Montreal musings, day to day life IV!

I had expected that day to day musings III would be my last of the musings in the series. But so many new things came up, and many of them were unexpected to me. Hence I am going ahead with this blog.  

I met one family yesterday evening in the garden where Rhea practices with her cycle and the couples son also practices. So Nikhil and Priya know the parents. We were introduced yesterday with them, and we chatted for some time. He asked me a question. He said, “Which is that small country between India and Iran, not Pakistan.” I said, “ I don’t know such a country.” Then he suddenly said, “Oh! It’s Kashmir!” I explained to him the whole situation briefly then he realised the issue. Incidentally, he is a Jewish person, and we know their views about certain people. He and his wife are both educated, but their knowledge about our part of the world is imperfect. They know about India’s progress in general as they meet a lot of smart Indians these days in Canada!  

I came to know one more information. Thanksgiving day is celebrated in the US and Canada on different days. In Canada, it will be celebrated this year on 14th October, and in the US it will be celebrated on 28th November. Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in Canada, the United StatesIt began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year.  The concept is the same as we have in India, where we celebrate Onam, Lohri, Makar Sankranti, and so on. While checking on the net why these are celebrated on different days, there was a cryptic description on one Canadian site, “We don’t have to follow the US in everything.” 

Similarly, now shops are full of items for Halloween festival. 

Halloween or Hallowe’en (a contraction of Hallows’ Even or Hallows’ Evening), is also known aAllhalloween. All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a celebration observed in several countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day.  

It begins the three-day observance of  Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.  

Halloween is celebrated by attending Halloween costume parties, trick or treating by children. The children go to every home in the neighbourhood and ask the question trick or treat? They are given chocolates, cookies and such treats. 

Carving pumpkins into the jack-o’-lanterns, lighting the bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, as well as watching horror films are some of the other activities. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.  

We have similar time in Hindus what we call Pitru Paksha when we remember the dead. But in our country, it is not a celebration but is considered inauspicious. No new investments are made during those two weeks. 

We get surprising experiences once in a while. Today Jaya and I went to a famous French Bakery in the central area of Montreal. While making payments, I was told that they do not accept credit cards; they take only debit cards and cash! Luckily we had some Canadian Dollars in my wallet at that moment. It was reasonably large establishment. While on the subject of payment retired people here too, like in the US, prefer to pay by cash and not by cards. Weather conditions change a lot during a week, but Jaya and I always find it cold. The main reason being, on sunny day, temperature could be around 10 Deg C, but in the shade, we feel cold because most of the times it is windy.  

Last week Jaya and I went out for lunch in an Iranian joint. We always try different foods. While trying to explain the dishes, the owner asked me, “Where are you from?” I said, “We are from India.” He straight away shifted to Hindi. He said that he had lived around Delhi for ten years. After that, he said, “Don’t worry, I will serve you excellent food which you will like.” Food was good. Then he also served us sweet Iranian Kolache!. It looked like biscuit but was stuffed with Dates and some other dry fruits. Some Iranian sweets look like Maharashtrian Diwali sweet Anarase. 

Another surprise was the restaurant was an Iranian addaBy the time we finished our food, about 15 Iranians had formed a group and were chatting and eating and having tea! In the background, TV was running an Iranian channelMy friend Veerendra told me that Canada has a large number of people from different nations, spread all over Canada, living peacefully.  

One pleasant surprise is the quality of vegetables. Priya was saying that these are generally produced in QuebecWater content in all this produce is on the higher side than what we get back in Pune. But Cauli Flower, Cabbage, Capsicum and all such vegetables are very tasty much better even than what we get in and around Delhi! Tastes of most of this stuff are much tastier than what I have generally tasted in the US! Of course, varieties are available in the US are amazing. The fad of organic food has not caught up in Canada; it seems. 

Because we are in Quebec, European culture is more prevalent. So are social norms! In our lane, neighbours are quite friendly with each other, and life, in general, appears to be less hectic! Since winters are harsh for longtime people, try to continue outside activities until the snowfall begins.   

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One unique facility we saw which can be there only in rich countries. There is an area in the garden where people bring their dogs, and they can release the leash; dogs are allowed to do whatever they want except of course, poo poo! (It has to be cleaned by the owner!)

