Was it worth it?

Play a positive zero sum game of life!

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Last week we went to Seattle to attend our grandson’s 12th grade graduation ceremony. We really enjoyed the ceremony. We were also very happy to be present for the milestone event of Suyash’s life. Now he joins the university to start computer engineering course! It was a bit hectic but enjoyable. After traveling a lot around the world, our mind gets used to long flights and handling such long journeys, in a short period of time..

Yesterday we bumped into our neighbour, who is 7 to 8 years senior to me. He asked me about the ceremony and then he said that he had a query. He asked me that if it was really worth traveling all the way to US and come back, for a four day stay? Is it not physically tiring? Does it not cause jet lag issues? Was there any necessity to do it? I told him that there was a family reason to come back in four days! Now the decision! Yes, we thought it was more than worth it to attend our grandson’s milestone event!

While planning, we never discussed if it was possible to take up this journey, it was assumed that we will be able to handle it! I am pragmatic in what I do and respect our age which is nearing 70! Fortunately, both of us are reasonably fit! But we did take precautions to make our journey less arduous! We took a flight from Pune to Delhi and slept for a few hours at the airport transit hotel. Then we took our 14-hour flight to Vancouver! Similarly, after 14-hr flight back from Toronto to Delhi, we stayed overnight at the transit hotel; we slept for straight six hours and took a flight back to Pune at 8.30 next morning!

First and foremost is that we were not trying set a record, making the short trip with longest journey! The situation at that time demanded we do it. Secondly, it was possible both physically and financially to handle this. There was no specific requirement to reach Pune by taking a late-night flight! With all conditions being suitable, we decided to go ahead with our plan.

Our lives are divided in four stages of childhood, education and entry into married life, matured life after 40’s when things are both hectic and are stabilizing. Lastly, it’s the golden period in our life when most of our responsibilities are over and financial requirements are much less for our day to day things. In first two phases we really don’t have much freedom and means to take our own decisions. In most cases decisions are taken by someone else. In last two phases, we can take our own decisions.

Question remains whether it was really worth it? This calls for understanding of what life is. Life to me is sum total of small events, in life. The events can be routine, some could be milestone events. Some are happy events, some are sad events. For happy events we come together to spread the joy; in sad events we come together to be with each other, to support each other. By sharing the joyful events we multiply the joy and by sharing the sad events, we divide the sorrow! This to me is the basic principle of life!

Life is never a big event full of joy! It is small events that make it joyful! Eating food every day in a five-star hotel is not fun. But if you go to such places once in a while it’s fun! We don’t go there only for food. It is the ambience, the atmosphere that adds to the joy. No food can beat your home food if we consider only the food aspect. But it is the planning, getting ready, getting decked up and meeting a few friends in that atmosphere, which creates joy.

But events like taking your child or grand-child to play in a garden, eating bhajias while it is drizzling in monsoon, meeting a long-lost friend suddenly after a long time are the events that add to our joys! Similarly, events like illnesses in the family, failure of someone in family/friends to achieve a goal, (there is always a second time) your favourite team losing in a sporting event are the small sad events that add up to our sorrows. It is sum total of joys and sorrows that makes our life!

With families spreading world over, due to migration, it is becoming tougher to be present in both joys and sorrows! Sometimes, it is not possible because of financial constraints, sometimes it is not possible due to health reasons, for family to be together for even larger events of both joy and sorrow! I know a family where the son could not travel back to India due to his visa issues, when his not very old father died. That of course, is another subject for discussion. Nowadays, waiting for performing final rites of dear ones, has become quite common, as the children travel back from different parts of the world. This is a practical difficulty as timing for death cannot be predicted. But when date of an event is known, e.g marriage, engagement and so on, travel can be easily planned in advance, provided you want to attend those events. Lest we forget, events don’t wait for anybody.

