70 plus 500 is equal to Nil!

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I don’t know if this is a blog or a retrospection! The meaning of the title is a bit odd. But I completed 70 th year on 7th October, and this is my 500th blog on the  8 th October, Dussehera, one of the significant festivals of Hindus! So, I can say that these two events, or maybe milestones, were reached on two consecutive days! But the meaning of the title is that I am resetting both figures 70 and 500 to zero. It is going to be the new beginning of a phase in my life, the length of which I do not know!  

What will resetting 70 achieve? What will resetting 500 achieve? Honestly, I feel a little embarrassed to mention the blog number when I publish one. But I do not know how to keep track of these numbers. There is no target; there is nothing to prove! I have been a reasonable engineer but never a writer! Someone asked me what my objective of publishing the blogs is? There is no objective or a target, and there is simply passion. What created this passion is very difficult to say.  

I started creating some technical documents during my software business. The need for these documents was to have full clarity and avoid ambiguity. As the projects began becoming larger and customers started becoming more demanding, the need for clarity went up and up! It helped me to write what I wanted to say with clarity; this is helping me while writing the blogs. Some friends tell me that I don’t write precisely like an engineer but argue from both sides. When I write the blog, I am not proving anything or anyone right or wrong. Hence, I write more than one viewpoints. The idea is to delve on a thought or an event or a situation. Get an overall feel and then go deeper into the subject. Some blogs need me to research on the net. Some issues are memories from my life; others are experiences that acquired over a period or got them while on the go!  

But the idea is to start writing as thoughts are gathered for a blog in my mindMy friend Jayprakash has divided my blogs into two types, impulsive and compulsive! He has hit the bull’s eye!  I have given below one example each of Impulsive and Compulsive blogs.

Impulsive blog 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/06/08/brave-art/ 

Compulsive blog 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/08/13/article-370-common-mans-view/ 

Impulsive blogs are visualised by me like setting the destination on Google maps. I know the beginning, the middle and the end at the start itself. These are written almost in one shot. Whereas for the compulsive blogs, I generally know the beginning and have a vague end in mind. I am not sure what I am going to writeIt can be compared with the olden way of looking for an address. I stop, I think and then move forward. It is like getting down from the car and asking the autorickshaw chap or pan walla for the direction to reach my destinationBut I reach my destination missing a turn or two.  

To me, the most important part is the end productThe result of my satisfaction can be achieved by editing and fine-tuning before I publish; it is the toughest aspect of blog writingI also use an English checking software called Grammarly, which is of great help! For images, quotes or diagrams, Google baba is always there to help! I think, in the end, it is your comments, suggestions, discussions that help me get better. I know there is still enormous scope for improvement. So here I declare my target! I have no targetbut I am going to do my best to improve to the best of my abilities!  

Now about the resetting of the number 70! Many of my friends and classmates have been reaching this landmark (if it can be called landmark) in 2019 as they were born in 1949. When I ask them about their feelings, I am mostly getting pleasant responses. Some have gone through major tragedies; some have suffered health issues. In some cases, health problems continue. In other cases, the event was a onetime health event. Friends have said thGat they mostly feel as if they are 15/20 years younger! I am sure such thoughts come to mind when life has treated you generally well. But a friend suffered a major tragedy in her young age, but I was happy to note that she was also quite enthusiastic about life in general. But someone haat this age faced the death of his 45-year-old son in an accident. The usual adage of time helps to heal all the wounds may not work in tragedies of such nature!  

Resetting the counter at the age of 70 opens up many vistas! My blog published yesterday discusses the benefits of the golden period of our life! 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/the-beauty-of-the-golden-period/ 

It will open many possibilities in life, and you will wonder why you did not do certain things in life! Have a glass of wine if you have never done it before– it is no big deal. World over, the people do enjoy a drink or two! सोमरस  has always been discussed in our mythological storiesMention of  सोमरस can give you the moral support you want. Join some clubs and enjoy playing cards! Try and spend some time doing social work, give time for needy. There are many lonely people in this world because of many reasons. Don’t wait to create some big system which will help others. By all means, do it, but you can start with small selfhelp groups in your locality. Go to old people’s home in your neighbourhood and spend some time with these lonely people. The meaning of resetting is simply to bring back your enthusiasm to do whatever you want to doDon’t do it to prove something but do it to give satisfaction to yourself and help othersMeet friends, phone them up! Meet your cousins, they will be probably of the same age as you are 

Resetting of the number 70 is a significant phase in your life. What you plan and do after reset is going to decide the way you are going to live in the golden period of your life. It is very easy to get entangled into a rut and a sad, unpleasant mindset. I have some definite plans in my mind, which I am going to try and see if they work. We tend to become rigid in our thought process as we grow older, so I am going to attempt to become more flexible. Empathy is one more aspect which all of us have to some extent; I will try my best show more empathy towards others! I want to delete the word EGO from my dictionary today.

