Montreal Musings-day to day life III!

Now the writer in me has started understanding the difference in going on a planned holiday on a tour and living at a destination for a reasonable period. Taking a tour is like going for a movie and then to go back to your routine. Whereas staying at a place is like reading a long novel. Enjoy it part by part. And keep on doing it for a much longer duration.

The leaves are changing the colours but not as fast as I have seen at other locations. In Montreal maybe only the Maple leaves change the colours, others only wither as winter arrives. Hopefully, within the next few weeks, I will come to know what happens.  I said this, and I saw some lovely colours today when we went out for lunch.

Public transport is one thing that I am enjoying; I don’t get that opportunity in back home. It feels nice to say hello or good morning to the bus driver while swiping the card. The response is also always a smile. Some of us may think that it is a bit mechanical, but it is anytime better than ignoring each other. Now my French vocabulary has reached the level of Merci and Bonjour! Priya shared one experience with me, which was shocking. Once while Priya was in a bus standing, a lady struggled to climb up with a walker. The driver did not start the bus as she was struggling and must have been hoping that someone will provide her with a seat. The driver even requested people to do so. But it took a few minutes for someone to decide to offer her a seat. Jaya and I are sometimes offered with the seats, but maybe we do not look old enough.

A couple of days back there was Environmental March which 50000 people attended. On that day, Montreal city contributed in a very innovative way. The public transport for all the people was free for the whole day, to encourage people to attend the march.

One thing I observed about the weather is when it is raining intermittently, the temperature may be higher, but it feels damp and cold. Five degrees cooler with Sunshine feels warmer even in the shade.

There is one interesting service offered. In our area, there was a power outage for about four hours due to some cable related issue. The affected zone was isolated, and the power was restored. It is now four days, but the fault is yet to be rectified. But that is not the end of the story. Electricity people have made some temporary arrangement with wiring and have provided power continuously to affected people for these four days using a truck-mounted generator.

Though I see at least one beggar at most Metro Stations (but never more- which is a surprise).

The developed countries have their own different systems and facilities for the pets. I see many shops catering to pets. I see many veterinary doctor’s clinics too! Probably many couples prefer to have Pets instead of children. These shops keep different clothing available for the pets. These include wedding dresses, clothes for winter, raincoats for use during rains and so on.

Another interesting thing found here is the number of flowers and flower beds, currently. People know that the flowers are going to last only for six or seven months, every year before winter takes over. But they follow this expensive hobby!

One fascinating place to visit is the festival of lights at the Botanical Garden, near the Olympic Stadium. Inspired by the ancient Chinese tradition, this event has been enchanting people since its creation. Glittering lanterns of various shapes illuminate the Chinese Garden and the eyes of thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the magical spectacle. The Japanese Garden leads you along a meditative illuminated path inspired by the seasons, and the First Nations Garden features an intense multimedia experience that lets you feel the beating heart of the Cycle of Life. One interesting thing; the path in the Japanese garden is quite dark, but they have made the displays with the help of mirrors, the trees appear as if they are full of fireflies! One more speciality was the Bonsai trees. One of them was as old as 160 years.  Montreal Olympic Stadium Tower in the background of light festival.

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Even as late as 15 years many Indian food items were difficult to procure, including the raw material like dal etc. But it is a pleasant surprise that most of the things are available here in Montreal reasonably easily. One can imagine their availability in the Bay area in SFO and New Jersey!

It appears that the preparations for Durga Pooja, Garba in Navratri and Diwali are already on or are being discussed. I will feel happier when assimilation of festivals also takes place, and friends other than those of Indian Origin are invited to celebrate such festivals.

I hear of Indian people who have been living in Toronto and Montreal for more than forty years. In the initial phase of their lives, it must have been trying for them to live an Indian way of life. But with more and more people living in different parts of the world, I was not surprised to see a typical store in one of the malls selling Agarbattis! Business is the ultimate leveller in this world. I read somewhere recently, that Agarbattis worth Rs. 800/ crores were imported in India from China. When we were on the Alaska Cruise about three years back, there were at least forty different Indian food items available in the spread. These included Dal- Khichdi and Malvani Fish!

With more and more Indian professionals becoming financially more comfortable at a young age, they are going to travel more, and I won’t be surprised if Indian items become very popular like Indian Curry and Indian Restaurants in the UK! Add to this, the children of Indians born in foreign countries; so, this number is going to become very big as keeping touch with home base  has become more comfortable with video calling and internet calling.

