Eh! Non! 

I remembered something. In a village in Turkey, people communicate with each other by whistling.

Languages, gestures are ways of communicating with each other. Humans and other species have been communicating with each other since old times. Now things have supposedly evolved, but there are some words and gestures which may have a long history or may have a history about which we do not know. How and when the terms get to mean what really means today, is sometimes difficult to understand.

Non is a word used in French, which means Not in English. It is said that the French appear to be negative in their approach to everything in life. For most of the discussions, if a query gets raised or a question comes up, the answer is most of the time Non. For some questions like a son asking his mother, “Can I start taking drugs?” The answer Non means a firm No! But in most other cases, Non is the first volley of opening-up of further discussion. Why does this happen? French as a language is not a clear language like English. English has absorbed hundreds of thousands of words from other languages, over a period. Jungle and Bazzar are common words that English has absorbed from Hindi. Has it diluted the language? Non! It has made English more vibrant. French has only seventy thousand words, whereas English has five hundred thousand words (5 Lacs). In French, since there are not many words, some sentences can become vague. The Fench cannot sometimes precisely explain what they want to say as there are words which have a double meaning.

The problem starts here. Suppose there is a situation which can be resolved by discussions, the French feel that it best to say Non with an intonation that can mean different things. One could be, I have not understood what you have said. Another could be, tell me more about what you are saying. Instead of Non if they say Oui, then the discussion is over, and you cannot change again as you have accepted something. Non is a starting point of further discussions, or an open-ended invitation to discuss further. At the end of many “Non” will come out a real “Oui”! Do you get what I am saying? Non? 🙂🙂

It is similar when Canadians use the word, Eh! What does Eh mean? As a word, it is just an exclamatory word! But it has a different meaning again with context and intonation! How did it become associated with Canada? In languages, there is what known as a tag. A tag, in linguistics, is a word or sound or short phrase added after a thought which changes that thought in some way. The most common tags are question tags, which transform a thought into a question. “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?” would be one example. The tag “isn’t it” turns that statement of fact into something that could prompt a response; the speaker is asking for confirmation or rejection. “Eh” is known as an invariant tag—something added to the end of a sentence that’s the same every time it’s used.

But “isn’t it” is a variant tag. If used in the plural, it will become “aren’t they”. If you talk about something that was in the past, you will say, “wasn’t it”. But usage of Eh will never change with anything; hence it is called an invariant tag.

There are different ways a Canadian could use “eh.” The first is while stating an opinion: “It’s a nice day, eh?” Another would be as an exclamation tag, added to a sentence to indicate surprise: “What a game, eh?” Or you could use it for a request or command: “Put it over here, eh?” And then there’s the odd example of using it within a criticism: “You messed that one up, eh?”

The beauty of all this is that as a word, Eh does not mean anything. Is it like some spice that we use while cooking? We can make the food to taste differently by adding various spices! Like the simple word Eh, you add a dash of that spice in your food, to give different culinary experiences.

According to some linguists, these “Ehs” a word by itself. “All of these uses have one pragmatic purpose in common: they all show politeness,”. Using “eh” to end the statement is a way for the speaker to express solidarity with the listener. It’s not exactly asking for reassurance or confirmation, but it’s not far off: the speaker is saying, hey, we’re on the same page here, we agree on this. So instead of saying all this, he just says, “Eh” in the end!

These different ways of saying, Eh, bring out different meanings. We can compare it with various methods which are used to prepare a food item. In India, we have chutney as a side dish. It can be slightly hot to very hot, but always tasty. We make groundnut chutney by putting the mixture in a grinder. It makes finely grated chutney but is the least delicious. Then we make the same chutney in a manual device called Khalbatta.

Okay, I am not a culinary expert, but I know a few things. Chutney made in a mixer had groundnuts in finely flaked, chopped format.

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The chutney made in Khalbatta brings out some oil out of the nuts because of stomping action.  Those used for making chutney are much larger.

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Pata-Warvanta brings out the most oil from the nuts. It is used for crushing the nuts multiple times. The taste and the aroma of the chutney are best when the oil from the nuts is brought out. In the mixer-grinder, only the chopping action takes place; hence no oil is brought out.

An unusual Indian way of saying yes, without uttering the word, Yes! When we mean yes, we always give our neck a lateral movement, from left to right and back. Internationally, it is an action to say NO! Many times I have seen non-Indians who are confused by our No-Yes!

The stereotype of Canadians saying “eh” is so strong that Canadians have ended up reclaiming the word for themselves, even those Canadians who don’t use it very often. Eh is now part of Canadian culture. Citi-bred Canadians don’t use Eh! A popular children’s book about Canadian culture is titled “From Eh? To Zed.” The first prime minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald, is often referred to as “Sir John Eh.”

