer: I am a firm believer that each pathy has its pluses and minuses. None of them has a cure for each illness. My statements are based on my personal experience and experiences of near and dear ones. I have no prejudice against any pathy.

COVID 19 has brought the whole world, including the researchers, scientists to their knees. They are not able to find the cure, nor are they able to find the vaccine. All the governments, the world over are trying to contain the pandemic and try to minimise the spread. Some have succeeded, and others have failed; the death rates are high as well as the infections. Our country has managed to delay the spread and control the death rate reasonably well.

Recently, our yoga guru Baba Ramdev and his company Patanjali declared that they had found the cure for COVID 19! A big show and drama were made during the announcement. Obviously, the rumour mill started running at high speed on social media. Expert social media writers went into a frenzy. When I read last, Ramdev was about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his excellent work in the field of Medicine.

Let us see the whole sequence of events. Patanjali’s manufacturing unit had asked the Uttara Khand government for a license to produce a drug for immunity booster.

The Uttarakhand government has claimed on Wednesday, that the license issued to the Ayurveda products manufacturing company on June 12, pertained to the development of immunity boosters and not a medicinal cure for coronavirus.

A First Information Report (FIR) has been filed in Rajasthan government against yoga guru Baba Ramdev, his aide and chief executive officer of Patanjali Ayurved Limited, Acharya Balkrishna. Three others made misleading claims that the company has found a cure for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) called Coronil.

Ramdev said the medicines were developed by Patanjali Research Center, Haridwar in association with privately-owned National Institute of Medical Science (NIMS), Jaipur.

The AYUSH Ministry is yet to examine the claims made by Patanjali. The ministry has asked the company to provide details of the Medicine, such as name and composition, research study details, Institutional Ethics Committee clearance, CTRI registration and result data. The government has asked Patanjali to refrain from advertising the medicine kit until the claims are duly examined.

There is a ban on advertising of this Medicine, to be sold as Corona cure, till everything is checked by different authorities and formal clearance is given.

What has Patanjali attempted? They have tried to jump the bandwagon to offer a cure to humanity, nothing wrong in that. But the fact is that the whole world, including renowned research institutes, pharma companies are struggling to find the elusive golden wand. These organisations have a backing of millions of dollars the world over, and they are still struggling. It is a fact of life that research done in non-allopathic sciences is negligible, if at all!

On social media, the usual gang of “India is the greatest” has become active. They give various references from Vedic times to prove that we had nuclear weapons, aeroplanes and so on during those times. Great story reading for those times, but that is about it. The cures offered by Indian medicines have been around for thousands of years, but unfortunately, most remained in families and in the private domain. Sometimes remedies were passed on, and at other times they were lost to time with the demise of the expert. Till twenty to thirty years, few new cures in Ayurved or Homeopathy, have been attempted by Corporates in the public domain which had funds. So there is a chance that non-allopathic drugs may come up with some great results over a period, but not yet.

But our Bharat gang is churning out stories. There is a purported theory going around. Patanjali has not followed the guidelines to get the clearance for a drug for the supposed use, in its official statement. So those saying anything against Patanjali are enemies and are being paid by other pharma companies to act against Patanjali! How can ayurvedic research be wrong? But friends, on probing, even Patanjali is saying that it is an anti immunity drug and not the cure for COVID! If Patanjali has really discovered the treatment, then they should not have trouble in defending the probe. But we should not raise the bogey of the greatest civilisation on the earth…

It is plain and simple. Patanjali is five thousand crores plus business. As a business entity, it must ensure that the company makes good profits. Their strategy went wrong, and they were quickly caught on the wrong foot! No harm! If they have come with a right immunity booster drug, it will sell. It will be even better if the results are provable. You take Medicine for fifteen days, and your immunity is up because we say so. Such statements will not boost the immunity though it might enhance their sales. But because of timely action by authorities, at least people’s hopes will not go up, wrongly, about Corona cure.

Will “India is the most celebrated civilisation” brigade accept that this is a million-dollar question! Should the companies not follow the guidelines specified and submit documentary proof? Is curing 280 patients a breakthrough? I do not think so.

Firstly, such a trial should be started after following guidelines. The whole process must be documented. Patients should be of different severity, age, sex, comorbidity and other such variables. Once the systematic trials are done, results shared with authorities, then mass production of the drug would make sense. Let the horses not run faster than the chariot!

 


National Security and Use of Social Media!

The Chinese army has been behaving in a threatening manner in the Galwan area of Ladakh. There acts of last a few weeks culminated in an incident killing twenty-plus Indian soldiers, including a Colonel. The whole world finds it tricky to find the correct information from the Chinese side. But various accounts indicate that forty-plus Chinese soldiers also lost their lives in the skirmish that took place on the 15th of June.

How does one report in such a critical situation? Whose responsibility is it to give the status report? Which reports should be believed? To me, the answer is quite simple. It is the responsibility of the government, based on the information the government gets from the armed forces who are on the battlefront. In the days of Satellite imagery, it is well nigh impossible to hide any information because the images are commercially available to anybody willing to pay for them. The agencies are around the globe, so the government can not ban the agencies from selling the imagery.

