Whose Fault is it, anyway?

Taapsee Pannu

Why am I writing about Taapsee Pannu? I am not writing about her as an actor but as a poet, who has written from her heart!

While thinking about film personalities, terms that we use are handsome, beautiful, sexy and so on? Somehow we never think of them as intellectuals or caring persons, sensitive persons. Why is that so? Probably in the initial phase, people of a different kind joined the industry, but now actors joining are more educated, more sophisticated. They have their feet on the ground and openly express their feelings.

The recent parallel pandemic of human migration was an event which nobody in the country expected. When I say nobody, it means persons like you and me. We are financially settled. If we do not have some income for a particular duration, that is ok. We can manage, we can survive. None of us had ever imagined the plight of migrant workers when the lockdown started.

They were told to hang around where ever they were; we would help you, feed you and give you some money till this “small” problem goes away. But the first lockdown got converted into the second, the third and so on. Besides having no income, all these people went into a psychological problem. The common utterance was, as we do not have money and food we might die. Now if we have to die, at least let us go to our native place to be with family. At least in our last phase, our near and dear ones will be around us. With this thinking, people simply ignored the government directives and started going towards their homes. Some on bikes, some walking, trucks or whatever vehicle they got!

Taapsee Pannu has penned and rendered a poem. It directly touches your heart. Taapsee has not blamed anyone as such but has expressed the feelings of the migrants. She has not used flowery language; she is not trying to be a poet. She has written down whatever came to her mind. The link below gives the video rendering of her poem. It is heartfelt, touching and moistens one’s eyes. Taapsee way to go! I have written down the poem in words so that we can slowly understand the depth of what she has said. The lyrics are plain daily words, but when the meaning starts to seep into our mind, we are woken up with a shudder!Friends see the video before reading poem.

Friends see the video before reading the poem.

The link for the poem!

https://www.indiatoday.in/movies/video/exclusive-taapsee-pannu-migrants-poem-bollywood-covid-crisis-1688753-2020-06-13

हम तो बस प्रवासी है।क्या इस देशके वासी है।

अगर हम नही है इन्सान तो मौत दो अभी दे दो फ़र्मान ।

खाने को तो कुछ न मिल पाया, भूख लगी तो ड़ंड़ा खाया।

फासले तय किये हजारो मीलके कुछ पैर नंगे ।

मरे क ई भूखसे और क ई धूपसे।

पर हिम्मत ना टूटी बडोके झूठसे।

बससे भेजकर रेलसे भेजकर।

जान ख़ो बैठे रास्ते भूल कर ।

यहाँ प्रतिमाओंकी बडी अस्ती पर जान इन्सानोंकी सस्ती।

बडे सपने अच्छे दिन बतलाये पर भूख किसीकी मिटा ना पाये ।

चाहिये ना भीख़ ना दा पर ना छीनो आत्म सम्मान।

हम तो बस प्रवासी है।क्या इस देशके वासी है।

I am not going to translate the poem, but it needs to be explained in English for those who are not comfortable with Hindi along with my interpretation.

We are only travellers, but are we the citizens of this nation? If you do not consider us humans then give orders to kill us at least. Look at the frustration; maybe the migrants felt that they do not have the fundamental rights of the citizens of this country. While travelling and under lockdown, we did not get anything to eat. But when we were hungry, police hit us with a cane!

We travelled hundreds of miles, and sometimes we walked barefoot! We have seen the pictures of people walking with all their belongings with a couple of children in tow! One simply can not imagine that these people travelled hungry, barefoot with the heavy load. Did they at least get water to drink? Their will to reach home was so strong that despite the problems faced, they never gave up though they were denied their promised rightful things.

Further, the statues of the leaders get a lot of importance, but on the other side, the lives of humans are immaterial for the movers and shakers! Nobody cares about them and their life.

“The powers that be” have shown the migrants many dreams and promised the moon; they were told that their life would improve and there will be happy days for all! Forget all these things, but even their hunger pangs were never reduced.

We were then sent by buses and trains, but we lost our way to get killed during the journey!

The poem ends on a strong note. The migrants say that we do not want alms, but at least others should honour their self-respect.

Taapsee has written the poem with great anguish. She has contained her rage but has been forthright in opening her mind on the subject.

But my question is why such a situation has come up in our nation? All the governments and the authorities have ignored even the basic needs of the city dwellers. The migration to cities has happened because there is work for everybody in large cities. But why nobody has bothered about the squalid conditions in the zopad patties- slums! How has my beloved India reached such a nadir?

Initial days after independence were euphoric. Everybody had high hopes, and we had a charismatic leader in Nehru and his abilities. But it appears that his leadership failed to put on the bright path of recovery of the loot by the British. Instead of concentrating on the nation, he was more interested in having a name for himself internationally. There were some significant initiatives like the building of dams, starting public sector factories and trying to improve the plight of farmers and the downtrodden. But in his time, our national pride took a beating.

Indira Gandhi brought that pride back, but she got embroiled in too much of politics which set us a couple of steps back- e.g. emergency! Rajeev Gandhi brought a notable change in going towards technology like computers. But in all the critical aspect of the common man was forgotten. One more thing happened all through was the population control. For some reason or the other, this vital aspect was totally ignored. Each government would make feel-good statements like “Our population is our strength.” It would be valid only we had the means to support and nurture the talent.

Though we have done reasonably ok, financially in the past couple of decades, we have mentally brushed aside the plight of this large group of people, who are now called “migrants” in our own country. As long as our roads, buildings, bridges were getting built, nobody even discussed the situation of these people. With their city jobs and schemes like MNREGA, they just survived. It was the unprecedented pandemic that brought out the grim reality from the closed minds of national psyche!

Friends, Taapsee has clearly and forcefully written about the “migrants” in their own nation. The following line appropriately sums up the situation in India.

हम तो बस प्रवासी है।क्या इस देशके वासी है।

We are only the travellers but are we the citizens of this nation? Jaihind!

Reincarnation!


Dictionary meaning of reincarnation is a new version of something from the past. Atheist Pramod has changed his colour like a Chameleon. After all, he has to survive in this world; many people believe in reincarnation and rebirth. It is better to conform to the majority opinion. What about the previous blogs where the expression was always against such thoughts.

Okay, do not worry; there is no change of heart, but the good old atheist Pramod is still around. I am using the word incarnation, which correctly means what I want to say. I am talking about today’s global situation caused by the pandemic. The change that happened in this world is unprecedented. There are some good and new things to be learned and if possible old ones to be deleted as described in computer language. According to Satya Nadella, Microsoft boss, the proliferation of video conferencing apps has happened so fast that, according to his estimate, the growth that took place in two months would have taken two years in the ordinary course.