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One strange thing. I thought Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Starbucks are known by the same never all over the world. Their menus may change to suit the local pallet. But the above photo is of KFC whose Quebec name is PFK (Poulet Frit Kentucky). Even in France, it is known by the name KFC! Strange are the ways of this world!  Similarly, I am told that road signs in France say, “STOP” but in Quebec, they are written as “Arrêt”!

I could not resist displaying these two beauties!

Au revoir et faites attention jusqu'à notre prochaine réunion! 
Probably they say bye and take care till we meet again in France ! 

 

 

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Montreal Musings- day to day life II!

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

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

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

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

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

Nadia Comaneci! Then and now!

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, Canada!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

À bientôt, jusqu'à mes prochaines friandises!

 

 

Montreal- musing of the day to day life!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian siesta!

Friends, before I go to the main subject, I want to inform you that for the next few weeks, there could be a delay in publishing my blogs. I have joined an online course at Oxford University, which has a ten-week duration. I need to study, attend discussions, and so on! The course is an advanced course in creative writing. I have never attended such a course before for obvious reasons, but I thought the course would help me become a better writer, it will help me organise my thoughts better. I have no ambition to become a professional writer, but whatever little I write, I will feel happy if I become more accomplished in what I do in future. Some friends will thank me for writing less! 🙂🙂

You must be wondering why I have used the word siesta! A siesta ([ˈsjesta]) (Spanish, meaning “nap”) is a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal. Such a period of sleep is a common tradition in some countries, particularly those where the weather is warm. The word is used in the context of Mediterranean countries where the siesta is a part of the culture. But for Jaya and me, the cold weather puts us in Siesta mode whenever there is an opportunity. Cold is how I am defining the weather, but some of the young gang is seen on the road, moving around in shorts and T-shirts! We both manage to sleep deeply at any time of the day; all one needs is a warm blanket. At 5 am the temperature is 8.5 deg! It is only the beginning of September.

I am, of course taking feedback from Nikhil and Priya from their short stay in Montreal of 3 to 9 months. I have visited advanced societies world over, many times, but I am every time amazed the way these societies operate. I am not talking about technical aspects but the human elements. I have written a blog about Indian psyche a few days back.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/new-rto-regime-and-indian-psyche/

I always feel that we are in denial mode and are proud of the chaos and lack of self-discipline that we show in the society. Maybe sometimes we are even proud of these things. We feel that basic indiscipline is our birthright. The other day I was in Model Colony for some work. In Deep bungalow Chowk they have put up dividers, some temporary and others permanent to smoothen the traffic flow. Ganapati pandals are supposedly allowed to cover 1/3 of the road during the festival period. The pandal did cover 1/3 of the road, but the organisers are not bothered that the road now has a divider. Simple maths says that currently only two-wheelers and autos can pass through that area of the road. How do other vehicles go? Obviously on the wrong side of the divider!  Is anyone bothered? I don’t think so.

Montreal Marathi Mandal program was held in a church, where there was a decent hall available. The enthusiasm of all was seen to be believed. I met a few people who started this activity in Montreal in the year 1982! Kudos to them for the consistency. Montreal appears to have a smallish Indian community so continuing it for more than 35 years is creditable. More than 100 people were present. A group of young and not so young volunteers did all work including logistics, arrangement and later cleaning etc. Great job, guys!

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Similar programs are done in India but the general confusion, deafening music, and we have unnecessary disagreements with authorities on everything, taking shelter behind religion!  India’s population is so large that a huge crowd is always present, and generally, there is reasonable discipline during programs. Why is the behaviour of the crowd disciplined to chaotic? What reasons could be there for this changeover?

I have seen a large crowd and their behaviour during the Cricket World cup finals (2015) at Melbourne, Australia. A total number of people present were 93000 plus. Right from arrival of spectators at the stadium, to dispersal after the end of the match was very organised. In between people were also disciplined during the usage of food courts and washrooms. There were long queues but there no jostling and pushing.

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Whatever little I have seen in Montreal till now was found very neat and proper. There is a lot of road repair work going on everywhere. On checking,  I found out that during harsh winters due to snow, road repair is not practical. Add to this maximum temperature of 35 deg in summer to -35 deg in winter must be creating road and pipeline issues regularly.

