Benefits of Social Media!

We hear a lot of minuses about social media, but like everything else, there are always pros and cons. Pluses are what good things you take from anything. I will restrict my discussion to WhatsApp and Facebook; I will add Skype and Facetime to the list too! I am talking about Indian diaspora migrating all over the world. People move for education, job, and lately, they travel to “safe” countries as fugitives too. Some travel for three to six years on different projects. Short term travel has also gone up a lot because the Indian system has now merged with the international business.

Currently, the World Cup Cricket tournament is going on in England. Many Indians have travelled from India and a large number from the US and other countries too. (We had travelled for the Cricket World Cup final in Australia in 2015) The English allrounder Moin Ali was asked his opinion about desis supporting Indian, Pakistani and Bangla Desh teams when these countries played against England. Moin has moved to England from Pakistan. He said, “Now, I have changed my opinion. I am ok if the desis settled in the UK support the countries of their origin.” Many years back, there was a discussion in England that those who have come from outside and settled there should support the English team. That would show their real affinity (patriotism?) to England.

Humans generally do what their heart tells them, in such situations. Is it right or wrong? Who are others to decide? A person who has citizenship of the new country, to me, will always stand up when “Jan Gana Mana” is played! That person will stand up for “God Save the Queen” or “The Star-spangled Banner” too, the country where the person has become a citizen! But you are born and brought up singing Jana Gana Mana; so, when the anthem starts standing up is automatic. It is a natural thing to do.

With the advent of modern technology, staying in touch with people back home is a zip. The main thing is that this technology is mass used and the device, “cell phone” is in everybody’s hand. On top of that, it is inexpensive. In public places, free wi-fi is available, which adds to the ease of usage (and of course to the cost).

People who migrated in ’60 s and ’70 s of the last century found it difficult as international telephony was expensive. Plus maybe the mindset of people who migrated in those times was different. A classmate of mine who emigrated in 1971, came to India for the first and the only time after 45 years. Another friend called his parents twice in the first 15 years, both the times at the time of the birth of his children. I am not sure how these people and their family must have felt in those times.

Another thing was phone density in those times was very poor in India. When Jaya was in the US for one year in 1980-81, we had to do a lot of coordination. She would write me a letter saying at what time she would call me. I would then go to someone’s home to receive the call. We did not have a telephone at home in those days.

Compared to today’s times, not many people migrated in those days. With so few Indians, probably people did not want to say that they were Indians. They would change the pronunciations of names and surnames. Panvalkar would become Pan Walker, Harinder became Harry and so on. Now my son is Sachin Panvalkar in the US and not Pan Walker. The mindset of people has changed. My generation was born around independence and the awe created during British Raj by the “Goras” was not completely washed away. So in other countries, the diaspora would be under the Raj influence, people’s behaviour was subdued. People would try not to openly flaunt Indianness. They were afraid to say, “Myself Deepak Joshi”! They now see many people from different countries like Japan, China and others struggling with English. With this, our people’s confidence has gone up.

Now the situation has changed so much in the next generation that people are not worried about their accent. The social media helps to stay in touch with friends and family back home. WA and FB help in getting alumni, family, friends group updates, so there is no telephonic silence like the olden days. People communicate with each other at the drop of a hat. Living in on different shores does not mean being cut off. Sometimes it so happens that due to work pressure or visa issues, it is not possible to travel home for some functions. People watch the whole thing on live-streaming using Skype. India-Pakistan Cricket match? No problem? Watch it anywhere in the world using modern technology?

How has this helped? How is this useful? Living in different parts of the world for your work does not mean that you are cut-off like the olden days. I remember the story of a person in ’90 s of the last century. He was living in the US for around ten years. For whatever reason, he could not make it back home during that phase. His parents went there to meet him a couple of times. Then his grandmother died. When his father called to inform him about death, the son simply could not accept it. He kept on saying, “ Oh! She was so hail and hearty! How could she die?” In his busy schedule and telephonic silence, he forgot that his grandmother had become eighty! For a previous couple of years, her health had deteriorated, and she had become frail. But in the son’s mind, ten years younger image of the chirpy grandmother was frozen!

Friends, our generation has reached a stage where we have the bragging rights to claim how our life was better, how we used to meet our old friends and so on. We also tend to look down on technology, may be out of phobia, fear, and because we don’t understand the same. Keep an open mind, try and adapt to new technologies. Don’t forget that the same technologies are helping us to remain very close to our families, friends.

