Have humans improved?

I am not talking about technology or other advances. In the facilities and technology, we have improved. In poverty eradication, health, hygiene and medical sciences, we have improved.

Many advances reach low-income countries and people because of the different actions taken by humans. But I am talking of social aspects. Especially in the caste, racial and religious issues, though tolerances have improved, to some extent, it is difficult to predict when things will erupt.

Take the classic case of a football match between Bulgaria and England, a couple of days back. England team had a couple of players of African origin. The game was in Bulgaria, and suddenly the racial comments were being shouted by spectators. Things went out of control a couple of times in the first half, and the match was almost abandoned twice during that session. The police took control of the situation and threw out a  group of spectators. To the credit of Government of Bulgaria, their President acted swiftly, and within an hour of the match finishing, he suggested to the President of their football association to resign, and he did. World football Association will take further action on Bulgaria is the good part. But my worry is why such things suddenly erupt? Does it mean that such things are dormant and waiting for some spark to inflame the situation?

“Us and Them,” thought process world over has reduced, but bad situations erupt suddenly, and it can happen anywhere in the world. It can happen in the most advanced countries to the most backward countries. In this respect, the world has not changed.

Today I read one incident on Facebook. It is written by someone known me and not the usual “forward”! A family runs a business, and their washroom is outside their premises, in a condo. Another family staying in that condo were to start painting their condo. About half a dozen workers were expected to do the work. The gentleman approached the owner of the business and requested him for the key to their washroom for ten days. When he was asked why he wanted their washroom keys, he said, “Those people will be doing the painting for about ten days. I don’t want them to use our washroom. Since yours is a common washroom used by your employees; I need the key.” The business owner asked, “Why not let them use your washroom?” The condo owner replied, “How can I let “them” use our bathroom?” By his logic, their own bathroom was too pure to be used by “them”! Hence the request was made.

The business owner politely refused the request, and the condo owner is now furious! The incident is a classic case of caste incidents that occur in India. The event is from a very “forward” city of Pune which has led India in the social reforms during the last century. Social reformers like Karve and Phule were from Pune, and they have been pioneers in the social changes. I am worried that if the incident mentioned above can happen in Pune, what will be the situation in smaller towns, villages? What would be the situation in socially backward states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar?

The world over attempts is always made to correct historical errors. But sometimes it goes to the other extreme, and things get overcorrected. The actions of the South African government post-apartheid regimen shows the result of overcorrection. The apartheid government collapsed in early 90 s of the last century. Rules have been made to reserve the seats for people of African origin — nothing wrong in that, we do the same in India. In India, in some instances, reservations % has become as high as 76%. Whether this is right or wrong only time will tell. But there are no reservations in sports or the armed forces. But in South Africa there is a reserved quota for people of African origin in their Cricket team- I am unaware of other sports. Due to this, many good cricketers who do not fit into the quota would never get a chance to represent their country. What do they do?

They take help of Kolpak ruling. What is Kolpak ruling? The Kolpak ruling is a European Court of Justice ruling handed down on 8 May 2003 in favour of Maroš Kolpak, a Slovak handball player. It declared that citizens of countries which have signed European Union Association Agreements, have the same right to freedom of work and movement within the EU as EU citizens. Thus any restrictions placed on their right to work (such as quotas setting maximum numbers of such foreign players in sports teams) are deemed illegal under EU law. The legal actions in Germany set a precedent for professional sports in Europe, which have had a wide-ranging effect, especially regarding English county cricket and European professional rugby.

The South African white cricketers when they do not get the opportunity to play for the nation, formally retire and move to England and make contracts with counties. The counties are waiting for such players because they are excellent cricketers. I am aware that sports are a tiny part of our lives; so decisions can be quickly taken as a minimal number of people are involved.

In the US an attempt was made by a Supreme Court ruling, referred to as busing! The ruling made it mandatory for students from an area to go to the same school, irrespective of race. The attempt by the Supreme Court helped to some extent, initially. But then white people started moving from cities to predominantly white suburbs. Those who could afford put the children in private schools. These actions of white negated the effect of busing!

The subject is vast and cannot be discussed in details in a blog. But racial prejudice is followed world over, including in India, sometimes blatantly and most of the times discreetly. I know enough Indian people who live in different countries, and they have all said such practice is followed world over, not in any particular nation. The reason for such action may differ, but the act continues, and I don’t think that it will ever stop.

Religious discriminations have political reasons, and these are going to be tough to handle. Let us hope that people all over the world change their attitudes and live in harmony. But it is a serious subject that needs to be dealt; social media does not help in such situations! But let us hope that better offices will prevail and people will live in harmony.

Advertisements

World Cup 2019 Jamboree! The Human Side!

