Better India!

My dear friend Shrikant wrote a message on our WhatsApp group, which truly reflected his frustration. But It is not only his frustration but all of us have the same feelings. I will briefly write what he said. “Since I remember, I feel as if I am living in a vicious circle of development and expansion. First, the roads are broken, then later they are broadened because of capacity issues. Then comes tarring, and then the time comes to build flyovers! After that, the time for concretisation comes. All the time we have pollution and traffic congestion. Now at the age of 70, I am looking at the Metro project coming up. There are so much indiscipline and chaos that I am fed up, mainly because I have to go Chakan every day! I hope now at in this phase of my life I will sometime see everything going smoothly with regulated traffic and less chaotic life!”

He is right, and he has hit the bull’s eye with his thoughts. All of us have the same feelings. There have been responses saying that the development is a never-ending cycle; the fruits of work done by grandfathers are for the grandchildren to enjoy etc. These responses are also correct. The phenomenon of development cycle happens all over the world. But to me, Shrikant’s frustration has a different connotation.

British rule ensured that our infrastructure remained poor. In the US, highways were built in the 30s /40s of last century. Hitler built autobahns in Germany in 30s of the last century. In India, this cycle has started in the last twenty years!

We as Indians have diverse culture, 25 main languages, snow-clad mountains and lovely beaches; we are a nation of diversity. But we have one common culture that of personal and public indiscipline, and I care two hoots attitude! It is not only on the roads; you go anywhere in public place; things will be chaotic. We at heart have remained villagers from the time of Baba Adam! This attitude continues irrespective of whether you are rich or poor, educated or uneducated. One can give many day-to-day examples. In the cities or towns, one basic rule is followed, not to follow any rule. Shrikant was talking of Chakan. In Chakan and many towns, there is an excellent four-lane road. But the divider in between is sometimes breached “officially” under pressure from politicians, and at other times unofficially. For taking a U-turn, people do not want to drive a Km or two more! Cutting corners where ever possible is there in our DNA! Add to that indiscriminate parking in such towns along the roads. Driving on the wrong side of the roads is also very common!

If you drive on Mumbai Pune Expressway, which is like an expressway, anywhere in the world, we sometimes see people driving Motorcycles on the road skirting! The road is meant only for four-wheelers and multi-axle vehicles! There are two places where you pay the toll. Near these toll booths, there are washrooms. But we invariably see a few men relieve themselves in the open about 100 to 200 meters away from the urinals. In the main city areas, there is a thought process that vehicles used by the government departments can be parked anywhere, including on footpaths. Cutting the red signal is a norm rather than the exception. The police department tries to discipline, but when a significant % of people start breaking the rules, how many police can you deploy?

These aspects should be taught to children right from KG schools. But when their mothers break the rules, children grow up thinking the same way. I was waiting at a signal to cross the road in Montreal a couple of weeks back. My granddaughter Rhea was with me; she is six years old. She asked me a question, “Why don’t people in Pune wait for the signal to turn green?” I had no answer. When there is a traffic jam in Pune, we see people driving their motorcycles on the footpaths to move ahead! All of them are “busier” than the Prime Minister of the country and have no time to wait!

World over in most cities, there is work in progress for an extended period! In Boston, the tunnel work was going on for ten years. In Mumbai, flyovers were built over a few years. Same is true with Metro. But if the primary discipline is not followed, the indiscipline and chaos will never go away. The problem is not city-specific, it is India specific.

In today’s newspapers in Pune, there was a news item. A car used by an officer of the Municipal Corporation was parked on the footpath. It used to be at a specific place, with the driver sitting in the car. The driver was told to park it in the right zone. The driver said, “The car is used by Asst Commissioner!” The police were not impressed. After the same suggestion for a couple of days was ignored, on the third day, they put a jammer on the car and fined him Rs.2000/. The officer tried to pull rank on the policeman, but they were not impressed. He had to pay the fine.

As against this, I had read a story. Commissioner of Tel Aviv was found talking on a cell phone while driving his car. A police officer stopped him; he did not recognise the commissioner. He fined him but later came to know that he was their biggest boss! The next day, he was called to the commissioner’s office. The policeman was worried and was trying to find a way out of the situation. To his surprise, the commissioner received him in his office, and there was a two-minute ceremony. The Commissioner congratulated the policeman for doing his duty, issued a special commemorative certificate for performing his duties in an exemplary manner! It shows the difference between developed and undeveloped societies.