With this limitation, the delay in information could only be because of delay in communication from the battlefront- when soldiers are busy in action or a battle, the flow of information has to wait. All the different news agencies have their “sources” in the government and the armed forces. So information keeps on trickling in. The Galwan incident took place unexpectedly. The armies of both nations were having a standoff for quite a few days. The confrontation became a battle; at the time the action was being fought, there would be a complete break in the information flow from the battlefront. Once the action stops, information flow would begin. Then the “sources” come into play. The information would start flowing in FB, WA, Instagram, and all such channels. The videos of the fight between the Chinese and our soldiers, I feel, are also doctored! My logic is simple. Were the soldiers waiting for someone to take out a Sony camera or start his/her cell phone to take a video of their fight?

It is at this juncture we have challenges. Whose “news” should be believed? It is plain and simple. The official news, the bulletins, the messages released by the government agencies are the ones that should be treated as authentic. These are based on the information from the battlefront, discussions with enemy governments.

Our prime minister held a video meeting inviting leaders of opposition parties and Chief Ministers of various states to give a full status report. The meeting was held after about three days of the incident. Most of the participants gave their full support to the government and the armed forces. But there is a particular party who said they support the armed forces. It means they did not support the government, and that party has continued to behave in the same vein. Their leaders give interviews on TV channels and to newspapers. First thing in the morning, their leaders do is to tweet a set of questions to the government in a coercive manner. They challenge the details based on media reports, which includes information from Chinese social media and what the Chinese government has said.

I understand that for some people, politics is “Dhanda”- business. Sometimes I wonder. How some families have tons of money without having ever “to work” like lesser mortals like you and me. Okay, there was inheritance. But the incomes are earned in terms of the days in which you live. When we were in school/college discussion about Rs one lac or a hundred thousand was very rarely in a discussion. The datum then, in recent times, graduated to One crore or ten million. When there was no income for the last seventy years, how the balances keep on fattening? Who gives them money? I never heard certain people paying income tax. So this shows that the money comes from Dhanda.

It is your livelihood, so keep on doing things that will include commenting on anything against the government every day. I am good with that; if you want to spend every day with confrontation, it is an individual choice. But which matters or subjects should be taboo? To me, the defence of the nation is one subject on which all should agree and work together. When you are a senior politician, you have access to everybody in the nation, including the Prime Minister. If you have some doubts about an action taken, or news available, why not check with the right authorities? Why did the ruling and opposition parties not come together and formed an action group or a committee?

When the so-called national parties continue to confront as if everything is normal, the enemy takes advantage of the situation. It spins the propaganda which suits their line of thinking. It starts spreading doubts in the minds of people in our own nation if the government can handle the situation or not. Yesterday there was news that China and we have agreed in principle to make the verifiable disengagement to reduce the tension on the border. How this is achieved may not be disclosed in detail in the public domain for security reasons. There could be some give or take on the stand we have taken. I am sure the army experts know what is negotiable and what is not. But even on this news, the doubting Thomas-es are saying somethings which are simply not acceptable.

Historically, the Hindus and the Hindu nations have been docile. A friend, Shrirang, expressed his anguish aptly while we were discussing this matter on WhatsApp. I am giving below what he wrote verbatim!

Is it that we remain subservient to the Chinese, or maybe some other country, always?

Do we not have any nationalist pride at all? So first Moghuls, then the British and now Chinese?

The effort will be fierce, citizens will have to accept a higher price, but the battle should not be lost in minds.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” … Sun Tzu, Chinese General

Very well said, Shrirang! I am sure these four lines represent the thought of the nation in today’s times. Our thinking in olden days can be shown in two incidents. The Chinese attacked us in 1962. But we as a nation were complacent. We had ammunition factories, but those were busy manufacturing lanterns and coffee percolators. Krishna Menon, the defence minister at that time, had made a statement that we should not waste our resources on manufacturing ammunition. As if coffee percolators were an essential commodity. In 2013 A K Antony, the then defence minister, had made a statement in Loksabha about Aksai Chin. He said, “Not even a blade of grass grows in this area; hence we should not develop any infrastructure there. The infrastructure would help the enemy for rapid movement.”

China was happy with docile Hindu Rashtra, who would pretend as if nothing is happening. China started having problems with India because we have started building that “not needed” infrastructure. They were used to a docile India. Now the India, that has woken up, is not to their liking hence the fight. Chinese are supported in this fight by a group of opposition parties by trying to divide the nation in these tough times.

Are we still having descendants of Raja Jaichand with us? Friends do not start an argument on how Jaichand did something, which was for the betterment of Hindu Rashtra! It is not the question of nationalism or patriotism but self-esteem and self-respect!

Should we really bother?

There is a news item in today’s newspaper that Twitter had suspended the Twitter account of Amul for some time, yesterday. The reason was that the above advertisements did not fit into the policies of Twitter. Facebook and Twitter are two mediums which have become popular as social media apps. There are many differences in traditional media and these new social media apps. Unless we understand the differences, it will be difficult to understand the impact of specific policies and decisions. I am not sure if the image below reflects the correct media status.


Creation and dissemination of content done by traditional Media are based on the principle of one-to-many. An editor decides what news, which news reports should be published in the day’s newspaper or which stories should be telecast in the next bulletin is. The news consumers that is the readers and viewers have no role to play in the creation or dissemination of content.

Social Media, in contrast, is a media that works on the principle of many-to-many. Any individual can create and share content. It makes the content creation process more democratic.

Focus or purpose of social media is a media where people come to interact with friends, relatives, acquaintances etc. It need not be news-based. A tiny part of the Social Media universe is devoted to the creation or dissemination of news.