Some of my friends have jokingly told me that I had reached a stage where I will have to be treated by paediatricians; I will try not to be treated by any doctor as far as possible. I would instead meet them socially, with that famous glass of wine I mentioned above 

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Canadian siesta!

Friends, before I go to the main subject, I want to inform you that for the next few weeks, there could be a delay in publishing my blogs. I have joined an online course at Oxford University, which has a ten-week duration. I need to study, attend discussions, and so on! The course is an advanced course in creative writing. I have never attended such a course before for obvious reasons, but I thought the course would help me become a better writer, it will help me organise my thoughts better. I have no ambition to become a professional writer, but whatever little I write, I will feel happy if I become more accomplished in what I do in future. Some friends will thank me for writing less! 🙂🙂

You must be wondering why I have used the word siesta! A siesta ([ˈsjesta]) (Spanish, meaning “nap”) is a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal. Such a period of sleep is a common tradition in some countries, particularly those where the weather is warm. The word is used in the context of Mediterranean countries where the siesta is a part of the culture. But for Jaya and me, the cold weather puts us in Siesta mode whenever there is an opportunity. Cold is how I am defining the weather, but some of the young gang is seen on the road, moving around in shorts and T-shirts! We both manage to sleep deeply at any time of the day; all one needs is a warm blanket. At 5 am the temperature is 8.5 deg! It is only the beginning of September.

I am, of course taking feedback from Nikhil and Priya from their short stay in Montreal of 3 to 9 months. I have visited advanced societies world over, many times, but I am every time amazed the way these societies operate. I am not talking about technical aspects but the human elements. I have written a blog about Indian psyche a few days back.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/new-rto-regime-and-indian-psyche/

I always feel that we are in denial mode and are proud of the chaos and lack of self-discipline that we show in the society. Maybe sometimes we are even proud of these things. We feel that basic indiscipline is our birthright. The other day I was in Model Colony for some work. In Deep bungalow Chowk they have put up dividers, some temporary and others permanent to smoothen the traffic flow. Ganapati pandals are supposedly allowed to cover 1/3 of the road during the festival period. The pandal did cover 1/3 of the road, but the organisers are not bothered that the road now has a divider. Simple maths says that currently only two-wheelers and autos can pass through that area of the road. How do other vehicles go? Obviously on the wrong side of the divider!  Is anyone bothered? I don’t think so.

Montreal Marathi Mandal program was held in a church, where there was a decent hall available. The enthusiasm of all was seen to be believed. I met a few people who started this activity in Montreal in the year 1982! Kudos to them for the consistency. Montreal appears to have a smallish Indian community so continuing it for more than 35 years is creditable. More than 100 people were present. A group of young and not so young volunteers did all work including logistics, arrangement and later cleaning etc. Great job, guys!

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Similar programs are done in India but the general confusion, deafening music, and we have unnecessary disagreements with authorities on everything, taking shelter behind religion!  India’s population is so large that a huge crowd is always present, and generally, there is reasonable discipline during programs. Why is the behaviour of the crowd disciplined to chaotic? What reasons could be there for this changeover?

I have seen a large crowd and their behaviour during the Cricket World cup finals (2015) at Melbourne, Australia. A total number of people present were 93000 plus. Right from arrival of spectators at the stadium, to dispersal after the end of the match was very organised. In between people were also disciplined during the usage of food courts and washrooms. There were long queues but there no jostling and pushing.

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Whatever little I have seen in Montreal till now was found very neat and proper. There is a lot of road repair work going on everywhere. On checking,  I found out that during harsh winters due to snow, road repair is not practical. Add to this maximum temperature of 35 deg in summer to -35 deg in winter must be creating road and pipeline issues regularly.

Comparisons of small things always are made in mind. On particular days, the garbage trucks come in to pick up the garbage in Montreal; okay nothing great about it. But In Pune, the vehicles come every day, but in certain areas, they run a song requesting people to come out with garbage bags! Why do people need to be coaxed every day to put away their garbage? Don’t we brush our teeth every day? We don’t put on an alarm to remind us to brush!  In olden days a guy used to work in my office. Those were the days of the pager. He had a field job and would come to my office every day at 9; we would discuss the work, and then he would go on the field. He would fit his pager in the trouser belt. One day, I saw that he had know pager. So, I asked him where his pager was? He lamely said that he had forgotten. I told him that since he had come to the office wearing a trouser and the belt, there was no way he could give the lame excuse of “forgot.”  Some of the things in our lives become our second nature like driving a  car, using a washroom, crossing the road when we have the right signal. But why do people break so many small rules so easily?

