Is old really Gold? 

My previous blog “Old is Gold or YOLD” was appreciated by many. But it also brought a thought in my mind. (YOLD is Young Olds) 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2020/01/29/old-is-gold-or-yold/ 

How myopic our thinking is sometimes? We tend to think, discuss and write about whatever is prevailing in our environment, and our “Shall I call it a bubble?” Daily we interact with people who live a similar life as we do, but we also deal with many different people who live experience that is quite different from ours 

People make different achievements which we deem is as a successful life. It leads to the question, what is success in life? Was Einstein successful in life? Were Churchill’s achievements of very high calibre? I don’t know. Once the war was over, people did not want him to be the Prime Minister of Britain in peacetime.  

What is a success is a question which has bugged me for some time. I have written about how YOLDS are happy after leading a good life and kept themselves busy in the Golden phase of life. But one incident which reached me yesterday has started different thoughts in my mind. 

We live in a high-rise condo with “successful” people. There are old, middle-aged, young and children in the mix. Outwardly it looks like a happy gathering of people. One lady, older than us, from such a family, has been meeting Jaya occasionally socialising. A couple of days back she took Jaya aside and said, “I am confident about you. I know that you will not share this with anybody except your husband. I am in a dire strait. We own two condos, and one of them is out on rent. My son has lost his job, and daughter in law earns a decent salary as a senior officer. In this situation, I do not have a single rupee with me for some time, even to buy some very personal things like a comb or clips. Could you please give me two hundred rupees? My daughter in law has ensured that I will not have any money on me.” Well, Jaya gave her the money. 

The event brought the thoughts in my mind. What is the percentage of YOLDS in my age group? What are the prerequisites to be included in YOLDS? From the event explained, financial freedom seems to be the primary need. The lady mentioned above, and their family own two condos because her husband owned a condo in the previous apartment building, which got redeveloped. After her husband, it is she who has the moral right to the ownership of condos. But it seems that money changes people and change some of them drastically. In such scenarios parents are moved to older people’s homes. That brings up an old thought. How do the people who stay in older people’s home feel? Have they arrived on their own? Or have they been forced by circumstances or the family? Will a daughter, behave with her mother in the same way as the daughter-in-law has behaved? Do the words “In-Law” make so much difference? Do these two words invoke a diametrically opposite behaviour in a person?  

It appears that money plays a significant role in the behaviour of people. Since the husband is without a job currently, he probably has no say on the matters at home! But does it mean that the mother in law should be treated maliciously? There are examples galore of such behaviour. A friend of mine had travelled to Japan to be with his son and his family. I bumped into him the day he landed in Pune. I asked him, “Where is your wife?” I thought the son’s family needed support for more time. He said, “She is coming tomorrow. My son buys our tickets. There were two good deals for tickets on these days hence we are travelling separately.”  I am not making any comments. You are free to draw your conclusions.  

Years back, Jaya was in Boston in the dead of winter for the birth of our grandson. The neighbours were also from Pune. Neighbours mother was there on the same mission. One day Jaya asked the old lady to go with her to buy some groceries. The lady said, “My son has told me not to go out anywhere because I might have a fall in the snow and could get injured. 

Another thing she said was that he had not bought any medical insurance for her, to save money. Jaya was shocked. Later, the lady would cheat and tell her family that she was going to meet Jaya and then coolly she would slip out with Jaya for a walk! Again, I have no comments.  

These examples only indicated that the children did not treat their parents with respect. Money is essential in life, but is it so important? Buying health insurance, husband and wife travelling together are no unique things. These are expected to be done automatically. 

It brings me again to the thought process about human relations. The behaviour should be decent with each other. All the cases I have mentioned involve parents whose funds are limited. What happens to the parent’s selfrespect? These are the families I am talking about where the family has a decent amount of funds with them. What could be the situation in families who are short of funds?  

A family is  group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit. The group of people lives in one home at least until the children grow up and become independent. The parents spend their funds for the family in the best possible way. It is not about funds, but it is about the feelings behind the actions that are important. When children are young, they don’t have any income, but parents treat all their children in the best possible way and make available study material, games, clothing etc. to the best of their ability. The situation should reverse when the parents retire, and children start earning.  

It is all about love, respect and cohesiveness in the family. Challenging behaviour can become difficult for parents to handle. On one side, their health could be down as they are reaching the age of YOLDS. The mental pressure and agonies created in the families lead to stress. I have not even mentioned the situation where the parents are moved to older people’s homes. There could be many reasons, and some justified like not having enough place at home as the family grows. But when the elderly move out, how are they treated? Does their dignity remain intact? Are they given the respect they deserve? A few years back, I was taking photographs on a bridge near my home. On the way back, I saw ¾ senior citizens. They lived in the senior citizens home nearby. I said hello to them, and I found that they were hungry to talk to someone. I chatted with them for almost an hour. My observation was that they were missing the warmth of a chatDid they look happy? I am not sure, but they looked forlorn. Was their family meeting them regularly? I do not know.  

