Donation Culture!

 

donate1Since time immemorial people have been donating for various causes. Some people have been wealthyprosperous to average persons like you and me. But many people who themselves are monetarily challenged have also been donating. Causes for each individual and organisations have been different. I would prefer to use a phrase sharing of resources for the monetarily challenged people.  

I had written a blog previously about Donation Culture.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/let-us-all-become-bill-gates/

The largest of the donor known to us has been Bill Gates. Through his foundation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he has donated the US $ 60/ billion or maybe even more. When asked by someone about his still being in the top five wealthiest people in the world, he replied, “Maybe I am not donating enough money!” Warren Buffet and many superrich people have been donating funds for the causes they believe. Recently, the Titanic actor Leonardo Decaprio donated the US $ 30/ million to help douse the fires that have erupted in the Amazon River jungle.  

The list will go on and on, but I have one grouse. Why do people advertise what they donate? I have nothing against Bill Gates because along with donations, he personally and with his team ensures that funds are utilised efficiently. He is giving his management expertise along with the money. The team working on these projects get paid by Gate’s foundation. In case you are not aware, he donates money mainly for the eradication of diseases like AIDS, Malaria; he does this by sending expert doctors and scientists to these areas. He also negotiates and convinces pharmaceutical companies to keep their profits to reasonable levels for the medicines they buy, and not at the normal extravagant levels. By negotiations, he ensures that the money he donates reaches more people.  

I have been observing over a period the trend of donating money during national calamities like floods and earthquake people enthusiastically give by way of money and material. But do we have to advertise this by posing for photographs, while handing over the donations? Every day, I see in the newspapers individuals or group of people being photographed while handing over the money to authorities. Is there any need to publicise this?  

There are reasons to donate. You donate to charity, donate for a specific causeGiving culture is very important in our life, it boosts our morale, and it makes one feel good. It introduces children to donation culture, the importance of donation. Nobody wants to live on charity, but the circumstance in some cases force people to live on charity. Some are born in deprived family, where parents may be uneducated, sick or may have some other cause which leads them to opt to live on charity. Some people simply don’t want to take efforts of doing any work and would rather live on charity. But my judgement tells me that there would be very few people in this world who would prefer to live on charity.  

In India, the donation culture is started and pushed forward by the Marwari community. They are a business community, and there are many moneyed families. They have been donating to hospitals, the food kitchens for needy on round the year basis.  

The Sikh community has a superb method of “giving”. Sikhs perform Kar Seva; it means that people offer physical services in Gurudwaras, like cleaning, sweeping, cooking, and whatever work is available. Such services are provided by the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich. You may find a Managing Director of a company and a peon from that company sweeping floors at the Gurudwara at the same time. The basic theory behind this is that in front of Him, everybody is equal. Another system in Gurudwaras is Langar. Food is provided to all those who want to avail of the facility, irrespective of one’s social status. Jaya and I were lucky to have langar food at the Harmandir saheb in Amritsar!  

Birla family has donated crores of rupees to build beautiful Mandirs at various places in India. Unfortunately, these Mandir’s are not called Ram Mandir but Birla Mandir! I can understand a plaque being mounted, or a board hung, giving the names of large donors. But naming the structure, especially a Mandir, in the donors name does not suit my tastes.  

There is another tendency that is cropping up these days. During the calamities, thousands of people donate material, money or services. I am pleased and proud of this gesture. But every day in newspapers, photographs of families, members of organisations handing over the cheques to authorities are displayedI feel that it is incorrect to display one’s good deeds. Are you doing it for publicity? Are you donating to show off? Do you want the whole world to know that you have given funds to a cause? I don’t think it is essential. Why can such acts not be done discreetly? For someone Rs 200/ or 2000/ maybe a large sum but to me, it need not be publicised.   

Do the soldiers in the rescue operation publicise their photos, every day? Do the disaster relief team members advertise their deeds? They know that they must take over rescue operations in the time of disasters. In the same vein, it is the responsibility of people to support the way they want to, discreetly. What do you gain by printing your photos, other than a boost to your ego?  

One exciting act I have started noticing in recent times. A group of motorcycle mechanics from the Aurangabad area shut their shop for 15 days and went to the worst flood-affected areas of Sangli. They stayed put in that area for about two weeks and serviced the vehicles which could not even start as these were under floodwater for a long time. They did this work for fifteen days, free of cost! What magnanimity? Don’t forget that the mechanics earn their bread on the day to day work they get in their shops.  

