To Hell with China- the confused us!

OUR CHINA BEATERS!

Corona, Ladakh and other things got every Indians’ muscles flexing! Ban Chinese goods, buy Indian and be Indian! The slogans are seen everywhere in discussions, social media and wherever we look. Great idea! But there is a cynical joke. A lot of posters, Ban Chinese goods, buy Indian and be Indian are seen everywhere- the only problem is they were printed and imported from China because these were good quality and inexpensive.

Import and export between nations is not an emotional decision, but such decisions are based on hard bargaining to try and see that both the sides are benefitted- and it needs to be a win-win situation. Import and export values between any two countries are never the same. In the case of China, the import from China is always higher than the export to China for most countries. Why has this happened? China has ensured that the industry grew phenomenally. They maintained quality and lower price than most of the nations in the world. They found efficient ways of sending goods to Europe by using the rail network of Russia. That reduced the transit time by almost 30 days.

Can any nation beat China in their own game? No, it is not easy, and there are other reasons like a dictatorship, lax labour laws and so on. In China, businesses rarely have to face legal hurdles. In democracies, legal issues can really strangle the industry. But is it doable at all to beat China in their own game? Yes, it is feasible, and this “miracle” has been performed by a sector in India. But before this, let me share thoughts of my friend Arvind on the subject.

Nobody, citizens, government, companies or anyone else can stop using, buying Chinese products overnight. The government, unless it officially declares war, can not stop or cancel orders or participation in tenders. It takes time for companies to develop alternative sources. The alternative sources will be costlier since China uses a dumping strategy. Being a totalitarian government, it has many advantages as for labour, company and other laws are concerned.

Atmnirbhar Bharat will be successful only if we as citizens of this country are ready to pay more for some products, initially. Businesses should put the nation first policy too, and the government, bureaucracy and politicians should not manipulate things for pushing their individual interests. Only competent leadership can change the future of the nation.

The link below are views of Rajeev Bajaj, MD of Bajaj Auto and Suzuki India, Chairman Mr. Bhargava. They have spoken pragmatically about China.

https://www.news18.com/news/auto/maruti-suzuki-bajaj-resist-boycott-china-movement-says-chinese-parts-necessary-for-production-2670601.html

I am talking about the Motorcycle industry in India. Motorcycle industry jointly has reached the top position in the world in numbers. In the early part of this century, Chinese companies started pushing their motorcycles in India. The “experts” began writing epitaphs of Indian Motorcycle companies Hero, Bajaj and TVS. But these companies were made of sterner stuff. They got their act together, pulled up their socks. And lo! Within a couple of years, the Chinese bikes were thrown out from Indian markets by customers and not by tariffs and jingoism by Deshbhakts. What did they do? They did the right things.

Those were days when IT companies were on a high, after the success of Y2K in the global market. They started hiring engineering talent from IIT’s, NIT’s and all good institutes. The kids wanted to do only coding in life, engineering career was a no-no. Here was what Bajaj tried. They used to get an opportunity for campus interviews on 7th or 8th day. One year they decided to hire people on zero-day. They told the institutes that they would pay three times the salary that IT companies paid. They got the zero-day slot, but to their surprise, very very few students wanted to join even at such a high salary. All wanted to jump the IT bandwagon. Bajaj reversed their strategy and went to the next level of schools. Changed interview language to Hindi, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil when needed. They got the hidden gems as these kids were good but had a language issue. Rest as they say is history.

Another example of Bajaj. Today they export about 1.8 million bikes a year, their primary market being Africa. In Africa, bikes are used as a taxi or a tempo. Bajaj has earned a name there. Before Bajaj, there were Japanese bikes which were superb but expensive. They had a limited market. The Chinese bikes were sent to Africa in an individual box, and they were assembled by local mechanics and sold. Bajaj made better bikes and despatched them in assembled condition, ready to use. They priced them between the Chinese and Japanese bikes. They have ultimately captured the market and running a highly profitable operation.

So, friends, it is doable. What you need is the will to fight, gauge the market correctly. Besides this, the Motor Cycle industry had the advantage of a large Indian market for Motorcycles. The local market helped them volume, which has proved beneficial.

Coming back to the slogan to hell with the Chinese products. If you look at Chinese cars, they are not so competitive in the world market, yet. But since many global multinationals went to China- Volkswagen, Land Rover, Mercedes, Toyota- all the named companies and others have a significant presence in China. Chinese manufacture seven to eight times the cars that we manufacture in India. In India, we simply do not have a market for more cars. Plus we do not have the infrastructure of roads and pollution control. With smaller numbers, we cannot compete with Chinese in four-wheelers. Mind you, China is still not able to sell “Chinese Branded” cars in the global market. But these vast volumes helped China to create a reliable components industry; the Indian industrial buyers have fallen into China trap due to low price. Many international component companies like Aisin, Denso, Conti, Valeo started China operations in a big way. Corona pandemic exposed the errors made by Industrial buyers. I have discussed this with many senior friends in the industry. The corrective measures have already begun, and over a period, China dependence will come down. It takes time to develop components suitable for your use.

It is impossible to boycott China immediately. It will take at least five years of focused efforts. In automotive products, direct import from China is about 10%. However, many tier two suppliers of the vendors from ASEAN countries import quite a lot from China. It will take time to develop ‘non-Chinese’ tier-two suppliers.

The government can discretely ensure that items like Ganesh Idols, Agarbatti, Patang Manja and such stuff does not get imported from China. These items can not be put on the banned list. So the government can talk to the business community and trade groups to make sure that “Indian” items are not imported. For such things, how do you know that they are cheaper? These are imported simply because trade margins are high. There could be hundreds of such items which can be easily “banned.” This is also doable. When Malaysia started behaving strangely with India, Indian government discretely talked to import organising bodies. Within three months the majority purchase of palm oil was switched over to Indonesia.

The main thrust of India should be to push local manufacture of good quality cell phones, tvs and such things in India. Special efforts will have to be taken. Years back, there was a story of the US pushing the Japanese to allow them to sell the US-made cars in Japan. It was declared during the visit of the US president to Japan, that the market is now open. When the delegation went back to the US and talked to car manufacturers, they realised that the manufacturers would take at least three to four years to manufacture Japan-specific, right-hand drive cars.