Next week, I have decided to go and meet older people home’s management. I am going to make friends with these people. I will try to meet them a couple of times a month. Let me see if I can make some small difference in their lives. I will keep you updated and share my experience with you!  

It is request for people who have parents at home. Treat parents with dignity and give them love, respect and support. If the parents are not in the YOLDS category, it is the least or probably the only thing they expect. 

 

Are you stupid? 

My favourite Magazine was and is MAD! Who can forget the Crow Vs Crow stories? I always remember the Spy Vs Spy series. What a satirical humour it had! MAD would have stories on life in general, and one must read their political satires at least once in a lifetime. It is still alive in its new Avatar https://www.madmagazine.com/but the print copy can be available only by specific methods! I am SAD like in MAD!  

I remember a perfect caricature “story” from this magazine. A skinny and very dead man is lying on the ground. A goon is standing above him with a smoking gun. A typical stupid character asks the goon, “What is happening?” The goon replies, “He was underweight; that is why pumping lead into him!” My friends, this is stupidity. Definition of stupidity is not as stupid as you might think! After searching on the net, I came across one of the best definitions of stupidity. Stupidity is overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information!  

I have read a book by Dr Atul Gawande. He is a practising surgeon in the Boston area and has written a brilliant book called “Checklist Manifesto”! Please read this exciting and intelligent book. According to him, the checklist concept started in the aviation industry and later on spread in other areas. It is about how to create and read the checklist to avoid stupid mistakes. World’s worst aviation accident occurred on the Tenerife islands. Two jumbo jets rammed into each other on the ground. One was travelling very fast as ATC had cleared it for take-off, and the other one was rolling towards the take-off area. The pilot of the second aircraft was busy reading the checklist as it was going slowly! Six hundred people died in that accident. Now I need not say why I liked the definition of stupidity! 

There are different kinds of stupidities in the worldthese can be scientific stupidity, military stupidity, literary stupidity, and so on. Example of military stupidity depends on the result. A group of soldiers may act when they know that they will never succeed in achieving the target. If they reach the goal, the act is called bravado; otherwise, it is stupidity!  

But there are many reasons why people behave in such a manner. There are two areas where you are made stupid. First is the act of a magician. His acts are such that he misdirects your attention and does his act in such a way that we feel that he is a magician. Such actions are for entertainment purpose. The other ones are frauds, cons or hoaxes. The people do these acts with the intention of cheating and are designed as malicious acts. Today’s so-called online scams are about the stupidity of the people. When people are robbed of their money by such actions, people realise how stupid they were. A professional in Pune paid Rs Sixty-five lacs (Six and half million) to register and create an online profile on a dating site. 

By now you must have realised stupid persons are not idiots. They are people like you and me. During one of the conferences, a lady got up and asked a question, “It may be a stupid question…” The speaker was a smart guy. He said with a smile, “Questions are never stupid, but people are! Please go ahead with your question.” 

What are the factors that lead to stupidity? First is being outside your typical environment or changing your routines — such circumstances lead to missing out on things which are easily known.  We behave in a different manner when we are in a group. The third is being in the presence of an expert or if you, yourself, are an expert. Fourth is doing any task that requires intense focus; the focusing activity can lead to odd situations. The fifth is the information overload that can lead to missing important information: six, physical or emotional stress, fatigue. If you have worked continuously for a long time, you might overlook essential signalsSometimes we work overnight on some project. You take a break for a couple of hours, take a quick nap. You wrongly feel that you are fresh again. It is the beginning of making mistakes. Rushing or “false” sense of urgency can lead us to make mistakes.  

Do not forget that in real life, more than one such situations always exist. If we are not careful about them, we tend to make blunders. Our favourite modern gadget, the cell phone, is a cause many such mistakes where lives are lost, we make accidents. It can lead to injuries and deaths. How many times have you heard people dying while crossing the road and simultaneously talking on a cell phone? The latest fad in India is to take selfies while standing at the edge of a valley. People have died showing themselves standing on the seashore to share live feed with friends- and suddenly a huge wave comes and takes you with it.  

