Suicide-that unfortunate act!


Sushant Singh Rajput died today due to the alleged suicide at home. He was 34 years. He came from a small town in Bihar, and his family was well to do! He had the looks, acting talent, zeal to succeed in life. The thought processes behind his smart and attractive face were not understood by anyone. The thinking of the people who unfortunately succeed in suicide is never known to anyone. In that sense, family and friends never have closure. The cross has to be borne by all others till the end.

Sushant Singh Rajput had scored an All India Rank of 7 in Delhi College of Engineering Entrance Examination in 2003. He then pursued Mechanical Engineering from Delhi College of Engineering (now Delhi Technological University) but dropped out in the third year of college to pursue acting. He was also a National Olympiad Winner in Physics. He cleared as many as eleven engineering entrance exams, including that for the ISM Dhanbad.

Good looking, decent family background, enthusiastic, successful career what more do you want. “joie de vivre” was the term used by an interviewer about him. What more do you ask from life? Life is never a bed of roses. There was a painful breakup with his fiancé. He had given up his engineering degree halfway to pursue his first love, acting. Or was it? Is it that he secretly wanted to become a software engineer? Was the loss of his mother, when he was 16 and appearing for his 12th board exam, an event that had a lasting effect on him? None of these questions will even be answered, and as I said, there will be no closure for near and dear ones. What an unfortunate way to go! After such an event, the question always remains WHY?

The human mind is impossible to predict and fathom. What happens behind that “happy happy” façade, none, even the spouses or close friends or parents are many times not able to judge. It appears as if everything is hunky-dory, and then suddenly, the downward spiral starts. It seems that he was facing depression since last six months. So there is no point in blaming the lockdown for the act. But friends, the lockdown is an unprecedented situation which can cause anxiety and depression amongst people. Close ones need to handle this aspect delicately but firmly too if required. There is a stigma attached to psychiatric treatment in our society. In the US they are a little more open about it, and people talk about their “Shrink”. It is an accepted norm that when we are physically unwell, we go and see the doctor. We perform the testing suggested and keep on taking regular treatment. But this does not happen so openly in case of mental illness- in fact, we do not want to use the term.


What should society do? Three things that everybody must try and follow. Be kind, show empathy and do not be judgemental while being a good listener. How should we handle if we find that someone’s behaviour has changed? There are telltale signs that we ignore. I will share a couple of incidents that I have handled. One was when I was under thirty and the other two when I had (hopefully) matured into a fifty-year-old.

I have changed the names in the incidents that I am sharing with you. I used to work in a factory in the late 70s of the last century. Ibrahim Bhai was our transport contractor, and had a couple of tempos and was a good businessman. He was very reliable. Ibrahim would chat with everybody in a friendly manner, and we had a good working relationship. Over a period, we observed that his demeanour had changed; he always appeared hyperactive. I felt that something was going wrong with him, as our relations were formal, I could not act beyond a limit. He started chatting only with me, as others were making fun.

I sent a message to his family that he needs some treatment, through another colleague, who knew his family. Next day his wife called and said, “My husband always talks about you at home, and I got your message. Whatever you suggest, we will do.” I told her that Ibrahim Bhai needed psychiatric treatment. To the credit of the lady, she immediately accepted it. I made an arrangement for an appointment with my psychiatrist friend. Over a period, Ibrahim started returning to normal. He once came to my office and thanked me profusely. He promised that he would continue the treatment as long as it is needed. Later I changed my job and lost touch with Ibrahim. I met him twenty years later. He looked older and tired but appeared to be mentally under control.

In my software business, we had hired an engineer, Dilip. Dilip was raw but willing to work; he appeared to be an introvert. I realised that he could not handle even the slightest work pressure. He would start stammering, brooding and sometimes crying. I suggested that he call his parents to my office. They both confirmed his behavioural pattern and were worried too! Again the help of the same doctor friend was taken. The engineer was not even 25 years of age. He improved over six months and slowly started taking responsibility. The first time I sent him alone to a customer, the customer’s team had to hospitalise him as he began to shiver and sweat profusely. He was released the next day. But slowly, he started managing work independently. When I closed my office a couple of years back, he was an ok performer and could take responsibility. But all through my senior colleague and I had to continue hand-holding. I hope he manages his life in future, but he just managed to improve about 40% of what he should have. I am glad that I was able to support him all through his tenure. But I always had my three-pronged strategy to help him.

Another example I had shared in a blog was about a brilliant friend, Ashok. Ashok had an anxiety attack and once came home to discuss it. Honestly, we were friends but not very close. He had felt like committing suicide during that attack. He and his wife felt that somehow I was the person who could help. After a long chat on the bank of a lake for about three hours, he was visibly relieved. He acted as per what we had discussed, and then his career simply took off, so did his life. My contribution was to be around, to listen to what he had to say; and hand-hold for a couple of months to help for course correction.

I had shared some thoughts in a blog below.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/our-personal-atm/

All of us have that Personal ATM in our life. We should look for that person and try to find the PATM. We go to an ATM when we need some cash. But the money we can withdraw is limited by bank rules and the balance in your account. Friends, do not forget that Personal ATM has an unlimited balance, and you have an active card ready to withdraw. Look around, and you will find yours.

WhatsApp Image 2020-06-16 at 19.12.54

I have written about the three things that ALL of us should follow. Be kind, show empathy and do not be judgemental while being a good listener. While living life, you find a troubled soul, do not go by outside façade, imagine yourself in his shoes, then you will be less judgemental. Empathy and being judgemental are inversely proportional. Show more empathy, you will be automatically less judgemental. Let us all try and prevent somebody becoming a Sushant Singh, the unfortunate, smiling and rising star!

Too Busy to Enjoy!


A friend shared her experience, which made me think. They lived in Worli, Mumbai on the 19th floor bang opposite their windows was the Arabian sea. A couple of her friends had come to stay with them for a few days. Just before leaving for the train station, the guest said, “Oh! There is the sea out there. You have a nice view.” For the duration of their stay, they never observed the sea. Come on; you cannot miss the sea. The guests lived in a city which was far away from the sea.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder is the idiom that comes to mind. In dictionaries, the usage of the word beauty is explained as

  • the qualities in a person or thing that as whole give pleasure to the senses
  • the beauty of the landscape along the coast was enough to take your breath away

Some enjoy the beauty in the smallest things, and others miss the ocean in front of the eyes. Why is that so? It could be that some of us are too engrossed in trying to find out the next meal! It could be that some of us are too busy arranging the meal for the seventh generation, down the lane- engrossed in making money! Some of us need to have alcoholic support to enjoy tête-à-tête with a friend. For a person like me, meeting a friend gives me a high! But experiencing something beautiful comes naturally. The most beautiful thing is the smile of a child who starts recognising its mother. Nothing can beat the innocent smile. Would there be people in this world who do not enjoy this smile? Yes, there would be! What are such people made up of is difficult to judge! My favourite Q! Is it in their DNA? Are they born with this defect? If that is so, then they are most unfortunate.