In India, we are lucky that because of the temperate weather we can do all our development work almost round the year. In cities like Montreal, because of the snow in winter, the road work can be done only during 6 to 7 months in a year when there is no snow. So, every year, on many roads, some repair work or the other is going on all the time. New development work is also going on during this period. Traffic gets choked, it gets slowed down, but no motorcycles are driven on footpaths! On the street where we lived, pipeline work was going on for almost four weeks. Car parking was not allowed from 7 am to 7 pm. Not a single car was ever parked during this period!

So Shrikant, it is about self-discipline, it is about the implementation of rules. Improved traffic rules have been created by the Central Government; hefty fines have been suggested. But the state governments don’t want to implement this because of expected public backlash. It is the will of the people, will of the government that needs to change. Development thing is going to be WIP all our life!

I am an absolute optimist, but I told a 25-year-old boy the other day, that if the primary self-discipline does not become our culture, India will be at the same place even after 50 years! (Of course, I won’t be around!)

But many good things are happening! Metros are made ready in ¾ years, ISRO is doing a great job, online payments, online railway bookings are improving day by day at breakneck speed! Many good things are happening, but people’s attitude is not changing. The problems we face daily are the result of this unchanged attitude! Let us hope at some stage this will also change.

Are we a nation of petty people?

ISRO, Large computer literate population, Recent jump to power surplus nation though distribution is an issue. India as a nation surprises people with extremes; we have extremes in the number of major languages written and spoken, extremes in rainfall variations, extremes in average temperatures. India and the Indians are an enigma. People world over find it tough to understand India and Indians.

Even I find it challenging to understand our own people. From the early 90s of the last century, economic changes started happening in India, leading to the creation of wealth. The changes led to the creation of a massive group of middle-class people. The story continues; inflations, deflations are always there, but the large number middle class has become a fact of life.  This group of people has started travelling on holidays in India as well as in foreign countries. The subject of the title is how Indians are getting infamous on the travel circuit. I had written an article on a similar subject a few months back.

There are many examples of petty-minded behaviour of Indians on the tours. How does this happen? Why does this happen? Have we not overcome the shortage era of the 60s and 70s of the last century? Indians sometimes travel in large groups. Ages back, we were taking a flight back from New York to Mumbai. There was a group of fifty people on the plane. It was a direct flight. The noise and chaos they created on the flight were to be seen and heard to be believed. Finally, when we landed in Mumbai, they clapped and danced for five minutes, as if they were on a charter flight. They did not follow the instructions of the crew, not to stand up while the plane was taxiing. The pilot finally announced that he would stop the aircraft unless people sat down. Okay, you are in a group having fun, but what about others?  What about basic decency?


Recently, I have read two new items about people stealing items from the resorts and pinching apples, cakes, and scones from the breakfast spread; this was done to save money on lunch later during the day! A hotel in Switzerland had put a notice specifically for Indian guests. It is humiliating, and industrialist Harsh Goenka formally protested against it. After many more protests, they removed the notice. But why did they put it up? They must have seen our brethren taking away food items for later consumption.

A group of 1300 hundred Indians, dealers of an organisation, were taken for Sydney harbour cruise. The total number of passengers on the cruise was around 2500. The group created so much ruckus during the cruise that others were fed up. They troubled the staff too, but staff had to continue with a smiling face. The chaos was in the food area, the bars, and the play area. Where ever they went situation went out of control. The issue was reported to the management of the cruise company. At the end, when the cruise ship came back to the harbour, all the passengers other than the group were given an apology letter. They were offered a full refund or a coupon which could be used in one year’s times, for the same cruise. Can such acts of rough and rowdy public behaviour be justified, ever? Why did this group behave this way? I have no answers.

A recent viral video that showed Indian guests getting caught stealing hotel items in a Bali resort, triggered controversy in India and abroad. While many Indians acknowledged that Indian tourists had received a bad rap in the West for misbehaviour, many others argued that the family caught stealing in no way represented Indians in general. The resort was a high-end resort, so the people who stayed there had loads of money. That does not mean they behaved better; it is simply in their DNA.


In the video circulating on the net, members of the Indian family are seen arguing with the hotel staff. But that didn’t stop the security man from opening every suitcase and taking out things that were stolen from their room – such as towels, electronics, decorative pieces, and other stuff. “We are really very sorry. It is a family tour. We will “pay you.” (bribe?) Please let us go because we have to catch our flight,” one of the women is seen telling the man.  Other security officials are also seen frisking their baggage in the video. “I will pay,” one of the family members exclaimed,  but the man from the hotel refused to “take” money (offered as a bribe) “I know you have a lot of money, but this is no respect.”