I was not going to include the cricketing aspect in this blog, but India’s unexpected loss in the semi-final needs to be mentioned.

Jaya and I should have been in England by now like we travelled to Melbourne in 2015 for the world cup Cricket final. But that was not to be for reasons beyond control! But I am not writing about the game. I am writing about various things that happen on the side which I came to know more because of the social media! Yes, social media is great if you use it with discretion! The commercial side, of course, has been taken over by Indian Companies! Bira, MRF, Booking.com to name a few!

One thing is for sure; the game has been taken over by Asians! India, Pakistan, Bangala Desh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Though only India is in semi-finals. We Indians love festivals and watching a cricket match in the stadiums has been converted into a celebration.

There has been a tradition of drinking Beer while watching the matches in other countries. So, who is the official sponsor of the Beer sold this year? Bira is an Indian company; only their Beer can be sold inside the stadiums! There is an aside to this. The deal between the company and ICC was such that the price of Beer to Customers would have been steep. ICC/ECB jointly subsidised the sale by British Pounds five hundred thousand. Just imagine how much Beer must be sold during the matches.  Then, of course, you have Kabab Stalls, Biryani and Samosa stalls in large numbers to cater to the Asian spectators. (They are all referred to as Desis!) The tickets for the matches where desi teams are taking part are bought mainly by desis; we see some locals also watching the games. Believe me, these matches are held right in the interior of England, but the number of desis present in the stadiums was unbelievable.

There has been a tradition, in England, of a group called Barmy Army. It is a group of Britishers who travel all over the world to cheer the British teams in Football and Cricket matches. On the same lines, a group is created by Indians called, what else, Bharat Army. For Bharat wasis, one more festival gets added to their repertoire! So how do they celebrate? They came together and met the ICC. They discussed with ICC a deal. Two packages of four matches each. All ticket sales were online. So the deal was they would get to buy 11000 tickets. They would be given a slightly higher priority than the general public in the buying pyramid. The ICC made a deal that international travel, local travel from city to city and hotel stay will be handled by Bharat army. The ticket buyers have to become a member of the Bharat Army group. They are required to use at least one of the three facilities offered. Bharat Army has hired five buses on a captive basis to travel inter-city. No doubt that cricket has been taken over by Asian spectators.  One person from Ahemdabad asked his 25 family members to join the army. They all applied for tickets and were allotted one ticket. Only our friend wanted to see the matches! Indian Juggad?

In the review before the semi-final, English cricketer Graeme Swan was asked about the atmosphere near the Old Trafford Stadium. He said, “I have already seen two New Zealand supporters and about 25000 Indian supporters. I also understand that there are about five thousand Indian supporters who did not get the tickets for the match. They are going to spin around the stadium in their cars, honking loudly, to support their team.”

Human3Human2

Charulata Patel story is the fairy tale story of this world cup. Eighty-seven years young Charulata was born and brought up in Kenya and moved to England. There is a saying that Indians will move out of India, but you cannot move India out of the Indians. Charulata had ancestors from India and must have visited India a few times, but she never lived there. But the way she and her family were supporting India in India’s match against Sri Lanka. It was a sight to behold! She came to the ground on a wheelchair, and her enthusiasm must have been infectious. She was blowing a home-made trumpet and clapping every good event. At the end of the match, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma had the magnanimity to go and meet her and talk to her. Virat showed a nice gesture and gave her two tickets each for the semi-final and the finals. That India lost in the semi-final is an unfortunate part.

Human1

In the image above, Jadeja is gesturing to Manjrekar after completing whirlwind 50!

Social media creates some unusual situations. Sanjay Manjrekar commented that he is not comfortable with having bits and pieces player like Jadeja in the team, on Twitter. Jadeja did not like it at all and replied to him, “I have played double the number of matches that you have played, and I am still playing in the team. Respect people.” The next day Manjrekar predicted that Jadeja would be in the playing eleven. Ex English captain Michael Vaughn pulled his leg saying how come bits and pieces man is in your team. In the match, Jadeja bowled, fielded and batted very well! Vaughn pulled his leg again asking Manjrekar, “Hey the bits and pieces player can bat, bowl and field well! What say you!” Manjrekar blocked Vaughn on the Twitter! Manjrekar next day praised Jadeja but with an emoji! The emoji indicated that it was not wholehearted praise!

How did people and newspapers react to India’s unexpected defeat? In most cases, the reaction was sensible and supporting the Indian team. Most people accepted the fact that after playing very well all through the tournament, yesterday was not Indian teams day. There have to be exceptions to this. ABP asked Harsha Bhogale whether he can take part in a program “Who was responsible for the defeat?” He advised them ” Please don’t do such a program.” But the worst of the lot was Marathi newspaper, Sakal.

http://product.sakaalmedia.com/portal/SM.aspx?ID=142726

It was in poor taste. They printed photos of Rohit, Rahul, Kohli, Pandya, Pant and Dhoni.