Probably this is the reason Harry and Meghan have chosen Canada to live in future. They got fed up of impolite tabloids in Britain and chose a polite Canada.

Friends do you know such interesting titbits from other languages from other culture or language?

New challenges of the modern world! 

Western World and the Japanese have been handling the challenges with ageing population for some time. In India, this challenge has started coming up slowly. The current generation, those who were born around India’s independence in 1947is ageing well, trying to take care of healthand in general gungho about life in general. Technology is helping them in getting in touch with each other using WA, Facebook, Instagram and such apps.  

India has an old tradition of handling the aged relatives in the family. In my young age, in many families there used to be one or two grannies, lovingly called aajjies! In those times most of the families were joint families. From the “post-independence” generation, people started getting better opportunities for education. A small percentage of the population went to foreign countries and stayed back there. Over a period, this percentage started increasing. Computerisation made technology more democratic; more and more people began getting opportunities to work and live abroad. 

Along with this, opportunities for education and work, jobs became abundant. Pan Indian migration started in a big way. All these things resulted in the formation of nuclear families. The ladies too were not far behind. After education ladies became  career oriented in a big way. Steady and better incomes inculcated a new thought process in families. All this gave birth to a new term, space; everybody wanted their space. It has become the requirement of grandparents, parents and children. But this space created voids in the family. The effect of voids was not understood, initially. The family kept helping and supporting each other in the short term. Better medical treatments and diagnostics helped longevity. All these events together have now created a new requirement in society.  

What happens when someone in the family falls ill and needs long time support. The requirement of long-term support arose when people of the golden generation became old but could not handle many things, physically; and in some cases mentally. There are two distinctive supports available. One is palliative support, and the other is like home support. Those who are seriously ill with cancer, heart issues, renal problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary issues, cerebrovascular accident need palliative care; such treatment cannot be handled at home. But general ageing related issues can be dealt under home care.  

In western countries, especially in the US, palliative care facilities are available. In Japan, there is a shortage of such facilities. In India, these facilities, compared to the needs, are almost non-existent. In India, as a society, we are prepared to provide space to each other, but while this change happened, we had not budgeted for parents who can live longer due to improved longevity. The confluence of all this created turmoil in people’s mind about handling the situation. In the year 1981, Jaya and I were in Ottawa as Jaya was taking some training. During one long weekend, we went to an island on a lake with a Canadian friend of ours; he was almost twenty years senior to us. 

On the way back, the friend said, “Hey folks, is it ok if I take a bit of detour?” We said, “Absolutely no issues.” When we reached a destination, the friend said, “It is an old people’s home, my mother is here. I come and meet her every 2/3 months.” We were sitting at the back-side of the car and were confused. We did not know what we were supposed to do. But our problem was solved by his wife. In the parking lot, she said, “I will wait with Jaya and Pramod; you go and see your mother.” Problem solved. In 1981, our friend was ok with the idea of meeting his mother every 2/3 months, because she was within 50 km from Ottawa. As a society, we are not mentally prepared with this idea. The older people’s homes available are not providing facilities that people have at home.  

There is some progress in creating facilitiesBut compared to India’s population, this number is lowIt is about creating facilities; it is also about young and old getting mentally prepared for such arrangements. Hospices need doctors, trained nurses, and medical facility to handle day to day critical requirements. Whereas in older people’s homes, the need is to create facilities which suit all the pockets. Some may need fivestar facilities, and others may be ok with a couple of stars. But there is a significant need for affordable facilities.  

Some people will ask me why am I writing about all these things. The simple reason is it is a need of times like we have schools, colleges, gardens and so on. I hope people have managed to create a corpus which will last them till they are around. 

I will tell you about some facilities in India that I know. According to me, there is a worldclass facility but I will explain it in the end. Please let me know if you know about such facilities in India. In Pune, there is one facility developed by Paranjape builders called Athashri. It is well developed and within Pune city limits. To my knowledge, they have couple of locations. In these facilities, one can buy a condo or rent it from someone who has bought it. I have heard about similar facility in Talegaon near Pune. In Lavasa near Pune, similar facilities are there. I have read something about such facilities near Dehradun, and I am sure there must be more such facilities.  But they do not provide what is provided by Dignity Foundation.