Don’t forget that some things don’t change, ever — for example, the subtle reaction on seeing a brown person like you and me in foreign countries. But keeping in close contact with back home, being proud of Indianness helps living life more confidently. The bond created makes the second generation in foreign countries proud to say that they are Indian British or Indian Americans. They handle the subtle reaction mentioned above discretely. My grandson once told me, “Aba when we want to curse Goras discretely, a few of us start speaking in Marathi!” Next time you Skype with your grandson, add a few choice Marathi words to his vocabulary! नमस्कार! नन्तर भेटू!

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Wake-up People!

When we are born, we do not know what we are going to do in our lives, most of the times. But some are born, and their destiny is written at the time of birth! Like some are born to become kings and queens, or heir to a business empire, some are born to become Presidents of a political party. Children following their parents footsteps and sometimes parachuting at high positions is a routine phenomenon. It is known that such children listen to the subject discussions at home from childhood, so they are likely to be more mentally ready than other children 

But what is the Dharma of whatever we do in our life? We should try our best to act from the bottom of our heart and true to our ability. But does the world behave this way? People under the garb of modernity, liberal thought, show as if they are giving the yeomen service to the society. But in many cases, it is observed that the denominator is self, to hell with everything else, including the nation.  

During and after the recent election, a lot of discussions were going on about Political Pundits, Experts, Reporters and their ilk. What is the job profile of these people? To my understanding, these people are supposed to be connected with people at ground level, have the feel of what is happening. The ordinary person like you and me are supposed to be enlightened by these Gyanis! But have things happened this way? The answer is an emphatic NO!  

PranUncle

How did things go out of hands? Years back, I had met Mr Pran Chopra, who retired as the chief editor of The Tribune. We met at Naukuchiatal, near Nainital during a holiday. We were together for almost a week, and the insights that we got about the life of reporters and the way newspapers worked in those days were interesting. The gist of what he said was that in whatever they did, the truth and the nation were the two main interests. Everything else was secondary. Now everything is reverse of what Pran uncle mentioned.  

We have been hearing about Luteyns gang or Khan market gang often. But these are not the only people who took this route. At the local level, too, in every state, in every capital, in every significant newspaper, the sycophants and people with selfinterest existed in large numbers. All these people had become blind with their own thought processes, their analysis of the situation and their prediction about the electoral mathematical equations, the usual caste and religion! They forgot about a small thing, the people. People who vote were last on their mind. They were all busy cursing Modi, looking down at NDA and assuming that caste, equations, statelevel bosses were good enough to win the election and form a non-BJP government in Delhi. They appeared to be drunk on their self-judgment. They were so blind to the realities of life that even when exit polls started indicating a resounding victory for NDA, they simply refused to accept the polls. Many said that the lowest numbers shown in a poll were the correct numbers and those too were exaggerated. Reporter after reporter would give his/her theory how finally “Acche Din” (good old days) will come once the current government loses.  

Personally, I am for any leader or a party that tries its best to improve the state of the nation, the society and the people. I really don’t bother if party A is winning or B. All governments, leaders make mistakes, have their quota of blunders. But the government should have the least number of corrupt people. In India, we have seen that the number of schemes that have been floated since independence are the means to make money. The leakage in such programmes was reported to be very high, and only 15% of the money reached the people. The % is very similar to social work done by Rotary Clubs where their social work “achieves” the same success rate! In the case of Rotary, the money is spent on dinners, parties. In one example, the money is blown, and in the other, it is made; but the result is the same.  (Disclaimer- I am NOT a rotarian and this information is shared with me by some resrious rotarians!)

How did such close groups start? In Delhi, you were either an insider or then you were an outsider like Modi. The insiders went to the same schools and colleges like Stephens and Oxford. Everybody knew everybody; either your brother or sister was together in the class, or you were neighbours in Delhi, of course, Lutyens Delhi. Your address could never be Chandani Chowk or Nizamuddin! The coterie was formed, and modern court jesters were born. You got the exclusive news leak and were always the part of the gang of reporters on foreign jaunts on the Prime Minister’s plane. On TV shows or in your weekly columns you wrote and discussed whatever was fed to you; your stomach was too full to challenge anything.   

Of course, some reporters did their job and somehow managed to “break the news”, in spite of the coterie! Such people were challenged and openly called to be working for “interested” groups. But the coterie never bothered to take a look at their own face in the proverbial mirror!  

Why were these people against Modi and BJP? I can understand having a different political viewpoint. But is it possible that anything and everything that is done by a government is wrong? Chidambaram was finance minister in the previous government. He writes an article in Indian Express, every Sunday, discussing how all the steps taken by the government are leading India to the precipice of no return! In the financial world, every decade or so, we get recession, stagnation or sometime stagflation. But this is the part of the natural economic process of correcting itself. The world had the same issue in 2008, and in 2019 the same problem has started. Car sell is plunging by 25%. Instead of talking about the economic cycle, these people start blaming the government as they are now out of favour, out of their “dole” from the government.  