Comparisons of small things always are made in mind. On particular days, the garbage trucks come in to pick up the garbage in Montreal; okay nothing great about it. But In Pune, the vehicles come every day, but in certain areas, they run a song requesting people to come out with garbage bags! Why do people need to be coaxed every day to put away their garbage? Don’t we brush our teeth every day? We don’t put on an alarm to remind us to brush!  In olden days a guy used to work in my office. Those were the days of the pager. He had a field job and would come to my office every day at 9; we would discuss the work, and then he would go on the field. He would fit his pager in the trouser belt. One day, I saw that he had know pager. So, I asked him where his pager was? He lamely said that he had forgotten. I told him that since he had come to the office wearing a trouser and the belt, there was no way he could give the lame excuse of “forgot.”  Some of the things in our lives become our second nature like driving a  car, using a washroom, crossing the road when we have the right signal. But why do people break so many small rules so easily?

One interesting thing I saw in Montreal. People of different age were seen running on the footpath so that they didn’t miss the bus which was arriving. Once I was standing on the bus stop watching people (my favourite past time!). The people had already done their job of getting down and getting inside. Almost for one minute, the bus did not move! Then I observed that the bus driver had seen a lady running to catch the bus; he waited till she reached and climbed in safely! What can we call this? Basic courtesy? The natural thing to do? I have not seen this courtesy in most other cities.

Before I travelled to Montreal, I was told that French is the first language, and so on. But for visitors like me, when I start speaking in English, people reply in English. The reason could be, computerisation has made English a global language and secondly I could see people of many nationalities present on the streets. Canada’s liberal policies of immigration and support to refugees are increasing the number of people speaking different languages, making English a common link.

I will share more about culture and traditions as I explore more of Montreal in the coming weeks.

Our personal ATM!

An automated teller machine (ATM) is an electronic telecommunications device that enables customers of financial institutions to perform financial transactions, such as cash withdrawals, deposits, transfer funds, or obtaining account information, at any time and without the need for direct interaction with bank staff. These machines came into use in late ’60 s of the last century and proliferated in previous 30 years or so. In India, the penetration started in this century.

But we all have had our personal ATM’s for ages, maybe without our knowledge. What is a personal ATM? We go to bank ATM’s when we need to make some financial transactions without going to the bank. But for living life, humans have HIM as the central banker. Whenever we have some difficulty, we go to Him and request for a solution. Whenever we have troubles, we go to Him and offer him something in return if our problems are resolved. The offering that we make can be termed as interest paid, but it sometimes looks like a bribe to me!

Over a period in our lives, we meet a lot of people; we are acquainted with many people. These people may be friends, relatives, mentors, many different people with whom we feel confident and comfortable. They are our sounding boards. Let us call them Personal ATM as PATM! ATM has specific uses regarding finance, but PATM has many different usages depending on situations. Sometimes these are a sounding board or an advisor. Sometimes PATM can act as a bank. I have seen PATM’s used as someone who gives a pleasant feeling in life when you interact with that person.

Any ATM or a PATM make limited assets available to us. But there is one PATM which makes unlimited assets available to us. This PATM is our parents. You can go to them for emotional support, financial support or any other support. They are always available and are prepared to do whatever is needed to be done, no questions asked. I remember in late ’70 s of last century, Jaya got an opportunity to study in the US; she was offered UN fellowship. We went to my parent’s house in the evening, and we were a bit concerned because the period involved was one year. When Jaya explained everything to them, my father said, “Why did you not accept the proposal today itself? There is nothing to discuss. You are getting a good opportunity, take it. We will look after Sachin for this year when you are away.” Sachin was six years old at that time. Discussion over, the matter settled. We knew that they would support us, but it was not even discussed. Most of us are lucky to have such parents. But some of us tend to take disadvantage of their willingness to go out of the way to support us.

I have read of a story from Canada where a lady had difficulty about looking after her child for a month. Her parents lived 20 miles away. During that one month, her 75-year-old father drove one way 10 miles, so that the lady was not required to detour too much. He would also come every day with a ready meal to make life easy for the lady; the child then would jump into grandpa’s car. I have not mentioned that this was done in January with very heavy snow. Unlimited PATM?

Some are good people, and others approach you only when they need a withdrawal. I have understood one rule in life that asset balancing happens throughout our life. Life does not balance every account. Many accounts remain in debit balance; some stay in a credit balance. I am happy about a few accounts which have remained in debit; I will tell you what I mean. I have a brilliant, balanced minded friend who once came to my house. He looked quite flustered. We went to a lake outside Pune, and he opened out. He said, “I don’t feel like going to my office and a day before, while travelling, I was quite disturbed and felt like committing suicide. My wife convinced me to come back to Pune, and here I am.” He had no problems whatsoever with the job, but he felt as if he was a misfit. We discussed things in details. I suggested to him that he should resign the next day which he did. He has lived an excellent professional and personal life after that event. I was happy that he felt like coming to me for support.