The best of such facilities for me is one in Neral. It is on a hillock, with gradually sloping covered but open corridors. Golf carts are available for those who need them. The place is called Dignity foundation. 

https://www.dignityfoundation.com/Contact-Us.aspx 

The rooms that I saw were like a standard hotel room, with bath and toilet. It had a small cupboard and kitchenette too. They also provide round the clock nursing service if required. I know all the details because someone very close to us lived there for her last few years. They had an arrangement with Reliance Hospital if hospitalisation was required. When she needed an eye treatment, they sent their person with her for a couple of days to Mumbai for treatment. She used to paint, so they had provided her with a small room. Besides joint celebrations, they used to show movies and had many activities. 

When she died, the family suggested cremation in Mumbai. But their manager suggested that if there were no specific reason to do it Mumbai, they would arrange everything in NeralWe all went to Neral for cremation. After everything was completed, the manager suggested a small tour of the facility because some of the people had never seen it before. In the end, he took us to their dining area.

He said, “Sir, it is already 1.30 pm. The management has suggested that all of you should have lunch with us and know what kind of food the residents is served.” It was a standard home type food for lunch. But what impressed all of us was the gesture they showed and took part in the cremation as if someone from their family had died! We knew her last twothree years must have passed the way she wanted. It is not the facilities but the human touch that is important. After all, people who live there are far from their family.  

Subtle changes in the lifestyle! 

In the year 2016, Jaya and I had taken an Alaska cruise. One day, while entering the lift (elevator), I observed that there was a mat on the lift floor with excellent little design, and Wednesday was written on the same. Then we both realised that we had lost track of time. We had boarded on a Sunday, and it was already Wednesday. They were changing the mat every day so that people did not lose track of days.

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There were so many things to do on the cruise, and there were shore excursions. We were in our own world, busy with something or sometimes just doing nothing. We used to sit in the balcony of our cabin to gaze at the sea and the waves. When we used to enter a  harbour, we could see small, lush green hills or sometimes there were tall mountains near the shore.

Recently after coming back from Canada, I got a similar feeling at home. We were with Priya, Nikhil and Rhea in Canada. After coming back, we realised that day to day schedule is not at all rushed, except when we are going for dinners and parties or movies. Jaya and I do some professional work which keeps us busy two to three days in the month!

In this month, we have to attend four marriage ceremonies which will keep us busy. Then next Monday, Jaya has the US visa dropbox appointment so that we will be going there. But in general, there are no specific must-do programs or events. A couple of times, I asked Jaya what day is it today? Then I realised that we had reached a phase in our life where there are hardly any must-do things on any day. The solution to this, I thought, was to keep track of day and date. We have a perpetual calendar at home, but it does not have the day display. I ordered one from Amazon. The calendar will help me keep track of dates and days.

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By ordering this calendar from Amazon, I made the physical and mental change that will keep track of the days too. Such need was never felt before.

I am aware that we have reached the golden phase in our lives, and need to take benefit out of the time available to us. I go to a gym, and Jaya has made a new year resolution to join the gym from 1st January. So, we will have a gym as one of our regular activities. Jaya’s second new year resolution is to restart painting. I did my Oxford online course to put me out of my comfort zone. The course was my first formal learning in writing English Literature. While in school, I learnt English from 7th grade to 11th  grade. All my engineering education was in English. The Oxford course kept my mind busy for those 2 ½ months as I was probably the only student in that class who had never taken courses in literature, before!

2020 will be the first year where our life will be timeless, similar to weightlessness in space. I have read a few things about space travel and found out that with weightlessness, many necessary activities need to be performed differently and carefully. There will be family commitments, but they will be much less if we compare to all these years, with both the children living abroad.

As the ageing process, this change in lifestyle happens subtly and not suddenly. We have now decided that get the body conditions checked regularly; the frequency will be as per doctors advice. Yesterday we were with our ENT friend for a basic checkup. I had a bit of cold too! I told him that I get dryness in the throat and have a problem swallowing dry food. He said, “Pramod, this is also part of the ageing process. Now you will realise why I have suggested yearly check-up of organs. Before you eat dry stuff, drink a sip of water to make your throat wet.”

Meeting doctors and their fraternity is going to be more frequent and essential now. These meetings were very few in younger days. Currently also, by God’s grace, these visits are not due to illness but for audit check-ups. The subtle changes are bound to take place. Your body is always sending you signals. If you get any different signal, get it checked. Delay in such checking can cause unforeseen health issues. With our age, doctors can find it challenging to handle illnesses if we ignore body signals.

I know of a family who has delayed in reaching the doctors and consequences of this delay are devastating. The changes in body conditions were not subtle but were distinct. One day the friend called me because he wanted to take an appointment with a neuro physician, I know. I organised that. They went and saw the doctor, and gave me the feedback. They were happy with the doctor.