We see many people with lines on their forehead! Their brows are always indicating that they have to carry the load of the universe. People forget that they can do serious work, meaningful work, but for that, they need not take themselves seriously. You may be discussing the theory of nuclear energy or talking about military strategy, but during lunch or tea break, you can always share a joke or two. You might see some birds in the vicinity; and you may get a lovely drizzle, enjoy it.

There is a story that shows the thinking of people. We had a family friend living close by, in Pune. He was a nice person, but he had a different way of thinking. In Pune, we generally have beautiful temperate weather. For a week in monsoon, a couple of weeks in summer weather is not comfortable. Whenever I spoke to him, I would ask him how he was. Depending on the time of the year, he would reply, “Oh, it is so hot!” “Oh, it is so Cold!” “Oh, there is so much rain!” Surprisingly, these statements were made about Pune weather.

I will share with you a few things I have enjoyed in life. In our younger days, we always had a cat at home. One of them was smart. She had a few deliveries in our home. The cats change places where they keep the babies, till the kittens start moving on their own. The smarty would shift only one of the babies, and she expected us to move the other babies. We thought that we were smarter than her and shifted the kittens to a new place; it was a pre-emptive move on our part. Smarty did not like this. She moved one of the kittens to the first place and followed us in the house. We were wondering why she was following us. Then we saw what she had done. Then we moved all remaining kittens to the first place. She stopped following us and went to sleep with the kittens. It was a sight to see the cat teaching her kittens to catch small mice in our garden.

You do not need to go to Tajmahal, Niagara Falls or St Moritz to enjoy the beauty. These are of course beautiful, but in smaller things also you can enjoy. You must enjoy the paintings of Picasso, Rembrandt and Hussain but do not forget that HE is the most celebrated painter on the earth, he offers art show every day if you have an eye for it. It is free. We enjoy that show from our balcony every day! Who can paint better than HIM?

Now there is a trend to take holidays, and we travel with tour organisers. They spin you around for seven to thirteen days. When we take this option, we try to see that the coordinators do not have a hectic schedule. Also, we check in advance that they allow us to spend a day or two on our own. We want to enjoy at our pace, at the same time we want to soak into the beauty in our way.

IMG_3601 (2)

In St Moritz, Switzerland, they had suggested that we go and enjoy the beauty of four peaks in a day which included Matterhorn. We did only two. We spent a lot of time at Matterhorn. We believe in soaking into the beauty at our pace!

We have a home where we lived for about seven years. It is a row house. There we have a garden, and there was greenery. We used to have an adda of friends quite regularly, having tea-coffee and Gappa. We had garden chairs and a table under the shade of trees. When the chairs were full, there was a platform to sit on. I remember sessions after sessions of Gappa even in monsoon during a drizzle. It is the atmosphere, it is the ambience, and it is most important how you want to seek the beauty with which you are surrounded. In Madikeri resort jungle, I would enjoy early morning tweets by birds. I was hoping to find in vain the sequence in which different birds tweet- I never succeeded. I thought that they chirped at random- it only showed that my knowledge of the subject was poor!

Our life is full of ups and downs but we need to handle it in such a way that we find good stuff from what is around you. Do not shut eyes when at home; to enjoy the beauty of the world we do not necessarily have to travel. When you can find good things from the world around you, you improve your life’s balance sheet by making entries to the credit side!

 

New World Order!

Without giving us any choice or option, the new world order has been ushered on the earth. Thanks to Coronavirus! It will hopefully discipline humans to behave sensibly. Social distancing in the future is going to be the norm. It has become essential due to health reasons. My Japanese friends have been systematic in such issues. Even before COVID, they have been wearing masks in public if they had a cold. It is a natural thing to do, but none other than the Japanese have followed this practice. I am sure if everybody supports this practice, people will get fewer infections from others. Is the world going to change for better, I hope it does!

What changes do we expect? Are we going to continue whatever we are doing currently? The answer is Yes, No or Maybe! Maybe it is a more likely answer. The reason for this is human nature. In emergencies, we do whatever is needed to be done. That “whatever” may not be the way we always act. In “normal” times, we switch back to “normal” ways of working. Our “normal” style may not be an efficient way of working, but we are so much used to it that we revert to those ways. I will give a simple example from the game of cricket. The fast bowlers have been using their saliva to shine the cricket ball—the ball swings as per the shine. I do not know the cricketing rules in details, but there was a great uproar when John Lever, the English pace bowler, used Vaseline to shine the ball. To me if saliva was allowed then why not Vaseline? Maybe the rule says an extraneous substance should not be used- in that case why saliva was allowed? So defining “normal” can become tricky. Now there is a big discussion because ICC says that saliva should not be used for shining the ball!

But WFH or Work From Home will be the significant change that we can expect to continue because it directly will reflect on the way work is done by businesses. Some things could be done from home, and others cannot be done from home. Then there is a question of availability of sufficient, peaceful working space at home. Other than that, there is the infrastructure to be created for working from home. It will include “Quality Internet”, a comfortable chair and a table (for eight-hour working) plus some storage space. There would be challenges. Your home size may not be sufficient for the purpose and do not forget that there could be more than one person doing WFH! I have known of someone who was working from inside a walk-in closet because on that particular day there was an important customer meeting and the children just would not quieten down.

 

That brings us to children. There is a serious discussion going on about starting online schools for the children, in Pune. Why not? But there are many challenges. In the current lockdown situation, both parents or a parent could be working from home. Many households today run with an assumption that the kids will be dropped at the creche before parents going for work.

In some cases, children are dropped to the creche after the school gets over. One of the parents picks up the kids on the way back from office. Children at school are under the physical supervision of the teachers. Assume the kids in KG. Would they be able to “attend” school on their own? Will the parent be “free” to help them manage things? Would each family have a computer for each child? Would a family with three or four children have enough infrastructure to attend school from home? What happens when the child gets a tech issue while the “school” is going on? If the parent busy in a meeting? There are going to be problems galore.

Then consider the schools. In Pune, I read that the schools may start after July. There is a discussion going on about “Zoom” schools. But the school authorities may not be geared up for the tech aspect of conducting classes. They may be using older computers. Since the schools are starting late, the parents would delay the payment of fees. There will be challenges both to parents and the schools. There will be transportation challenges. With social distancing norms likely to continue for some more time, the number of children ferried in the school buses, vans and auto rikshaws would be restricted, increasing the costs. Some parents may not use this infra for the whole year, so for school costs of idle buses could go up. Who would pay for that? The transport of children is an income stream for schools. The parents are required to pay these charges for the whole year in advance, so one more issue has to be tackled.