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By the way, we went out today to eat Pani-puri and Wada-Pav! But I had Wada-pav and Thali!  The joint is started by a French guy who got himself trained in Mumbai.The Chai was served the Indian cutting way.

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The day before yesterday, I had breakfast in a restaurant serving middle eastern food, on top of that it was vegan. There was some lovely omelette, another item which was like our Sanja and a dish made out of lentils with a nice bread! I had fun.

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Another thing I saw on Montreal roads. Public charging of EV’s is now available. My little knowledge of driving cars for fifty-plus years tells me that fuel tank and the lid are on the opposite side of where the driver sits. But the Tesla I saw being charged on the road, had the charging on the same side as the driver side! Can anybody explain to me why this would be so? All other EV’s seen in Montreal followed the normal convention!

Some interesting things like Puneri Patya!

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The pursuit of Happiness!

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How does one envisage happiness? What is happiness? Happiness is a state of being happy. During the natural progression of our life, we have ups and downs, troughs, and peaks. It is a logical thought process that we are looking to be happy whenever possible. There are hundreds and thousands of books about happiness. All these books suggest that we make efforts to reach the state of happiness. The result of such efforts finally culminates in reaching our goal. The books suggest that we should participate in relentlessly making efforts to achieve our target, our goals. Once we have reached our goals of being happy, we must keep on making substantial efforts to continue being happy.

Hey, what are we trying to do? With continuous efforts, will we have the energy to remain happy, when we reach the goal? To me, we enjoy good things after we go through a bad phase. Drinking ice cold water is more enjoyable after we reach our destination walking through the scorching Sun. The same cold water needs to be replaced by a hot cuppa or a cup of coffee when coming home through a snow storm. Our state of mind and our needs are dependent on the overall situation. Cold water does not give “happiness” every time.

Continuous pursuit of happiness is not for all. Some may find it too stressful. Some may get tired of making efforts all the time. A question will come in a person’s mind, “How can every situation be a happy situation?” You don’t do well in the examination; you are side-stepped for promotion. You break up with your partner. Such events keep on happening. Does it mean that after every sad event, we immediately start making efforts to become happy? Should we not take some time to soak into the event? Should we not try to analyse why this happened?

One needs to look at any situation from the right perspective. You have a Diwali holiday coming up and had promised to be home from your travels, on time. Your projects need you to stay put. You are unhappy, and so are family members. You miss the Diwali. But when you finally reach home and go to your office, your boss has kept a surprise party for you and in the end declares that you are promoted out of turn. You reach home, and your Diwali starts on reaching home! The incident indicates that you need not pursue happiness in the short term, but it should be a long-term affair!  The happiness, in this case, just happened out of the blue.

Your life meanders where you win some and lose some. It is a trip you ride on a sinusoidal wave; the peaks of the wave are happiness and troughs are sadness.

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Yes, happiness needs efforts, but the life cycle moves, as shown above. We should understand that happiness and grief/pain are two sides of the same coin. Whatever we do, there cannot be eternal happiness, nor can there be constant grief. But it is our attitude and adaptability that helps us handle the euphoria caused by the cycles.

Can we plan happiness? We can make efforts to achieve happiness but can not anticipate it. I will share the story of a friend. He had a significant health set back, which restricted his movements. The situation though serious, was not critical. He is a very positive person and decided that he is going to get well soon by doing activity A in two months, activity B within four months and so on. But health conditions do not change as per our wishes, and these take their course. I am sure if he could have achieved those milestones, he would have been thrilled. But he could not accomplish any of these milestones and was very sad and unhappy. The event is a lesson to all of us not to assume success too much in advance, not to strive too hard to achieve some goals. One can hope to achieve but cannot plan to make them succeed. You cannot expect happiness.

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The slide tells you to start being positive the moment you wake up. I share slides which are relevant to the subject being discussed. Humans are not machines or Robots. When you wake up, you may have a fever. You may have a headache. You may have argued with the spouse the night before. You have to give an essential and critical presentation in the office. You can’t just wake up and be positive. To me, this slide is what you should not attempt to do.

 You own your actions. In doing what you want, go towards the path of happiness; you may end up making someone unhappy. It is not your duty to make everybody happy, but at the same time, we should not forget that we must try and make sure that people in our immediate ecosystem are kept happy.