One interesting thing I saw in Montreal. People of different age were seen running on the footpath so that they didn’t miss the bus which was arriving. Once I was standing on the bus stop watching people (my favourite past time!). The people had already done their job of getting down and getting inside. Almost for one minute, the bus did not move! Then I observed that the bus driver had seen a lady running to catch the bus; he waited till she reached and climbed in safely! What can we call this? Basic courtesy? The natural thing to do? I have not seen this courtesy in most other cities.

Before I travelled to Montreal, I was told that French is the first language, and so on. But for visitors like me, when I start speaking in English, people reply in English. The reason could be, computerisation has made English a global language and secondly I could see people of many nationalities present on the streets. Canada’s liberal policies of immigration and support to refugees are increasing the number of people speaking different languages, making English a common link.

I will share more about culture and traditions as I explore more of Montreal in the coming weeks.

Why do I blog?

 

blogI will tell you why I am writing this blog. But let me start with what is a blog. A blog is a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style. 

The subject of my blog writing came up recently when we batchmates from COEP met for lunch. The current blog is my 474th blog. A friend asked me, “Hey, Pramod! What is your target for writing blogs? 500 or a thousand or what?” I told him, “Look, I never started writing the blogs with any thoughts. I started fiddling around in 2011. In the first 3 to 4 years, maybe I wrote about fifty blogs. Later on, when I was recuperating from my cancer treatment in 2014, I had time on hand. I was in retrospection mode. I realised that I had started enjoying blog writing. I have written blogs to put together thoughts that come to mind. The idea was never to have any target for the number of blogs I wanted to write. At that time, I would have been most pleased if I had reached a figure of 150.

I started getting more and more time as my professional work tapered off, and now that I am almost retired, blogging keeps me busy and interested. I discuss a subject with someone, I read somewhere, and there you are. I realised that there is a blog lurking behind any event that is happening in our beautiful, and sometimes not so beautiful world. Sometimes, it is personal; at other times, it is general. Sometimes it is about something of national or global nature. But there is no dearth of subjects. I am also lucky that I had Mr Mayekar as my English teacher in school. I have done my education till 11th grade in Marathi medium, but I started learning English from 7th grade. Mayekar sir’s encouragement made me comfortable in English. I am sure he would have been happy to read a few of my blogs. He would always say, “Written words become interesting if you put your heart in your writing.” Blogging is now my passion.  

Now the title, why do I blog? There is a reason why this question has come up. A friend from our WhatsApp group seems to be having some issues with my sharing of the blog on the group. Honestly, I do not have any problem with this, but since he is my batchmate, and known to me, I am a little worried about his questioning. I get a feeling that he has some health issues which creates his reactions that look awkward on the group. Now, some other friends from the group have been writing comments on my writing, but I feel that this friend needs to understand what a blog is and why people write a blog.  

First and foremostblogs are written for commercial purpose to make money, but many people, like me, blog for non-monetary considerations. There are many such reasons. One of them is passion. In India, the blogging culture is yet to spread as it has spread in western countries.  

At its core, writing is a form of communication. It is about recording thoughts on paper and making others think, argue and sometimes even agree with the writing. To that end, writing (just like every other form of communication that has ever existed) improves with practice. Blogging will not force you to become a better writer; it’ll just happen as you do it. And becoming a better writer holds significant benefits for the rest of your life—whether you are creating a book, a presentation, a résumé, or an anniversary card for your spouse. 

You’ll become a better thinker. Because the process of writing includes recording thoughts on paper, the blogging process encourages you to stop and think deeper. You will delve deeper into the matters of your life and the worldview that shapes them. Unfortunately, at this point, many will choose not to blog (or write at all) based on the faulty reasoning that they “have nothing to say.” But to that line of thinking, I always respond the same way, maybe you just haven’t discovered yet what you have to say. 

You’ll develop an eye for meaningful things. By necessity, blogging requires a filter. It’s simply not possible to write about every event, every thought, and every happening in your life. Instead, blogging is a never-ending process of choosing to articulate the most meaningful events and the most critical ideas; but this a personal perspectiveThe process of selecting a subject helps you develop an eye for important things. And remember that sometimes the most useful things appear to be most mundane—but you’ll see what I mean once you get started. 