There have other groups who have also offered their services free. Some of these are doctors and nursesI always say that I do not bother about political affinities. But I must praise the volunteers of the RSS who rush to spots the moment they realise the need for support. Let us not forget that these people are like you and me. They are clerks, engineers, accountants, and maybe even vegetable vendors too! But they all come under the umbrella of RSS and take the lion’s share in helping people irrespective of the caste and creed!  

I would like to share two interesting news items. During Kerala floods, the UAE government had offered a massive amount of funds to India. It is because a large number of Keralites work in UAE. But the Indian Government politely declined the aid after thanking the UAE government, saying, “We have enough funds!” 

There is always a grouse that private organisations do not do much during disaster situations. Walmart has proven everybody wrong. When there was severe flooding in New Orleans, after the storm Katrina, for the first few hours, everything was paralysed. Before US government agencies could organise rescue operations, Walmart gave instructions to their New Orleans office to use whatever was needed from their stock in New Orleans, including small boats, to be allowed to be used for rescue. For the first two full days, only Walmart team were doing the rescue operations!  

Disasters will come and go, people will help, but I hope day by day the tendency to self-publicise will come down.  

 

 

 

 

 

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To Agree or to Disagree!

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As the human brain started evolving, new thought processes started getting evolved too. A few centuries back, only the “intellectuals” would write about various thoughts and theories and this process was limited to a very few people. There were reasons. The thought process did not spread much due to nonavailability of technology and printing was not very easy and was expensive. Circulating hand-written stuff to a large number of people was difficult. When people disagreed on somethings, they simply fought and sometimes killed. The majority of the people stopped interacting with intellectuals, who wrote about things, about which most disagreed. 

Technology has changed a lot in the last hundred years, which helped people to disagree vocally or in writing instead of taking extreme steps. The development has helped in the spread of thought or knowledge much quicker than the olden days. In the last 15 to 20 years, the technology galloped at a breakneck speed. People could share their thoughts with others electronically, privately as well in public. I am talking of WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Blogging. These technological changes have made things more comfortable, and now writing the thoughts or expressing views has not remained the domain of intellectuals. You and I can say things, write about anything under the Sun. We can share our experiences easily; we can share our experiences, our knowledge and even some new theories or thoughts with the world.  

In this scenario, since it has become easy to write and publish, it has also become easy to make comments on such writings or disagree on the writings of others. Twitter is classic example of briefly writing about something; if you are famous and have a lot of followers, there will be instantaneous comments and rebuttals.  

If we’re all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it sensibly. What does it mean to disagree well? Most can tell the difference between mere name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but I think it would help to put names on the intermediate stages of disagreement. So let me attempt to make a disagreement hierarchy. 

criticism2

Name-Calling, the method for disagreement is quite straight forward and blunt. The method is quite crude. People can and do have difference of opinion on many issues, but instead of doing so in polite or sophisticated way, people will call you Names, they may tend to use bad words. Is it necessary to be crass? But some people are born that way and behave in such ways in other aspects of life too!  

Ad hominem is a word typically refers to a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided, by attacking the character, motive, or other attributes of the person making the argument. The persons associated with the discussion is attacked, rather than attacking the substance of the case itself. The terms ad mulierem and ad feminam have been explicitly used when the person receiving the criticism is female. Probably it is a form of misogyny or malchauvinism. 

 In some form of criticism, people tend to be judgmental about the tone of writing. When one writes something, it is the right thing to comment about the writing rather than the way what is written. But this criticism is better than the first two methods discussed above. 

The contradiction is the stage, where we finally get responses to what was said, rather than how or by whom. The lowest form of response to an argument is to state the opposing case, with little or no supporting evidence. The method is still the only contradiction rather than arguing why one wants to contradict. 

Contradiction can sometimes have some weight. Sometimes seeing the opposing case stated explicitly is enough to know that it’s right. But usually, evidence will help. 

The writer can ignore these types of methods because they do not offer any constructive criticism. These methods may indicate a different viewpoint, but it will be difficult to judge what the argument is about. 

The counterargument is contradiction plus reasoning and evidence. When aimed directly at the original case, it can be convincing. But unfortunately, it’s common for counterarguments to be aimed at something slightly different. More often than not, two people arguing passionately about something are arguing about two different things. Sometimes they even agree with one another but are so caught up in their squabble they don’t realise it. 

There could be a legitimate reason for arguing against something slightly different from what the original author said: when you feel they missed the heart of the matter. But when you do that, you should say you’re doing it. But one also should not forget that the original author may mean something different than what you are arguing.  

