1949 or 1979? 

Nostalgia of 50’s and 60’s!

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I am trying a different format of blog which I may repeat if both you folks and I find it comfortable!

I thought why not ask a question to myself in the form of Vikram Vetal story! Vikram, the King is Pramod and Vetal, the spirit is replaced by new entity, “Internet Genie”! (called Genie)

                                                            InternetGenie

Pramod somehow caught hold of Genie, managed to make Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “If you were given a choice, will you be born again in 1949 or 1979, which year will you prefer?” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to the question asked.

 As usual, Genie kept on talking. Pramod now that you are in Golden period of your life, you will be a good judge to say if you would rather be born in 1979! Person born in 1979 will not be able to judge if his birth should have been in 1949. You have seen a much simpler world, almost on the verge of being naïve. Cities were smaller, life was simpler but then there was nothing to do in the evening except news at 7 pm and 8 pm on the radio! While you were in school/college there were shortages, incomes were low, and eating an apple was considered a luxury! Ultimate aim in those days was to have your own bicycle.

Had you been born in 1979, as you ended school and entered college, you would have had colour tv, the rationing was almost gone, availability of everything had improved. Eating out in big restaurants with parents would have been a thing to look forward to. Maybe some parents had cars! Sachin Tendulkar had started playing for India, MS DOS, PC, web, these words were discussed. Maruti had already won the heart of Indians but die-hard Ambassador fans were still looking Maruti down!

You were of course very busy managing careers, family, children and trying to attend to the general responsibilities of life, so time had been at a premium. Before you realized that you were around 50 your son had moved to the US. Your daughter had already decided to join dentistry. But you guys could find some time for your children, supporting their extra-curricular activities when they were younger. Already 500 MB hard discs were fitted on pc’s.

Make a jump to 2017, you are now around 70 but you could have been around 40 had you been born in 1979! Now the real tussle has started in your mind. Is 70 or 40 good age to be in 2017! At your present age of 70, you would have been an also ran if you had not retrained yourself in IT related technology. Techno phobia would have really pulled you back but those who have retrained are having fun. Cell phones, tablets, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube are fun things and there is no time restriction. There are no parents to give lectures. You can give a lot time to your grandchildren on equal footing, with modern gadgets, which you did not have when your children were growing, and really enjoy.  Your fun quotient is very high because you have traveled in a bullock cart as well as in Boeing Dreamliner 787!

If you were to be born in1979, at around the age of 40, you would be very,  very busy! You would have grown with all the new technology around you. But not enough time available, all the time work, work and work. Working life in 2017 being very hectic, you would have had everything except time! You have never traveled in the bullock cart so conceptually  not many big changes for you; your fun quotient would not have been really significant! Your children are still young. You have to take them to gymnastics, judo, art class, dance class and so on. So, time available is further cut down. You would have jokingly said, ” Now I have regular day job and run taxi service to take kids around after coming home!”

Pramod I can see you smiling and coming up with an argument. I know what you are going to say. In 50’s/60’s you saw Waheeda & Devanand from 20 feet distance, shooting for a movie!  You met Mukri, Ashok Saraf on a train while coming from Bombay once. You also met Bapu Nadkarni test cricket all-rounder in a train journey to Bombay, another time. In your 79 avatar such events would be only in dreams! Celebrities and hero/heroines are humans like us but human touch is getting lost for this generation because of changing times or is it because human touch is out of fashion?

Pramod went into nostalgia when he heard Genie talking about Waheeda! He forgot the golden rule and said,” Genie you will never understand the naïve 60’s but those were the days! I am good to be born in 1949 enjoying best of the both worlds!”

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp, Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. “But Pramod whatever you may, I know that Virat Kohli, Priyanka Chopda and Ranbir Singh are your current favourites, though you are not openly accepting!”

Has living in India become easier?  

Ease of use on day to day basis for common man has increased by 60 points!

I read a news item in newspaper that India has jumped 30 places in “Ease of Doing Business” ranking, given by world bank. (Later our PM also said that general living has become easier in India.) These experts have used pre-defined methodology; the same methodology is used all over the world. This indicates India’s ranking is compared with world’s other nations.