There are a couple of other methods people follow to save on the expense. When we go to some museums or monuments, there are guides on hire.  These people follow a group who have hired a guide. They stay a couple of meters behind and can hear everything!

One more method used by these people is when they want to use the loo! Many washroom areas have the main door which can be opened on paying the money. When the door opens, as many people from the group as possible will barge in at the cost of a single payment. Poor show?

Is this a modern trend? Is it a new style? In olden days only rich people would fly internationally. I knew someone who used to mint money. He used to travel to Europe 3 to 4 times a year for work. Once he invited us home for a cup of coffee. I had never flown in those days. I saw many small pillows of different types and shapes. I asked him where did he get such lovely pillows? He said, “When I fly to Europe, every time I bring a couple of them from the plane!” Wow, he used to steal them but was he proud?

I am aware that shop-lifting is a sickness. This sickness is called Kleptomania. But from the examples discussed above, none of the people seems to be a Kleptomaniac. Is this behaviour justified when a person is short of funds? The thoughts that come to mind are about why do people try and do something which is not correct!

Let me end this with a sad story. An IT engineer stayed at a five-star hotel in Hyderbad for one month, about 15 years back. In those days large, flat TV’s had just started coming to the market. He was a very talkative person and had shared the details like his flight number, back to Pune. He checked out. After he went away, to the horror of the staff, the TV from his room was missing. They managed to reach the airport as he was at the check-in counter. He had hidden the TV in one of his bags! Well, I cannot even think of explaining such behaviour. He had a high salary and could have easily afforded the TV, still why he did it? Kleptomania?

Self-help books.
Self-help books.

Musings-The Life’s ways!

When you are in semi-retirement or retirement phase, you have time to look at the world with open eyes, ears and mind. Jaya and I take our grand-daughter Rhea for gymnastics training. We take our car to drop her. The lane where we go is narrow; last week the road was dug for pipeline work. Only God knows when it will back to its original condition! There are ups and downs and parking the car has become very difficult. Hence we take an auto-rickshaw to pick her up. While Jaya goes inside to pick up Rhea, I sit in the auto chatting with drivers. These chats give me a lot of insight into the life of different people.

Today’s driver had taken training as a Millwright fitter. He had worked in factories like Ruston & Hornsby and Cummins diesel. His general knowledge was quite good. I asked him why he did not continue with his regular jobs. He said that there was no one to guide him in his younger days, he is now around fifty. He wanted to become an actor and was a part of a troupe performing street shows. He never took his day jobs sincerely and lost them. If he had continued working in Cummins, he would have found himself comfortably settled, financially. But wrong decisions led him on a path of no return. Here he is now driving an auto-rickshaw to earn his living. He knew a lot about how actors had struggled in the film industry and art in general. I would have been happier if I had met him under different circumstances, where he had succeeded in his acting career. But I also found that he was not bitter about it. He was philosophical, “I am aware that only one ten thousand have reasonable success. In my case, it was not to be.” He said that their troupe continues to perform street shows for social causes.

A few days back, I met another guy. We had taken an auto and went about five meters. The auto guy had some issue, so we asked him to terminate the trip. This other guy was just behind us and immediately stopped. He said, “Please hop in, I will take you where ever you are going!” We sat in his auto and started our short journey. He said that he does not like when the auto guys refuse the fare while moving around with “On Hire” meter! He looked quite polished and chatty. I was trying to gauge his background. He said, “I only drive the auto between six pm and ten pm.”

Before I could ask him, he said that he had a day job in Pune Water Works. I thought maybe he works as stores clerk or in some such administrative position. He said, “Sir, I have done my M Sc in analytical chemistry. I work in the Lab where we keep on checking the chemistry of the city water supply.” I was pleasantly surprised. Before I could ask him why he was driving an auto in the evening, he said, “I am still unmarried. I have come from a background where most of my family and friends are not much educated. They while away their time during the day and in the evenings doing nothing. Auto driving keeps me busy, and I get to meet people like you!” I asked him, “What is so special about me? How do you know what I have done in my life?” Promptly came the reply, “ The way you were curious about my life, the way you were asking questions, I was sure you had done a lot of things in life! You were asking the questions with a lot of empathy. In my day to day life, nobody talks to me the way you did.” He thanked both of us profusely for the interaction.

These two people were not run of the mill auto-rikshaw drivers. They had something different in their DNA. The older one had the clarity that it was too late in his life for any change to take place. But still, he mentioned that he had decided to ply the auto to the best of abilities. The younger was a real gem, and I hope he continues to do better in his day job. From the ten minute talk I had with him, I felt that he was sincere; he was hard working. I hope that destiny will pull him out of his current strata and give his traits justice.

