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.

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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!   

 

 

 

 

 

How well do we travel?

 

Journey2Travelling is life’s most celebrated Guru! Travelling gives us many lessons, teaches us many things about life; it gives us new experiences, allows us to see new people and places, new cultures, historical places. What you get from travel is what you absorb during the journey. We travel for various reasons like a holiday, pilgrimage, work, visits to relatives; each person’s reason for travel is different.

We have travelled extensively in India and abroad. I am talking mainly about travel for the holidays. While on holiday, you go with a group of friends, or you travel with family. During honeymoon travel, only the newly married couple moves together, and they are in their world.

I am sharing some of my experiences and my observations made during travel. Years back, in the year 1984, we had travelled to Mussoorie, the hill station in Northern India. We went there just before the peak season started and enjoyed Mussoorie as it was not crowded. We did the usual things like walks to different locations, enjoyed the Himalayan fresh air. Our hotel was almost empty; hence, the owner told us to order whatever food we preferred; the only condition was, we had to inform them a couple of hours before our food time. We enjoyed superb North Indian hilly area cuisine. We enjoyed the street food too. We travelled back to Delhi by bus. On the bus stop, we met a family from Maharashtra. We chatted a bit, and I asked them, “How was your stay here?”. He said, “Everything was perfect, but we could not get Maharashtrian food anywhere!” Unfortunately, this family was not open to enjoy the local cuisine. Enjoy the local food when you travel, is my first dictum.

In this experience, I will not share the involved people’s state. I leave it to you to guess. Surprisingly we heard similar comments about this community at three different places. We were taking Delhi-Agra-Bharatpur-Jaipur holiday. When we reached Agra, we went to our hotel. We had booked through a travel agency, the hotel was ok, but we were somehow not happy with it. We decided to forego the reservation. We told our guide to take us to Hilton, which was nearby. As we sat in the car, the guide asked me a question. “Sir, you are from Maharashtra, is it not?” I asked him, “Why are you asking me this question?” He said, “ In the previous hotel people from xxx state live!” I asked him about the meaning of his statement. He said, “You don’t look their type!” I left it at that. It looked like these people don’t travel well.

The second experience was in the Bharatpur bird sanctuary. No vehicles are allowed inside. We hired two cycle rickshaws for three people, as I had a fever. Jaya and Priya were in one rickshaw, and I was in the second. We crossed a group of people from the same xxx state, we could guess from the language. I know a couple of sentences from that language, so does Priya. I called Priya and asked her in the xxx language, “How are you?” When we stopped at a lake to watch some birds, the rickshaw driver asked me the same question. “Are you from the xxx state?” I said, “No, I just know a sentence or two from that language.” He said, “Groups from the xxx state are complicated to handle. Ladies from these groups keep on talking loudly. Birds around fly away when they hear their  cacophony.” He said, “I tried to explain to them that they may not be able to see the rare birds if voice level is not reduced. The ladies shouted at me to mind my own business.” You may draw your conclusions.

The third experience I heard during the same journey was while visiting Amer Mahal in Jaipur. The Mahal is exquisite, and its architecture is superb. We had hired a guide here too. He showed us around. There was a Kali Mata Mandir. I generally pass going inside the Mandir. I was sitting outside, the guide and I were chatting. He said people from the xxx state are tough to deal with as they are unpredictable. I asked him, “Why are you saying so”? He said, “I was a guide to a group of about 15 people, and I was explaining to them, historical aspects of the Mahal complex. Suddenly one lady came forward.” She asked him, “Are you our guide? Are we not paying you for services?” With folded hands, the guide said, “Yes, Madam!” She asked him, “Why are you walking in front of us? You go to the backside; we will walk in the front. Then explain whatever you want to say.” He said, “This is the first some group had given me such an instruction. I, of course, followed it.”

Three different locations, three various service providers but all of them had the same opinion about the community. Why is it so? Why people have some peculiar habits? How are such habits formed? Do they behave in the same fashion as all such service providers at home too? Zamindars? Is it a superiority complex?

Taking my Mussoorie experience forward, last year Jaya and I took a holiday in Manali. Now, we are both around seventy years of age. But we continued with our tradition of enjoying the local food, within our medical limitations. Sweet Lassi and Gulab Jamun are now out of bounds for us! But Paranthas, Alu Subji for breakfast was a treat from God’s while enjoying the snow-capped mountains. Foodstuff was followed by piping hot tea!