This made me think of us common people. Has our life changed? Has “Ease of doing things” changed for us on day to day basis? I am not talking of general infrastructure and holiday destinations and that kind of things. It is day to day mundane things that we are required to do. It is like shopping, making bill payments, availability of services, standing in queues. It is also about travelling from place A to place B which is part of our daily things that we do.

I am talking about city dwellers who have access to wi fi,  and internet on cell phone.  This infrastructure has improved a lot during last five years. Proliferation of cell phones is really deep. This has made life easy for the people, who have adapted to the use of this technology, irrespective of their location. Payment procedure of regular monthly bills like cell phone, electricity, insurance policy premium has become extremely simple. These are done by card, net banking or even simpler “standing instructions”. New system of wallets is also spreading quite fast. But how many of us have really started taking advantage of this change? I still see many people going physically, to pay these bills, standing in queue! Reason no belief in the system! Systems are available and they are making things easier. More people should be encouraged to use such systems.

Daily transportation is one of the biggest hassles in daily life! In this aspect, things are definitely improving. Main difference is due introduction of Metros in a big way, in many large cities. Metros definitely ensure that people travel from place A to place B in world class comfort and in shortest possible time. Just to give an example in city of Pune, going from Pimpri to Mandi area in peak hours takes about 75 to ninety minutes. After Metro is introduced, this will be reduced to 30 minutes! This one world class solution does overcome daily hassles, reduces traffic on road. Metro is operational in Kolkata for a long time, Delhi was the second city and now in coming three to five years 10 to 15 cities will have Metro. Another advantage of Metro is world class system has changed the mindset of people in public, they are quite disciplined while using the Metros. Of course, they go back to original ways, once they are out of Metro concourse! But I am sure slowly this conduct will improve outside Metro system too!

Abundance of various items, has definitely improved. Vegetables, fruits, groceries, milk, grain, medicines, and what have you, it is available in abundance! Days of shortage have simply gone. Availability of services of technicians like electricians, plumbers are easily found through yellow pages!

During 90’s when people’s aspirations started increasing, getting admissions to schools, colleges and professional courses became very tough. But since last few years seats in many courses and school/colleges remain vacant. This indicates that supply has become much more than demand.

In Banking system, there is marked difference due to technology. Processing of documents has become easier and many types of personal loans are available quite quickly provided all documents are ready. In fact, some banks offer pre -sanctioned loans to some elite customers. ATM’s have made access to cash simple.

Since India is huge democracy many things take time to happen. But they happen. Income levels have gone up and easiest indication of this is the sale of two wheelers in India. India has become the largest manufacturer of two wheelers in the world! Ok this creates its own problems. But expressways are coming up all over and authorities are trying to improve infrastructure to the best of their abilities.

I will share with you a very efficient system created by Pune Municipal Corporation. This is about their yearly property bill. They send the property bill details by SMS or text message. On clicking the link in the message, I was taken directly to their site with all required details filled in! They only showed a button “Pay”; when clicked it asked the normal payment options and  I paid the tax. Time taken 1 minute. Very similar system is created by vehicle insurance companies; insurance renewal time required is similar. Flipkart, Amazon and all such companies have made doing daily purchases very simple. Don’t forget ease of buying Bus tickets, Air and Train tickets.

Why people do not use the systems is due to apprehensions, lack of knowledge and simply because they have techno phobia. I know of an eighty-year-old lady who decided that she wanted to use all the modern payment systems and she has done the switch in about one month!

Most important change for business community is the GST! This one change has made things very simple. There were many taxes before GST and doing business was a nightmare to which we were used to! But talking to many factory owners, people from trading community, they find things much simpler than before!

Of course, there are minuses! Main issue is confrontational politics, there are naysayers like “development experts” whom I call zolawallas! There are people who are really upset because of Government drive against parallel economy! According to me there is an improvement of 60 points and not 30 points in our day to day lives.

I am getting a Toyota Prius!

One of the most important aspect of human civilization is that nobody can stop the technological advancements. Technology, the right one, is simply unstoppable. Humans do not change and they most of the time feel that so and so technology cannot become popular. There are very few visionaries who can guess, predict what can happen after a couple of decades. Initially when any technology comes the cost of its implementation as well as usage is always very high. This cost does come down with increased volume.