Their captions were stupid, to say the least. Since we all know how our team has performed in world cup 2019, you may draw your own conclusions.

Rohit: Hitman-Flopman

Rahul: Finally no show

Virat: Virat  (Major) Failure

Pandya: False Diamond

Pant: Irresponsible

Dhoni: Failed in doing the Impossible

Kartik: Wasted Chances

For any cricket tournament, India is a significant market as Indians are absolutely fanatic about Cricket. Star Sports has the feed in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bangla, Marathi for the Indian market, besides English. The unfortunate side effect of major Indian support is that in the second semi-final between England and Australia, there are many empty seats at Birmingham. This is because initially it was expected that India will play the semi-final in Birmingham and many places were booked by Indians. They, for obvious reasons, have not turned up today!

As I write this, England was cruising to a comfortable victory against Australia! (They have won) So finally, the champion will be a team who has never won the world cup before! Your prediction for the final? Mine is England!

 

 

 

 

Benefits of Social Media!

We hear a lot of minuses about social media, but like everything else, there are always pros and cons. Pluses are what good things you take from anything. I will restrict my discussion to WhatsApp and Facebook; I will add Skype and Facetime to the list too! I am talking about Indian diaspora migrating all over the world. People move for education, job, and lately, they travel to “safe” countries as fugitives too. Some travel for three to six years on different projects. Short term travel has also gone up a lot because the Indian system has now merged with the international business.

Currently, the World Cup Cricket tournament is going on in England. Many Indians have travelled from India and a large number from the US and other countries too. (We had travelled for the Cricket World Cup final in Australia in 2015) The English allrounder Moin Ali was asked his opinion about desis supporting Indian, Pakistani and Bangla Desh teams when these countries played against England. Moin has moved to England from Pakistan. He said, “Now, I have changed my opinion. I am ok if the desis settled in the UK support the countries of their origin.” Many years back, there was a discussion in England that those who have come from outside and settled there should support the English team. That would show their real affinity (patriotism?) to England.

Humans generally do what their heart tells them, in such situations. Is it right or wrong? Who are others to decide? A person who has citizenship of the new country, to me, will always stand up when “Jan Gana Mana” is played! That person will stand up for “God Save the Queen” or “The Star-spangled Banner” too, the country where the person has become a citizen! But you are born and brought up singing Jana Gana Mana; so, when the anthem starts standing up is automatic. It is a natural thing to do.

With the advent of modern technology, staying in touch with people back home is a zip. The main thing is that this technology is mass used and the device, “cell phone” is in everybody’s hand. On top of that, it is inexpensive. In public places, free wi-fi is available, which adds to the ease of usage (and of course to the cost).

People who migrated in ’60 s and ’70 s of the last century found it difficult as international telephony was expensive. Plus maybe the mindset of people who migrated in those times was different. A classmate of mine who emigrated in 1971, came to India for the first and the only time after 45 years. Another friend called his parents twice in the first 15 years, both the times at the time of the birth of his children. I am not sure how these people and their family must have felt in those times.

Another thing was phone density in those times was very poor in India. When Jaya was in the US for one year in 1980-81, we had to do a lot of coordination. She would write me a letter saying at what time she would call me. I would then go to someone’s home to receive the call. We did not have a telephone at home in those days.

Compared to today’s times, not many people migrated in those days. With so few Indians, probably people did not want to say that they were Indians. They would change the pronunciations of names and surnames. Panvalkar would become Pan Walker, Harinder became Harry and so on. Now my son is Sachin Panvalkar in the US and not Pan Walker. The mindset of people has changed. My generation was born around independence and the awe created during British Raj by the “Goras” was not completely washed away. So in other countries, the diaspora would be under the Raj influence, people’s behaviour was subdued. People would try not to openly flaunt Indianness. They were afraid to say, “Myself Deepak Joshi”! They now see many people from different countries like Japan, China and others struggling with English. With this, our people’s confidence has gone up.

Now the situation has changed so much in the next generation that people are not worried about their accent. The social media helps to stay in touch with friends and family back home. WA and FB help in getting alumni, family, friends group updates, so there is no telephonic silence like the olden days. People communicate with each other at the drop of a hat. Living in on different shores does not mean being cut off. Sometimes it so happens that due to work pressure or visa issues, it is not possible to travel home for some functions. People watch the whole thing on live-streaming using Skype. India-Pakistan Cricket match? No problem? Watch it anywhere in the world using modern technology?