Refutation is the action of proving a statement or theory to be wrong or false. The most convincing form of disagreement is a refutation. It’s also the rarest because it requires the most efforts, it needs to study and have knowledge about the subjectHence, we will see that this method of argument is sporadic 

To refute someone, you probably have to quote them. You have to find a specific passage in whatever you disagree with that you feel is mistaken, and then explain why it’s inaccurateWithout pinpointing the details, we will be back to square one where the argument is vague or maybe crass. 

But some people are mistaken that by quoting parts from the writing, they are refuting something. But without substantiating an argument, simply quoting has no meaning. 

The most potent form of argument is refuting the central idea of the writing.  

Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point or at least one of them. And that means one has to commit explicitly to what the central point is. So a truly effective refutation would look like the writing below. 

I disagree with your basic idea “xxxxx yyyyy” for the reasons given below. I disagree because of the following points.  

You will wonder why I have tried to classify the arguments and create a hierarchy! It is simply done to describe the way your writings may get thrashed, sometimes by methods like namecalling. But sometimes you will be lucky enough to get great feedback from a knowledgeable person who could improve your thoughts and writing. Criticism is the best way for improvement in life if done constructively. 

In Marathi, there is a saying, “निंदकाचे घर असावे शेजारी”  which means that it is good to have your critic as your neighbour! Various criticisms will teach us how to handle life in general. It is not only about ones writings, but it could be about your decisions, your acts, your behaviour. Done constructively, there is no better teacher than your critic!  

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Just a coincidence!

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I reached Montreal on the 29th August and published a blog “Home sweet home!” My friend Ram, who is currently in the US, wrote to me, “Hey, you just reached Montreal today, and writing about Sweet Home!” Ram, as usual, it was an incomplete blog, which I had started a couple of weeks back. I just found an appropriate ending when Deepti wrote about missing the sweet home! I simply used the sentence.

Many of my blogs are written based on a sentence or a phrase! Some of these instantly create a chain of thoughts in my mind, and I end up writing the blog. While going through the list of blogs, I found some blogs that matched the way I have described above.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/nisi-nisi-bonum/

The Latin phrases De mortuis nihil nisi bonum and De mortuis nil nisi bene [dicendum] (“Of the dead, [say] nothing but good”) indicate that it is socially inappropriate to speak ill of the dead. The long-phrase is abbreviated as Nil nisi bonum. In English are often used some aphorisms, which include: “Speak no ill of the dead”, “Of the dead, speak no evil”, and “Do not speak ill of the dead”.

The phrase was used in the movie Lawrence of Arabia. When I heard this sentence, many thoughts came to my mind. I was confused if this is right or wrong. The first thought that came to my mind was why we should speak badly about anyone! You may not be on good terms with someone, but there is no reason to bad mouth that person. As against this, should we praise someone, who did terrible things in life, ad nauseum after death? As Nisi Nisi Bonum is true, so is praising someone over the top is also not good.

An industrialist in Pune died sometime back. He made his money by manufacturing and selling products which caused cancer. With money, he became a society leader. He opened a hospital to treat cancer patients. On one side, he manufactured addictive products that caused cancer, and on the other hand, he built a hospital to treat them. Cynics called that hospital “Customer complaint Center!” Was it right to follow such a business model? Was it right to glorify such a personality after he died? People could have simply declared sorrow due to his death, but there was no need to call him “Gem of a person”! Or talk about his charitable work.

 https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/03/22/turn-into-cotton/

The blog is about a statement made by Raj Babbar. Sometime back he was the president of state Congress in UP. In one of the reorganisations, he was removed from the post and made a plain member. When he was asked his reaction, he quoted from a Hindi poem by Kedarnath Sinhji.

The lines roughly get translated as below.

When I entered my home today, my mattress offered me its resignation — telling me that it wants to become the original cotton, that it was to start with, anyway! It indicated that it wants to go back to its roots.  

It was a beautiful way of accepting life as it came. In sports or job, one retires when the time comes. But in the public domain, it is not so easy. One gets a lot of power as well as affection, (or enemies!). To walk away from it, is not as simple as the lines of the poem.