Traditional media is primarily a news media. It has traditionally performed the function of gathering and disseminating news, and continues to do so.

That is why the two media are like chalk and cheese.

Interactivity: Social Media allows users to comment on content created by their friends, relatives or peer group. No Big Brother is watching you. All comments are in real-time. They enrich published content and empower people to share views.

Traditional media is tightly controlled. All communication is one-way: from the editor to the readers. The most that a reader can hope is to get a letter published in the Letters column of the newspaper. There is no guarantee as to how much of the message will be edited before it is published. This interactivity is even more limited in the case of television.

I will share with you an interesting story about two news items published in Pune’s Daily Sakal. These stories are from the late ’80s of the last century. Two professors from the Fergusson college had fought in the college, yes it was physical slapping and all. Sakal published it on the first page with their names. The reason was one of the professors had an affair with the others’ wife. There was another news on the same page; another “Maramari” (fisty cuff) that took place in a washroom area of a Latif’s restaurant in the camp area. The fight was between two ex mayors of the city. One of them was drunk and passed lewd remarks about the other person’s wife. Now both these items were on the first page of Sakal with biggish headlines. Both news items had become public since a police case was registered in both cases. But the names of the ex mayors were not printed. I saw this anomaly and as a naïve person wrote a letter to the editor of Sakal. I said, “Both these news items were in the public domain, but you have published the names of the professors but not of the ex mayors. Since you call yourself a fearless newspaper, at least publish my letter.” I dropped the letter in their letterbox. That was the end of the story. So much for the fearlessness!

Speed: Social Media is instant. Reports published on Social Media sites can be accessed instantly.

Traditional media takes time to disseminate information. In the case of newspapers, this is limited to once a day; television or radio can update reports more frequently. But they cannot match the speed of Social Media unless they go live.

Why so?

Cost of creation: It costs a small fortune to set up a newspaper, radio or television station. Few individuals can, therefore, hope to become publishers.

Social Media platforms allow free posting of content. Anyone can, therefore, become a publisher or broadcaster.

Reach and numbers: The reach of Social Media is staggering. It connects billions of individuals across the globe.

In contrast, the reach of traditional media is limited to the number of readers or viewers that individual newspapers or channels may have.

Now that we have understood the similarities and difference, we can understand the issues involved.

A couple of events occurred in the last couple of weeks on Tweeter. Tweeter marked one of the tweets by President Trump with a caution note. As expected, Trump and his team were furious.

Twitter highlighted two of Trump’s tweets that falsely claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud, appending a message the company has introduced to combat misinformation and disputed or unverified claims.

“Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” read the message beneath each tweet. It linked to a curated fact-check page the platform had created filled with further links and summaries of news articles debunking the assertion.

Twitter said the move was aimed at providing “context” around Trump’s remarks. But Twitter’s unprecedented decision has raised further questions about its willingness to apply the label to other Trump tweets consistently. The tweets have been deemed misleading by third parties, particularly as the president has lobbed baseless allegations against former Rep. Joe Scarborough regarding the death of a congressional staffer years ago.

Does this mean that all Tweets published by Trump before were with no issues? He has 55 million followers on Tweeter, and he is using Tweeter for keeping in touch with his electorate and followers. He and his team have understood the dynamics of the Tweeter handle so well that he has milked it to his advantage.

But what happened suddenly to the dynamics between Tweeter and Trump’s team? Why did the labelling suddenly start? Let me tell you how the “labelling” or the locking of accounts is done. They have an algorithm to track the content of what people write. The policy is decided by the “management” or in this case of Dorsey- Twitter boss! Dorsey has said in an interview that he thinks left of centre about the world. Trump is a showcase right-winger always discretely talking of white supremacy. What took so long for Dorsey to change Twitter policies? Now, do you understand why Twitter locked the account of Amul? It was about discretely pushing Indian products as against the Chinese ones. After all, Amul is our most reliable brand, so why not? And it was not about politics. But then the algorithm is a tool written by a company and by a group of people. Naturally, it has its leanings; in the current case to the left!

But should we bother so much about Twitters and Facebooks of this world? They only publish whatever you and I write; they do not have their views. The algorithm does what it is told to do- and it is created to push Dorsey’s views. But Zuckerberg is even worse. He is endorsing Trumps’ views by not saying or doing anything about Trumps’ vitriolic statements or is behaving like Daily Sakal! When Facebook has so much power, their “not saying anything” against Trump is as good as endorsing it! The latest news is that FB has finally removed Trump’s campaign video where he is trying to use “Floyd” protests to advantage- on one side he is calling the army and wants to crush the demonstrations!

Should we really bother about Twitter and FB? I do not think so! These apps are not the creators of news like Newspapers and TV channels. These are used by you and me to share our views. But apps have a responsibility, and writing algorithms is their prerogative, and these will be decided by company policy! They are NOT creating false news, but anybody can try to create false interpretations or views of real matters. Trump’s video is an attempt to create content on Twitter! So who cares? But newspapers and TV have to care. As per the current trend, the advertisements are getting diverted to social media, print and TV media better be careful.

 




And the winner is!

Cannes1

People excel in many fields. Some excel over a long time. In recognition of their work, organisations declare prizes or medals. Great! We are always happy when others appreciate us. It could be for our looks or success in an examination. It may be for achievement in art, science or sports! The recognition helps us achieve more, to better ourselves.