Low cost, budget travel has its fun. We had travelled during our engineering course days to visiting different manufacturing plants in India. We had hired one full bogie of the train. We moved all over India for twenty-odd days. We would go to various places, visit the cities and come back to sleep in the train bogie! Was it fun? I remember those journeys sitting with the compartment door open and sitting there, chatting with friends!

We had travelled by bus from Dehradun to Mussoorie. We met a person while having tea in a hotel in Dehradun. He offered us a place to live at the princely sum of Rs.5/day per person. There was a single room and had a bath. We grabbed the opportunity as we were on the cost-saving mode all the time. Mussoorie was very cold as we were there at the end of December. We had already planned our battle with the cold, and each one of us had kept a quarter bottle of brandy in our pockets. We would take a swig of the drink when we got bone chilled.

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As I look back, we have enjoyed where ever we went for a holiday and whatever we did. Our budgets have been meagre to moderate to good. Our recent journeys to Europe and an Alaska cruise were expensive. But the common thing in all the trips has been to see and meet different people, eat different local foods, have local wine in Italy!  Last but not least, we will never know how others live their lives unless we travel!

Sometimes some minor things can wrong during travels, but if we learn to take everything in stride, we can really enjoy the journey, the experiences. We realise how different things are the world over. We have also understood that all humans are the same, where ever we go; their language and customs could be different. But don’t forget a couple of things, don’t shout in the bird sanctuaries and let your guide walk ahead of you!  Bon, voyage!

What is good? Balance or Imbalance!

 

WorkLife3How does one decide what is correct and what is wrong, in our life? What is the meaning of the balanced life we live? This dilemma is faced by all of us. Since the last 50 to 70 years, life has become fast the world over, due to various things. In recent times the working from home concept and the facility has made life more comfortable but at the same time complicated and hectic. The work from home concept came up due to the internet, computers and space issues. People from organisations are working in the US, Europe, India and Japan. All have different time zones. A lot of work and projects keep on happening all 24 hours because it is working hours for some part of the office in the world. When there are some essential discussions people will join the meeting at 4 am, 12 noon, 7 pm or 12 midnight. Such meetings are many times regular bi-monthly meetings.

What happens to work-life balance in such cases? It goes for a toss! When you have such meetings, are you left with home life? Certainly not. But if you want to grow in the career such meetings, extensive travels, dinners, conferences are part of work life. So how do we keep the work-life balance? When we use the word balance, we tend to think about putting limits on either home life or work schedules. Neither is good.  People who must go home at 4.30 pm every day, come what may, tend to get noticed (and also tend to get a notice with a pink slip!)

Let us accept the fact that there is a work-life balance issue. You have a great career going, and you have a fantastic family life. What is this? Utopia? Fantasy? It is neither. The same problem or issue can be expressed differently. The balance that we are talking about is not the real balance but finding the golden mean. Trying to achieve the work-life balance limits many things.

The human race will not prosper or grow if we always talk of balance. The balancing act is a low aim, we don’t force ourselves to do better. We do not push us, our employers, our leaders to do better and better. Still in many companies waiting long periods is considered the ultimate, without checking the results achieved.

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We should aim to achieve everything but must remember that all that cannot be completed in one go. There are times when we can give more time to home life, and sometimes you are required to do the same for work. These should be treated as natural ups and downs of life. If you think big and look at the bigger picture, you are more likely to achieve your goal.

All of us work because we want to support ourselves, our families, and the people around us. We are all doing work that we’re proud of and that provides meaning and purpose to us. But even if our job does not make you very joyful each new day, working is a part of what each of us does and the contribution we make to our society.

When you separate work and life, then you cannot keep a “connect” between the two activities. But when you think of work as part of a full life and your daily ritual, then we can see that one is dependent on the other, for success and improvement.

What are the disadvantages of talking about balance? One can fall down badly if you lose the balance. That falling or failing will happen in our lives. We need to find a solution which will evolve rather than taking a fixed path. We have some good days and bad days and some ok days. This is a normal variation in life and can happen in both work and personal matters. If we are not mentally prepared for this evolution, then a faltering step will put you in a tough situation.

If you look for a very steady lifestyle, it never happens that way. Sometimes you may have to work longer, your spouse is unwell,  so on the way back, you will have to pick up dinner too! Sometimes you may have to miss an office picnic because your niece is getting engaged on that day! One does not have to feel sorry about both situations.

