Elphinstone Station Tragedy!

Elphinstone Station tragedy, solutions will come only when apathy goes away!


22 people died in stampede on the foot bridge at Elphinstone Road railway station on western railway in Mumbai. This sort of tragedy was waiting to happen! The blame game has already started, starting from railway administration to Mumbai Municipal Corporation. Activists have started blaming politicians depending on their affiliations. I am sure major part of blame has to go these agencies but the apathy that we as public show, the way we accept everything and anything is unbelievable.  First a bit of history about Suburban Railways in Mumbai then known as Bombay.

The Mumbai Suburban Railway is an offshoot of the first passenger railway to be built by the British in India, and is also the oldest railway system in Asia. The first train ran between Bori Bunder (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) and Thane, a distance of 34 km, on 16 April 1853 at 15:35. The 14-coach train took 1.25 hours to complete the 34 km journey, with a halt at Sion to refill the train’s water tanks. Since 1991, it has been expanded rapidly. (Wikipedia)

I have lived in Mumbai till 1975 and in those days, except for rush hours, going by trains was fun. In fact when I was in school we used to go by train for picnics! Things started changing after that. Infrastructure in those times was ok. To my understanding infra would include rakes, platforms, over bridges, ticketing windows, toilets, signaling and many such systems. This would also include exits from the station and entry to the station. The bridge where the event occurred was built in 1972 with maybe about 20 years projected traffic. Now it is 45 years!

My “latest” travel by these trains, maybe once or twice, was “about 18/20 years back. So I am not an authority to comment on the same. But I will share my experience with you. I went from Dadar station to Kandivali, it was a Sunday and I boarded the train at 7 pm. There was heavy rush and I somehow managed to travel, profusely sweating. When I reached my friends home, he said you are looking tired! I said there was so much rush on the train. He said, “Pramod today was Sunday that is the reason I invited you, Sunday’s are reasonably rush free days.”  I had no comments. I once also traveled from Andheri to Dadar to go to VT. I caught a train around 4.30 am, reached Dadar; then for switching from western train to central train I walked the foot over bridge at 5 am. I could never imagine that at 5 am there could so much rush! Walking itself was a big deal. That day I decided that I will never travel in suburban trains in Mumbai, ever! Infrastructure was bursting through seams already. That was 20 years back.

Population in Mumbai in late 90’s was 9.9 million and now the population is 18 million! It has doubled. Railway system carries 7.5 million passengers daily. I don’t think the overall infrastructure increased proportionately. I am only looking from passenger perspective. Improvement in signals does not really improve passenger comfort. Passenger ingress and egress is the most important aspect along with capacity of the compartments. Outside most railway stations, there is chaos of taxis, autos, hawkers and what have you! Hawkers of course sit on the bridges too! Whatever space was there 40 years back, probably same space is available outside most stations but mostly occupied by the usual culprits. Large number of taxis and autos and hawkers occupy lion’s share out of that space.

This obviously shows that such accidents were waiting to happen. My friend Shashikant Limaye who is an expert in this field shared on TV how many plans have been made to improve infra and shelved. There was special World Bank loan sanctioned but was cancelled due to no progress by authorities, in the year 2007. I feel that both Central and State governments discuss issues as if they are third party to the problems and say that it is Railway departments responsibility. There are some good experts with heart at the right place but with mouth at the wrong place! Yesterday one of them was demanding that Maharashtra CM should resign as it is his personal responsibility. He also claimed that it is Prime Minister’s personal responsibility! Probably he said such things out of sheer frustration at the sheer apathy shown by all concerned!

Now let us take a mirror, open it and hold it in front of ourselves. Do we have public awareness as a society? We blame the hawkers for occupying space on bridges and space around stations. Do we ever consider of stopping to buy from them? If nobody buys what will they do? But while buying we look for convenience. A society gets government it deserves. All political leaders are from our own society. Those in Mumbai surely know the conditions more than senior leaders. Some of them must be using railway system daily. Has anyone ever raised concern, voice, over these issues seriously and loudly? The “VIP’s” of the politics never “know” these things as they have “open” roads and “closed” vehicles. I can understand that certain jobs may be available only in Mumbai e.g. film/TV related. But there may be many that will be available elsewhere too! So why not shift? I know it’s a tough call but at least think about it! Why cling and stick to a place? I don’t think salaries are so high in Mumbai that people don’t want to leave Mumbai. A cousin my mine who has now retired, moved to Bavdhan, Pune from Hindu Colony, selling everything lock stock and barrel! When I asked how he found the change, he simply said, “Why the hell I was living in Mumbai, God knows!”

