So long dear friends, Al Vida!

Al Vida is a Hindi word meaning Goodbye! This year has been a bit rapid in the wrong sense! I lost three dear friends of mine to the almighty till today, 11th April 2017. I am not writing an obituary but I am writing random thoughts that come to mind when such deaths take place. I am now 67 and it’s not a big deal really to face that your friends or family are dying. I know the realities of life and know very well that one has to go at some stage. My first such experience was when I was in final year of school and I had lost a friend to destiny. I have written a blog on this event

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/he-is-gone/. That time it was a big shock!

In my grandparent’s time, he died at the age on 89, reaching that age was a miracle! Medical science and other allied sciences were not yet really developed and reaching the age of 50 was a great feat. Probably this threshold has already gone up to 55, then slowly to 60. My father and father in law both died at the age of 63. Celebrating 60th birthday was a great event then. People were considered to be at their prime around age of 40/45. Things have really changed now; almost 10 % of my batch mates from engineering college continue to work and are in reasonable health. Another maybe 50% are in good health though they have retired. People go for walks, treks, climb hills daily or hit the gym.

Now people are considered to be in prime around the age of 55/60 and I have known a few who have started new ventures after crossing 60. Definitions of old age are changing rapidly in India, the age bar for doing new things, new achievements has gone up! Besides improvement in medical sciences what has helped to raise the bar? New technology has brought people together. The isolation that older people had to suffer is now almost becoming history because we are in touch many people and many of the contemporaries are still around. This has definitely added to improved longevity.

I only feel sad that two of my friends who died, passed away almost instantaneously. Third friend was unwell for a few months. I don’t know the details about their health status for the period before they died. My other friend Suresh who was an Air Force pilot, flying MIG 27, had once told me. “Pramod, planes are as good as the way they are maintained. Except for one system, all hydraulics can be checked on the ground; only one system gets checked during flying. Similarly there is no sudden heart failure; there are signals which are ignored or sometimes due to diabetes the person does not feel the pain.” Had these two friends been a little more proactive in getting themselves checked who knows….

In this world time is the same for everybody. One minute for me is the same one minute to everybody. How we use this one minute is what matters. If we are day dreaming, thinking of future for ten minutes, we lose ten minutes from the current time which we could have spent better. Similarly if we had used those ten minutes to remember what we had done in the past, the net result would have been the same. It is the current time that is THE time!

Out of the three friends that I lost one of them was current time person. He would enjoy life to the fullest, whatever he was doing. He passed early morning. He had just come back from a party a couple of hours before he died. He had the real zest to enjoy the life. His son had shared the following on Facebook, sometime back. It is a perfect fit to my dear friend’s style!

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. Then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present. The result being that he neither lives in present nor the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies never really lived.”

My friend really lived life and it is not easy to be so zestful all through your life. Thank you dear for showing us the path how to live and in the how to go!  Goodbye, Al Vida, My angels!

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Empathy

Dictionary meaning of Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is one of the most important facets of human personality. I am always amazed how human personality develops. A human may be born with good physique, good brains; these traits can come from ones gene pool; these facets can be further improved by consistent efforts. But what about empathy? Is a person born with empathy? Is empathy a physical trait? No it is definitely not. Empathy is considered a motivating factor for unselfish, prosocial behavior, whereas a lack of empathy is related to antisocial behavior.

Human intelligence is the sum total of IQ & EQ. Empathy is a key element of Emotional Intelligence, the link between self and others, because it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves. This is best described by the proverb “Never criticize a person unless you have walked in his shoes for one mile.”

At what stage in life a human being becomes an empathizer? Is it seen only in humans or also in animals? I feel that it is definitely seen in the pets like dogs and cats. Of the two, dogs are better empathizers as they express themselves more openly than cats. I have read about dolphins, chimpanzees also showing this trait. These things indicate that empathy is a trait related to brain activity.

Empathy is a skill that is gradually developed throughout life, and which improves, the more contact we have with the person with whom one empathizes. Accordingly, any knowledge gained about the emotions of the other, must be revisable in light of further information. Empathizers will find it easier to take the perspective of another person when they have experienced a similar situation. When I share my personal experiences below, I again wonder if what I am writing is correct.