One crucial thing everybody forgot was that everybody’s assumption about the default people in India. Some kept on thinking that default ruling party or an alternate option was Congress; like people thought that default business families were Tatas and Birlas. When Dhirubhai Ambani came and took over, nobody knew. Ambanis turnover is now Rs. One lac crore. Similarly, when Congress got 44 seats in the 2014 elections, the same group thought that it was a matter of time and Congress would be back with a bang. NDA was the new Ambani of the political scene, was never understood by these people.  

But some of the intellectuals have realised their error and have openly started writing about their mistakes of perceptions. Shekhar Gupta, a well-known commentator, has  publicly accepted in the interview below that somehow he was blinded  

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=372025410115387&id=234508140533782 

Meghnad Desai is another person who is bluntly telling Congress about the irrelevance of Rahul Gandhi.  

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/out-of-my-mind-dear-rahul-just-go-5760615/ 

It comes back to the same thinking; a democracy prospers only when there is a good, positive opposition party. Opposition should be constructive. Even today, Congress made a statement that with around 50 MP’s, they can make life miserable for the government in the Loksabha. Is that your narrative? Where does nation come into the picture? Where is the positive intent?  

These changes will happen only when people introspect, (Ashok Chavan has made a statement that Congress lost in Maharashtra because of Vanchit Samaj party ditched them at the last moment, Congress was perfect in what they did), show positive intent, have pragmatic policicies, not just shout the slogans.  

We should learn from the Westminister System followed in Britain by having a shadow cabinet. The Shadow Cabinet or Shadow Ministry is a feature of the Westminster system of government. It consists of a senior group of opposition spokespeople who, under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition, form an alternative cabinet to that of the government, and whose members shadow or mirror the positions of each member of the Cabinet. It is the Shadow Cabinet’s responsibility to scrutinise the policies and actions of the government, as well as to offer an alternative program. The Shadow Cabinet makes up the majority of the Official Opposition frontbench. Is it not a better alternative to stopping work in Loksabha at the drop of a hat? 

 

 

Election musings!

Dance of democracy is on, and words after words are written, spoken, shouted on TV. People are feeling happy about the largest democracy going through its rights, luckily now every five years! All this is bliss, what more do you want in life.  People are seen debating on TV to enlighten people of what, I am not sure; in the slanging matches you can’t understand what is being said. In public meetings the leaders, the candidates are offering schemes and money. It appears that even funds available with the World Bank may not be able to provide cash to fulfil promises given to people. A billion here and a billion there does it make any difference to the speakers? But one thing is for sure, despite the politicians the nation’s do progress, things change and improve, albeit slowly. Indian growth in the last twenty years has been phenomenal.

What are the feelings in the minds of the people? For those directly involved in politics are excited and are looking forward to winning the election. Why is the win so important? It is the ticket to wealth. Barring a minuscule % of candidates, most are millionaires and billionaires. During the five years after the previous election, the wealth of many of these candidates has galloped. They never seem to work the way all of us work on a day to day basis. The assets jump beyond imagination, but it appears that all are hand in glove; no politician is ever troubled by Income Tax people.

Percentage of people voting does not change much except in a few constituencies. Why does this happen? There are so-called middle class and higher middle-class people who are too busy to vote, and there are people too poor to have time think about elections.

People, in general, look at democracy and the process of justice as if it is a wild animal; they look at it as a mirror where they want to see the reflection of their own eyes, nose and teeth. The picture is not very pretty. Probably it brings a thought in their mind that there is no alternative to the situation and they accept that they get the candidate they deserve. The feeling of desolation comes to their mind after realising that things may never change. Optimism is good, but after seven decades of Indian democracy, it is observed that things are going from bad to worse. The ugly words are used to describe opponents, calling the head of state a thief, calling a senior leader and his family as a family of marauders. My knowledge tells me that Loksabha and Rajya Sabha are the highest bodies in India. The speeches made there and allegations thrown at each other cannot be taken to the court of law. But the statements made in public are equally terrible, but the action taken by election commission is to debar these people from making speeches for a few days during the election rallies!

People go to the voting centre with a frame of mind as they go to any government office; with half the expectation that their name may not be there in the official list. They are in the least bothered if voting is done electronically or using ballot paper. On the voting day, the voter gets up tying his shoelace and hopes that his vote will improve pollution in the city. Though the initial thought that comes to his mind is, from where will he get his next meal? The ideas in the minds of the candidates are when will they be able to get a BMW or a Mercedes after this election. The candidate does not have to worry about improving the condition of the poor; their party has already declared that they will give a dole of a few thousand Rupees in the bank account of the poor. It is a collective responsibility which is conveniently considered as nobody’s responsibility.