How many horror stories we hear from the medical field? A patient gets operated on the left eye instead of the right eye. I will share one story shared by Dr Gawande in his book. Before any surgery, a hospital operation theatre would make a checklist. In one specific surgery, an antibiotic injection was required to be given 1 ½ hour before the surgery. The surgery was likely to cause a massive infection. The start time was nine a. m. On that particular day, the operations were getting delayed. Nine a. m. surgery got postponed to 10.30 a. m. The nurse did not keep track of the delay, and she gave the injection at 7.30. By the time the surgery started, it was three hours instead of a 1 ½ hours gap. The operation took three hours instead of two hours. By the time the patient was brought into the recovery room, the effect of the antibiotic had already tapered off. In the evening, the patient had a high fever, went into rigours. Nobody could find out what went wrong. The doctors checked the checklist, and everything was in order. Since it was an emergency, all were under stress. The nurse had done double duty on that day. She was physically and mentally tired. On rechecking everything, they found the reason. Antibiotic was given three hours before the surgery instead of 1½ hour. The patient went into septicemia and died!  

How many such stories do we know? Many patients do not come out of the operation theatre; they are killed inside by stupid mistakes.  

We are driving on highway. The radio is going full blast, and your friend calls you to check if you have taken the right exit. At the same time, your friend sitting next to you asks you the same question about the exit. The first thing we should not do is not to pick up the phone. The second thing would have been to put the radio offtry and stop where we are allowed stopping. Then maybe check your GPS or call your friend. Multitasking is difficult even when we are sitting in our home or office. Trying to multitask at 100 km speed is not at all easy. We are driving at 100 km speed, and radio waves are going into your ear. Then you are trying to speak on cell phone plus listening to what your friend in the car is asking you.  

I need not elaborate on what can happen; we become overconfident. We are acting the way the pilot of the jumbo jet acted. People in a rush forget their passport at the security check. Some people forget stuff like musical instruments worth millions of dollars in trains, on the flights. I had forgotten a pouch containing a camera and some cash in a wellknown hotel lobby in Santa Clara. I realised after about twenty minutes. I rushed back, but it was gone.  

The importance of looking for crucial information need not be emphasised; it is necessary to pay attention to it. It’s conspicuous like it’s right in front of your nose and yet you either overlook it or you dismiss it. How not to be stupid, what are the causes of human error? Most stupidity is ignored or swept under the rug if the consequences are not severe. So, friends, let us not be stupid; it can cost heavily!  

 

 

 

Better India!

My dear friend Shrikant wrote a message on our WhatsApp group, which truly reflected his frustration. But It is not only his frustration but all of us have the same feelings. I will briefly write what he said. “Since I remember, I feel as if I am living in a vicious circle of development and expansion. First, the roads are broken, then later they are broadened because of capacity issues. Then comes tarring, and then the time comes to build flyovers! After that, the time for concretisation comes. All the time we have pollution and traffic congestion. Now at the age of 70, I am looking at the Metro project coming up. There are so much indiscipline and chaos that I am fed up, mainly because I have to go Chakan every day! I hope now at in this phase of my life I will sometime see everything going smoothly with regulated traffic and less chaotic life!”

He is right, and he has hit the bull’s eye with his thoughts. All of us have the same feelings. There have been responses saying that the development is a never-ending cycle; the fruits of work done by grandfathers are for the grandchildren to enjoy etc. These responses are also correct. The phenomenon of development cycle happens all over the world. But to me, Shrikant’s frustration has a different connotation.

British rule ensured that our infrastructure remained poor. In the US, highways were built in the 30s /40s of last century. Hitler built autobahns in Germany in 30s of the last century. In India, this cycle has started in the last twenty years!

We as Indians have diverse culture, 25 main languages, snow-clad mountains and lovely beaches; we are a nation of diversity. But we have one common culture that of personal and public indiscipline, and I care two hoots attitude! It is not only on the roads; you go anywhere in public place; things will be chaotic. We at heart have remained villagers from the time of Baba Adam! This attitude continues irrespective of whether you are rich or poor, educated or uneducated. One can give many day-to-day examples. In the cities or towns, one basic rule is followed, not to follow any rule. Shrikant was talking of Chakan. In Chakan and many towns, there is an excellent four-lane road. But the divider in between is sometimes breached “officially” under pressure from politicians, and at other times unofficially. For taking a U-turn, people do not want to drive a Km or two more! Cutting corners where ever possible is there in our DNA! Add to that indiscriminate parking in such towns along the roads. Driving on the wrong side of the roads is also very common!

If you drive on Mumbai Pune Expressway, which is like an expressway, anywhere in the world, we sometimes see people driving Motorcycles on the road skirting! The road is meant only for four-wheelers and multi-axle vehicles! There are two places where you pay the toll. Near these toll booths, there are washrooms. But we invariably see a few men relieve themselves in the open about 100 to 200 meters away from the urinals. In the main city areas, there is a thought process that vehicles used by the government departments can be parked anywhere, including on footpaths. Cutting the red signal is a norm rather than the exception. The police department tries to discipline, but when a significant % of people start breaking the rules, how many police can you deploy?