Humans have inherent and intrinsic capacities and properties within them. No one is born at the top of the heap. People work hard and reach the pinnacle of their life, but life’s vagaries bring them back to where they started. People move to different destinations in the world, physically and by their achievements. But the beautifully solid lines tell you to be ready to come back to roots.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/pet-the-whale/

The blog is about people looking at life differently. I have shared a story of a group of people who went on an excursion to watch the whales from close quarters. As they reached the place where whales could be seen, something different happened. These people could have easily touched or petted the whale; they were so close to the boat. But none did that. All were very busy taking videos and photos of the whales. After coming back to the shore, someone asked them, “Did you Pet the whale?” All had missed the great opportunity. They were busy taking photos and videos. In life, we tend to lose the real purpose of what we are really looking for, but we tend to capture things for posterity. In the false enthusiasm, we tend to miss the happening moment. We lose absorbing The Moment!

We had been to watch Pelican feeding time at the Entrance beach near Sydney, Australia with Pradhans. We did take some photos, but most of the time we observed how the birds arrived and landed like aeroplanes, how all of them raised their neck synchronously to watch fish which was thrown in the air, their feed! What a beautiful sight it was? These memories are etched on our mind instead of on our camera!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/dance-of-the-seven-veils/

Below poem by Oscar Wilde is supposed to be the origin of an erotic dancing style. It is, of course, not true!

She freed and floated on the air her arms

Above dim veils that hid her bosom’s charms…

The veils fell round her like thin coiling mists

Shot through by topaz suns and amethysts.

The “Dance of the Seven Veils” was a term used by a father, in a book I was reading. The sentence was meant to describe the behaviour or thought process of the 22-year young man while he ogled at a beautiful nurse in the hospital, while recuperating .

It was a veiled way of describing the thought process of a man. The term was also used to describe a dance where the lady’s sensuous body is under the veil of seven layers of clothing. The lady removes these veils during the dance, which could be described both as sensuous as well as erotic. During writing this blog, it brought in my mind many layers of coverings that many fruits have Jackfruit, Coconut, Mango, and many others. The word seven veils also brought out thoughts about the human mind. The complexity of the human mind could be compared with the seven layers, and in many cases infinite layers. Very rarely do we know the real person, though that person may be close to us. Different situations bring our fascinating aspects about humans same as the dance does about the woman’s body in the Dance of the Seven Veils!

Ram, writing of blogs is a complex as well as a simple process. It is like our life. We humans by nature are simple creatures, but our situation, our environments are complex. Each simple individual reacts differently in his own simple way, which on crisscrossing become complex!

See how I converted a simple query by you, in a complicated blog! Cheers!

Home Sweet home!

HomeSweetHome1

When do we really start missing home? What is home? Home is the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. In today’s world, we travel for work, holiday or to go and stay with your family, who have moved to different places from home, temporarily or permanently. We may go to see the seven wonders of the world, or we may go to travel to live in a small town or a village. We may go to a culturally advanced place, or we may go to a drab place. But after some time, we eagerly look forward to coming back home. Why does this happen?

 The thought process about home started when Deepti wrote,   after about 45 days in the US for work and holiday, that she was missing home!

Of all the places in the world, our home is the safest place in the world for us. We can do anything at home without the fear of repercussions. Our homes are our sanctuaries. We are kings and queens of our homes. We are undisputed leaders; nobody can touch us within the precincts of our homes.

We love everything about our homes; it may be a palace, or it could be a small condo. It could be a bungalow, or it could be a shanty. But this description is for others; for us, it is our kingdom.  But we should not forget one thing. The place where we live is home. Later on, with increasing prosperity, we may buy more properties, but those are not our homes. It is at this juncture things sometimes go wrong. We purchase properties for investment purpose, but we start treating them like home.

In our busy schedule during working days, we do not get time to go and visit these properties even once in a year. If the property is in another town, then it becomes even more challenging to manage. Beyond a time, as these properties become older, their valuation also does not increase the way we want it to rise, sometimes it diminishes.

But many people fall in love with such properties. I know of someone who had a property in a different town than where he lived. The property was a 40-year-old independent bungalow and had become too costly to manage because of taxes and low rent the property fetched. Someone suggested to him to dispose off the same. He had never lived there. His reply was, “Over my dead body!” It took some convincing by friends and relatives that helped him to make that decision. I asked him once about the same. His reply was, “It was my first property; it’s like the first child. How can one dispose off the same?” I did not tell that children also become old and move in life!

We should not forget that the concept of the home also changes. As we switch from studentship to professional work, we become independent of parents. We make our own home at some stage. I had written a blog on a similar subject sometime back.

