To err is human!

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The common phrase ‘To err is human’ is often heard in its fuller form ‘To err is human; to forgive, divine.’ It means that we humans are bound to make mistakes, and err while we live. But it is crucial that others forgive those who have made errors. Without this forgiveness, people will try to avoid the work they are doing.  One thing for sure is that what we are talking are errors and nobody wants to make errors deliberately.  But the slide above is a more realistic representation of the human thought process.

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But there are some fields where errors are almost non-acceptable. These are the functions where human life is involved, for example, the medical field, the pilots, and so on. Errors in these fields can lead to loss of human life and/ or property. But that is another subject.

Sometimes we all lose our way. We are humans, after all. We make mistakes. We focus on the wrong things. We pursue goals at all costs. We waver on ethical and moral cliffs. We get too far down a slippery slope. We steal. We cheat. We lie. We deceive others. We deceive ourselves. We don’t open ourselves up to our friends. We see crime or fraud committed by our friends and colleagues, but we don’t speak out. These can be misjudgments by good people. In these moments we’re not the friend others deserve, the partner others choose, the child our parents raised, the epitome we wish to be, nor the person we’re capable of being. But does this mean that we should not get a second chance? Does it mean that we should be blamed throughout our lives? Should we be punished for life? 

Take the case of Australian Cricketers Smith and Warner. They were caught planning and cheating to alter the ball condition in a test match; there was video evidence. They were sent back from the tour and banned from playing Cricket for one year. It was a great humiliation. Loss of face which happened because of a moment of indiscretion; the indiscretion was caused by an urge to try and win a test match at any cost, by any means. Were these players born cheats? Were they bad humans? I don’t think anybody is born that way. They learned their lesson, accepted the punishment with humility and fought their way back in the team by sheer performance. Last week, Smith was being punished the second time by booing crowd at the Oval in London in a World Cup game against India by mostly Indian group. The second part of the proverb came into play to the surprise of all. Their cricketing foe Virat Kohli gestured to the crowd, while batting, to cheer Smith instead of booing. Such magnanimity! To me, this gesture was more pleasing than the Indian victory. It showed how Humane Virat is! Later he said, “Smith was already punished; he has all the rights to make a comeback!” 

It is not the failure that defines people; it is how they come back from disaster. It is already a bad thing that you stumbled, but it is worse if you do not want to change, improve and attempt to become the right person again.  

What defines a mistake? What is an error? When we started living in an organised society thousands of years back, the society formed its own rules. The societal norms became acceptable by trial and error. In the absence of the concept of ownership in the pre-farming days, the standards were different. The idea of marriage and ownership did not exist. When couples had sex, there was no question of breaking the rules as there were no rules. Probably, only the mother knew about the birth father of the child. The concept of theft was not very serious, as almost no one owned anything.  

But there are mistakes and errors which are the time honoured ones like a promise given to another human being. In today’s world of social media, we have too much data and information flowing in our direction. Add to this the travel time required in major cities, which has gone up.  We have so many “friends.” It is moralistic thinking “to err and to forgive”. All these can lead to failure on our part to honour commitments.

But with modern society, new thought processes have also come into vogue.

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This is a tongue in cheek slide which reflects on the current management principles. The rules and thoughts about erring are quite different because of politics in any organisation. Those who can win the political game, win the race. Forgiveness be damned! This my friends is real life! Proverbs and sayings are for mere mortals not for hotshot managers!

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This slide, of course, is looking at the new technology with humour. Computers have made life quite simple for us. At the same time, we are becoming over-dependent on computers. How can the computer make a mistake is a real question? The way computers process data and information for us is totally dependent on how we humans have programmed it. To correctly program the computer, those writing the program should understand the subject in details. Advice from domain experts is critical. I will share one professional experience with you. We had sold a software product to a multinational for their business processes. Later on, the GST regime started. We had made our product GST compliant. From the customer side, they had a top-notch management company to advise them on the subject. Some changes were needed in their SAP. We called for a meeting to check the compatibility of our system. We found that the knowledge of the domain team from consultants was not adequate. With our experience, we knew that in such a complicated situation, a smaller vendor is declared erroneous! Might is always right. But we made sure that we were perfect and their system was tweaked to match our policy.