Every day in Mumbai railway system, 8 to 10 people die because of various types of accidents. I don’t think any government is responsible for that. It has become so routine that these are hardly being reported. Why this apathy from people? Hundreds of thousands of people cross rail tracks every day and this causes deaths. Imagine everyday 8 to 10 times the train system goes on hold, due to death, there is domino effect of delays and consequential pressure increases on the system, every day. There are many things which have started coming out after the stampede. Parel in olden days was an area where there were mills and mill workers lived around the mills. Getting down at Parel and Elphinstone station was never on your priorities. After mill properties got developed in commercial properties, it seems one million people come to that area every day! This has happened in last ten years so, and  system has started understanding it now.

I always hear of “Bombay Spirit”! It is a myth created by the media. What option do people of Bombay have? Once the Elphinstone station was “sanitized” after yesterday’s stampede, people started going on the same bridge, the same platform and same system! You have to go home is it not? Is this “Bombay Spirit”? What do you do? Stay in office for the day? Or walk home or what?

Let’s pray to God that better sense will prevail and people from various departments will sit together, plan and start actions. There are always immediate, short term, mid term and long term actions in any project. Something can always be started right away. For example if there are more than one bridge on a station with proper ingress & egress, out of sheer habit people will keep on using old bridge all the time. Make bridges “one way” where possible,  it will straight away increase capacity by 50%.  People will have to walk a little more. I see very long walkways in CBD area, and people prefer covered walkway; but they use this because there is no other option to cross the express way. Start merciless operation of fining heavily, people crossing the rail tracks! It is their responsibility “not” to cross the rail track! Removing hawkers from bridges and areas outside stations is possible but needs to be sustained over a period of time. This will need political will. Removing rikshaws and taxis from outside station is easily achievable.  People should form a movement at all stations “Not to buy from hawkers”, it is their responsibility too! All in all every department, person, officer, and commuter should raise their hands and start to act.

Latest news is that Central Government has come into action and a lot of things are planned for suburban train system with a specific time frame. Let’s hope it works out.




Make your bed when you get up!

Make your own bed is a thought process which helps organize your life!

I heard one inspirational speech on the net and this is how the speaker started the speech, “Make your bed when you get up!” Obviously the audience did have a hearty laugh. But he was talking on a very serious subject. I remember, that my father on waking up, would make his bed, brush his teeth and comb his hair. I asked him once, “Hey Dad! Who is going to look at you so early? Why comb your hair?” His reply I still remember, “Pramod, I want myself to be presentable to me, forget others!”

Now what is the big deal in making your bed when you get up! Well, it is the first task you have completed during the day and done it successfully. So your day begins with a successful activity. During the course of the day there will be many small and big activities you will be doing. Your first successful activity, though very minor, will give you confidence that you may be able to do other activities successfully too! Your day starts on a positive note and if you come across any hurdles in any of your activities, you will try to find a way of completing it successfully. There may be real bad day in your life and all your important activities may not get completed, or you may face failure while doing these activities e.g. you may lose an order, which you were very sure to get. On such a bad day, you can always come home and lie down on your bed, which is already made; it is there to receive you comfortably, as you had made it when you woke up!

Getting your mind organized to do things on time and successfully, prepares your mind to approach everything, for successful completion; it will teach you to tackle the problems, till you are able to get a proper resolution. It will prepare you to accept setbacks and teach your mind how to overcome the setbacks. Making your bed when you get up is a thought process. You had gone for a movie and slept late, you had a drink or two more than your usual quota, so you were tossing around and slept very late, your neighbor had a minor emergency and requested your help after midnight so you went back to sleep at three o’clock; but you had to get up at five o’clock to catch a flight. There will be many such variations, and many excuses in your mind not to make your bed when you get up! But that is where the discipline comes into play. You wake up and make your bed! This simple action in one’s life, forms the work ethic of that person. This work ethic is contagious. Very rarely you will find family or a group of people where some have different work ethics. Those who make their bed on waking, know how it helps the ecosystem to perform better and more efficiently.