How has this helped? How is this useful? Living in different parts of the world for your work does not mean that you are cut-off like the olden days. I remember the story of a person in ’90 s of the last century. He was living in the US for around ten years. For whatever reason, he could not make it back home during that phase. His parents went there to meet him a couple of times. Then his grandmother died. When his father called to inform him about death, the son simply could not accept it. He kept on saying, “ Oh! She was so hail and hearty! How could she die?” In his busy schedule and telephonic silence, he forgot that his grandmother had become eighty! For a previous couple of years, her health had deteriorated, and she had become frail. But in the son’s mind, ten years younger image of the chirpy grandmother was frozen!

Friends, our generation has reached a stage where we have the bragging rights to claim how our life was better, how we used to meet our old friends and so on. We also tend to look down on technology, may be out of phobia, fear, and because we don’t understand the same. Keep an open mind, try and adapt to new technologies. Don’t forget that the same technologies are helping us to remain very close to our families, friends.

Don’t forget that some things don’t change, ever — for example, the subtle reaction on seeing a brown person like you and me in foreign countries. But keeping in close contact with back home, being proud of Indianness helps living life more confidently. The bond created makes the second generation in foreign countries proud to say that they are Indian British or Indian Americans. They handle the subtle reaction mentioned above discretely. My grandson once told me, “Aba when we want to curse Goras discretely, a few of us start speaking in Marathi!” Next time you Skype with your grandson, add a few choice Marathi words to his vocabulary! नमस्कार! नन्तर भेटू!

WA & FB revisited!

For records purpose, FB started in 2004 and WA began to operate five years later in 2009. First, long-distance voice communication began in 1876 in the form of the telephone; I will not go into a dispute about who was the real inventor of the phone. Cell phones started appearing in mass scale in ’90 s of the last century. FB & WA are the apps that are used on laptops but mainly on cell phones. The rapid proliferation of Cell phones and WA in India has taken the whole world by surprise. No doubt this was aided by the development of keyboard apps in all the Indian languages. You don’t need to know English to use these two apps.

I am writing about the apps with Indian reference. A significant change that has taken place is, the short-term and long-term migration of Indians all over the globe. From my 1971 batch from COEP, almost thirty plus people have migrated. This is about 8 %, and to me this is phenomenal. Currently, the migration percentage has increased briskly; short-term migration is seen more as people go to different countries on assignments.

As both these apps are in use for the last ten to fifteen years, the etiquettes, the pattern of usage are continually evolving. WA says that they have created the app so that people can be in touch using an instant messaging system. They have definitely achieved this and more. Who uses WA and why do they use it? WA is used as a personal messenger, used in groups, by a large number of Indians. These groups are friends’ groups, family groups, formal office groups, alumni groups and so on. In individual usage what people do is their lookout. But on groups rules and etiquettes are a must. In one of the groups, I am in, “forwards” are not allowed. Before WA, forward meant centre forward in Hockey or Football. In India, the forwarding of messages on the group reached a menacing proportion. It was clearly proven in one case that by forwarding messages quickly, some people got together swiftly and cornered a person and killed him because he looked suspicious. Later on, it was found that he was a development engineer working with Google at Bangalore. A few friends were roaming around on the weekend in a rural area near Bangalore. There have been many cases of hoax messages, some vicious rumours were spread using WA forwards.

Let me assure you, not all WA is terrible. Some fantastic things have come up with WA. WA has started a language of its own. It uses short forms and emojis. I am not much of an emoji user, I know about 😊- a wry smile, 🤣- LOL or laughing out loud with tears in eyes, 👍- thumbs up,🙏- in India this is interpreted as Namaste but, in a foreign culture, it is interpreted as High Five, ✈- travelling👏- clapping. I have said about different interpretation of emojis; different interpretation can happen in two different persons too!

I hear that WA is the secret tool for lovebirds, both official as well as unofficial (secret lovers?)! Following emojis must be the language of lovebirds, but my knowledge in this subject is inadequate. 💋👄- Indicating kisses?💘- Lovestruck? 💏-?😘- flying kiss 😍- excited with passion?😡- disturbed?👩‍❤‍👩-?💔- heart-broken💓- love! In today’s digital times, it is no surprise that the language has also become digitised. NTT Docomo of Japan was the first company to start emojis on cell phones. These were created because the Japanese have a fascination for pictures.

Surprising results of WA use are many, I will share a couple with you. We have an alumni group of 1971 COEP engineering students. Some of us lived in the hostels, and our hostel block was known as C Top! (C block top floor) During some trifle discussion on the group somebody wrote a statement, “Long Live C Top”! This one statement drew such a response to the group that a lot of messages started flowing. Many became nostalgic and discussion continued on and on! You will not believe it, but this discussion went on one and a half day! That period was drenched in nostalgia! So many things were remembered, so many stunts, card games were discussed. I copied those discussions and created a pdf document for sharing with all. The document had about 20 pages! It was declared literature masterpiece. I recently read that a couple, who got newly married, had saved all their WA exchanges. Imagine the total number of messages! They were forty-nine thousand! These were copied, and maybe they want to print it as a love story! Wow, that will be a fascinating real-life love story, warts and all!  People spend about 2 to 3 hrs using these apps every day; this was one of the reasons for this review.