I want to share a couple of examples of my own and a business story which give different facets of empathy.

This is about 13/14 years back. I was in the US with my son Sachin, my grandson, Suyash, was maybe around 4 yrs old. We went his school to see a performance by the kids for Halloween. We were requested go and wait in a hall. Kids were coming in parade like formation and were having great fun. Almost all the kids had come out but we could not see our grandson Suyash. He came in the end, pushing a child who was in a wheelchair. After the program I asked the teacher, “How do you decide who will push the chair? Do you request the children to take turns?” She said, “Yes, we do it that way, but Suyash insists that he wants to push the wheelchair every time!” She said, “Suyash is different child and has of great empathy!”

Recently at home my daughter Priya and our granddaughter Rhea were with us. Our daughter came back from the clinic. She was mentally very down with some professional event and she had a telephonic conversation with my wife Jaya before she came home. Rhea asked Jaya, “Is mumma unwell?” Jaya said “No, she is ok!” Rhea is 3 ½ years old. When Priya came home and Rhea told us, “See mumma is well, she is not crying!” Jaya suggested to Priya to have some food. Rhea went and sat next to Priya and fed her all the meal. All the time telling her, “Eat your food, you will feel well!” She made sure that Priya finished all the food. How do I explain empathy in a 3 1/2 year old child?

Now I am not able to understand both the kids, all of ¾ years of age and so much empathy within them! They have not seen the world, they have not seen the bad side of the world. How could they empathize? I am back to my question at what stage the empathy start? How does it kickstart? Are all ¾ old kids like this? It cannot be so as each individual is a different person. Is it then genetic? Does it come down to you when you are born as hereditary facet of your personality?

Now I am sharing one experience from business domain. There was a heading somewhere.

Mercedes-Benz, the car manufacturer, is no longer interested in achieving customer satisfaction.

That does not mean that customer experience is not important to Mercedes. Quite the opposite. It means that customer experience is so important that satisfaction is not enough. Instead, the company wants its customers to feel delighted by their experience with Mercedes.

The company’s president and CEO believe that engaging Mercedes employees is key to achieving that. For example, a recent company poll found that 70% of employees had never driven a Mercedes. They are now being given the opportunity to do so, so that they can better empathise with customers, and therefore engage with them more effectively.

I had a similar discussion years back when first “Indian” car was being developed. The key people involved in this development were all using Fiat & Ambassador cars in those days. I asked some one senior in the organization, when all the key persons were accustomed to quality of Fiat & Ambassador cars, how will they create a car to compete with Maruti Zen, the best car of those times. We all know the end result.

In our office we make software products. I tell all my colleagues we are NOT developing software but we are creating a solution for other people to help them to handle their own processes in correct and a very easy way. Unless we achieve that we are not going to sell our products.  We must walk in our Customers shoes for one mile to understand their needs.

Will the world be a better place if more people are able to empathize? Is there a threshold at which people start to empathize? Can there be formal training given to people to learn to empathize? Friends come with your views! Let’s make this world even a better place.

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BS IV! What’s the hurry!

I think Supreme Court is making me think a lot currently and also giving me fodder for blogs! Thank you Sir! Today, 29/3/2017, they have thrown out a petition by both Govt and Vehicle Manufacturers, to allow Vehicle Manufacturers & their dealers to sell BS III vehicles beyond 31/3/2017, stating commercial reasons. Supreme Court said that this date was known to everybody for a long time and people’s health is more important than the commercial aspects of business. Period!

This blog of mine is not the usual comment on social aspects or musings. This is about an event in field of automobiles. I joined the industry in 1973 after passing my Master’s Degree in Engineering. I continue to work in the automotive field in auto components and software area. The subject is dear to my heart and I feel sad to see the way events have rolled out.

How do we compare with European manufacturers?

The table shows dates of introduction of various stages of emission norms and in most cases it  is the beginning of the year i.e. 1st January.