I will share a couple of stories from my own home. My son Sachin was in the 12th grade, of course ages back. Now his son is in 12th grade! One of our family friend was his physics teacher. A few weeks before final exams, he started solving old exam papers (for practice) as if he was appearing for the exam. He would complete the paper in stipulated two hrs. He solved one question paper in the afternoon and immediately got it checked from his teacher. He had done ok but he was not satisfied. Immediately after coming home, he solved second paper in two hours and got it checked. There was improvement but he was still not happy. He came home, solved third paper and got it checked. He almost got full marks in that and then he went to sleep that night.

My daughter Priya was studying for her Master’s degree in Dentistry. She had her exams the next day at 9 am. At one am, she came and woke me up. Her cell phone was on silent mode but when she checked she saw nine missed calls from parents of a three year old child, whom she had treated, a couple of days before. She said, “Daddy, that child is bleeding since 9 pm and I have to treat him. Will you please come with me?” Also that family did not have a vehicle, so we picked them up on the way. We took them to the hospital, the child was successfully treated (parents had not followed the instructions Priya had given them, hence the bleeding had started). We dropped them home and by the time we reached home it was 4.30 am! She slept for an hour, revised for her exams and appeared for her exam at 9 am. Before going in the hall, she coordinated with her colleagues to recheck the child at 10.30 am!

I don’t say that it was big deal what my children did but it proves what I said above is true. They have both been watching Jaya and I make our bed, when we woke up, everyday!


New .com bubble!

Startups, Venture funding and profitability go hand and hand else you have a failure on hand!

My friend Nandu Pradhan sent me a message if I have opened a blog tap! The fact of the matter is that I am on a bit of a sabbatical for a week or ten days. Thoughts keep on coming in the mind and somehow I am able to reach the end line pretty quickly.

I read an article about venture funding this morning. It said that venture fund taps seem to be shutting down, albeit slowly, at least in India. I don’t understand much about venture funding but I am told that this funding is given to start ups with brilliant ideas; then there is second and third round of funding as the idea tries to bloom into business. One term that goes hand in hand is “burn rate” while discussing startups. Burn rate is the money spent every month, without doing any business at least in the beginning.

Most of my life I have been running a small business and during this period, barring a few years, I never needed outside funds! Of course, those loans were in the form of bank facilities. I paid outrageous interest charges on the bank funds. At some stage, I decided that enough is enough and returned all the bank funds. Idea behind running my business was simple, it was my job, and it earned me a living! So idea was to keep on making money from whatever activities I was doing!

Don’t get me wrong but I honestly do not understand this concept of venture funding and startups. All can’t be Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Googles of this world. These are some of the names that come to mind when we talk of starting up in garage and so on! Don’t forget that people behind them were brilliant people. They may not have had the best of the ideas to start with. Apple took 20 plus years to really hit it. Microsoft initially had a tough time but the idea of MS-DOS is what really took off! These guys had different business models. Microsoft has been making software products and are now also in cloud computing, in a big way! Microsoft’s obituary has been written a few times but lately they have become extremely agile to customer requirements. I need not write about Apple; once the iPod became a hit, rest as they say is history. They have real world hardware that they are selling at very high margins. Google made a brilliant search engine and the advertisements on the engine are their bread and butter; they hardly have anything else that is earning money. Facebook was pioneer in social media and have taken up Google business model but this forms 80% of their income. They have about 20% of their income from other sources. What I am trying to imply is that they are all real profit making companies and balance sheets have been in black, most of the times. They all have hard cash.

Coming back to start ups. I am sure that there is a genius lurking behind all these startups that we keep on hearing. Mr. Mukesh Ambani recently made a statement that Jio is a startup! I think what he meant by that is Jio is thinking out of box, its agile, its is taking business behemoths in the same field head on but of course there is a business plan which will make it profitable sooner than later!

I am naming two large e commerce giants in India, Flipkart and Amazon.  Amazon is doing billions of dollars of turnover world over but I understand that even after 20 years their E commerce business is not in profit! So they keep on pumping money. Because of market capitalization Bezos of this world have become billionaires. So must be Flipkart honchos. What is their business model? To my understanding this is trading business as these two companies’ sale products themselves or through their partners; they do not manufacture a single product. How come their burn rate is much more than their income? I feel that it is because of the discount war they keep on playing to gain territory It is a good thing that they do not take loans from banks; otherwise list of bank NPA’s will grow longer! Loss figures March 2016 Amazon Rs.3572/ crore, Flipkart Rs.2850/ crores, Paytm total loss Rs.7971/ crores! Not bad! Profits can always wait! (Ref. Economic Times dated 24th Sept 2017)