Friends, I have discussed the school situation in details, but similar and more unforeseen challenges would come up as we move towards normalcy. But there would be some areas of work/business that would be benefitted from the WFH. Organisations have realised that in service and non- manufacturing sector, it would be a win-win situation for both sides. For businesses, office space, infrastructure costs could come down substantially. Over a period, businesses would be able to understand which people are “needed” in the office. Rest can work from home. The employees need not move to their city of work. They will save money if they are not required to commute every day. Offices will save on transport costs if they have to ferry a smaller number of employees to office, daily.

But there would be further challenges. What happens to departmental meetings or bonding? Once you reduce the office space, where would you hold such meetings? Will it be practical to have such meetings on video conferencing calls? How does the HR department function? Their work involves hiring and meeting people face to face. Will it be the same in a video meeting? Will it be possible to fire someone on Video meetings? Where does this lead to as far as the human aspect is concerned? I am getting feedback from purchase departments of a large organisation that they need not go to the office for the day to day work. A chairman of an FMCG company has said that they will have to change their sales operations. Distributor concept may taper off as Amazons, Flipkarts and Jios of this world do their business by maintaining social distancing. They do not have to spend money on keeping social distance. It is the model of their business that gives them the advantage.

Another out of box thinking! Pune Municipal Transport has created an app which will allow the customers to pay bus fare by using QR code to keep social distancing with the conductor. I will add a new term, Collateral Benefit! A couple of years back the bus company had an issue. They had collected coins worth five crore Rupees (50 million). Their bank refused to accept the coins. They had to make special efforts to resolve the issue.

Oh! I forgot a significant event. Yesterday, Mr Modi and Mr Morrison, PM of Australia “met” on video conference, which is a great step forward in human activity. Why should we travel to New York to give a speech at the United Nations? What is the point in going to Davos for an address? Of course one may want to take a holiday too!

Let us hope that a large number of people, as well as organisations, will change to improve processes and NOT revert to old methods simply because we are used to them.

 

Yours Faithfully!

My friend Chandu sent me the story given below. It made me think and think deep. It was about Trust Vs Faith. Some of you may think that both are the same; it is only the semantics. But I do not believe it is merely semantics.

Faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.

I somehow used to think that Trust and Faith are two similar words, but as I was pondering about the difference, I realised the subtle and not so subtle difference in these two words. Chandu’s story helped me conclude.

A person started to walk on a rope tied between two tall towers, and he was ambling, balancing with a long stick in his hands. He had his son sitting on his shoulders.

All people on the ground were watching him in bated breath and were very tense. When he slowly reached the second tower, everyone clapped, whistled and welcomed him. They shook hands and took selfies.

He asked the crowd “do you all think I can walk back on the same rope now from this side to that side?”

The crowd shouted in one voice “Yes, Yes, you can..”

Do you trust me, he asked? They said yes, yes, we are ready to bet on you.

He said okay, can anyone of you give your child to sit on my shoulder; I will take the child to the other side safely

There was a stunned silence. Everyone became quiet.

Belief or faith is different. Trust is different. For Trust, you need to surrender totally.

It is what we lack towards God in today’s world. We approach HIM selectively.

We believe in Almighty. But do we trust HIM?

The image above is one I found very interesting. To me, it indicated that you start trusting at some stage; to me, Trust is the next stage of belief/faith. In the image, you see a man balancing himself to go from one end to the other, walking on the thin rope. But the caption written on the picture gives an important message. It says, “A day will come when the option to move either forward or backward, is not an option in a typical case. At that stage, one has to become a “डोंबारी,”- a Marathi word for an acrobat! These acrobats are not professional acrobats, but the whole family, including kids, perform acrobatic stunts, on streets; they have no option. They perform these acts to earn their living.

                                                             डोंबारी Video!

In everybody’s life at some stage, we have to become a “डोंबारी.” Sometimes our options are limited or tight. We need to make decisions, whether we like it or not. Our general tendency is to try and maintain the status quo. But is it only about life and death? Many times yes, but it is not a necessary condition. There are some personal situations, some business situations; there could be some public matters which may force you to make a decision.

Mother and the child relationship is one that is based on trust all the way. The mother carries the child in her womb for nine months, and no relationship in this world could be closer. For the mother, the child always comes first at every stage. We know the stories where mothers have fed their children by remaining with an empty stomach. The sacrifices mothers make, reach new heights in different situations. In every other relationship, the first stage is always faith, and from faith comes the trust.


In work, the first such relationship that comes to mind is that of the trapeze artists. Trapeze artists work in circuses. They swing and perform various acrobatics usually performed by more than one person; sometimes, it is a group activity. The artists swing high in the circus tent with a safety net below. Some outdoor performers use water body in place of the safety net. These performances are high risk, and when done a team event, it is based totally on trust. Once that full trust is formed, the performance of the group reaches the peak.

I want to use the term Parachute Packers as a Metaphor. When people go on missions in aeroplanes, or they go for para jumping, someone packs a parachute for them, correctly. It is a job of that safety person. But it is the trust we show in these Parachute Packers that is important.

Similarly, there are Parachute packers in our life. We have friends, family and others who may not be close to you on a day to day basis. These persons or group of people are just there behind you, only if needed. How does this happen? What makes people think differently than others? Is it the love between two humans, not necessarily equals? Is it inborn in the people? In an ordinary course, your parents, siblings, close relatives and friends are expected to be such people, but there have been instances when this group of people have remained spectators. Your parachute packer, lurking in the background, raises the hand! 

Do we work on creating such a support system? Is such support quid pro quo? No, it is not quid pro quo! Such people are simply born that way. Like mothers, these people also pack your parachute because they just want to do it! Who does not need parachute packers in their lives? I feel that all of us need such people. It is because money can’t buy everything. There are some situations where you may have the financial wherewithal, but that does not get the support you are looking for; you may be in two minds about the decision to be taken in a tough situation. You may feel lost in a situation; parachute packers are there for you in the background. You go to them, and they will help you. Or maybe sometimes they will come to help you without your calling them. 

I am talking of those who support others on their own because they just want to do so. I will share with you a story about a professional. The professional was a smart professional in the technical marketing field. He had excelled in his job, and everything looked hunky-dory, from a distance. One day he went to meet a friend of his. They were good friends but did not meet regularly. Our man told his friend, let’s go out somewhere. They went out and settled near a lake; the guy looked very upset and tense. He said, “Please help me; I have an issue with my job.” The problem was that the gentleman had simply started hating his job. He did not have any professional issue, and he was not sure what caused this. He also said that once he felt like committing suicide. The friend talked to him for some time and helped him to decide to quit that job. The friend nursed him back to normalcy. The gentleman took another job and was very happy in his life for the last 30 years. The person who did this is a close friend of mine. I asked him why this friend came to him? He is still not sure, but my friend spent almost three months in nursing that person back to routine; they have met only once after that episode in, 30 years! Parachute Packer?