Why is this apathy shown? Why the numbers of people voting not to go up? The first significant reason could be errors in creating voter lists. Over a period, the errors have come down, but still, that apprehension of missing names does not go away. Jaya and I have been lucky that we have taken part in each election. In the last election, my name could not be located for a long time when I went to vote. Since we have the same home address and have always been listed together, how could my name got transferred to some other list is still a mystery to me? This time also our names have been found in the list when I did online checking. What can happen at the booth is another story.  Please read my blog on the similar subject written sometime back.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/my-voting-rights-were-on-hold-almost/

The second reason is that now a lot of people migrate within India. A person moving from Ahmednagar to Bhatinda does not know anything about local politics and candidates. Such people sometimes do not register themselves in the new place and don’t vote. In the days of the internet, a system can be created where people can have the option to vote at their original location. There will have to be checks and balances. But it is doable. A person’s vote should be able to travel along with the person.

This apathy of not taking part in the democratic process can lead to Brexit like situation. When the referendum was held in Britain, the young people stayed away from voting as they did not realise the meaning of the vote. When Britain voted to come out of the European Union, the young people and not so young people realised the folly of moving out of the EU. Being in the EU means to travel without a visa. There is easy access to around 25 countries in Europe for work and leisure. During our holiday travel to Europe a couple of years back, we have observed the ease with which travel is done. By stopping and checking at borders a tremendous amount of time is wasted. For those who are travelling for work, it is the waste of productive time. But now both Britain and the EU are in great turmoil as the majority in Britain want to remain within the EU. But it is not easy as there are laws and rules in an international relationship where it can not be based on whims.

There are liberals, prestitutes, bhakts. Liberals generally discuss the democracy with a glass of Chivas Regal. I am not sure if they are worried about the conditions of the downtrodden. But they support Naxalites movements and are generally anti-government. When the party in government lose an election, then they become partners with liberals. Prestitutes are “Intellectuals” and sometimes appear as if they are paid by someone to air their views. Somehow, they are anti-common view and anti-majority. There are bhakts present in every party who religiously follow whatever their  “God” will say. All these make for small but loud numbers; substantial numbers go by issues on hand, economy, development, international relations et al. But finally, it comes to a vast number of people who are swayed by money paid against each vote, as their primary need is to come out from jhuggi to at least a brick house. They don’t want the struggle of day to day living problems like power, food, water and sanitation. These are things which you and I take for granted. But will these people go and vote in large numbers if their problems are resolved? Maybe not, they will then treat the election day as a holiday like many people do and start enjoying a free holiday.

Three cheers for democracy!

Hiding Place!

In many religions, Confession is the acknowledgement of one’s sins or wrongs. In Christianity, people make Confession formally. A person goes to the church and confesses to evil deeds and asks for penance. This arrangement between the person and the priest is like a lawyer-client relationship. It is an arrangement which is always upheld as sacrosanct.

But not every religion has this arrangement. But each human needs to share his/her thoughts with someone who is very close to them. All of us go through difficult times, good times and tough times. Some of these are so tough that our reactions to such situations can be, “Oh! I want to kill that fellow”! But killing someone is not an option. But what should one do if such feeling arises in mind? We need to vent out strong emotions, but this is possible only when you have intimacy with someone with whom you can share any details. At the same time, there is a need to get your feelings validated by someone. Why would you say that you want to kill someone? It is an extreme reaction to a situation. If you don’t forget this incident and keep brooding about it, you may explode (you might kill that person), or you will implode and go into depression.

In such situations, you need a “Hiding Place”! The concept of “Hiding Place” comes from Bible Psalm 32:7! (Correct me about psalms, I am reading details about them for the first time)

https://biblehub.com/psalms/32-7.htm

In the Bible the hiding place is HIM! God is the “Hiding Place” place because he is

  • Safe
  • Sure
  • Secret
  • Comfortable
  • Strong
  • Secure
  • Communing (means share one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone), especially on a spiritual level.)

I said that there is a need for “Hiding Place” in the real world too; the hiding place is you and me or any other person. A person can be a friend, brother, sister, or anybody really intimate with you. What is the importance of “Hiding Place” in our life? The incident mentioned above resulted in a feeling “I wanted to kill that person.” The “Hiding Place” is a sounding board who will listen to you, encourage you to open out and vent your steam. At the same time, “Hiding Place” or the person will not be judgemental and say that you were wrong to react this way. The person will listen to you and accept that you responded strongly. At the same time, the person will tell you the futility of such a reaction. By “hiding” we have achieved a few things. Your strong emotions were vented out, you are assured that your strong feelings, though not justified, get vetted. Once you have cooled down, you can discuss the real-life solution!