I will share with you an important event. More than fifteen years back my mother expired. She was 78. The funeral was at 5 am as she had died late at night. After coming home, we were trying to absorb what had happened. Jaya had some foreign visitors in her office, and there was a concluding meeting at 9.30 am. All of us at home coaxed Jaya to go and attend the meeting; the guests were to travel back home that night. What was the point in cancelling or postponing that meeting? Jaya came back home at about 11.30. Guests were never told about the event at home, and it was work as usual.

How was the lifestyle in my grandparent’s time? He would probably go to the office at 10 am. Was back home at 4.30 pm. By 6.30 pm he would have his meal and start preparing to go to sleep at 7 pm. He would listen to news on the radio in those days. There was nothing else to do anyway. Now we are spoiled for career types, for entertainment, social media and what have you! These days one has to be careful about the time spent on social media. It can severely damage your work-life balance.

Today Jaya and I went for a brunch with our daughter Priya. We spent one lovely hour together. The rule was to keep the phone away. Priya was allowed to answer the phone when her patients called.  We somehow managed to carve out quality time with Priya from her busy schedule. You don’t have to do the balancing act all the time, instead you act!

It is important how we talk about any situation. Let us avoid the balancing act of work-life and try to think about bigger and better things to achieve fulfilment. Don’t forget that our life does not move on what has happened previously. We can take our stand to achieve our goals. Doing a balancing act may never take you towards your goal.

Work is Worship!

                                          श्रावण मासी हर्ष मानसी हिरवळ दाटे चोहिकडे, 
                                          क्षणात येते सर सर शिरवे क्षणात फिरुनि ऊन पडे 

These are the first two lines of the famous poem श्रावण मासी हर्ष मानसी by celebrated Marathi poet बालकवी ठोंबरे, Balkavi Thombare! The poem is the celebration of the month Shravan from the Hindu Calendar. Every child who had taken education in Marathi in our times knows at  a least a few lines, even today. It has become part of Marathi folklore.

We were going out somewhere, while entering the car a drizzle started. Today we went out a couple of times and both times it was same. In one moment there was rain, the next moment a heavy shower followed by a peek a boo by the Sun! I said to Jaya, “This is typical weather for the Hindu calendar month of Shravan.” I hummed the above lines; but then I remembered that currently the Hindu month going on is Ashadh! This is due to Adhik Mass in Hindu calendar. This calendar is based on Lunar month which is 29 ½ days of our normal calendar. To compensate for this loss of days, every two and half years we have Adhik Mass.

I am good with this but there is a major issue. All Hindu festivals and everything related to the God is celebrated as per Hindu calendar. The palkhi, (https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/palkhi-the-great-tradition/ ) the Palaquin procession terminates on Ashadhi Ekadashi i.e. 11th day of the month of Ashadh. This is where the issue starts. Large number of farmers take part in the procession and the total time taken by Palkhi to reach Pandharpur is 21 days. It is expected that they complete their work in the farms and take some time off for Palkhi. For a couple of years Palkhi starts in 3rd week of June and if there is Adhik Mass then it starts later in July as per Gregorian Calendar. Our seasons are discussed based on Gregorian calendar. So, rain gods follow the Gregorian calendar. Now, how can farmers be away from work, in major part of July, when they need to be on the farms?

Palkhi, bhakti, pooja all these things are fine but if the appropriate things are not done at the right time on the farms, the produce can get damaged, quality can go down! In fact, all the crop could go bust! How to do the right things? Has this ever been discussed in farming community? The farming depends on vagaries of weather, market conditions, disease and many such variables! So, if they remain away from the farms at the wrong time, then I shudder to even think what can happen. 21 days is not a small time to be away.

This brings us to other subject on the topic of farming. The subject that is being discussed much is the excess production in certain areas of farming. In many areas production is quite high and ever-increasing population also is not able to consume it. Let us look at Sugar. Since sugarcane is a cash crop, everybody wants to grow sugarcane. Our annual requirement of sugar is 25 million tons and we have produced 30 million tons. What to do with this sugar? International market is also weak hence the price that one gets is also not remunerative. Strikes? Government support? Government cannot support everything.