Friends, you need to put your apprehensions away and take the opportunity to speak with unknown people. You may not meet them in your life again, ever. You can get priceless information from them. You can know about their aspirations, you may find a person who wanted to become an actor but failed. Still, he did not show bitterness. But one thing I realised that even though his acting career failed, he continued with his passion for acting. I sincerely hope that at the least young man’s dreams will be fulfilled.

In the year 1973, I joined the industry as a trainee along with two of my friends. We were all Metallurgists by training. I had done my Masters too! (But to be honest, we had zero knowledge of the real world) For the first couple of years, we worked in non-ferrous foundry section. We had a guy called Sakharam Gund, he was leading the pack of workers. He had worked in this foundry for five years and had reasonable, practical knowledge. We always took his help to learn the ropes. Our works manager generally had an attitude that we had to learn things on our own! We came very close to Sakharam during that period. One day Gund’s father expired. He lived nearby. We went to meet him. We sat with him for fifteen-twenty minutes. As we were about to take his leave, he said, “Sir, you have come to our house for the first time, and I don’t know if you will ever come again. Please have some tea.” It was very embarrassing. The body was still in the house! Under these trying circumstances, we drank tea to honour his request; it also showed his love! We had met on a personal level for the first time!

People express their feelings about you in different ways. These are small gestures done subtly! In my thinking, I would have never have offered tea in similar circumstances. But when Gund offered tea, I had to think out of the box and accept his love! To me, everything else is immaterial other than the respect and love for each other. I distinctly remembered this incident which had trained me for my future about interpersonal relationship! Life goes on, but it is the people that matter!

Carpe Diem- Seize the Moment!


Carpe diem, (Latin: “pluck the day” or “seize the day”) phrase used by the Roman poet Horace to express the idea that one should enjoy life while one can. There are different thoughts going on in the world about life and death, this includes the reincarnation. Reincarnation is the belief that the soul, upon the death of the body, comes back to earth in another body or form. Well, I am personally a firm believer of the thought process that there is no reincarnation. The life that we have got is the only one we have got. The picture above displays Sundial which indicates that time is always slipping by! So, seize your moment if you can!

What do we do with life? How has the dice fallen for you? How your mind is made? Circumstances or genes or DNA make your persona. But that is not what we are talking about. This one little life that we have, is all we are getting. We don’t know when it is going end, we have no control over where you are born, you have no control over who your parents are. You are what you are. You are born with a mix of different characteristics. But maybe you have control over what you become, what memories you leave behind!


Carpe diem to me is a philosophy! It is like writing in the sand on the seashore depicted in the picture above! If you don’t seize the moment, the wave will swallow the the writing! Either it can be used in a constructive way or a destructive way. In today’s world, the term gets misused in a wrong way. You have an important meeting the next day or a job interview or an opportunity to meet someone to settle a broken friendship or relationship. A long-lost friend calls you the previous night and suggests to have a night out and have fun! Well, that’s a great opportunity to make and you think it’s a Carpe diem moment! It’s YOLO moment as per today’s buzz words! You Only Live Once! But will it be the right thing to do? Is it the right thing to seize the opportunity to meet your long-lost friend? Probably not, because next day you are trying to finalize that once in a lifetime deal, you may get your dream job, you are finally getting to settle that long-time issue which is dear to your heart! The interpretation “To seize the opportunity” comes with a rider! It is for the betterment of life, improvement of the quality of life or dream cum true! It is not just binging with friends and have a night out! Yes, that is also important when done at the appropriate time.

There is a story about the 89-year-old Naval officer from the British Navy. In the year 2014 people had decided to celebrate 50 years of landing at Normandy, 2nd world war’s decisive invasion point! This gentleman was in a sanatorium passing his retired life. He decided that he must join the celebration but there was no question of him getting the permission. He simply dressed up, wore a raincoat and a hat and walked out of the sanatorium to the railway station, 1 km away. He took a train, hopped into a ferry to go to Normandy. By the time people realized that he was missing, he was already in Normandy. He knew that he would be admonished when he came back. But the story of his escape was all over media; when asked by a reporter, he said only two words, “Carpe diem !” To hell with everything else! The ferry company gave him a lifetime pass for the journey he took! Alas, he died in six months!

Taking risks at appropriate times is seizing the opportunity, it is not doing whatever comes to your mind, though the end results may be bad, sometimes! It is about doing the proper risk analysis, thinking through the opportunity and then seizing the moment. It is not for only seizing the moment or for YOLO.