These aspects should be taught to children right from KG schools. But when their mothers break the rules, children grow up thinking the same way. I was waiting at a signal to cross the road in Montreal a couple of weeks back. My granddaughter Rhea was with me; she is six years old. She asked me a question, “Why don’t people in Pune wait for the signal to turn green?” I had no answer. When there is a traffic jam in Pune, we see people driving their motorcycles on the footpaths to move ahead! All of them are “busier” than the Prime Minister of the country and have no time to wait!

World over in most cities, there is work in progress for an extended period! In Boston, the tunnel work was going on for ten years. In Mumbai, flyovers were built over a few years. Same is true with Metro. But if the primary discipline is not followed, the indiscipline and chaos will never go away. The problem is not city-specific, it is India specific.

In today’s newspapers in Pune, there was a news item. A car used by an officer of the Municipal Corporation was parked on the footpath. It used to be at a specific place, with the driver sitting in the car. The driver was told to park it in the right zone. The driver said, “The car is used by Asst Commissioner!” The police were not impressed. After the same suggestion for a couple of days was ignored, on the third day, they put a jammer on the car and fined him Rs.2000/. The officer tried to pull rank on the policeman, but they were not impressed. He had to pay the fine.

As against this, I had read a story. Commissioner of Tel Aviv was found talking on a cell phone while driving his car. A police officer stopped him; he did not recognise the commissioner. He fined him but later came to know that he was their biggest boss! The next day, he was called to the commissioner’s office. The policeman was worried and was trying to find a way out of the situation. To his surprise, the commissioner received him in his office, and there was a two-minute ceremony. The Commissioner congratulated the policeman for doing his duty, issued a special commemorative certificate for performing his duties in an exemplary manner! It shows the difference between developed and undeveloped societies.

In India, we are lucky that because of the temperate weather we can do all our development work almost round the year. In cities like Montreal, because of the snow in winter, the road work can be done only during 6 to 7 months in a year when there is no snow. So, every year, on many roads, some repair work or the other is going on all the time. New development work is also going on during this period. Traffic gets choked, it gets slowed down, but no motorcycles are driven on footpaths! On the street where we lived, pipeline work was going on for almost four weeks. Car parking was not allowed from 7 am to 7 pm. Not a single car was ever parked during this period!

So Shrikant, it is about self-discipline, it is about the implementation of rules. Improved traffic rules have been created by the Central Government; hefty fines have been suggested. But the state governments don’t want to implement this because of expected public backlash. It is the will of the people, will of the government that needs to change. Development thing is going to be WIP all our life!

I am an absolute optimist, but I told a 25-year-old boy the other day, that if the primary self-discipline does not become our culture, India will be at the same place even after 50 years! (Of course, I won’t be around!)

But many good things are happening! Metros are made ready in ¾ years, ISRO is doing a great job, online payments, online railway bookings are improving day by day at breakneck speed! Many good things are happening, but people’s attitude is not changing. The problems we face daily are the result of this unchanged attitude! Let us hope at some stage this will also change.

Montreal Musings- day to day life II!

Since I am in Montreal for a homestay, visiting different places is more incidental than specific. I am trying to see how people, live, behave in their day to day lives is more important to me. Human beings are the same everywherewith some natural local and regional variances. To me, it is the interactions and actions that are more important.  

One very interesting facility was observed in a housing society made up of condos. They have kept an enclosed, empty plot. During nonwinter times, these plots are offered to residents for use. The plots are of twothree sizesUsers can plant vegetables, flowers, or whatever they want: the seeds and technical help is offered by a gardener available. The gardener helps and guides you as per your needs. For this period you can grow what you want and enjoy! What a novel idea! 

The buses have the swiping card system or for, onetime use, you have to put coins to get the tickets. Once a senior citizen was trying to swipe the card, it would not work. It was 2nd of the month. The driver asked the gentlemen, “Have you recharged the card yesterday on the 1st”? The gentleman had forgotten and said so. He said, “Get it done later today.” Subject over. Empathy?  

Many of you must have travelled to different nations and have seen the world. But to me travelling in a city in local transport is the best way of knowing small unique things. While travelling by Metro yesterday, we were in the compartment next to the driver. I saw guy entering the train with his bicycle. I was surprised. Nikhil told me, “Baba, it is allowed only during specific timings and only in that compartment where they had provided space for a few cycles. The cycle owner is supposed to stand near the cycle and not take a seat; even if the train is empty.”  