Bharat Introduction  Date Euro Introduction  Date
1 2000 1 1995
2 2005 2 1998
3 2010 3 2001
4 2017 4 2005
5 Skipped 5 Mid 2009
6 2020 6 Mid 2014

In early part of last decade, the technology for emission control was probably not available in India, at least initially.  I remember having seen diesel vehicles bellowing smoke more than a chullah (a low cost brazier being used in India to cook daily food in villages.) So much for the technology of those days. To my knowledge there are three factors which governed emission control project. First is technology itself, quality of fuel sold by Govt owned companies and Will to introduce these changes.

We will compare with Europe and their Euro standards, from where we got our technology or Japan who are equally ahead in technology. For each stage, Europeans allowed three years for the manufacturers to switch to next stage. In Europe too, the implementation was done phase wise and not in one stroke. For reasons best known to all concerned, we in India allowed five years each for first two phases and seven years for the current phase switch over.

If we look at the technology, we simply got it from elsewhere, all that we had to do is to try it, test it and productionize it. It was collusion between the powers that be and vehicle manufacturers or simply lethargy, they simply decided that five years are needed and later seven years for BS III. Also there have been multinationals in India, from Europe and Japan. These companies already had the experience of stages, ahead of Bharat stages. For BS IV, Toyota has been selling BS IV vehicles since last one year.

Fuel in India is refined by oil companies owned by the Govt. Business size wise these companies are run on global scales. They are owned by Govt so what good excuse did they have not to refine the fuel as needed to achieve emission norms? Honestly I don’t see any reason, simply lethargy!

Next is the Will to handle emission control as a project! When Europeans could develop technology and productionize it every three years for next phase, why we needed five and seven years? It showed the simple lack of will and lethargy on part of all parties.

With the new Govt there appears to be a zeal to get things going. If you see the data above, Govt has now simply skipped Bharat V stage and decided to go for Bharat VI stage after Bharat IV. All these days, everybody thought that respite/relief will be given by all authorities including courts, when large number of vehicles of BS III variety remain in stock on the last day. But with Supreme Court result, the effect is same as demonetization action on 8th November. So, there appears to be similarities between these two events which can also be compared with surgical strike!

Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has submitted that the companies have a stock of 8, 24,275 BS III compliant vehicles which include 96,724 commercial vehicles, 6,71,308 two wheelers, 40,048 three wheelers and 16,198 cars.

Why have we reached this situation? From figures it appears that car manufacturers have done a tremendous job of managing their inventories of old vehicles. Next are two wheeler companies. The physical number will look high but if we compare it with the production per year, it is just 0.025 %!  It is the commercial vehicles guys who have shown poor project management. Who is to blame? Why this has happened? Somebody in project management did not run a tight ship!

Has the industry learnt its lesson? We will come to know in 2020 when Bharat VI has to be introduced. The only option maybe to export these remaining BS III vehicles! Till then to overcome current situation of vehicle stocks, Indian ingenuity and jugad will come in play!

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Touch Base…

The term touch base is being used in many different contexts so I thought, “Why not touch base and see what it really means?” Dictionary meaning of touch base is “ to briefly make or renew contact with somebody” or “to talk to someone for a short time to find out how they are or what they think about something”.

In real life this term is used in many different ways. Many many moons back when I was in school, we used to play a game called Bhojjya (भोज्या). It was a form of hide and seek game where a guy would count ten, with eyes shut, others would hide. There was a designated place called (भोज्या), the game was to touch the base (भोज्या) before you were caught and shout भोज्या sssss! It was touching base, the game was evolved around the base and the idea was to Touch Base!

The term Touch Base must have evolved from Baseball. In baseball you have three bases and one home base. The team which touches the home base more number of times, after hitting the ball, wins the game. Human race evolved from wanderers when there was no base to touch, to today’s society which became stable, as it created a base. This “stable” state started getting hit as better and better travelling methods evolved. The wheel gave birth to vehicles with wheels and other methods; initially people were using horses to move away from base. 500 years back the Europeans started surfing the globe in their ships crossing the great oceans. In human race, there are people who are a little more adventurous than others. This group tends to migrate. Current high speed transportation and almost instant communication, has made migration even more easy, though right wing thought process has come back especially in the Caucasian dominated nations, trying to prevent migration. This will probably put some hindrances in migration process.