Jaya was present in the US during our grandson’s birth, we could attend his 12th grade graduation ceremony. But we could not be present be for any of his birthdays. In fact, after our son moved to the US we have never attended our son’s birthday too! This time we were lucky that both the events were on the same day! With these limitations, the question of whether it was worth it becomes irrelevant! If someone is not going to attend such events, when all conditions are go and age is nearing 70, then which is the correct time to attend such events? Is it a must that “after spending so much money” (my neighbour said, I did not!) should I not have stayed in Seattle for a longer duration? What is the right longer duration?

Friends, keep on playing positive sum game of life, whether you need to travel to Seattle, or to Timbaktu! Just do it!

Is this Popcorn or Caviar!

You have options, cribbing is not one od them!

I went to the airport the other day to pick up my delayed bags. While coming back from airport, I again used Ola cab. There was a difference of Rs.35/ on the same trip, the return trip cost more. I checked the invoice and found that they had charged, airport pick-up charge. Ola and Uber both now have stands at the Pune airport. For this facility they pay yearly fees to the authorities. They are passing it on to the customers. At a time 8 to 10 cabs are always waiting at the airport!

The other day, we went to a multiplex to watch a movie! I did my booking on the website. Besides buying high priced tickets, I was charged convenience fees above the price of the tickets. I asked my young friends, who are savvy in such things! A friend suggested that we should use the website to check the tickets availability; if plenty of tickets are available, simply go the multiplex and buy the tickets. No convenience charges are applied.

So far so good. While watching the movie, we thought that we must follow the tradition and decided to eat popcorn, sandwiches and coke (diet of course!)  Popcorn was freshly made, sandwiches were ready to eat; probably made in the kitchen near the back office. Coke was from the fountain. None of the product sold were legally “packaged” food. “Packaged”  stuff under the law of MRP!  Non packaged products do not have MRP and there is no need to “declare” it price!

(MRP) Maximum Retail Price is a maximum price which can be charged to the consumers in India, as specified by the authority. Under the Consumer Goods (mandatory printing of date of Production and Maximum Retail Price) Act, 2006, consumers cannot be charged more than the MRP mentioned on the packing of the products.

When my card was charged I realized that there was not a single packaged item. Hence there was no MRP for whatever I bought. I realized that the multiplex owners must have had robbers as their ancestors! They simply robbed me on food prices, and there was nothing I could do about it. The total cost of food was much higher than the price of movie tickets. Since the items did not come under MRP laws, they could charge me whatever they wanted! Mind you there was a big queue to buy stuff and apparently people have money and do not mind spending money on entertainment. I asked my young friend later, the trick to overcome this issue. I asked her, if we could take stuff from home to eat. She said that we are not allowed to take outside food in the multiplexes due to security reasons; and that is the law! My theory about ancestry was proven!

So far so good, the movie was nice so we did have a good time in spite of meeting the  robbers! Now what is the law on this? Somebody has recently taken these multiplex guys to court. Arguments are going on in the court. The court has made an observation that when we go to five-star hotels, we pay whatever they ask for the food! We never expect the prices to be similar to other smaller restaurants. Similarly, I know that the prices of movie tickets in single screen theaters are much lower than what multiplexes charge. I am sure pop-corn, sandwiches also cost much less in single screen theaters. The court will check only the legality of billing done for food, if needed. Compliance of taxation will be checked by tax department! But nobody can tell them at what price they should sell the food!

The stories apart, is the high price for food charged by multiplexes justified? I am not sure but the multiplexes are projects by themselves and there is a lot of investment made in each such project. The movie business is unpredictable in general, so sell of tickets will depend on how popular the movie becomes! Their earning from movies is also unpredictable. The movie tickets are priced from Rs.80/ to Rs.400/ plus, for morning shows to most popular movies later in the day. I am not aware of their earning per ticket. So, what they are charging us for food is as per their business model. We are going to five-star movie theaters where we have fancy theaters, escalators and all the modern things. Prices will be high and we will have to accept them.