Later, when I met my doctor friend, I asked her if things were under control with my friend’s daughter. She said, “I have started the treatment, but they have come to me five years late. The daughter who is nearing 40 now can barely walk; she has a lot of pain. She cannot climb even three-four steps. Another thing, your friend also looked unwell. So, I casually asked him how was his health. He said that his diabetes is under control.” I told the doctor that this friend is going through dialysis twice a week. His kidneys are damaged because of diabetes.” She was shocked and said that it looks like your friends family does not understand the seriousness of things in life.

I have mentioned the above episode because I am talking about subtle changes but this family ignored even strong signals. On top of this,  my friend has not accepted that he has severe health issues.

Our decision to keep regular checks of body organs makes sense. I hope all my friends in this Golden phase are doing the same regularly. Longevity has gone up. So keeping track of subtle changes in the body make sense to have a good quality of life.

We have also decided to have some time table of doing things and will try to keep our brain busy. Subtle changes in brain functions can be easily ignored by saying, “Oh, now that I am passed 70, I am bound to forget things.” That is true to some extent. But let the doctors decide the source of the signal, it may not be related to ageing. It could be that hearing is reduced; it could be that your brain functioning in certain areas is changing slowly.

So keep on doing something, give time to friends. Family always gets priority anyway. Locate some people who need company. It could be your neighbour or it could people living in older people’s home. If you spend some time with them once in a while, you will see a smile on their faces.

That reminds of the tagline of Voice of America radio station, making their broadcast from Colombo during my school days. “If you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours.”

So go and buy that perpetual calendar and keep track of date and day both. I am sure you understand what I mean. Make sure that you have something to look forward to, next Thursday and Monday after that, every week. Don’t forget that every day is a Sunday in the timelessness zone of our life. It is in our hands to make the days count! It is our responsibility to ensure that we live the golden phase of our life with minimum outside support.

Our life is not a seven-day cruise. You need to find ways of keeping you busy with your mind and body activities!

A stitch in time!

A stitch in time saves nine! The wellknown idiom tells us that if we act on something in time, it saves many future issues. It is right in every field of life, especially about our health. Some people are lucky that they do not have any serious medical problemthroughout their lifebut others are not so lucky. The luck plays some role in this, but many times it is procrastination that comes in the way, and we delay the actionSuch acts can cause lifelong damage or even death 

But then it is human nature. Another important aspect is what type of treatment should one take. People try Allopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurved, or some other kind including going to the sadhus in the belief that they will cure you.

It is an individual choice! Though we know the effects of delay, we keep on continuing the same mistakes. 

Jaya and I usually act fast if we find some abnormal symptoms, but that does not mean that we rush to the doctor’s clinic the moment we sneezeSome families have less knowledge about medical things, in general. It can cause delays and difficulties.  

More than a decade backI was diagnosed with hernia. The doctor said that surgery is the only option, earlier the better. He asked when I can find time for the surgery. I said, “Tomorrow morning. Do I get admitted tonight or early tomorrow morning?” He smiled and said, I am already booked for the next two days. Why don’t we do it on Friday?”  

In Nov 2013, I had a bad throat, and my voice changed. I went and saw my ENT doctor. He suggested the usual medicines, gargling in the first week. In the second, he gave me antibiotics. In the third week, he thought that he had no other option but to try steroidsWhen steroids also did not work, he suggested that I get stroboscopy done. I did it on the first of December, and it was concluded that there was a small growth on my vocal cord. The doctor said that there is a 99% chance it is a cancerous growth. Within one week, biopsy was donePatho results confirmed cancer. Within one week of confirmation, the treatment for cancer was started, which included 34 radiations besides immunotherapy! By god’s grace and also because of immediate action, I came out of cancer. I could have easily delayed by going for second opinion, third opinion, and so on. But we took a family decision to start the treatment as early as possible.  

I want to tell you one important aspect. The delay in meeting the doctors is also done by some people who are doctors themselves. will tell you a story about someone  who is a doctor. That friend was having weakness and continuous indications that something was wrong. The friend was getting tired after walking about twothree hundred steps. Another close friend was regularly following up and prodding the friend to see a specialist. Somehow the procrastination was coming in the way. Finally, the friend reached the doctors clinic. After checking, the specialist doctor said, “You need to go to a hospital right awayDon’t even go home. Call your husband and tell him to come to the hospital. I need to start your treatment right away.” After eight days of treatment, the patient went homeIt took almost six months for that friend to come back to normalI met the specialist doctor last week at a function. She said, “If your friend had delayed coming to me by a couple of days, there was a possibility that your friend could have been paralysed below the neck! How that friend of mine, who is a doctordid not understand the seriousness?  