So it is good to let out steam, but there is no point in shooting the bullet in your foot! Another point is to find out if banning Chinese goods going to damage Chinese trade more or hit the Indian manufacturing capability? The right way would be do it over a period!

Game Changer II!


GameChanger is an event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current way of doing or thinking about something. I need not explain the title- the first game-changer was COVID 19 and the second is the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the US. Two game-changers in six months is something unprecedented. The world would have been happy if the first event, the COVID 19 pandemic, had not happened, or it was just a bad dream. But the second event was long overdue, but it took the death of a person to start the chain reactions.

George Perry Floyd Jr. (October 14, 1973 – May 25, 2020) was an African-American man who was killed by police during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Protests in response to both Floyd’s death, and more broadly to police violence against black people, quickly spread across the United States and internationally.


On May 25, 2020, Floyd was arrested on a charge of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store in the Powderhorn Park neighbourhood of Minneapolis. According to the store clerk, the note was an obvious fake and Floyd had refused to return the purchased cigarettes when challenged.

He died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds during the arrest. Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street, while two other officers further restrained Floyd and a fourth prevented onlookers from intervening. For the last three of those minutes Floyd was motionless and had no pulse, but officers made no attempt to revive him. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck as arriving emergency medical technicians attempted to treat him.

The blog would not be complete without the comprehensive video about the event. It is a nine-minute long video and contains violent, disturbing scenes. I had to watch it to understand the facts. The nonchalant way in which the white Police Officer acts is to be seen to be believed. From the information that came out, Floyd never resisted the arrest. So, why was he thrown on the ground? White superiority complex? After Floyd was cuffed, Chauvin the officer, pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck. It resulted in to choking and finally the death. Floyd all the time was saying, “I am facing breathing difficulty.” But Chauvin simply ignored him

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vksEJR9EPQ8&has_verified=1&bpctr=1592085699

The video was taken by a 17-year-old girl, a passerby. She never knew that she was filming a game-changer event! The trauma she must be going through is unimaginable. I hope she can overcome the shock over a period.

Southern States in the US had been the strong proponents of using African Americans as slaves for more than 100 years. In fact, the American civil war took place as the Northern States in the US were against slavery.

What does all this really mean, and why does this event look a game-changer? What is the background?

Discrimination due to caste, creed and colour is not new to this world. It has been happening all through the history of mankind. In our mythological stories, God- the good always has a fair colour, and the demons are still dark in any depiction. The Indian language word for this fair colour is GORA!

Disclaimer- I am going to mention a few things from human history, a subject in which my knowledge is minimal. I am using this knowledge to understand the basics of how the dark colour was looked in a bad light.

The society from olden times is depicted below in terms of four Varnas- they were Savarnas. Those who did not conform to these four Varnas were Avarna.

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

Then there was the concept of purity and impurity. The society changed the meaning of the idea of purity and impurity to suit its acts. The thought process initially discussed moral issues. Those who followed the then correct ethical issues were pure, and others were impure. But over a period, those with fair skins were described as pure and superior; people with dark skins were considered impure and inferior.

The colour of our skin is dependent on melanin produced by skin cells when we are exposed to the Sun. The more the sun exposure, the more melanin is produced. It is a clear scientific explanation, but humans chose to ignore this information.

It is too simplistic an explanation to explain why Goras are considered a superior race. But this happens all over the world.

In Hinduism Lord Ram and Lord Krishna are shown in blue colour along with Lord Shiva. How do you explain this? The blue colour indicates HIS all-pervasive nature, blue being the colour of the infinite sky as well as the endless ocean on which he resides. The colour blue, therefore, symbolises the infinite and Vishnu is represented as an immense force. It is also symbolising his vastness as deep as the heavens.

If we consider human history, the explorer Christopher Columbus made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain: in 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502. He was determined to find a direct water route west from Europe to Asia, but he never did. Instead, Columbus stumbled upon the Americas. He and his team were European Goras. The Europeans were excellent seafarers and were not afraid to take risks. Since they were always involved in wars, they had better weapons than others. After they reached the Americas, the sequence was simple. They overcame the physical resistance by better weapons. Natives of the lands where they reached would always think that they were Gods, due to their skin colour. The Europeans developed the lighter skin colour due to cold weather which restricted their outdoor activity in the Sun. The exposure to the Sun was less due to geography. These European were “Gods” all the dark natives were treated as demons. For centuries, the thought process was embedded in the human mind. The dark-skinned people, who were conquered, were used as manual bonded labour. Goras were treated as owners of the dark labour force.

But mind you, very similar thought process had developed in India too, and the concept of land-owners or Zamindars has been prevalent for a long time.

Is Floyd event going to try and reverse the history for last thousand years? There is no question that the dark-skinned humans have been treated shabbily all through the past. But a trend to take down statues of various people including that of Columbus in Boston and many other cities looks a bit far fetched. Was Columbus famous for capturing of bonded labour or he was the person who discovered the Americas? A statue of a person in Bristol was also dumped in the sea. The person was a slave trader, more than one thousand years back. He used to bring slaves from Africa. The statue from day one was controversial. The person was directly involved in the slave trade.

Those persons like Columbus who “found” the new landmasses (they existed, but we did not know about them.) People like him and then the Britishers, Dutch became colonisers. There was Chengis Khan who wanted to expand his empire! These people “overcame” the “natives”! The act was about expanding the horizons of the realms. They conquered the land. Even if the people in those wars had been Goras, they would have expanded; so it was not about the colour of the skin. (Second world war- Germany vs France and Britain was not about slaves.)

I feel that we should be looking after the interest of people, the freedom for people and respect for people should be given irrespective of the skin colour. When the dark people are smart, they overcome these hurdles easily. But when one “Gora” and the other dark-skinned average persons are pitted against each other, people go into a stereotyping mode. The Gora is assumed to be smarter, but that is not the case. Unless such thinking changes, the clashes of civilisation will continue!

 

Pandemic endings are very, very messy!  

Pandemic is an epidemic of disease which has presently spread all over the world. The current pandemic has spread across the globe. The main difference in the recent pandemics and the previous ones is the communication methods of the 21st century. These communications include travel modes, personal and public communications. Sitting in your home, you can see the TV channels from the world over. You can be in touch with your near and dear ones 24/7 using voice or video methods. One can have “family meetings” using apps like zoom! 