If the organization is not making money then what is the point in doing business? With the taps of funds being slowly turned off, the startups are thinking, in terms of operating profits! Real profits are miles away! I am not sure about operating profits too! I am surprised about both sides. Those running business are not really bothered about profits and the funding guys are hoping that one of their clients will become a Microsoft or a Google and then they will get windfall! I am sure the funding guys are very very smart people and they are pumping only part of their billions as investment in startups! But what about startups which are very small or medium size? Or do the promoters also make their money, on the side, from the “burn”? If there is no profit then how do you sustain? What do you achieve by having a high “burn rate”? Is the business model right? Do these guys have enough maturity? They must be real smart technically but running a business is different ball game! An idea, a great presentation, business plan (which always look lovely on paper) get them funding. But how long can the operations sustain on funding? Should the business not be self-sustaining? Is it easy to convert a brilliant idea into a self-sustaining business? There are many so called brilliant ideas, on paper; they face different hurdles, when they come into business domain.

Coming back to my lack of knowledge, I feel that business is a business is a business! The aim should be to make it profitable, of course not at any cost! One has to follow business ethics. When you get funding you don’t have to pay interest on funding that you get though you actually borrow it!  Funding is a cool name for this borrowing! One is really lucky that this is interest free loan. That most startups fail, is to me, an indication that most ideas don’t get converted to profitable business.

I will give you an example of a “startup”. This was not a startup in the conventional way. This person’s business and products were not hi fi type but products made for farmers and used in farming. Of course it was not cool! He was mentored by my wife Jaya. Jaya happens to be on cool side of life i.e Computers, IT and all. What she found was that the person was brilliant and knew his subject and had good products. He was trying to make too many products on laboratory scale for different produce. After a few meetings Jaya asked him, “What is the USP of your products? Which is your best product?” He said, “My products will give immediate results with very high returns in Pomegranates!” Jaya told him to concentrate only on that. He did it and rest as they say is history. Now he is a reasonably successful businessman. He received recognition from United Nations and business wise he is doing pretty alright! Mind you, he took funding but only after his business had grown reasonably well and was very much in black! Writing this story probably has answered the questions which I raised in the beginning! So startups and venture funding is good provided you have good profitable products and a profit making business plan; otherwise you have to be Amazon or Flipkart or Paytm! To hell with losses! There are enough people who will fund you, if you are large enough!

Oh My God!

Dive into depth of His trough of knowledge and achieve Nirvana!

Dios mío, Oh mein Gott, おやまあ, अरे देवा, हे भगवान. These are the expressions in different languages meaning the same thing. This obviously shows that in any and every culture, concept of God has been in existence for a very long time. What is God? Everybody’s concept, strength of belief about God is different. In fact it does depend on religion, faith but more on individual beliefs. That is why we have some staunch believers and a few who tend towards being atheists or rationalist!

To me God is a belief, and an unknown super power. This thought process is fortified by the some events that happen in the world where we don’t seem to have any control! I am not talking of only bad things, we have no control on good things too! In bad times, people mostly use God as a punching bag and good times are of course their own doing, their own competence, their own expertise! In such situations people forget that He is around!

How He came into being? In olden times when general knowledge of the populace was limited, any situation not understood, was act of God! Not that situation has changed much even today but with progress in scientific knowledge of humans, at least in some cases we are able to differentiate between natural phenomena, scientific achievement and of course Act of God! This act of God will continue till the end of the world, because there always will be many things on which humans will have no control.

To me God and things surrounding the thought of God are like the ocean. Our knowledge of the ocean and its behavior is very much limited to whatever we see near the sea shore. Similarly, our knowledge about Him is very superficial. In the sea our general activity is maybe up to 50 kms from the sea shore. I am not talking of large sea vessels which travel all over the world! These vessels are result of scientific knowledge put together by humans to overcome challenges of the ocean. These are very small in numbers. I will compare these with some Gurus who have studied in depth about Him and they can be compared with sea going large vessels, again very small in numbers. Even with large sea going vessels the mystery of Bermuda Triangle has never been resolved. Similarly His mysterious ways are also not understood by us.