Same thing is happening in animal husbandry. Once people realized that milk production is a good business, a large number of people went into that business. They got themselves imported Jersey animals which produce a lot of milk compared to local animals. They took loans and when the going was good everything was fine. Large number of cooperative organizations have come up which collect the milk, process it and bring it to market. Excess milk is converted into milk powder. Milk collection has become quite organized but India has fully market driven system. Government may give some support but ultimately it is buyer and seller system. Excess production and supply will put the rates under pressure and which currently has happened. Solution? People are being misguided by the so-called leaders. They have asked the people to throw away the  milk every day and not give it to collection centers. With this, endless loop is formed where farmers lose more money.

Is it the way to do it? In many European countries milk business is under stress, most of the time. A few farmers do commit suicides but there is no suicide epidemic. They protest in a different way. They take their cows in large numbers to the departmental stores as a protest. They create traffic jams by bringing the tractors in the cities with the purpose of creating jam. In a factory in Japan there was some labour dispute going on for a long time. With no solution in site, the workers resorted to a novel method of protest. They kept on manufacturing shoes only for the left foot. After one week of this protest, a solution was reached. There was only temporary loss in sell but production did not suffer.

In the initial phase of independent India, there was shortage of everything. Food, Milk, Grams, Grain, you name it, we had shortage. We were forced to accept low quality grains, generally fed to animals in the US, as we had no choice. In last 40 years we have made a lot of progress. Go to any market, go to any shop. We see abundance of everything. The way we survived shortages, we have to learn the art and science of handling excesses also. It is the right balance of keeping manufacturing expenses under control, at the same time we should manage to keep final selling price under control, to keep inflation under control.

This needs a lot working together and the system must try and become independent of government support. After all government is you and me. If one hand is paid in excess then the other hand will also need money to buy costly stuff. It is all fine to say that it is middlemen or agents who are the culprits. But the major markets for everything are towns and cities. Reaching produce to the right market at the right time, needs planning, logistics, storage which many a time has to be cold storage. Even with great storage and logistics, Europe is supposedly sitting on big mountain of butter. Similarly, India is sitting on a mountain of milk powder.

It is easier said than done. Farmers have no time and money to do the marketing of their crop. This also needs money.  As far as Maharashtra is concerned, we don’t see problems in farmers from Konkan and Western Maharashtra. The milk problem appears to be problem of more developed society same as in Europe. But in eastern and north eastern areas of Vidarbha and Marathwada these problems and suicides are in large numbers. Experts need to study the reasons for this and find out the real problem behind this. It could be something social, it could be something to do with aspirations. It may be related to way the people think.

In the society, these upheavals keep on happening but the so called advanced communities keep on advancing socially in each generation. They don’t depend on government support and dole all the time. Till the time, societies don’t follow the basic ethics of “Work is Worship”, there will be problems galore. We see that in the  large cities like Mumbai and Pune, any person who wants to work has work. The fighters among them move up fast in the society, not those who want support, all the time, generation after  generation! Don’t make looking for support from someone your habit. Find your own solution, your own path. Take part in Palkhi if it is in June as hundreds of years seems to have proven that during this period basic work for the farms is done and end June and beginning July is a lull time! By all means, during your farming schedules, follow Hindu rituals but not Hindu calendar!

Work Life Balance!

When I was in school, I used to come to Pune during holidays to my grandfather’s house. He had perfect Work-Life balance in those days. He retired before I was born. But from what I have heard, he used to go to office around 9 and be back home by 4.30. He was one of the luckier persons who had a steady job. When I started going to Pune, he had just started his retired life and would go to sleep by 7 in the evening and wake up at 4! Before going to sleep he used to listen to local news on radio, which would start at 7 pm. All others at home would have dinner by 8 pm and simply go to sleep by 8.30 pm. Cozy life, lovely life; there was nothing to do anyway. There was no TV, going for movies was rarity.  

This reminds me of Gulzarji’s lines 

अब दिन रातपे ही आके रुकता है 

मुझे याद है… 

पहले एक शाम भी हुआ करती थी 

Lifestyle has taken a tumble of 180 degrees since those days. Things have reached the other extreme, discussions have started on Work-life balance, which is a concept that supports the efforts of employees to split their time and energy between work and the other important aspects of their lives. Why has this imbalance come in our life? Who is responsible? Do managements expect too much from employees? Is work being done with the help of less number of people? On home front, families have become nuclear, both husband and wife are working, and it has become a norm. There is less support system available from elderly. We have too many commitments on social front, too much time is “productively” spent on social media.    

Times have changed, work pressure on individuals has gone up. Pressure to perform is nothing new, it was always there and it will be always there. Why does the imbalance take place? It is simply because we have 24 hours in a day to do so many things. It is how productively we use that time which is important.  