With all the technology around, except for the Vaccine or the cure, the whole world knows everything about the current situation minute by minute. Sometimes it loses seriousness and looks like a commentary of sports events. The number of deaths is just a number like strike two in baseball, and the number of wickets fallen in cricket match. We are lucky that these commentators do not shout like in football, it is a goooooooal 

Why am saying that the ending is going to be very, very messy? None of the pandemics that occurred before ended medically except smallpox! The last patient for smallpox was seen in 1977. But all other pandemics have tapered off into a situation, where people started getting used to them. It means that the problem does not come under control medically but socially. People and governments learn the methods to contain them and to overcome the fearLockdown is a tested and proven method 

I will share with you with the information about the Bubonic plague. I am giving you the history so that we may understand how COVID will go away.  

Bubonic plague has struck several times in the past 2,000 years, killing millions of people and altering the course of history. Each epidemic amplified the fear that came with the next outbreak. 

The disease is caused by a strain of bacteria, Yersinia pestis, that lives on fleas that live on rats. But bubonic plague, which became known as the Black Death, also can be passed from infected person to infected person through respiratory droplets, so it cannot be eradicated simply by killing rats. 

The plague began in 1331 in China. The plague continued for some time, along with a civil war, that was raging at the time. It killed half the population of China. From there, the plague moved along trade routes to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In the years between 1347 and 1351, it killed at least a third of the European population. Half of the people of Siena, Italy, died. It seems, as far as diseases are concerned China and Italy seem to have a great partnership from olden days.  

That pandemic ended, but the plague recurred. One of the worst outbreaks began in China in 1855 and spread worldwide, killing more than 12 million in India alone. Health authorities in Bombay burned whole neighbourhoods trying to rid them of the plague.  

The 1918 flu is the example of the ravages of a pandemic and the value of quarantines and social distancing. Before it ended, the Flu killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide.  

We have already seen that people are getting fed up of restrictions. Governments are worried about social revolts. The movement of migrant workers in India to their native places is a classic example of the same.  

Governments relax restrictions which give them a kick on the butt in some cases, e. g. Singapore. In India, the numbers during the last week are increasing fast. Chennai is leading “the charge”! Mumbai is already in trouble. But still, place like Delhi wants to relax restrictions. Why is that so?  

There is reason. I mentioned about influenza, which killed millions, a hundred years before. Now we are so used to it, that we have become friendly with it. We have now given it a pet name “Flu”! We are so used to it, that we even go to the office or wherever even when we have Flu! Why the change? We have got used to it. We sometimes do not go to the doctor to get treated and take selfmedication. It is unbelievable that the same Flu had killed millions. 

There is a reason. Diagnostics are better, our knowledge is better, and medicines are more potent. The same thing is going to happen in the case of COVID. Vaccine and treatment for the same is a distant dream. But in South Asian countriesthe pandemic is much weaker than in Europe and the Americas. Even in these places where the pandemic is smouldering, discussions about relaxation have started.  

Now why it is going to be messy? I will now talk of only India. With the help of technology, we have managed complete shutdowns. Shutting down is a more straightforward process because restarting is a complex process. We have Red, Orange, Green zones. All these zones are present in states, districts and large cities. Then there are containment zones. All our economic activities have become dependent on Pan India suppliers and transportation of goods. Maharashtra does not have Steel plants, so the Steel for construction has to come from somewhere; if that somewhere is in Red Zone, we are stuck. The same thing happens in the Automobile industry. Most of the car manufacturers have some vendors in Pune and around. Pune is the Red Zone! You get me! Migrant workers have gone home, and the economy is trying to restart. One may not get trained people. Do you understand why I am saying messy? 

No, you have not understood. The second wave may come back after a few months! But hopefully, as time passes, we will have the cure and the Vaccine! The old cars, when they sometimes did not start, a technique called Dhakka Start (Push and put it in gear and hope it starts). The start and stop can happen for the economy too, and the word Messy will be an operative word for some time. We will learn to live with another term, Collateral damage.  

Collateral damage is any death, injury, or other damage inflicted that is an unintended result of military operations. But the term can be applied to the current situation when we are trying to restart life after Reset! There could be some deaths when the pandemic returns. There could be business loss due to some sudden sever surge.  We should be prepared for this collateral damage.

The travel and leisure industry has a large clientele like us senior citizens. But as far as Jaya and I are concerned, 2020 is out! At most, we will travel to Mahabaleshwar in our car. Many businesses will limp back to normalcyMany things we have assumed to be safest, like air travel, will be hotbeds where the virus can get spread easily.  

Life is going to be Messy soonWe are already getting conflicting requirements from the Chief Ministers of different states. Some want to open everything, and others want to play it safe till May end, at least. Each city, each district, each nation is going to have conflicting requirements. Some say let the train and bus services start; others say not yet!  But we are dependent on each other for almost everything. Messy? Very, very Messy!  Now I hope you get me what I mean by Messy!

 

The Times are a-changing! 

There is no grammatical error in the title. Times are a changing is an idiom which was written this way during the 16th century. In some areas of the world, such usage of language is still in vogue! I thought this usage is lyrical 🙂🙂.

Today’s difficult times have never been faced by humanity, ever. The second world war was the last major calamity faced by us, where there was colossal death and destruction. After the war, there have been problems which were much more manageable. Till the beginning of 2020, there was unprecedented growth, poverty alleviation and technological changes. Rate of change in technology has been at breakneck speed in the last twenty years. The post-war period started with two global superpowers, then only one superpower, and then 9/11 happened. The event led to many wars limited to smaller areas. First globalisation occurred in human history during this period, but in recent times even larger countries are looking inwards. Now the whole world is locked down! So nations and people have no choice but to work together, again.