I am sure that the emoji exchange between lovers must be fascinating. Especially when the emojis can be interpreted differently. A person may interpret differently when happy as against interpretation when angry. Again two lovers may have a different understanding of their sets of emojis!

Facebook is another fascinating story in the digital saga. Nowadays, people look eye to eye for the first time on Facebook! Their love story starts with a meeting on FB. It is no surprise that it continues with the same fervour in later life too! The buzz word used for such a show of affection between lovers or couples is PDA- public display of affection! The couples shout early morning on anniversaries and birthdays, to show how they love their partner! They want the whole world to know about it. Oldies like me and many others are surprised with this kind of public show. But for those who have started their love story on FB, they don’t care what you feel! FB has its advantages. FB has allowed me to find many long lost friends. FB has allowed me to be in touch with my school, through alumni group. It’s a diverse group with ex-students from early ’50 s of last century to the early part of the first decade of this century. Today morning, I had a pleasant surprise! Darshan Ruikar, my son’s friend sent me a friend request out of the blue! He lives in England for the last 25 years! FB helps me to publish my blogs to a broad audience.

Both the apps when used correctly are a great addition to our tools for communicating with others. Both the apps offer free audio or video calls and even group calls. But the downside is the use of WA by political parties in India. With elections fast approaching, the parties are trying to overcome the “at a time forward to five entities” lock applied by WA. WA has already warned the parties that if parties continue the misuse, they will lock such id’s. Governments world over are also having some discomfort due to abuse by people of the group facility.

Babya

My friend Baba Gupte on Video call on WA. Inset Jaya and me!

I will share with you the excellent usage of the apps. A coincidence is that both these incidents took place with someone in Australia. My friend Baba Gupte and I have been in touch about his holiday photos and my blogs, while he is in Australia. I thought why not call him; I video chatted with him, and we saw each other after a reasonably long time. Baba was very pleased and said, “ Pramod, perfect use of WA”!

Another incident was when I landed in Melbourne in 2015. We had gone to watch the cricket world cup final. After we landed at Melbourne airport, I read a news item on the net that Harsha Bhogale, the cricket commentator, enjoyed a Marathi play, “Katkon Trikon” in Sydney. I could not find the date reference. My old friend and actor Dr Mohan Agashe has played the lead role in the drama. So I quickly wrote to Mohan on FB messenger, “Hey Mohan are you in Australia or have you gone back? Jaya and I have just landed.” In a minute, I got a call on FB messenger. I was wondering who it could be. It was Mohan! We chatted and exchanged pleasantries, discussed cricket and the drama. He was to travel back to India that night.

How dramatically useful such apps are, pun not intended when appropriately used. I am sure as the apps, and people mature, the people will find more ways to use the apps to their advantage. We already have our weekly video calls with my son Sachin in Seattle and my Son in law Nikhil in Montreal! The apps keep people close, and for everybody, there is always something to look forward to! Maybe another long lost friend will get in touch with you; perhaps an old colleague will be found or even the old flame…. There are possibilities!

Death Rituals Revisited!

Hinduism and for that matter, the human race has been full of rituals. But the event of death is handled by humanity in many ways. Birth and death are two things common to humankind, irrespective of caste, creed and religion. We are following same rituals which have started thousands of years back. The birth rituals do not seem to be elaborate compared to death rituals. Why is it so? Even with modern scientific knowledge, we only know about the science part of the death process. But we do not understand the moral component, the dilemma of handling the death of loved ones. What happens after death? Is death good, bad or evil?  

One thing is for sure; death is an irreversible event that we cannot change, we cannot get the dead person back among us. Humans have different views about what happens after death. There are various stages in the rituals followed. Rituals probably start with the actual passing of a person. In modern times, some people donate their whole body to research. Some offer their organs which can be used by the needy. I am not sure what rituals take place when the entire human body is donated. But when the person gives away organs like the eyes, the medical procedure gets precedence over the rituals. Another change that I have seen in recent times is that we perform some rituals at home. So when we take the body to the cremation ground, no pooja is performed. We put the body directly for the cremation.  

Some Hindu organisations have modified the rituals to suit the modern times. These organisations want the family to understand what the procedures are. The priests explain these procedures to the family and the near ones. But all these rituals are not so elaborate compared to what we follow in old rituals.  