On a day to day basis we have formed our rituals about Him. These cannot be really explained in logical or scientific terms. In Islam, there is practice of self-flagellation, in Hindus people walk bare foot long distances to visit a mandir, sometimes they crawl to a mandir. To some extent it is followed in Christianity too!  Why this is done? This is supposed to be penance for the deeds of the humans. But I always thought that the spirituality or the thought of God is within one’s mind, so what is achieved by physical penance is difficult to understand and follow. This practice is being followed for thousands of years and even today people do not want to apply scientific thought to such practices. People don’t want to challenge the old tradition that may not make sense today, because they are afraid of His wrath! Or are they afraid of orthodox people from the religious bodies to challenge such practices?

In many temples, even today, ladies are not allowed to enter! Because they are “impure”! One Mandir management in south India ran into a tricky situation. A law and Order situation got created in that Mandir and police arrived there led by a DCP! The DCP was a lady! They had no option but to allow a lady to enter! Many of the practices, rituals were creations of old times when situations were totally different. People and the so called holy leaders don’t want to change this for a simple reason that they will lose control! It is all about power, these rituals are ensured to create fear psychosis in the minds of the followers. How do you explain a guy riding a motorcycle paying his obeisance to Him, without even stopping his bike momentarily, releasing both his hands from the handle of the bike, not even slowing down! He is afraid that if he does not do his namaskar, His fury will destroy him! Is it so? Is He telling you to pay obeisance? It is in our mind hence we are doing it! Religious leaders are happy with this situation because they have achieved to keep fear going in the mind of the people.

Friends try to reach the depth of the ocean that is Him! Presently, all we are trying to do is water surfing, catching the fish, enjoying the swim near the shore! That may appear to be the ultimate thing to be achieved with Him! Go to the depths, where the ocean has lovely corals that we have never seen, ocean has mountains within its body of which we never even think of, ocean has many beautiful things hidden from us because we have never traversed its depth. In the same way, forget the flagellation, forget the fasting, and forget the crawling. Try to really understand His depth, without being afraid of Him. God is hardly bothered what you do for Him because ultimately He does what has decided about us, (Act of God!) our society and our world. Those depths will be really beautiful like the oceans. Reach them and you will achieve the Nirvana!

God Bless You! Que dios te bendiga! Gott beschütze dich! お大事に! देव तुझे भले करो! भगवान तेरा भला करे!

My Favorite Blog!

I started blogging very casually in the 2011, honestly I do not know why! It was more of a start and stop journey in which there were more stops! Post my health issues in late 2013 and early 2014 my frequency of writing improved. I publish my blogs on Word Press and wordpress helps one understand how to increase the reach of the blogs. Slowly I started incorporating those suggestions and I find that reasonable number of people read my blogs, some of them comment also. I have good friends who are my Critiques; we discuss why I write something and why I write in a certain way. They also point out important points that I miss out! This tête-à-tête with friends encourages my grey cells to become more active, helps me understand and accept different point of view.

 Out of 100 plus blogs I have written the most viewed blog, to my surprise is, “Paranormal behavior or “Angat Yene” or “Devi Ana” was published on 17th July 2017. This is a blog about my first experience of a known person suddenly going in trance, during a religious program at home. That lady was like you and me but the change in her behavior and persona happened in front of our eyes. She went into trance and was behaving in the way that can be described as paranormal. She came out of it when the religious chanting got over; she was sweating profusely and looked visibly tired! Question that comes to my mind, why this blog is most viewed? Is it because of the subject? Is it because the way I have written it? I don’t think so, I have not done anything special in this blog! Is it the curiosity? Is it that as human population we secretly want to understand what paranormal behavior is? Is it that people were hoping that I will explain the mystery? Honestly I have not understood this phenomena at all. I thought it will be good idea to retrospect and analyze my other blogs!

In the very early stages of my blog writing, I had written one piece called “These are the few of my favorite things”! Similarly I am trying to find out “Few of my favorite blogs”! I am going to select a few which I like the best and why I like them. I request you to give your opinion too! I have written the name of the blog and the date on which it was published. When you go to my blog page panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com you will see on the right side the list of recent posts and & archives. The details I have shared, will make it easy for you to locate old blogs should you want to read them!