Human life cycle starts with birth, childhood, school/college days which is the initial phase. Second phase starts after education is completed and the work phase starts, along with creation of own family. Then there is Working phase and then there is retirement phase.

During the first phase especially preschool days, the child’s base is the mother. In fact mother is the whole world for the child. Touching base during this phase is very simple, look for your mummy.

Once the school starts the horizon widens and life is full of new attractions like books, sports and friends. Along with these come responsibilities like exams, studies. The base now broadens from mummy to the whole family and to an extent friends.

Post school, the horizon widens even more, we start getting more and more interested in other things like movies, professional learning and travel on our own. During this phase, adventurous type start migrating. Migration may be within country or to some other country. In this phase the base is our own town or place where parents live. In this initial phase of migration, touching base can be frequent or less, depending on the different situations. For some people the base is their native place where they were born and grew up in initial phase.

The “touching base” in different phases of life makes an interesting study. During every phase, emotion is the force that draws us to our base. As phases change, we learn to distribute these emotions amongst different people. As our life cycle moves through childhood to retirement, our bond with the base weakens as we get busier in our lives but in the retirement phase the bond again gets stronger. Why does this happen? This is where “going back to roots” thought process begins for most. Is it about merging back with the universe? We know the biological process of our birth & death but metaphorically we come from earth and go back earth and in death physically merge back with the earth. This thought process creates a strong emotion of going back to base, post retirement, as one visualizes golden period and ultimately death.

We used to have Cats as pets at our home. When they became older, one fine day they would just stop coming home. They would go away from “home” or the Base and die peacefully. But there was one Cat who was probably smartest of the lot. As this Cat grew old, it started staying more and more at home. Was the higher intelligence of the CAT, the cause of this different behavior? This indicated that the Cat wanted  to “Touch Base” one final time, a la Humans!

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Social behavior

I have always been thinking how a society forms, matures, and evolves. The basis for a good society is faith, empathy and accommodation. These points have nothing to do with the crime in a society. Because I feel that crime is an aberration to any society. When we say that a certain society is a good society, it is how the majority in the society behave or react to a situation.

When we travel to any place we are first exposed to roads, traffic, and public behaviour of that place. It is roads, traffic, public behaviour on roads that defines the first impression of the society, it can be orderly or disorderly. In Pune where I live, the city is supposed to be one of the better cities in India, people are generally of helping nature and soft. But what happens to them on the roads?  I am not talking of road rage! Road rage is a different matter altogether. Road rage is triggered by an event, howsoever small. Yesterday evening we were driving on a crowded road and traffic was slower than usual. Suddenly I found that some people on bikes going ahead driving on footpaths! It was not a case of random nut but there were many who were driving on footpath. Why do people do this? If they are in a hurry why not start a little early so as to reach on time.

Motorcycle guy standing at right angle to the traffic direction.

IMG_20170306_093536

As a society are we not trained to follow rules? Is it in our education? Is it in our culture? Or is it in our DNA? I feel that it is combination of all the aspects. I sense that the wrong elements in our DNA become more active when we are in our own city or country! Or is it related to implementation of laws? But will there be a specific law saying that people are NOT allowed to drive their bikes on footpath? Some are written rules and some are unwritten rules. I also feel that 150 years of British Rule has distinctly changed our DNA partially. The civil disobedience movement, during freedom struggle has got imbibed in our minds. As society we feel that rules made by the Govt are to be broken!

In a vast and not so rich a country like India there are issues. Availability of toilets at home and in public places has been a big problem. Current government is encouraging people by giving financial aid, making laws so that people who do not have toilets at home, though they can afford it, cannot fight an election! But how is this changing the situation? Some changes are seen but one still reads stories of people using their fields for their ablutions even though they have toilets at home! Why? Because it is manly to do so! I see on Mumbai Pune expressway people will relieve themselves in open just 30 meters ahead of public urinals! What is it? Is it brain fed? Is it I don’t care attitude? I get a feeling that DNA issues get to the top of the list.