Let us consider the scenario in solar energy globally. Germany recently on a particular day produced, 85% of its total electricity produced, by Solar. The energy market in Germany runs like a trade market and the rate at which power is bought by distribution companies is based on demand and supply. On that particular day the rate went below zero! California on one day recently produced 67% of its electricity by Solar. US being a very large country will take a long time to reach Germany’s level as a country but it will happen in pockets. India & China are galloping fast towards solar energy in a big way.

If we think about steam engines and trains, initially people were just curious and felt that trains cannot compete with carts pulled by animals. Once the fear in people’s mind reduced, time of travel decreased and more and more people started travelling in trains and rest as they say is history. My first travel to USA was in 1981 and I had paid US $ 1076/ for return journey. Even today we pay hardly more than that in Dollar terms, for return ticket to USA. Why this happened? Because of safer, faster, larger airplanes increased the volume.

Cell phone is another classic example of technology that made it a disruptive device! When I first got my cell in late 90’s the cell phone was quite heavy, almost ugly, and it cost Rs.16/ minute to receive and make calls! In twenty years Cell phones have become sleek, they are much more powerful than computers specs ten years ago! Ten years ago GB was a word very rarely used even in computers. On top of that making calls is now free! Technologically in 20 years cell phones have gone places! Who would have thought of these changes? In the initial phase cell phone was the so called rich person’s toy. The beauty is that land line telephones have been there for more than 100 years doing same basic work that cell phones do, talking to each other. But other than becoming sleeker, land line phones did not change much in technology. Hence the landline phone population is on the wane world over.

Next classic battle that I visualize is between IC engine cars and Electric/Hybrid cars. The usual naysayers are saying that the current car companies are so powerful that they will just not allow this to happen. What are the parameters that will come into picture? Current volume of Electric/Hybrid cars is miniscule and their yearly volumes are nothing to write home about. So what is it that is needed for the picture to reverse, if it does! Fuel costs is one important parameter. Petrol/Diesel costs have come down from highs of US$ 150/ per barrel and have stabilized around US $50/. The original cartel led by Arab countries is finding it difficult to keep high rates due to new people coming in, huge American & Canadian reserves which were not known even ten years back, have suddenly become available. Their cost of production of extracting oil is also coming down. The fear of Petroleum products simply getting exhausted from the world has gone. So fuel cost may not be THE thing that will trouble current cars. But on the other hand, the cost of producing electricity is definitely going down fast. As more and more countries including India go strongly after solar energy, this cost will come down further. The countries which have lot sunlight round the year can become major players in producing next “Petroleum” for cars. Along with this wind energy is also playing a major role. One thing is for sure compared to petroleum products “Sunlight & Wind” are definitely never going to get exhausted. What all this will also do is pollution levels caused by burning Petroleum products will also come down. On top of this when more and more Electric/Hybrid cars get into use pollution levels will further go down.

Largest component of Electric/Hybrid cars is battery pack. Tesla is already building a Giga battery factory in Nevada where they will be able produce battery packs for five hundred thousand cars a year, at naturally very low cost. Already, Tesla is talking of producing cars that will be only slightly more expensive than sedans. Another limitation currently is the distance the car can travel with one charge. In cell phones  already fast charging systems have come, so I am sure it will happen in Electric cars too! So maybe when you have coffee break or wash room break, you can recharge your batteries. Once these cars are reasonably priced people may use such cars the way we use scooters in India, to travel smaller distances. For last hundred years there has been not much improvement in battery storage technology, compared to other fields and same is the case with IC engine cars. I am sure in batteries the break through is just round the corner! If automotive technology had improved as much as electronics, a car would have travelled round the globe in one liter of fuel!

If we summarize this battle, cost of production of fuel (electricity) to charge the electric cars is going down, cost of battery packs is going down ( it is like engine price going down), battery pack capacity will slowly start going up like some Tesla cars go beyond 350 km per charge, pollution improvement is a bonus. On the other side Volvo has already declared that they will not produce diesel cars from 2023 because cost of using technology for pollution compliance will go up exponentially. Volkswagen has already claimed that they will not produce IC engine cars beyond 2030. In India Suzuki & Toyota have joined hands to manufacture hybrid cars for Indian market. Suzuki and Toshiba have joined hands in India to build Lithium Ion battery mega plant. In USA GM and Ford also have big plans for electric cars. BMW i3 model electric car was quite visible when I last travelled to USA. Along with that a lot work is being done by Google and Apple in driverless car. I feel that controlling an electric car with computers will be much easier than IC engine cars! Will humanity be able to stop Electric/Hybrid car technology? Only time will tell. But in the end right technology will win!