Some people are born with extreme emotions, some are cool, but most are in between. They are likely to lose their shirt in a situation! Some are lucky that they have a “hiding place”. You use someone as a sounding board, and if that person has most of the traits mentioned above, you are lucky. We read every day in newspapers stories about murders. The reasons for some of these murders are so flimsy that problems could have been quickly resolved by discussing with someone.

The root cause of unwelcome behaviour in society is unresolved conflicts from the minds of the people. Such unresolved disputes, and locked up feelings fo not find the healthy outlet and end result are simple problems getting converted to road rage events and sometimes into a murder.

In today’s times, we hear many stories about couples divorcing. If the reason for such divorces is listed out, then all the couples in the world should be divorced. Relations between pairs are very personal so unless they have access to a “hiding place”, issues are never going to be resolved. Recently I heard of a surprising way in which marital discord was resolved between a couple, who got married three years back. Both were lucky to have sensible friends. On husbands side, he had some females as his close friends, and they discussed the issues with him. They explained to him the women’s perspective of looking at things. At the same time on the wife’s side, some male friends discussed the issue and explained to her the male’s view of looking at problems. Of course, both were sensible persons. They later sorted out the problems amongst themselves, and now most of the discord related issues are overcome.

I read one beautiful story about a British movie The Wingless Bird! In this movie, a British Army Captain has come back on a short leave during the First World War. The war has affected his mind deeply. But he is trying to keep up the tradition of the British Family of being in the army. He is very uneasy and does not know what to do because he is very much troubled. Finally, he finds the courage to open out with his brother’s wife. He explains to her the whole situation on the war front. The dismembered bodies, rain, the trenches, the mud, fleece and the rats. To add to this the wrong orders from seniors lead to many unnecessary deaths. Of course, the seniors are safe, far away from the front!  After sharing these ghastly details, the Captain had a smile on his face. The situation on the front was not going to change, but he could unburden his thoughts. He thanked his brother’s wife that he could talk to her. She in return told him that she was delighted that he trusted her. The lady was the Captain’s Hiding Place!

Friends, I have simplistic solutions for everything as I very rarely react very strongly to a situation. I always think about the Utopian world. But let me assure you, it is not very difficult. Let us form a bank of “Hiding Places”! The newspapers have a section on agony aunt. As this correspondence is anonymous, it works like the confession box from the Churches. I am lucky to be a “Hiding Place” to many. Ultimately every individual has to solve his or her dilemma! A bit of shoulder to “cry on” always helps. People smoke, go to pubs sometimes when they are tense. Instead look for a “hiding place”. You have them around, there are many good people around, you need to locate them.

As usual, this is my simplistic solution, but it is worthwhile trying.

Jingoism or Pragmatism!

Years back when Japan started exporting good cars to the USA in a big way in the ’80 s of the last century, there was a lot of noise created in the US! The US decided that this needs to be handled at the highest level. During a visit of a President of the US, they had informed the Japanese government that the President would push Japanese to open their market for American cars. Japanese agreed immediately. During the meeting it was it was declared officially. When the detailing was being worked out, Americans found that American car makers, engineering-wise, were unprepared, to make right-hand drive cars needed in Japan. They lost ¾ years in this! Rest as they say is history.

In the last few years, the winds against the so-called free trade have started blowing in the USA! Even in Britain, Brexit has happened, and Britain is hoping to walk out of the European Union. Brexit is a classic case of a referendum. The young people who did not want Brexit were too busy to take part in the poll. The seniors did. Currently, the British people have a significant advantage of visa-less travel to Europe. The young brigade could jump to holiday locations, for a job or weekend excursions to the places of their choice. British business had a big, trade barrier-free market available to them. Current British Government is trying its best to find a face-saving formula or do what the majority population wants. (even though referendum said otherwise) Another option may be a second referendum.

Every nation, every society needs to look after self-interest and self-respect. As the country grows, its business grows. The business growth will make the nation and its people proud. Value-added growth could happen when modern products and services are developed in the nation internally. The business needs support from the government, for such a growth. The Indian government is attempting to follow this method. When they sign a contract for import of high technology defence items like radar, planes etc. they try to ensure that the deal is in two parts. Initially, India imports some quantities fully assembled; later at least 30% of production is done in India along with some local partners. Make in India is the name of this project. The results of such initiatives will be seen 20 or 30 years hence.