Each country had its ways of understanding the situation. Based on their understanding (or misunderstanding), they applied the lockdown. In some cases, it was rigid, and in others, it was flexible. The end results have been varied. These figures below are dated today.


These are the figures I have taken from a tracker today morning. All the countries except India have high death percentage. Why is it so? I will never claim that India has the most disciplined people. India has the worst medical infrastructure that may be in par with Brazil on the list. But most countries have started “opening up,” the same as India. India of low death rates is opening up along with high death rate countries. It is because of the fear that economically no country can now afford to take any further shocks. These countries forgot that India had started the Lockdown early or on time!

I am using the word reincarnation for this change. Since I do not believe in reincarnation, I do not know what should be the difference between the first and the second avatar. But I feel that the change should be a game-changer. New Zealand and Australia have managed to control the pandemic war the best. New Zealand has become the first Corona free country. But what I read about the first day in New Zealand, the Corona free day, is a bit scary. Every restaurant, mall and public area is full of crowds. Social distancing norms are not required to be followed as per government directive. But is it the right thing to do? Where is the reincarnation? The society has been declared Corona free, does it really mean that there are no asymptomatic cases? When such cases can create problems, should we be totally going back to normal? One thing is for sure that indeed, a second wave could come and then we could be caught on the wrong foot. What happens if you do not go to a restaurant or a mall or a stadium? Heavens are not going to fall!

Every society or the nation has to make its decisions based on their knowledge and expertise. England with a large number of cases, even today, has decided to go ahead with cricket series with the West Indies. Okay, WI did not have much of an issue with COVID. But England still has the problem. The measures mentioned as SOP are very tight; at every stage, there will be COVID testing. I do not have the details, but I am sure that at least the matches would be played in an empty stadium. The act of holding a series while infection levels are high could be either wise or stupid! It could be at the best bravado. Why the England board take this decision? Why the British government gave them the go-ahead? Is playing matches to the empty stadiums an incarnation? I think every sporting event is performed to provide joy to the people. People’s involvement is the key to any sporting event. I had travelled to Melbourne, Australia in, 2015 to see the Cricket World cup final! Did we enjoy the game? There were 92 thousand plus people present for the match. But today’s situation may force reincarnation on us.


We, humans, are social animals. We need to see each other and talk to each other. When we meet, we shake hands, give a hug or say Namaste, the Indian style. Some prefer Adab too! In the reincarnation, the preferred method should be Namaste and Adab. Some may prefer an elbow bump or a leg bump, but this could be more amongst friends.


Why are we in a hurry to go back to the olden days instead of doing something which will be more correct to avoid future health issues? But it all depends on the social fabric. Only Japan has been disciplined in health matters. Whenever a Japanese person catches a cold, he/she will move around with a mask. It is the discipline taught at home, or school or in the society in general. When the football world cup was played in Brazil, a significant contingent of Japanese had travelled to see the matches. Japanese had a section of every stadium dedicated to them. Brazilians were shocked when they observed that the Japanese spectators cleaned their portion of the stadium spic and span, after each match. So if the society has good habits like the Japanese, go back to what you have been doing otherwise..


Some governments currently follow the advice of the experts, and others do not comply. When we do not follow the expert opinion, the country ends up in numbers like the US, rapidly. To achieve personal freedom, many states in the US are opening up due to pressure from the population. The result is there for us to see. On top of that, the Floyd killing issue has created another pandemic, that of public unrest. For protesting against the police, the people are coming out in large numbers where the social distancing norms are tossed out of the window.

In the high-density cities like Mumbai and Delhi, social distancing is just on paper. The Indian government and the local governments need to go into reincarnation mode and see how this is avoided in future. Maybe they have to build a large number of low-cost homes for people. In today’s times, people are helpless. They stay in such tricky conditions just to earn their living. Nobody likes to live in the circumstances that we see in Dharavi’s of this world.

So, friends, reincarnation is not mandatory as long as it goes with the need of the hour. We must have habits which will be useful in case of future pandemics as and when they hit us like a Tsunami. Learn to take things seriously like many so-called “poor” countries did, as against the casual approach of the “rich” countries.

https://summit.news/2020/03/12/mayor-of-florence-encouraged-italians-to-hug-a-chinese-before-coronavirus-pandemic-hit/

Read the above link. The Mayor of Florence in Italy started a stunt asking the citizens to go to the airport and “Hug the Chinese”! It was this cavalier attitude of the Mayor that led to a wildfire spread of COVID in Italy. Learn to take things seriously. One act by the Mayor spread the pandemic!

 

How to instil confidence?

The human brain has a high capacity to overcome problems and find solutions. It thinks differently given a chance. It feels the need to see in an innovative way of moving forward. How does this happen? It happens if you allow the child to be curious, questioning every small thing. Sometimes a parent is so fed up that she ends up telling the child, “Every why has no reply because the Sky is very high!” It is easy to suppress curiosity because you are busy; you do not know the answer or the child has asked an awkward question, say about sex! It is not the child who is awkward, but it is you! In today’s time when Google is around, finding an answer to anything is a matter of a few minutes. But we avoid it or do not try it.

Effects of intellectual freedom and curiosity are there to see in this world. The other day, I was watching an interview on India Today TV by Rajdeep Sardesai, and he was interviewing BMC Commissioner Mr Chahal. The problem was the availability of Ambulances in Mumbai. Some organisations or individuals own ambulances. In today’s times, their availability has become essential due to the pandemic. Mr Chahal explained an attractive solution. He approached Uber, who anyway is not highly active currently. He got hold of all the ambulances, ensured that there is a driver available all the time. Uber agreed to allow BMC to use their software. Anybody needing an Ambulance must access Uber app and simply order it. It is a classic example of Government-Private partnership.