Parents encourage their progeny when they are growing up. It is a joyful day in any household when a child puts independent steps without any support. The same is true when the same child cycles on its own. The child is further elated when it rides, shouting, “Ma, no hands!” It has bettered itself.

But there seem to be some organisations and people who make this simple process, complex and controversial. Recently a photographer from India, living in Kashmir, was awarded the Booker Prize. The prize seems to be awarded to Indians to create controversy. Another such person to get the Booker Prize was Arundhati Roy, first Indian to get it. In the first case, the person is not controversial,  nor is the photograph. It is the citation that created the controversy. After Pakistan, so-called, globalised the Kashmir issue, there have been attempts by some people and organisations to keep the issue burning, all the time. Instead of bypassing the regional controversy, they mention words like Indian Occupied Kashmir in the citation. But this is a non-Indian organisation, but there are Indian politicians from a national party who toe the line and blow their trumpet. They could have easily avoided this by congratulating the person for excellent photography and making a statement against the organisation for stoking regional controversies.

But no, they don’t do it. These people practically endorse it. The photograph mentioned above is excellent, but Roy’s book, The God of Small Things, was beyond the understanding of most ordinary people. I bought the book and tried to read it at different times, but to no avail. I have discussed with many friends, and they also had the same opinion. It appears that the persons of her ilk seem to get a license to rubbish the Indian state at all levels, every time. These people will say terrorism is terrible, after 26/11, but will try to link it to the persecution of the people post-partition. She tied 26/11 to Kashmir issue and kept on justifying. When they are asked for a solution, they will say it is for the government to find it; she is only going to criticise. It could be a Narmada dam project or Naxalite issue. She will always be on the side of the sufferers. There is no question that the rehabilitation of displaced people must be done. The reasons behind Naxalite issues are justified, but the means adopted by Naxalites can never be justified.

When the US attacked Afghanistan after 9/11, using force against terrorism was not the solution as per the lady. Probably there should have been a face to face meeting in Davos or St Moritz in some convention centre with the terrorists to resolve issues. When Naxalites have a problem, they attack and kill about a hundred policemen, using landmines. But when the government forces counter-attack, it cannot be justified. There are many such “liberals” who get the Prizes, but they are not staunch enough in their stand against India.

Then there are other organisations which are equally controversial but fortunately not so harmful; sometimes I feel that they are funny! Such organisations have become an industry formed because of the film industry, the world over. It could be Hollywood, Bollywood and film festivals. Films have a place in the modern world. The heroes and heroines become heartthrobs, and people follow every action by them outside the movies too. Hundreds of people wait outside their homes on their birthdays.

Surprisingly, we Indians have not overcome the awe we feel about anything foreign. India produces the maximum number of films in a year. We have our yearly ceremonies like Filmfare awards. In the US, it is Academy awards. The award ceremonies have become a business, and many organisations sponsor these ceremonies. There are popular categories and critics categories. In all these years, Critics and Popular awards have never been given to the same movies. Why is that so? It only indicates that the popular demand is quite different than those liked by critics. Last year there has been a big controversy that the winner of majority awards was favoured, slyly, over other good films.

Anyway, in any area where ranking is done, controversies are bound to be there. But these have reached a stage where a better actor like Amir Khan has stopped taking part in these ceremonies. The surprising aspect is that now he is not selected for these awards. He could be given awards in absentia. But that is not done.

Indians in general and Bollywood gang are enamoured by Hollywood. We get excited when someone from India gets an Academy award. Another thing observed is that Indian movies which show about India’s poverty are preferred movies for International awards. One should be happy and excited if the person receives a prize. It is the recognition of their work. It is a recognition of the work in a movie. But over some time, it is seen that people get a lifetime achievement award. The criteria it seems is to be alive on that day. Some of the persons who have received this award were never famous for their acting skills or versatility.

Then there are national awards given by a government body. In this category too, popular and critic views are in a total mismatch. I will not call these awards processes sham, but these indicate the realities of life. Sometimes favouritism takes place, but it is not the norm.

 

Now the last and the most exciting part of the filmy drama. There is something called Red-carpet walk. When the actors come to these ceremonies, they are decked for the show. They spend a vast amount of money on dresses. For the female actors at Academy awards or Cannes festival, the norm is to show off the biological assets. There is a competition going on to expose more and more. The gossip magazines and photographers are waiting for a moment which is famously called dress malfunction. In the dress malfunction, sometimes a breast pops out for a split second. Sometimes the innerwear of these ladies makes a fleeting display. Oh! Come on! Who is bothered? If you say this, then you are from a minority group! These photos are industry by themselves. If a videographer can catch this on a video, he has made it!

To me, the controversies in giving prizes, that create an issue about the sovereignty of a country, are a problem. If citizens of that nation are not bothered about these controversies, then there is more problem. But the dress malfunction is probably sometimes done on purpose! Your take, please!

I am okay with controversies because people have a different opinion. But when large nations like India have to suffer, I can not appreciate it.

What’s Up, Folks! 

In today’s times, it will look like wrong use of the phrase! People talk more on WhatsApp and Facebook, social media. What’s Up, Folks! It is a phrase we use when you meet someone face to face. Meeting face to face is equally alien-like someone not having FB/WA account or not having cell phone itself. It is a revolution which was not foreseen even fifteen years back. But significant hardware changes and the infrastructural changes in the Internet have made this possible. That has led to the formation of WhatsApp University, but it could be FB University as well!