Jaya recently underwent cataract surgery for both her eyes. She is perfectly healthy now. A relative of ours had come to meet her during that period. He had also gone through cataract surgery about one and a half years back. During the discussion, it came out that he cannot read the newspaper except the large headlines. I said cataract surgery is supposed to cure all these issues and he must recheck and take one more opinion. I coaxed him to see Jaya’s surgeon. We went, and my relative was checked. The surgeon found a significant flaw which was in his right eye after cataract surgery. The surgeon advised him to meet the topnotch expert in that field for further action. Now my relative will have corrective surgery. 

In both cases mentioned above, the patients are of my age. With the current improvement of longevity, both are likely to be around for say the next ten years. Imagine being paralysed for ten years. Think of being blind for the next ten years! Why do people not think of going to the doctor on time? What do you achieve by delaying the meeting and treatment? Such delays can land you into serious trouble, and the quality of life could be drastically reduced 

As against this, I had a friend who got a heart attack more than twentyfive years back. He was in a hospital where they did not even check his cholesterol! His financial condition was not so good. I referred him to my nephew, who is an excellent physician. Open heart surgery was financially not possible. My nephew told him that it is possible to get better with medicines which may be needed to be taken lifelong. The friend followed the instructions to the T, and he changed his lifestyle as per the doctor’s instructions. He was a big smoker; he stopped it. He is still following the guidance and well and hearty.  

Getting an excellent doctor is also part of luck, (not all doctors are competent!) but reaching them on time, and following their advice is what we must do. There is no point postponing that inevitable visit if it is neededAnother important point that comes into picture is people ask that question why me? Why so and so disease happened to me? Never ask that question because there is no answer to it. 

Along with this, there is one essential point. Which pathy to follow is an individual choice. But out of all pathy’s, Allopathy is the only pathy in which a massive amount of money is spent on research. So, there is a possibility that it might cure you better and fast. There are some diseases like jaundice which have no medicine in Allopathy. Only Ayurvedic medicine called Liv 52 works. But the overall experience of life suggests that there are some illnesses like heart attack, major kidney issues, cancer are handled efficiently by Allopathy. Strong allopathic treatment also is not able to cure such ailments. So, in such cases, it is not a good idea to go for trial and error. One should avoid another pathy’s in such cases. Side effects of allopathy are going to be part of life, but getting better is a priority, is it not?  

I will end this with a story about a hypochondriac! In my office, I had a person working with me for almost 18 years. He is still less than 40. Since the last ten years he keeps on feeling that he is unwell, sometimes would feel feverish. Sometimes he would feel chest pain, then once a while there would be fear that he might die. My nephew used to treat him. Occasionally he would check his BP, once in a while he would take his ECG. Sometimes his blood pressure was found slightly on the higher side, so BP medicine was prescribed. In last one year, he had four such anxiety/panic attacks. During his last attack, he had chest pain, and his shirt was thoroughly wet due to sweating. So, he was kept in a hospital for a couple of days. All test results were excellent, and he came out of the hospital fresh! My nephew then called me (during this episode, I was in Canada) and suggested that it is time to take him for psychiatric treatment. I have coordinated that for him, and he has had one session. According to the psychiatrist, except for some anxiety and low feeling, there is nothing wrong with him. I sincerely hope this helps him.  

Now my friends, especially those in the Golden phase of life, don’t procrastinate about that ‘dreaded” visit to the doctor. A cat has nine lives; we have only one!  

 

 

 

 

“Enjoying” Education, JNU Style!

By the time I completed my education, I was 23 ½ years old (actually young)! Never in my mind, there was a thought that I should hang around in the college and keep on enjoying student life. I enjoyed my college life. I studied 11 years of school, two years of college pre-engineering, six years of engineering college, taking my Master’s degree in engineering. So totally, I studied for 19 years. The education made me employable, and I already had a job offer before my final examination for the Master’s degree. In the first year of engineering, we had 400 students who joined, but with me, for a Master’s degree, there were about 20 students.  

These days, I am reading about JNU saga. I am just trying to understand what it is all about. My fees for the Engineering course fee was princely Rs.110/; now I am told that it is Rs.10000/. Inflation changes many things, including money earning capacity too! The old problems of many parents not affording fees also remain! In advanced countries like the US and Canada, the percentage of people joining colleges after 12th grade is quite small. Majority of the students who join colleges take student loans and repay them after they get a job. Repaying student loans is a significant problem in these countries They don’t give subsidies for everything!

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The table above shows the number of students in JNU and the trend there is completely reversed. Total joining UG course is 841, PG course the number is double that number and those doing M Phil or PhD is five times the number. The trend all over the world is reverse. For higher degrees, the number of students reduces drastically. But why JNU has this different trend? Do these students want to enjoy student life and not take employment? How long subsidies should be given?