“Dance of Civilization” was written on 19th January 2016, is my most favorite blog. It is tricky and is like trying to find out which is your favorite child? I am like Dhritarashtra, father of Kaurava’s who had 100 children, now I have 100 plus blogs! Why this is my favorite blog? I felt that I was able to make a proper mix of life’s small events with philosophy! Along with this, I was able to mix up view point of a small child; in fact they have no view point, they do what comes to their mind! This is the advantage of not having any “experience” in life! The child’s slate is a blank one and they will express what comes to their mind. This can be understood where I discussed the different ways of entering the Mandir! Rhea my grand daughter sometimes just did not want to enter the Mandir, she was more interested in drainage cover, she was interested in tearing up tree leaves that had fallen on the ground. She was more interested in jumping in the water puddle! She was keen to see how the crow was drinking water from the puddle! With our life’s “experiences” we become too rigid, too ritualistic and too stiff! In the blog I was able to compare the child’s view of life and the adult’s view!

“God! Where are you?” 10th March 2016 is a blog about how people believe more in rituals rather than achieving their goal! It’s about a group of people singing their hymns in a Mandir! Obviously they are trying to achieve peace of mind or maybe they were trying achieve Niravna! Two things in this world are really pure, the nature and the children! While trying to achieve their goal, the group was  disturbed by joyous shouting of kids! I feel that if I get to watch small kids enjoying their evening games, everyday, I will achieve Nirvana! Recently we achieved Nirvana by enjoying the nature at its best for about two weeks! What more do you need? I felt that this group of people had lost their path hence the title “God! Where are you?”

“Life’s Speed breakers” 15th October 2015. I always feel that people should share all their experiences with others. This blog is about the sudden detection of cancer in December 2013. My discussing all the events as if it was a third party event, I have tried to keep things impersonal. Even if a few of those who read this blog are benefited by this blog, in handling life’s difficult events, I will feel that I have achieved my goal. In tough situations, it is the positivity of the family and friends, quick actions, trying to get the best possible solution is the key. In case of issue like Cancer, Dr. Maiyya, my radiation Oncologist told me that Doctors, Equipment, Medicines do a play a major part but he felt that it may not be more than 60/65%. Balance is positive attitude of patient, family and friends. Luck of course also plays a major role! I have used a story format, telling date wise events to make it brisk and more readable by keeping the reader interested!

Parijatak उर्फ Nyctanthes arbor-tristis 5th November 2014. We look at many things in life but we never give thought to things in understanding that each living thing has its own usefulness and in case of flowers, its color and fragrance. I was able to get perfect simile where I could compare human traits with those of flowers. I have compared exotic flowers with highly skilled humans like pilots, engineers and doctors. Flowers like Parijatak are common folks like artisans, carpenters and nurses. But life is complete only when these two traits come together! I felt that sometimes we forget one of groups, depending on which group you are in. But I thought that I was able to explain how’s and whys of working together of Heliconia’s and Parijatak’s of this world!

From being grounded to going Sky high 8th June 2014. This blog is written more than three years back. During this phase I feel that I was becoming a better writer. The subject of this blog is an event from life where I changed home; I moved from a town house on the ground floor to a condominium on the 7th floor! This small change, made a great difference in my thought process and opened my mind to a much wider horizon which the seventh floor physically gave me. This maybe one of my smaller blogs but I was able put in a lot of thoughts in the blog. I was able to express a deep meaning in this blog. Probably my thoughts were also becoming more mature after recovery from health issue. In short, I have tried to say that every change in life is an opportunity!

Friends you must be wondering if I have written this blog because I have a writer’s block. No that is not the reason. Ever since I published the blog about Paranormal behavior, it is viewed everyday by sizable number of people; what is this phenomena? why this is so? Please read these other blogs also and give your comments! I would also love to know, if you read more than one blog, “Which you like the best”! 







Age is just a number!

Use your senior age to advantage!

Every society has its way of handling age and old people. What does it depend on? Relationships, money, closeness in the family, decide many aspects in life. Of course age is not the only factor, along with age comes the factor of health! If these two combine badly, the situation becomes dicey! In the current scenario where migration is the name of the game, things can be even more difficult; it is not migration to another country but it can be migration to a city from village or to another city, for work! Old are of course left behind!

My observation is that in western society, health permitting, senior citizens do a lot of things independently, without giving too much thought about age. This is probably because many generations have had a large number of senior citizens and are used to handle their own things, financially and otherwise!