I now find that some secret writers have come up like mushrooms on these Universities. They write long essays on various subjects; they also write “treaties” and attribute them to well-known personalities. We have no shortage of gullible people. These write-ups start circulating, there are discussions, there are comments. It goes on and on and on.

The thing about some of these long essays is that the language used is reasonably good. The writings are logical, but in most cases, these are written by invisible people. The recent one about Mr Ratan Tata is a case which fits the bill. Finally, Mr Tata declared that he has not written the article. I have doubts in my mind whether Mr Tata wrote both the original write-up and the denial. Tata group donated Rs 1500/ crores to the various funds to fight the current pandemic. The philanthropic role played by the Tata group, in the development of India is too well known to be discussed here. Tata group has been a visionary, the founder Jamshedji Tata and later J R D Tata have shown the pathbreaking ways to the group. Mr Ratan Tata has ably continued the legacy. FB/WA university has its favourites. Wipro donated Rs 1150/ crore, L&T Rs 500/ crores plus they will keep on paying Rs.500/ cores a month to their contract workers till the lockdown lasts. These names somehow are not in circulation.

Some people are intelligent, sensible and keen to do social service to benefit the society. I salute such people. They create NGO’s, they form pressure groups and create pressure on the governments to rethink on many projects such as urban mobility, large dams, and so on. They push authorities to ensure that our hills and trees are not destroyed blatantly. I have a friend who fits the bill. But it appears that recently he has started calling himself an activist. What is the difference between a person doing social service and a social activist? Jaya described it very well. When she was chatting with this friend during dinner at a party, he said that he had become an activist. Jaya said, “Oh! It means your life has become easier; you do not have to deliver anything. No deliverables, just oppose and criticise.” He was upset and walked away. It hurts when you get shot in the bull’s eye.

I will share some more things about the friend mentioned above. He is on the FB university and looks like he has become a chair professor! He has been writing a lot of stuff on FB and forwarding articles or videos. In the current scenario of the pandemic, the nerves of people in society are frayed. His “friends” from a group of highly intelligent individuals don’t like the tack he is taking these days on critical subjects. But our friend is actively pushing his ways; some friends have started saying that he has an agenda. Matters reached an ugly stage, and most of his friends from that group regularly bashed him up. The situation became nasty and bloody, and I do not like it. I read these exchanges and do not like the way it is happening. But had these attacks been sober, I may have agreed with his friends. He claims that he does not care what others say. But friends let me tell you. It hurts, especially when people saying such stuff are known to you for years. Why he is doing it, I am not sure! But since last one week, he has stopped writing those tricky things on FB. I am all for freedom of expression, democracy and liberal thoughts. But when so many other intelligent people oppose your ideas, you cannot call them Hitler’s troops.

Then some activists have no technical knowledge of the subject; the subject can be a large dam, or national highway or a large chemical plant. There are always pluses and minuses in these discussions. But somehow these people fail to direct their activism in the right direction. Almost 45 to 50 years back Mr S L Kirloskar had asked a rhetoric question when in Pune road widening had started. Are the trees for us or we are there for trees? He suggested planting a lot of trees that could replace damaged trees in road widening.

Some of these mysterious writers have a penchant for digging out real-life and mythological stories. They link these stories with current technology and write stories of how our culture was ahead in science. We were ahead of the whole world in everything. There was an exciting story on WA about Ramdas Swami, Shivaji’s Guru. The story was about how Swamiji chose Shivthar Ghal, a valley,  to settle and wrote Dasbodh, famous treaties. The story had one Professor Bhopale. He went and took readings in that area and had a bank of modern equipment. Professor explains using a few technical words and reveals to us how no signal reached Shivthar Ghal. Then the story tells us how Ramdas Swami had this knowledge about Electrical signals. Swami selected the Ghal so that he could write Dasbodh in peace. No disturbance would be there whatsoever. These people had started a website on the subject, and some techno expert would reply, refuting all the probing questions. Come on, friends we all know that you don’t get electrical signals in some mountain areas, tunnels or inside the large buildings. The writer wanted to prove such claims to the gullible people in our society, and they succeeded to some extent. Why people do these things, I am not sure. There appears to be no way of making some money out of this scam. I still don’t know why this is done!

People have been sending write-ups in the name of Nana Patekar, Pu La Deshpande, Shivaji Maharaj and many such famous people. A recent addition to that list has been Ratan Tata. My friend Sudhakar is an expert on Pu La Deshpande literature. He quickly can find the fraud shared by these “ghost” writers. I am not sure why people do such things? Probably people have that hidden talent within them; what they write is good quality stuff but not ghost-written for celebrities, but pushed under their name. Some of them are long pieces and must be taking a great effort. I  rarely find any grammatical or spelling mistakes in them. Friends, could you share with me the logic behind making such efforts? To end, I will share one interesting story.

An individual called me one day. He started praising my blog writing. I jokingly told him, “Okay, I will give you a treat, but come to the point.” He said he would give me a subject every month. I should write a blog on that subject. I laughed and said, “I am yet to start “dial a blog service”, but still why do you want me to write.” He said, “You are a magnificent blogger. I will get your blog translated in Marathi, get your approval. Then I will make sure that the blog reached at least a hundred thousand people.” He definitely had some agenda (I know what it was), but I passed! I don’t want my blogs to be force circulated.

Does someone get stories mentioned above written from someone with an agenda? Please share those with me. I would love to read them; some have a good style!

Relentless Life Cycle!