So in the real world, the mighty is always right, they never err! So it is necessary to avoid errors or mistakes. Also, it is essential that the whole world knows about it. But in personal life, forgiveness works, and you don’t need to blow your trumpet! Forgiveness reminded me of a story.

A thief is caught after some theft in his village. His mother comes to see him at the police station. Before being taken away, he requests a private meeting with his mother. He embraces her and bites her ear. She screams, but the thief says, “Mom, I always used to steal things in school, but you never reprimanded me, in fact, you almost praised me. Your forgiveness was wrong as you never scolded me. Look now, I have become a thief!”

 

 

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Be a proud foot soldier!

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Five years back, I had written a blog where I wrote my thoughts about a tree that we have in our garden. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/parijatak-%e0%a4%89%e0%a4%b0%e0%a5%8d%e0%a4%ab-nyctanthes-arbor-tristis/ 

In retrospection, I find that my impressions of that time have hardly changed. The world can never be full of topnotch performers, leaders, inventors, people who lead the human race. The world is full of average people, with ordinary ambitions like you and me. You may never be famous, but that is ok! Do I mean to say that we should never dream, we should never think big? Should we not keep on gazing at stars? Should you not be the one hitting the sixer to win the Cricket World Cup? But there can be only a Dhoni to millions of cricketers playing on the grounds of Yorkshire, Maidans of Mumbai and the gullies of small towns in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is ok to be average.  

In the days of modern communication like FB and WA, the perspective can become skew. When an event takes place and is shared, you get a million likes! (Ok, I am exaggerating, but you get a lot of likes) You have some similar event in your life, but you don’t publish it on the FB, or maybe you publish it. You get five likes. You don’t need to get frustrated. What you have done is liked by your dear ones, and you have felt the joy because you did it. To me, the pleasure of doing things is more important than getting the likes. Just because you got a minimal number of “likes” does not mean that your deed was less important 

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You don’t have to change the world or find your one real purpose to lead a meaningful life. A good life is a life of goodness — and that’s something anyone can aspire to, no matter what their dreams or circumstances are. Success is not in fame and glamour, but in routine and mundane too! Real meaning and purpose of life can be found in doing something useful for your family and friends. Cheering up your friends, and spending some time with a person who is unwell and looking for company.

We have been lucky that many people come to Jaya and me to share their woes, sometimes not even looking for advice. We are not analysts, nor are we experts in resolving personal issues. But it is a great pleasure to see a smile on that person’s face when he goes after sharing.  Here what we do is give them an ear and make them feel at home. Tricky situations in someone’s life should do not make them bad people. We should make sure that their dignity remains intact after the discussions. 

In today’s world, we see many achievers who are below 30 years of age. Their every deed, every achievement gets them on TV and the internet. After watching these repeatedly, we start feeling inferior, for no reason. We think this way because we inadvertently begin comparing our lives with those of the achievers. We believe that the achievers life is the new gold standard of how to live life. But don’t forget that you are not called to live their life, you are to live yours! 

Your life’s calling is to help and love those near and dear ones in your life.  You should do this in your neighbourhood, your community or your circle of influence. By doing these good things, you may never be on TV; you may never be publicly praised. You may never be garlanded. Your fulfilment is based on what you are doing on your own rather than whether you are your interviewed on TV or there are articles written in various publications. In whatever you are doing, give your best shot! Make the best of what your life has given you.  

Look for small gems that life brings to you. Your grandmother may have better advice for you than the bestselling author.  Your mother might share with you a little titbit, which might help you complete your project faster. You may find a single mother telling you more about the sacrifice that some expert on TV may say to you. 