Yesterday, we went to visit the Botanical GardenThe garden is just next to the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. It was a nostalgic visit for Jaya and me. We were in Montreal in 1981 for two days. We had explicitly travelled to see the thennew Olympic stadium, which held the 1976 OlympicsIf you folks remember, that Olympic was famous for the super performance of Nadia Comaneci from RumaniaFor the first time in historyshe had scored perfect score of 10.00I felt a little sad that in certain areas the maintenance was poor!

Nadia Comaneci! Then and now!

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, Canada!

 

It seems that Canada is way ahead of many countries in having beautiful gardens. I am sharing some photos for you. We had visited Victoria, B.C., on the west coast of Canada in 2016, as a part of Alaska Cruise. We had visited Butchart Garden then. That is the one the best Gardens, if not the best; we have ever visited. I am sharing some of the Butchart Garden photos too!  

Another observation was that in Montreal, I met many young Indian Diaspora during the Ganapati festival. I found that these people are working in different fields. One chap was working in Atlas Copco. A couple of guys were artists, not animation experts. A few were working in financeand a fellow was working othe logistics side of an engineering Company. I noted that one chap was working in Air Canada. Out of the people I met, only about 25 % were working in IT! It was a pleasant surprise for me.  

I have enjoyed the change of colour of leaves in Boston and Maine area; and also is the Seattle area. There the colour changes from green to yellowish to orange. Whereas in Canada, the Maple trees are predominant. The Maple leaf changes its colour to red; hence, the Canadian flag also has Maple leaf on it.  

nadia3

I had never bothered to check why this happens. There is a simple explanation though the science behind it is complicatedDuring summer and autumn, the leaves use Sunlight and Carbon dioxide the make their food. They also get water through roots. They create oxygen and food. The process is helped by green Chlorophyll which masks the other colours which are already present on the leaves and are seen when Chlorophyll goes away.   

Winter days are short and dry. Many plants stop making food in the fall. The chlorophyll goes away. Then we can see orange and yellow colours. These colours were in the leaves all summer, but the green covered them up. The trees survive on the food they have made during summer and autumn.  

Enough of science. When go out every day, I observe the changes in the leaves and their colours. Some become red earlier; some take more time. There are many shades of red that we can see. Not all the maple leaves become blood red, as we see in the photographs. One question always comes to my mind. Why do humans not follow the same discipline that is followed by nature? 

Another question always comes to mind about assimilation. How do “outsiders” assimilate with the culture of the country that they have adopted? According to me, this should be easy for people from India because we have different cultures in each state; we have different languages spoken in each state. Many people in North India have never seen the sea in their life, though India has long shoreline. I saw snow for the first time at the age of 35, when I had travelled to Germany in winter. But we have regions in India where there is regular snowfall in winter. But ultimately it comes to your openness, your adaptability, your will to accept change. I see people of different colour and creed, religions and languages in Canada. I am sure that those who assimilate live a comfortable life.  

Still, a month and a half more to go in Canada and I am sure I will have more tidbits later. I have read that average Montreal temperatures in October are 15 deg high to 5 deg low, sometimes even going to zero! So those are going to be different days in terms of weather. I never lived in these temperatures. About that, I will write later when I shiver through those temps!

À bientôt, jusqu'à mes prochaines friandises!

 

 

Montreal- musing of the day to day life!

Nowadays travels have become more relaxed, comfortable and all of us try and create our bucket lists of things to do, places to visit. But one of my bucket list items is to try and understand the details and issues of living in different countries and cities. At my age now there is a zero chance that I would live in any other city than Pune. I am taking this opportunity of my longish stay in Montreal to understand the local details. Everybody writes about Niagara Falls, Golden Gate Bridge and Eiffel Tower, so I thought I will jot down my observations about day to day life in Montreal.

All over the world, basic things remain the same; human nature is the same. It is the reactions to the events, dialogues that make the difference. Human emotions and conflicts will always be there. It has nothing to do with the city, state or nation. But one interesting statistic that I read about Canada says that the crime rate compared to the US is very low, which makes life safer and the cities more livable.

It seems that there is a unique donation culture in this area. The boxes shown are to put the items people want to donate. From these boxes, the needy people can take whatever items they want and whatever quantity they want. The remaining items are taken to the shop. The shop mends the items, and these are then sold in the shop as used stuff at a very reasonable price.

Road repairs are a regular activity in any city. Depending on availability, technology is used to perform the activities. On the street where we live, major pipe repair work is going on. The first thing noticeable is how the safety of people is handled. After the digging is completed, wire mesh cages are put around the dug area. For one day, the water supply had to be stopped entirely. Two days in advance, every house was handed over a letter about the same. Small flags were put (middle photo) indicating which pipelines are to be changed and which were not to be touched. There were parking restrictions from seven to seven; proper no parking boards were prepared in advance and put everywhere. Also, bright colour markers were placed on the road to indicate the presence of safety cages.