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This slide is the real essence of what we should do to achieve to be happy. In the slide, the happiness is described as a butterfly. We know that when we try and catch a butterfly by chasing, it would elude you. But when we don’t pursue it, the butterfly will sit softly on our shoulders.

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Looking for happiness is like chasing a mirage. Happiness cannot be your goal. If one enjoys whatever one is doing, then chances of that person being happy are more. As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Similarly, happiness is in our mind; happiness just happens. I will tell you what I mean. I was walking back from the gym. I saw the one-year-old child with his grandfather. I smiled, looking at the child. The child smiled back at me, and for the next five minutes, the interaction that we had was so sweet and enlightening that I spent the whole day remembering the event. Did I plan for this happiness, the joy? It just happened. It was the culmination of my smiling at the innocent child. (By the way, the grandfather just did not have any reaction to what happened, probably he had not planned his happiness)  Maybe he was not working hard for his happiness!

 

Happy Diwali!

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On the left side in the photo is my son’s family and on the right side is my daughter’s family.

As usual, Diwali has come and will be celebrated in Gusto. Diwali is celebrated in different communities in various ways. There are traditions galore. I love traditions as long as they are harmless; traditions which lead to things like black magic and stuff are no no for me! In most cases traditions, are followed blindly and without understanding why they are followed. Now with a new found liking of trying to understand many things, I am trying to understand Diwali. In my case, I grew up in a cosmopolitan area of Marine Lines, Bombay in 60’s of the last century. Yes, we did celebrate Diwali but later I came to know that it was celebrated differently in the areas like Giragaum and Dadar, these have been predominantly Maharashtrian areas! Borivali and Thane were distant places.

Diwali is celebrated as the festival of light in India. It signifies the return of Rama to his kingdom after he triumphed over Ravana. People light oil lamps and keep them outside their houses in order to show Rama the way when dark. The festival commences with Vasu Baras or Govatsa Dwadashi and cows and calves are worshiped on this day. While this day has more importance in Maharashtra and Gujarat, south India too celebrates it as Nandini Vrat. Cows and calves are fed preparations made of wheat. People who offer prayers don’t consume milk or any wheat products on this day. This tradition is an obviously old tradition of the era when the cow was Gomata and many things revolved around the cows. Celebrating them and feeding them good stuff is probably a way to say thank you to them. In olden days food used to be mainly Jowar and Bajra. On Vasu Baras cows are fed foodstuff made up of wheat, the same way humans eat puran poli made out of wheat to celebrate festivals. The video below was shot by me near my home yesterday, where it seems there was an impromptu music arrangement was done, to create an atmosphere of festivity. ( Was it a business activity in disguise?)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgAkG4obqHY&feature=youtu.be

I think most of our festivities are a result of some events from the life of Krishna or Rama. In the same tradition, we have Naraka Chaturdashi. Naraka Chaturdashi (also known as Kali Chaudas, Roop Chaudas, Choti Diwali or Naraka Nivaran Chaturdashi) is a Hindu festival, which falls on Chaturdashi (14th day) of the Krishna Paksha in the Vikram Samvat Hindu calendar month of Ashvin. It is celebrated after Vasu Baras.  The Hindu literature narrates that the asura (demon) Narakasura was killed on this day by Krishna, Satyabhama and Kali. Hence it  is also referred to as Naraka-Chaturdashi. Kali Chaudas is a day to abolish laziness and evil which create hell in our life and shine the light on life.

One good thing is that the  people celebrate the festivals with a lot of enthusiasm. But now they do it differently. Some families come together, some travel together. Some travel but come home on Laxmi Pujan day. Some families have Diwali gambling sessions, some have Diwali drinking sessions but people come together. A new trend has started some years back. There are early morning music festivals, starting at 6 am. The artists sing, dance and play instruments. People are modifying the way things are done but the basic theme of celebration does not change, coming together.

One very interesting development has taken place this year. Supreme Court has given a decision that crackers can be burst during a limited period between 8 and 10 pm. They have also defined the noise level allowed for the bursting! Immediately, there was a hue and cry raised that this is done only against Hindu Festivals. Hindu tradition never said that a string 10000 crackers be burst creating a real cacophony and smoke. In olden days there was no technology to manufacture “bombs” which could make humans deaf! We modify the traditions incorrectly and then fight over it as if there is a further modification suggested; but what the court has done is to bring back normalcy.