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

In this blog, I had written about concentric circles of our lives! When we have our family and children at some stage, we have our own home! The place which you called home in your younger days becomes your parent’s home. The same concept is going to be repeated when your children grow up, settle down and have their family. That is where the concept of ancestral home comes into the picture. In previous generations, people rarely travelled out of town for work; only girls moved to their husband’s home after marriage. The same property was home for many generations. But with today’s modern technology and way of living, the concept of ancestral home will be forgotten after a few generations. The reason for this is you had an ancestral home but moved to Bombay for work. Your children moved to London, New York or Timbuktu for their career. Some come back to India, but most don’t. The ancestral homes hence stop existing as a concept.

With increased mobility, days of ancestral homes concept is waning. But the home remains home for the nuclear families that get created in different generations. Probably we could say that longevity of the idea of home is reducing and ends with the parents who “created” the home.

Every home has its memories, its stories, the happy moments and the sad moments. I remember my first “home” which was at Dhobi talao in Bombay. What memories I have! Catching an early morning bus to go to school; it was G3 at 6.15 am and meeting Pradeep! Coming home by lunch-time; memories of listening to cricket test-match commentary of tied match between Australia and West Indies are still fresh in my mind. There was a rule at home not go to the Cross Maidan to play before 4.30 pm. But we used to sneak out under the garb of completing home-work at some friend’s place. Half the time my mother had to send someone to bring me back home from the ground though we had a rule that we should be back home when it started getting dark.

Our first home in Pune after marriage was the most fun part. Jaya and I were the first ones to get married in our group. Every day, some friends would barge in for a chat, food and whatever till they were thrown out. Some friends would come prepared to cook chicken; some would urge Jaya to plan on the previous day so that they could have Sabudana (Sago) Khichadi the next day.

Home is something which is a great leveller, makes everyone a family person. That person could be a famous Surgeon or a Scientist. She could be CEO of an organisation or a Minister in a Government. But at home, these same luminaries are converted into a different person. Their personality changes and they become mothers, fathers, uncles. They may also become sisters or brothers or aunts. My friends, this is the power of “Home”! Each home has its own Ramayana and Mahabharata which others rarely see or visualise.

We have all seen how people’s personalities are very different when they come from broken homes. They have no shoulder to cry on; they have nobody to share their sorrows. The home gives shade to the family like a banyan tree against the harshness, that is life; but when that tree itself falls, people seem to get exposed to the vagaries of nature. Home is an umbrella that prevents you from sudden rains. For us, home is only next to God. When a human is in turmoil, a person goes to a church or a mandir. It gives them mental peace and solace. You had a bad day office; you lost a big opportunity in business. You accidentally bumped your car into the one ahead of you! After reaching home and sitting in your favourite window or on a pet chair, your agitation tapers off.

Home is a powerful institution created by us, let us try to preserve it and not flog it! It can absorb many shocks but remember that this shock absorber cannot be just bought from a shop and replaced when damaged!

Deepti, you must be back home already; our flight just had taken off from Frankfurt today, when yours landed there on the way back to Pune. Take care and enjoy our dear Pune again!

The world is my Oyster!

Adab and Namaste!

My nephew Atul used to go to the UK to work as a doctor. He would go for a small duration, and every time he went to a new place. The English spoken in each area was so different that he sometimes wondered if he knew English at all! It took him a couple of days to get used to the pronunciations. In today’s world when your whole family may live world over but for that we all must understand the nuiances of human behaviour. We should not be judgmental about other people’s ways, rituals, methods and their way of life in general. Those who assimilate faster where they go can then say, “The World is my Oyster”!

The nature of humans, their behaviour, their way of handling life is different. We have similar differences in India too! Like Marathi spoken in Pune, Satara, Kolhapur have their distinct flavours and dialects. Aurangabad and Nagpur have their own variants. It all depends on the culture prevalent in that area. Aurangabad was more connected to Hyderabad and Nagpur is still more attached to Madhya Pradesh though both are in Maharashtra.

I was wondering why this happens, and there are reasons. Many times, the culture depends on the construct of the language spoken in that area. English is by far the most flexible language and has absorbed many words from other languages, mainly from Indian languages. It makes the language more vibrant, and people can express what they want more clearly.