The times are seriously changing because of the lockdown. Things are happening, which we would have never expected to happen. Who would have thought that there will be many online courses available pro bono? Do you know who are offering these courses? Harvard, Oxford and others. BookMyShow is offering bookings for programmes being streamed by NCPA (National Centre of Performing Arts in Bombay) of orchestras and many such events. New York Times is offering four weeks subscription for free- okay it is not free, but it is Rs.100/ for four weeks. It is cheaper than the per month price of Times of India and Sakal print copy. Many organisations and people have realised that the current times need different thinking and solutions. Those who can work from home are busy, but there are many people whose jobs are such that they can’t work from home. In India, Door Darshan has released old popular series like Ramayan, Mahabharat and Circus to other channels too, no charges of course. BCCI has released the rights for famous Cricket matches for re telecast so that people can handle the free time available, better. This free time as per my guestimate will continue up to six weeks and likely to extend further. My judgment tells me that it will remain in areas like Pune-Mumbai area even longer.

I feel that people, in general, are always good; they do not get the opportunities to display their goodness or they are too busy! Companies in India are rising to the challenge. I am collating the data of this goodness juice flowing in our society. In such times of lockdown, it is easy to get depressed. I am accumulating a goodness pot that will help us feel good.

A company in Rajkot, Gujarat developed a ventilator in record time. They have decided to donate their first thousand products to the Gujarat government. Mr Ratan Tata donated Rs 1500/ crores to the government’s efforts to fight the pandemic. There are many smaller donations of different denominations flowing into various funds from all quarters. Mahindra & Mahindra put in their efforts and converted their manufacturing facilities to manufacture ventilators, masks and sanitisers. They have also offered Club Mahindra resorts for conversion to temporary hospitals. Besides that, they are supporting many kitchens to give food to stranded migrants.

It reminds me of the reverse migration phenomenon, especially in northern India. Lacs of workers responded to rumours when the first lockdown was declared. As there was no transport available, they simply started walking towards their native place, some a thousand Km away from where they were working. The authorities realised this in a couple of days. They swung into actions and started providing them with food at different locations on the way. Then they coordinated about two thousand buses to help these people to reach home, for free. We talk of going back to roots after spending a lifetime in different states and nations. But I never realised that this urge is so strong.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah%27s_Ark

That reminds me of Noah’s Ark, the mythical vessel from western mythology. It finds reference in Christian, Jewish literature and is referred to in the Quran as  Safina Nuh! It is the biblical story of a global flood which was supposed to drown the whole world; God saved Noah and others by providing the vessel. Our Noah’s Ark would be our discipline and social distancing.

I had never understood the real meaning of lockdown until my daughter Priya told me a story. She lives in Montreal with her family, and they are also under lockdown. Her daughter Rhea, she is 6 ½, could not go out for a long time since her school closed. Add to this the Montreal winter. The people in Montreal have understood the meaning of lockdown now. So, there is nobody on the roads. Priya and her family live in leafy lanes. Priya took Rhea out for ten minutes, and the spring is just starting. Rhea was so thrilled and happy; she was dancing all the time, and Priya felt that it was as if Rhea was walking on the lovely lane for the first time! I am sure Jaya will also feel the same when the lockdown is over. In our home too, only I have ventured out once or twice in the whole last month.

Another great thing is now one can talk to friends as much as we want. Nobody says that she is busy. If someone does not pick up the phone, now reasons are different. “Oh, I was doing pocha, or I was washing the utensils.” That brings me to the thoughts about how these difficult times have finally made us appreciate the importance of the service providers like maids, cooks, drivers, dhobis. Some of us have treated them not so elegantly. I hope we do it in future. These are simple people and are trying to earn their living. Sometimes they make mistakes, but a few people maltreat them. Please never disrespect anybody, help them to retain their honour and dignity. I want to share their difficulties. Our dhobi called us the other day for his bill plus Rs 2000/ advance. I transferred the money right away. But their requirements are really minimal. When the maid does the floor wiping, we don’t even see what type of mop she is using. Now that we need to do this work, we look for a mop with a handle so that we can do the work while standing- more efficient? But why don’t we provide this to the maid?

As usual, there are good things and bad things, but I hope that the good acts will prevail; and the world will become a much better place after the emergency is over because of the lessons that we are learning. A small percentage of people are breaking the rules, but one bad thing that always comes out even in tough times is the naming and shaming of sects. During the plague of the 16th century, the Jews were less affected due to their cleaner lifestyle. People hounded the Jews in Europe, and many were killed. Jews moved to eastern Europe. During the second world war, the same thing was repeated because the Jews were affluent and had different ways. In Delhi, a similar incident took place against a sect who were stupid and behaved idiotically. The large congregation caused the spread of disease rapidly. But public hounding continues.

Will the changing times bring in the changes? Will society change for the better? For some, this lockdown period is a significant survival struggle, but for many like you and me, it is time for introspection. I feel that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for humans to do the course correction. Let us hope for the best.

Relentless Life Cycle!

When our children were younger, we would tell them that “Thandi Baba” ( a mythical figure) will come if you do not go to sleep now, or some such statement. Every family has its version of Thandi Baba. But now the latest version of Thandi Baba is threatening the whole world. People are worried; people are skeptical about life! Life always moves forward in a sinusoidal waveform. There are ups, and there are downs. But the current situation is such that we seem to have forgotten this concept. People are thinking that the current situation is going to last forever. Internet, FB, Smartphones and WhatsApp appeared in that particular order. These things completely changed our life. When these are active about a subject, we feel that it is the only subject in the world.

Even 50 to 70 years back, the information remained locked within countries. We hardly knew anything about the western world; western world anyway was the least bothered about us. Now those with smartphones have the whole world in their hands, literally. We get all the information live, 24/7!

sine_wave

Back to the sinusoidal wave! Why are we so much worried about the current situation? We had second world war going between 1939 and 1945. Though Indian soldiers fought on behalf of the British, except for far east India, the heat of that war did not reach us. On top of that, we were under British rule. We had our worries about the British Raj. But Europe, Russia, the US and Japan had borne the brunt of world war II. Are our fears about the pandemic unrealistic? How many deaths will be there in the worst-case scenario?

Estimates for the total casualties of World War II suggest that some 60 million people died in the world war II, including about 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians. Many civilians died because of disease, starvation, massacres, bombing and deliberate genocide. In Hiroshima, when the bomb was dropped, 1.4 lac people were killed and more by after-effects. The same figures in Nagasaki were 78 thousand, and more later due to after-effects. But these were all human-made horrors. The current one is invisible- it is Thandi baba!