We should not be against changes or modifications. The concept will not change but the way things are done will change. When there were no motorized vehicles, we used bullock carts and horse carriages. Due to non-availability of alternate transport, people still use Camels to go from one place to another, in deserts. By all means find different ways to celebrate, find innovative ways to bring joy to this world! My dear friend Jayprakash and we have made sure that we met every year in Diwali for a long time. But this time he and Bharati have traveled to China and will spend their Diwali traveling. 排灯节快乐 Jayprakash!

Laxmi Pujan, Padwa and Bhaubeej or bhai dooj are to well known for me to add something new about them. Only thing I would say is that these are for three very important aspects in lives, Laxmi Pujan is about respecting the money, Padwa is about Husband and wife, and Bhaubeej is about brothers and sisters! Money is a practical need of the life and relations mentioned are the most important ones in our lives other than our parents.

Diyas or lamps lit are supposed to show the path to Ram and Sita to come back home after the dark period in life; the lamps also hustle the bad things or demons to go away. The crackers are burst during these days as a celebration; we do it after we win an important cricket match, too. The crackers are also burst to scare away the devil or demons. Please make sure that us humans are not affected by the loud noise.

I am sure world over, there are different traditions which are followed for thousands of years; but make sure its not done blindly. Keep them relevant for times we live in! Each individual, each family may do whatever that brings joy to them and to others. If you go to buy something in shops, wish Happy Diwali to strangers, wish Happy Diwali to shop keepers. Wish Happy Diwali to auto driver, wish happy Diwali to all the people who are working during Diwali, to make your Diwali merrier. Don’t forget that they are working during Diwali to keep us happy, make our Diwali happier! They also have their own families, they also have their spouses and children and siblings. They are going out of the way to make this occasion happier for us!

Another thing that we need to do is to redefine demons or devils or whatever you want to call them. In olden times devils were like Ravan but now the demons are modern day Ravans. But besides that there are demons like pollution, noise pollution, corruption and many such things. On the occasion of Diwali we can make resolutions like doing social work, helping out poor financially, share your professional knowledge  with society, pro bono!

I read a very interesting interview in today’s newspapers. A couple of business people who sell crackers were being interviewed. A family has been running the business for last 50 years. They said this year, the cracker sale is low and they are facing resistance from their children and grandchildren regarding the selling of crackers. This younger generation is talking about noise, pollution and stuff like that. They are saying that probably the days are numbered for this businesses! I can feel that the number of crackers being burst this year are markedly less! Happy Diwali!

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=diwali+crackers+video&view=detail&mid=1849F03CB11BFE257F901849F03CB11BFE257F90&FORM=VIRE

Faith or Facts?

Discussions are always going on about how advanced science and technology was in our old civilization; there have been references like use of Pushpak Viman by Lord Ram. Honestly, one does not really know how to handle such discussions. Discussions about old civilizations are mainly based on religious dialogues and sentiments. Religion is a matter of faith not knowledge. When you try to marry the two there is confusion. This issue is perhaps there, in every faith. However, the problem is accentuated, when to this mismatch of knowledge and religion, politics is added. 

Tripura Chief Minister  Biplab Kumar Deo made a statement that there was internet during Mahabharata. Mr. Deb is not the first politician to claim that modern day technology existed in mythology. In January, Satyapal Singh, a junior education minister in PM Modi’s cabinet, criticized the theory of evolution, claiming “nobody saw apes turn into human“. In February, he said mantras‘ had codified Newton’s Laws of Motion. 

Now this is a topic that is always going to generate heat, and heat it is generating. What is correct and what is wrong is individual choice; this sometimes is blinded by faith, every body has his own justification and thought process. Probably it starts with people who are totally religious and those who are atheist! Two ends of the spectrum. Most will be in between. But the thought process about mythology depends on whether you are scientific minded or not. Those with scientific mind will heat everything in the crucible of thought and analysis. It is possible  that for some people who are trained in science still may not want to analyze it scientifically. It is the faith element in those persons which is stronger that the analytical part. 

But do we make fun of people who have stronger belief in faith than in thinking logically? Do we say something which we normally don’t say to each other? No way! Let us be fair to each other. You may try and have a dialogue with such people, try to explain to them your point of view if it is different. It is normal way of life, we have difference of opinion on a subject. Why should there be excitement in saying or writing on such issues?  