The way Mr Chahal was ready with data, actions proposed, and actions already taken instilled a lot of confidence in viewers like me. Same Mr Sardesai, who was upset with the Government, which transferred the previous commissioner Mr Pardeshi. I am sure now Mr Sardesai must be feeling quite confident about the capabilities of Mr Chahal. Honestly, I was not satisfied with Mr Pardeshi.

https://youtu.be/RmGROMFF3U0

Given below is a video about Naman Gupta and his organisation. Where ever we travel in the world, cities and places where we visitors go, are spic and span except for one thing. In each country and continent, one thing common is the cigarette butts thrown all over the place. Why it is so common is difficult to understand. But Naman Gupta decided that enough is enough. He decided that he needs to do something with this problem. He made a plan, formed an organisation and has been collecting and processing these butts- Code Efforts Private Limited. I will not go into the details of their operations. But Naman and his company are working with great zeal to correct the situation about cigarette butts. They have been doing this for the last four years- the company started in 2018. Their first problem was collecting these butts; they found an innovative solution. Friends, I leave it to you see the video and decide for yourself about the effort.

What Naman’s effort has done is to instil confidence in people like us that things are okay in this world. Somebody wants to do something and cares about our mother earth. That too, by doing something exciting like converting these butts into usable products. When we see apathy and disrespect about nature everywhere, these small beginnings give us confidence that things will improve in future.

Similar effort but on a much larger scale was started in Pune by Adar Poonawalla- CEO of Serum Institute in Pune. He pledged Rs.100/ crores to launch an initiative called http://adarpcleancity.com/

Adar Poonawalla founded the Clean city initiative in January 2015 with the sole purpose of improving the environment and waste management in the city of Pune his home base. He said “I am a proud Indian. My pride takes a hit when I look at our streets and roads compared to those of other more developed nations, and so instead of criticising any government, I decided to pledge 100 crores to pick up and manage our waste and garbage in the city of Pune. The waste and garbage not only is damaging our health and environment, but it is an embarrassment to foreigners and visitors who visit India. Today we have over 200 trucks/ machines and over 400 employees for managing this activity covering more than 600 km of roads in Pune (roughly 60% the city)”.

Such efforts take away our mind from the doomsday predictions about the world. There are people, and there will be more and more people who will come forward and make this earth a better place to live.

Historically, which personalities instilled confidence in us? It is said that during the second world war, Churchill had a high command on his oratory, and he instilled confidence in the British people. There is a joke on this subject. Churchill was taking a taxi to go to the studio to give his weekly speech to the nation. He waved to a cab. The driver stopped and said, “If you are going in the direction I live, I will take you. I have to listen to Churchill’s speech.” Churchill took out a One Pound note, a princely amount in those days. The driver said, “Hop in! If you are giving me a pound, to hell with Churchill!”

In every society, there is a goto group of people. In case of difficult times, calamities, disasters, this group of people simply starts working to help people. We are lucky to have two such groups in India. One is the Sikh Gurudwara Samiti, and the other is RSS. Both groups are a part of religions. Gurudwara Samiti is part of Sikhism, and RSS (Rashtriya Sahayak Sangh) is part of Hinduism. But surprisingly they are apolitical.

Gurudwaras have a tradition of Kar Seva. I have visited a few in Pune and the Golden Temple in Amritsar. While I neared the open space outside the temple, it was spic and span. There were volunteers around to pick up stuff thrown by you and me. They would discretely stand on the side and every fifteen minutes or so pick up stuff and clean the area. People told me that even if you throw something in front of them, they will never challenge you; they will simply clean the area. Their humility will change any nasty person who would behave indecently. Inside in an area, Prasad was offered to everybody in a Dron (a cup made of leaves). About fifty feet away, a person was standing with plastic bags to help people carry Dron. Mind you these are all volunteers who in real life could be industrialists, business owners or CEO’s of large companies. It is their way of giving back to society. Their Langars are famous for feeding every person who goes to Gurudwara irrespective of their caste, creed, sex and religion. During disasters, they run these Langars all over the world. I have read about the Langars run by them during the pandemic, in London and New York too!

See this interview by Barkha Dutt of RSS workers in Dharavi, Mumbai. These workers are helping the corporation of Mumbai to test the people for infection. There was a doctor, a physics professor, a chartered accountant, a businessman, a hawker in that group. All these people had taken a break from usual work to help the corporation, and thereby the nation. When asked by Dutt, “How come you are working here since your government is not here?” The simple answer was, “We do not help the governments, we help people.” RSS workers have rushed to areas in Kerala during the flood, to the eastern coast of India during the tsunami. They do not wait for someone’s instructions. Their organisation is such that volunteers simply gather together and travel to areas where help is needed.

Friends, with Gurudwara Samiti, RSS, Mr Chahal and Adar Poonawalla in our society rest assured that everything is going on well in this world. There will be blips, and there will be obstacles to surmount. Of course, there will Trumps of this world around. But goodness and keenness of these people will instil confidence in humanity. If all of us do some good work in our “personal” ecosystem, our mother earth will always look the way she has been! A great place to live!

 

Angry and Frustrated- your tears won’t be wasted!  

tears1

When I talk to friends, the words worried, scared don’t come in the discussion. Careful is the word that is generally discussed in my age group. But lately, anger and frustration are some of the words that are now used often. Yesterday, a friend, Raju, said that he felt that people like us who are sitting in lockdown under the comfort of homes and cushion of money have become desensitised! Another friend Suya, alias Suhas was even more frustrated. He heard the news of 16 migrant workers who got crushed under a freight train. He discussed this with his family. His son in law, a young businessman, was frustrated and was very angry. He let his anger out and wrote down his feelings. I am sharing this note with you.

Suya

I have given the gist in English below.

The death of these migrant workers has shaken the young man to the core. What was their fault? These were daily wage earners who got stuck in a place thousands of km away from their native places. Is it a crime to feel like going home? Poor fellows were walking back home, along the railway track, as there was no conveyance available. Here he does not want to blame any system of governance or the government. Migrants felt that they have even lost the right to go home. One of the ladies gave birth to a child near Jalgaon on her way back home. How sad is the situation? There are rules and regulations, which is fine, only if people survive.  

The note written below is by my friend Suhas. It is in Marathi, so as usual, I have written the gist of what he has said, in Blue.

Suya1

Trying to keep democratic traditions, most of us behave like invalids- maybe we are mentally invalid. No government has understood the difference between giving support to the fallen, and to remove the felled dead bodies. The war against Corona cannot be fought by this invalidated society by taking away the poor migrants, or those who are breaking social distancing while purchasing the vegetables. These could as well be those standing in the queue for alcohol as if there is no tomorrow. To take these people away is not the way to fight this war. If we can not find the right way, then we should be prepared to remove the dead!  

 

He is a healthy person and runs his business. All of us may be giving help to deserving people. But these numbers are so large, and he feels helpless. Friends at least give these poor your real tears!