Local transport of course changes with the city to city!  Montreal Metro and Bus service have a common pass which makes it a composite service, no big deal. But what I found interesting was that to buy that pass, I had to buy a ticket called Opus. It is valid for seven years, whether you are a citizen or a casual visitor. So next time when I visit Montreal, I only need to do the top up! Modern cities are expected to have different arrangments. But what I found interesting was the availability of cycles, electric cycles and electric scooters, like the ones used by kids. These are readily available, and like rental cars, these can be taken from a place and parked where one finishes the trip. These vehicles have marked areas with cycle stands. Using an app, these can be used by everybody.

One thing I am going to enjoy is the leaves changing colours. I have seen this change in Boston, Maine and Seattle area. Though we know why and how the colours change, each region has a different kaleidoscope of colours. The leaf above is what I found today, and the blood-red colour is marvellous! It is the famous maple leaf of Canada! I will share some more pictures later when autumn sets-in!

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-14 at 10.20.55

Many western countries have arrangements in public areas where wheel-chair access is provided. In Montreal,  I found it on each footpath at the end of the footpath, there were slopes, which allowed easy access to wheelchairs, cycles, prams, electric scooters, and so on. On each footpath, there are poles provided to tie-up your cycles.  It is no rocket science but detailing is where these arrangements succeed! We know about the sad story in Pune when such cycles were made available, recently.

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-14 at 10.20.57

During the third week of October, there are federal elections in Canada. I remembered our election campaigns, but here I saw only small posters of the candidates hung on the poles on roads or I saw one small sticker fixed in a bus. On further checking, I was told that the campaign is mainly done on radio shows where the candidates give speeches or have debates. It is about the thought process. I remember having read an article by one of the leaders of a very aggressive party in India. He had gone to the US for the first time with a delegation. In the article, he wrote, “How do people make protests here? How do they take out processions? I could not see a single area where stones were available for pelting.”

There are of course equivalent of Deep Mini markets available for buying day to day stuff. But these are much larger though they may not be from a chain of stores. Standard facilities like trolleys and baskets were visible facilities, but they had provided entry and exit doors with motion control sensors. Doors opened with a motion sensor so that people going out with bags or a trolley found it easy. Again no rocket science! Yesterday we wanted to buy an item which we could not locate. Their employee spent 15 minutes with us and found it; it was worth only six dollars!

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-14 at 10.20.55 (3)

Since many people don’t use cars in Montreal, I saw many of them using a trolley. You buy your stuff, fill up your trolley, and you are on the way though there was one difficulty. In certain areas in the Metro system, escalators are not provided. One has to pick up the trolley and take it up or down! I asked my daughter how does she manage this when going with her daughter. Yesterday I helped her carry on the stairs. She said that she uses it only when her husband is with her!

I feel that modern society is one where detailing is done for the comfort of people who live in the city, these need not be fancy or elaborate. These are to create ease in our day to day chores, like buying, throwing garbage, managing road repairs! It has its humane angles where poor and needy are also looked after, and there is a system for that. I saw a young Gora beggar who looked fit, was about 30 but these things probably remain the same world over. Why this would happen in the advanced world is a surprise. Those who want to work can get a job in these cities; they have almost free medical system for all citizens. We talk about the diversity of people in India and our cities. But slowly, I see similar diversity in many so-called western countries due to migration and refugee issues. But one thing you need to do, assimilate. My daughter is in Montreal, Quebec, since three months. Here the first language is French. Her immigration advisor told her, “Doctor, you will be dealing with the local population so you must know French well. You start work after you have mastered French.” In three months she has picked it pretty well and understand at least 80% of what is spoken when she goes out. By the way, the Montreal population is about one point eight million!  One important thing, people looking at their phones on public transport is much lower about 35%!

Nostalgic Musings!

 

Nostalgia1Today while discussing Indian Air Force strikes against terrorist camps in Pakistan, Rhea, my granddaughter asked me what were we talking about? I was at my wit’s end. I tried a story about bad men and good men, but she was not convinced. She asked me, “Why are you talking about aeroplanes?” Then I told her that there is a place called Pakistan where some bad people live. They come to India (she shouted, Bharat Mata ki Jay!- probably, they say the slogan in school). These people come here and steal things and give trouble to our people. Then our police went to their houses in aeroplanes and helicopters to catch the bad people. She was convinced with the explanation; it hit the right buttons. She said it is like “Chu Chu TV- We are the Police” video. Life is straightforward for the kids; everything is a game for them!