But then another thought comes to my mind. I tend more towards atheism and I am also trained in science side of life and have been working all my life in the same area. So my mind veers towards analyzing everything, including religious things. There have been many inventions that were claimed to exist during times of our old civilization. But I feel that this thought process is made by people who believe in it and is presented to suit and strengthen their arguments. These and many more abstracted truisms are just based on optical and physical observations and concentrated analytical thinking, in olden times. The disadvantage these people had was that they had to study without the help of instruments, now available to the scientists! So, we can claim that we knew about a lot about things terrestrial but I do not think we knew real details! Another thought that always comes to mind is that written records of history are a recent phenomena, compared to the time frame of our civilization. I am really not sure about the authenticity of the records, as there have been no written records. All the knowledge, information was passed on verbally to next generation. Similar was the case of other sciences like medical treatments. The quality of passing of this knowledge depended on the person who passed on the knowledge and the person who received the knowledge. In Marathi, there is saying ध चा मा! A king gave an order to his juniors to arrest someone; one change in the alphabet in that order, indicated by ध चा मा, ended up killing that person instead of being arrested. These small errors could have multiplied as the knowledge was passed on from generation to generation, in absence of written records. This is profoundly reflected in Ayurveda. Ayurveda had an advantage of being around for a long time, compared to other medical pathys. But in absence of such record keeping, many good treaties and treatments may have been lost or got diluted. This of course, is another subject for discussion because Ayurveda fell behind later due to lack of research. 

I must write about how people go overboard about things supposedly present during mythological times. Lord Rama started to go to Ayodhya from Sri Lanka, after killing Ravana, on Dussara day. When he reached Ayodhya, people were ready to celebrate the event by putting lights or Diya’s everywhere! Of course, I am talking of Diwali. They said that this is the reason Diwali is celebrated 21 days after Dussera, time taken by Ram to reach Ayodhya from Srilanka. There was a google map in circulation,  showing the path followed by Lord Ram to reach in 21 days. It was straight as an arrow passing through jungles and mountains and crossing large rivers. We find it difficult even today, to traverse certain paths with modern roads and vehicles but… Secondly, how were people in Ayodhya ready for the arrival? Internet, cell phone, of course we had them during those days.

Ex Police Commissioner of Mumbai and now a Junior minister, Satyapal Singh says that Darwin’s theory is meaning less because he has never seen apes getting converted into humans. Now when people like an ex commissioner of police of Mumbai and chief minister of the state say such things for political purpose, it is more of an embarrassment and not correct. Of course we can then say that Dhritrashtra was getting all the information from the war zone, sitting in his palace, by live streaming! I am ok with someone who says that my life is better if everyday I go to a mandir! Perfect, nothing wrong in that. It is the faith of that person. If someone claims that his life better as he chants mantras every day, I am ok. He says these things after the event! Someone’s belief in faith is acceptable. But the above mentioned statements by Ministers, are rather difficult to digest, freedom of speech and all count but there has to be some logic behind what one claims. 

I met a person recently who was doing some archeological study in interior of our country. After digging deep they found some artifacts which were probably 2000 years old. I asked him what was his conclusion. He said, that they concluded the old civilization definitely had WiFi during those days because they did not find anything like cables etc!  

 

 

 

 

  

Life’s Station or Status!

Yesterday during Diwali celebrations and chit chat, a very interesting subject suddenly came up for discussion. The discussion became hotter than heat generated by Diwali crackers. Situ told a story of a lady doctor who married a plumber, in America. He also said that such events are pretty regular in foreign countries. He further said that in foreign countries like the US, the social fabric is such that people from different professions in life can be close friends. I said that this a rare case even in America . Jaya and Ashwini were pro this and I was against this thought process. I said that there are two points we are discussing simultaneously and mixing them. One is the respect given to professions/professionals and the other is social friendships, getting married as mentioned about the doctor’s marriage.

My point is that in India, there is no respect given to professions other than the engineers, doctors, pilots, architects and in certain professions. Our society does not give respect to technicians or artisans like carpenters, plumbers, lock smiths and so on. In fact such professions are treated as “lowly”, unfortunately. In foreign countries these trades are definitely respected. But the point being disputed was when it comes to the social status or a social station of these people, will they be treated equally in one’s mind? Will a top notch brain surgeon be a friend of an electrician?  It may so happen that they were classmates in school/college. A small percentage, very small one, will continue to be friends but as a norm this does not happen in real life! Let’s be honest! Utopian thinking says that this happens but will a guy living on Malabar Hills in Mumbai be weekly drink mate of a guy living in Virar or Kalyan! These names written by me are for explanation, please do not take this as my opinion.