It is a real heart-breaking banter from the young man. Let me tell you he is a modern man. He and his wife had trekked to the Everest base camp. He has completed Iron Man!

How has the world reached this situation? Which direction will this take, and when will this be over? Many questions come to mind, and we realise that there are no answers.

Have things changed suddenly? No, they have not. The world always had a disproportionate distribution of haves and have nots. In the day to day grind of living, we all have no time to look at these things. We do discuss these things, sitting or on our terrace with light music in the background. There is, of course, a barbeque counter keeping great food going. In between our Dom Perignon’s and Teachers or Chivas Regal, we need to get the conversation going. So, we discussed the plight of daily wage earners. We sometimes discussed the slums and boasted how aggressively Dharavi, of one million people a square Km, is fast developing into an entrepreneurial hub. Bollywood comes up with movies like “Gully Boy”, showing that a Dharavi boy can become a rap hero of Mumbai. We go to the cinemas and pay a thousand rupees per head to see such movies.  These things do not change Dharavi.

I am using Dharavi as a metaphor, but these types of zopad pattis have existed since independence. Their number has been going up, the number of people living in each Basti is up all the time. I do not think that any human being likes to live in the squalid conditions that exist in these colonies.

We need to to understand the reactions of the young man above and that of my friend Raju. Our day to day grind has desensitised us to the difficulties faced by these people. We have learnt to let this happen in the background, continuing to live our life. Our “earbuds” are always in place, avoiding the din generated by the plight of these unfortunate people.

Briefly, we will see why this has happened. Let me assure you these issues are there the world over. In China, “old china” is always well hidden behind the great Chinese Wall of each megapolis. The most advanced and developed country the USA has 3.3 crores (33 million) people who have till date registered for the Government dole of US $1000/ pm as the current situation hits them. The US has a population of 330 million, and 10% of them have registered. Children and the elderly are not in the workforce, so the real number of force is 15 crores. So, 22% of the American workforce are daily wage earners who have no income currently. I am surprised that in one-month, finances of so many people are shattered. It means that poor people are poor whether you are in India or anywhere in the world, including the US!

India’s reasons for poverty are well known. The main reason being the plundering of wealth by the British. In the first forty years of independence, Indian experiments with Socialism/Communism made things worse. On top of that appeasement policies sent the population control policies to a toss. We have been boasting of “our large force” of people. At 33 crores, the US cannot reduce poverty, how could a country of 130 crores, with low per capita income levels could do it?

The pandemic brought all these issues out. Well-endowed people have some time in hand. I am happy that some of us have started thinking about the poor. The young man must be sensitive at heart and is not afraid to display his frustrations and anger. He gave path for his tears to flow like a river. I am sure that in future he will do something great for the society and will make us proud. His nervous energy will not let him be a silent spectator to the conditions of the poor! All the best young man!

India needs experts in various fields, but we need more people like this man to alleviate the situation of the poor in our nation. Somewhere, somebody will hopefully start this silent revolution of making the poor as the inclusive elements of our society. I pray to God that this reaction will become a chain reaction as we have in the atomic fission. I also hope that it will spread all over India and the globe.

I want to share some good news with you. Another friend, Anil’s sons, run a large construction business in Pune. Projects had come to a total halt, like everything else. While speaking to him the other day, he said that since their projects are in the rural zone, they have received permission to resume the work. I asked him, “From where you would get people?” He said, “Pramod, we had decided to retain all eight hundred people during the lockdown. We helped them with money and food, stay, and whatever was needed. Only twenty odd people went home. It is a routine yearly holiday when migrants go home. But these people have said that as soon as the transport starts, they will be back.” Great job Anil by you and your family. 👏👏👏

Young man, please do not lose heart. There are good people around. Many of them do not blow a trumpet that they have done something for society! I am sure that people are taking advantage of today’s situation for introspection. Raju you have a lot of social contacts, utilise them. Forget the politics, do it for society.

 Suhas, you and me, the retirees, can help the poor at least in our ecosystem. If each of us can support 2 to 5 people, in our COEP group, we would be helping 700 people regularly. It is doable!

Perceptions and Grudges!

Perception is how something is regarded, understood, or interpreted. A grudge is a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury. Though these two words have different meanings, these are interlinked in our day to day lives. An event takes place; we meet someone. We meet people for work, or we also meet casually. We meet known people or unknown people.  

According to my understanding, the perception comes into play firstthen the grudge may be formed if any. The same event is looked at by people in different ways. If five people are discussing why sales are going down, there will be ten different views. But some people have particular perception of the situation and do not accept opinions from others.  

Perception is best described by the story of an Elephant and five blind men. Each man thinks and depictthe elephant differently because he cannot see the whole elephant. They describe the elephant depending on the part they have touched. But in this case, the men are blind and cannot see the entire elephant. But in life, we also look at many situations like blind men. We are not blind, but our perceptions create a tunnel vision in our mind. We look at situations through that tunnel vision. Tunnel vision can also be compared with a narrow mind. The term narrowminded has been created for such thought process 

Why doe this happen? Why people become narrowminded? Why are people not willing to be open? It depends on how you are brought up from childhood, what experiences you get during childhood, younger days and later. Is this a good trait? The effect of such thinking is what many times leads to situations that are difficult to handle and can become complicated 

The net effect of perception leads to grudges. That is how perceptions and grudges are hands in glove! Sometimes, in addition to this, the ego also gets added to this mix. That then becomes a deadly situation.  

Take the example of Kashmir. British had the whole Indian subcontinent under their rule for 150 years. When we got independence, they divided the subcontinent based on religion. India and Pakistan were created. But about Kashmir, both India and Pakistan had different perceptions which have led to 70 years of continuous conflict. Both sides think that Kashmir is rightfully theirs. Pakistan believes so because the majority population there is Muslim. But Kashmir Raja was Hindu, so he had agreed to join India. Rest as they say is history. 

Recently I came to know about the situation in a family. I know both the brother and the sister. We went to the sister’s home for chitchat. While chatting, I asked her how her brother was? She said that he was fine, with the usual routine problems in life. After some more discussion, she said, “While chatting, I remembered about our mother who died several years back.” She said, “When I was talking about our mother, my brother looked upset and suddenly said, you don’t even take her name in front of me again. I was taken aback and stopped the subject. I don’t know what had happened between the two. I don’t even remember any specific incident or clash between two of them. What grudge was formed by him against her, I don’t know.” It is a case of a family of all educated people. Outwardly I knew there was some friction, but it is prevalent between any two people. It is there between husband and wife, parents and children. Sometimes a sibling gets more support and love from parents, but there are reasons for it. Whether those reasons are right or wrong is a matter of perception. But this lady felt that it was unfortunate when she realised that her brother had a big grudge about their mother.  