These are the men and women we ought to seek out in life—and learn as much from them as we possibly can, about living life to the fullest. Seek out those mentors. They may never be famous, but that’s O.K. 

In the blog link above, I have said the same thing about the flower Parijatak. That flower is not a fancy one like a rose or a heliconia. The Parijatak is like a footsoldier but keeps marching along like the infantry. It is not glamorous; not many people discuss it, not many write about it. These trees do not offer shade like their cousins, the Banyan and the Mango trees. But they keep on giving pleasure in their own way.  

It is not a crime to be well known and famous. But a tiny percentage of people reach that pinnacle. That does not mean that you and I are not important. It so happens that among a lot of talented people, some are at the right place at the right time. Hence, they reach the top but if you don’t reach there, it is not the end of the world. Not reaching the top does not mean that we should not enjoy whatever contribution we are giving to this world; we should always enjoy it. Offering the same help and support to others is a joy that cannot be compared with anything. A Padmashree winning person and one without the award may be doing the same work, with the same passion. Not winning the award should not make you unhappy because your happiness is in doing it and not in being recognised. 

Keep on marching, friends! That is what the foot soldiers do. 

 

 

 

 

 

Cricket World Cup 2015 final!

Today the 2019 cricket world cup has started. The event took me back to 29th March 2015 the day on which the final was played for that world cup. It was played at the MCG in Melbourne, Australia. For the records, Australia beat New Zealand by seven wickets. I had been planning to see the live final for a long time, and we could finally make it to MCG. This is neither a blog nor a travelogue. I am just sharing my memories with you.

It all started in an unplanned way, as usual. It was the end of February 2014, and I had just completed my cancer treatment. Since I had nothing to do, I was surfing on the net. I looked at world cup cricket details and found that the ticket window had just opened. I asked Jaya, “Should I buy tickets for a Cricket match.” She said, “Let us not rush into it. First, you recover from the treatment, and then we will see.” I said, “The match is much later.” She gave a go ahead. I bought the tickets for MCG for the finals. She was surprised but happy. She thought I was talking of an IPL match!

Well, I informed Ranjith, who lives in Melbourne about the tickets. He sent a message to me that one of his bedrooms was booked for us! We decided to take Delhi-Melbourne, Air India flight. At the immigration, when they saw that we were travelling to Melbourne, there were no questions but a great bonhomie. The folks told us to return back with the world cup! Our family friends Dr and Dr Mrs Harshe had also travelled for the match. On our flight, there were about 40 people who were going for the game.

By the time we reached Melbourne, India had lost the semis to Australia. But our spirits did not dampen; the final at MCG was the calling! Many people had travelled from India with the hopes that India will reach the finals, but it was not to be! The D day arrived. We were about 6 km from the stadium. Two of us, along with Ranjith and his family, decided to travel by Trams. People were encouraged to use public transport to avoid traffic jams. We had to change the Tram at Flinders railway station. All the Trams were jam-packed, but the rush was not “felt”, but the atmosphere was created! Weather was sunny, but Ranjith had advised us to carry a jacket because the weather was expected to turn cool during the second session.

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Our walk to the stadium was about half a km after the Tram ride. But never even once we felt the great rush or any chaos. Everything was very orderly. I was wondering how many people were going to attend the match. Each person had to get the barcode on the ticket scanned for the turnstile. There were many entry points, and it did not look crowded at all. I was surprised to know that the attendance was 93103! So many people, but there was hardly any rush, jostling or pushing anywhere, starting with the Trams, the turnstile, the eateries, the washrooms! At the end of the match, the spillage of beer was the only indication that so many people had attended the game; that too, because people carried six beer glasses at a time! People sitting next to us were New Zealanders and chatted with us a lot as we were also backing New Zealand.

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The match started with McCullam getting out in the first over for zero! He was in top form in the tournament, and his failure led to New Zeland scoring a very non-competitive score of 183 which was overhauled by Australia losing only three wickets. (If you remember, in 1983, India had won against West Indies in the finals, after scoring 183) Johnson and Faulkner took three wickets each. Elliot scored a graceful 83 for New Zealand.