French usually give a vague answer to queries, and they may start with a reply which may seem negative. The reason for this is that the French language has 70000 words compared to 500000 words in English. So answers in English can be more precise, where French replies are vague. The first and most important NO in French is the one that means ‘je ne sais pas’ the ‘I have no idea’ NO. It is estimated that nearly 75% of the NOS encountered are to conceal a lack of knowledge. It likely comes from the terror of ridicule for being wrong. The word non in French has its roots in the French obsession for protests. “The French Revolution was about the irrevocable right of all citizens to refuse, and ‘non’ has a quality of ‘revanche des petits contre les grands’ [revenge of the underclasses] that seems to satisfy the inner peasant or proletarian in every French person, of any class.

The unique Indian gesture that often leaves visitors to the country flummoxed is the Indian nod. One thing all travellers to India talk about – apart from the dreaded Delhi Belly, of course – is the great Indian head nod. It’s not exactly a nod (up and down from the neck, meant to indicate ‘yes’) – or a shake (straight side to side to convey ‘no’). It’s a smooth movement that involves tilting the head from side to side vertically, either gently or fiercely. Does it mean a definite, yes? Is that a kind no? A maybe? A sign of uncertainty? Annoyance perhaps? It is difficult to say without knowledge of the context. It is almost always a ‘yes’, or at least indicates agreement. “There is also an element of being friendly or being respectful, and it is difficult to say which unless you know the situation.” Indians are brought up to be pliant and polite, especially to guests and to elders, and do not like to say ‘no’ directly. Indians mumble incoherently; smile sheepishly, and nod vaguely, all to put off making a firm commitment. Indeed, the head nod is a gesture meant to convey ambiguity and does so effectively.

Finnish people have different ways. Finns think if there’s no important topic to discuss, there’s no conversation at all. One of their national sayings is ‘Silence is gold, talking is silver’. But read the next surprising aspect of the Finnish people. With two million saunas in the country, which are enjoyed fully nude (generally gender-segregated, although that rule tends to be thrown out in the company of friends), the Finnish seem to have no problem with getting up close and personal. But when clothes are on, the bets are off. Probably they don’t look at each other much while wearing clothes and hence don’t recognise them!

Germans and their language have different ways of expressing things. Many new words get created by combining more than one word. Schadenfreude means pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune. Schadenfreude puts together schaden (harm) and freude (pleasure) – but this is common. Compound words often can’t be directly translated into other languages, so jokes made with compound words simply won’t be funny to non-German speakers. For example, look at this joke below.

“Why can’t you pick up your watch if you’ve dropped it? Because no Urheberrecht.”

It is explained that Urheberrecht means ‘copyright’ – but German has another very similarly pronounced compound word – Uhreberrecht – which has a literal meaning of ‘watch-pickup-right’. When spoken aloud, it’s the dual implication that results in a comical effect. In English, there are no such similar-sounding words, so English speaking people simply won’t understand the joke.

The German comedian Christian Schulte-Loh explains it well. Fully aware of the stereotype the Germans are labelled with, he writes in his new book, Zum Lachen auf die Insel (To England with Laughs), that Germans are too honest to be polite and the English are too polite, to be honest.

Why people behave in a certain way? Why people react in a certain way? One thing we must realise is that people world over are the same as everywhere else. The way we feel that the actions of other people as funny, other people also feel the same way about us. It is a popular notion in India to call a stingy person, Marwari! There is a reason. The Marwari people initially lived in Rajasthan in the desert region. It was the shortage of water and everything that made people care about using all resources. Now the Marwaris live all over India, they are a monied community, but their fundamental nature of minimum wastage has not changed.

I have seen that people in the Aurangabad area have a different way of communicating. People typically say namaskar whenever they meet. But in Aurangabad, I have seen people doing Adab, and their gesture is made in the way as is done in Muslim culture. Why is this so? Aurangabad is in Maharashtra. But the reason is that till ’60 s of the last century, there was no bridge on the river Godavari at Pravara Sangam. Bus from Pune would go up to the river, people crossed the river in a boat and took another bus from there to Aurangabad. Hence Aurangabad had more connection with Hyderabad, which has Muslim culture. By the way, one interesting observation. People from Aurangabad become परेशान  when they are troubled! A word typically used there.

People travel a lot these days, in India as well as abroad. I always tell friends to keep their mind open and accept what you find different in new places. Enjoy local food at those places. Go and see local plays and dances. The more we see these new things, the more we realise that people are the same all over the world!

वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् is the apt term in Sanskrit, meaning the whole world is a family!

Who wants to get bloody old?