It took years for the world to know the real death figures. Just imagine that the internet and TV were available in those times. Rumours and fear would have killed many more people. Friends, have we forgotten that there are peaks and troughs in life? The current one is a longish trough in our life. So why not have a relook at life? Every day, we are getting the treat of bird’s chirping for a long time. We can hear them till they are either bored or tired! As the traffic is low, the pollution levels have gone down in the cities. Life is good for retirees like me. It is not a must that we go somewhere. Life is healthy except that we can’t go out anywhere. You will ask me why it is healthy? With maids not able to come for work, all their work is shared by Jaya and me. There are life’s lessons available if you want to take them. If you are cleaning the floor, you move forward, but while wiping the floor with a mop, you move backwards. You will learn to take life as it comes! Wiping the floor can not be done moving forward! 🙂🙂

Have we forgotten that there are ups? I distinctly remember what happened to me in 2013. I was detected with Cancer, end 2013; treatment of Immunotherapy and 34 radiations were needed. That was a deep trough in my life. But in parallel, there was a high peak of happiness. Our granddaughter was born in the same time frame. We had enjoyed her arrival, that brought us the biggest joy. That joy continues even today

We all live through life with ups and downs, but particular troughs, deeply scar us. For example, second world war holocaust. Hitler and his Nazis killed more than 6 million. It is the conservative figure of the number of Jews who were killed. These scars have damaged the Jewish race permanently. The only reason the Nazis killed was that they were Jews.

World history has known that the war’s start and end. There are deaths, and there is destruction. It happens for a specific period. But the current scourge is such that people do not know how long it will last. Another thing it has done is that it is covering the whole world. There is no geographic limit for the spread. A most crucial aspect of the scourge is that there is no known cure. Okay, by no means it can be called a killer disease. But since there is no known cure, some nations, including India, have found that the social distancing and full lockdown of the country is the only solution. India’s current lockdown period is till 15th April, but nobody is sure if it is going to be adequate. The total lockdown has stopped all businesses, factories and trade, except those that come under essential services. All buses, trains and flights have been suspended. So everybody has to stay at home. We can see only so much of TV, surf the internet for a certain amount of time. You can’t intermingle with friends and neighbours; those who cannot work from home for reasons specific to the nature of work, have nothing to do. We spend almost ten hours of daytime at work. It is not easy! But is there any option?

The most unexpected collateral damage is the reverse migration of daily wage earners from big cities. These people are not sure how long the current situation is going to last. These people fear that they will have no place to live, no work, no money and hence no food. People in droves have started walking back to their homes in villages. From yesterday the government has changed the rule for a short duration and to provide these people transportation back home. Unfortunately, the situation at home is also not going to be different. But the migration is more due to the emotional pull. They would prefer to be at home in such a situation.

It is the relentless bombarding of the information, news, tables, charts and graphs that can depress anybody. In today’s time, we don’t even know which of the data, papers reaching you are false. The other day, I received a twenty-page report created by someone from Johns Hopkins Hospital. (It was found to be fake) Some websites are giving yeomen service to us by checking which of such papers are fake. The report gave such a bleak picture that anybody could get depressed.

Why do people go to such extent to spread rumours? Our neighbour went through major surgery. Because of the current condition, her supporting staff is not there to help her. Jaya phones her every day and offers her to cook something for her. Yesterday while talking, she told Jaya not visit her till 3rd April because her astrologer has said to her that starting from 30th March till 3rd April, all the constellations will be in a wrong position. It can be harmful to her health. So be it! (BTW her astrologer is from the WhatsApp University) It is another way of spreading rumours inadvertently, simply because the lady believes in such stuff.

Friends, talk to each other. No situation in this world lasts forever. Good things will be back. There could be a big financial shock until the situation changes. The world is going to take years to come out of this. But there is no fear like dropping of Atom Bomb when large population died in an instant. The war against the scourge will be won at some stage. But it is the economic war that the world should be worried. That time frame could be like that of second world war five to six years, if not longer. All businesses, large, medium and small are going to pass through a churn. But we humans are fighters; we always win in the end. There will be no Superman or Hanuman to help us. It is the massive efforts of the human race, that will take us to a peak of happiness!

Judging each other! 

We are living in a different world today and observing an unprecedented scourge that is threatening us. More than a hundred years back, there was an influenza epidemic in the world. Millions of people died. In those days, the communication in all formats was so primitive that for us, Europe and America were as good as Mars and Venus. We first started seeing these aliens about four hundred years back when Vasco De Gama landed in India. Rest as they say is history.

In the last fifty years, with the help of Airbus and Boeing, every place on the earth is less than a day’s journey, including the airport transfer time. So, merging with “aliens” is complete. All of us have realised that humans are the same everywhere. What makes them different is their culture, the way they are brought up. Culture is the way they lived during the isolation period before the globe-trotting started. Culture is the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.

When you live in proximity to the same people for a period, you slowly get to know everything about them. Sometimes you see the beautiful, occasionally angry, generous, or petty – everyone’s drama unfolds in front of you. You know how they think and feel. Consequently, you may become hugely opinionated about everyone.

Whatever opinions, ideas, and conclusions you may have about other people and yourself – now is the time to drop them. Whatever thoughts, views, and deductions you may have about other people and yourself – now is the time to lose them. Everyone can flower into a beautiful being. The more opinions, ideas, conclusions, and prejudices you have, the bigger the distance between you and that possibility. Allow yourself and everyone else a fresh start.

I have a home in a harmonious society with all row houses. It is representative of Bharat. People from all over India live there peacefully, most of the times. But in today’s times of Coronavirus, a lot of discussions take place. For such societies, there is an elected committee who handles the affairs of the community. But for some reason, the current committee always seems to be riding a high horse. They forget that others have given them a POI- power of attorney, to handle day to day affairs. But the way some things are handled surprise me and makes me sad. When I got thinking about it, I suddenly was reminded of Ravana with ten heads. What are these ten heads? What does it signify?

Everyone has ten or more heads. One day, your head is full of greed, another day full of jealously, hatred, love, lust, beauty, or ugliness. Or you go through everything in one day. If you see someone in a moment of jealousy, you conclude that he is a jealous person. If you see someone in a moment of greed, you suppose that he is a greedy person. But, at different times, different heads are working in everyone. Everyone has at least one head of love, beauty, generosity, or compassion.