Why do nations change their thought processes? A country like the United States is technologically the most advanced nation in the world. In the last 50 years, they have many world-class organisations, especially in the IT field. Most of the other countries play the catch-up game with them. They have created world-class hardware and software products like iPhone, Android OS, Windows OS, Microsoft Office to name a few of them. They are also famous for aircraft manufacturing facilities. But where hardware manufacturing was involved, they slowly moved production to China. China also has done a terrific job of going up the value chain; China is now called the world’s manufacturing setup.   Similarly, India has become back office of the world. Since the last couple of years, India is also trying to go up the value chain.

jingo1

With the election of Trump, thinking in the US has started changing. Why did this happen? When we refer to the USA, we think only of the East coast and the West coast. We never bother regarding the Rust Belt. Rust Belt is the American midwestern area where industries went into decline due to various reasons. The decrease is mainly in sectors like steel, mining and to some extent automobile.  Add to that the local culture which went into a social rot. The problems of this area can be understood if you read a book called “HillyBilly Elegy” by D Vance.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillbilly_Elegy

We will understand better, Trump’s election victory, after reading this book. Jingoism has started after the win and America began to looking inwards by having tariff wars with China and India. Trade wars also led to the wave, “Make in America”!

History repeats due to lack of proper planning. Apple is the classic case of Make In America failure. There is the story “A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be Assembled in the U.S.A.” in New York Times. Apple started churning out great products in the last decade, after struggling since ’80 s of the previous century. They wanted to make the most of it and began subcontracting work. This improved their profitability. Over a period, they shifted all their assembly work in China to Foxconn. Most of the significant components in iPhone were made in the USA or other parts of the world. Assemblies and small parts were made in China. As assemblies entirely moved to China, US industries were left with unused capacity for many small items, and they closed shop or moved to other business. The classic case is of a non-standard screw needed in the assembly. China can produce any quantity of such screws. When an attempt was made to move production back to the USA, capabilities for producing such items were found missing. On top of this, Chinese wages are the US $ 2.10/hr for workers as against the US rates which are very high. On top of this, the totalitarian regime in China does not bother about labour laws. Meeting the targets are achieved by waking up the workers from home at night (when required) and are made to work the night shift. Getting people out of bed for factory work is not possible with US laws and culture.

Jingoism does not solve the problems; it merely creates an unhealthy atmosphere. In the case of Apple, history is getting repeated as it did in the case of cars in the last century! Governments and industry both need to be pragmatic. Apple is facing another issue. The iPhones assembled in China get a tag “Made in China”! The US government wants to charge high tariffs on “Made in China” items. On one side iPhone sells are sliding, margins are slipping; market capitalisation is dropping fast. Higher tariffs will add to Apple’s woes!

While taking any decisions in life, especially when these decisions are business related pragmatism should come to the fore and not Jingoism. The British decided in the referendum about Brexit. The analysis found that high % of citizens in the group above 55 age were for Brexit. Whereas against Brexit was a mixed group, young and old. Brexit is going to create problems for the young ones.

Jingoism takes a society towards a situation where governments promise something during an election or political rhetoric but are not able to deliver — not being pragmatic leads to further churning. Governments try to show their strength by taking a firm stand which is not sustainable. Politicians remain in political mode all the time leading to Jingoism.

Hope the leaders and nations who are following the path of Jingoism learn their lessons quickly; otherwise, the voters correct the same anyway. But for the period till next election, a lot of damage is done to the fabric of the society, and most importantly economic setbacks can cause long term damage to all concerned.

The Art of Giving!

Give1

26th December is an important day in Australian cricketing calendar. On this day begins every year, a test match which is called Boxing Day test match! The game is between Australia and a touring team. I used to wonder how come the games of Cricket and Boxing merge here?  

The tradition of boxing day started in England and has spread in the countries which were under British rule, the Commonwealth countries! There are different versions of Boxing tradition, but the one started in Britain was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for excellent service throughout the year.  This custom is linked to an older British tradition: since the servants would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.  

The fundamental question is why giving makes us happy? Doing things for others increases our own happiness. Through giving, we fulfil two of our basic needs as human beings, which is to connect and contribute. Giving also makes us happier by providing a sense of meaning to life, reducing stress, improving our mood, and helping us to take our minds off our own problems. The best part about giving is that it is contagious. When we see someone do something kind (or are the recipient of kindness) it inspires us to be kinder too. Kindness begets kindness.  