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Last twenty years have changed this world so much that some of my contemporaries get overwhelmed. There are new technologies, new processes; different thinking is rapidly barging into our lives. On top of that, new buzzwords and new methods of communication are giving run for money to the older generation. Millennial is one word I often read these days. It means a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century. Such individuals have grown up with all new things. They are as comfortable with new ideas as we were with bullock carts, dial-up phones, using a notebook and pen for writing and yes, reading books too!

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But to me, we the people in the 7th decade of life are also millennials of the new world. Don’t worry! I know what I am talking, and my grey cells are active. The golden period of our lives is the time in our lives when we have time on hand; we have enough money (everybody’s definition of enough is different!). The situation is the result of one’s children settling down, and you are now a free bird! The real millennials are comfortable with new things in life but we millennials are comfortable with life itself. We don’t understand some new things; we don’t care. We have no worry about anything in this world. Who is bothered about death when there are so many things to do?

The traditional writings are treaties that say that Vanaprastha means “one who gives up worldly life”. It is also a concept in Hindu traditions, representing the third of four ashramas of human life, the other three being Brahmacharya, Grihastha and Sannyasa. Vanaprastha is part of the Vedic ashram system, which starts when a person hands over household responsibilities to the next generation, takes an advisory role, and gradually withdraws from the world.

Till handling of responsibilities to the next generation is fine by me. But what is the need for Vanaprastha? In olden times, I am not sure how long people lived, on average. Plus, until as recently as late as fifty years back, there was nothing to do in the evening of one’s life; the real-life evening ended with the Sunset. Now our evening begins with the Sunset! Though the indication to take advisory role and withdrawal from life is suggested, to me it’s a crappy piece of advice. But now we the new millennials are too busy doing and planning different things. Who has time to get old?

Higher life expectancy, better health adds to the change in the thought process. We want to go and see Raigad and Pratap gad. We want to go and see Machu Picchu and go and watch Wimbledon finals. We want to take a tour to see the whales and then go and see the midnight Sun. The list is unending; the bucket list keeps on getting longer. It was no surprise to see Charulata Patel on TV, all of 87 years old, enjoying the India-Pakistan world-cup cricket match. A ninety-nine-year-old lady, who was a wheelchair user, was enjoying all alone when we took Alaska cruise. There are examples galore, and the new millennials get more and more encouraged to try and do new things. See new places, get into new hobbies. Some are learning to play the organ and others are enjoying painting. I have joined a creative writing online course conducted by Oxford University.

During student life, humans are busy getting educated and later they are busy working and raising a family. Everybody had hidden from us what joy is waiting for us in our golden period. Some of us are unfortunate and remain unwell; sometimes, they are bedridden. But this can happen at a young age too! There are no writings; there are no treaties written on how to enjoy the golden period, which in conventional language is called old age. Why has this happened? It is simple. The golden age concept hardly existed until recently.

All the fun from college days and professional times are relived by the oldies. Now we do it without feeling any guilt. I am sure that we will soon have books and article deluge on this subject. At 9 am, take your breakfast and suddenly decide that you want to go and see a movie starring Dev Anand, Nargis, Waheeda or whoever. Sit in your car or Riksha, call an Uber and go the multiplex and see the 9.30 am movie. In the meanwhile, send a WhatsApp message to a few more friends and check if they can join you for an Idli-Dosa or a thali. Why not brunch at the Marriot? You have not had that famous missal-pav for some time, have it. Oh, don’t forget to end with the latest craze of Yevale Chai!

Do I want to become old? Do I feel old? Do I have to grow old? The answer to all the questions is no! The simple reason is I don’t have time to become old in the sense of older thinking. That biologically we are growing older is a fact of life, but that does not mean that we must advertise it, we don’t have to show it. One important aspect we forget about the ladies. They are years past their menopause, and their life must be very comfortable. Handling “monthly issues” during work and travel was never a joke for the ladies. It is real freedom for them.

What stupid things you will have to bear with other than some chronic diseases? Maybe you may have to wear some thick glasses, but with current developments in eye surgeries, you may get back the 20/20 eyesight. The world again looks brighter, and you can look at the lovely ladies without staring at them! You can let the time pass by, the way you want! You can wear some stupid clothes or hats and get away with it. People will just murmur, he has become old! I forgot one thing, buy yourself a fancy walking stick!

Would you want to go to a bar where there is loud music? You usually would avoid but now who cares? Don’t take your hearing aid with you! Live the life you want to live! Don’t bother about wasting your time; you have enough time on hand!

All the literature, all the wisdom always did not talk about the benefits of old age! It is because such things never were known to people, and many things did not even exist. The best sign of ageing, though, is that you are still you and people will accept you as you are! If they don’t, who cares?