Education should be kept affordable for as many people as possible. The more educated people in a society make the society developed, and the country, in general, becomes an advanced country! But such things happen over some time, maybe a couple of generations.  

But one thing I am trying to understand, why are 3500 students doing M Phil and PhD in Social Sciences, Language Studies and International studies? How will such a large number in these subjects become employableDoes the country need such large number of PhD’s in this subject? Another trend I read was that these people finish one degree and then register for the next degree. Probably idiots like me take 19 years of education earning postgraduate degree and take up a job right away. How many years do you want to remain a student? The grants and scholarships offered for such courses keep these folks living their life without becoming “adults” or responsible citizens 

Inflation over the years is a normal phenomenon. The JNU folks are severely protesting the same. The protest to my eyes at least looks like political rally! I have been observing over some time. What is so special about JNU that as students they want special treatmentWhat great achievements have they shown? Some of the alumni have done exceedingly well in life. But that happens with many institutes. Some of the other renowned institutes have a much more significant percentage of their alumni who have done well.  

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JNU has produced alumni who have been giving support to known terrorists! They have been demanding plebiscite in KashmirThey have been supporting the Naxalite movement. Are these achievements the reason they want special treatment? Just because they are in Delhi, they want to take morcha to the parliament? I have never heard of IIM, IIT or NIT students taking morcha to the parliament to protest against the fee hike!  

It will make an excellent sense to have 3500 well-trained artisans rather than having 3500 PhD in the subject of social science. Probably the “success” of Lutyen’s gang for some period encourages people to become intellectuals. An intellectual is defined as a person possessing a highly developed intellect. But then why only social scientists are intellectuals? Why a space scientist, not an intellectual? Why a Medical Doctor, not an intellectual? Why an Engineer, not an intellectual? In many professions in life, there are people of high intellect, but only the so-called social science people are called intellectuals!  

These “intellectuals” always talk of freedom of speech. But any freedom comes with responsibility. Do they appear to be responsible personsHow the subjects or opinions which are typically considered antinational by the majority are taken up by JNU gang as the subject of national importance? 

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I know the principle that one should remain a student for life and keep on learning new techniques, methods, systems. But this should be done while you are gainfully employed and have become productive. At the age of 70, I have recently done an online course on the subject of my liking. But I paid fees for that and did not expect any subsidy or scholarship, along with whatever freebies I could get. I am showing above a photo of 45-year-old “student” from JNU! I have nothing against age but are you otherwise gainfully employed?  

I have done my master’s degree, so I am aware of how the higher education system works. Add three to four years to your PG degree, why your PhD degree should not be completed by the age of 27 or 28? Why keep on remaining a student beyond this age? When will you become productive? The superstars who have come out of JNU left JNU after their PG or PhD course and moved to foreign countries. They did shine after becoming gainfully productive, earning their own money! Not by expecting subsidies for hostels, and messor by getting the scholarship under some course or the other! At least I am not aware of any alumni doing some path-breaking work while still being a “student. 

Now I have started thinking if JNU is a laboratory to produce politicians. Every dispute, every issue is politicised and is given national importance because the protesters take the protest to the parliament, the highest institute of Indian democracy. Parliament has issues and problems to discuss and resolve, which are of national, and international importance. JNU is not even a small cog in the Indian nation.  

It is high time a serious thought is given how to depoliticise such an important institute! Importantly, it should be found out why such high numbers are doing PhD? Are these degrees useful to the nation? The money should be spent on courses which are of importance to national growth. It should not be wasted on “life long” students taking degrees which are of no real use to India’s growth story!

 

What is democracy?

Last month’s election in Maharashtra was the first time Jaya, and I missed the voting as we were in Canada at that time. From the results point of view, it looked straight forward. There was an alliance between BJP and Shivsena. It was expected to win by a high margin, but though the win was comfortable, NCP and Congress won more number of seats than expected. There was a lot of horsetrading before the election, and many stalwarts switched over to BJP or Shivsena.  

The usual bickering of sharing the power was expected, but Shivsena wanted their 29-year-old, inexperienced prince to become the chief minister at least for half the period till next elections after five years. Some give and take was expected, but suddenly the alliance reached a stage where both sides became very rigid in their stand. The partnership at present looks as if it will take time to mend if at all, it restores.  

Many times we forget who these politicians are! We treat them as different species; it is mainly because of the methods they use and wealth amassed by the corrupt ones. But like any group of people, not all are the same. The percentage of dishonest people whom we don’t like in this group is more than any regular group. But lately, it has been observed a similar percentage of corrupt people is found in the business domain also. The methods of corruption in both groups are different, but at the end of the day, the corrupt practices are mainly about making money with fewer efforts. If possible, the politicians make money using their influence in the government to push the papers quickly, sometimes tweak the policies or help people to find loopholes so that people can perform illegal things. I am talking about the regular business, not the nasty business of drugs or psychotropic stuff.  