What to do with people who come to you only in need, though they are (or was it were) close otherwise? I don’t do anything; I don’t react. I don’t even feel sad. Have I reached Nirvana? No, I have not. But when people come to you for withdrawal, do you expect them to thank you? I support people because I want to! Period! One thing PATM’s should ensure that whatever people share with them, should remain a secret for a lifetime. Difference between an ATM and PATM is that ATM does not have emotions. It nonchalantly does what is expected of it but not PATM. I will tell why.

I called a young friend of mine on his birthday to wish him. After the usual banter he said, “Sir, I was detected with a patch in the lung which turned out malignant. I was going to call you to discuss this as my wife also suggested that I should take your support.” I had gone through cancer treatment more than five years back. After he shared the details, an emotional storm was created in mind. I wrote the blog shown below and shared it with him.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/from-sir-with-love/

Yesterday, both the friend mentioned in the above blog and his wife came to our home for a social visit. He looked well, enthusiastic and energetic. We had a great chat, and he had plans for the future. Even during his treatment he did professionally very well and shared it with us. Honestly, I had only put in my two cents as support for him. But his mental strength and family support, along with support from his office have helped him overcome the battle. This month will be his final treatment dose. I am elated to see a young man battle it out successfully. I am sure that he will also be an excellent PATM to someone when the need arises.

Then there are tête-à-tête with friends. A very close friend’s daughter was in the process of getting married; the friend requested for tête-à-tête (casual chat). There was nothing formal, but we discussed many things about life in general, the situation in particular. We met many times and finally concluded to let the situation take its course. Rest as they say is history; the couple is happily married! But this situation provided us with a reason to meet frequently; our busy schedules usually allowed us to meet infrequently.

In our case, Jaya and I are PATM’s for each other. We have been discussing each and everything in life, and our varied experiences and thinking came out with excellent solutions most of the times. We will today fight bitterly about non-selection of Pant in India’s world cup team, but when it comes to things directly connected with our lives, we come to a correct solution every time with a smiling face.

PATM’s are very different from ATM’s. ATM’s will do only financial transactions from the finite balance in your account. PATM’s will perform a different type of operations from a sounding board to counselling, just being with you. PATM’s sometimes help financially too, if required; no questions asked! PATM transactions can be infinite!

There are plenty of PATM’s around; we just need to look for them!

Your Future Self!

Create-your-future

Yesterday Jaya and I were coming back from the airport after dropping our Son. We had travelled using  an Uber taxi. On the way back, we met an interesting driver. I felt that he was quite enterprising. It was evening time and most roads indicated heavy traffic on Google maps. Not only was he using maps efficiently but at a couple of places when the congestion was too heavy, he took U-turn and changed the route. I praised him for proactive actions to reach the destination as quickly as possible. Then he asked me, “If I ask you a few questions, will it be ok?”  I said, “Go, ahead!”

He said that he owned the car he was driving and he wanted to run a fleet of taxis similar to Ola/Uber model. He wanted to give better service than Ola/Uber. He said he had funds, though of course not unlimited! But he had that aim to be better than the giants. Jaya and I probed him with many questions like what his USP was going to be? He had thought about some things and he had not thought about many things. I suggested that he put things on paper and study, create his plan. I said, “You drive your taxi every day, how will you get time to do these things?” He said that since this plan is his passion and he will somehow find the time, and “trouble” some customer like me. He would take advice from various people but will achieve his goal. So, I said, “The time you will be spending on future is going to be unproductive time for your today’s work and will stretch your daily time schedule to the limit!” He replied, “Yes, I know that I will be required to do a lot of “unproductive” work for my future. If I don’t invest in my future who will?” This I thought was an extremely smart way of thinking. Invest in so-called unproductive things to reach the moon in future! This coming from an Uber driver gave me a terrific feeling.