Just follow a fundamental principle – if you see something wrong in someone, condemn that, not the person. If you bring this wisdom into your life, you will be free of baggage. When you do this to others, the same will happen to you.

Someone once said, “Love is a thing that happens between a man and woman who do not know each other.” That is true only if you live a frivolous, judgmental life – a life without wisdom. The more you know someone, warts and all, the more you realise that all of us have the same traits. In the case of some people, poor qualities are more predominant. Why is that so? Consider our life before the stone age. We acquired all the traits as we progressed. Those in the cold region ate whatever was available during winters, but those in warm weather had flowing rivers and could grow crops and vegetables of different types. So the cuisine of these people became varied and more vibrant. Those who have faced abuse during childhood behave differently. A famous line from Wordsworth’s poem, The Rainbow, is “The child is the father of the man!” It means that our childhood shapes our adulthood!

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The more you get to know someone, the more love and compassion should arise. When you know all their struggles, you know they are as human as you are. We should not give up on people when they behave unexpectedly, at least in the initial phase. Probably, all through their lives, they have seen such behaviour in the family and their neighbourhood. So, they think it is the only way to behave.

Ravan1

I will tell you a story of a young boy. Brilliant and smart he was. But every day in the evening, he would meet up with friends on a footpath outside his college, and they would have a beer. He was still in his teens. His mother knew about this and met one of his favourite teachers to explain her apprehensions about the child. The next day his teacher called him. She said, “What do you do on the footpath outside the college in the evening.” He said, “Oh! My mother met you.” On further questioning, he said, “Now I have understood what you have explained. Starting just now, I will stop taking beers. But you know madam, from my childhood I have seen that my father comes home from his factory. Takes a bath and starts with his whiskey. Nobody explained to me the wrong side of alcohol. Since he did it, I was just copying him.”

Don’t forget that every soul has a right side to it; try to recognise that good side even in these people who you otherwise consider to be horrible. A rose plant has more thorns than roses, but we still call it a rose plant because we recognise its beauty. A mango tree has more leaves than mangoes, but we still call it a mango tree because we know the sweetness of its fruits.

Every human being has at least one drop of sweetness in them. Why don’t we see this? Please do this with everyone around you – try to recognise that one drop of sweetness in even those people who you otherwise consider to be terrible. Only if you understand it in others, it will reflect in you. On the other hand, if you see terrible things in other people, that is what will reflect in you. It does not mean you should become blind to everything. You see the leaves in the tree; you see the thorns in the rose bush – but you acknowledge the flower and the fruit.

That is all you need to do. Let’s make this happen and let us not judge people on an incident. Let us not be judgemental. Give the long rope to others, and you will find that people are okay after all. Maybe they have some quirks like everybody else, including you!

Become a Minimalist! 

 

minimal1There are many definitions of Minimalists, but I am looking to define minimalism in our lives. I am looking to define minimalism in our day to day lives. Why should you be a minimalist? 

Why should the requirements be minimum? There are many answers to this question. First and foremost is that your life becomes simple when you take this approach. 

I will share with you some experiences, my own and that of some other people. In the year 2013, we had moved to a rented home for family reasons. We have a house where we lived before that. The house is about 15 Km from where we currently live. When we changed home, we were a bit rushed due to some reasons. Because of the distance and a few other things, we were not able to visit that home often. A few months back, I went there and opened my wardrobe as I was looking for some specific thing. I was shocked to realise that there were many clothes, including some new shirts and trousers. I did not need them for the last five yearsWithin a week, I arranged to donate those clothes. Many such items are lying in that home, which needs to share with some needy people. Jaya and I took a review of the stuff in our current home, and we find the same issue. Now we have decided, in principle, not to buy anything new unless it is an absolute necessity or help us take things forward to assist in our golden phase of lifeNow no new cars, no new clothes. 

Why do humans become collectors of things which we use rarely? What is the reason to spend our hardearned money on such stuff? I can understand if someone spends money on some hobby. One may be interested in photography as a hobby. But when you are doing photography as a hobby, you use your cameras rarely. Your camera collection need not be like that of a professional photographer. 

There is a well-known Japanese methodology called 5 S. It is defined as below. 

5S is a workplace organisation method that uses a list of five Japanese words: seiri (整理), seiton (整頓), seisō (清掃), seiketsu (清潔), and shitsuke (). These have been translated as “Sort”, “Set In order”, “Shine”, “Standardize” and “Sustain”. The list describes how to organise a workspace for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and articles, and sustaining the new order.  

But we can apply the same in our personal life, with a few modifications; I will give you an example from workplace. A 5S consultant was helping one organisation to use the methodology. He went to the finance head of that company for a preliminary discussion. The head indicated to him to give him two minutes as he was speaking on the phone. While on the phone, he opened the drawer and took out a pen. It did not work. He pulled out the second and the third. The fourth one finally worked. The discussion finally started. The consultant asked him how many pens were there in his drawerThe chief said about a dozen. He also said, “I am going to replace these with a fresh set of another dozen pens.” The consultant suggested, “Why don’t you tweak your system a bit of noting down by using two pens. One blue or black, and one red. The red one will indicate urgency.” The head thought for a moment, and said, “Oh! I never thought that I could achieve the same result using two pens.” Minimalist approach?  

I have given the above example to explain the concept. What do you say of the case I will share now? An Indian engineer is living in the US with his family for the last fifteen years. Both he and his wife are IT professionals with decent income. He has become more American than the Americans. He bought his fivebedroom new homeand I am sure he has a high-end BMW or a Tesla. Naturally, he is set back by a substantial amount every month to pay the mortgages. So what does he do? He asks his retired father living in India to send him money regularly. Both his parents were in service in my time, and do not have the means to support his requirement on a long term basis. 

Okay, you are not thinking like a minimalist, but at least live within your means. For a family of husband and wife with small kids, do you need a five-bedroom bungalow; and borrowing from your parents residing in India is even worse. Oh, I forgot to tell you; he and his wife recently had a fancy holiday in Europe! 