First and foremost is the travel time. Home to workplace travel time is the most unproductive and tiring time. People these days travel anything between one to 2 ½ hours one way, to work. Traffic is going to become more complex and heavy, so there may not be respite from traffic. But yes, there is a solution. When people take up a new job in a different city, they rent a house as near to work place as possible. But in your own city you probably own a house or have been living in an area from childhood. So, you don’t want to change the house.  Solution, cut the emotion, be a little open minded about shifting to stay near the work place, be pragmatic. I was talking about this issue with my young friend Abhay.

Abhay rues that his generation has all the material stuff but no time to enjoy it. He said that if he moves to stay near his work place, he will save two hours every day! Multiply by 250 days. 500 hrs a year. It is as good as getting 50 days of additional leave to be with the family, maybe hit the gym, which today is not possible today. I told Abhay, after shifting near office, don’t spend additional two hours at office. Deepti wanted to take a new office. I suggested to her that it should not be more than 3 kms from her home, she had that option. Now her total travel time is 15 minutes. Hours gained, anxiety reduced? I don’t think you need any consultant to evaluate value addition done by making these changes. If you have financial need, rent out the “owned” flat. 

Now about the most unproductive thing! Social media. FB and WA are the biggest culprits causing the imbalance. Everybody wants to look at the cell phone at every opportunity available. Waiting for the red signal to turn green, open the device. You are doing serious work in office, you get a ding or a dong, ting or a tong! You stop the work to at least send a message, “I will come back to you”! Heavens are not going to fall if you don’t reply. Of course, friends may think that you have died since you did not respond in 30 seconds.  

Social Media has changed the society in such a way that there is fear in the minds of mafia that they may lose out to Social Media cartel. Take a back-seat Heroin’s, and ganjas of this world. You cannot compete with us! Smoking? What is that? I can have my new drug on my person all the time, police are not going to arrest me for that, parents are not bothered (they themselves are busy with addiction), lovers tiff no way. Why are you not talking to me? You don’t love me anymore. Did you see my new necklace? These words are passé! Both are busy looking at their own screens, looking into each other’s eyes? No way. Looking into his or her screen, yes of course. Did you see this video? Did you read this quote? Recently I saw photo of a group of friends, who met for chit chat! All were looking at their cell phone! Chatting? No way!  

To manage the Work Life balance, another thing we should analyze is how much time we are spending on social media. 2 hours, four hours? How many free hours do we have after deducting time for work, travel, sleep, and day to day chores? Do you want most of the waking time to be spent on social media? In fact, we are cutting into family time, sleeping time, causing sleep deprivation, or even  going out time. Your mind is never into what you are actually doing!  

Not in the distant past, a cranky child was given a pacifier in his mouth. Now the child is given a cell phone or a tablet to pacify the child. When the child crosses a certain age, the parents start cribbing, “Oh, my child cannot spend a single minute without cell phone”. I have seen mothers looking at WA while feeding a child, not breast feed but regular meal. A child needs a bit of attention and diversion. A song, or a story used to be the name of the game while feeding kids! When the mothers themselves indulge so much in WA/FB what do you expect the child to do?  

When we attempt something differently, it should start with you! Will you remain, away from social media for some time? Will you remain away from kitty parties? I am not saying that you shun these things. Anything in moderation is always good. A Mac Burger once in six months, a glass of wine, a cup of your favourite tea or coffee, for that matter any drink in moderation will always give you joy! Please think in a positive way! If we don’t use social media for some time, is it really going to affect your life?

Work pressures will be there, but can these be 24/7 and 365, no there are never such pressures. I have known of a person who went to US for work for a month, then 2 months and then continued his stay for three months. From there he was told to go to Germany for another three months. There were many problems at his home including illnesses; he should have told his boss that he will travel back after a quick visit back home, at least a couple of times. I don’t think his boss would have said no! But our friend just wanted to shun his home responsibilities. I am so busy syndrome!

Firstly, one has to decide if you really want work life balance! If you want it, there are always ways, you can find your own different methods too! Will will find a way! I forgot to tell you; I have promised Abhay that I will have a cup of tea with him one day, after his son has gone to school and before Abhay goes to office! Five minutes is all Abhay needs to go to office. The other day we went in the area where Deepti lives, we barged in to see her mother. Her mother called Deepti, she came home from office to have coffee with us. Utopia?