When our children were younger, we would tell them that “Thandi Baba” ( a mythical figure) will come if you do not go to sleep now, or some such statement. Every family has its version of Thandi Baba. But now the latest version of Thandi Baba is threatening the whole world. People are worried; people are skeptical about life! Life always moves forward in a sinusoidal waveform. There are ups, and there are downs. But the current situation is such that we seem to have forgotten this concept. People are thinking that the current situation is going to last forever. Internet, FB, Smartphones and WhatsApp appeared in that particular order. These things completely changed our life. When these are active about a subject, we feel that it is the only subject in the world.

Even 50 to 70 years back, the information remained locked within countries. We hardly knew anything about the western world; western world anyway was the least bothered about us. Now those with smartphones have the whole world in their hands, literally. We get all the information live, 24/7!

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Back to the sinusoidal wave! Why are we so much worried about the current situation? We had second world war going between 1939 and 1945. Though Indian soldiers fought on behalf of the British, except for far east India, the heat of that war did not reach us. On top of that, we were under British rule. We had our worries about the British Raj. But Europe, Russia, the US and Japan had borne the brunt of world war II. Are our fears about the pandemic unrealistic? How many deaths will be there in the worst-case scenario?

Estimates for the total casualties of World War II suggest that some 60 million people died in the world war II, including about 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians. Many civilians died because of disease, starvation, massacres, bombing and deliberate genocide. In Hiroshima, when the bomb was dropped, 1.4 lac people were killed and more by after-effects. The same figures in Nagasaki were 78 thousand, and more later due to after-effects. But these were all human-made horrors. The current one is invisible- it is Thandi baba!

It took years for the world to know the real death figures. Just imagine that the internet and TV were available in those times. Rumours and fear would have killed many more people. Friends, have we forgotten that there are peaks and troughs in life? The current one is a longish trough in our life. So why not have a relook at life? Every day, we are getting the treat of bird’s chirping for a long time. We can hear them till they are either bored or tired! As the traffic is low, the pollution levels have gone down in the cities. Life is good for retirees like me. It is not a must that we go somewhere. Life is healthy except that we can’t go out anywhere. You will ask me why it is healthy? With maids not able to come for work, all their work is shared by Jaya and me. There are life’s lessons available if you want to take them. If you are cleaning the floor, you move forward, but while wiping the floor with a mop, you move backwards. You will learn to take life as it comes! Wiping the floor can not be done moving forward! 🙂🙂

Have we forgotten that there are ups? I distinctly remember what happened to me in 2013. I was detected with Cancer, end 2013; treatment of Immunotherapy and 34 radiations were needed. That was a deep trough in my life. But in parallel, there was a high peak of happiness. Our granddaughter was born in the same time frame. We had enjoyed her arrival, that brought us the biggest joy. That joy continues even today

We all live through life with ups and downs, but particular troughs, deeply scar us. For example, second world war holocaust. Hitler and his Nazis killed more than 6 million. It is the conservative figure of the number of Jews who were killed. These scars have damaged the Jewish race permanently. The only reason the Nazis killed was that they were Jews.

World history has known that the war’s start and end. There are deaths, and there is destruction. It happens for a specific period. But the current scourge is such that people do not know how long it will last. Another thing it has done is that it is covering the whole world. There is no geographic limit for the spread. A most crucial aspect of the scourge is that there is no known cure. Okay, by no means it can be called a killer disease. But since there is no known cure, some nations, including India, have found that the social distancing and full lockdown of the country is the only solution. India’s current lockdown period is till 15th April, but nobody is sure if it is going to be adequate. The total lockdown has stopped all businesses, factories and trade, except those that come under essential services. All buses, trains and flights have been suspended. So everybody has to stay at home. We can see only so much of TV, surf the internet for a certain amount of time. You can’t intermingle with friends and neighbours; those who cannot work from home for reasons specific to the nature of work, have nothing to do. We spend almost ten hours of daytime at work. It is not easy! But is there any option?

The most unexpected collateral damage is the reverse migration of daily wage earners from big cities. These people are not sure how long the current situation is going to last. These people fear that they will have no place to live, no work, no money and hence no food. People in droves have started walking back to their homes in villages. From yesterday the government has changed the rule for a short duration and to provide these people transportation back home. Unfortunately, the situation at home is also not going to be different. But the migration is more due to the emotional pull. They would prefer to be at home in such a situation.

It is the relentless bombarding of the information, news, tables, charts and graphs that can depress anybody. In today’s time, we don’t even know which of the data, papers reaching you are false. The other day, I received a twenty-page report created by someone from Johns Hopkins Hospital. (It was found to be fake) Some websites are giving yeomen service to us by checking which of such papers are fake. The report gave such a bleak picture that anybody could get depressed.

Why do people go to such extent to spread rumours? Our neighbour went through major surgery. Because of the current condition, her supporting staff is not there to help her. Jaya phones her every day and offers her to cook something for her. Yesterday while talking, she told Jaya not visit her till 3rd April because her astrologer has said to her that starting from 30th March till 3rd April, all the constellations will be in a wrong position. It can be harmful to her health. So be it! (BTW her astrologer is from the WhatsApp University) It is another way of spreading rumours inadvertently, simply because the lady believes in such stuff.