Blog writing is either convergent or divergent. By convergent, it means that the subject is vast to start with, but in the end, the discussion narrows down to a tiny part of the issueBy divergent, it means that one starts with a small event like a sentence we read somewhere, and end up writing about a broad subject. A few times, you know what you are going to write in a particular blog, but many times you start writing, and vistas open up as you write!   

What are the positives of blog writing? It allows one to express the passion for one’s thinking. I have written a few blogs about how I handled my cancer treatment. If these blogs have helped to make a difference in the life of a few people, I will be delighted. My blogs bring me in touch with new people and old friends. Many times, there is an intellectual interaction. I can share my knowledge; I have had all my career in the Automotive field. I can share my experience and explain what is expected in future in the automotive field, with others. I come in touch with like-minded people. Consistent blogging helps me improve my writing skills. An essential aspect of blogging is it improves my knowledge. In my recent blog about article 370, my knowledge on the subject was not much. I researched and understood a lot of things on the subject. 

There are many commercial advantages of blogging like an improved business, networking etc. But for me, it is of no use as I don’t blog for those reasons.  

Last but not least, blogging has now become a passion for me. It is an addiction; it is my alcohol, and it is my cigarette. I never look for any subject or topic for writing a blog. But when I read books, or newspapers something clicks within. When I watch TV, some words or sentences hit me, and my mind starts whirring. It settles down only when I put my thoughts on paper! Somehow, I can find time even during my travels, but work-wise now I am pretty much relaxed. 

My friends, I am not looking for numbers, nor have I any target! I will keep on writing until I enjoy it. Famous cartoonist R K Laxman used to publish a cartoon every day in times of India, “You Said It”! He was once asked, “How can you do this day in and day out for so many years?” He said, “There is no dearth of “cartoons” in this world, so it is quite simple.” In the same vein for me, there are so many things happening the world over; my problem sometimes is that some blogs remain pending for days together, like this blog!  

 

 

At the peak of happiness!

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of them all? This sentence is from the Snow White fairy-tale. Her mother wants the mirror to reply. In the German language, the fair is interpreted clearly as “beauty”. But English interpretation is a little different. Fair in English is about the colour and complexion of the skin. Even in the white race, the “fair” or with the paler skin or blonde is considered more beautiful. But when we talk of the weather, fair means pleasant weather.

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Similarly, a question came to mind, who is the happiest of all? What is the meaning of happiness and what is our interpretation of happy? Happiness is a feeling or showing pleasure or contentment. The same question can be asked to happiness mirror. Who is the happiest of all? The obvious answer is the babies. Their primary needs are food and sleep. If they get their feed, on time, they have the least of the worries in this world. They will go to sleep when they feel sleepy irrespective of what is happening around them. But then we don’t remain babies, all our life.

I get a feeling that the older people would be the happiest among all groups. I am sure that you have already thought that Pramod is getting older and senile. But look at the things from the view of old people. Old means old, I am young as I will complete 70 this year.

Thinking like an older person is thinking about resilience and focusing on “what is”, as opposed to “what is not” — accepting your mortality by not being so afraid of it. When you are older, you view the time horizons in front of you differently. You understand that the days are finite, and we might as well enjoy the ones we have left. The waking up in the morning and saying, “Thank God for another day” is an indication of accepting the truth. I had read a joke about old age. A person tells his friend, “Look, buddy, my doctor told me the other day to think positively. He said that if you wake up and find that you do not have a single aching part in your body, safely assume that you are dead. Don’t bother even to get up!”  That was the doctor’s way of telling us to accept the facts of life.

As we grow old, we tend to forget some things, but it is selective forgetfulness. I was treated for cancer from December 2013 to February 2014. I was required to take 34 Radiations along with Immunotherapy. These caused me body rash, cough and a lot of pain in the neck, no pun intended. I took a lot of pain killers in those days. But I don’t remember these things much; I only have a vague memory of the trauma I faced. Selective forgetfulness is the gift given to us by old age. A study says that we become forgetful, but we forget more adverse events from our life. The corollary to the phenomenon is that we become happier. We also learn over a period that bad things in life are not special treatment meted out only to us. Everybody goes through different situations. Knowing this does not reduce the effect such traumas have on us. But it reduces impact knowing that it is a common problem.

You come to understand that the quality of our lives isn’t based on the events of our lives. It’s in reaction to the events in our lives. That’s a useful thing, to realise “I don’t have control over some of the events in my life, like the weather, but I actively have a say in how I respond to the weather.”