From olden times the 13th day after death has been crucial for Hindus. This day marks the end of the mourning period. The ceremonial feast marks the end of the mourning period by inviting family and close ones. This meal is an excellent way of trying to come back to normal after a death. After lunch, the guests are expected to give a small gift to the hosts — good idea of continuing with normal life.  

The younger generation does not prefer even this semi-modern ritual. This generation feels that this method is not ok. I discussed this with a young couple, who thought that all this was unnecessary. The couple had attended one such ceremony. The priest chanted the shlokas, the mantras, the hymns in Sanskrit, translated it in Marathi during the explanation where necessary. More than 50% of people present were not involved in the proceedings. The venue selection also added to non-involvement, as the peaceful atmosphere was absent.  

I always have questions in mind about all these rituals. I tend towards being an atheist, but I respect other people’s views too! There is no doubt that death is a sad event or I can say that it is not a happy event. But should the passing away be treated as something evil? When death occurs at a young age (There can be a difference of opinion about the word young), or I can say out of turn death, there is a shock, awe at the event! It becomes tough for all to accept such deaths. Under these circumstances coming back to normalcy can be tough but as usual, there is no option! Such deaths are painful to take. Others will find it difficult to tell the family of the dead person to overcome their sorrows; others will accept them for trying to find solace in some rituals. Ultimately everybody concedes such deaths as destiny. 

But when death occurs at an acceptable age, (Ok, Ok what is acceptable?) situations should be handled differently. Current average age at the time of death in India is around 67; with this reference, if the death occurs past 80, that should be acceptable. Everybody is going to die at some stage. So if death happens while the person is not bed-ridden, or if the person has had no long, painful years of illness, death should be celebrated! In certain parts of England, death beyond 80 years under the circumstances mentioned above, is observed formally as an event for celebration. It is called Golden Death party. 

I am not talking about aping the west, but why not celebrate such deaths?  Writer and Editor Dilip Padgaonkar’s family threw a party to family and friends, after his death, as per wishes of Dilip. In the party, food and alcohol loved by Dilip were flowing. Changes are happening in society, but they are very slow. The number of people taking part in such changes is minuscule, considering our population.   

From my discussions with people, and what I read, the traditional rituals are performed because, well they are being conducted all these years. The old methods of rituals need three to four days to be completed. In olden days, everybody had enough time. Going to work or office did not consume much time. Hence the rituals were elaborate and time-consuming.

In most cases, people performed rituals out of fear. Society looked at death as evil, an impure happening. If a cause of death was a contagious disease then considering death as polluted was understandable, though the description is incorrect. Hygiene standards in olden days were poor; these poor standards were the cause of contagious diseases. People performed many purification rituals (even today these are followed). I remember the death of a 74-year-old person who died a natural death. He was a non-believer. His family cremated him as per his wishes; cremation did not involve religious stuff. Nobody expected major rituals on the 13th day. When we got an invite to the 13th-day event, we had a surprise in store. They have two homes, one his bungalow and other his family home. The family performed the same ritual called “Shant”, twice. One at each house. When we checked the reason for the change, they performed the rituals because marriage was supposed to take place in the family at a later date. The evil in the form of death had visited their home; hence the residences were “purified”. Are we in the 18th Century? The family is supposedly highly educated.  

In today’s newspaper, I read a piece of exciting news. I am always excited when humans go away from rituals in which they don’t believe. A couple did a very noble deed. The husband lost his father due to old age. The couple calculated the cost of all the rituals. They arrived at a figure of Rs fifty thousand. They donated a much-needed hot water solar system to a residential school. Kudos Sir! The couple is from a small town, and we cannot describe them as a modern couple. Such people are showing the way to society. 

Friends, don’t become only outwardly modern. Change internally, follow your instincts. Look at the whole thing from wastage point of view. In various rituals Hindus perform यज्ञ; they sacrifice multiple items to the fire God. Every year millions die. We sacrifice many things like Ghee, Oil. These things are a total waste. We have a lot of people who do not get sufficient food regularly. People should donate the wasted food to the needy. Is the wastage of such priceless resources done because of fear? Is it justified? 

The Art of Giving!

Give1

26th December is an important day in Australian cricketing calendar. On this day begins every year, a test match which is called Boxing Day test match! The game is between Australia and a touring team. I used to wonder how come the games of Cricket and Boxing merge here?  

The tradition of boxing day started in England and has spread in the countries which were under British rule, the Commonwealth countries! There are different versions of Boxing tradition, but the one started in Britain was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for excellent service throughout the year.  This custom is linked to an older British tradition: since the servants would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.  