The message of Carpe diem matters more than ever today. We live in an age of distraction, where we are checking our phones, on average, 110 times a day, and are more interested in being spectators of life on the screen than living it for ourselves. Immersed in the second-hand pleasures offered by our electronic gadgets, we need to reconnect with the wisdom of Carpe diem, a philosophy which calls on us to taste the wonders of experiential living in the short time we have before death. In a group of college friends, we made the group, forwards free. There were so many fights, so much resistance. We have very become used to the second-hand pleasure of sharing forwards. Finally, when we could make the group forwards free, there are only 3 to 4 contributors, most others prefer to be silent spectators because they have nothing original with them. We seem to have forgotten that the formation of the group of friends, who were in college together 50 years back,  was a Carpe diem moment!

I will share one simple incident. A gentleman, aged 84 was in a hospital for a few days. His daughter went to be with him for the day. He said to her that he wants to eat Masala Dosa. The daughter said, ok I will get it. He said no. He got up, changed his hospital clothes and said let us go. They went to the restaurant had the dosa and came back. Of course it was no big deal, but that was Carpe Diem. But change the case to a 45-year-old patient sick with liver issues; he goes out similarly and has a couple of drinks and comes back. That is not Carpe Diem, it is sheer stupidity.

Carpe diem is seizing the moment or seizing the opportunity! The word “opportunity” comes from the Latin ob portum veniens, meaning “coming toward a port”. It originally referred to a favourable wind that would push a ship into a harbour. So, the question is whether we’re going to hoist our sails and catch the wind, or whether we are so worried about hitting the rocks that we keep the sails down. Yes, if the real opportunity is there, take it even at the cost of some risk.

Spontaneity is a form of Carpe diem , which involves throwing plans and routines to the wind and becoming more experimental in the way we live. We need to liberate ourselves from our electronic calendars and booking up our weekend’s weeks in advance and take a more unplanned approach. Take an unplanned weekend holiday when we are not constantly checking the time and are obsessed with being “efficient” and “productive”. Let go things once in a while!

Political and social Carpe diem? Don’t be surprised!  This is about taking up from the individual level activity to the collective level through mass political action. Think of the Carpe diem demonstrations that brought down the Berlin Wall in 1989, which were full of spontaneous and enjoyable spirit. We need more of this today to challenge the big issues of our time, from climate change to the rise of far-right extremism. Look at what is happening about the MeToo movement! It is happening by the collective action of women from a different field, coming out in open for their rights!

As the modern generation says, YOLO! Yes, you only live once, so make the best use of the opportunities, make best of the chances you get! What are you waiting for? Just jump from the plane you are flying on but don’t forget that you have your parachute with you!

Human nature, a mystery!

Free as the wind
Tall as a tree
Wide as a mind
Deep as a sea

Human nature is a bundle of fundamental characteristics—including ways of thinking, feeling, and acting—which humans have in them, naturally. I have used a few lines from a Michael Jackson song, released in 1983, which appealed to me very much the way the lines tell us about the nature.

The question of whether there are truly fixed characteristics, what these natural characteristics are, and what causes them, are among the oldest and most important questions in philosophy and science. The science that examines human nature is psychology and more recently also neuroscience. These questions have particularly important implications in economics, ethics, politics, and theology. This is partly because human nature can be regarded as both a source of norms of conduct or ways of life, as well as presenting obstacles or constraints on living a good life.

How much do we know each other? It is a million-dollar question and I am not sure if we have an answer to this question. Let me assure you that this is not a rhetorical question. Yesterday, we had chat session, over a cup of coffee, with an old friend of ours. His wife has travelled to the US to help their daughter with the baby. He is from the same engineering college as Jaya and I went. He is a couple of years senior to me and we have done some professional work together.

We met, maybe, once a year or so, for a cup of tea, generally in my office; he would leave his home early to come to my office for updates and tea. We always had terrific interactions both professionally and personally. Jaya also knew him from college days as his sister was a year senior to her in school. Somehow in all these years, we had never met personally. I would always tell Jaya that he is a terrific person, with a lot of clarity on everything, a great sense of humour and the person to have as a friend! Yesterday’s chat reconfirmed all our views about him. We reluctantly ended our session, with a promise to meet regularly and asap!