Which is the relevant keyword in our thinking? Happiness or Choice, to me it’s “Choice.” It’s declaring that you won’t be defined or determined by the circumstances of your life. You have a say in this. That declaration is liberating. That liberation is happiness. Happiness isn’t just the thing you choose; it’s the act of choosing it that makes you happy.

There are various things that we can do to improve our thinking and quality of life. If someone has depression, it is a condition that needs to be treated and not something that will go away by thought. It also won’t ensure that you will have a better future. But positive thinking will make sure that you look at at your life in such a way, that at your current situation feels happier. We should focus on “what is” and not “what we don’t have”! The younger people always think oppositely, as they believe that life is infinite!

To understand happiness at a particular stage, a person needs to be of that age. We were all children at some stage; hence we know what makes children happy! But when younger people interact with older ones, they don’t understand the real needs of the old people. We say that this old man or a woman talks too much. The issue is that as you grow older, you get less and fewer opportunities to talk.

On top of that, one can have hearing issues. So, the conversation can become difficult. Very few younger people will understand these issues, but many times it is the younger ones who decide the needs of older people. At old age, if people develop the ability to accept life’s realities, life’s experience is much more enjoyable. These people don’t need to fight hard to achieve their targets, as their targets are always short term targets. They know their financial and physical limitations and need to accommodate within whatever they have!

Friends, people of my age group sometimes have family responsibilities. But the older group does not have any such issues. Try and make the lives of older people happier. On my way to the gym, I see an old man sitting in the home premises watching things. Once I went and chatted with him for 15 minutes. He did not want me to go. He is 95 years of age and had most of his faculties intact. Near my home, there is an old people’s home. Once early morning, I had gone out to take some photographs. A group of three old people was chatting outside the gate of the home. I stopped and had an interaction with them. I could get away only after an hour or so. All of them wanted to talk; it appeared that it was their primary need. They called another friend who came out, and also joined the chat. From their face, I could see that they enjoyed the conversation very much. I was only asking a few questions to take things forward.

I am confident that older people are the ones who are the happiest in their lives provided they get the right atmosphere and the proper support. Their needs are minimal; others need to find some time for them! Don’t forget that we are also going to reach that phase at some time, hopefully! So, it will be a good idea to propagate such a thought process in society! Let us make a beginning somewhere !

Manash Sen, the ultimate “family” leader!

 

SenHow does one describe a personality like Mr  Sen? For records, Mr Sen was my boss when I worked in Atlas Automotive components, way back from 1977 to 1981. He was the works manager and in-charge of an Aluminum Die  Casting plant. I had first met him in a conference of foundrymen the previous year. Yes, I was a foundryman in that avatar. In the first meeting itself, I liked him. I was 27 years of age, and he was 43 years old. Though he was senior to me, I never felt intimidated by him. I looked at him as a fatherly figure though he was not old enough to qualify for that. His son was probably in pre-engineering class at that time. I do not know why I felt that but he had an aura about him, but still, he was always people’s man.

When I met him for the second time, he told me, “Arey Panvalkar, why don’t you change your job and join us?” The first thought that came to my mind was what Aluminum casting does Atlas manufacture? So I asked him. He said, “We make Low pressure die casting, gravity die casting and sand casting”. I requested him to give me some time. At that time I worked in a company making Copper and Copper alloy products by a process called extrusion. After going through my college books, I concluded that I did not know anything about Aluminum casting except the very basics. He wanted me to join as a quality control manager. I called him and said, “Sen Ji, I do not know anything about the products made by Atlas so I will not join.” He knew that I had a Master’s degree in Metallurgy.

He called me to his office for a cup of coffee. I told him about my apprehensions. He smiled and said, “Look, I know that your experience is different, but I want someone with no casting experience because I want to change the way my team thinks. You have the educational credentials, so I am sure you will handle things easily.” I was still not sure when he said, “I want a go-getter like you!” I said, “How did you judge that I am a getter?” He said, “Panvalkar, my judgement about people has never gone wrong before, so believe in me and join. You will do well in Atlas.”

That was my “interview” for a post in Atlas, but this was how he judged people. In months after I joined Atlas, there was a significant upheaval in the organisation in post foundry production department. The whole team was removed. Mr Sen called me and said, “ From today you will also look after that department too.” I felt that these two responsibilities were conflicting in nature, but he said that professional in me would know how to handle conflicts. Never in my four years with Atlas, did I face the conflict between production and quality. To me, the quality was to be produced!