In case you have not seen the show please watch or show it your grandkids or kids! It is interesting!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA2mCzIgOBM

As I was thinking of this discussion with Rhea, it took my mind back to a few events/incidents in my life, including those of times of 1971 war! But I am not going to write about the war. One incident involved a young married girl; another included a young unmarried girl, and the third one has an 85-year-old gentleman and his wife. I thought these incidents were fascinating; hence I am sharing them with you.

I was once travelling back from Boston after a visit to my son Sachin. It was Boston-Paris-Mumbai flight. The flight was empty. Initially, when the seats were allotted at Paris, a young married girl who was around 30, was seated next to me. We said, “hello, how are you etc.” As soon as the plane took off, we discussed and decided that we should grab the connecting seats and try to catch up with sleep. She said she would go elsewhere; I got three seats where I was sitting. Many passengers had a great time because of the empty flight. She joined me when food was served and went back to sleep.  A couple of hours before landing, I was done with my rest and so was she. She came and sat with me. We got to know each other. She had a child and was doing her PhD in the US. She was on a quick surprise visit to Mumbai to wish her father on his 60th birthday! I shared with her about my family and grandson. As the flight neared Mumbai, it was an hour away from landing, she gobbled a couple of tablets and said, “Uncle, during the descent I face a severe problem of an earache. Sometimes it is so bad that I can’t bear it and I scream. Please bear with me.”

I had never seen such a severe effect on individuals; I have noticed that babies generally cry during ascent and descent. One thing led to others, and I was trying to keep her busy chatting. We found a common subject, and she started sharing her experiences. I have also had a few anecdotes up my sleeve. We kept on talking, but I never asked her if she was having any pain! All of a sudden there was a minor thud, and the lady was a bit startled! She said that the pilot never mentioned about the turbulence. How come we suddenly had a rough patch? I said, “Lady we have landed!” She was shocked to realise that she had landed without any pain for the first time in her life while landing. She was so pleased that she did not know what to say. People talk about psychosomatic problems. Her pain must be real when it comes; she must have realised that if she could get her mind diverted she would have no or reduced pain.

 

Years back Jaya, Priya and I were on holiday in Nainital. We stayed at a lovely resort at Naukuchiatal. The resort had a beautiful garden facing the lake for sitting there, and chitchatting. We met a couple there on the first day itself. The gentleman was Mr Pran Chopra, retired chief editor of Tribune. He was the doyen of Indian journalism. He and his wife immediately became our aunty and uncle. Every day we three would go out to enjoy the Uttarakhand hills and would be back by 4 pm. Uncle and Aunty did not go out anywhere; they would come every year for soaking in the atmosphere. Pran uncle was around 85 years old, then. We hit it off well immediately when we met.

During our stay there we spent every evening together for tea, a little drink later and dinner. One evening aunty said they wanted to celebrate that we all met and treated us for dinner. She had told the chef to cook some unusual dishes. One evening she gave a small gift to Priya. Aunty said that they are not sure whether they will be able to attend Priya’s marriage (Priya was still in college) hence gave her a set of six handkerchiefs. She specially embroidered them after she met Priya. They lived in Delhi. After a few years, aunty called us to invite us for the 90th birthday celebration of Pran uncle. It was a beautiful lunch at a farmhouse, on a pleasant winter day in Delhi. We specially travelled from Pune to Delhi, for lunch and celebrated the occasion with them.   Even today we fondly remember our happy memories with them. It is said that marriages are made in heaven; similarly lucky ones like us also get the love of such beautiful people. One starts believing in destiny. We were not even booked to stay at that resort, but due to reservation mix-ups, we ended up in the resort where Pran Uncle and Aunty had come for a holiday!

The last incident occurred when my room-mates Nayan, Sharad and I were coming back to Pune after spending a few days in Bombay in late ’60 s of the previous century. This story is more about the raging hormones of the youth! In the train we had a family sitting with us. There were a couple of girls, in the family. All of us were excited as we got an opportunity to chat with them. At the end of the journey, we convinced their parents to join us on a full moon night boating, at the engineering college boat club. We had great fun with the usual exuberance of the youth. Later for quite some, we used to discuss the girls. Most of the discussions were ….. (Ok, I cannot write about them, these are censored). A few years later, we had an office party. There comes one of our ladies from the moonlight boating trip. Of course, she had married one of my colleagues. By the way, I was also married at that time!

Looks like I am on a nostalgic trip since yesterday! Come to think of it, how many stories are hidden in the depth of our mind. Various sites give us data storage these days for free, or many times one has to buy.  But we are not even aware of our own unlimited data storage system that we have in our brain. Friends, just start recalling and have fun! That is nostalgia for you!

Climb out of that hole!