When can we say that we know someone well? When we have a few meals together, or when we meet someone over a drink, once a while? Or when we meet someone over a cup of tea once in a while? In Hindi, someone may say, पहेचानता हूँ पर जानता नही हूँ ! This means I know of him but I don’t know him! Our friend told us a story. He said that a few years back, he and couple of his friends went for stag holiday out of Pune, for 2/3 days. On the first night, they chatted a lot, had a few drinks, and in general, enjoyed. By the time they felt sleepy, it was well past midnight. One of their friends insisted that the next day they all must go for a walk on the beach, early morning. Except for this person, others felt that they should laze around, instead. This friend was insisting so much that there was a minor disagreement. Ultimately only that person went to the beach. My friend said they all knew each other for 55 years plus, they were aware that this friend had a few strong views but on that day it was almost like “My way or the high way”! My friend said that though we knew each other for so many years, have met reasonably frequently but they came to know about this aspect of his personality only after they stayed together. Does it mean that you know someone only when you live together at least for a small duration?

I am sure one would start knowing someone well during life and death situation like war, or when you live together in hostels or dormitories. This living together for studies, doing small and big things together daily, borrowing small money for tea during month end money shortage, helping each other with studies, playing together and most importantly living together, brings that bond, a closeness which otherwise can never be there.

This brings me to another question. What forms your nature? What forms your persona? Is it in your genes? Is it in your DNA? When we say that something has come from genes or DNA what does it really mean? Children from the business community become business minded because from childhood they listen to various aspects of business being discussed at home. Children from doctor families tend to join medical courses because they always hear medical stories or discussions at home.

Consider this example. Two siblings one a lady and the other a man, not much of age difference. Born and brought up in an orthodox modern family. Their path in life has been, outwardly, exactly the same. High intelligence,high IQ, same education engineering plus post-graduation in management, started as trainees, reached the top of their respective organizations, extensively travelled, with long stays abroad for various professional reasons! The lady is a leader with excellent management skills, equally involved in family life, excellent human relationships! The gentleman obviously a good professional but as human being very difficult to deal with, sometimes too aggressive in personal things too! What has made that change mentioned in the last sentence? Only thing I visualize is the vast difference in EQ or Emotional Quotient! Do you pick up EQ on your way? Similarly you can pick up Empathy on the way! In simple language, the lady has become a cosmopolitan and the man has never reached there, missed his bus! The man missed out on picking up stuff from EQ & Empathy shops!

Considering complexities of human nature, I am just going to comment on a couple of important characteristics of humans as there are are too many to discuss!

What is the difference in introverts and extroverts?

One major difference between the brains of introverts and extroverts is the way they respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that provides the motivation to seek external rewards like earning money, climbing the social ladder, attracting a mate, or getting selected for a high-profile project at work. When dopamine floods the brain, both introverts and extroverts become more talkative, alert to their surroundings, and motivated to take risks and explore the environment. But this dopamine is higher, in general, in extroverts!

Why people become aggressive?

There are many psychologists who believe that our aggression is mostly due to a biological input such as hormones, genes or our amygdala. Experts feel that our aggression is more nature than nurture, suggests that aggression can be found in the structure of the limbic system of our brain and this is where the amygdala can be found. The Amygdala controls one’s ability to perceive emotions towards others. This idea first started as it is believed the amygdala triggers our aggression. There is the other side of the argument, in which people believe that our aggression is a learned behaviour due to our experiences and the people around us. Jury is still out why we are aggressive?

Friends, the concept of human nature is traditionally contrasted not only with unusual human characteristics, but also with characteristics which are derived from specific cultures, and upbringings. The “nature versus nurture” debate is a discussion about human nature in the natural science that will always go on. The type of human nature I prefer is expressed the lines below, which are also from the same song by Michael Jackson.

And do just what comes natural
The first thing on your mind
Do just what comes natural
I prefer your kind of human nature

Only problem is that the natural in some people is not good enough to make you a good person in the society where we live!

Conditions Apply, really!

Conditions apply is a term used while advertising things. Hence some advertisers specifically write, “No conditions apply.” Conditions Apply is a commercial way of saying, “Take it with a pinch of salt”. When I was in school there used to be an advertisement of a radio set. It would say, “Listen to any station in the world”! The cost of the set would be less Rs.100/. I asked someone how is it possible? Not that I was an expert in this but I felt that there was something wrong. That person showed the small print in the advertisement. It said, “When you are at that place”! Small print! Now you know what I mean. That was a radio set which could capture Medium Wave stations when you were at that place.

Does this happen in commercial space only or it happens in our lives too? Yes and no both are the real answers, because life is never defined in Black & White or in 1 & 0. There is always grey shade in all facets of life. The love we get from parents, the love we get from kids, the pets, these are all with “No conditions apply.” This happens in the case of close childhood friends too. But ultimately everything in this world follows a Marathi idiom दिसत तसं नसतं म्हणून सारं जग फसत  which means that the world is not as we see it or as it appears to us! Or “The grass is always greener on the other side!”