Why was my friend approached in this situation? My analysis is that my friend is a great listener, and he exuded trust. He is a person with empathy; he is very sharp and can judge things in correct perspective, quickly. And most important is that during this critical phase took special efforts to find time for this person who was in difficulty! Is that description of a Parachute Packer?

There may be a Parachute Packer around, but ultimately you have to become a “डोंबारी,” and take that delicate walk, knowing that you could still fall and hurt yourself.

To me, when human beings come together, they like each other, believe in each other and start having faith in that person. But unless that person becomes your “Go-To” person, you cannot trust him. You trust HIM and your mother!

My definition of a trustworthy person or a “Go-To” person is best described in a poem below.

They came to tell your faults to me,

They named them over one by one;

I laughed aloud when they were done,

I knew them all so well before, —

Oh, they were blind, too blind to see

Your faults had made me love you more.

 

Fantastic progress! Really?

Images and statistics are both deceptive. It is difficult to guess what something represents, and it is impossible to predict where a person ends up in his career. When sixteen-year-old Sachin Tendulkar walked on the grounds to play against Pakistan, people had heard about the prodigy. That he would have retired after playing for 24 years of international cricket, scoring around 35000 thousand runs. Shoaib Akhtar, the Pakistani great fast bowler, recently said that Sachin would have scored around One hundred thousand runs, had he been in today’s era.  Vinod Kambli also walked out at the same time with similar statistic and look where he ended up.

During the second half of the last century and in the twenty years that followed, the world has progressed rapidly. Millions of poor people were brought above the poverty line, the world over. It is an accurate description in countries like India and China with huge populations. It was predicted that India and China would be “developed” nations in a certain number of years. It was based on some predictions, based on financial activities of those periods and statistic. But that was not to be! Why is that so?

That the United States and Europe were developed and prosperous was beyond discussion. Surprisingly, I found that there could be some measures to compare the richness of different societies. PPP- purchase power parity is the word used! A root canal procedure costs Rs 2500/ in India, while it costs, on an average, Dollars 2500/ in various countries like the US, Canada, Australia.

Let me tell you that Dollars 2500/ is a lot of money in the respective countries compared to other living expenses. So is Rs 2500/ in India under Indian conditions. It is a procedure that anybody may require. These aspects were never discussed openly. There were wars to be fought, politics to be played and yachts to be built. Do not worry; statistics tell us that many people have become middle class. Do not worry, if you are not able to buy your Chivas or Dom Perignon, be patient. The shops will open!

The current pandemic has thrown that hidden statistic open! I am considering only the US and India for discussion. In the US, around 35/40 million people have registered for the monthly dole as they do not have money for their next month’s meal. When we travel to the US, we move around in planes, helicopters and BMW’s. We forget that there about 30 % of people whose life has been hit by a typhoon or a Patton tank. The statistic is that it is 30% of US working force that is badly hit. If we consider 30 % of people hit by the pandemic, the number is 35/40 million. In our language, it is from 3.5 to 4 crores. The numbers are much more than this because many people do not get counted in official figures.

One to two months of bad times, without wages, has brought these people on the road. The stark reality is that statistics can be easily twisted to suit any argument. In the US, 3 to 4 crore people are brought to their knees, then the statement that the US is the wealthiest society in the world is baseless. The so-called middle-class like you and me take education and get a reasonable job. We save, get ahead in life, then we keep on saving and try to go forward in life.

So, the theory that millions the world over have become middle-class is not valid! Or I should say that these people have not become middle class- they have come just above the poverty line. When everything is hunky-dory, life looks and feels rosy! Spanking Metros, sprawling airports are the signs of progress. Are they? A sustained and unprecedented event has brought in open what is hidden behind the “progress!”

Why is that so? In the shining glory of the life that we live, the reflection of the bright lifestyle blinds our sight. We accept whatever is said and declared by various governments and organisations! The shining armour of the progress was pierced by one pandemic. Societies are bleeding.

Are we going to learn any lessons out of the catastrophe the large population is facing? I am not sure. The massive construction projects will restart, with workers living in their huts near their projects. These people live from project to project at the mercy of their contractors. They have some money in hand when things are “normal”. They aspire like you, and I do. The moment they have some free money with them, they will buy a bike—nothing wrong in that. The public transports are shoddy, and having your bike makes sense. The officegoers in Mumbai will go back to their trains- packed like sardines! Homes near your offices cannot be taken even on rent, forget buying them.

To me, all these claims of a large group of people becoming middle class is a statistic. If one or two months of no work and mostly no income going to push this group below the poverty line, the definition poverty line needs to be changed. To me, if families could survive six months of “no income”, then they could be treated as middle class. If in the first month of “no income” 20 % of the US workforce comes on the dole, then there is something wrong with of these definitions.

In India, there are two types of people who have progressed from low income; the wise ones have saved money from their income. All the members of such families do some work. Whereas there are some who can not bring families to cities. Such people survive on meagre amounts in cities and send remaining money to the family. The arrangement does not allow them to save money at all.

To me, the middle class is those people who come above the poverty line, live comfortably and SAVE MONEY! If you cannot save money, one shock and you are back to square one.

In every country, people are working on minimum wage. They could be in Mom and Pop stores or the stores in Malls. They could be working in Amazon or Ikea stores. Under Indian conditions, these are people working as assistants to people running kiosks on the roadside. These could be housemaids or cleaning staff in unorganised sectors! They all survive from salary to salary. Their conditions are such that they are afraid to fall sick for two reasons. The first one is they cannot afford the treatment- hence sometimes they waste money on quacks when they are sick. The second reason is that if they cannot attend work after falling ill, they are not paid for that day. It is a double whammy!

What is the solution to such problems? There is only one solution. Let there be inflation, let things cost more but pay people much more than what they are paid today. It will cause big churning in society, especially for retired people. I am not a communist or a socialist.

I am a Capitalist with a big C; I am out and out for the survival of the fittest. I understand and agree with market forces etc. But something is drastically wrong with the current model in which the one month of “no income” can ruin families!

Hey folks! I am with you! You do not need dole! It is your birthright to earn decent money against work done, and you should be able to save every month. So, all the nations, all the societies must first change the definition of poverty line! If that cannot be done, make everyone RICH!

Where is the reset button? 

Could you attend the PTA meeting? I have an important presentation. Hey dad, I will call you asap. I am a little stuck up. I have contacted the garage three times; they are not responding. You had promised me that we would meet for dinner for two consecutive months. Now let me check with my astrologer when is the D-day! We will pick up the new car at four p.m.; we will go in a cab. From there I must go to the airport directly. How many times have we heard such statements?