The fundamental question is why giving makes us happy? Doing things for others increases our own happiness. Through giving, we fulfil two of our basic needs as human beings, which is to connect and contribute. Giving also makes us happier by providing a sense of meaning to life, reducing stress, improving our mood, and helping us to take our minds off our own problems. The best part about giving is that it is contagious. When we see someone do something kind (or are the recipient of kindness) it inspires us to be kinder too. Kindness begets kindness.  

 

Scientists say that the happiness we feel after a particular event or activity diminishes each time, we experience that event. But giving to others may be the exception to this rule, according to some researchers. When we “give,” the happiness that we get lasts longer!  

What is giving culture dependent on? Does a human give away when he has more than necessary or when he wants to “give”? I feel that this is naturally predominant in communities who have been financially secure and well off. What kind of giving is better? Frankly, it is tough to judge this. But I have seen a few families who are not conventionally well-off. Still, they follow the culture of giving! Is it dependent on your upbringing? Is it dependent on family traditions?  

I feel that the tradition of Boxing is not the “real giving”! From the information found on the net, it appears that the Masters gave things away to their servants, on the next day of Christmas. But this was also supposed to be the payment, and a bit of bonus, plus a bit of giving away unneeded excess items. It was kind of remuneration given for the work performed during the year!  

Almost a year back, I had written a blog “Let us all become Bill Gates!”; the link is below. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/let-us-all-become-bill-gates/ 

In this blog, I had suggested that all of us can become Bill Gates! Gates has started a fantastic tradition of giving away a major portion of individual wealth to some causes of your choice. In recent times it is observed that many people world over are becoming millionaires and billionaires in a short period of times, thanks to IT business and startup culture. Gates has suggested to such people to give away the major portion of their personal wealth, as the kind of money many of them are making, can never be spent in a few lifetimes. Gates has an advantage of having the expertise and wherewithal to create a foundation and running it. He is doing it on a massive scale. In India, Azim Premji is also moving in the same direction. To me, these people are beacons to us who can guide society towards “giving culture”.  

Giving is done to the financially and intellectually challenged persons. The persons who have monetary assets and intellectual assets can “Give”! Giving does not necessarily mean giving money or food or shelter to the poor! Gates Foundation is doing fantastic work in disease eradication world over. Foundation’s expertise and drive help the nations to create efficient and sustainable delivery systems; this creates awareness in the people, rich or poor! Cleanliness and health issues are independent of the financial status of people in any society. Whether you are rich or poor, you can get malaria or Zika! As the size of these donations is large, their effectiveness is felt by small nations or even large societies like India!  

How to go about giving? First and foremost, there is no need to publicise your individual giving. Each family can support and guide one child, from a family to many families in the right path in life. Those from the so-called middle class can quickly achieve this. The most important aspect of giving is to do it consistently! There is no need to wait for a boxing day to give! You can start today!

I have discussed this aspect with many friends. Different methods were followed by different families. In India, we get service support from many people for various aspects of cleaning, cooking and so on. Once you get to know these people well, you will realise that they are also equally good people. But there will be diversity in this group of people as is found in our society. Some will show happiness when we “give”, some will start thinking that it is their birthright that they should “get”! Do not get disheartened with this. Their attitude does not mean that they are not in need. Some rare people from this group will blow what they get, don’t stop in such cases! Change methods so that they are not able to misuse what they get. I am sharing what some of my friends and I have done over some time.  

  1. A friend said that he has given lumpsum amounts to four such people whom he knew well. Three of them ended up with their own homes. When you own a home you gain pride, you feel like doing better in life, working harder in life. All these families have come up in life now.  
  2. Another friend was supporting a person and his family for various things including money during the illnesses of their parents. He even gave away a scooter to him. But our receiver is a bit of a blower, though he is a simple man. Then the friend changed his method of giving. He now pays for the children’s education fees, including bus transport fees and tuition class fees.  
  3. Another friend started giving regularly. When this was known to his much younger colleagues, they also started doing the same and have still continued to “give”! Giving is definitely contagious!  
  4. One more person gives away knowledge, free! This person is a real technical pro, highly respected in the field, now retired. This person was asked by someone, “Why are you giving your speeches free? You will get whatever you demand.” The answer was a classic. “People give money, clothes and so on to the needy.  Needy people get from people and organisations, who have things in excess. Now I am retired, so I am giving my knowledge, which is my wealth! I am now in “giving” mode hence I do not charge fees!” 

Giving should be embedded in the family culture, so it gets passed on and on! But make sure that you “Give” in such a way that the receiver will not be benefitted on a temporary basis; long-term benefits make more sense. This also calls for consistency from the “Giver”!

Let us work hard and become a “Giver”!

 

 

Emotional Turmoil!