Jackfruit, Coconut are typical real-life examples; they are both rough & tough from outside, but when we get through the top layer, inside is sweet, tasty and coconut water is pleasing. Customer is the king is supposedly today’s motto. Today I read an article by an expat professional white Caucasian American lady. She has been living in Pune for last couple of years. She has openly talked about discrimination that happens world over including the US! On the surface we don’t see it. She said that you may think that there is no discrimination in the US but the skin color does play a big part.

She shared a story about an incident in Pune. She and kids were in a departmental store. There was another couple where the lady was Caucasian but her kids had dark skin (mixed marriage). While a service assistant was stocking some bottles in a shelf, she dropped a bottle. She went and told her manager that the dark-skinned kids broke it. He came and told their mother that he would charge her. She was surprised! Our expat friend had seen the incident; she knew the manager and he was the nice guy. But that day she saw the real side of the person. She insisted to show the video, and the truth came out! The service assistant was the culprit. The manager did not even apologize! Real world!

When we go to foreign countries, we see huge Indian diaspora first, second and maybe even third generation variety. They apparently merge quite well with the local society in behavior, dress sense, and discipline. But when some of them come back to Bharat Desh, they are back to their “normal” selves. One of my classmates who lives in Sydney, Australia, has a young desi neighbor, CA by training. The young man once told my friend that he was going on a holiday and looked ecstatic. My friend asked him if there was any specific occasion! The young man said, “ I am looking forward to the moment I land in Delhi, I am going to drive the car. I want to break traffic signals at least 30-40 times! I am feeling claustrophobic in Sydney!” Will his Australian colleagues be able to recognize him when he is in India?

What could be the reason for such two faceted behavior? Is it how we grow up in our young phase? Does the changed environment not have any effect good or bad? Do humans normally behave this way? Is the growth phase so important in life? It is said that human brain grows 90% in first 5 years! Maybe the behavior pattern gets etched in the DNA by that time.

There was an interesting study shared in Readers Digest. They selected about ten cities each in various countries in the world in all the continents. These were from tiny villages to towns, to cities to metropolises. They kept wallets in public places as if somebody had dropped them. Wallets had personal identifications, family photos and tidbits to make them look genuine. Wallets also had money equivalent to US $ 100/ in each wallet, in local currency. There was interesting findings. All the events were captured on video cameras kept at strategic locations for study purpose. 90 to 95 % wallets were returned to authorities in villages. This % started reducing as the population of the place started increasing and was the worst in metropolises, 40/45 %. They concluded that the integrity reduced maybe due to anonymity that humans get in metropolises. This pattern was the same in all continents, across the races! I am quite sure all the persons who kept wallets with themselves, were reasonably normal persons but the circumstances changed them.

We have read from olden times about gurus, mullas and priests taking advantage of the faith people keep in them. We read horror stories about such people who sexually exploit women followers. God’s people and exploitation? Things are not as they look. I have known of people who will always have tika on their forehead, perform Pooja daily for couple of hours but are absolutely corrupt in professional lives. How can we explain their behavior? Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde? We know of doctors who perform illegal tests like sex determination of foetus and on the side are known to be great social workers! A “well-known” industrialist manufactured Gutka in huge quantities in a very modern factory. He never displayed easily visible board of his unit. Minted money, though he obviously knew that Gutka causes cancer. He used to donate huge money for medical cause, opened cancer treatment hospital. Some people sarcastically would call it his “customer complaint center” to handle side effects of his premium product, Gutka!

A well established builder has a similar story. His was a typical rag to riches story and was included in curriculum in commerce college courses. This story was written by a famous management guru. A couple of years back news started trickling in about his cheating in business. He and his family were arrested last year and are in jail. He has ditched thousands of retirees by taking money from them, in the form of fixed deposit and not returning it. He cannot, as his companies which took the money are bankrupt. The family has hidden treasure which police are trying to locate. Of the course one of his sons lives a condo where he pays Rs.4/ lacs per month rent! Doyen of industry!

Are we all this way? Are we waiting for an opportunity to cheat arise? Do we all make a show of how good you are, what a philanthropist you are? I was thinking to myself. Have I ever cheated in the ways explained above, knowingly or purposely? At least I don’t remember doing it. I asked another friend of mine the same question and he also said the same thing. But we have a common friend who was in government service. He must have retired 10 to 12 years back. I know what the salaries were and what the pension is. But he spends money all the time as if the world is going to end tomorrow. We knew that he was one of most corrupt officials. But to others who don’t know him well, he is a god-fearing human being, very pious in life.