If hundreds of thousands of people are so busy in their work 365/24/7, then the many things are wrong. We do not know how to estimate the time required for an activity. Or it could be that the sales/planning team gives unrealistic promises to customers about the delivery, based on current capabilities and strengths. The whole team does not understand each other’s capabilities; hence everybody is busy round the clock. What could be the reasons?

Shishupala

There is a story in mythology. Lord Krishna promised his aunt, Shishupala’s Mother to spare her son for 100 crimes such that each will be worthy of a Death Penalty as per the rules of their World. When Shishupala crosses the limit, Lord Krishna struck off Shishupala’s head with Sudarshana chakra. Current situation of humans is like that of Shishupala. Our Lord Krishna is Mother Nature! We have behaved in such a way that we completed at least 50% of the hundred allowed crimes, against mother nature, in the last fifty to seventy years.

The current pandemic is Nature’s way of telling us that enough is enough. Nature, for us, is Mother Nature. Typically, she will condone some more crimes, as a mother.  You can say that she has communicated the strong message by way of a text or WhatsApp message, a tweet. She has written on our FB wall and the Instagram account. She has been moaning with pains due to what we have been doing. But we do not want to learn. She has sent a message in the current language, RESET!

We have been so busy doing other things that we do not even know where the Reset button is. In India, she had sent a couple of strong messages by way of Tsunami in the year 2004. Then the next year 2005, there were thirty inches of rains in a few hours in Mumbai. It stopped everything, and Mumbai limped back to normalcy over a period. Lessons learnt, zero! In 2005, typhoon Katrina flooded New Orleans in the US. It took months for them to come out of the disaster.

At least now let us try to find the Reset button! The button is in our hand all the time, but our brains do not send the signals to the fingers. I will explain what I mean in the global language, computer language.

If you are having problems with your PC, you can:

  1. Refresh your PC to reinstall Windows and keep your files and settings. Refresh also supports the apps that came with your PC and the apps you installed from the Microsoft Store.
  2. Reset your PC to reinstall Windows but delete your files, settings, and apps—except for the apps that came with your PC.
  3. Restore your PC to undo recent system changes you have made.

I feel that humans have passed step 1 mentioned above; we are in phase 2.

How do we achieve Reset? Well, there many smarter people than me in this World to tell this; unfortunately, some feel that they are smarter than Mother Nature. Resetting can be done if we want to do it. It is in our hands.

First, try to delete the term 365/24/7. We feel that all the time available to us must be devoted to work, work and work. We know that there are other things like holidays, family, children, parents, friends. The current situation has given a great shock to us. One of our family friends expired early morning today. Because of the pandemic, we could not bid her adieu! The same thing happened when another friend died last month. For these families, it is the most significant punishment when children living far away in different cities or countries could not come. A family had taken a similar decision to ask the child not to come when the father suddenly died! Reason US Visa issue! Mind you, and there was no pandemic going at that time! Oh, one has to be prudent! Do you understand what I mean? Visa status is more important, not the father’s death!

Now technology is commercially available for moving away from fossil fuel for the automobile industry, for the last ten years. We are progressing at the snail’s pace in that direction. To hell with the smog. We are still talking about improving emission in fossil fuel vehicles. We are okay with heavy pollution!

IMG_0267 (3)

But the current situation has shown us how the atmosphere looks without pollution. It is displayed in a photo of Sinhgad, above, that I have taken. It is 20 km from home. In Punjab, people can see the Himalayan range from 100 km distance. Do we want this change or not? Are we going to heed the signals sent by Mother Nature? If we ignore our body signals, we can die of a heart attack. Mother Nature has given us another chance; grab it. Honestly, I am not sure that we have it in us.

The good part is some of us seem to have located the Reset button. Far-flung families and friends are zoom calling every week. Husband-wife both working from home do not feel shy to inform that they will be off meetings for a couple of hours as their child is unwell. Neighbours talk to each other from their gardens or balconies. They sing songs together. They have formed orchestras with neighbours and enjoying it. It is a profound change; people did not have time to talk to each other in the family due to 365/24/7!

We have started appreciating cleaning crews and sweepers as we have realised that they are as important as doctors and nurses. We understand these people who have been working nonstop for a few weeks.

But countries like the USA are not able to find that Reset button. They still feel that Arctic snow melting is a temporary event. They are not worried about CO2 and CO emissions. Once the business activity starts, everything will be hunky-dory! Was there a pandemic! Oh, you are talking of the Spanish Flu, a hundred years back! Recently a million US citizens had a touch of Flu; 88000 thousand deaths were just collateral damage! Nobody died in my home!

Another good activity observed is that people and countries have started cooperating as a “Bubble.” Australia and New Zealand want to start working with each other. Some small Baltic countries have started working together. Cooperation is the name of the game; fighting with each other was never going to be beneficial to anyone. Rich countries like Singapore and Saudi Arabia have realised the folly in treating migrant workers shoddily.

The casual approach of the developed countries during the pandemic has hopefully taught them that they can also learn from not so developed countries like India.

Where are we friends? What is your estimate that we will press the Reset button at least in some areas? I will be thrilled even if 50% of us find it, mark my words “find it!” Out of these people who find it, even if 50% use the Reset button, it will be fantastic! I will join you for that dinner that we have been missing for many months. I will give you the treat, and do not forget it will be in my garden! I will cook! Oh, I have found the Reset button, and I am very much going to use it!

Neurologist or Psychiatrist! Or Stupidity!

A Pakistani poet wrote this about India: 

“Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle 

Ab tak kahan chhupe the bhai? 

Woh moorkhtawoh ghaamarpan 

Jis mein hum ne sadi ganwai 

Aakhir pahunchi dwaar tumhaarey 

Arre badhaibohot badhai!” 

India and Pakistan are bitter foes, but they agree on one thing a explained in the above.  

 

Stupid

The world is full of people who have a different way of thinking, but when ordinarily intelligent, smart professionals behave differently, one starts wondering why this happens? Then I start wondering whether these people need Neurologist or Psychiatrist! We also have “I care two hoots type” of people. Or they are plain stupid. Let me explain.  

A doctor used his son’s bike to go to a shop. After a few days, during morning tea, his son told the doctor, “Daddy, I received a ticket for my bike for Rs.200/. I paid it off!” The father said, “Where did you break the signal?” The son said, “You had taken my bike, and at one of the signals, you had stopped on the zebra crossing. Police have shared the photo.” He smiled and further said, “ You were the only one on the crossing; all others had stopped behind.” The doctor was upset and threw tantrums. His logic was what happens if I stand on a zebra crossing?  

The doctor is a well-known professional. What should have been his reaction? Oh, my God! How could I do that? No urgency could justify my actions. It is so embarrassing to see that I was the only one who broke the rule. That reaction would have been the expected behaviour. But, no! He seems to be riding a high horse, thinking that he is a famous personality. The rules are for ordinary citizens. Are ambulances not allowed to jump the red signal? Come on, doctor! Ambulances are permitted to break the rules when they are rushing a patient to a hospital for treatment.  