Since us desi folks were hoping that India will reach the finals, 20 to 25% people for the match were Indians. They were fully prepared for the game, musical instruments and all. After the game, a few troupes danced a great bhangda outside the stadium.  During prize distribution ceremony many greats and dignitaries were present. Longest clapping and cheers were obviously for Sachin! He is extremely popular in Australia as he has always given them a high competition even in Australia!

What was my take from this match? Humans are all the same where ever we go in the world. But public discipline in Australia was excellent, as expected, the desis also behaved in a disciplined manner, while in Australia. What happens to many of our brethren when they come back to India is difficult to judge. With ninety thousand plus people, the cleanliness in the toilets at the end of the match, and general cleanliness in the stadium was to be seen to be appreciated. Australian backers were throwing expletives towards the New Zealand players while the match was going on. Those who were a little high because of too much beer were a bit too excited but were kept under control by their friends. But overall, the proper play was appreciated, and the Cricket’s four-year jamboree was celebrated by all!

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On the way back to Pune, we had planned to see the 2019 world cup final, but alas, it is not to be! Maybe in 2023?

Life’s Speed breakers- Reblogged!


This is a blog written by me in 2015; today for some reason I felt that its a good idea to reblog the same!

Life patterns have changed for many in my generation in a way, at least I had never expected. In our parents’ generation 58/60 was the age for retirement. In those days most people retired and quietly went into the sunset. Deaths within a few years of retirement were very common, one of the reasons could have been there was nothing to look forward to! This was true in case of males, but women somehow remained busy with household chores, helping their daughters/ daughter in laws and grandchildren.

Our generation has seen things from bullock carts to electric/hybrid cars, snail mail (भारतीय डाक सेवा) to WhatsApp and god knows what in future! Going has been generally good. In our generations people try to work as long as possible because of reasonably good health, opportunities and will! When in life things are following a normal course, one tends to forget the human fallibility. Heart attacks, cancers, dementia, and accidents always happen in other homes not in my home! So we tend to breeze through and generally are in cruise control or auto pilot mode. We tend to forget that there can be speed breakers in our lives. I am writing about how I “flew” over a speed breaker, had rough landing and managed to go into “cruise control” mode again.

 Why this blog?

In life we have to face difficulties starting from family difficulties, to financial difficulties, health difficulties and so on. I thought I should share my experience with others to let them know that these are surmountable provided we keep a positive attitude in tough situations. Of course HIS blessings are the first thing you should have!! Which of above mentioned difficulties are tough to handle, everybody will have different opinion but in my opinion the above mentioned sequence is in reducing degree of difficulties. It is always good to have financial soundness plus decent insurance coverage. This puts your mind at rest about the expenses involved.

These tough times could be overcome mainly due family support and positive attitude. (By family I mean the family, extended family and friends) Probably the saying, “Tough get going when times are tough” is very apt here. During my treatment phase I have seen a patient go down as he did not have good family support. He required hospitalization and his wife never came to meet him! She was afraid of hospitals; he never recovered. So when there is a critical event in your home, it is not only you but your whole close family goes through tough times. Even if one cog in the system is weak, handling the same can be very very difficult. I was lucky we had no weak links!!

I have chosen to give this date wise activity to explain how my family and I took quick decisions to move fast with treatment. As they say Time (and Cancer) wait for nobody!!

The Story

I was continuing with my profession and was 64 years of age, in November 2013. Though my life was not very high speed life, it was reasonably busy. I was cruising in my life with manageable health issues and my mind set was as per previously mentioned thoughts, in short I thought I was infallible.