Perceptions and grudges make things difficult for everybody. As we grow from childhood to adulthood, we meet and see many people. We form our opinions about them, sometimes without giving the benefit of the doubt to that person. A friend was a Chairman of a medium-sized company; his colleagues used to be afraid of him as he was a bit short-tempered. But inwardly he was a soft person. He always would ask his colleagues about their family, the children and small details about everything at their home. He was so helpful that when one of his senior managers was to go to Japan, for the first time, he made sure that he had enough winter clothing and business suits. The manager was a vegetarian, and the boss suggested to him the ways of getting the right vegetarian food. The outwardly strict person had a personality which could be compared with coconut, hard from outside and soft from within with sweet water inside — those who did not know him from close thought that he was a tough person. 

Grudges sometimes can be funny also. I joined COEP, Pune in 1967, and I got admission to the hostel. There used to be different food messes run by the students. There was a different type of food in each mess. Two were cosmopolitan, which served non-vegetarian food. Then there was one with typical Maharashtrian food, another one used to serve Maharashtrian spicy food and one used to serve Gujarati type of food. I wanted to join the mess which used to serve typical Maharashtrian food. The committee would interview the prospective candidates. The committee consisted of senior students. I was not admitted. Hence, I joined a cosmopolitan mess. During my third year, I had become senior enough and moved the Maharashtrian mess. During a chat with the committee, I asked them why I was not admitted in the first place. I was told, “You were from Bombay, and you wore a bold striped shirt for the interview. So, the majority of the committee thought that I was showing attitude!” That used to be the perception about us Bombay guys in the late 60s of the last century. I had observed that some of the students from Pune would not talk to us guys. We were supposed to be smart and a half! Later, some of them have become very dear life-long friends. It was just a matter of perception. Luckily, they did not let the perception to convert into a grudge!  

Now in my golden years, after travelling all over the world, meeting different professionals from various fields and different countries. I have understood that humans are the same everywhere. Perceptions and grudges are common traits in all human beings. Lucky ones like me did not come into contact with too many of this type! Unless of course, now some might think that I have become equivalent of Boston Brahmin! (By the way, I am a Pune Brahmin in real life)  🙂🙂

 

 

Migration, Human and Birds!

Migration is a phenomenon that is happening since times unknown. Till permanent human settlements started, there was hardly any difference between human migration and migration by other species. Out of different species, birds are known to travel long distances for the reason of saving themselves from severe weather conditions. The species who could not fly had limitations of how much they could move to overcome harsh conditions. Humans must have also faced the same problems as these species. 

Polar bears handle the harsh winters differently. Nature has designed their body in such a way that they can prepare themselves in advance. The polar bears go into hibernation when the severe winter conditions begin. They go to sleep literally in caves, up to four months. They store enough food in their body and can go without food during hibernation. No other species hibernate like the bears, as per my knowledge. Turtles and other species are known to go to specific spots to lay their eggs, every year. Probably they “find” their “safe” area to lay eggs.  

Many birds like flamingos are known to travel thousands of km to protect themselves from harsh weather. It’s God’s design that has given the birds instincts and “GPS” to fly far away from their natural habitat. Human migration is a different phenomenon altogether. When did the human race move away from their nomadic phase? Once they started designing and creating various modes of transport, the migration process started. But the reasons for human migration very rarely have been the weather. In very few cases, human still moves to different locations during harsh weather conditions. It may be snow, rains or the harsh Sun! But now the reasons are many and varied. New ideas for migration keep getting added. There are so many aspects to non human migration,  maybe I will write separately on that subject. 

In migration between humans and other species, the main difference is the feelings, human bonds and the alienation that humans feelFor humans, ithe initial phase, migration started from adventure, to look for El Dorado, education, for jobs! Europeans travelled to the east to take over colonies to spread their empire. Reasons like political asylum or refuge to different countries to run away from wars or despotic regimes have now been added. Humans don’t mind going to places where the weather is harsh for improving their careers and leading better lives! My current sojourn made me think about how humans deal with the mental aspect and social aspect of life. It made me think about the assimilation of humans with the new society. It is about the social aspects of keeping in touch with friends and families back home. It is about keeping your own culture and taking part in the new culture. 

Anandi Gopal Joshi was the first wellknown migrant who went to the US to take medical education. I can’t even imagine how she must have managed it in those days. Anandibai died young at the of 22 in the year 1887. So naturally, we do not know what she went through in those days and how she handled it. Compared to the current level of communication, in those days, there was zero communication or as good as no communication. How must she have handled the initial phase after reaching the US? Did she have enough money to eat every day? Did she have sufficient warm clothing for the winter? I am sure she must have been a vegetarian, so what food did she eat in those days?  

Especially in the US and Canada, migration is nothing new. The countries came into being by the migration of the British, the Spanish and the French to that vast landmass overcoming and initially killing “the American Indians”! These countries came into being with war and migration — the main aim of reaching the landmass was to form the respective colonies.  

Since early 50 s of the last century, many people have been moving around the world, but large percentage move to the US for obvious reasons. In olden times the communication method must have been by postal mail, in today’s language snail mail. Telephones were rare in India, so communicating back home must have been difficult. know of someone who called his parents on the phone (parents had a phone at home in India) only once in fifteen years when his twins were born!   

Jaya was in the US for one year for her MS in 1980-81. We did not have phone at home in Pune. Jaya would send me a letter to fix the time on which she would call me at someone’s houseWe considered it lucky if we got connected within one hour of the set time.  

With pathbreaking changes in communication methods, today it is effortless to remain in touch with eacother. These changes help the migrated persons to be in touch with back home, and the emotional umbilical cord remains intact, helping to settle down quickly. But I have known of extreme cases of the communication spectrum.  

A classmate moved to the US in 70 s of the last century. He has travelled to India only once during these 45 plus years. I did not have the heart to ask him the reason, but from the discussion I had with him did not indicate any specific reasons– I did not probe. I know of a family who was at the other extremeTheir daughter moved after marriage. The parents would talk to her on the video chat for two to two and half hours every day for the first five years. I don’t want to become judgmental in this, but when are you going to make your children independent? I know that this same girl would have two to two and a half hours discussion or much less with her parents in a week, when she was in India.  