I had driven like an ambulance, years back when our family friend had a stroke. We lived nearby. We just put him the car and rushed to a hospital. I was morally unambiguous that I was trying to save a life.  

What happens to such people? Do they have a twisted brain or they have a psychiatric issue? Who should handle such “patients”, a Neurologist or a Psychiatrist? Is it about the way you grow up? It is said that the children look at the parents for guidance. Parents, you need not take care of how your kids behave, see how you behave while your kids are growing up! Most of the time, the kids blindly follow parents.  

Is it about the society in which you live? If a higher percentage of people break basic rules in public life, the chances are that we may also do the same, because we think that we can get away by doing anything!  

I remember once many moons back, Jaya and I were in Ottawa. We were going home after dinner at a friend’s house. It was around 11 pm. We reached a junction, and the signal became red. It took about two minutes for the signal to become green. In between, our friend just muttered, “This stupid signal.” But he did not move an inch. Those were days with no cameras anywhere on the road. It was about discipline and the thinking that the law is the same for all. He was a well-known scientist in Canada.  

India has a big divide as far as the public discipline is concerned. As we reach the south of Vindhya Parvat, people tend to be more disciplined. Recently, I was in Indore. The city has transformed into a clean city. It is rated number one for cleanliness in India. I found it clean, but that traffic discipline had hardly changedDoes it mean that in public life people do not bother about rules and regulations? These are meant for the betterment of society. Why the northern part of India lacks public discipline in general? Is it in their DNA? Humans world over are the same. There is small percentage of people breaking the rules, but we have it the other way round. What could be the reason for that?  

The financial systems of nations are designed for income tax compliance. The taxation is part of any democratic system. Taxes are used for the development of the infrastructures industry, roads, airports, railways and many things. The government uses the part of the same income to create a social network to have nots. But people break these laws with impunity. How much money is enough is a question like “how much land the does a man need?” Working sincerely and smartly are ways to achieve the goal of making money. But in India, people do a lot of business in cash to remain outside the gambit of tax laws. In most developed countries, people deal in cash, but it is done for illegal deals like drugs, prostitution etc. But in India, it is done on day to day basis. The same people also are at the forefront of groups blaming governments for lack of development in the nation. 

Are we as a society sick people? Do many of us need treatments from the Neurologist or Psychiatrist! Are these professionals following the fundamental laws of society? Do they have a moral authority to tell others to improve by following societal norms? Do professors who are involved in plagiarism have the moral right tell their student to write original research? Does a parent consuming alcohol, regularly, say to the child not to do so? Can a parent who misbehave with old parents have it in them to tell the child to behave?  

The other day a classmate called me, I thought to say hi! After the usual banter, he said, “Are you at home?” “Where else could I be in lockdown times?” I said. He said, “Good, I will drop in for a cup of coffee.” I was shocked but somehow recovered to say, “Please do not come; in our condo, the visitors are not allowed.” I was aghast at his suggestion. He is my classmate, so we are of the same age. The fellow wanted to socialise in these pandemic times. The person, of course, comes under the stupid category! He further said that he roams around everywhere without a mask and no helmet! Of course, he is Punekar, so he feels that wearing a helmet is crime! 

Pune and helmet have a personal equation. Even though there is a Supreme Court ruling that the helmet is mandatory while riding a twowheeler, many refuse to wear it. Oh, you feel so hot! It is so uncomfortable! I asked one chap if you slip and your head bangs on the road, would you feel hot or uncomfortable? He had a reply ready, “It is my head; how are you concerned?” 

Friends, you categories these people as per your choice!  

I thought I should also share the translation of the above poem. 

So it turned out you were just like us! 
Where were you hiding all this time, buddy? 

That stupidity, that ignorance 
we wallowed in for a century – 
Look, it arrived at your shores too! 
Many congratulations to you! 

Raising the flag of religion, 
I guess now you’ll be setting up Hindu Raj? 
You too will commence to muddle everything up
You, too, will ravage your beautiful garden. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pandemic endings are very, very messy!  

Pandemic is an epidemic of disease which has presently spread all over the world. The current pandemic has spread across the globe. The main difference in the recent pandemics and the previous ones is the communication methods of the 21st century. These communications include travel modes, personal and public communications. Sitting in your home, you can see the TV channels from the world over. You can be in touch with your near and dear ones 24/7 using voice or video methods. One can have “family meetings” using apps like zoom! 

With all the technology around, except for the Vaccine or the cure, the whole world knows everything about the current situation minute by minute. Sometimes it loses seriousness and looks like a commentary of sports events. The number of deaths is just a number like strike two in baseball, and the number of wickets fallen in cricket match. We are lucky that these commentators do not shout like in football, it is a goooooooal 

Why am saying that the ending is going to be very, very messy? None of the pandemics that occurred before ended medically except smallpox! The last patient for smallpox was seen in 1977. But all other pandemics have tapered off into a situation, where people started getting used to them. It means that the problem does not come under control medically but socially. People and governments learn the methods to contain them and to overcome the fearLockdown is a tested and proven method 

I will share with you with the information about the Bubonic plague. I am giving you the history so that we may understand how COVID will go away.  

Bubonic plague has struck several times in the past 2,000 years, killing millions of people and altering the course of history. Each epidemic amplified the fear that came with the next outbreak. 

The disease is caused by a strain of bacteria, Yersinia pestis, that lives on fleas that live on rats. But bubonic plague, which became known as the Black Death, also can be passed from infected person to infected person through respiratory droplets, so it cannot be eradicated simply by killing rats. 

The plague began in 1331 in China. The plague continued for some time, along with a civil war, that was raging at the time. It killed half the population of China. From there, the plague moved along trade routes to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In the years between 1347 and 1351, it killed at least a third of the European population. Half of the people of Siena, Italy, died. It seems, as far as diseases are concerned China and Italy seem to have a great partnership from olden days.  

That pandemic ended, but the plague recurred. One of the worst outbreaks began in China in 1855 and spread worldwide, killing more than 12 million in India alone. Health authorities in Bombay burned whole neighbourhoods trying to rid them of the plague.  

The 1918 flu is the example of the ravages of a pandemic and the value of quarantines and social distancing. Before it ended, the Flu killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide.  

We have already seen that people are getting fed up of restrictions. Governments are worried about social revolts. The movement of migrant workers in India to their native places is a classic example of the same.  

Governments relax restrictions which give them a kick on the butt in some cases, e. g. Singapore. In India, the numbers during the last week are increasing fast. Chennai is leading “the charge”! Mumbai is already in trouble. But still, place like Delhi wants to relax restrictions. Why is that so?  