In India, when we travel by railways, we don’t pay extra luggage charges. But when we fly we are required to pay additional fees to the airlines as per rules. On some airlines they provide food free because the price of tickets is inclusive of the food. But on some low-cost airlines, we are required to pay for the food. Recently on our first leg back to India, on Seattle to Toronto flight, Air Canada was charging for food but they were serving coffees and cokes free, though it was an international flight! They probably decide based on the duration of the flight. On New York- San Francisco flight we were served food, since duration was 6 ½ hrs. So, each of the businesses have their own business model! We shouldn’t crib about it. We choose whatever is suitable to us, itinerary wise and price wise. So, we have options to see a movie in a multiplex! We have choices! Single screen theaters, YouTube, Netflix. We have to decide ourselves, nobody is forcing us.

What is the solution to this issue? For me there is no solution! But yesterday a party known for its rough politics, man handled a restaurant manager in a multiplex, for selling popcorn at  “high” price. Is it the right way to handle things? What can the manager do about it? The prices are decided by the management! Taking law into your hands is never justified whatever the reason!

There was one new Ranbir Kapoor movie being released! In the second week when the ticket prices are down, we can go for the movie. Tickets are on me, food is on you! Offer open only for multiplexes!  Are you game?

Titbits from an inter-continental dash!

Small but interesting experience during travel!

Travel does many things but the experience you get, the knowledge it gives you can never be gotten in any school or on internet in such a short duration and on different subjects! We made a quick dash to the US to attend our grandson Suaysh’s graduation ceremony which took place on 18th June. We reached on Saturday, 16th June, and traveled back on 20th June. You will ask me where did I acquire so many new things? Well it was during journey and waiting at airports and of course chatting with my grandson.  

My son lives in a Seattle suburb called Sammamish, which has population of 75 K. It’s a well to do suburb. There were 600 students from my grand sons class of 2018. I went through the list, there were about 15% Indians, 20/22% Chinese. Rest was others! Out of 600, about 100 did IB Diploma. International Baccalaureate® (IB) programmes aim to do more than other curricula by developing inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/diploma-programme/ . Out of 100 students, 80 were Indian or Chinese!  

On the flight back home, from Seattle to Toronto, an Irish American was sitting next to me. He was accompanying his son, who had also completed his 12th grade graduation. The gentleman was civil engineer by profession. When subject of education came up for discussion, he said their family came to US about 125 years back and he was the first from their family to go to a college. He rued, that his family and clan never realized the importance of education before his generation. He was shocked to know the statistics mentioned above.  

Another important point came out in discussion. Gun laws in USA. He agreed that the laws were bad, so I asked him a hypothetical question. In the mid-size city like Seattle, in an area 25 km around, how many people will really need a gun? He said that in some remote area a few wild animals do come but if you let them be, you don’t need guns; otherwise almost nobody would need a gun. I then asked him, how many guns would be there in Seattle area? He said there could be hundreds of guns! That is the gun story in USA.  

Then I found some interesting things at airports. Removing shoes, Laptops etc at security varies from country to country, as per equipment available. We landed in Vancouver, Canada and US immigration and customs formalities were completed there itself. After the formalities were done, nobody took the customs form that we had filled up. On Seattle Toronto flight, similar customs form was filled up but passport details were not required. Nobody collected this form too! When we transited after reaching Canada, there was no security check, though we had crossed the international border! There was a very long moving walkway, maybe about 300 meters long. It was the worst one I have seen on any airport. It was continuously making noise, dhad, dhad and I got a feeling that one of the links of the conveyor would break, anytime. Also, the walkway was not moving in flat plane; it was jumping a few millimeters at every dhad. It was very uncomfortable to use.  

SeattleToronto2

The images above show the funny side of lack of quality control at some stage. We were flying Seattle to Toronto but two images were showing reverse information. Instead of showing distance to Toronto, it was showing distance to Seattle! This hardly made any difference but it was surprising to such basic errors.  

Back home in Delhi there was a pleasant surprise! We stayed at night at the Holiday Inn Express transit hotel at the airport. That day was Jaya’s birthday and I had ordered a cake when I had booked the room  a month back. When we reached, the cake was ready and they offered it on the house!

On Delhi Pune flight I had a Britisher sitting next to me. He was in education business. They send students from UK for internship to India, during summer. He said every year one or two students go back home half way, as they cannot handle India! Especially from Chennai area. He was not sure about the reason and why from this area! I got many insights about Brexit, border less travel and business issues!