Helmet less people

IMG_20170308_093808

Road traffic is one area where it is almost impossible to understand behavior of people in Pune. There is a Supreme Court ruling that wearing helmets is mandatory while driving two wheelers. But we don’t wear helmets. The argument is it’s our head, how is Government concerned? Statistics show that 99% of the deaths in two wheeler accidents are of those, who were not wearing helmets. Supreme Courts be damned!

Last week there was an incident at Pune airport. A young guy went to meet his lady friend who was transiting through Pune airport. If you buy a viewing gallery ticket at any airport, you will not be allowed to enter transit area. This gentleman wanted to meet this friend so what did he do. He had travelled a few days before to Delhi. He modified the same ticket to make it look like a valid ticket. Using the modified ticket, he entered the airport but was later caught with the modified ticket by security. Looks like brain fed is the latest norm.

Caution  board on Mumbai Pune Expressway

NOentry

Its sad to see such boards on expressway! On roads having medians, anywhere in the world, you are supposed to drive on the correct side of the road but in our great city of Pune people will drive in the reverse direction upto the distance of one kilometer to avoid a detour of a couple of kilometers. So much for the fuel conservation. Mind you these are people from all strata of the society.

Women’s rally

BikeRally

On Women’s day bike rally on 8th March, an official event, there were so many ladies taking part it was amazing. This was an official event but organizers forgot to tell the ladies that they should wear helmet if they want to take part in the rally. In their eagerness to get dressed up, they put on various fancy head gears but very few put on helmets. What was the signal sent to younger generation? Fortunately these days all bike companies when they advertise their bikes,  make sure that the person driving the bike is wearing a helmet!

Coming back to my query, why we behave this way as a society? One thing is for sure that the implementation of our laws is lax and on top of that there are corrupt policemen. Strong implementation shows the results all over the world! Dr Chauhan, a staunch Khalistan movement backer, used to live in London in 80’s. When Indian Government requested the British Govt to stop Dr. Chauhan from making inflammatory statements, he was just called to office and was told that if he does not behave, he will be simply deported. From that day Dr. Chauhan’s mouth was shut! Our brethren behave differently when they land at Singapore! Why? The reason is strong implementation of laws. In general world over maybe 10% want to break the rule but in our case this % goes to 40/50%. With our large population handling law breakers is also not easy because of sheer volume.

Uber self-drive vehicle

UberSelfDriveVehicle

Uber’s Sweeny, in charge of driver less cars project was asked, where will Uber introduce such vehicles? He said, “US and Europe are typical example of organized traffic so we will first try there”. When asked about some larger countries in Asia, he just smiled!

Any solutions? Suggestion, anyone? I feel that unless there is a mass drive started, to involve anybody and everybody, it will be very difficult to change! Politically, we see that the whole nation is getting driven towards development, away from cast, creed politics. Do we need a national leader to take us towards modern developed organized society, so that Uber’s of this world would not give a smile, when asked if they would come to India for trials of driverless cars?

 

 

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Why Blog? Why not….

Why blog? Why do you blog? When did you start blogging? These are the questions that come to mind or are often asked to me. Honestly I never considered myself a scholarly type or a serious type of guy who would churn out essays or now what we call as blogs. How did this journey start? My first blog “Random Thoughts” was the beginning of this journey. It consisted of my musings about the first ever cricket test match I saw in a stadium, way back in 1958/9. When I read that blog recently I could see that those were real “random” musings about cricket. My journey has been on and off, sometimes writing in quick succession and at other times nothing for a long period. Since I continue my professional work, sometimes I do not get time and sometimes the famous writer’s block comes into play. One probably picks up things during the life’s journey or things just kick in and you end up doing something new, in my case blogging!

How do I choose the subject on which I write? Most of the times, it is what I see in day to day life or what I read on the net or in magazines or newspapers and of course what I pick up during chats! I have great curiosity to try and understand details of everything. Any event I come across, I always have a question, WHY? Sometimes I see some good human interaction and I ask why all cannot behave in a nice way? Sometimes I see something very nasty and I have a question why this situation has become nasty? In most cases it is the ego that comes in the way; in one interaction I had mentioned in my old blogs about a situation in which a lady immediately accepted her mistake but the gentleman kept on shouting at her! Was it his ego? Was he unwell? Did he have a bad interaction with someone else before this situation? In another situation, some 2/3 year old kids were playing in a Mandir and a group of people who were chanting prayers, shouted at the kids to stop making noise! Little realizing that these children were God themselves! So much for Nirvana the group was trying to achieve.