Let us look at the background in India, the oldest civilization! There were four Varnas described in Hinduism.

  • Brahmins: priests, scholars and teachers.
  • Kshatriyas: rulers, warriors and administrators.
  • Vaishyas: agriculturalists and merchants.
  • Shudras: laborers and service providers.

These are called savarnas and are supposedly forward classes; remaining are tribes and scheduled tribes are avarnas, with no Varnas and are supposedly backward classes. These are not to be mixed up with Jatis or Castes. With this separation in India for thousands of years, the so called discrimination always happened discretely and many times not so discretely. Does this happen in foreign countries? My opinion is it happens but mostly discretely. To give example of British royalty, Queen Elizabeth’s sister Margaret, fell love with Snowden, a commoner and a photographer. Well, the family was graceful in allowing the marriage (there was no honour killing the way we have in India!) but Snowden was made Lord Snowden. How can Margaret’s husband be a commoner? This is how the discretion was resolved!

World over, there are different types of discretions and discriminations. In India, it is so ingrained in our blood, it’s embedded in our DNA. Coming back to subject of respect for courses or professions, it changes from region to region. It is the parents wish that the child gets well settled as early as possible, after education. In Maharashtra there have been many industries existing for a long time hence engineering course was a top runner. Doctors anyway are respected hence that was another course respected. But up north previously not many industries were around. Jobs were mostly available in government, so there the aim was to a take a basic degree and appear for competitive examinations.

A person’s success is measured by where the person reaches on the ladder to success.  Utopian thinking says that someone is successful in life when one gets to do things in life that the person loves. People love to sing, dance, and paint, play instruments or become writers of travelogues. In their goal to achieve success what are the steps of the ladder made up of! Are steps made up of the quality, in what you are doing; are you the best in your field and are also commercially successful! But the world is not utopia, so my thinking tells me that people go by quality as well as commercial success. To give an example you may be doing quality stuff in what you are doing but you are not able to buy a car to move around. 99% people will say he is damn good but not successful. That my friends is a fact of life! In whatever you are doing longevity is also equally important. One song wonder or one movie wonders are never called successful and it is said that the person did not live up to the potential, which in other ways is unsuccessful. A person who is already “successful” in something and achieves moderate success in some other field is considered more successful than someone who has achieved more, only in the second field!

Coming back to our “hot” discussion that we had yesterday, in India there is a discrimination in the type of work a person is doing; they are respected as per hierarchy of professions which got defined over a period. At the same time, success of a person is dependent on how that person has commercially succeeded in field rather the quality that has been achieved. But in western countries there is a respect to ALL professionals irrespective of the profession. But the success of the person is still judged the same way as is done by us.

GST ground realities!

Some human emotions and reactions are excitement, frustration, ignorance, arguments! I never thought that GST, Goods and Services Tax, a drab subject will invoke so much of emotions. GST was implemented by Government of India effective from 1st July 2017. Before GST, the tax structure was extremely complicated and each state had its own tax rates and taxes. Doing business and managing tax compliance was an extremely complex thing with many different tax agencies, with many obstacles in doing business, it was almost like a hurdle race. I am not going to write about technicalities of implementation or real life details but about the human angle in GST implementation.

This change is supposed to be a game changer in the business ecosystem of India. GST was being planned since last ten years. But usual political lack of will, government change and horse trading delayed the implementation. First date declared for implementation was 1/10/2016 which was changed to 1/4/2017 then finally to 1/7/2017. Humans are of different types and the tendency in some is to crib about everything. On one side people said how can this government implement GST when they cannot even fix up the date of implementation! Though GST is being discussed for more than 10 years, when it really happened main refrain was “we were not given enough time”. How do you define enough time? Main preparation required for any business reform, other than infrastructure, is the change in mental setup. If you are mentally not ready, 20 years also will not be good enough time for getting ready!