Migrated families have their practical difficulties. As they grow, so do their children. Those who have managed to remain connected with back home, they come for marriages and deaths in the families. That also later becomes difficult as they move up the ladder in their careers. They also want to take their family holidays in different parts of the world. Their connect becomes weak depending on case to case.  

Many people of my age now come back home to be away from harsh winters from November to March. But this is going to happen in people of my generation. How much connect will remain after we are gone is difficult to predictI always wonder how much relate will the thirdgeneration Panvalkar or Kulkarni will have with India?  

Frequency of coming “home starts reducing from one year to two years to maybe even five years. Such things can happen when parents back home don’t die early enough and get restrictions on travel. When these physical meetings start reducingI have seen in many families that the mother is waiting hoping to make that favourite dish, their “child” loved thirty years back. But the child does not have time when in India because of other commitments.  

Each individual, each family, handles these issues in their unique waysbut one thing is sure the situations will remain in flux and will keep on changing, which to me, is natural! How to handle such things? What is the magic wand? Where is the magic wandBut I hear from many of my generation, that the magic wand  is getting developed under the name of detachment!  

  

 

 

Are you not proud of your nation?

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As usual, let me make a disclaimer! I don’t care which party is ruling our country! Whatever I am writing in this blog is apolitical! We were under the British rule for 150 years before the independence we got on the 15th of August in 1947! Thanks to strong personalities like Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, we became India or Bharat as we are known in the world todayOur national wealth was looted by the British under the garb of collecting taxestaking away raw materialBritish presence (and their final going away) did a few good things for India. We became one nation, we had railways, we had an established all-India administrative and police services.  

In Nehru era Public Sector units, Irrigation got significant importance. Indira Gandhi broke Pakistan into two, thereby correcting the problem created by the British by at least 50%! Kashmir issue resolution opportunity was lost; it could have been achieved in the Shimla Agreement. Indian population showed great maturity in overcoming Emergency, the black patch on the Indian Democracy! Jayprakash Narayan led the movement though he was old by that time.  

Next twenty years were tumultuous, but India somehow overcame the same, though we did not have strong leadership. India’s jumping the IT bandwagon successfully started the financial growth processAlong with fast economic growth, crony capitalism and corruption at different levels increased at breakneck speedCheating the government with shell companies was at peak and was used for money laundering.  

All the governments did a lot of good things in their times and bad things too! Then came the Modi Government in 2014 and looks like it will run till 2024! They have had their ups and downs. They have also done some good things and some bad things. From this angle, it is not much different than the previous governments.  

Along with fast economic growth, crony capitalism and corruption at different levels increased at breakneck speedCheating the government with shell companies was at peak and was used for money laundering and diverting funds. These issues created a need for strong actions.

There are specific actions taken by this government which were never considered by any other government before. These were essential for a mature democracy and were generally discussed previously with a glass of Chivas Regal. Nobody ever thought that it was possible in India. 

Yesterday, I shared a certificate displayed below with my friends. The reactions to the certificate were varied! “I have already done it” was message sent by many. Some people sent me a congratulatory messageMy friend Shrikant appreciated this very strongly, and that is what led me to write this blog. 

Certificate ofCommitement

He wrote an elaborate message which I am sharing verbatim!  

“What did you do? Please elaborate?? Such certificates are sent by IT/Vigilance department of Govt of India, to persons having an impeccable track record of regular tax payments & no offences registered, in Govt data tracker! Just a law-abiding citizen. I am also told this is an initiative to motivate/thank taxpayers while furthering the stated objective of putting a high premium on honesty. I have received two such certificates already. Many others also must have! 👍😊 

An individual or an organisation can go to the website https://pledge.cvc.nic.in/ and take this pledge if one desires so. When I went to the site, it also shared information that 85,86,062 individuals and 123,138 organisation have taken this pledge. In the discussion  on our WhatsApp group, somebody said, “Why do you need a certificate?”  

Then a thought came to my mind. We always ask the question what has my nation done for me? But should we not be asking the questionwhat have I done for my nation? I feel that the British have, along with many things, ensured that our pride for our nation was killed. Even today some people say, “We don’t deserve to run our nation. The British should be brought back to run it.”  

The current government has taken many actions in international diplomacy, where people listen when India talks! Now, do we not feel proud of the nation? One major historical correction by India of removing article 370 provisions for Kashmir got allround support in the world. Except for Pakistan’s all-weather friend China, all major countries have supported India. China too is looking at Pakistan from strategic and commercial point of view. Let Pakistan default on repayment to China then it will be interesting to see what China does!  

From the beginning of the 21st centurythe concept of media changed drastically. We started having TV news Superstars” who considered themselves knowledgeable in everything. They started behaving as if they were Gods of media; all others were treated by them as mere mortals. Sycophancy was at its best during this phase. Corruption, both material and moral, reached its peak. There formed a group of people who had jumped the free jaunts bandwagon. They would travel with ministers and the Prime Minister. They ended up giving sermons to others — Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, et al. added to this list. You and I were immaterial. 

Now this government has started the initiative of pledging integrity to the nation. It is like saluting when Jan Gan Man is sung or keeping your hand on your heart! I felt proud to take the formal oath; I felt proud of my nation. All through my life, I have always tried to avoid paying bribes for personal work or business. Sometimes I failed as I was not the final authority to take that decision; I was an advisor to some companies. But in my software and furnacerelated business, I have never paid a single Rupee bribe.  

Some of my friends were cynic about this drive. India has had a poor record as far integrity is concerned. Sometimes, we say God Promise; similarly, here we are saying “Nation Promise”! Till date, not even one per cent of people have taken the pledge mainly because many may not be aware of this initiative. When we say God Promise, do we break the promise? The same logic can be and should be applied to your nation. Assume that even 5% of people take this pledge, will it not make any change in India? Will you beak your new version of “God Promise”?  

What have to say to the cynics? For those who tried to make fun of the certificate, I shared, I will say in the endI can understand the doubters because things have not been as they should have been, so they feel that people will take the pledge but keep on doing what they have been doing! We are always going to have Naysayers who are fashionably called Liberals! Liberals group was not very much against government stuff as they were getting their foreign jaunts and were able to run Nalanda Vidyapeeth-just to give an example.  

Government has started a new portal for a portal http://www.pgportal.gov.in/ The portal is used as  Centralised Public Grievance Redressal Monitoring system 

Such an initiative has never been tried before.  