So my next car is definitely going to be a Toyota Hybrid Prius! There is small issue of money in the bank but I will generously accept it, if someone wants to gift me a Prius! I will put big donor name sticker on the car! Happy (electric) motoring!

Age with an Open Mind III

After writing the blog “Age with an Open Mind”, I got an idea that I should write a couple of more blogs on the similar theme. The first blog was mainly about “keeping the brain active and sharp”. In second one I have written about “keeping our body active, sharp and flexible.” In the third & final blog in the series I will write about “Keeping our mind active, positive and interactive.”

Human personality is complex and is made up of Brain, Body and Mind! These three aspects are most important but there could be many more aspects which will be subsets of these three aspects. Brain and Body are physical but Mind can be described as a “Virtual Entity” in today’s language. We describe people as “Oh! He/ She is a simple soul”. Or sometimes we say “Oh! He is a tough guy!” All these adjectives like Simple, Tough describe the personality of humans. Simple soul could be six foot tall and a tough guy could be five foot tall! Human personality is a combination these three parameters.

How does the combination affect us? In young age, we are so busy with many things that we don’t care or have time to think about these aspects, we neglect our body but our brain is active. As we age our mind starts behaving differently as we have more time on hand. Our body and brain start aging. There is a saying in Marathi language मन चिंती ते वैरी न चिंती“! It means that bad thoughts can veer so much in our mind, even our worst enemy will never think about us that way.

This is the reason we should think of “minding” our mind. Personality of a human being is formed by what one sees from outside and also what is not seen from outside. In my first two blogs I have written about the “seen” part. If your brain is sharp it reflects in your demeanor. If your body is aging as it should, this is also seen from your fitness levels but your mind’s status may not be “seen” as some of us are good actors and we hide the mind’s aging process to some extent. As and when we retire, relevance of various activities changes for you as well as for others. When you don’t go to office every day, our perspective of time changes. You need to handle time on hand. During working phase, you don’t get time for many things but when you retire, there is plenty of time for everything plus you are left with more than excess time on hand. This needs to be planned well.

In brain and body blogs we discussed their management during retirement. Similarly let us define how to manage our mind.

1.       First and foremost we must understand that we will have more than enough time and others may not have time for you. Get used to it!

2.       Keep connect with people of all age groups.

3.       Try and keep connect keep connect with younger people, try and understand modern things, otherwise connect becomes difficult

4.       Cell phone and internet technologies are part of our day to day life, adapt to them.

5.       Never let the discussion veer towards “in our times”- your time is gone, nobody is interested in it!

6.       By all means join groups where people are your age but be selective to ensure that most are broadminded and positive.

7.       Travel and visit places where you could not go during working days, due to lack of time.

8.       Take up a hobby like reading, painting, writing, bird watching and what have you!

9.       Your day must be planned in such a way that you always have something to look forward to.

10.   There are many other things that can be done but it depends on individuals.

11.       Try and remain financially independent and keep your finances under your control. Your assets are for your children “after both of you go and not before”. Don’t become emotional about it. This gives peace to your mind!

12.       Keep your financial documents properly managed, that gives you peace in mind!

These are some of the things that are going to keep your mind active and positive. Remaining positive and interested in your retired life is going to help you remain healthier. At this age some or the other physical issues are bound to be around. But recovering from ailments is going to be easier by positivity of mind. At this stage there will be deaths of spouse, siblings, friends, close ones, neighbours. Handling deaths is an aspect which needs to be learnt. Share your thoughts with others, don’t just clam up. Your mind comes into picture in such situations. Positive and strong mind is going to help you. Friends, try to keep your mind as busy as you were during your working days. This may not involve physical activity but mental activities.  

God has given us gift of human body and brain. Body is bound to age naturally, but mind is not the God’s gift. It is in our hands to keep it young! If we take special efforts to keep our mind positive, active and agile, quality of our retired life will be much better! Mind is OUR business!