All the big industry and many in trade have been under some tax regime all the time. Laws under excise regime were very strong but it was easier to play around in other tax types. Why do people avoid taxes? Is it with the noble cause of selling goods at a cheaper rate? No way! They do it basically to avoid showing the real volume of business they do, thereby saving on income tax. This is the so called parallel economy or cash economy. This is nothing new and it happens world over. When you have complex laws and equally complex systems, those who want to play around are happy because they can tweak the system and reach their ultimate goal, hide the real income. A friend Mahesh always used to say, “Pramod excise is the best thing that has happened to India.” Mahesh headed a manufacturing organization. He would say, “These laws mandated people to complete their work every day, only because of fear of going to jail!” Many people will be sloppy if allowed and would not complete their daily! It is fear that mandated people to complete the work.

GST compared to previous tax regime before 1/7/2017, is a very simple system. It is addressing many demands of business groups about cascading effect of taxes, causing heavy/double taxation on end products and services. Tax levels all over India for same product are same, so are tax levels on services. When the government decided to go ahead with GST, it was required to fix tax rates for each item based on available information, knowledge and discussions with trade and business groups. With such a large exercise there can never be 100% acceptance and there are bound to be changes over a period, and modifications made on the fly. The affected groups were bound to be unhappy and made a lot of noise! Authorities listened to most but some demands were unreasonable, so government ignored them. Human learns from birth that if you cry loudly mother will give you milk. These people are crying loudly to grab attention. The implementation phase saw cribbing at its best!

In some cases, there were errors and flaws which were not corrected even on approaching helplines, writing to right authorities and making genuine attempts. There were no resolutions coming, initially. This is a small group of businesses and these are the groups that are bound make maximum noise, in some cases justifiable. There were interpretation errors by consultants which resulted in chaos. But there are some groups who on one side say that GST is the best thing that has happened to India but and in the same breath say that it is a draconian system! The system has just started  since last ¾ months. How draconian nature of system can be viewed or experienced by these people in such a short period? I doubt that other than non-resolution of their queries there is hardly any interaction with government agencies. Government is already publishing advertisements in newpapers showing FAQ’s for various group of businesses. I get a feeling that GST system will make life difficult for those who want to avoid taxes, but nobody can openly say so! So beat the drums and trumpets against the system!

People tend to tell false stories to complain against the changes. One person claimed that he was required to spend Rs. 80000/ for getting his organization registered for GST. There are no fees for registration. Governments drive for digitalization requires digital signature during registration. This person claimed that Rs. 30000/ was spent for digital signature process. It is false, consultants charge Rs.1500/ to get this done. Digital signature is valid for two years! So real expense was Rs.1500/. On asking about Rs.50000/ expense he claimed that he could not take Rs.50000/ tax credit because of the delay. This is again false because he could easily have taken it had he registered on time, maybe he did not know the right procedure or his consultant was not competent. Such false stories are floated because of lack of knowledge. Throwing tantrums due to lack of knowledge pretty easy.

Humans don’t want a change, if it is possible, as per Newton’s law of inertia. They will make statements like “Change is the only constant!” But in real life change management needs new systems, processes, retraining and change in thought process. This needs leadership to encourage people to change. Absence of these things will create situation where it is easy to blame everything on GST! Government or GST is a faceless entity so it is very easy to make such a drama if you get an audience. Some people have reached very high in life’s station, but this does not mean that they have total knowledge about GST. In cocktail parties they will make “knowledgeable” statements. When they meet a person with knowledge they tend to drift to join another group for discussion!

I feel that by Diwali next year, these strong emotions, discussions, reactions will taper off. People will then start singing praise of GST as if the whole world is reformed by GST, it is only a change in tax system! People will get used to GST, Newton’s law of inertia will set in and discussions during next Diwali maybe about North Korean nuclear bomb!

[PP1]

Traditionally speaking…

Tradition means a long-established custom or belief that has been passed on from one generation to another. This is a great thing that we humans do. Traditions have been formed and continued based on what we have been doing year after year. But what has now happened is that traditions and their real meaning, and their relevance getting is lost in translation. Many of the traditions started in olden times with a specific thought process which was relevant at that time, within the knowledge level of those times but we want to continue using them without thinking! We also know that technology is the boon given to human race by intelligence and hard work of various people. But in case of tradition sometimes technology is becoming a  bane, a cause of great distress or annoyance:

What I feel is that instead of using technology in the right way, it is being used in such a way that it is causing harm. Take the case of crackers. Supreme Court has recently come up with a directive not to burst crackers in Delhi region due to serious pollution issues. There is a big discussion and people are upset about “heavy handed” action against traditions. But a close look at the situation in that area will tell us that traditionally farmers burn their chaff, people burst crackers of Diwali and the air purity goes to an absolute toss! Chaff can be disposed off by using different methods but we don’t want to change the tradition! Instead of being adamant about traditions, people should come together find out ways and means to enhance the joy of traditions, by lighting lovely wick lamps or diyas! Light thousands of them and enjoy the beauty and serenity!

delhi_smog_1478513562325diyas

Bursting crackers and enjoying decorative lighting is part of celebration but crackers without much smoke and cacophony is the order of the day. In olden days what was the population size? How many people burst the crackers? There was no car pollution, there was no coal power plants pollution. With all these modern changes if millions start bursting crackers we have seen what has happened. On top of that people buy crackers which are tied up as 10000 fire cracker garland. With technology the bursting strength and sound has gone up by many decibels. On top of that smoke generated by 10000 crackers is enormous! In my childhood 60 years back I remember about 7/8 of us kids would burst about 80 crackers in one hour, one at a time! These garlands were never our tradition because they never existed. We are making wrong innovations in the right tradition.

10000crackers1

Take the case of Dassara festival. It is naturally celebrated with big fanfare with a lot of flowers, garlands new clothes, it is a total celebration. This is celebrated for nine days with gusto. People dance with gay abandon to celebrate different form of the Goddess on each day! They take out processions, all fine! Now comes the misuse of technology. Since last 20 years or so procession also has big bank of huge speakers generating god knows how many decibels. During such procession which used to pass by our home, we would close the windows tightly shut, even with the windows tightly shut we could not hear a single word on TV at full volume. Only option left to us was to call police. Then the speakers would be toned down to normal volume for 200 feet and then… of course they would go full blast!

Speakers

Sabarimala devasthanam in Kerala is a temple existing from 12th century. It is in a very remote area in hills of Kerala. From olden times due to remoteness and difficult terrain,  and no roads women have avoided to go there. This practice somehow turned into tradition and was surprisingly ratified by High Court in 1991 saying that women within age group of 15 & 50 i.e. their menstruating age should not enter the Mandir as they will desecrate it. Even today in the year 2017 this practice is followed. It is a great mercy on people that Supreme Court has taken up this issue and is reviewing it. Tradition! What tradition? It is well proven beyond doubt that women are equal to men in ALL fields in spite of their monthly difficulties and difficult times during child bearing. The official spokes person of the devsthananam had the gumption to say that, “If women mentioned in above age group were  allowed to enter, then it will turn into Thailand, the Sex Tourism spot!” It is really stretching things too far!  If there is a law that says that this practice be allowed, change the damn law!

sabarimala

High profile and fearless persons, especially ladies, have to face smear campaign if they speak something about overcoming wrong practices followed under the garb of tradition. Why not let the ladies join the funeral pyre as Sati? Why not make her sit away from everybody during that time? Thank god such stupid things are done away with. Traditional thinking still has not changed as can be seen from looking at the sex ratio many states in India, females are between 85 to 92% of male population. Illegal sex tests and abortion are still rampant though governments are trying to do their best. Why? Traditionally one must have at least one son! 

Let us take a vow that we all will break the so called traditions which were practices that are existing but cannot withstand today’s scrutiny of science, knowledge and analysis. It’s fine to write “Happy Diwali” instead of “शुभ दीपावली”. We learnt English in last 100 years but it’s blatantly ok to break such an old tradition. Of course I am joking, these are not traditions but a way of communicating with each other.

Let me tell a story how traditions start. In a place of worship, a priest used to take discourse once in week. Over a period the priest developed breathing difficulties. Then just before one discourse a cat came and sat near the place where the priest sat for his discourse. The priest used to love cats but once the crowd started arriving it would run away. Priest would request someone to get the cat back out of sheer love for the animal. A tradition started that if the cat is not there, no discourse. Later the priest was transferred to be replaced by another priest.

The new Priest started coughing and sneezing when the cat was brought but somehow managed to complete his discourse. He went to a doctor and was told that these bouts were probably because of the furry friend. From next time onwards, before the discourse could start the people thought that the cat needs to be shooed away but it was breaking tradition, so cat was allowed to hang in, with same results to the priest. Over a period tradition continued that discourse would not start without the cat and the priest suffered. Finally people realized that the cat had to go away and priests’ health improved. This priest was transferred and old priest came back…. Tradition?