One fine day, I woke up with a squeaky voice (in retrospect, voice quality had changed a couple of weeks before) and thought maybe some oily foods or cooler weather is causing issues. I went to my ENT friend Vijay for the check-up; he suggested usual gargling and minor medication and said “call me when you get well!” After a couple of more check-ups and medications, including steroids Vijay said some more check-ups are needed. I was guided to Dr. Sant;

1st Dec 2013

On that day there was some health issue for our new born grand-daughter Rhea; I told Jaya and Priya that I will go alone for the check-up. I almost decided to go alone but Deepti insisted that Raju will go with me! Check-up was done using Stroboscope and Dr.  Sant said, Pramod I wish my diagnosis is wrong, but I am yet to make incorrect diagnosis. “You have cancerous growth on your left vocal cord and that is the reason for change in voice”! What a speed breaker! I bumped my head on the roof, was almost thrown on the wind screen! From Dr. Sant’s office, called Jaya and discussed. Called Dr. Atul (my nephew and physician) and immediately at 8 pm we went for CAT scan to check the spread, if any. Luckily no spread! On the way, ate something; diagnosis did not prevent me from getting hungry!

3rd Dec 2013

Second meeting with Dr. Sant and he had con call with Dr. Vijay and Dr. Bokil, Onco surgeon. Plan decided. 7th Dec Excisional Biopsy by Dr. Sant at Sahyadri Hospital.

7th Dec 2013

On 6th evening got myself admitted in the hospital, again Raju was great help! He stayed with me for the night. At admission counter, clerk said please get the patient; I said I am the patient! She was surprised, maybe I looked impatient!! At night, doctors wanted to take X-Ray. I walked out of the room towards X Ray area but the helper came rushing and said I must use wheelchair! I said why; he said that was the protocol and besides that doctors will blow him out if I don’t use wheelchair! Biopsy done on 7th, looks like everything went as expected. Was back in the room with major pain in the throat. Was back home in the evening, again Raju and Deepti took us home.

10th Dec 2013

The results declared, Dr. Sant passed with flying colours, cancer was confirmed.

14th Dec 2013

After discussions with Dr. Bokil, went to Ruby Hall to finalize radiation stuff with Dr. Maiya, Radiation Oncologist. Plan fixed. Dr. Maiya had told us at the beginning of the treatment, that in cancer treatment, upto 60% cure is due to family and positivity; balance 40% consists of medicines, doctors and equipment. If one remains positive, medicines and treatment are more effective.

  • Immunotherapy intravenous weekly- total 8 doses
  • 34 radiations

20th Dec 2013

First dose of immunotherapy given in ICU (just in case) and the radiations to be started within 2/3 days. Feeding tube inserted by Dr. Bokil through the nose for later use.

23rd Dec 2013

First radiation given; same day moved to new home next to Priya for easy management of the baby and grandpa!

Fell into a routine of leaving for Ruby hall 6.20 am daily.

24th January 2014

Radiation put on hold due to cough and minor fever. General weakness felt as Steroids, Antibiotics and drugs to check blood/sugar taking its toll! Sugar level checked thrice a day. Difficulty in swallowing solid food starts. A couple of feeds of liquid diet started. Body rash in head, neck and on back but manageable. Throat pain begins and so do pain killers; followed by cough bouts especially at night. I was not hospitalised but was at home right through.

2nd February 2014

Switched over 100% to liquid formula for adults; there are two of us on liquid formula in the house, grandfather competing with grand-daughter! For me it was delta change of switching from solid diet to liquid diet but for Jaya it was a logistics nightmare. Giving me first feed at 5 am so that we could leave home for Radiation at 6.20 am. Needed eight feeds to keep me going and in the whole process I lost only about 3 kgs. (Atul said weight goes down upto 10/15 kgs sometimes) My last daily feed was at 11 pm. Logistics for this feed was 15 minutes preparation, 15 minutes for feed and 15 minutes cleaning the stuff. Eight such feeds in a day plus tablets three times a day was also a feed because I could not swallow!! Plus managing day to day chores at home!! Phew! Plus managing phone calls, visitors (we had requested all to differ visits) How Jaya managed!!

16th February

Jaya had a very strong migraine attack and had to be hospitalised. On her way to hospital she called Ashwini, who rushed. She and Priya managed last couple of days of my feeds and otherwise!