Till the BJP government came into power in 2014, all the illegal ways were taken for granted. Some smart investigative reporters would find a few scams that were taking place. Then these would all go to committees and courts! Things continued as usual. A few of these scams were investigated, but the majority remained in limbo. 

What is politics? I don’t know how to define politics. To me, it is an activity where people with different ideologies and thought processes come together, form a group which is called a party. Then they fight local elections, some graduate to state elections, and in 2019, 552 of these people fought national posts in Loksabha. So, it is a gradual process for most people, but some of these people come in a helicopter and directly get into national politics. These are special people from elite families who are “born” to work at the national level! The process of directly reaching the federal level causes significant issues at some stage. These parties remain democratic only by the constitution but are dynastically run organisations. Some of these people are wealthy people, and nobody knows how they make so much money. Looking at these leaders, other leaders also start looking at ways of making money without doing any work. They know that nobody is going to challenge their ways.  

Over a period, it has been observed that many politicians and business persons are hands in glove! So many times, the main work of politicians, of running the nation efficiently with the help of government servants, is forgotten. Some of the government servants join hands with this nexus. The classic method followed by business persons was to have a large number of shell companies to hide the trail of black money. The present government has made an exclusive drive and shut down three lacs shell companies. There were so many such companies, but no one was bothered. Everybody was busy in their own game of making money!  

With such corrupt ways, it was a real surprise that India grew very fast during the last twenty years. That means the Indian economy was large, but a sizable percentage of the money in the system was black money i.e. in the parallel economy. The black money is used for business within the country, but it also encourages nefarious practices! Black money cannot come into the formal banking system. Hence banking systems get stretched.  

Such things are difficult in non-democratic countries like China and Russia. In such countries, only a selected group of people can do whatever they want. Under such system, China has shown tremendous growth but without checks and balances. Now the effect of not having checks and balances are coming out, and the Chinese economy is also showing a tremendous downturn.  

Democracy is a sound system where people have freedom, but there are checks and balances too! India did not implement the checks and balances properly for many years, and that has caused the political system to become more corrupt.  

The logical conclusion of what is happening in Maharashtra should be re-elections! There should be some method of ensuring that alliances which are declared before elections, must form a government if they win the election. Trying to form a government with coming together of diametrically opposite parties is a mockery of the system. It is an insult to the voters who voted for the alliance and the candidate. A friend told me the other day that he voted for a candidate because he was representing the BJP-Shivsena alliance. In the ordinary course, he would have voted for a candidate from a different party who had proven a track record in social work. An average person like you and me feel cheated because of what is happening in Mumbai. Since the ideologies of the other parties are the opposite, they will make an alliance based on the common minimum program. Should the most advanced state in India, Maharashtra, be run on a common minimum program, just because in democracy, things are pretty loosely defined?  

Maharashtra deserves better than this so-called solution of the hotchpotch government. Maharashtra is paying a massive price due to the ego of certain individuals. But to me, it is not only the ego but arrogance. Most of us are hoping that the government will not be allowed to form. Is this the democracy we are looking for? Maharashtra elections for me are comparable with Brexit!

I sincerely hope that no government is formed with presently elected reprentatives. In the next election, those parties who have gone back on words would suffer as people will vote against them.  

My hope is that we have re-elections in April 2020, where we the people will show to these politicians who are the real kingmakers!  

Montreal Musings-day to day living V!

Two days after we left Montreal for Pune, it started to snow in Montreal. The coincidence was that the day we reached Pune, it stopped raining. I could see the difference. We in Pune have rains ¾ months during monsoons. The rain intensity is heavy only for a couple of spells of 2/3 days during the season. Otherwise, the rain is hardly ever discussed in Pune and we can move around easily most of the time without an umbrella! But winter in Montreal is quite harsh, and temperatures are below – 0 degrees to sometime –35 degrees. The severity is quite consistent, and people are very much geared up to handle the winter.  

One thing I realised in Canada, that the time taken to get ready to go out is high. Even if you are going out casually, you have to prepare. In India, you may probably quickly change into Jeans and Tshirt. You may wear sandals instead of chappals. In Montreal first you need to check up weather report and understand if it is going to rain, or there is going to be snowfall. You also need to check up if it is going to be windy because the windchill effect is going to create more problems. We may need to wear thermal wear or layered clothing. You need to protect against rains too. Umbrella handling becomes very tricky if it is going to be windy. Then comes the hoody, the scarf, the wool cap and scarf. 