 

Scientists say that the happiness we feel after a particular event or activity diminishes each time, we experience that event. But giving to others may be the exception to this rule, according to some researchers. When we “give,” the happiness that we get lasts longer!  

What is giving culture dependent on? Does a human give away when he has more than necessary or when he wants to “give”? I feel that this is naturally predominant in communities who have been financially secure and well off. What kind of giving is better? Frankly, it is tough to judge this. But I have seen a few families who are not conventionally well-off. Still, they follow the culture of giving! Is it dependent on your upbringing? Is it dependent on family traditions?  

I feel that the tradition of Boxing is not the “real giving”! From the information found on the net, it appears that the Masters gave things away to their servants, on the next day of Christmas. But this was also supposed to be the payment, and a bit of bonus, plus a bit of giving away unneeded excess items. It was kind of remuneration given for the work performed during the year!  

Almost a year back, I had written a blog “Let us all become Bill Gates!”; the link is below. 

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

In this blog, I had suggested that all of us can become Bill Gates! Gates has started a fantastic tradition of giving away a major portion of individual wealth to some causes of your choice. In recent times it is observed that many people world over are becoming millionaires and billionaires in a short period of times, thanks to IT business and startup culture. Gates has suggested to such people to give away the major portion of their personal wealth, as the kind of money many of them are making, can never be spent in a few lifetimes. Gates has an advantage of having the expertise and wherewithal to create a foundation and running it. He is doing it on a massive scale. In India, Azim Premji is also moving in the same direction. To me, these people are beacons to us who can guide society towards “giving culture”.  

Giving is done to the financially and intellectually challenged persons. The persons who have monetary assets and intellectual assets can “Give”! Giving does not necessarily mean giving money or food or shelter to the poor! Gates Foundation is doing fantastic work in disease eradication world over. Foundation’s expertise and drive help the nations to create efficient and sustainable delivery systems; this creates awareness in the people, rich or poor! Cleanliness and health issues are independent of the financial status of people in any society. Whether you are rich or poor, you can get malaria or Zika! As the size of these donations is large, their effectiveness is felt by small nations or even large societies like India!  

How to go about giving? First and foremost, there is no need to publicise your individual giving. Each family can support and guide one child, from a family to many families in the right path in life. Those from the so-called middle class can quickly achieve this. The most important aspect of giving is to do it consistently! There is no need to wait for a boxing day to give! You can start today!

I have discussed this aspect with many friends. Different methods were followed by different families. In India, we get service support from many people for various aspects of cleaning, cooking and so on. Once you get to know these people well, you will realise that they are also equally good people. But there will be diversity in this group of people as is found in our society. Some will show happiness when we “give”, some will start thinking that it is their birthright that they should “get”! Do not get disheartened with this. Their attitude does not mean that they are not in need. Some rare people from this group will blow what they get, don’t stop in such cases! Change methods so that they are not able to misuse what they get. I am sharing what some of my friends and I have done over some time.  

  1. A friend said that he has given lumpsum amounts to four such people whom he knew well. Three of them ended up with their own homes. When you own a home you gain pride, you feel like doing better in life, working harder in life. All these families have come up in life now.  
  2. Another friend was supporting a person and his family for various things including money during the illnesses of their parents. He even gave away a scooter to him. But our receiver is a bit of a blower, though he is a simple man. Then the friend changed his method of giving. He now pays for the children’s education fees, including bus transport fees and tuition class fees.  
  3. Another friend started giving regularly. When this was known to his much younger colleagues, they also started doing the same and have still continued to “give”! Giving is definitely contagious!  
  4. One more person gives away knowledge, free! This person is a real technical pro, highly respected in the field, now retired. This person was asked by someone, “Why are you giving your speeches free? You will get whatever you demand.” The answer was a classic. “People give money, clothes and so on to the needy.  Needy people get from people and organisations, who have things in excess. Now I am retired, so I am giving my knowledge, which is my wealth! I am now in “giving” mode hence I do not charge fees!” 

Giving should be embedded in the family culture, so it gets passed on and on! But make sure that you “Give” in such a way that the receiver will not be benefitted on a temporary basis; long-term benefits make more sense. This also calls for consistency from the “Giver”!

Let us work hard and become a “Giver”!

 

 

Who is the worst? 

Recently we have seen a spate of financial defaults where the so-called giants in industry and business have financially played havoc. Mallya, Sahara Chief Subroto Roy, Unitech Chandras list goes on and on and on! Question came to my mind who is the worst of the lot? I missed on adding the name of our local hero from Pune D S Kulkarni, who has joined the elite list though not on that scale.