External affairs ministry under Sushma Swaraj was helping individuals stuck in foreign countries due to some issues. Mr Modi makes it a point to spend a day during Diwali with soldiers on the borders.  

I am not at all saying that it is hunkydory on all fronts. In many areas, issues and problems continue. To run a nation as big and as diverse as India is not going to be easy. On top of that, the British had looted our wealth for 150 years and made us a developing countrywhere famines were a part of life initially. But the green revolution, white revolution (Milk and Sugar) have taken place. In many areas like infrastructure, India is progressing fast. Metros are being built in many large cities. Let’s not forget ISRO!  

To me, the definition of naysayers is a bit different, besides the conventional oneThese are the people who after having toilets at home, want to go to the fields because they feel manly. It is those people who routinely break many laws and rules of public life, like parking, wrong side driving. These are the people who behave rudely with service providers like waiters; they cut corners at every possible opportunity in public lifeThese are the people who follow every general rule just after taking a fivehour flight from Mumbai to Singapore!  

About the friend who made fun of my statement about the certificate should go and ask the Sahara Boss, DSK Boss, Unitech Boss and many other such socalled big people if things are funnyMallya and Neerav Modi are enjoying their new status as fugitives and are forced to take shield behind the slow legal process in Britain. I am sure they have very high social status in the British page, three people!  

Income tax department sends certificates to people who pay personal Income Tax above specific value and appreciates them for being honest and proud citizens.  

Government is trying to push honesty culture, and if people find it funny, they must laugh loudly! If someone finds that it is a joke that I am proud of being an Indian, so be it! Some people have queer sense of humour!  

 

 

 

Should Hindi be imposed?

My friend Shrikant wrote on Facebook a very sensible note about an alleged imposition of Hindi all over India. He is a മരുമകൻ– son in law of Kerala. So, I presume that he is in a better position than me to comment. This led me to read the original statement made by Amit Shah, our home minister on the subject. The gist of what he said is in the statement below. 

Mr Shah said, Hindi is spoken by most of the people and can unite the whole country. He said efforts would be made to expand Hindi to different parts of the country but not at the cost of other languages. Shah later also said that the foreign language English is predominant in India, so instead why not Hindi?  

I have not understood the controversy in the statement. Shah has not said that it should be promoted at the cost of the regional languages, anywhere in the statement.  

Culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behaviour, and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups.  

Even 200 years back, India was not known as India as it is recognised today. Till then there were Rajahs, Badshahs who used to run their own kingdom. In those times, travel and communication facilities were inferior. Going from place A to place B would take hours if not days. With these limitationsthe bouquet of knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals would remain disconnected with other cultures. The possibility of the merging of cultures must have been within a distance of about 50  to 75 km if the terrain was not steepWith rough terrain, that also would be difficult.  

1947 created India and Pakistan. British had started the railways; road transport had become better than before. Travel had become a bit easier. So some mixing of culture started automatically. If we consider only the state of Maharashtra, people spoke different Marathi in Bombay, Pune, Nagpur, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, JalgaonThe spoken languages were distinctly differentLocal dialects also merged with spoken wordsSo when we speak of Marathi, nobody is really sure Marathi of which region we are talking about.  

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So why then the emotional reactions about Shah’s statement. In the year 1978, I remember that in Bangalore we had shared a taxi for a tour with two couples, one Tamil and the other Kannada. We communicated with each other in English. What Shah has suggested, instead of English, why not Hindi? It is just a suggestion; does it amount to imposition? Central Government has offices in all the states and Hindi day is celebrated in each office, irrespective of which state it is. What is the point in looking at every statement from a political angle? Are elections the only important aspect in life? Kashmir had even more serious issues due to decisions taken by Britishers. But the government has resolved it in one stroke. Rules and regulations must be enforced but culture? No way, but who is forcing the culture? A statement made at a function was not a policy declaration. 

Culture seeps on its own. Let us look at the airports. A large number of people travel by air these days. For some reason, almost all CISF personnel are Hindi speaking individuals. You got to any airport from Chennai, Kochi, Vizag to Guwahati. They communicate many times in Hindi, but nobody objects to that. Idli-Dosa is the South Indian staple food, but it is almost becoming national food. You are out and want to have some food quickly. You go to Idli-Dosa joint in any city, and you are out in 20 minutes. Even Mcdonalds has not been able to penetrate their market. Has anyone made it compulsory to eat Idli-Dosa? Hindi films is another medium which merges cultures beautifully! When Shah Rukh dances to the tune of Lungi Dance, Lungi Dance, the whole of India likes it, not only Tamils or Malayalis 

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=lungi+dance+video+youtube&view=detail&mid=4AAD8BE78B35602C090E4AAD8BE78B35602C090E&FORM=VIRE 

The so-called resistance to Hindi is in the Sothern States of India. Script for these languages is quite different compared to Hindi. But the alleged differences are historical as India became India for the first time in 1947! For reasons already discussed, these differenopinions were natural, and people thought that Hindi was being imposed on them. I will share one example which indicates the complexity due to the technological changes that have taken place in the last seventy years. The regional languages naturally could not keep pace with technological changes. The onslaught of technology was felt by German, French, Spanish and Chinese too! English has come back strongly and has now almost become a global language, thanks to Computerisation!  

The way languages world over are facing the issue,  our regional languages also faced the same problem. These languages cannot cope up with the technological changes. But WhatsApp and Facebook have facilitated all local languages to be used for communication. Thereby the feared obscurity of the languages is gone. Now people chat in Tamil, Marathi and Telugu; and many other languages. Those who are English educated but know the mother tongue, use the Roman script to communicate in their language! “Barobar ahe na?” (Am I right?) I wrote Marathi in the roman script. So, nobody is going to kill local languages.  

How rich the regional languages will remain, depends on people using itAfter all most people “think” in the mother tongueDon’t worry too much. Tyre repair guy will be mostly Anna from Kerala! Idli-Dosa guy will be from Udupi! Recently I have observed that in the construction business, Bihari workers in Pune are being replaced by those from Bengal. In the hospitality industry, we see many ladies from North-East states working in large cities and even in distant hill stations like Mahabaleshwar. But mind you, most of them are conversant with the local language when their stay is long enough, but they also know Hindi!  

One thing we should never forget that language richness, quality and type changes with era. What was considered classic when I was in school, does not appear so today. The same thing is true with songs and movies too! Yesteryears classics seem a bit naïve today! Today’s generation loves today’s classics better than classics of my school daysThere is nothing wrong in that; tastes changevalue system changes! 