What is this gentleman trying to do? The episode reminds me of the old story by Tolstoy, “How much land does a man need?” Ultimately when you die, you need the 6*3 space to bury your body!  

You won’t be wrong if you say that now Pramod is talking of minimalism in the golden period of his life. We have now realised the errors we have made. There is one understandable difficulty. If you are making much more money than you need for minimalistic living, what do you do? You can always invest that money in appreciating assets rather than spending the money on depreciating things. You can donate the money to charities of your liking. But wasting your money on anything that you use very rarely is incorrect. Those who are working can think of trying minimalism. It is worth it.  

We did not have anyone to guide us. Our parents lived minimalistic life because, in those days, India was an emerging country and overall incomes of the majority population were quite low. Most people around us were in the same state. The lifestyle in those days was frugal, and there was hardly any scope to improve it. Things changed with the generation born after 1947 came into the workforce. We made much more money than our parents. I made the same money in the fourth year of my job as my father made at the time of retirement. Now people are paid joining bonus which can be much more than what our parents made during their lifetime, even after taking inflation into consideration.  

When you earn much more than what you need, the minimalism will come into the picture. There are many benefits of minimalist lifestyle, and I am sure it will make you happy. I will mention a few below. 

  • We will end up owning assets rather than liabilities 
  • We will become charitable 
  • We will be anxiety-free 
  • We will be free from consumerism 
  • We will be free from buy, buy and buy mania 
  • We will be able to build good relationships because people will know that you are not judgmental about material things 
  • We will live a comfortable life 
  • We will maintain better health because of less stress and anxiety 

I can keep on writing an unending list. But there is a trap. I know someone who has enormous assets. I don’t know if he wants to live minimalistic lifestyle. But he saves his money by not painting his home in the last forty years. He would take up personal travels only when it can be clubbed with some official work. Minimalistic approach is not to save the money at any cost and live shabbily! 

Here is one way of starting to change.

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Are we a nation of petty people?

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

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

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/03/07/how-well-do-we-travel/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-help books.
Self-help books.

Election musings!

Dance of democracy is on, and words after words are written, spoken, shouted on TV. People are feeling happy about the largest democracy going through its rights, luckily now every five years! All this is bliss, what more do you want in life.  People are seen debating on TV to enlighten people of what, I am not sure; in the slanging matches you can’t understand what is being said. In public meetings the leaders, the candidates are offering schemes and money. It appears that even funds available with the World Bank may not be able to provide cash to fulfil promises given to people. A billion here and a billion there does it make any difference to the speakers? But one thing is for sure, despite the politicians the nation’s do progress, things change and improve, albeit slowly. Indian growth in the last twenty years has been phenomenal.

What are the feelings in the minds of the people? For those directly involved in politics are excited and are looking forward to winning the election. Why is the win so important? It is the ticket to wealth. Barring a minuscule % of candidates, most are millionaires and billionaires. During the five years after the previous election, the wealth of many of these candidates has galloped. They never seem to work the way all of us work on a day to day basis. The assets jump beyond imagination, but it appears that all are hand in glove; no politician is ever troubled by Income Tax people.

Percentage of people voting does not change much except in a few constituencies. Why does this happen? There are so-called middle class and higher middle-class people who are too busy to vote, and there are people too poor to have time think about elections.

People, in general, look at democracy and the process of justice as if it is a wild animal; they look at it as a mirror where they want to see the reflection of their own eyes, nose and teeth. The picture is not very pretty. Probably it brings a thought in their mind that there is no alternative to the situation and they accept that they get the candidate they deserve. The feeling of desolation comes to their mind after realising that things may never change. Optimism is good, but after seven decades of Indian democracy, it is observed that things are going from bad to worse. The ugly words are used to describe opponents, calling the head of state a thief, calling a senior leader and his family as a family of marauders. My knowledge tells me that Loksabha and Rajya Sabha are the highest bodies in India. The speeches made there and allegations thrown at each other cannot be taken to the court of law. But the statements made in public are equally terrible, but the action taken by election commission is to debar these people from making speeches for a few days during the election rallies!

People go to the voting centre with a frame of mind as they go to any government office; with half the expectation that their name may not be there in the official list. They are in the least bothered if voting is done electronically or using ballot paper. On the voting day, the voter gets up tying his shoelace and hopes that his vote will improve pollution in the city. Though the initial thought that comes to his mind is, from where will he get his next meal? The ideas in the minds of the candidates are when will they be able to get a BMW or a Mercedes after this election. The candidate does not have to worry about improving the condition of the poor; their party has already declared that they will give a dole of a few thousand Rupees in the bank account of the poor. It is a collective responsibility which is conveniently considered as nobody’s responsibility.

Why is this apathy shown? Why the numbers of people voting not to go up? The first significant reason could be errors in creating voter lists. Over a period, the errors have come down, but still, that apprehension of missing names does not go away. Jaya and I have been lucky that we have taken part in each election. In the last election, my name could not be located for a long time when I went to vote. Since we have the same home address and have always been listed together, how could my name got transferred to some other list is still a mystery to me? This time also our names have been found in the list when I did online checking. What can happen at the booth is another story.  Please read my blog on the similar subject written sometime back.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/my-voting-rights-were-on-hold-almost/

The second reason is that now a lot of people migrate within India. A person moving from Ahmednagar to Bhatinda does not know anything about local politics and candidates. Such people sometimes do not register themselves in the new place and don’t vote. In the days of the internet, a system can be created where people can have the option to vote at their original location. There will have to be checks and balances. But it is doable. A person’s vote should be able to travel along with the person.

This apathy of not taking part in the democratic process can lead to Brexit like situation. When the referendum was held in Britain, the young people stayed away from voting as they did not realise the meaning of the vote. When Britain voted to come out of the European Union, the young people and not so young people realised the folly of moving out of the EU. Being in the EU means to travel without a visa. There is easy access to around 25 countries in Europe for work and leisure. During our holiday travel to Europe a couple of years back, we have observed the ease with which travel is done. By stopping and checking at borders a tremendous amount of time is wasted. For those who are travelling for work, it is the waste of productive time. But now both Britain and the EU are in great turmoil as the majority in Britain want to remain within the EU. But it is not easy as there are laws and rules in an international relationship where it can not be based on whims.