Atlas was a smallish organisation but was making good castings. We were all proud of what we did. Mr Sen would back us to the hilt while dealing with customers, provided we were right. Once an over smart purchase officer from a large company said a few nasty things to me as well as about Atlas. The argument happened during a meeting. I reported the same to Mr Sen. He said, “I will deal with them for a few days.” After three days, Mr Sen called me to his office. To my surprise, the officer was sitting with him. When I entered, the officer got up and profusely apologised to me. I was surprised. Later in the day, Mr Sen told me that he had discussed the incident with the biggest boss of that organisation and ensured an apology. Such support gave me more confidence in dealing with large companies.

It used to be a treat to see Mr Sen in man management mode. He probably had in his mind, made categorisation of all our colleagues. He would tell someone in details about how to do something. He would shout at someone to pull up the socks and get things done. I had seen many impossible things achieved by his unique methods. After all these years he understood Marathi but would speak with people in English or Hindi. We had a few Bengali colleagues; he would converse them in Bengali. Were they scared of him? Interactions with him were always interesting, sometimes coaxing, at other times pushing hard. But work had to be completed. I never saw him telling someone not to go home until specific work was done. People would do it on their own; it was his fatherly figure that made a big difference.

My friend late Dilip and I were questioned all the time during our meetings. Mr Sen would get things reconfirmed from us sometimes. Once in exasperation, I asked him why two of us are treated differently. He called us back to the office after our morning meeting was over. There were the usual coffee and Bourbon biscuits, an indication that he was in a great mood. He explained that he considered two of us to be the best, so he did not want us to make mistakes. He said, “You guys are smart, but sometimes you want to achieve too many things. I want to make sure that you don’t end up making silly mistakes. That is the reason I reconfirm the tech side of the discussion. Other guys need spoon feeding most of the times so that they won’t make mistakes!” Young that we were, Dilip was even younger than me; we were happy that Mr Sen had so much confidence in us.

So many memories flowed in when I came to know that he passed at the age of 85, on 8th March 2019. After Atlas, he helped his sons to set up a very successful Vacuum impregnation processing and machinery manufacturing set-up. He was an excellent engineer but one of the best Managers I came across in my professional life. He always ensured that his colleagues did not have any personal issues; he would go out of the way to resolve such matters. I am sure he has passed on all his qualities to his sons. I will share one example. We attended his grandson’s marriage in February. There was a big crowd, as usually happens in Indian weddings. Later, his son called me to check whether I had met Mr Sen at the wedding. These are small personal touches that turn people from good to super!

God has generally been kind to Sen family. Both he and Mrs Sen looked in good health when we met them during the marriage. His grandson has also started taking part in the family business when he comes to India in the summer holidays. Mr Sen has seen it all, children doing well, grandson getting involved. The third generation doing well is the ultimate dream for a family man like Mr Sen. All through his career though he used to be very busy, the family was always first for Sen babu!

সেন বাবু আমরা আপনাকে মিস করব!

sen1

 

Lazy or Innovative!

 

TwoThumbsTyping

Humans always want to do things differently and easily. We say that fashions come back in circles every 30 years! But pictorial writing took a few thousand years to come back! Are humans lazy or innovative? From pre-historical days, we’ve learned to talk, we’ve learned to write, but we’re only now learning to write at the speed of talking (i.e., text), sending messages. If you are talking to someone face-to-face, you don’t need an additional word or symbol to express “I’m smiling” because you would be smiling. Research determined way back in the 1950s that only 7 per cent of communication is verbal (what we say), while 38 per cent is vocal (how we say it) and 55 per cent is nonverbal (what we do and how we look while we’re saying it). This is good for face-to-face communication, but when we’re texting/WApping, the hypothesis goes for a toss. 93 per cent of our communicative tools are out of the picture.

In came Emojis! Emojis were born from the mind of a single man: Shigetaka Kurita, an employee at the Japanese telecom company NTT Docomo. Back in the late 1990s, the company was looking for a way to distinguish its pager service from its competitors in a very tight market. Kurita hit on the idea of adding simplistic cartoon images to its messaging functions as a way to appeal to teens. The emoji means, “picture words”—were designed by Kurita, using a pencil and paper, and were inspired by pictorial Japanese sources, like Manga (Japanese comic books) and Kanji ­(Japanese characters borrowed from written Chinese). I always had this feeling that Emojis show a feel of Japanese/Chinese characters and now I have come to know that I was not wrong.