There is reason. I mentioned about influenza, which killed millions, a hundred years before. Now we are so used to it, that we have become friendly with it. We have now given it a pet name “Flu”! We are so used to it, that we even go to the office or wherever even when we have Flu! Why the change? We have got used to it. We sometimes do not go to the doctor to get treated and take selfmedication. It is unbelievable that the same Flu had killed millions. 

There is a reason. Diagnostics are better, our knowledge is better, and medicines are more potent. The same thing is going to happen in the case of COVID. Vaccine and treatment for the same is a distant dream. But in South Asian countriesthe pandemic is much weaker than in Europe and the Americas. Even in these places where the pandemic is smouldering, discussions about relaxation have started.  

Now why it is going to be messy? I will now talk of only India. With the help of technology, we have managed complete shutdowns. Shutting down is a more straightforward process because restarting is a complex process. We have Red, Orange, Green zones. All these zones are present in states, districts and large cities. Then there are containment zones. All our economic activities have become dependent on Pan India suppliers and transportation of goods. Maharashtra does not have Steel plants, so the Steel for construction has to come from somewhere; if that somewhere is in Red Zone, we are stuck. The same thing happens in the Automobile industry. Most of the car manufacturers have some vendors in Pune and around. Pune is the Red Zone! You get me! Migrant workers have gone home, and the economy is trying to restart. One may not get trained people. Do you understand why I am saying messy? 

No, you have not understood. The second wave may come back after a few months! But hopefully, as time passes, we will have the cure and the Vaccine! The old cars, when they sometimes did not start, a technique called Dhakka Start (Push and put it in gear and hope it starts). The start and stop can happen for the economy too, and the word Messy will be an operative word for some time. We will learn to live with another term, Collateral damage.  

Collateral damage is any death, injury, or other damage inflicted that is an unintended result of military operations. But the term can be applied to the current situation when we are trying to restart life after Reset! There could be some deaths when the pandemic returns. There could be business loss due to some sudden sever surge.  We should be prepared for this collateral damage.

The travel and leisure industry has a large clientele like us senior citizens. But as far as Jaya and I are concerned, 2020 is out! At most, we will travel to Mahabaleshwar in our car. Many businesses will limp back to normalcyMany things we have assumed to be safest, like air travel, will be hotbeds where the virus can get spread easily.  

Life is going to be Messy soonWe are already getting conflicting requirements from the Chief Ministers of different states. Some want to open everything, and others want to play it safe till May end, at least. Each city, each district, each nation is going to have conflicting requirements. Some say let the train and bus services start; others say not yet!  But we are dependent on each other for almost everything. Messy? Very, very Messy!  Now I hope you get me what I mean by Messy!

 

Act do not react! 

Newton’s third law is, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The statement means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects”; the size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object. The keyword is “opposite.”

The statement is on the techy side, and I also get worried when somebody makes such statements. So, let us talk in the language that all of us understand. In our life, some event or the other is always happening. There are meetings and discussions galore. There are smooth and hot discussions. Many times, we react to what someone has said. Sometimes the reaction is correct, and at other times it is incorrect because of different reasons. The second case is when a person has not explained correctly, or we have misunderstood what is said. But in both cases, we should not react. We should act. In the business scenario, such things can create business issues. In personal matters, we can suffer.

In the olden days, I used to work in an Aluminum foundry. We had a large compound. It was summertime, and in the empty area, the grass had grown and become dry. In the same place, our furnace oil tank was located. I was going from a building to another building and saw a cloud of smoke, fire, and commotion. Ours was a small factory, and I realised that we were not equipped to handle such fires. Our maintenance head was trying to extinguish the fire. I told him, “We need to take outside help.” The leader said, “Have you ever fought fires?” I said no, but I did not react or argue. I ran to our telephone room and called the fire brigade. I also decided to call Tata Motors and explained to them the situation. Within ten minutes, five fire tenders arrived and extinguished the fire. Tata Motors fire brigade chap said, “Good that you called us. We avoided a disaster.” I took him to the chief and told Tata person, “We acted as per his guidance.” Tata person congratulated the maintenance head and went away. Later, when we were having tea, the boss said, “Thanks, Pramod.” I smiled. The action helped, reaction from my side would have led to disaster.

US Airways flight 1549 took off from New York’s La Guardia airport on 15th January 2009, around 3.25 pm. It had 150 people on board. Within minutes it had a bird hit. Both engines of the Airbus 320 shut down. The primary pilot Sullenberger took charge, and the copilot Skiles was trying the SOP (standard operating procedure) to restart both engines. Within minutes they realised that the engines were not going to start again. They took a call to come back to the base and declared May Day! La Guardia asked them to come back to the airport and stopped all other flights as an emergency procedure took over. But by the time the pilots knew about the situation, absorbed it, analysed and acted upon it, precious time was lost. They did not react and never got into an argument with the ATC at the airport. They worked upon the prevailing conditions and declared that they would try for Teterboro airport instead. They were given clearance for that too. Within a short space of time, they realised that even that was not possible and informed the ATC that they were going to land in the Hudson River. They did it successfully without the loss of a single life.

In this event, both ATC’s and Pilots did not react but acted. They both had different parameters available to them and kept on taking decisions on the fly without arguing with each other. Even a thirty-second argument could have resulted in a major disaster as the time was at a premium. It was a classic case of acting instead of reacting, which saved the situation!

respond-dont-react

The slide above gives step by step information about acting and reacting. US Airways flight is the classic case of two sets of people handling the same situation differently. They were both correct in their perspective of the problem. They had a specific but different set of parameters available to them at their disposal. They were communicating with each other based on these details. The pilots were the ones who were in control of things, physically. Pilots and ATC’s are trained to discuss and behave calmly in the worst of the situations. By doing so, they argue less, with no raised voices. They are giving each other updates as well as the suggestions. By acting on each other’s advice and acting instead of reacting, in many cases, disaster was avoided.

The process of sharing information with another person is critical. It should be done in such a way that the sender’s message is understood as he intended it. Unless the sender and receiver are on the same page, they have not communicated effectively.

There are some critical points to be remembered when communicating with others. It could be personal communication or formal communication.

  • Do I have the facts, right?
  • Is my timing, right?
  • Is my attitude, right?  Am I trying to help the other person?
  • Are my words positive?
  • Do I need to seek counsel from someone else before I try to resolve this problem?

These are essential aspects of communication. One of the reasons why the start of the second world war was a surprise to Britain was that Prime Minister Chamberlain did not understand what Hitler was communicating to him. In his smooth way, Hitler was indicating to Chamberlain that, if required, Hitler would take over Britain. Chamberlain did not act on the soft threats and reacted by telling his people, “Oh! Do not worry. Hitler is not going to do anything nasty!”