20th February

Final radiation treatment!

Family Support

During all this process Dr. Gauri our niece came and stayed with us for 5/6 days. Priya was trying her best to support even while nursing the baby. Our son Sachin came from USA and stayed for two weeks. Last three days of the treatment was logistics nightmare. Jaya collapsed due to all the stress. She had an attack of relief migraine. Jaya went to hospital and checked in like hotel check in, got herself treated for 3 days, paid her bill and came back! Who managed me during this period? Our other niece Ashwini rushed at 1 hr notice and managed with some help from Priya. Who managed Jaya, God and family!! Of course Raju and Deepti were there to support all the time. Dada and Pushpatai was there for moral support. Situ, Ashwini and Anish came so did Mai & Nilkanthrao. Jaya’s brother Nanda a great support for logistics. Nikhil & Sushil were also a great help.

Friends Support

Jayprakash took Jaya to hospital when she had migraine attack, Sanjay came and met. Sharya, Ram Prabhu, Prakash Raykar came from Mumbai to meet. Chandru, Bhave, Bhide, Dada Parulekar, Santosh, Ajit, Pakya Nirgudakar (in spite of his own issues) barged in. Vijay & Madhuri came down from Mumbai. Jaya requested, Sudip, Rufus and many others to differ visit as she was getting overwhelmed! But Ranjith had come from Australia so came in with Rufus. Saurabh dropped in from Mumbai. There were so many emails, WhatsApp messages and so forth which was a reassurance that help was just one phone call away. I may have missed some names for which I may be pardoned!!

Unknown parameters

Initially I did not even know that there will be 34 radiations, I thought just one or two radiations and it’s done. I also did not know that immunotherapy was a full day affair of intravenous drug, and potassium support. Weekly blood/urine tests were also not known to me!!I also did not know that I had to wear Spiderman type of mask during Radiations!! Prognosis was the unknown factor but Doctors started indicating that cancer of vocal cords is a non-spreadable variety and there were chances that recurrence may not happen as the spread was also minimum. Fear of the unknown, honestly it was never there!

Medical fraternity professionalism

Atul, as the physician, was as usual there to indicate what can and cannot happen. Dr Maiya, Radiation Oncologist, was very clear in his thoughts and explained to us the complete roadmap during the treatment; it was like when the real issues will start, when they will taper off, what are the precautions to be taken; he was available 24/7 which luckily was not needed.

Emergencies

Once I was required to rush for chest x ray due to persistent cough, but things turned out to be normal. Once there was an indication of kidney function issue but Atul reassured that things were under control. No other emergencies cropped up.

Recovery

Dr. Maiya had explained how recovery will happen by talking my language, in graphical form. It took exactly same path indicated by Dr. Maiya. Within ¾ days of last radiation, I could switch back to bland but solid food. My throat condition would not allow me cold, sour, hot stuff. But it felt good to eat normal food. During first week of recovery, while surfing on the net, bought two tickets for Cricket World Cup final at MCG, (in March 2015!) maybe my way of declaring to myself that I am on recovery path. Started some normal activities, small walk, office for a couple of hours a day on alternate days, and then daily office for four hours. In June I started full fledge office and in July I started with out of Pune travel for work. During this phase some weakness was felt. Later on I started to drive  myself to travel outside Pune. On the whole recovery path was normal with no hick ups. Mental challenge was more than the physical challenge.

October 2015

Except the throat infections, I now do not have any issues. Throat area was directly bombarded with Radiations, so I am sure throat infections will keep on coming at more than normal frequency for some time. Life is back to normal; once in a while I have started thinking that I am infallible!! I travelled to Australia, will be travelling end of October to meet my sons’ family in Seattle. Travel for work is normal plus the greatest benefit is we had 2/3 get together meetings with friends!! What more can one want from life! I can confidently say that I am back to cruising mode thanks to Him, thanks to family and friends!