After a long time we ran into baggage missing episode. I am trying various things, let’s see when we get the bags at home!

But all in all one could see that US and Canada are really up there as far developments are concerned!  But to top everything else was the reaction of our gran daughter Rhea, when we met back home! The way she squeaked, jumped, danced was a site to behold! Why do we mature? Why don’t we show reactions like the small kids do? We are losing real fun and joys of life by becoming mature!

 

 

 

Don’t Break the Flyovers!

Take decisions in life from long term view! It’s your life after all!

Our personal life and the life around us has many things in common. In both cases, issues crop up, they are studied, they are discussed and decisions arrived at. In retrospect, we realize that better decisions could have been made, finer solutions could have been found. As the saying goes, the hind sight vision is always 20/20! Had we been able to take decisions closer to 20/20, things could have been better! Mistakes happen in both public and personal life. The end result is complications and stress. This thought gave me an idea of comparing these two aspects together.  

COEPFlyover

In Pune’s newspaper, I saw a photograph of the perpetual traffic jam on the flyover system near the engineering college. The city planners built an elaborate system of flyovers to overcome the traffic snarls in that area. I have read somewhere that by building fly overs, planners tend to push the traffic snarls in to the next traffic junction where we have traffic signals. But in this case, something else happened; just after the fly overs, there are traffic signals and the traffic gets choked there itself, even after flyovers were commissioned, not much has really changed. At the next junction, which is signal free, there are no traffic snarls. 

Life is always in WIP (work in progress) mode. It means that at every stage we keep on processing information that reaches our brain. We of course know that our brain is the world’s most advanced and fastest Super Computer. All new data is processed, churning takes place, information is sent back and forth to the stored database/ information in the brain. The result is arrived at, on the basis this churning and processing. This happens so many times during the course of the day, that we tend to take decisions but we process results based on priorities. Sometimes our priorities clash, sometimes end results clash.  Humans tend to push certain issues under the rug or come up with a temporary solution. These solutions are reached, based on the analysis of the available data, to solve the issues based on current situation. Most of the times, humans don’t take long term view into consideration and this action sometimes creates problems, later.  

Did you any similarity in the above two paragraphs? Indeed, there is similarity and we tend to put issues on back burner, we sometimes ignore problems. City related issues are handled by the humans,  in a very similar way. This affects large number of people in the society. But in our individual cases incorrect resolutions affect individual lives directly. What needs to be done such cases? For any issue or a problem, overall solution needs to be considered and not a short-term solution.  

 MumbaiPuneHway

I have displayed a google map of the area in Pune, where there are traffic snarls, after new flyover system came up!  The Red circle indicates the snarl area. If we consider the traffic arriving from 4 to 1, we will know the real problem. The new flyover system helps people to cross the railway line in problem area. In fact, all four points do the same thing. But point 1 has been closed for this crossing long time back. Point 3 has been closed recently. Point 2 and 4 help in crossing the railway line, but these crossings pass through narrow or congested roads. In last few years, besides traffic from 4 to 1 coming in red circle, traffic has been pouring in through the new road, from airport, parallel to the river. All this indicates that problem definition and solution did not go hand in hand. Huge traffic volume comes to the red circle area. The solution should have been to not bring traffic to snarl area and divert it via different routes. But the studies were not proper and hence solutions were incorrect. What is the solution? I don’t know. In Mumbai some such issue about a flyover was resolved by breaking a particular flyover to be replaced by another one, which resolved the issue. We have similar problem in Pune University circle area. In University circle area, one could see from the beginning, that solution was not correct. On top of the wrong decisions, judgement about future traffic density were also grossly under estimated. End result, the same. In peak hours, a group of policemen is required to manually handle the traffic chaos!  

In our lives, we also misjudge many things. Sometimes, we make wrong investments. Sometimes we misjudge our future requirements at home as well as finances. Sometimes, we do not take decisions and let the problems linger. I have seen this happening in people about their health. They try to ignore issues or postpone the checkups. A friend I met after many years, told me that he is afraid to get himself regularly checked up by doctors. I asked him the reason. He said, ” I am afraid that some health issue may get detected”. I said, that is the reason for getting yourself checked.  