What does a reaction do? The reaction starts the stress cycle for both sides. What it does is to create a situation where avoidable discussions start. These discussions are led more by ego rather than the desire to resolve the problem. Instead of this, both must find an escape route.

Years back, during my career, I used to work in a factory. We were having a discussion, and my senior said that a process should be handled in the way he explained to me. I was quite confident that he was incorrect. I said, “Ok! Sir, I will do it the way you have suggested.” It was an overnight process. I did it the way I knew, and the results were excellent. I told my senior the results. He did not ask me what method I had used. He was happy the results were good. The action was better than the reaction!

The Rock and the Hard place! 

To be stuck between two equally tough decisions or situations. The expression is often used when a person feels as if there are no good options available to him or her. There are similar expressions which are Catch 22 situation or Hobson’s choice.

https://youtu.be/WYllKnRMxpc

I had shared the above video with friends. My friend Vijay and I had a banter about this video.

The remark I had written when I shared the video led to the banter.

 “Can’t imagine something dangerous lurking behind this blissful morning!”

 Vijay: Didn’t get it!

Do you mean this Blissful situation is there because of dreadful COVID?

Pramod: Yes. Nahi to smog Hota hai poora😒

Vijay: A Question:

What would you choose between- Routine Day to Day life with smog or the Blissful situation caused by Covid-19?

Pramod: Is that a question 😊 We should be able to reset🙂

Vijay: No, a blunt answer.

Pramod: Business can be rebuilt; nature can’t.

Vijay: Nature is supposed to be the greatest healer!

Pramod: But there is a limit

It looks like an early morning banter between friends, but it put my mind into action. Hence the title! What is good, and what is evil? It is a tough question to answer. But the problem is that this is too big a subject to be discussed in a blog. But let me try.

Here is the situation that has slowly developed and sometimes not so slow. The world is moving ahead at breakneck speed with development in different fields. In the last twenty years, the average rate of growth must be many times that of the pace in the previous hundred years. There is always a downside to any story if we do not handle the environmental aspects correctly. Vijay asked me for a blunt reply. He said, not in those words, but the banter is always implicit. He said, “Would you prefer to see Sinhgad clearly, or would you rather see it in the haze but with continued breakneck growth?” COVID 19 situation has put us in a situation of rethinking various strategies. We should all introspect; we may not get such a golden opportunity again.

The million-dollar question is progress or pollution? Let us first understand the meaning of pollution. Pollution, also called environmental pollution, is the addition of any substance (solid, liquid, or gas) or any form of energy (such as heat, sound, or radioactivity) to the environment.  The rate of addition is faster than it can be dispersed, diluted, decomposed, recycled, or stored in some harmless form. Why does this happen? What are the factors increasing environmental pollution?

The second image is from Bogota and the third one is the Himalayas seen from Jalandhar about one hundred miles away- SHared by cricketer Harbhajan Singh.

Progress and Pollution go hand in hand. Many times, now, the pollution rate is higher than the gain. Why does this happen? Consider power plants run on fossil fuels. Consider anything run on fossil fuels. Cars, Motorcycles, Aeroplanes, Gensets, Power plants are some of the applications that burn fuel, pun intended. Polluting gases like CO2, and particles are released in the atmosphere. It has led to the depletion of the ozone layer. What is the reason for this fast forward in the world? The western world has been polluting heavily for an extended period. In late ’70 s of the last century, before the world realised, China started “progressing” in a big way. India joined the race at the beginning of this century. With a large population, these two countries joined the bandwagon of polluters. But the polluter in chief was the culprit and the judge too! The United States of America.

Combination of progress and controlled pollution is possible when nations have the will. These nations also must spend a lot of money on anti-pollution devices and actions. When the world had small population during the pre-industrial era, we used to dump things in rivers. The smoke polluting chimney was the norm; Nature, like a kind mother, was absorbing our errors. We continued with similar habits even after industrialisation. Some of us “woke up” early and started speaking against these follies. As usually happens, we called these people anti-development or anti-everything. Before we could grasp what was happening, the situation went out of control. The “culprit/ judge” declared then that they were quitting the global body to control pollution because “anti-gang” was coming in the way of progress! There was no serious issue as per the judge. Except for them, everybody else was the culprit!

When a large, highly advanced nation takes this stance, things are bound to spiral into a serious problem. Well, there are many theories now coming out like the mother nature taking its revenge! The revenge is supposedly in the form of the current pandemic. The pandemic has stopped the cities, states and nations. It has stopped has stores, malls, factories and markets. Rail, road and air travel is used only for emergency needs. The world has come to a standstill. Vijay asked me what you would prefer, the better world at a halt or the usual chaotic world with millions of problems which seem insurmountable.

The answer is that the everyday world is preferable but! We must consider the “but” rider. We cannot continue our chaotic, polluting ways. The human race is supposed to live a life that will be a better life for future generations. During pre-pandemic days, we were riding a goods train with failed breaks. The question has been when and how the train would derail. There was no “if”; everybody was sure that we humans would crash. The classic example of this, we saw yesterday on the news channels. State governments in India allowed the liquor shops to open from yesterday. In every city, we saw the same scenes. People lined up in front of wine shops from six am. It was as if the alcohol is a remedy for the pandemic, and you are likely to die if you are not able to procure it. Social distancing norms be damned. We should keep our fingers crossed and hope that all of us change for the better!

What is the answer to Vijay’s blunt question? My answer is we should not forget that the ozone layer depletion, smog, (and smog-related illnesses) are facts of life. The investments in businesses and development must also have a large element of funds to control the downside. If we invest 100 units for growth, make it 70 for development and 30 for environmental issues. If 5G technology comes in the year 2035 instead of 2025 heavens are not going to fall. I would love to go to Sinhgad to enjoy the beauty of nature. But if that 30 km ride is pollution-free, I would love it more. Let me observe the tower, where I live while standing on top of Sinhgad. Sinhgad example is a metaphor. It is like Sakura flowers in Japan or Goldmohur trees in India. These bloom in spring and in summer. What will happen if these flowers do not bloom? If we don’t behave, it could happen. Don’t forget that Arctic ice caps are melting. It is not a futuristic threat; it is already happening. Why not try and switch over to Electric Vehicles? Why not go for wind energy and solar systems in a big way?

Everybody big and small should think in terms of the environment while doing whatever they are doing. Some things can become expensive. BS 6 engines are costly. But is there any choice? All these years, we did not take environmental cost into the business calculation; hence we could sell things at a lower price. There should be heavy taxation on polluting products as they have on liquor (for a different reason). It is the way we should bring a better environment to the next generation. We should teach them to respect the God-given gift, nature.

Yes! We must have progress! But it should not be a relentless pursuit. The progress should be married to a better environment, improved environment!

Sorry, Vijay! Instead of one line reply, I gave you 1300 plus words of reply!