In the generation of my grandparents, there was hardly any migration and most of the family continued to live together, many a times in the same house. Household requirements and individual requirements were very low and people survived with low incomes. At a later stage in my grand parents case, I think my father and uncles used to give additional support to them. It was always discussed in those days and even today, that people from that generation were really strong! They had to be! During young age of my grandparents, the life expectancy was so low, that those who were really strong, survived. Large number of people would die of influenza, plague and so on. There were no modern medicines or diagnostics. You catch the dreaded illness and you are gone!

But in today’s times, with Modern medicines, general improved health awareness, you see a lot of senior citizens around, with reasonably good health and in some cases wealth too! That’s a great combination if used properly. You have everything and diminished family responsibilities. So why not use the situation fruitfully? This is right time to start using ones bucket list! It could be books, travel, watching sports events, music events or whatever you have not been able to do in younger age.

In India we consider the age around 70 as old. Old enough to be reading Scriptures, living a contented life, interacting with grandchildren if they are around, maybe go to Mandirs and so on, in short doing nothing! This thought process is changing albeit slowly. Many of my friends in this age group have  become globe trotters, travelling with spouses and certain cases alone. In Western countries thought process about old age is  pretty different, the oldies are quite independent. We as a society should try and emulate good aspects of western thought process.

In last two years on different excursions we met a lady who was 99, travelling alone! Recently we met a 87 year old person again travelling alone. He has travelled to 99 nations in the world. Mind you, the examples I am giving here are all westerners. We have seen people who needed wheel chairs, one young man needed 100% Oxygen support. Yes, in foreign countries the facilities for physically challenged people are superb. That helps but it is the will to do it, will to travel, to explore through the physical challenge. Our group in both cases was predominantly of westerners!

In India our thought process is not very open to such thinking because for the first time, in our history, a large number of fitter & willing senior citizens are around. There is no history of independent senior citizens wandering about. We met an Indian couple, in early fifties, from Mumbai, at Matterhorn in Switzerland; they were kind enough to help us with some photos. While parting, the gentleman made a remark, “Sir, it is creditable that you are doing this journey at your age!” He had a valid point, not many Indians of our age travel internationally in mountains, independently. In the group in which we travelled, we were in middle range of the age group, many were 75 plus!

In general we take our age very seriously and think in terms of “Vanaprasthashrama” (fourth and final stage of life cycle)! Of course we have to be careful that when we travel we do not have any health issues! When we were travelling my wife Jaya had a minor foot injury. Our tour manager suggested, in good faith, that we should avoid mountains so that there is no mishap. But we were careful, reasonably confident ( of course not over confident) and did most of the things that were possible on the tour. We enjoyed the ride on the open deck of double decker cable car at Stanserhorn in Switzerland! Was the weather cold!


Another thing that happens with the age is that we become a little inflexible with our eating habits. But we always followed the dictum ” Be like Romans when in Rome”! So we did have Pizzas and Pastas and Salads when we were Italy and enjoyed them. Of course “Kartoffelsalat” while we were in Germany! Did we have lovely wines when were in wine country? Of course we did!

What we can do post retirement is dependent on our mind set and openness to try new untried things. Don’t forget that many westerners do come to India where systems, food, weather are quite different for them. They can do it because of the flexibility that they show. You must be wondering why I am giving examples of western world. This is just to explain how differently old age is treated by westerners and what are the joys of this different treatment.

While walking around in Lucern, we had 76 years old Jones from Montreal for company. We saw one Indian restaurant and she said, ” Since you and Jaya are with me, I would like to try Indian food!” We went there and enjoyed the really pleasant food, even by our standards! Only thing I did not manage is to make Jones eat raw onion, the way we eat it! I had also offered to show her how we eat with our fingers but at her request we passed it too! I am sure we also will become more adventurous and try different things! Happy globe trotting folks!



Naysayers or anti dev!

Naysayer is one who denies, refuses, opposes, or is skeptical or cynical about something!

There is an abundance of everything in this world including the naysayers! I don’t think we are born naysayers, it is the characteristic that we develop over a period. Like all other things, this human trait gets developed over a period due to circumstances in which we grow, people we have come across, maybe ones education. But when I think about naysayers that we see sometimes, it is really difficult to judge why one becomes a naysayer. One may be opposed to an idea, or thought process but one cannot be opposed anything new, it can be a new thought or a new technology!