In such matters two major aspects need to be checked. Whose action has caused the problems to the health of banking & financial system, and whose action has caused the most damage to the livelihood of individuals besides the banking system? The first group which has caused the issues to banking system are led by Mallya. Before he could be “caught”, he managed to change ownership of companies and to my knowledge companies are running reasonably alright! It appears that both Mallya and the new management have managed to siphon money to tax free heavens. Mallya apparently has billions of dollars in his personal name and has managed to evade tax in many locations in the world. How to get money back from such people? Assets he created all over India have become tricky to dispose-off, now that these have become tainted assets. Same issue is there in case of Amby valley, near Pune, huge asset created by Roy!

How to decide who is the worst of the lot? My thought process tells me that those who have cheated individuals, many of them retired, who invested most of their life savings, are the worst culprits. By this test Mallya may appear to be a saint. No individual has launched any complaint against Mallya. By this logic other three appear to be major culprits. Roy and Chandra are in jail for some time, thanks to Supreme Court; has their families’ life style changed, no way! They have no money to return but have enough money to blow! Our friend D S Kulkarni’s family lives in rented flat! So sad! Not really, the flat is in Trump Tower in Pune with a rent Rs. 400,000/ per month! Extremely high by Indian standards. Mallya’s case is totally different. He moved to UK when there was no criminal case against him. So, when he entered UK, he was not “tainted”! The propah British law says that when Mallya entered Britain, he was not “tainted”. So procedures had to be followed, as he was not a fugitive when he entered Britain! British took their own sweet time to start the extradition processes. The Indian authorities are now tensed up and keeping their fingers crossed. In another similar case in Britain, the judge who will be handling Mallya’s case gave a decision that the concerned culprit will not be extradited, as jails in India are in extremely poor condition. Same logic may be applied in Mallya’s case!

I don’t have knowledge of various laws but my common sense tells me that such people’s factories shut down, businesses close down; the so-called owners are still having fun whether there is profit or loss.  The workers, financial institutes, and vendors are facing the main brunt. I remember when in Pune, Garware Nylons shut down, the loss was to the workers, vendors and banks! Garware’s have been moving around in their helicopters!

Why does this happen? How is this allowed to happen? Where is the lacuna? When any organization starts, it needs money; it gets money in the form of equity, loans and fixed deposits and working capital. The persons who start the company are also expected to put in the seed capital. Everything works quite all right in the initial phase. How business runs, depends on many factors some under control and some not under control. When people invest money in business as equity, it is a risk taken knowingly. When business does well people get dividend; and at some stage some investors liquidate their shares, based on share market variation and make their kill. But when the business does not perform well they are in for a loss. This is a known risk for investors. Same things happen in case of fixed deposits by people. Interests are paid on time, whenever requested deposits are refunded. Problems begin when businesses start floundering. Promoters, at this stage probably start treating FD’s as equity! If business conditions deteriorate further then the deposits become Ponzi schemes! Take deposits from someone promising high rate of interest and try to pay interest to older depositors. Vicious circle goes on and on and on till the court and Police cases start. Unfortunately for individuals, the first right on recovery from such organizations is with financial institutions!

In the meanwhile, the smart promoters have done something in between. They take deposit under the name of one company and transfer the money to their other businesses. This is done like hedging when intentions are not good . So, their other businesses run well. The assets and incomes made in these businesses are not in the name of original promoters of the main company. You don’t need to own a helicopter or a Mercedes to use it! 😃Holidays in cool climes continue because it is never done under parent company. Wealth is flaunted and social activities continue. I am by no means a socialist or a communist but what I have just explained is simply cheating. Small vendors, retired teachers, others are affected badly. This is what is happening in case of D S Kulkarni. He even has gumption to claim that his business started suffering when Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008!

How do these people maintain their lifestyle even after they are in jail or court cases are on? Here is an example from building trade. It is pretty simple. Company A buys a plot of land. B, C, D and E are other companies from the group. The plot is finally purchased by E following the straight path via B/C/D. By the time plot is in possession of E its price maybe five times! This is loaded on the project to sell homes to us. A is the company who takes FD’s from people but income of A is meagre and this money is routed to “other” companies. A & E ownerships may have some connect but B, C, D are owned by other family members or are trusts. These companies will have high profits! Another way of making the killing is that when E sells a home either B/C/D gets say 3 % commission on each sell as they are “Sells Agents” for E! Got it.

What is the solution? Believe in market rumours! Smoke is seen only when there is fire! It is impossible to know which organization can go into difficult times. The moment you hear some story, withdraw money from such organizations. Don’t keep on hoping that they will come up again! If they do come up put your hard money with them again! After all it’s your money! My take is that those who put individuals in difficulty are worst of the lot!