Deep Discounts or Deep Distress?

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I am as usual caught in a conundrum when I read some stories. On the 15th of August National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) launched a logout campaign against the deep discount coupons that are offered by these five aggregators Zomato, EazyDinerNearbuyMagicPin and DineoutSince then, more than 2300 restaurants across the country de-listed themselves from these food apps claiming that “discount structure, terms and conditions, by the food tech companies are unjust and unsustainable.” The president of NRAI said that to stay competitive in the market, some aggregators give discount of buy one and get one free. Others have done the same thing differently; they have straight away offered a 50% discount, which means the same.  

The story does not end here. On particular Gold Card membership, such discounts are allowed on one itemBut our desi brain works interestingly. The people go to restaurant A and take starters- 50% discount. They go to another restaurant to take drinks- buy two get two free! Finally, they go to the third restaurant and order the main course- buy one get one free! Using this method, they get the whole meal at 50% discount which kills the business.   

The worst part of the whole thing is that the discounts are being borne by the restaurants and not the aggregators. The association wants these discounts to be removed so that customers get used to not getting high discounts. It is a sort of detox action that is essential, according to the association. It appears that both the sides have understood the problems created by deep discounts and they also know that it will take some time to reach normalcy and come out of the deep discount issue.  

You and I are naturally going to be unhappy with these changes. We have to now look for happy hours or special days to get good discounts. Now, these changes are going to take my outflow back to normal, which I do not like. But we should not forget that such gimmicks never work in the long term.  

I always felt as if I am an uneducated person, though I have run a small business for more than 35 years. Giant organisations like Amazon and Flipkart have been in the deep discount game for quite some time. The difference is that they give deep discounts from their pocket. For years, they offer deep discounts, give Prime memberships and so on. They keep on investing billions of dollars for years. Amazon has never made profits in the last twenty years. But they continue to invest in the business to get more and more customers all the time. Uber CEO has recently made a statement that Uber may never make profits. What is the business model of such companies? Jeff Bozos has become “poor” when he settled his divorce, and his wealth is at lowly US $ 65/ billions. He bought some time back Washington post for an all-cash deal of US $ 250/ million.  

Uneducated me does not understand the principles used in these businesses. Uber charges higher rates when demand is up. But I have seen that as a routine, they charge about 10 to 15 % more than an Auto Riksha in Pune. The price difference between an Auto Riksha and a car can be three lacs of rupees. Many Rikshas give mileage about 1.5 times more than the cars. 

On top of that, Uber takes 30% of the amount we pay to the driver. To me, the driver may break even, Uber’s figures show that they make losses. Other than making vehicles available quickly to us, are they running a charity organisation? Is it not similar to deep discounts offered by Zomato or Amazon?  Or for that matter, Oyo?

Venture capitalists, angel investors, put in their money in such companies. Venture capital is defined as capital invested in a project in which there is a substantial element of risk, typically a new or expanding business. I am sure that those who invest in such companies expect reasonable returns on their capital. By what I have described above, there are no returns, then why are the investments continued? Where is the source for such unlimited funds?  

There is no doubt that Amazon, Uber, Zomato are market disruptors. They have shown the world a new way of doing business, which even 25 years back did not exist. New methods, new ways of doing things make a lot of difference in day to day life. Consider AirbnbThe concept is so good that it is helping people all over the worldIt reduces the cost of travel and uses people’s assets which have been remaining idle.  

Amazon, WalmartJio are gamechanging companies which have made a big difference in our lives. But they are making these changes with their own money or at the cost of competitors. They are disrupting the market and making their competitors think; I am sure the competitors will come up with even newer ideas.  

But this deep discount business with own money or someone else’s money is not sustainable business model. I am not surprised that NRAI has revolted against it. I was talking to someone about these aggregators. It was felt that the aggregators probably sell the data of their customers to make money! When companies like Facebook have done it, what will stop the aggregators from selling data!  

Ultimately, market disruptors come with ideas and business models which were never seen before. But one thing will never changeSuch organisations have to make profits at some stage. Unless, of course, you are an Amazon or an Uber. But don’t forget that Amazon is the market leader in Cloud Computing business; so as a group, they make profitsBecoming Unicorn company (market value exceeding One Billion US $) is fine for publicity; it will help companies get more VC fundingBut if they don’t start making profits, such companies fall in the group of 95 % plus companies, which close down sometimes even without a whimper.