On top of that, you need to select the right jackets depending on the temperature. You also need to decide if you need to wear regular socks (sometimes two on top of each other) or woollen socks! In short, one could easily take ten to fifteen minutes to get ready to go out. Ladies, of course, should add their additional time requirement of getting ready! 

I faced one difficulty. With all this winter gear, our side vision gets restricted due to scarves and hoodies. Plus I always used to cover my nose with the scarf. Due to this covering, there used to be fogging of my glasses, which needed to be wiped regularly. But when there was no rain or strong wind (it did now snow during our stay) walking was a great pleasure. Weather was always fresh, and the pollution was almost nonexistent! I forgot to mention hand-gloves but keeping hands in the jacket pockets was good enough during our stayWe walked a couple of Km at a time, many times and it was fun.  

Another thing I observed was that people mainly wear black or darkish clothes during winter. It is natural as black colour absorbs heat rather than reflecting like the white colour. Another thing we see on the road is other than retired people most people walk very briskly. The brisk walk is because it is so cold that you want to reach your destination as early as possible. Plus brisk walk also generates heat! We living in India do not understand the importance of the Sun because we always have it. In these cold countries, sunny days in winter are infrequentWe are lucky to be living in the region where weather is temperate.  

I came to know during discussions that many senior citizens live all by themselves. They manage with some hired support and sometimes without assistance. I have seen that some larger grocery stores give you free delivery at home if you buy items worth more than $50/. I am sure that there may be some online stores who provide home delivery of many things with or without some rider! Amazon is always there!  

I also saw many shops from the chain https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DollaramaIt’s beginning was in 1905, and it has become big chain with stores at more than 1000 locations. They initially started with items costing around one dollar, but now they have increased the range a bit and have things costing up to five dollars. The change allowed them to increase the range of products they can keep in the store. We don’t buy expensive items daily, and Dollarama has created a store where day to day lowcost needs are satisfied.  

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Baklavas!

I am aware that Canada is a country of immigrants. I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of establishments run by Iranians/Libyans and people from the middle-east region. The strong Iranian presence was indicated by the presence of a big coffee shop at the Montreal Airport. Besides having the usual Sandwiches, Lays and Doritos, the shop had a big section selling different types of Baklava! It was like an outlet like the ones we have on Indian airports, Haldiram items.  

Now I have reached the end of my series so let me share my travel experience during the return journey. I am always amazed to see that desi crowd in a group somehow cannot show basic discipline. At the Montreal Airport, the desi crowd on the flight was about 20/25 %The line for boarding and the actual boarding process was quite smooth.

But for my next leg from Munich to Mumbai 80-85%, people were desis. I could see the difference in the behaviour of the people in the queue, unnecessary pushing and shovingDo desis feel that flight is going to go without them? Are they afraid that they may not get a place to sit? Are they worried that they may not get space to put their carry on baggage? don’t know what makes them behave chaotically.

I am sharing below a tweet sent by Mr Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Mahindra Group. 

Only flights to & from India at most airports have so many wheelchairs pre-ordered. Trying to figure out why. 1) Do elderly Indians travel more than others? 2) Do we have more infirm/unfit people? 3) Are we just jugaadus who order wheelchairs to get faster access through queues!?pic.twitter.com/eyIm5O4KB1 

I feel that the third point mentioned by him is the correct analysis. Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi, Bengali, Marathi जुगाड, Punjabi and Urdu word, which has various meanings depending on the situation. Roughly translated, jugaar is a “hack”. It could also refer to an innovative fix or a simple work-around, a solution that bends the rules, or a resource that can be used in such a way.  

Or I feel that we Indians where ever possible, want to cut corners. Where ever possible bend the rule. For ordering a wheelchair, you don’t need a doctor’s certificate. You order it, and the attendant helps you go through all formalities till you are in your car. I can understand this if one is unwell, or one does not know a word in any foreign language. But when you are fit, you know English, and you are going for 5th time, you don’t need this support. But it is the children of these people who are equally responsible; they make them dependent on things and do not explain what needs to be done.  

My neighbour lived in the UK and wanted his mother to join him for the first time. She could speak only Gujarati. We asked her how much foreign exchange she had with her. Her son had arranged for not a single dollar. Then we gave her about the US $50/ in a different denominationand told her if some delay takes place at Heathrow, she could at least buy some biscuits and water. 

I hope in future these folks will guide their parents properly and make them confident. I have seen Goras who are 80 plus, walking all over the airport without any help. 

Now I am back in Bharat Desh, and I can see a lot of fun (stupidity?) going on in Mumbai! Let us watch and see what happens in future!