He was not an MBA from IIM’s nor was he highly educated. I did not ask him about his education level but he must have taken a college degree in some subject. What could be the source of his passion? We talk about business families, business communities. This person was definitely not from these groups. He must be reading something, he must be discussing with some people, he must be watching stories on TV which has led to his thinking. When my ride was over, I wished him all the best and told him not to lose courage and focus because path could be tough. He said, “With suggestions from people like you, my resolve is getting stronger day by day!”

You’re busy all day, working non-stop, multitasking in a misguided attempt to knock a few extra things off your to-do list, and as the day comes to a close, you still haven’t gotten your most important work done. Being busy is not the same as being productive. It’s the difference between running on a treadmill and running to a destination. They’re both running, but being busy is running in place.

If you want to be productive, the first question you need to ask yourself is what do you want to be? Another question is where do you want to go? Chances are that the answers to these questions represent growth in some direction. And while you can’t spend all your time pursuing those objectives, you definitely won’t get there if you don’t spend any of your time pursuing them.

Key to all this is that you need to spend time on the future even when there are more important things to do in the present and even when there is no immediately apparent return to your efforts. In other words — and this is the hard part — if you want to be productive, you initially need to spend time doing things that feel ridiculously unproductive.

My daughter Priya is a dentist. She and her family are in the process of migrating to Canada. They were initially expecting that they will move to Toronto. But Priya felt that as a doctor she should also know French, as Canada is a bilingual country. Even in Toronto, you could get French-speaking patients. So, she decided that learning French would make sense. Hence, she joined Alliance Francaise and took a four-month course. She had a tough time managing the course, her Medical Practice, family obligations and her child. But she did it! As the luck would have it, her husband got a job in Montreal and her so-called unproductive efforts will become productive when she joins him in Montreal!

You want to become a writer or a painter or marathon runner, along with whatever you are doing currently. Your busy mind tries to keep you away from the new stuff, you’re not yet good at and which isn’t yet productive. Sometimes you need to be irresponsible with your current challenges in order to make real progress on your future self. You have to let the present just sit there, untended. It’s not going away and will never end. That’s the nature of the present.

You may not end up with an empty email inbox. You may not have the perfect compensation conversations with your boss. You may not please everyone. I am confident that those who want to invest in their future, will be good enough to do their current stuff at 7 or 8 on ten level, instead of their usual on 9/9.5 on ten level. Some of you might get jitters because of a lower level of productivity, but it is simply not possible to multitask things beyond a certain level.

Once you have clarity in mind of what you are doing and why you are doing, tasks become easier. Once you start seeing at least hazy image of your future self somewhere on the horizon, your jitters level will get lowered. This brings me to my latest theory of everybody requiring to reskill themselves. Reskilling in future is going to be mandatory. This is irrespective of whether you want to do it or not! So why wait? It is going to be reverse of “Back to the Future” movie where the person travels back 30 years in a time machine. Now you will have to visualize yourself ten years hence.

In case of training for Marathon, you may first start with 5 km then 10 and so on! Similarly, the writer in you may be able to write a few things initially. You may paint a few things after 3 months! This step by step progress is what you are looking for! Do it as a passion, but don’t forget that you may have to do it in future, anyway!

Your original training as an engineer, architect or whatever will keep you going. But in both these professions, you also want to add subject knowledge of Costing. This knowledge may put you on a fast track in your future career! The future costing engineer will have to take efforts, today, then you will get the fruits in the future! Don’t lose track of “Your Future Self!”

 

Downsize!

The word downsize is used while discussing a company or a business or economy. This generally happens because of the economic downturn. Things can get “upsized” if companies are properly downsized when needed. Downsize means you reduce the workforce, you stop doing the less productive activity. I had heard about this term being applied to our life too, in the USA. Post-retirement when you get older, you downsize. It meant that if you had a bungalow, sell it off and move to an apartment or a condo. Managing many things beyond a certain age becomes tricky and sometimes it is not cost effective.

As we grow older, we need to live within our corpus (sometimes it may not be big enough too!) Our physical and mental capacities reduce. We tend to be a little more conservative as we are aware of the non-growing corpus and want to be more careful so that we can handle future unplanned emergencies. After a certain age, things that we could handle naturally and easily, start looking difficult and unmanageable. One of the foremost aspects is the socializing and social commitments.

Can we keep the pace of the old times? Do we have the physical and mental strength to handle them? In the context of US society, managing your bungalows becomes a tough call beyond a certain age. This is because lawn mowing, trimming of flower beds, weed removal all such things are required to be done. With a fixed corpus, this can go beyond means for many in their society. In India, luckily manpower costs are much more manageable. But as our abilities start tapering off, management of everything becomes a tough call.