In public domain if we make a wrong decision, we can find different solutions, including from above example, break the flyover and build a new one. This creates inconvenience and costs a lot of money. No individual is directly troubled with this solution. But in our own case, we and family are the direct sufferers. Wrong career moves, wrong investment decisions, involvement with wrong type of people, are described as errors or wrong decisions, in retrospection.  But they take their toll!

Friends, try and learn the art of visualizing things about future, while taking life’s decisions. We have enough information stored in our brain, learn to utilize it correctly  while we decide something. When we have to take major decisions in life, sleep over it before taking the final decision, ask friends and mentors. Don’t feel shy to take advise. Ultimately, it’s your life!  

Smart Cities or People!

It is the people who are going to make cities Smart!

Indian government has started a mission to create large number of smart cities in India. It’s a great initiative and a forward-looking idea. Unless we plan something like this, with a strong initiative from governments, things will never work out. I look forward to see how these things work. I am writing this from the angle of devils’ advocate. Will such initiatives really work in India?

What are the major initiatives planned for smart cities? Water management, waste management, environment, planning of cities, buildings, IT and communications, Security and Safety, Smart power grids, clean energy.  This shows that none of these things were planned in a systematic manner before. Yes, there has been a terrific improvement all over India in all above mentioned areas but hopefully now it will be more systematic.

If we look at the meaning of Smart, it is defined in different ways. If it is about a person – clean, tidy, and well dressed. Or having or showing a quick-witted intelligence. SMART is a best practice framework for setting goals. A SMART goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound. To me this last definition  fits the “Smart Cities Project” perfectly. The aims and goals have been set appropriately by using this definition. But to me a city is made up by its physical assets both new and historical, its water bodies, trees and environment. These to me are tangible things. Its culture, its people. Government agencies can plan for everything else but not for people, their way of thinking, their way of public behaviour, their way of self-discipline when in public or otherwise. These are the intangible assets of a city.

As I live in Pune, I will share whatever little I know about implementation of Smart City project in Pune. I think Pune is doing good in terms transport infrastructure. Newer, better roads and flyovers are planned to reduce congestion. A new ring road is also planned. New international airport is planned at Purandar near Pune. Pune Metro project is expected to be completed in next 3 to 4 years. Experience from all over India says that Metro projects are reasonably successful in every city in India. These projects have successfully made the change in the mindset of people who use them. People behave in disciplined manner while using Metro. Cleanliness is maintained, people don’t cross rail tracks! Why this is happening is for psychoanalysts to find. Why people’s behavior changes by just entering a different transportation system, at least I do not know.

Corporation is still struggling to implement BRTS system, it has serious deficiencies in execution though concept is good. Even after several years and a few trips to foreign jaunts by politicians to “understand” BRTS, best practices are not being implemented or thought of. What about people? The BRTS system has dedicated road lanes reserved for the buses. But Smart people, on their bikes and in their cars,  just barge into those lanes without fear. People are getting killed due to this.

Pune is lucky to have water bodies all around. Unless rains are very deficient, we never have water shortages. Are we smart enough using water correctly, the answer is no. We wash our cars using running water, when we wash clothes by hand, we keep water taps running, under the name of fresh water, we throw away drinking water stored in homes, everyday in the morning. When we water our plants in our balcony’s, we pour excess water that overflows, which in turn is dumped on cars parked under the balconies. My friend Vijay said that we are a dumb society, I slightly disagree. We are a “we care two hoots society”! We can be smart selectively. Corporation has drives, to remove illegal encroachments by hawkers. Even in the days when there were no cell phones, the corporation officers bribed by hawkers, would inform hawkers in advance of the drive and very few hawkers would be caught or evicted. They would be back at the same place next day. Aren’t we smart?