While writing two blogs about my friend Prakash regarding the major catastrophic event he and his family had gone through, I never realised the emotional turmoil I was going through. My endeavour while writing is always to make the least number of errors, both grammatical and factual. For this purpose, I had to refer to the book written by Kavita about the event, a few times. Every time I skimmed the book, the reading process did some more churning in my mind, as I read a few paragraphs. The pictures of what the family had gone through kept floating before me.  

Today’s blog came up as I read a news item in today’s newspapers, which rekindled the old memories and reminded me of the story of another friend. This story is again very touching! This friend of mine was a friend from my Bombay days. We were neighbours, he was one-year senior to me. As was typical of those days, we spent evenings playing tennis ball cricket on their terrace. He came from an upper-middle-class family, had a well-appointed home, went to a convent school. These things of course never came in between our friendship; honestly, I never realised his financial situation in those days. His father was our family doctor, so when the doctor was at home, we would be a little under pressure! The friend was ever smiling, but he was not what can be called as a mixing type.  

As so happens, we lost touch around the time when I was in tenth grade. A few years later, I moved for my engineering course to Pune. One of my classmates had also moved to join the medical curriculum at Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) in Pune. Once when we went there to meet my classmate, I bumped into this old friend, who was also learning to become a doctor. Our friendship was renewed, and we kept in touch intermittently.

As our education was getting completed, I heard that he got engaged to his classmate. I was so happy for him. Then came the news, later, that they had broken off! Later on, our friend went to England and settled there. Another 45 years passed as we again had lost touch. Once I was scanning the Facebook and searched for my friend and lo! There he was! I sent him a private message. I, of course, called him by the nickname from childhood. I shared my email id with him.  

A couple of weeks later, I received an email from him and was I happy! He said, “Pramod, it’s sheer luck that I got your message on Facebook; I was about to close my account on Facebook.” Then he gave details.  

He became a surgeon and lived in Northern England all his life. It appears that he did not travel much to India. He did quite well financially. He did not marry, he never explained hence I never asked. Then he was reminiscent about Bombay days. Our school days full of tennis ball cricket in the evenings. When it became dark, we would chat about everything in the world, until we were called home. Our email exchange continued sporadically, and we became comfortable with each other.  

Then in one of the emails, I shared with him how I went through Cancer treatment, end of 2013! Since he was a doctor, I shared with him as many medical details as possible. His reply was very positive and helped me to understand some more things from a medical perspective. I was surprised by his in-depth knowledge about cancer. He was a surgeon, but he was not an Onco Surgeon. From his next mail, I understood the background about his depth of knowledge. He had also suffered cancer of the throat region and had gone through massive doses of chemotherapy. Then he revealed a piece of very shocking information.

He wrote, “Pramod, after taking treatments for a few months, one of my doctor colleagues (who was my Onco surgeon) had a “doctor to doctor” talk with me. He said that the chances of my surviving beyond six weeks were remote. Why don’t you inform your family?” From what I knew, he did not have much contact with his family.  But he also wrote, “At the end of one month, a procedure was done. Suddenly after that procedure, my health started improving. The doctors have now removed me from the critical list and my current status at this time is “managing cancer”. I may require chemo once in a while as sustenance dose.” 

Well, this is not the story! The story started after this, at least for me! He once informed me that he was coming down to Pune for his medical college reunion. I was thrilled, and I said that we should meet. I told him, “Taj Blue Diamond will be the convenient hotel for you!” He said, “Pramod, there is one issue that I have not shared with you. When I was told that my days were numbered to six weeks, I got my lawyer and liquidated my fixed assets quickly, and I had substantial liquid money too! I organised and distributed 90% of assets to charities. Kept about 10% for unseen expenses, if required, after my death. Now with my health improving, I am seriously short of funds, but luckily, I have a pension! So, I am managing somehow. I came to know about this reunion and decided to attend, probably my first and the last one! So, staying at Taj is out of the question!” 

I thought, Oh, my god! How has this happened? He had many expenses, but luckily his most medical costs were covered under British Medical System. But overall, he was going through tough times. Other than his pension, he had no income. What turn can life take!  As he was past retirement age and in ill health, he could not work again.

This story again put me in severe turmoil, my mind was churning, and I did not know how to handle this. There was no way I could pay for his stay in Pune, he just would have refused.  

There is another twist to the story. I knew the dates for my friend’s stay in Pune. He had said that he would call me when he came to Pune. He did call, but somehow, I missed the call. During that period there were many phone calls to me from unknown numbers. So, I wrote him an email. He wrote back to me saying that he was sad that we missed out on meeting each other in Pune. He was back in England.  

After this episode, the frequency of our communication has dwindled down to a trickle; this has nothing to do with missing each other in Pune. My last couple of emails have remained unanswered. I must find out about our friend, and I hope that he is doing alright.

I am still very uneasy! Emotional turmoil continues!