Friends, talk to each other. No situation in this world lasts forever. Good things will be back. There could be a big financial shock until the situation changes. The world is going to take years to come out of this. But there is no fear like dropping of Atom Bomb when large population died in an instant. The war against the scourge will be won at some stage. But it is the economic war that the world should be worried. That time frame could be like that of second world war five to six years, if not longer. All businesses, large, medium and small are going to pass through a churn. But we humans are fighters; we always win in the end. There will be no Superman or Hanuman to help us. It is the massive efforts of the human race, that will take us to a peak of happiness!

How closely do we know others? 

In our life, we meet many people. First of course is our mother and then the family. The journey continues until you die. At various stages, you make friends starting from KG to completing your education. If you are lucky, you continue to live in the same city where you were born and educated. During this phase, you make lifelong friends. Later, you start your career and get married too. For your professional work, you may be anywhere in India or may even migrate to different countries. You get additional close family members after marriage. Later, during your work phase, you meet more people. But rarely you make new friends. But now since last 10 to 15 years, you are making lots of “Friends” on FB. Many of these “friends” you hardly know them. Then you make “Friend’s Groups” on WA.

I will be writing about some friends from school and college days. It is their journey that was sometimes normal, and at other times shocking or painful.

Social networks have found us a lot of old friends (real ones), but you forget that a lot of water has gone under the bridge (in my case sometimes 50 to 60 years). I was looking for a dear friend school days. Somehow, I managed to get his cell number. The person who shared his cell number with me indicated that the friend had changed a lot. I was apprehensive when I called him. But once we started speaking, we continued almost for an hour. We did the usual things like exchanging photos, shared what we did in life. He was the good old jovial friend that I remembered from school days. But since then, whenever I call, he responds and shares life experience in general. But he has never called me, ever. I later understood that he had met with an accident in which he had a head injury. That has put him in difficulty. It has changed his personality.

I recently came in touch with another friend who was at Elphinstone College, Bombay with me for two years. All of us in those days were from lower-middle-class families trying to come up in life via education. The friend used to live in Girgaum in one of the wadis- a cluster of houses. He was studious, showing the usual lack of confidence for those days, especially in Elphinstone College. The college was well known for scholars both in science and arts stream. But the college had many students who had taken their school education in English medium schools. So, most of us were not sure-footed in the initial phase. Some continued with the same mindset until they passed out. The friend has not changed much even now and has remained the same as he was. It is an excellent tribute to him to have maintained his values from childhood.

It reminds me of another friend who was with me at Elphinstone College, but we were also from the same school. He was a reticent, smart person. He was brilliant and did quite well until we joined engineering. We were together in engineering too; he did not enjoy his engineering course, probably! He flunked in one year. After engineering, I met him again after ten years. He had entirely changed. He had started smoking and talked of alcohol enthusiastically. He was in the construction business. He would speak of millions of Rupees which was a lot of money, in the early ’80s of the previous century. Jaya was impressed with his talk. When we were coming back to Pune, I told Jaya that this is not the old friend I knew. I don’t believe in his boasting of a large amount of money.

Over a period, we started receiving the news of his failing business and some wrong business deal with people very close to him. He started drinking and smoking heavily. Funds began dwindling. He would come to Pune occasionally. He would smile the way he used to, but he had started looking haggard. He was never in a mood to listen to others. His sister suggested to him that his two children could live with her in Bombay for education. He agreed, luckily. Both his children are well settled.

Now the sad part! The friend hurtled down continuously in the vicious circle of the lack of money, alcohol and could not put the brakes on. His wife valiantly tried to support home by taking tuitions. In his final couple of years, I came to know that he would sell his household items to quench his thirst for alcohol. About fifteen years back, I got the news that he had passed. From a typical god-fearing family, an intelligent person with a pleasant personality was wasted. It would have been okay had he not been successful in business. Is it destiny that took him on the wrong path? I am aware that addiction to alcohol can ruin people, but during childhood, if someone had predicted about him, I would have simply said, Oh! Come on, not him!

The last friend I am going to talk about is a sadder case. It is because he is still around. He and I used to live in the same building and had a similar background. We were batchmates. Later as we grew, I realised that he was a little less endowed in smartness- both in studies and otherwise. He meandered through his life the way hundreds of thousands of people move. He had a routine job from which he took premature retirement. It enabled him to get some lump sum money; he had a daughter who was perpetually sick. She died about ten years back. Her illness probably hit his corpus badly. But his brave wife continues to work even today. He lives around twenty km away from Pune in a rented home. In India, suburbs are not as costly as they are in developed countries. He has lost his “Will” to do anything. He has become a chain smoker. His wife gives him an exact amount for him to buy a packet of cigarettes before she goes to the office. But my friend wanders around during the day. Once his stock of cigarettes is finished, he looks for butts. Sometimes he goes to an ATM near his home and begs for money for the cigarettes. Another friend from those days has been in touch with him all through life. He has tried to help in many ways, including psychiatric treatment. But it seems he has crossed the primary threshold. It appears that after some medicines, he will be shifted to an institution.

My eyes are still moist when I write about him. We had fantastic 6/7 years together during our childhood. We fought; we were partners in table tennis. I spoke to him a few months back, and I told Jaya that something is seriously wrong with him. I will be able to handle his death, but I am too much of a coward to meet him in this condition. I have now made my resolve to go and meet him once this lockdown situation is over. Now I have found a valid reason to avoid visiting him! 😒😒

Friends, life is beautiful, but there are peaks and troughs of happiness and sadness. I know that I will overcome this phase. But life is full of surprises, either way!

When the going gets tough! 