Smart power grids, clean energy, smart planning is possible because there will not be much people interaction. Smart signals can help smoothen the traffic, provided we follow the signals. We are smart people, if we have a blocked road ahead of us, then two- wheeler users go on foot paths and rush ahead! Really smart! This morning I  saw an interesting thing. A lady was being trained on a car owned by a Motor Training School. The instructor was sitting next to her. They reached a traffic signal and the signal was Red, the lady was slowing down but the instructor told her to drive through. So much for the training schools! These schools supposedly teach people to drive the car. It was 7.30 in the morning; I waited to see how many people follow signals. 95% jumped the signals. This is smartness, why waste time in the morning when there is no traffic?

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Some good results are already seen, there are smart bill boards everywhere informing public that we are a smart city. Is it? But nobody has told me. There is a cycle sharing application where authorities have made cycles available to people. These have electronic locks. These can be used and money is paid by using an app on cell phone. Payment is done by using PayTm. In last three months, Pune has shown that 3,00,000 trips have been taken by people. The idea behind this is to encourage last mile usage of fuel less systems, like cycles. It is definitely encouraging.

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Compared to cities in India, most cities in developed world are “smart cities”. Why is this so? It is because people are sensible, they need not be smart. People are trained to follow rules and discipline right from childhood. In my previous blog, I had written about “I don’t care” attitude we have, when it comes to public behavior. We do not take cleanliness and discipline seriously. In cleanliness, Pune is much ahead of many cities in India. When we talk of clean city, it is not about roads being cleaned every day.  Dumping garbage on roads and then sweeping and putting in dumpsters is what we do today. Instead, people should put their garbage in dumpsters, directly. That is smart!

Friends, government is doing its job by creating great infrastructure by planning and proposing systematic things for smart cities, to me this is the tangible side of any city; but unless we contribute by being proactive, self-disciplined and smart, unless we ride the crest of these intangibles, our cities will never become “Smart Cities”! It is the intangibles, that are going to make Cities Smart!

Do nothing holiday!

“Not doing anything holiday” is the doing holiday!

Why do we take holidays? There are different reasons for this. The working people take a holiday to come out of their day to day grind and to rejuvenate. Sometimes, we take holidays to visit relatives, to attend family functions. Other times we take a holiday to visit places, see things. But sometimes, we should take a holiday only for the sake of taking a holiday. But is it necessary that every time we travel, we should do something, see some places, perform some activity? Well  at least we took a ” do nothing holiday” for the first time and it was fun. One thing that is my favourite on any holiday is to watch human interactions along with nature!

We were planning for a holiday in Himalayas. We were trying the eastern part of India and but in the end somehow, we finalized on Manali. We booked the vacation for a week and had decided to take it easy. Except for arranging the travel logistics, we did not bother to find details about Manali, except for weather details. This was essential, as in mountains weather can be fickle and it can become cold. We geared us with woolens; our planning was on the dot as weather turned out to be the same as what we had  encountered in Alps, last September, rainy and cold, at least for a few days.  

During this holiday, we had decided not to do much of research so that we could get some surprises when we reached the destination. We had some information about Manali. Our some knowledge about Kullu Manali was 30 years old, when our  son Sachin had come here for trekking, while he was in school. As we landed at Kullu airport, it was a pleasant looking small airport surrounded by mountains.

When we came out with our baggage, we were surprised to see only 5/6 cars that had come to pick up travelers, around 30 of us. How others were going to move further was a mystery. The driver said that the distance to our destination was about 45 kms. In his inimitable way he said, that we it will  take 1 ½ hrs. We took two hrs. Courtesy, very narrow and bad, bad roads. Same distance was covered in one hour and twenty minutes on return journey though the driver was not as brisk. This was because we started our journey at 5.30  am

Manali in April presented us with snow clad peaks, cold weather, sunshine and rain to our surprise. Of course, it also gave us local Puri Bhaji and Parathas. When it was not cloudy, weather was divine though we had to wrap ourselves in caps, mufflers and jackets. Our main plan was sitting on the lawns and soaking in the sun and the nature. We did take a few photos and a couple of videos but the main agenda was to absorb the sights and whatever we could absorb from the nature. What more do we want in life when you get beautiful nature, lovely weather and surroundings, birds chirping; add to this our usual reading stuff!