Life is full of ups and downs both in personal and professional matters. The ups give us euphoria and joy. The downs on the other side make us sad, depressed and push our mood down a hole. It is for us to come out of that hole and it is doable. First and foremost is that our downs are because of errors, or misjudgement in what we do. We make errors of judgments, maybe wrong investments leading to a major loss; maybe we take up a job which we did not like. Such events are going put us in a situation where life looks sad and cynical. 

When this happens, we tend to linger on, and we keep on blaming ourselves, flogging ourselves for the errors. “To Err is Human” is an idiom which aptly fits situations in everybody’s life. We always keep on thinking about the missed possibilities, real and imaginary. We feel that if we had done things differently, we could have been better off financially and life would have been more rewarding. If such emotions are kept unchecked, the stress level in life goes up, we are not able to think prudently and are likely to make more errors. We dig ourselves a hole and are likely to remain there. 

Hole2

Such regrets, if nursed, can lead to depression and negativity. This could lead to binge eating, and one may drink more alcohol. We may react to persons and situations impulsively rather than giving a thought before responding. There are ways of coming out of such a hole; it will bring us back to a happy, healthy and meaningful life.  

Acceptance 

It is essential to accept what has happened. You should not ignore the event nor should you keep on thinking about it all the time. Take a pause, as we count ten or we deep breathe. When we are engrossed in self-criticism, we try to find quick fixes to the problem. Instead, think about our past regrets and try to remember how we found a solution at that time.  

Give a break to your negative thinking 

Sometimes it happens that we try to come out of the negative thought process, but it just does not work. Sometimes we are not able to break the spell of sleep from our system. Cold shower wakes you up. Try something similar. I remember an incident, which took place ages back. We were in Boston in a mall. Our grandson was very unhappy that my son suggested to him that instead of buying the same toy the second time, a new toy could be purchased in another shop. Our grandson started howling and throwing tantrums. My son picked him up, and we walked out of the mall. Our grandson was not wearing warm clothes, and a cold air blast hit him. He stopped the tantrums and said, “Can I get my jacket?” He quickly ate a snack and was back to his jovial self. After that, we went to ToysRus and got him the toy he wanted. Cold water shower is not a long term solution but will provide a break that can help you think more rationally to resolve the issues.  

Be soft on yourself 

When we have made an error, we tend to be very harsh in judging ourselves and keep on blaming ourselves. If we discuss the matter with a friend or a mentor, then she will listen to you compassionately and will try to explain the way forward. Will that person keep on harping about your errors? She will encourage you to be soft to yourself. Provide some compassion to yourself. With this attitude, we try to navigate towards a positive solution. This acceptance is a good beginning, and we learn to accept our regrets as a human failure. You know that there is nothing unusual in such a failure, it happens many times with others too! 

Try to understand yourself 

After you have gone through a situation, think about what you are looking for. Don’t keep on regretting about it. I will share an incident in my career. I was 28 years of age then. I had a meeting with my boss. He was quite tough and rough. He said a few nasty things to me as I had made some errors in the work. I left his cabin and thought about the incident. I was disturbed, but when I gave thought to the whole situation, I realised that my self respect was more important to me than my job. I went and met him again. Explained to him everything yet again. I told him, “Sir if you want, I will resign and walk out. Scolding me for errors and correcting them is  your job. But I expect you to ensure that you do not repeat such nasty things with me again.” He stared at me for a minute and then said, “How about some coffee?” I could resolve my problem because I was clear in my mind what I wanted more! I felt regret because my self-respect was hurt and to me, that was more important than keeping the job!  

Act 

All the process of handling the regrets and correcting errors will work only when we finally act upon it.  

Make a list of such issues large and small, then think yourself or with your friend or your spouse, exactly how to take steps to correct whatever is troubling you. The problems do not get resolved by feeling lousy or overthinking and brooding about it. It’s thoughtfully following up the solutions that helps us. Retrospection is the key to address such situations. Our vision in retrospection is always 20:20, and we look at things with more wisdom. So retrospect with a cool mind.

Hole1

Wikipedia has defined Kintsugi as follows. 

Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. 

As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. 

In our lives sometimes the dreams are broken, and at other times hearts are broken. We should use Kintsugi to repair our broken dreams.  The dream could be of taking higher education, getting an elite job in government. Heartbreak is, of course, heartbreak. But we need to come out of that hole into which we crawl into after failing to achieve what we wanted. The broken dreams could be repaired, and you might end up doing business. Sometimes the seams of the stitched dreams could be visible, but it is better to come out of the situation, a bit bruised instead of remaining hidden.

Use the principle of Kinstsugi! Face the world! Let repair seams be seen. The world does not have many regrets about what has happened in your life. It is too busy in its own errors and achievements. Making errors is not something to be hidden from others. All have their own quota of mistakes, only we do not about know about them.  So just do it, openly!