These 176, initial crude symbols became very popular and Japanese Telecom adopted them. These were used only in Japan.  Apple put these characters in iPhone in 2007 for phones to be sold in Japan; it was meant for Japanese youth and was hidden deep down in software layers. But tech-savvy users in the US found these Emojis and then it was only a question of high-speed proliferation. Now even people above 80 are using WhatsApp and use Emojis very comfortably. In a survey in 2013, it was found that 73% of people in the USA and 82% of people in China were using Emojis in their communications. There is one interesting thing I have observed about Emojis. Since the faces shown in them are basically based on comic books, there is hardly any angry Emoji! Using Emojis, people can love, feel sad, feel elated but it becomes difficult to hate or feel angry using Emojis!

The meaning of Emojis interpreted in different areas of the world are flexible and that is the real beauty of it. 🙏🙏 is an Emoji that is interpreted as Namaskar (Hindu Greeting) in our part of the world. But in the western world, it is interpreted as High Five! If one needs to discuss or comment on something serious, the best solution is face to face talk, next best is Emojis and third place goes to the written text. These not very professional looking cartoons are instantly recognizable, which makes them understandable even across linguistic barriers. Yet the implications of emoji—their secret meanings—are constantly in flux, they keep on changing. The written language is often clumsy or awkward or problematic, for personal communications, especially when it’s sent using tiny screens, tapped out in real time.

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The beginning of writing started with pictorial drawing and their interpretation. First written symbols that began in our lives are pictures. Pictograms—i.e. pictures of actual things, like a drawing of the sun—were the very first elements of written communication, found in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China. From pictograms, which are literal representations, we moved to logograms, which are symbols that stand in for a word ($, for example) and ideograms, which are pictures or symbols that represent an idea or abstract concept. Modern examples of ideograms include the person-in-a-wheelchair symbol that universally communicates accessibility and the red-hand symbol at a pedestrian crossing that signals not “red hand” but “stops.”

One thing is sure that pictures, emojis have a definite advantage over written communication. I will tell you how I got confused in Germany, way back in 1984. I had gone to West Germany of those times. I was travelling back to the place of my stay in a small town called Menden, using the train system. I was required to change the trains at a couple of places. I saw one railway employee with a tag, “Information”. I was happy, finally, I found someone speaking English!  I went to the railway employee to seek the directions. Later I came to know that Information in German is pronounced as, Informatsionen! The person said, “Ich spreche kein Englisch”, which I assumed as “I don’t speak English” He held my hand, took me to the correct platform and pointed to me the direction! No Emojis!

 JoyEmoji

The Joy Emoji shown above, is referred  to as “Face With Tears of Joy” or “the LOL Emoji” (Emojis don’t have official names, just nicknames created by their users)— it dates back, in North America, to roughly 2011, when Apple put a readily accessible Emoji keyboard in iOS 5 for the iPhone. Which means that in a few years, Face With Tears of Joy ­vanquished the 3,000-year-old symbol “~” called Tilde, which is at the top left-hand corner of our keyboard. Tilde is used as a symbol for approximation. Let me tell you briefly about ~! It was one of the most common symbols used in written language for a long time but was overtaken by LOL in three years! That is the power of Emojis!

Then comes the issue, are Emojis the right way to communicate? I think so because when we communicate with each other on social media, it is more of an informal discussion. In our lives now social media communications are very large in volume. Formal work or business related communication is still a letter or an email! You may send an informal consent for a purchase order on WA, but will end with, “Purchase Order follows”.  Of course, there are personal feuds or lover’s tiffs that can happen on WhatsApp. Now I have passed that stage but had WA been available in my younger days, I would rather have used  Emojis. If I had to show my displeasure, I would have used 😕☹😒 instead of saying, “I am unhappy or sad because you said blah blah on phone!” This one sentence would lead to so much more exchange, of initially tough words, and maybe then harsh words. 🙂🙂

Spelling mistakes or deliberate spelling errors are part of communication. ध चा मा is a famous historical saying in Maratha history during the time of Peshwas. There was an order to धरा someone, means capture someone. ध चा मा means the letter ध was replaced by मा . The order became मारा, someone, means kill someone! Don’t be under the misconception that such errors can’t happen while replying using Emoji. The following Emojis are next to each other on the keyboard, 👏👄.  A young man wanted to appreciate what his female boss had achieved. By mistake, he sent 👄 EMoji instead of 👏. This was before, “delete message” facility in WhatsApp. Sheepishly he went to the boss to apologize. His boss said, “Meet me in the evening!” The office was almost empty when he went to her cabin. He was shocked when his boss replied to him with,😘😘 in person! Boss is always right!