Please keep volume high to hear the birds chirping!

We knew that Manali is famous for trekking, white water rafting, skiing, paragliding and its snow. We found another adventure activity there. At Solan Valley, we saw a couple of hundred three-wheel cross country bikes. People take cross country rides on these bikes, with a driver. Behind the driver, there is two-seater bench where parents and kids sit to enjoy the ride! We were also lucky to see the light snow fall. The flowers in bloom at our resort were beautiful.  

Besides surprises of Manali, we enjoyed our human interaction. We met a doctor couple from Mumbai. Young folks with their 6/7-year old child and their mother, who needed support even to climb down the stairs. But their enthusiasm was to be seen to believed. They had driven down from Mumbai and total driving distance was going to be about 4000 km. Driving this distance with their mother who had physical difficulty in moving around, must be tough. The mother would stay in the hotel all the time when the gang went for trekking and other activities!  

We met a couple from Pune, our age group, with their retarded daughter who must have been about 40 years of age. They were on circuitous tour from Delhi to Dharamsala to Manali and back. An arduous journey by road for anybody. But their enthusiasm and the way they handled their daughter’s needs was amazing.  

Best interaction with people, happened at the Pune Airport when we came back. We hired an Ola Cab. When we sat in the cab, the driver said that it was his first trip. I asked him why he started so late during the day; we hired the Cab at 6.30 pm. He said that it was his first trip with Ola! We both gave congratulations to him and wished him great business in future! He was so naïve, that he was unaware of basic things. When the trip started, I gave him the OTP I had received from Ola. He asked me what to do with the OTP. I said that he had to key it in. He asked me where to punch the OTP? I naturally did not know. Then I suggested to ask him to check with another Ola driver. It was finally done. He was very helpful and at home he put our bags in the lift for us, in fact he forced us to wait on the side! 

We had a pleasure of meeting one couple from Nasik. Husband was an engineer, and his wife a painter. We naturally found some common friends. We spent lovely time with each other. A couple of times, we had local lunch together.  

As planned, did we not do anything? We did a lot of things which we should be doing. We interacted a lot with people. We did not rush into things. Manali “activities” were anyway not suitable for our age group. We soaked into the nature, enjoyed the surroundings. Eating and purchasing was only incidental but trying local stuff was the main aim. One so called activity we did was going to the Spa! That 90 minute activity was very relaxing but so was our “not doing anything”! The 90 minutes in Spa gave me deep insight about Manali, local life and surroundings, from my masseur! This “not doing anything” bug has caught up with us and I am sure our next holiday will also be similar.  

 

Checklists

Checklists! Do you make them?

My dear friend Vijay, sent me a book by Dr. Atul Gawande, “Checklist Manifesto” and I read it right away. Dr. Gawande thought of the idea about the book, based on the errors/ mistakes that happen during surgeries. http://atulgawande.com/book/the-checklist-manifesto/

These errors are sometimes avoidable, or some steps are simply missed out. Then there are some issues/problems that may crop up unplanned, during or post-surgery. In our lives also, such things can happen. But in my experience, I have found that issues/problems can crop up also because “problem statements” are not defined correctly.

Dr. Gawande has also discussed examples from construction industry as well as aviation industry. As usual, everywhere when humans are involved actions, decisions and reactions become too individual. Different persons react differently to the same problem. Additionally, real experts in any field can have large egos and/or may be over confident, about their abilities to take “correct” steps or decisions than those suggested by others. This sometimes leads to disastrous situations. In surgery for example, in rare cases it does happen that wrong patient may come on the table, wrong side of the patient may get operated upon, left instead of right! Dr. Gawande felt that such and many other errors, mistakes are avoidable by introducing “Check Lists”.