I know of someone, a lady, who loves to follow the tradition of “Gauri-Ganapati”, yearly welcoming the deities of Gauri and Ganapati at home. This activity needs a lot of coordination, logistics and planning. During this celebration, friends are invited to pay obeisance to the deities, followed by sumptuous food. All this has been overwhelming as a lot of small details need to be handled. Even when you were younger it was tough. This lady, who is around 70, has found it even tougher and her mind is a bit confused, now. She has slowed down, and it appears that both her walking and thinking has slowed down proportionately but thinking is more degenerated!

Recently during this process, she looked a bit confused and by the time the first day’s festivities were over, she looked very tired and disoriented. She did not get into panic attack mode but she looked on the verge of it. When asked if she were unwell in the previous week, she was not. This indicated that the event overwhelmed her so much that things appeared reasonably out of control. In younger times too, she was not much of an organizer; at the end of the ceremony, she declared she is not going to have the festivities at home, next year. Well, she still could have it, low key, if she wants but she probably does not want to compromise on processes and traditions. What is the right, low key or doing nothing? I do not know but I would rather have it, low key. To me, downsizing does not mean withdrawing from life.

I know of a family who has been committed to social circuits. A minimum of 3 to 4 programs a week parties, home or away. Once in a while, they share, that now they can’t handle this. I suggested to them to slow down and cut down engagements to once a week. The lady finds it very difficult with lesser “load”! Husband is better off in the new situation. Why do people need to be so much social? Is it to show off? Is it that husband and wife cannot spend time together, do they always need to have others for the company?

Jaya and I have almost always gone on our holidays ourselves, never felt the need to have some company. While downsizing, people should try and learn to be with themselves but at the same time, now I am making a conflicting statement, get to know more people. What I mean is when you are on a busy social circuit, you may have the pressure to be present at the party, come what may! (e.g. attending Rotary Club meetings) It seems that the Rotary club allows you to “attend” meetings even if you are in Timbuktu or a small town in Venezuela! Yes, you get to know new people, or do you? If there is a language barrier how will you “meet” people? About my conflicting statement above, “get to know more people”. By this what I mean is that during this new phase you should try and talk to strangers while you are in a shop or a mall. Why not? Don’t be apprehensive! This will give something to look forward to, at the same time, you will be able to come out of “you may have the pressure to be present, come what may” phase of life!

During the downsizing phase, try to learn new things. It may be physical or maybe brain churning. Learning how to use WhatsApp can become a tough activity for people who feel technologically challenged. But once you have learned it, it can become a great way to stay in touch with people. Try using the internet and internet banking! Money transactions remain part of our life till our last day on the Terra Firma! Of course, someone else will have to pay your last hospital bill!! In younger days, all the payments etc were managed as easily as driving a vehicle; those were never a problem in those days.

But at the same time, if you want to withdraw cash, don’t use an ATM, go to the bank! You will meet some people there. Don’t order everything online, go to mom and pop stores next door, simply to meet people. Another thing, I would suggest is to try to learn reading from the screens! Yes, the Hard Cover books and the paperbacks, have their own charm! But going to bookshops can be a problem. If the letter size is small it can again become tricky. Insufficient light can also create an issue while reading books. Use the screen means use a Tablet or a Kindle, to read books. You can change the brightness, you can increase the font size too! Don’t get stuck into the phrase, “In our times…” In our time’s things were different but if better options are available, use them. You can write about your experiences using computers, not necessarily to share with others. Do this writing for the purpose of reminiscence, for your own self. Try doing it, you will find it amazing that you have so many memories with you, like the hidden files on the computer.

Friends, I can go on and on and on! But I don’t want you to call me a boring old man! I will sign off with something which tells you the gist of what I am saying. My daughter and her husband are permanently moving to Canada in six to eight months. Their formalities are completed. A friend had come to our home, for Ganapati darshan, the other day. Our Ganapati idol is an eco-friendly idol made of Silver; we never follow the immersion process as done by others! I told my friend, our Ganapati has also got his Canadian PR! He will travel with my daughter to Canada next year! He was a bit surprised! Be practical! This puts downsizing on auto-pilot mode! You can always start something new and less challenging!