So friends, don’t get excited and start slanging matches; don’t begin your protests. Go and see a Hindi movie or a Tamil movie! You will love it! Nation’s unity is more important, not the regional language! 

New RTO regime and Indian psyche!

From 1st September 2019 Government of India started applying modified rules and regulations to people breaking laws on Indian roadsRTO is road transport organisationIndians as a society have remained fixated to oldtime India when bullock-carts or walking was the primary mode of going from place A to place B. There have been laws and rules even before 1st September 2019, but the fines and punishment had not been modified with changing times. To give you a better perspective of the penalties, I will share some information. I paid Rs 110/ as my term fee for engineering course. A new car would cost 8 to 10 thousand rupees. The year was in early ’70 s of the last centuryNow I am told that the fees are rupees one hundred and fifty thousand and the new car costs in the region of Rs five hundred thousand. But the fines for breaking laws remained Rs one hundred to Rs five hundred. 

I am writing this blog with real anguish and frustration about our brethren’s views about these changes. Not one person has openly said that he entirely agrees with what the Government has done. We always talk about our fivethousand-year-old culture, of which we are rightly proud. But any system needs to change with time. It needs to be modified as we move forward. We talk about having fantastic places from snowclad mountains, to beaches, to forests in India! Why many small countries still attract more tourists than India? Reasons are simple and obvious. No area in India looks neat, organised and modern. By these words I do no talk of shining new skyscrapers, I am not talking of gleaming Metros or buses. I mean that we do not have a disciplined society, people and systems! Our cities look archaic and chaotic. 

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It was always said that the government has been too weak; there is too much corruption at the lower level. How can we ever change? We had the same attitude about the Kashmir issue. When the British left India in 1947, they created a big mess which continued till 5th August 2019. The similar mess could continue till 31st August on our roads. With low fines, poor implementation of laws, Indian road traffic has been chaotic to talk generously. But the government took decisive and bold steps. 

With new laws, there will be fear in the mind of people. Even if the police continue to take bribes, because of the high level of fines“settlement” will be expensive! Many educated people have suddenly started feeling about poor people who will have to pay the hefty fines, which may also include confiscation of vehicles. When I argued with people why worry about hefty fines, people should not break the rules! People have no answers or have lame replies.  

Kashmir situation and Indian road situations are very similar. A similar situation was present in the building/construction industry too! The sector was breaking the rules at every stage, cheating customers with impunity. They were getting away with murder, figuratively. With the introduction of RERAit ensured that the industry follows laws or else! In Delhi NCR area before RERA introduction, 2/3 large construction companies cheated almost hundred thousand people; they took advance money and never gave them homesThe directors and promoters of these companies are now in jail.  

Indian roads and automotive users are breaking basic laws without any fear. Entering from the wrong direction in one-way streets, parking vehicle below the No Parking boards, driving Motorcycles on footpaths is common sight. I have seen young gentlemen throwing five hundred rupees note at the policeman who caught them.  

Pune is a unique city where socalled intellectuals are born with an extraordinary brain. It is the only city in India where people are formally demanding to cancel the helmet usage rule for two-wheelers. The demand is led by a trained engineer who has lived in the US for about 15 years. Statistically, it is proven that when the helmet is worn, in 90 % cases death is avoided, if an accident takes placeBut the counterargument is, it is our life! (Extraordinary brain!)  

Now the fines are so hefty that once the stories of penalties and punishment start trickling down, people will think ten times before casually breaking the law. Some people on our WhatsApp group are arguing differently. It is group of engineering college batchmates who have seen the world and done well in life. The government which cannot give potholefree roads, good traffic signals has no moral rights to punish people for breaking the rules. Are you entering the wrong direction on oneway entry road because of pot-holesIs it due to bad traffic signals? Are you driving your motorcycle on foot-path for these same reasons? Are you going helmetless on two-wheelers for these reasons? 

These two are independent subjects and need to be discussed separately. By all means, agitate against these issues. Make sure your non-performing representative loses the next electionBut here again, there is a problem. Who has time to go for voting every five years? Is it not easy to simply break the traffic rules 

Friends, we have no justification for our acts whatever you may argue. Some years backour flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai was announced with a request to allow passengers using wheelchair to board first. It took ten minutes for the airport staff to literally push away people who were not allowing wheel-chair bound passengers to board first. 95% of the passengers were Indians. What were we protesting against at Frankfurt airport 

Since last two days, there is road repair work on the street where my daughter lives in MontrealBoards are saying, “No parking from 7 am to 7 pm.” Never saw a single car parked there during this period.  I am not saying people don’t break the rules in other countries, but the percentage of such people is minimal.  

On one side in India, we have the Lutyens gang, the liberals who protest against anything done by the government. When courts gave death punishment to a terrorist, many years back, there were protests about human rights. When Kashmiri youth were pelting stones at the soldiers, there were protests when pellet guns were used. There were no protests against stone-pelting. Pakistan based terrorists made attacks in Kashmir; objections were raised if terrorists were killed but not when soldiers were killed. Kashmir used to be under lock-down for to 3 months at a time due to strikes made by people against some actions taken by the government. Now after 5th August, there is a government lock-down and liberals are protesting.  

Some of the mainstream leaders have made statements against the government act about article 370India is a democracy; we have rights to protest. But these people could have protested against the method used, the procedure followed during this act. But when Pakistan was following the doctrine of 1000 cuts against India, nobody complained much, in fact, they challenged the retaliations made by the Indian government.  

To me, all such people are hollow people; these are vain people. When the government does not act, blame them correctly. But finally, when the government acts, they are now saying, old things were better. Rules from the times of bullock cart days were the best. In Pune, I have observed that the traffic jams are mainly due to indisciplined driving habits of the people.  

One day, I was taking a right turn at a signal at Nal Stop Chowk in Pune. Suddenly, about 20 two-wheeler riders decided that they were too much in a hurry and simply drove through the red signal; the policeman was standing near the signal naturally could not react! Is it not a classic case to reduce fines back to 50 and hundred rupees?  

You naysayers, please look at your face in the mirror first and then show the mirror to someone else. How many of us can say, by putting a  hand on our heart, that I have never broken any basic traffic rule?  

This is a random photo, taken today,  of the street which is being repaired in Montreal in front of my daughter’s home!

cyclestand1

I have only one item on my bucket list. To see people in India follow basic rules in public in general and traffic in particular! Jaihind 

The world is my Oyster!

Adab and Namaste!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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