If – Poem by Rudyard Kipling!

Kipling was a famous English writer/poet who was born in second half of 19th century and died in 1936. He was the first English writer to have won Nobel prize, in literature in 1907. His most famous works of fiction include The Jungle Book, Just So Stories, Kim and The Man Who Would Be King. 

Kipling was born in Bombay, Malabar Hill photo of olden times displayed above, and died in London. He lived in India when the British Raj was at its peak, world over. Some of his writings do have the shade of white supremacy! But he was definitely not out and out a Hitler. Like every coin has two sides, the Britishers felt that Raj was their birthright, though for us it was colonial supremacy which needed to be overthrown. There were many Indians who had taken up jobs with British Government in Police, Army and Civil services in India. Did it mean that they supported the British Raj? Except for a minuscule number, all people took up jobs with British as their lively hood. Naturally, during those times, the rules required to remain in the service, had to be followed. I am sure many of these rules were anti Indian, but the people had to follow them to continue in service. Did it mean that they supported the British? No way!     

The poem, “If”, which had been painted on the wall of the students’ union building, in Manchester, was removed by the Students’ Union on Tuesday, 17th July, in a bid to “reclaim” history on behalf of those who have been “oppressed” by “the likes of Kipling”. Student leaders at Manchester University declared that Kipling “stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights”.    

Besides Kipling’s racist poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ and there is  plethora of other work which sought to legitimize the British Empire’s presence in India and De-humanize people of colour. This logic by students’ union is deeply inappropriate. The students’ union thought that to promote the work of Kipling, in the Students’ Union building, named after a prominent South African anti-Apartheid activist, Steve Biko, is inappropriate. Is it not a mockery literary activity? Is it not hypocrisy? Literature gives us an opportunity to compare world from different times and place, perspective of which may or may not match with our own. Literature teaches us nuances and the importance of engagement instead of “my way or highway” attitude. It also fore warns us against the pitfalls of being judgmental. Removing the poem from the wall is not the way to show dissent. 

What would have been the right way to dissent?  The poem “If” is about real life and puts forward very positive thoughts about our day to day life. Following are two lines from the poem 

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
And treat those two impostors just the same   

Kipling has expressed positive thoughts in these two lines! All our life, we face Triumph or Disaster; but Kipling says that you treat them just the same. If we are able to follow his advice, if we do not get too excited with triumph and too dejected by failure, we will travel our life’s journey without many ups and downs in our mind, we will be able to avoid pitfalls! The poem “If” just talks about keeping positivity in life though we may face many storms!  You can read the poem “If” here. 

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46473/if— 

What was the point in erasing this poem which promotes positive thought process? The students’ union representative who explained their view point was an Asian lady. This incident took place in Manchester. England is known for its freedom of expression. At the Piccadilly Circus in London, every day you can watch people of different race, caste, creed and religion expressing their views openly. With this atmosphere, students’ union team did what they wanted to do. However, my view is that since the Poem on the wall was “If” and not “White man’s burden”, they should not have erased the poem but should have written the poem by Maya Angelou “Still I Rise”, alongside! “Still I Rise” poem can be read in one of the photos below. This poem is equally positive about life, and tells downtrodden people how to overcome difficulties, though obstacles keep arising!  

MayaAngelou

The British ruled us for 150 years and looted a lot of things from here, including the Kohinoor! They were brutal many times and showed their cunning ways by following the policy of divide and rule! But they had good side too! Recently, Elphinstone Road station on Mumbai suburban railway line was renamed, as Prabhadevi. But basic fact does not change that the railway system in India was built by the British for troop movement! But when they left India in 1947, they did not take railways away. Before British time, there was never one country called India, as is known today. We have been singing paeans of Bharat all the time, but complete Bharat never existed. There were many small and large kingdoms all over which were run by various Kings. British, to take full control over these kingdoms, won over some of them by trickery and some in war.  Credit for formation of Akhand Bharat goes to the British, our number one enemy before Independence.

The literature helps us to look at both sides of a point of view, it has also helped us to look at the British Raj from different viewpoint. Bad points about British need not be elaborated, as they are well documented, but there are many good points too; I am writing in English, which is a gift from the British. Especially after proliferation of computers, importance of English has increased tremendously world over. British society has allowed the students’ union to remove “If” from the wall, they have shown great tolerance by allowing this to happen in England. Will we allow a foreigner to remove a Shloka from some wall in an institution in India? Are we as a society mature enough? If, if only we had that maturity.. It’s always “If” which was written by Kipling more than 100 years ago!