There are liberals, prestitutes, bhakts. Liberals generally discuss the democracy with a glass of Chivas Regal. I am not sure if they are worried about the conditions of the downtrodden. But they support Naxalites movements and are generally anti-government. When the party in government lose an election, then they become partners with liberals. Prestitutes are “Intellectuals” and sometimes appear as if they are paid by someone to air their views. Somehow, they are anti-common view and anti-majority. There are bhakts present in every party who religiously follow whatever their  “God” will say. All these make for small but loud numbers; substantial numbers go by issues on hand, economy, development, international relations et al. But finally, it comes to a vast number of people who are swayed by money paid against each vote, as their primary need is to come out from jhuggi to at least a brick house. They don’t want the struggle of day to day living problems like power, food, water and sanitation. These are things which you and I take for granted. But will these people go and vote in large numbers if their problems are resolved? Maybe not, they will then treat the election day as a holiday like many people do and start enjoying a free holiday.

Three cheers for democracy!

Money or Monies!

Some advantages of the internet, Google and their brethren are we come to know that we don’t know many things in this world. I had read the word monies many times but had never understood the exact meaning of the word. All I knew was that it had something to do with money. When funds come from different sources, we call them monies. Life is simpler when we are young. The other day I was playing a game of Market with my granddaughter Rhea. She took one rupee from me and said here are your ten kgs of potatoes. Then I gave her a ten rupee note, and she sold me a hundred mangoes. I was elated momentarily. I thought I had become Ambani! I believe that it is too far fetched. I thought again and concluded that I felt like a smalltime politician and had lots of money with me 

When did the concept of money start? It started about 3000 years back. Before that,  the world worked on barter. You go the market to dispose of your product. You bring back some vessels and clothes from respective traders. The situation must have been difficult in those times. You wanted to drive away an Elephant who was troubling you, and you had a stone axe to offer against the services. It must have been timeconsuming to convince the expert that “axe” was the correct price for driving away the elephant. What was the “axe” worth? Was it also worth a sack of grain? Was it the right value of services provided by a doctor?  Did those service providers want your axe?

One of the greatest achievements of money was to fix the value of driving away the elephant or for treatment by a doctor. Initially, a type of prehistoric currency involving easily traded goods like animal skins, salt and weapons developed over the centuries. These traded goods served as the medium of exchange even though the unit values were still negotiable. This system of barter and trade spread across the world, and it still survives today in some parts of the globe. Since the goods did not have a fixed value, the value decided was need-based. It was sometimes like short sell done in today’s times. We do short sale when we need to liquidate the assets in an emergency 

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Sometime around 1100 B.C., instead of using the actual tools for barter, people  started creating small replicas of the same weapons in bronze. But this led to another issue. Carrying and storing sharp tools (currency) became difficult though they were easy to carry. Since they were replicas sharpness was still there. People would get hurt using them. Hence, they switched over to making round coins. But first minted coins were created in Lydia in today’s Turkey. Minted coins started in 600 B.C. The coins were made of a mixture of silver and gold as it occurred naturally. The denominations were fixed by stamping pictures like owl and snake, and were used to differentiate denominations. An earthen jar would cost two owls plus one snake! Standard currency brought ease of doing business in Lydia, and it became one of the wealthiest empires of those times. But the active trade and wealth could not stop attacks from strong Persian armies who attacked and destroyed them, in turn looting the wealth.  

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While Lydia was leading in currency developments, around 700 B.C., the Chinese moved from coins to paper money. By 1270 A.D., the emperor had good control of both money supply and various denominations. The Chinese inscription on notes warned, “All counterfeiters will be decapitated.” Europeans kept using coins till 16thcentury thanks basically to their control on precious metal mines in their colonies. Banks started using currency notes due to ease of handling. But in those days notes were issued by banks and private institutions and not by governments as is done today. 

First paper currency appeared in colonial America. Since the distance between headquarters in Europe and the Americas was considerable, banks would run out of currency. So they started issuing IOU’s which in turn were used as currency. The way coins increased business, usage of notes also had similar effect. Today there is a lot of standardisation world over in currency, where governments control the currency and mints. International conversion rates are decided by markets and various other factors 

After the stability of bank notes, monetary transactions started to take place, in a big way,  using credit cards. This system grew and ran smoothly throughout for about 40 years. But the credit cards are now challenged by debit cards, net banking where money gets transferred from a bank account to another , without any interruptions by banks. Users are gaining more control over transferring money.  

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Credit cards came in different avatars. Initially, cards had raised numbers; and these were captured on paper like we use the stencil. Initially, authorisation was not instantaneous; hence very few people had been issued cards. Then swiping cards came which could be authorised online. Now we have the same cards with “chips” for improved safety. 

The currency system is now coming under different disrupting forces, like Bitcoins. Bitcoins have not made the impact as was expected by some people, and many governments are still not supporting them.  

Now many wallets have come and offering a simpler method of making and receiving payments. Easier payments systems like UPI have come. The onset of online payment has been the real market disruptor. Now State Bank of India has come up with an easier modified system for ATM withdrawals. While leaving home, you can create a request on the mobile app provided by SBI. You get an OTP. The OTP is valid for half an hour. You go to the ATM. Punch OTP at the ATM and your money is in your hands! It looks like the physical presence of cards is going to be history in future. A new method of QR code  reading instead of swiping cards is expected to come up in the next couple of years. You have a credit card; you go to an establishment. Card details will be stored on your cell phone; the app will read the QR code, you punch the amount and vendor gets his money. Easy? No sharing of card number every time on the net, will lead to more secure transactions and hopefully less hacking.  

What is waiting for us in near future? Payment methods started from bartering to, a replica of tools, to round coins with pictures of tools; this was followed by minted coins, then IOU notes, credit card and online transactions. I understand that in future two transacting entities will need onetime authentication using block-chain technology. Their accounts will be linked permenantly by an irreversible process. Making a transfer to each other will be something like sending an SMS! Is it real? Are we dreaming? No, it is coming for sure. When? I don’t know, only the future can tell!  

Later that day, when I was playing with Rhea, she had changed her transaction system She would not accept cash! I had to hand over my card to herShe would swipe it and give me the imaginary machine to punch the  PIN!