These thoughts came my mind while I was reading about Bullet Train project. Why does India need a bullet train? What is wrong with today’s trains? They take you from place to place, sometimes on time with some comfort. Why change the status quo? To me bullet train is not a train, it’s a concept! I am advisor to a Japanese conglomerate in India. One customer of ours wanted to visit the plants in Japan. He wrote an e mail asking what is buffer time he should keep to catch a flight from place B. He was to travel from place A to B by bullet train. He got a reply from Japan, “What buffer time are you asking about?” Our friend was not sure if the train would reach in time for the flight. When he mentioned this, reply from Japan was, “No buffer time needed! Shinkansen never gets late! Only if there is major earthquake it can get late!”  When we have bullet train in India, I am quite sure part of a system in India will reach international level! Between Mumbai and Ahmedabad it is going to stop at 7/8 stations and will improve systems in those areas! 


We have all seen this, look at Metros all over India. Very rarely we see Metro trains getting late, platforms being dirty and so on. This is observed all over India. Who uses Metros? Everybody! Why this has happened? It is said that a place is modern when rich use the public transport! We as a society are open to these changes, but our naysayers don’t want them. Sometimes I feel that naysayers are worse than the politicians. They do not want any modernity or a change. Kolakata metro is more than 20 years old but still remains spik and span!  


It is not about modern technology, it is about modern thought process. Modern methods that new technology can usher. When Mumbai Pune expressway was being planned the naysayers were of course dead against it! What happens after 20 years! We cannot imagine life without the expressway. Modern Facilities, infrastructures not only involve technology but a new way of thinking. In many countries train and bus systems are so well connected that they have a single ticket which can be used across the systems. New way of thinking comes up with new solutions. Indian railways is in the process of establishing a diesel engine plant in Bihar which is expected to go live in a year or so. But world over, the thought process is shifting from Diesel to Electric! In today’s papers, there is a news item that discussion is going on with the Partners GE about trying to find out ways of discontinuing this project. Govt maybe forced to pay more than US $ 2/ billions but in the long run it is nothing but benefits! Seeds of this discussion are already sown! Naysayers will of course say, “Oh, we are wasting money!”  Govt has recently scrapped 11 power projects based on coal and have decided to go ahead with Nuclear plants! This is again having the same reason as that of diesel engine plant! These two are examples of how serious now India is about environment! 

Recently we travelled from Zurich to Frankfurt by train. Tickets were bought a couple of months in advance. When we went to Zurich and checked, I was a given a route paper saying that some track work required emergency repairs hence instead of direct journey there was a change in route. After one hour we changed the train, then we reached a very small station by another train, where there were no escalators etc. We were worried as our bags were heavy. But they had made arrangements for senior citizens; our bags were carried free of charge by porters to the other side of the station and put on a bus. The bus took us to another station about 15 kms away. At that station, we were put on a train to Frankfurt! Had there been naysayers in the railway system, they would have told us, Sorry! This is your refund! Have a great trip! What I could have done if I was given refund! Nothing and scramble for a way to go to Frankfurt! But it is positive thought process, because of which, we reached Frankfurt, only about ½ hour late!

How naysayers were against Maruti? They wanted people to continue using Ambassador and Fiat! Rajeev Gandhi introduced the idea of computerization, Manmohan Singh opened the economy in 1992! How much resistance was there! Our naysayers wanted to keep on following socialistic model where everyone remains poor! Even after their Citadel Soviet Russia had failed!


What is the profile of a naysayer; they are generally good speakers, are against any sort of development, have lawyers in the group, an engineer is thrown in between for technical arguments, and are generally know all. What is their agenda? NGO’s preferably foreign funded, are in their gambit, with foreign trips thrown in for lucky few! Their favorite subject also include housing encroachment on hills and tree felling! If half the hills are encroached by illegal shanties it is fine but someone tries to build something legal! Heavens will fall. Good old SFO is a city on hills and there many such cities world over.


In the city of Pune where I live in India, the usual traffic issues are there. For last 15/20 years government is hoping to build a road on the hills which may take care of bottle necks! Court cases started and it was ruled that, against each tree brought down, ten new trees should be planted. Government agreed to plant 50 in place of ten. Effect, one more court case against with another issue! What is the solution for this?

In democracy these things keep on happening. Patience is what is needed! I am not arguing that there should be no opposition; in fact different views always bring out the best possible solutions, most of the times. But opposition for the sake opposition is not the way forward. Years ago, India’s well known industrial doyen Shantanurao Kirloskar had said, ” Are trees for us or are we there for trees?” Hope our society will carry forward his wisdom and make this world and especially our city Pune, a better and modern place to live!