How to define a Check List? A Check List, is a list of items required, things to be done, or points to be considered, are used as a reminder; this is to be checked in sequential manner. In anything and everything that we do, there can be a check list. What is the need for this, you may ask! It is needed or not needed based on one’s view point. I am an expert in my field, I have been doing this for ages, why do I need a check list? But we forget that this is not the only thing that we do in life. Sometimes we may be in a hurry, sometimes we may be doing a few additional things in parallel! Sometimes we may have some other important stuff going on in our mind. All this can lead to avoidable errors. Ok! Check List may not be cure all for all the problems in the world! But they do help.

During surgery, many a time, antibiotics are given to the patient. The correct time for it to be effective is sixty minutes before start of surgery. It can so happen that correct procedure is followed, and the antibiotic is given 60 minutes before the starting time of surgery. But Surgery can get delayed sometimes as previous one may not be over. 60 minutes can become 120 minutes! So, the checklist for giving antibiotics during & before Surgery says, ask this question before patient is given anesthesia! This means that patient is already on the table and chances of delay are minimal! 

In every situation Professional, Personal, home, office or for that matter anywhere, problems do crop up! Creating check list for anything and everything may not be necessary but can be useful. When we work, we do create our checklist for things to be done and how to do. We have our own methods. With computers and cell phones creating and managing check lists has become much easier.

I can tell you that in today’s times why check list is essential. Maybe in day to life checklist maybe same as to do list!  We are now expected to link our Aadhar card to Bank Accounts, Credit card Account, Cell phone numbers, Investments and so on!  It is mandatory to do so before 31st March. Linking these is not as easy as it sounds. So, making a check list for these makes sense. We have passports, licenses, paying the bills and many such things to do. Wont check lists help us tracking them?     

I will share an incident where not having proper check list, could have led to a disaster. A Boeing was flying on Toronto- Ottawa-Vancouver route. When it got down at Ottawa for quick check for the long-distance flight, dip stick was used to check fuel volume as an additional check since pilots had some doubts about instruments on board.  Thumbs up was given and flight took off. At approximately half the distance, the fuel alert indicators started buzzing for all tanks. The theory is that a plane can glide 16 times the height at which it is flying, without fuel. The pilot sent Mayday signal. They were flying at the height of 7 miles. Luckily, he was from the same area where this incident took place. He remembered an abandoned airport about 70 miles away. He took the clearance for landing and was cleared asap. It was a Sunday and at the airport some fun stuff was going on including car rallies. Suddenly, the guys below saw a huge plane coming in for landing. People ran helter-skelter and somehow moved out of the harms way. The expert pilot managed to land safely. Inquiry was conducted, and it was found that there was an error in using dipstick. Those were days when people were just switching from FPS to MKS system. Dipstick was FPS but people measuring thought that it was MKS, so they gave green signal to the flight. Hence the issues started at midway distance of the flight! Checklist about type of dip stick to use would have avoided this error.   

I feel that in life there are two types of lists, checklist and to do list. It is possible that we may swap these two lists in personal life. Check list is detailing of to do list. Or it could be doing certain procedure or following a process; we need to have a checklist. I have seen an accident almost happening in front of my eyes, while working in factory. An electrician was working on a 440-volt circuit. I asked the electrician, who was working on the issue, if he had followed the checklist. He said of course. He used a big screw driver to open a screw in the box; in an instant the screwdriver melted fully. Though he told me that he had followed the check list he had not done it. There is a simple check; when working on high voltage circuit, remove the fuses for that area and keep them in your pocket. This can avoid such incidents. The electrician almost got electrocuted.

Check lists followed are mainly for safety and to ensure quality of work. I am sure women know how to mentally use them during  cooking. Though cooking looks easy, it is the proportion of ingredients, timing, sequence, temperature and many variables that need to be checked all the time. Ladies look to do things automatically, but they do have their checklists.

Friends, in our day to day lives also, we have many things which we should follow. There are birthdays, anniversaries. Then there are marriages, opening ceremonies. There are events galore in our lives. There are deaths and funerals. Of course, we are busy with our work and family and our financial planning. So, it is a good idea to have to do lists/ cum checklists. All of these points may not be life threatening but they do have effect on relationships. Ultimately, series of mistakes and errors with same group of people can lead to catastrophic results. Try forgetting your wife’s  birthday for two consecutive years! You know what I mean!