I always wonder about such people. There are only two ledgers in this world that every individual has to match. One is your own ledger which you have to match every night, before sleeping and the other is when you meet Him! There is a solution. If you find that your ledger on the earth does not match every night (obviously you can’t sleep well!) Amend your ways while you have the opportunity.  But once you take the final journey and meet Him, how can you mend your ways? You have a non- return valve on your way back! Choice is yours!

The Family that eats together!

It is said that Genes, DNA et al decide an individual’s personality or persona. The more I try to understand, the more I get confused. Genes or DNA play a very important role in children, siblings, cousins and various relatives. These come from both sides of the family trees and they come from different generations, not necessarily the next one.   Similarities are of course there but some traits are so different that my confusion increases. What better way than to compare siblings?

I can share with you examples of people I know. About some of them I know only a little but about some I know a lot of details. Let me tell you about two brothers. I know the elder one a little more. My judgement has been that they are both smart but the elder one has taken more genes from mother’s side and younger one from father’s side. Elder one is very soft spoken compared to the younger one. But they have managed all through the life to be together. I will explain the term “together”. They run a business. They always travel together to customers or vendors. They stay in the same house and apparently have never had any serious differences. Of course, there would be minor differences like in any two human beings. Their father who is still reasonably active, probably is the reason for this great bond between the brothers. Brothers are in their 50’s!  This to be a case of many similarities.

Another case is about two brothers from a couple of generations above me. Their father was an upright person and was running his family and extended family, efficiently. Both the brothers ended up working in government departments. One in Police and the other in Excise/Sales tax. The police officer continued to be upright and remained a person of integrity. He worked for anti-corruption bureau for some period. During this phase a few complaints had come to the bureau about the other brother. His police colleagues asked him a couple of times if they were related; he said no. His colleagues were smart and checked up the relationship, they were police after all. This probably saved the Police brother from ethical issues! Later on, both retired. Police officer in routine course and the other brother took premature retirement. The policeman ended up with a modest rented dwelling with modest pension and the other brother ended up with a large condo and a bungalow plus what more I don’t know. In fact, to hide his ill-gotten wealth, he managed to convince their upright father to take over ownership of his condo! I am sure he was a fantastic marketing guy! How can we explain the difference in two brothers? The police guy also had the same opportunities to be corrupt. They had the same father who was very upright and straight forward. They worked in a government setup. But how did one of them change so much? From where did the Genes or DNA’s come from? Or is it because the company he kept? I don’t know if the company you keep makes much difference to change basic ethics. 

Then there is another case of siblings, brother and sister. There is only a couple of years of age difference between them. Both are very intelligent, smart. Both did pretty well in their education though the sister was ahead by at least one horse length. Both started careers as trainees and ended up as director/CEO of respective organizations. Both traveled extensively abroad. Both lived extensively abroad for work. Both have been top professionals in their field. This is where the story begins. Brother has remained very conservative while sister has become very cosmopolitan. Brother appears to be money minded but the sister has a giving and sharing nature. Brother has been a difficult person to deal with and continues to do so. The sister has always been in a soft person, a leader with empathy. The brother and I have a common friend. This friend and the brother were colleagues for a long time. The friend said that once during a meeting they had ordered tea. Apparently when the tea arrived it was not hot enough. Reaction? The cup was thrown at the person who brought the tea. Luckily, he could duck! I have known them for a long time and the empathy the sister would show in any situation was to be seen to be believed. In her organization she was considered a star who could be approached even at midnight if situation demanded. She shared with me a story of her grandson all of four years old, living in the USA. For some program in school, she was also present and the parents were told to wait in a hall for the performance. All kids came but the grandson was missing. He appeared couple of minutes later, pushing the wheel chair of his classmate. When the teacher was asked how they handle who will push the wheelchair; she said for me it is very simple. Your grandson always insists that he will push! DNA? Genes? Take your pick!  

There is saying, “You get what you sow”. But I know of person from well-known family in Pune. He has become a Casanova who deceives married ladies and tries to wean away their money. Again, DNA? Genes? Take your pick!  

This last example that I shared with you, to me is an exception. The atmosphere in which you grow, the company you keep also affects your persona. I also feel that family which is close to each other has continuity in behaviour patterns in their future generations with some natural variations in the persona of individuals. It is very easy to become distant with your progeny, your siblings. In digital world of today this has become quite tricky. I will change a well-known saying a bit. The family that eats together, without cell phones, passes on the DNA’s & Genes, uniformly! Do you agree?