Most of us generally forget that this a beautiful world and we are lucky to have intelligence and brains to enjoy the niceties, unlike other creatures on the earth. Forget the terrorism, religious fights, politics and such unavoidable aspects. These control overall situation in our society. But in our normal day to day life these aspects don’t play a major role; we need to show empathy for others, keep our egos aside and become a Luckhanavi of पेहले आप fame, “You first please”! Life will be much more pleasant.

Fifteen minutes back I was not even thinking in terms of the couple of paragraphs written above but when I am at it, things just come to my mind with a reasonably smooth flow. On some subjects, I ponder for a day or two or may be even more. But sometimes I am just through in an hour. Looks like writing blogs has reached the top three in list of my “Favourite Things”. I really enjoy writing; after writing, I mentally give marks to the blogs that I write. If the blog scores distinction then I am really happy! I am talking of marking system of our times, distinction, first class and so on.

I have almost never written anything with a time frame in mind; but my last blog “Women’s Day” was probably the first and hopefully the last one which was rushed because I wanted to publish it on the “Women’s Day”! I gave only First Class to that blog!

Another reason that I write now a days is the interaction that I have with people regarding the blogs. My blogs get around 120 to 140 hits in the ¾ days after the blog is published. Vijay Saheta, Pramod Ambekar and many others give their critical comments on a regular basis. This helps me in trying to improve further. There are many people who are not known to me but they follow my blog regularly, in fact they” follow” me. I am an absolute extrovert and I like these interactions because they give me further food for thought. After reading my blog “Women’s Day”, Dhananjay Joag wrote, “Pramod I agree with your blog because “Hero” is “0” without “Her”! Wow what an appropriate comment!

Sometimes a sentence or a thought just hits me. I am currently reading a book “WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR” by late Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a neuro surgeon who died very young, of cancer. My God! That title hit me so hard and there are a lot of thoughts coming to my mind. My mind is really churning. He wrote this book before he died! The title itself shows that man’s brilliance! I won’t be surprised if I write something based on the experience after completing the book. Another sentence from the same book that hit me is “When there is no place for scalpel, words are the only tools for the Doctors!” What a perfect way of expressing human contradictions that a surgeon has to face. Such thoughts and sentences start churning my brain and encourage me to write!

I read other people’s blogs too! Some are funny, some say so much in such a small space. Some are just overwhelming. So for me, journey of reading and blogging are like railway track, going parallel to each other all the time.  A couple of my favourite bloggers are Stuart M Perkins, Ratna Rajaih. They are brilliant. There is always something to pick up in every interaction, but I like to share my joy of reading these sayings. To give an example of what I wrote, Farokh Engineer Indian wicket keeper of yester years, put foot in his mouth in Pataudi Annual Lecture. He asked India’s premier spinner Ashwin, “How is that Karnataka producing top class spinners all the time like Prasanna, Chandrashekhar and you?” Ashwin is from the state of Tamilnadu. He replied with a straight face, “Not to bring in politics here! But some time back Karnataka did release some water from Cauvery River; probably I drank some of it”.

There are friends who encourage me to write the blogs. Once I shared a caricature on my Facebook page; my friend Dilip Panditrao liked the caricature but he also wrote, “Pramod, why don’t you write a blog on this subject?” I wrote the blog, “Yes both are right but sometimes one is more right!” I wrote a couple of blogs about my tough times a few years back, when I went through Cancer Treatment. These blogs were not meant to get sympathy but to let people know that getting any disease is no crime; and such diseases can be handled, of course you need to be lucky too, and we can come out of the tight corner and lead normal life.

Friends, I have written a series of blogs “Age with an Open Mind”. There I have written that we should keep our brain sharp. Writing blogs is one way for me to keep my brain sharp! I sometimes follow what I preach!!

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