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We all know the second part of the sentence; “The tough get going”! We are living in extraordinary times, and we will give an exceptional response to the situation! I am confident about it. The subject came into my mind when I read a lot of exchange on the WA group of a coop housing society, where I have a home, but currently our house there is locked, and we live elsewhere. Most of the people living there are high earning professionals who must be reasonably senior by now. We moved out from there end of 2013!

I read an apt comment from my young friend Sandeep. He said that it is a great opportunity to show the world that the husband/wife pair is “MAID” for each other. I added this sentence by editing this blog which was already published!

The subject was about the maids that come and work in the homes. Under Coronavirus threat, and curfew declared by the governments, most of these maids may not be able to go for work. The reasons can be the fear of the curfew declared. They are afraid of the police, and their neighbours are forcing them not to go. By no means, their services can be declared as essential services, like police, cleaning staff, hospital staff. One of our housemaids came yesterday. Her neighbours would not allow her to go out for work. She cheated and came; she was worried about her wages. Jaya told her that we would pay her even if she does not come for work. She asked Jaya when are they stopping all the flights? Jaya asked her the reason to know this. She said, “People in our area say that unless the flights are banned, this epidemic will not go. But these are for rich people. How will the government stop them?” Another question she asked was, will she be safe if she goes and lives in her native place? Jaya asked her, “How will you get treatment in her native place if required?” She was confused but more worried. The bais as the maids are called are poor confused souls. Their life weaves around the families where they work. It is for money, any other stuff that we give them, moral support and knowledge. They are entirely dependent on us. Let me assure they want to come to work but …!

Let me share with you friends, the extraordinary situations that came up in my life. In 1980-81 Jaya got a United Nations fellowship for MS in the US. My son Sachin was six years old. I was around 30. As a family, we decided that Jaya should take this opportunity, and off she went. My parents lived nearby; we would go for food at their home. My father was very fond of Sachin. He would look after him till I came back from office. My father died suddenly after about three months of Jaya’s travel. But I told Jaya to continue with her education. We somehow managed to handle the situation; my mother overcame her grief to support the family. Extraordinary response from the family helped Jaya finish her MS with flying colours in nine months with 4.0 score!

We read so many stories of children from very low-income family clearing their IAS/IFS and such competitive exams. I will share one story. In the apartment where I lived initially, we had a family of two brothers. One of them was our watchman. Other brother used to work on construction sites. They had two children each. Watchman’s brother died in mid-nineties. Both their wives used to work in our house as support staff. I have watched their lives from close for twenty plus years. Last year somehow, we got their cell number. Jaya called them. Next day the whole family came to meet us. The wives continue to work as maids elsewhere. The watchman did farming in his native place and had some income. He would travel to his farm when required. The ladies came with two younger children. Both had become engineers were working in IT companies; the family had struggled all their lives.

Some of these thoughts came to mind as I have been reading and hearing about discussions on various WA groups. These were mainly about everybody staying at home, managing the cooking, with children at home 24/7- how long nobody is sure. Ladies are naturally stressed out because usual conventions indicate that they will have to bear the full brunt of things at home. Compared to the difficulties of the family mentioned above, I thought that we are better off. We do not have financial worries. We generally do not have to worry about water supply and electricity. The absence of maids could be stressful. But these extraordinary situations call for similar solutions. Equally busy husbands should raise their hands up and declare what responsibilities they are going to handle until this situation lasts. Or is it? Why not continue in the same vein even after humans overcome the current pandemic?

Let us not say that these things could be done by mothers only! Fathers could be equally efficient and proficient in attending PTA meetings! Why should fathers not take up morning chores like breakfast and chai-coffee? We should change the way we think. We are busy in the mornings with phone calls, emails, sending children to school and so on; you finish your dinner at night. Why not pack your tiffins at night? Is it not more efficient? You are going to keep the remaining food into some containers. Fill up the tiffins (dabbas) and then transfer balance food into containers! You are a professional and an expert. Show the same efficiency at home. Make sure that inventories are perfect at home, same as you manage at the office. Life becomes easier. Your star performer meets with an accident and is going to be away for six months. How do you handle it? You have your replacement star performers at home too! The hubby and the kids! It’s tough, but it is doable.

Consider a case of our neighbour who is seventy. She had a heart valve replacement surgery, 2 ½ months back, where all her ribs had to be cut open. Recovery time is five to six months at this age. Now suddenly, her nurse and the maid may not be able to come. They are trying to get permission at least for the nurse, which I am sure she will get. What must be her mental state? How is she going to manage? Her son lives out of India, and the daughter lives nearby. She must look after her children and old inlaws. Solution? I am not so sure. She must quarantine herself from neighbours like us too! Her immunity must be down post-surgery.

In 2013 December, I moved out of Sunshine Villa for family reasons. But the main reason was that I was detected with Cancer. There were practical reasons to move next to my daughter’s home. After three months of 34 radiation sittings, and Immunotherapy, I moved back to my routine in about three months. The “free” time I got during this period converted me into a blogger! In July, I had a Bharat Darshan tour to meet my customers. After that, I have been working hard and travelling well abroad as well as in India. It is possible to surmount odds. It is tough, but “The tough get going when the going gets tough!”

Friends, it is tough to change your lifestyle suddenly. But when there is no option, we do it. You will spend more time with your children. They will know what difficulties the mother’s face. That is a great learning curve for the whole family. Thanks to dear Coronavirus!

Tough2